Eric Larsen, director of Global Youth and Family Ministry (GYFM), has a personal passion for reaching youth. As a missionary kid and pastor’s kid, Larsen was on his 12th move, eighth school, and third continent by the time he reached eighth grade. Here, Eric talks with byFaith about GYFM’s mission: to “reach the nations and the next generation” through caring for Mission to the World missionaries and their children, and by training those who seek to influence global youth culture.
Why is ministry to youth more critical now than at any other time in history?
Reaching the next generation is a must for the church—and the church should always have that orientation. We see in the Bible that God is always reconciling generations to one another, and that the burden is on the older to reach out to the younger—not the other way around.
But several things are unique at this point in history. More and more, the church is emptying of young people. There is an exploding global youth population (by the end of this year, 50 percent of the world’s population will be under the age of 25—that’s three billion people). Also, there’s the phenomenon of the extension of adolescence around the world. Kids are thrust into adolescence earlier and earlier and are extending it later and later. Now, it’s common for that period to stretch from 10 to 30 years old.
We’re also seeing a global youth culture where kids have more in common with one another than with the adults around them. Some of the key factors causing that include media, technology, and the common experience of abandonment.
How would you like to see the church engage with youth?
Adults are not engaging young people. We have to raise up an army of folks who will engage young people together, as a church. We need a community of faith to rally around kids and care for them. It’s a great opportunity for the gospel, for a church to say, “We’re going to go after these kids.” We want to equip leaders to mobilize the adult community of faith to do that, to be catalysts, to become champions of the cause, to become a resource for their local area. And we want to ground them biblically and theologically to do that work.
What role does training play in GYFM’s mission to equip youth leaders?
Our Global Youth and Family Institute (GYFI) is based out of Covenant Theological Seminary, which has adopted GYFI’s training modules as its curriculum for a master of arts or master of divinity concentration in global youth ministry. So, training is a key piece of our vision. We also provide training all over the world—in Nagoya, Japan, several times a year, for example, and also at an annual European leadership forum.
It’s good to see Covenant Seminary and MTW—two PCA agencies—partnering together in this effort. It results in a theologically robust program where training is grounded in practice and kingdom mission.
To learn more about Global Youth and Family Ministry, visit www.gyfm.org.