Reflections on ‘Clergy; if you want to disciple young people, quit doing assemblies’

This has been a difficult one to write. The previous one which attracted alot of comments and views was written in 15 minutes on Sunday, it was impulsive, and created as i pondered a few thoughts during a glorious bike ride around Teeside. This one has felt more deliberate and almost like the difficult second album many musicians find difficult to create.

Judging by the comments, mostly positive, and the number of views, my previous post has caused a bit of discussion. In the post I suggested that I would write a further blog about ways in which young people might be found and encountered. This isn’t that article, that will be to come in a few days, what I thought id do would be to respond to some of the comments and questions.

Common to every comment since has been that Discipleship of people of all ages is the key role of the church, a similar common comment has been how useful, or not,  a national youth evangelist would be for the CofE.

Ill confess, in picking out assemblies it may have increased interest in the post, as assemblies have been one of the key school gatherings where clergy have an opportunity to share elements of the faith in a sermon, presentation type of way.

The issue I tried to get across was that in one sense Assemblies give the opportunity for the young person to know who the clergy is. The essence of discipleship would be to try and create opportunities where this is reciprocated and that young people are known by the clergy. This might involve taking a behind the scenes role in a school, even doing ‘non’ clerical type roles, such as helping in a learning support wing or an equivalent. A place where there might be dialogue and conversation, where clergy might get to know young people more personally in acts of behind the scenes service. The question is- is it better that 300 young people in an assembly hear a message, or that you give time to a small number of young people on a regular occasion, especially even the young people who might not always receive such attention, or find an assembly a struggle to learn in.

The other point I was trying to make was to encourage the building of discipleship relationships between clergy and young people with young people already known in church-related groups (should they exist). Effectively to build on what had already been started. Building on the belonging that young people already felt to the faith community.

So, if a group of young people are nearing the end of the confirmation group (already existing) find ways of enabling that group to continue, even less regularly to start off with. The same for the Messy church young people & families (keeping the young people and families together- community & family discipleship if you will).

Might it be that beyond the programmes and activities there are people to be discipled in a variety of ways that the programmes and activities don’t offer?

The other question is if the transition from local parish priest to CEO of organisation has actually occured beyond realising it, how could the role shift from CEO where people are managed in churches, to being discipler of disciples. Or has that transition gone too far, and organisations of church too wieldy? As someone currently Directing a YFC centre, the tasks of organisational maintenance, pioneering and practice are hugely emotional, physical and spiritually demanding. I know id rather be spending 100% more hours a week with young people, especially on the streets, forming relationships and beginning that discipleship process.

How many clergy are selected for their ability to disciple others? maybe it is a key question in the selection process. And yes discipleship is for all to be part of, but what kind of discipleship is led from the front and copied by others, or at least from a starting point improvised by others- if indeed that is where it should be led from.

What about discipleship from and in the margins, or the borders in between the organisations of church, or school.

So far 3,000 people have viewed the previous post. Thats as many as read all of my posts in most of the last 3 years. It was meant well, meant to provoke a discussion less about assemblies, but more to think about creating spaces and places where discipleship happens.

Two responses thus far to my original post are here, both relating to the issue or fear of clergy actually quitting doing assemblies;

One from Jenni at Schools work UK which is Here

Another, again from a schools work perspective is also here: Blog

Any other responses ill add here too to the discussion.




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