IMB, Barna Group discuss engaging next generation in missions
By Leslie Peacock Caldwell
The International Mission Board joined with Barna Group for an online workshop titled “The Future of Missions.” The workshop, hosted virtually on Wednesday, September 2, included IMB President Paul Chitwood, IMB staff, and Barna Group representatives. Nearly 1,000 people joined the online event from around the world.
The workshop followed a joint report produced this year to help those guiding the next generation toward a commitment to global missions. Recognizing the continuing decline in the U.S. of church attendance and in Americans who identify as Christian, IMB commissioned Barna Group for a report on younger Christians’ perspective of missions.
“As the largest missionary-sending agency of our kind, we’re compelled to search for solutions to the challenges of a declining missionary candidate pipeline and a plateaued giving stream,” Chitwood said in the report.
“We’re obliged to ask the hard questions: How do we bridge the gap between shrinking church attendance and a burgeoning world population that doesn’t have access to the Gospel? How does the next generation contribute to fulfilling this spectacular vision so beautifully revealed in Revelation? In essence: What is the future of missions?”
During the workshop, Savannah Kimberlin, director of published research for Barna Group, shared highlights from the report that included perceptions that young adults have of historic and current missions and how “supportive skeptics” view their role in missions.
Speaking to the reservations that young adults have of unethical mission practices in the past and the perceived association with colonialism, Chitwood responded that the findings “help us understand our need to walk in humility and repentance.”
Jason Thomas, IMB’s African American church mobilizer, spoke to the hopeful statistic that Black churchgoers are eager to engage in missions. When speaking to churches, Thomas says he wants to “unearth the rich history of African Americans in missions so they actually see themselves there.”
“We need to dispel the myth that all generations and all ethnic groups aren’t called to global missions,” Thomas said.
Sarah Farley, from IMB’s student team, said that young adults may hesitate to be involved in long-term missions because of financial, educational, and lifestyle concerns. But, she emphasized the potential of this generation and what it offers to the spread of the Gospel.