future of an intergenerational ethnic Asian Church

August 8, 2008

This article from MyCentralJersey.com Chinese Christian Church in Franklin finds unity in diversity describes the forward thinking of this Chinese church that isn’t all that common among intergenerational ethnic Asian churches:

Celia and David Liu of Montgomery attend the 10 a.m. Cantonese service on Sundays at the township’s 250-member Chinese Christian Church, but their grown American-born children, Katrina, 24, and Nathan, 21, attend the 11 a.m. English service in the basement fellowship hall.

Also offering a Mandarin service at 11:15 a.m. upstairs, the church is three congregations in one, separated by generation, culture and language, said Ian Ma, its youth pastor. …

… Made up of youth and young adults, the second-generation ministry is the future of the 250-member church, said Ma, who also has served as English language pastor for the past three years. Pastor Peter Ng, who leads the Cantonese service, agreed.

Within the next 10 years, they said, English will outweigh Chinese, at which point, a traditional Chinese church will be planted about 10 miles away. The original church, they said, will grow into a more multiethnic congregation that can serve the large surrounding black and Latino populations.

“That’s one of the reasons I stayed in this church,” Ma said. “There are a quite a lot of Chinese-American churches in the area, but I haven’t seen that many catching onto this vision of building up a second-generation or third-generation church. It’s almost like Scandinavian churches or German-speaking churches. When immigration starts to die down and churches try to maintain their own cultural indentity, they can only survive for so long and eventually need to be inculturated. Churches that are willing to take on that kind of vision continue. Churches that don’t, that just maintain their own cultural identity, eventually dwindle down to a few people, the old folks.

“To our children, more power to them,” he continued. “At some churches, I see a lot of conflict between the different languages and cultures because leadership is held by the first-generation immigrants. They say, ‘It’s our church, and we want to maintain our own cultural identity. We will not abdicate leadership.’ So it’s been a power struggle. I have a lot of colleagues who have a hard time working with the young people and the English-speaking people. But in this church, there is a lot of forward thinking.”

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