When young people interact, neighbors see church as less threatening, leader says.
In April 2016, when the Setagaya church became the Setagaya Youth Church in Tokyo, Japan, the youth ministries of the Japan Union Conference church region tried to focus on building relationships and serving the community.
As youth leaders, we believe that when young people reflect the fragrance of the love of Jesus Christ as they interact with people in the community, people will see the church as a less threatening and more attractive place to attend. Our vision is to make the Setagaya Youth Church a community church.
To make our vision a reality, we talked with the Setagaya Social Welfare and Community Service Association to find ways we could help the community. We discovered that the community is in desperate need of young volunteers and also a place where people can freely gather and fellowship. We encouraged our young people to volunteer whenever possible, and at the same time, tried to make our church freely available to the local people on weekdays.
In April 2019, we began to be involved with the local “Children’s Cafeteria” group. Children’s Cafeteria has recently become a popular movement all over Japan. The purpose of the movement is to reach and feed children who come from poor and busy households. Usually, a host family or a local community center is utilized as a meeting place where people are provided free food and fellowship.
The group requested that the young people of the Setagaya Youth Church help people in need within the community. As we talked to the volunteer leaders of the group, we learned that many families and children are not receiving necessary help and support. We began to think of ways we could further help those families and children.
Meanwhile, the new Youth Fellowship and Training Center was established in Setagaya. The center is within walking distance of the Setagaya Youth Church. It is a local government institution with a fully equipped kitchen, music studio, study rooms, relaxing rooms, gymnasium, and multi-purpose rooms. All of them are available to be used free of charge by any young people under the age of 30 who live in the Setagaya district. The center is not only equipped with excellent facilities but has many youth workers who are ready to help fulfill young people’s dreams and plans. I began to dream about having Adventist young people plan and carry out events using the facilities at the center.
Around the same time, a first-year music student began to attend the Setagaya Youth Church. She studies musical drama and performance at the nearby university. I asked if she would be able to invite some of her university classmates to hold a charity concert for the community. She was very optimistic about the idea.
The church involvement with the local Children’s Cafeteria group, the establishment of the new Youth Fellowship and Training Center, and the university music student who started to attend the Setagaya Youth Church happened in divine timing. I was sure that God was telling us to plan a charity concert for the Children’s Cafeteria at the new Youth Fellowship and Training Center.
I began to discuss the possibility of holding a concert with the staff at the center. I explained that we are from the local Seventh-day Adventist church. I added that the Setagaya Youth Church is a unique church with many young people that want to serve the community in some way. In Japan, public facilities cannot be used by religious organizations or for religious purposes. However, the Children’s Cafeteria group that we were involved with had already been using the center, and we were able to quickly gain trust and receive permission to plan and have a concert. Furthermore, youth workers at the center, along with many young people from the community, worked together with the young Adventists at the Setagaya Youth Church to prepare for the concert.
There was only the one Adventist university music student, but she recruited 22 of her non-Christian classmates to help with the music concert. The students not only sang and danced but also provided various activities for children as well. On the day of the show, more than 100 young parents and children from the community came to attend, and the room reached full capacity.
During the concert, we had some time to briefly introduce the Children’s Cafeteria and its activities. Obeying the commandment of God to “arise and shine,” our young Adventists became the “light of the world” to all who came to the concert — adults, youth, and children in the community. The concert was filled with big smiles, wonderful fellowship, and above all, God’s bountiful blessings.
Setagaya Youth Church will continue to encourage young people to strive to reflect the fragrance of the love of Jesus to the people in the community, be a witness for Him, and provide opportunities for people to know Jesus Christ.
The original version of this story was posted on the Northern Asia-Pacific Division news site.