Imagine God calls you to a land far away, where the natives speak another language, practice other customs, and see the world through different eyes than you do.
How will you prepare for your mission?
You learn the language, you become acquainted with local customs and their meanings, and you make an effort to understand how the people group to whom you are ministering looks at life and the world.
Global missionaries through the ages have employed these various tactics in order to reach people with the good news about Jesus and the love of God.
Did you realize that those who work and volunteer at pregnancy help centers function as homeland missionaries?
Of course, our mission is two-fold. We look for opportunities to introduce clients to Christ while meeting their need for support, help, and compassion during a particular crisis.
How can we best accomplish this?
One thing we must do is learn the language of those we are trying to reach.
Our clients may speak English just as we do, but they use terminology we may not be familiar with—and they are unlikely to be familiar and comfortable with Christian jargon.
It’s helpful to avoid “Christianese” phrases and to study the meanings of words, phrases and even emoticons or other digital symbols that our clients use so that we can better understand their language.
(One helpful resource for this is the Culture Translator from Axis.org. The Culture Translator is a weekly email in which three fresh current events are clarified.)
Such information can be invaluable when learning the lingo of our clients.
Besides learning their language, we must also enter our clients’ world, working at understanding how they perceive life. What is their frame of reference? Why do they see things the way they do?
Age can be a significant difference between those who do peer counseling at a pregnancy center and the clients they help.
The bulk of our clients are between 14 and 35 years of age (though a few are younger and some are older).
This means our clients mostly belong to the generations known as Millennials (born after 1980 or so) and Gen Z (born in the late 1990’s to 2,000’s)—but many of us who offer them help are Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) or Gen X (born between 1965-1979).
For those who are Boomers or Gen X, the following is a description of a fairly typical Millennial or Gen Z client and what her world is like, adapted from Day 26 of my pro-life educational devotional:
The young woman who comes into your center is at ease in the world of constant technological advancement.
She sleeps with her cell phone beside her. She never turns it off unless she’s required to do so, because that makes her anxious. She fears missing something that’s happening.
(If she’s in her teens or early twenties, she probably received her first phone by age 10.)
She spends eight hours a day on her phone and computer. Her constant electronic connection to everyone causes her fatigue and depression, but this is the world she has always known.
She feels lonely inside but doesn’t know why.
This young woman unconsciously treats her relationships as if they were online—where it’s quick and easy to cut and paste or delete. She’s good at multitasking but has trouble focusing on anything that doesn’t happen instantly.
When she has a question, she turns to the internet for answers. She may have several hundred Facebook friends, and she uses Google and Wikipedia to do research.
Since she has so much information at her fingertips, she doesn’t see the older generation as necessarily wiser or more expert than she is at navigating life. Her favorite question is “why?”
She was likely raised by helicopter parents, so she’s somewhat overprotected and pampered. For this reason, she feels she should receive accolades just for trying.
She likes to think of herself as a caring person, and she’s interested in good causes. She avoids controversy because she doesn’t want to be seen as judgmental.
How do you effectively reach out to a young woman like this?
Ultimately, your client needs to understand that the world is unfair and human nature is sinful. She needs to know the difference between good and bad behavior.
She needs real emotional connections with people, not just digital ones through social networking.
However, your client is unlikely to respond well to authoritative instruction or preaching. She won’t be inclined to listen to you because you’re older and have life experience.
The best way to approach her is with an attitude of gracious humility. Think of yourself as someone who’s learning alongside her rather than someone who’s teaching her.
If you ask her the right questions and let her take ownership of the answers, she’ll begin to trust you. Trust will open the door so you can be a godly influence in a life that’s been shaped by the world’s thinking.
Some aspects of our clients’ thinking and behavior may be trying to our patience. It can be difficult to reach out to someone who doesn’t show us much respect, for example, or who doesn’t understand or appreciate the difference between information and wisdom.
It may help to recall Paul’s words in Colossians 3:12:“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
It takes compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience to travel great distances and reach people for Christ.
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These same qualities are required for you to reach young women and men in your hometown—the mission field to which God has called you.