Connect engages new generations

Even if NMS is an organization that is almost 180 years old, it still has a mission that is urgent today. But to be able to continue this work, new generations need to be engaged. The Connect program is playing an important role in motivating young adults to engaged in the organization and to be involved as both volunteers and employees.

NMS, the Norwegian Mission Society, is the oldest mission organization in Norway. It was founded as early as in 1842. It was started by mostly young adults who had strong passion for mission. And the first missionary that was sent abroad, Hans Schreuder, was only 26 years old when he travelled from Norway to South Africa in 1943. Since then, several hundred thousand people have been engaged in the organization in different ways.

Still today NMS is doing a lot of important mission work around the world. But the average age of the members of the organization in Norway has become much higher. Therefore, it is of importance for NMS to engage also younger generations. For NMS, one of the main goals with the Connect program is to reach out to young people and include them in their work. It is about increase the capacity for youth involvement.

The Connect program has been going on for 20 years now and we can see that it has had a positive impact for the organization in regard to involve new generations in the organization. I will here present four things that show us the positive impact the program has had for engaging young adults in NMS.

1.) New groups for young adults

While there is still a lot of traditional mission groups around the country, these are now often not very attractive for young people to be engaged in. But during the last couple of years, NMS has started new groups for young adults in the bigger cities in Norway. These are called “Connect groups.” These groups are important arenas for young people to engage in NMS. Previous Connect participants have made important contributions in starting these groups and in the leadership of these groups. In the fall of 2018, it was started a new Connect group in Trondheim and two of the guys that had participated in the Connect program during the previous year was key people for getting this group started and one of them became the leader of the group. Similarly, when they started a new group in Stavanger last school year it was two of the girls that had been part of the Connect program the previous year that was taking the initiative to start the group. Previous Connect participants were also engaged in starting Connect groups in Oslo and Bergen.

If we look at the members of the local Connect groups, a large number of the members are previous participants in the Connect program. Data from October 2019 shows us that almost half of the members of the group in Oslo (18 of 40 members) and almost 70 % of the members of the group in Bergen (22 of 32 members) were previous participants in Connect or one of the other programs at Hald internasjonale skole.

2.) New project for teenagers and young adults

Ukirke is a work directed towards teenagers and young adults in Stavanger that started in August 2018. Both in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 there were Connect participants from Brazil that worked in Ukirke during their exchange. They have made very important contributions in starting and developing the work at Ukirke. Ukirke started with just one weekly event for students and young adults. But now it has in addition one weekly event for teenagers as well as several other events happening on more or less regularly basis, such as board game group, concerts, new year event and confirmand gatherings. The weekly attendance has increased with 50 % (before the pandemic started) since the first Connect participants came to Ukirke in October 2018. For achieving this development of Ukirke, the Connect participants have been very important and the project would not have come as far as it has without them.

3.) Recruitment of employees in NMS and NMSU

Our experience also shows us that the Connect program has been important in the recruitment of younger employees in NMS and NMSU (which is the youth organization of NMS). Many of the young persons (under 40) that are employed by NMS and NMSU have been participants in the Connect program. A survey in May 2020 showed that NMSU had seven and NMS six employees that had been participants in the Connect program or one of the other exchange programs at Hald Internasjonale skole.

4.) Connect-participants continue their involvement in NMS and NMSU

Each year we do surveys among previous participants in Connect and these surveys shows us that a large amount of them continues to be engaged within NMS and NMSU also after they have finished the Connect program. For instance, in our last survey from March 2020 all of the participants that had been part of the exchange program in 2018-2019 said they had been involved in NMS/NMSU after finishing the program and 62,5 % said they had been leaders or volunteers in NMS/NMSU. They had for instance been leaders at youth camps, visiting mission groups and been engaged in the “Connect groups.” Surveys from years before that also show a similar tendency where many of the participants saying they continued to be engaged in the organization as members, volunteers and leaders also after they had finished the Connect program.

Andreas Holm Contact person in NMS and program leader of Connect