How many Filipino young people today are unemployed?

What are we doing to help them? Are our ministries receptive to their needs?

Here’s one fact we need to realize:

The youth ministry of the UMC in the Philippines through the UMYFP caters to students. 

Why do I say that?

Just take a look at the attendance of Christmas Institutes, Fellowships, Sunday Schools, and yeah Student receptions. I believe it’s safe to say that 90% of active UMYFP members are youth who are attending schools, or those who have already graduated from college. Good for them. They are able to develop their social and leadership skills, and meet a lot of young people in the process.

I, myself, am a product of the leadership development of UMYFP. I owe a great deal to this youth ministry.
And yet…

The UMYFP, and the UMC in the Philippines, in general, is not very responsive to the needs of Out-of-School-Young people.

Right before my term as National UMYFP President ended in 2008, I had a meeting with one of upcoming youth leaders. I conceptualize a way for the UMYFP to be a little bit more responsive to OSY’s. I drafted a program, we requested grant money for it, and then I handed it off to the next batch of leaders.

Fast forward to today, the OSY program isn’t implemented yet. Several consultations were done. A potential community was identified. But sadly, due to several reasons, the project was not implemented.

Here are some thoughts on why the program wasn’t implemented:

1. We don’t have the expertise in implementing an OSY program.

It’s difficult! We, as a church, do not have a lot of experience in engaging OSY. Because most of our youth ministry programs are designed for those in schools, we don’t know how to reach out to the out-of-school youth.

2. The National UMYFP might not be the right level to implement the program. 

Maybe, it would have been better if it was a special project of either the Board of Church and Society or Asuncion Perez, in partnership with the National UMYFP. Asuncion Perez, being the social arm of the UMC in the Philippines, may be better equipped in implementing such a program.

And then I came across this News Report:

Apparently, the United Nations has a partnership with the Philippine government in training young people to become entrepreneurs. The project is called “Alternatives to Migration.” With more than 11 Million Filipinos abroad, we still see the migrant workers as the ‘heroes’ that keep the Philippine economy afloat.

This is what the program does:

Despite high economic growth, the Philippines, with a fast-growing population, is not able to provide sufficient jobs to reduce poverty and its education system cannot meet the skills requirements of growing industries. Some 1.46 million young people were unemployed in 2010, half of them with secondary school educations and 40 % with college degrees. 2.3 million more are in vulnerable employment, with inadequate earnings and lack of social protection. In the search for decent work, many young Filipinos move from rural to urban areas, with some opting to go overseas.

The Joint Programme supports the Government’s vision of a productive and competitive youth by working on two fronts: increasing access to decent jobs for young men and women in the country’s poorest areas; and improving policies on youth employment and migration by encouraging the participation of all stakeholders in the process. It is being implemented in four provinces with high migration rates and the highest incidences of out-of-school youth and poor youth, where the MDGs are least likely to be achieved – Masbate, Antique, Maguindanao and Agusan del Sur.

Among other initiatives, the programme has provided training and materials on entrepreneurship, life skills and safe migration to teachers, out of school youth, local partner organizations and thousands of secondary schools. Hundreds of at-risk high school students have been given educational subsidies to reduce drop-out rates in public schools.

What this means for the United Methodist Church in the Philippines

Maybe it’s time to change some approaches to youth ministry. To target Out-of-School youth, maybe we need to teach them how to become entrepreneurs. That way, they won’t need to leave the country to find work.

Here’s a two-step process for us then.

Create training programs aimed specifically for Out-of-School youth.

Whether in urban or rural settings, livelihood training programs can help young people improve their lives. What I’m hoping now, is that the upcoming programs of the UMYFP will have components for livelihood/Entrepreneurship training programs.

  • Christmas Institute
  • School for Christian Youth Development
  • Council Meetings
  • Fellowships

Training programs are not enough. We also need to establish a system of support for young entrepreneurs. 

And then you ask, “Aren’t we supposed to help young people become more spiritual?”

That, my friend, is the wrong question to ask. As United Methodists, and followers of Jesus Christ and John Wesley, we believe in holistic ministry. The spiritual impacts the secular and vice versa. Besides, didn’t Jesus say that if we feed, clothe, or offer a drink to “the least of these”, we have done it to him?

So what’s the answer?

Microfinance perhaps?

A grant program for local young entrepreneurs?

A church-based organization dedicated to empowering out-of-school youth?

I’m not sure. This certainly needs more study, prayer and lots of love. Yeah, lots of love!

What do you think? how can we help out-of-school youth in the church and in our society?

Train Young People to Become Entrepreneurs

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