Pastor John Yoder is the founder of Global Youth Interchange. He and Sherry served in China for 13 years. A graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and an ordained minister of the Evangelical Free Church of America, John served for several years as one of the pastors of the Beijing International Christian Fellowship. He engaged weekly with the team that creatively designed worship services for hundreds of believers from dozens of countries and denominations. Laying aside our own national and denominational preferences, we worked together as a team to serve a highly diverse audience.
Returning to their home state of Minnesota, the Yoders discovered those cross-cultural skills were needed among the one million first- and second-generation immigrants of the Twin Cities. John has worshiped with dozens of local immigrant congregations, befriending pastors, parents and denominational leaders. Without a doubt the greatest felt need among the various communities was the loss of the second generation for the gospel.
Half of the immigrant congregations in the area have less than 30 members. They lack not only the capacity to design attractive youth ministries, but also enough young people for them to develop peer friendships. This reinforces loneliness, isolation and disinterest in the church. Most of these young people maintain their closest friendships online, not at church or school. Many adults mistakenly believe the cell phone can only be used as an instrument for evil, thus missing the opportunity to engage with the next generation in their natural habitat.
As much input gradually morphed into action plans, John shared potential solutions with some of his ministry friends: What if a multi-ethnic group of accent-free second-generation young adults were networked together and coached to design engaging, high-quality videos from a devout Christian, second-gen perspective? What if each week had interactive social media discussions based on each video’s theme? What if emotionally healthy mature believers were there to share Christ with them online? What if we coordinated face-to-face gatherings for those without any church background? What if lonely, isolated second-generation young people can be brought together for mutual encouragement, first online and then face-to-face?
The result of much prayer and multiple conversations led to the launching of Global Youth Interchange in December 2019. Much of our ministry is still in the design phase. In the Spring of 2020 we anticipate premiering our first videos, discussion groups and face-to-face gatherings.