Is the church there for the successful?

I get a bit twitchy, and bashful at this time of the year, embarrassed almost.

You see there was a time i did something really bad, really sinful, really something i should hang my head in shame for.

I did OK in my A levels.

In fact i did better than OK, i got better results than i was predicted.

Not bad for someone who had already decided upon leaving school to volunteer as a youthworker and become one. Maybe that helped- as i wasnt in the pressure zone that everyone else was in.

However, thats my story, and though i acknowledge school was a trial for me, i obviously did ok with it.

Tomorrow is A level results day, and countless prayers, poems and articles have been written about how the church is there, youthworkers are there, youthwork as a profession is there for those who ‘fail/dont get what they expect’ – and rightly so…

But what does that mean for the Successful? are there prayers for them too? and can ‘successful’ young people also be part of the youthwork profession also?

What kind of prayers might young people who have done well in their exams need? – the same kind of ones that also let them know that they are valued as people beyond their academic ability, that they too are called to a life of worship and service to God and the world with the gifts given to them.

I used to say that the church has a problem with both failure and success in youth ministry – fearing failure it avoids giving young people responsibility, fearing the success it might bring it does the same. For the successes that academia may bring – might the church also offer its prayers for those who might now have large burdens of expectation on them, of high academia and achievement, and the ensuing burden of debt. Not to mention university and a shift in culture, home life and relationships, coping strategies, and issues with mental health at many universities.

Its the obvious thing to be there for the struggling, and yes as church its the place we often find most comfortable, but the attention needs an even spread. And its the system that causes the binary of success and failure , especially in education, Ofsted and league tables that needs to be challenged at the same time.





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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