YOUTH EMPOWERMENT: A TOOL FOR CHURCH GROWTH
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This study was set to examine youth empowerment as a tool for church growth in Nigeria, using central Calabar presbytery as a case study. The main thrust of this study, therefore, is to challenge the Church as a model and vital social institution to use its gifts, resources and experiences to help young people become useful citizens. The research was carried out by administering questionnaires and interviewing the some selected youths and church members in central Calabar presbytery in Cross River State. It was revealed that the 21st century churches are in position to empower the youths. Also, there is a significant difference between youths molded in church and youths rooming the streets of our society. It is therefore concluded that the Church leaders still have a lot to do to make sure that they encourage empowerment programs in our churches. Among the various recommendations made was that the church should influence government policy to properly stream-line an efficient process of registering a business or enterprise with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
1.1 Background of the Study
The Nigerian government efforts alone cannot suffice to address the challenges of youth’s unemployment in the society. The 21st century church is expected to act as an agent of transformation in the society through empowerment and skills acquisition programs for the teaming youths. Onwubiko (2010), observes that Nigeria has numerous business and investment potentials due to the abundant, vibrant and dynamic human resources it possesses. However, the impact of the current global financial crisis and its attendant mass unemployment and job losses has brought to the front burner the issue of entrepreneurship and economic recovery. Thus, as the number of unemployed graduates in Nigeria continues to increase, there is a growing need to promote youth empowerment and self-employment avenues. This is because youth-run enterprises will have a direct bearing on employment if young entrepreneurs hire fellow youth, and thereby address some of the socio-psychological problems and anti-social delinquency that arise from joblessness.
Youths are the citizens, leaders, parents, and workers of Nigeria global future. Empowering them through entrepreneur skills and education will shape economic and social wellbeing of the society and the country at large. Providing them with empowerment opportunities will impact worldwide poverty rate and regional political stability United Nations report (2013).
Youth is the time of life when one is young, and often means the time between childhood and adulthood (maturity). It is also defined as “the appearance, freshness, vigor, spirit. The above definition showcases the characteristic of one who is young”. Biblically, God often used young people to do great things. For example in the cases of David, Joshua, Joseph, Daniel and many other youths as recorded in the Old Testaments. In the New Testaments, God used a youth name “Timothy” to pastor and lead the Ephesian church when he was a teenager. According to (1Timothy 4:12 says), “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” In addition, there is much to be learned from the faith of a child. Matthew 18:2-4 says, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” Because of God’s heart for young people, it is important to recognize youth’s value in today’s church.
When talking of church growth there are some factors to be considered, among such factors is the leaders’ relationship with the youths which forms the next generation church. It cannot be over emphasized that youths play a vital role in the life of a Church as they are the leaders of tomorrow and future of the church (Day & Kurtz, 2017). The elderly stands out but youth’s contributions have been shinning and have always been flag bearers of every Church. For any tangible growth to take place in any Christian community, the youth must be significant in that process of growth. This is the more reason why wise nations, countries, groups and organization focus more on the development of youths so that the future of such investments would never be improvised or blind. It is therefore of vital importance in today’s Church to empower youths for the tasks they would naturally face in the coming future. It is only when we have empowered our youths that they in-turn develop the Church and our society at large.
