At the moment, the CofE are advertising for a national youth evangelism person to try and solve the young people leaving the church crisis which has befallen the CofE for the past couple of decades. They want an evangelist. What the church needs is wholesale discipleship, and they need it from the Vicar.
A national strategy for enabling young people to have a discipleship relationship with God lies squarely at the clergy. It would take £1000’s to supply churches across the land with the adequate extra youthwork staffing to even start to make a difference. Given that the CofE is quick to appoint the national and regional leaders, and not be able to resource the local, then its not going to happen in the local context without the Clergy being at the forefront of it, and in the thick of the action.
So – whats the plan. Simple.
No i mean it.
Find 12 disciples. 12 young people who are interested in spending time with you, or that you might be interested spending time with them.
And if not 12- try 6.
Where from, you ask?
Well what happens in your parish that already involves young people – Messy church? , Boys brigade? , Scouts & Guides? Summer holiday clubs?
Or what about the jugular- the thing you might already run…. Confirmation classes? Do you run them with young people? – well run them as if confirmation isnt the end.
If none of the above apply – then find other spaces where young people might be – school, the streets, friends of your children perhaps- this is going to be more difficult. but not impossible. (ill talk about this in my next blog)
Find ways of getting know these small groups of young people, who are already in groups because of pre existing activity ( dont set up something known as ‘the event’ for them to come to, after 50 years of trying… this doesnt work)
Especially with groups of young people already in churchy activities ( messy church, confirmation) ask them, giving then options/choices whether they would want to continue to meet, chat, or do a variety of activities especially like the ones they already do (but might be getting too old for) . If you’re worried about meeting them alone, then meet in their houses, or do things that involve a parent.
If there’s already young people in the vicinity of your church, and you have some kind of connection with them, then build on it with them. Actively spend time with these few young people, negotiating varieties of activities, exploring their thoughts on faith, their place in the world, their dreams, worries and gifts.
“But i dont have time…” – well carry on doing the same things and expect different results.
“that sounds like hard work..” It is. But if discipleship is a lifestyle, and a witness and sacrificial, then yes it will be hard work.
“Im too old for working with young people” – Stop making excuses. Young people don’t want a fun person, honestly. They want someone who is genuinely interested in spending real quality time with them. you have to earn that right, but that’s no by trying to be cool, that’s by being interested. Its not an age thing at all. Don’t believe a myth about young people.
Assemblies may give you profile, may give you the opportunity to tell a story, or be known as the vicar. But they aint changing the world for a group of discipled young people. If time is an issue and you’re doing assemblies, drop them. Though if time is an issue and you’re not, then drop something else, like meetings.
If building relationships with people over 3 years (and the rest ) is what Jesus did then maybe he was on to something.
How will young people know how to follow Jesus if you just tell them (in an assembly for example) , without them spending time with you so you can show them too. Show them discipleship, take them on a journey and let them take you too.
Nothing an national youth evangelist can tell you will be better than if every vicar in Britain actively involved themselves in developing small groups of young people on an ongoing basis. Its not a clever national strategy built on programmes, events or resources. Its about stopping to spend time with young people. Spending time with them, showing them discipleship, and learning together about following Jesus in the long haul.