China has tighten its rules when it comes to religion, especially becoming even more stringent with regulating youngster’s exposure to Christian faith.
Rev. Erik Burklin, President of China Partner, revealed that they had to cancel its YouthServe initiative in light of the country’s rule concerning children below 18 converting to Christianity. The rule states that “you cannot proselytize or you cannot convert somebody under the age of 18.” This means they have to be 18 to be able to practice and be a Christian.
This law already exists even when the government allowed Sunday School classes, where children learn Bible verses and Christian songs, among others. However, the recent crackdown on Christianity has led to rules being strictly enforced.
China Partner, which “facilitates Pastoral Training in harmony with the Chinese Church Leadership,” was left with no choice but to withdraw their YouthServe ministry. The initiative trains “church leaders to conduct youth ministry sessions” to children ages 13 to 18 before they go to college.
“They specifically came back to us saying, ‘Please, we can no longer invite you to come and do these youth ministry trainings for us because we need to adhere to this new enforcement of this law,’” Berkin recalled one pastor told them during a recent trip to China.
Most Chinese congregations hold meetings for the youth, called “young people’s fellowship.” But Berkin said these fellowships are not specific to young people per se since adults all the way to 50 years old also come to these meetings.
This law clearly presents a problem to the community of Christian believers in China especially the youth where most of the potential Christian leaders come from. Berkin said the only way they can reach this age group is through the parents, who come to marriage retreats and couple’s counseling sessions.
Regardless of the law, China Partner holds firm on its mission to spread Christianity in China through careful and efficient means. They believe that God will help them find a way to spread his Gospel.