To foster rapid proliferation of church growth the church must incorporate contemporary stratagems to the youth ministry in establishing the growth of youths. The church have a role to be flexible and adjust to the ever changing needs of youths through updating and matching the youth energy and vitality while avoiding old models (Nielson, 2016). The church is a community composed of members from diverse backgrounds who enjoin to share the work of God. Successful youth development necessitates the involvement of the entire church. Empowerment programs targeting Christian youths must acknowledge that a vital support system must be engaged to eradicate the 21st century challenges. This implies that the church must give direction, support, encourage and develops a set objective along with pastors and resolves the youth needs within the church. This is perceived as the only way towards the church growth. The youth must therefore be involved actively in drawing the congregation both old and young to participate responsibly in the work, life and mission of the church and the community (Nielson, 2016). When the youth are empowered by the church it becomes easier for them to draw other youths to church thereby increasing the church in return.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The present level of unemployment has forced series of barbaric youths across the country to move into the streets, looting citizens, private business, banks, chopping malls and government warehouses. This was seen during the recent END SARS PROTEST across many cities in Nigeria (The Guardian Newspaper, 20 October, 2020). The burden regarding the behavior of most of our youths in Church who are beclouded by this 21st century philosophy which is geared towards self-aggrandizement, hedonism, individualism, and self-confidence. This has led them into a life of kidnapping, robbery, drug abuse, occultism, pride, disrespect, indolence, get rich quick syndrome, violence and so on. The 21st century youths needs to be engaged in meaningful activities like empowerment programs, schemes that will aid their survival in a corrupt society like ours. There is a wide gap which is the lack of appropriate leadership that carries the youth’s challenges and fit same into the church and the world. This led to the study on youth empowerment a tool for church growth.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The primary objective of this study is to examine youth empowerment a tool for church growth. The researcher intends to discuss the following sub objectives;
- To examine the role of church in youths empowerment in the society.
- To identify the functions and duties of church in empowering Nigerian youths in the 21st century.
- To identify the factors militating against church growth and employment of youths in Nigeria.
- To proffer lasting solutions to the challenges facing church growth that of unemployment of youths in Nigeria.
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions were formulated by the researcher to guide the study;
1. Are the 21st century churches in position to empower the youths?
2. Is there a difference between youths molded in church and youths rooming in the streets of our society?
3. Do the church play any major role in the survival of Christian youths?
4. Are there any significant relationship between the church and youths empowerment?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following research hypotheses will be tested in the course of the study:
H0: The 21st century churches are not in position to empower the youths.
H1: The 21st century churches are in position to empower the youths
H0: There is no significant difference between youths molded in church and youths rooming the streets of our society
H2: There is a significant difference between youths molded in church and youths rooming the streets of our society.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Findings from this study will educate the church authorities and the general public in Nigeria on what the church leaders need to do or incorporate into the church to ensure growth and survival of the youths. It will provide valuable insights into existing relationship between the 21st century church and the youths in our society.
This study has significance in that it shall contribute to the body of knowledge in the area of young people who are mostly affected by the challenges that face them in the church. It will also be significant to the parents of these young people in the church and church leaders who does not bother to involve youth in decision making programmes that can affect their well being positively. This research will also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.
1.7 Scope/Limitations of the Study
This study will cover the activities of churches towards the empowerment of youths in Nigeria with special focus on the roles and duties of the church on youth empowerment in central Calabar presbytery, Cross River State.
Limitations of study
Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Members Reluctance: In most cases the members of the selected churches often feels reluctance over providing required information required by the researcher. This result in finding information where the structured questionnaires could not point out.
Researcher’s Commitment: The researcher, being of full time student spent most of her time on other academic activities such as test, class work, assignment, examination etc which takes average focus from this study.
Inadequate Materials: Scarcity of material is also a major hindrance. The researcher finds it difficult to lay hands on several required material which could contribute immensely to the success of this research work.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
Youth: The term ‘youth’ continues to be problematic to define because off its relative importance and policy implication. For instance, the United Nations uses the 15-24 years age bracket, while the Commonwealth uses 15-29 years age category. Chigunta (2002) however, opines that the sociological denotation of youth represents the interface between childhood and adulthood. In this paper, the term includes all those who are within the 20 to 30 years age bracket who have the potentials to stimulate economic growth, social progress and overall national development
Empowerment: Empowerment is the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities. This enables them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority.
Youth Empowerment: Youth empowerment is a process where children and young people are encouraged to take charge of their lives. They do this by addressing their situation and then take action in order to improve their access to resources and transform their consciousness through their beliefs, values, and attitudes
Entrepreneurship: According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2010), entrepreneurship is the act of being an entrepreneur. It is a French word meaning one who undertakes innovations, finance and business acumen in an effort to transform innovations into economic goods. In order words, entrepreneurship carries with it the idea of probably setting up a new (innovative) business idea, financing it or sourcing for fund as well as meeting an economic need in the society.
Growth: growth is defined as the process of increasing in size or something that has grown or is growing.
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