I sometimes wonder if I’m one of the lucky ones. From the age of 11 I was able to have an identity in my local church, predominately because my parents left the church and I stayed. I took on responsibility helping in the Sunday school, the pa desk, ohp (it was the nineties) and music when I learned to play the guitar. I just got involved, however I was also encouraged to do so, it meant that I had a purpose for going, otherwise I’d let people down.
Throughout all of this I went to the youth group. But in addition I learned from others, and was given time by those who I was also learning from. Some days after school I’d meet up with the vicar for tea, a guitar lesson and a chat. Other times I’d go for dog walks with youth leaders, I’d be curious ask questions and learn. I was being discipled beyond the activities I was doing, the learning in those spaces.
Maybe I was fortunate. But those of us who received a similar approach to being discipled at that time are involved in churches and leadership today, in the main. Those who only attended, who knows.
So from a personal experience. It could be argued (as I have done before) that only those who become leaders in youth ministry stay in the church. But maybe also only young people discipled know how to disciple others, and discipleship causes longevity in the faith. Giving space for regular questions, allowing for time to reflect on experiences and valuing time with someone.
So, if discipleship is key can we get beyond attendance, and build opportunities that invest time in young people as they explore faith and the questions from experiences they have.
How is the church prioritising disciple making with young people?
Numbers in groups become less important. Attendance at events even less so. Future proofing the church and transforming society is a disciple making task.