Cultivating young peoples creativity in youth ministry

In a report in the TES newspaper, business leaders have raised significant concerns about the structure of schools, and the prioritising of exams in schools which have little baring on the skills required for the broad and varied world of work: the article is here.  Its as if the sausage machine of the school system is only capable of churning out a distinctly few different types of sausages. And on that analogy alone – have you seen the different types of sausages you can buy now?

This issue about a structure, system and approach reducing the posibiities for young people, and not actually preparing them for future work has caused me to reflect on what the similarities would be in the world of youth ministry and christian youthwork. I have a number of questions:

  1. What kind of skills, or attitudes, or faith, or concern for the world is being imparted with young people in readiness for not only their present , but also their future?
  2. Could aspects of the youth work, youth ministry that we do, be accused of reducing the possibilities, or narrowing those who might succeed/cope to the few?
  3. In the past, but i dont think its gone away, a focus has been on leadership, and young people to show this (in what ever form) – has this tendency reduced the possibilities for others to succeed, who might not show this characteristic ( in whatever form of leadership)
  4. If future christian ministries – ie those in the world of mission, or church ministry wrote a similar letter back to the leaders of youth ministry, young people currently in youth groups – what might it say? what kind of preparedness might be appropriate – or tales from the future -even if this isnt the ‘career path/vocation’ of the young person.

Which aspects of creativity in youth ministry are more accessible, viable, allowed, encouraged than others? (going back to the TES article)

My experience is that young people outside of the church have been the creative ones, the musicians who formed bands, the t-shirt designers, those who ask the creative questions about faith, those who pioneer. Even on the estates, they’re the ones that can play games on a park with just using a coin, or a scarf, or find ‘things to do’ – its hugely creative. But what would happen to that creativity in spaces of organisations, of the church, of youth ministry?

Whilst its easy to point the finger at the school systems. I wonder what kind of creativity is more encouraged, than others in the world of the church, and what kind of an effect any narrowing of this might have on young people?

What kind of gifts do the young people you know have – how might you encourage them especially if the school is unable to harness them?

Maybe the trick isnt to focus on the young persons potentiality, but the creativeness of their present, what they create now in the space and how this is their gift to the world.



Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust ( and Communities Together Durham ( and am also self employed and do various aspects of youthwork consultancy, including training, writing, lecturing, seminars and written pieces, including organisational consultancy, community profiling and detached/youthwork training. Please do get in touch if I can be of help to you in your church, project or organisation to develop your youth and community work. I have contributed to 'Here be Dragons (2013), and two recent articles in the youth and theology journal and 'ANVIL' the CMS online journal. My recent employment includes, working for FYT as a youthwork development adviser, being the centre director at Durham YFC, and before this I was known as 'Mr Sidewalk' as I was the project coordinator for the Sidewalk Project in Perth, where I facilitated the delivery of 5 years of detached youthwork on the streets, schools and communities to engage with young people , and support through alcohol misuse issues. In 2017 I completed an MA in Theology & Ministry at St John's College, Durham, and in 2008 graduated from ICC (now NTC Glasgow) with an honours degree in youth work with Applied theology.

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