On the excellent Nurture Development website, Cormac Russell (Managing director of the ABCD institute) has recently written a piece titled ‘Taking a strengths based approach to young people’ . It is about having a perspective of young people that is distinctive from society – one where young peoples strengths are focussed on, you can read it in full here (and it is well worth a read) http://www.nurturedevelopment.org/blog/taking-strengths-based-approach-young-people-moving-risk-promise-part-1/

In it Cormac, after commenting on the negative stereotypes of young people in the media, and through the writings of philosophers such as Socrates, writes that:

Defining young people solely by what they receive, fails to realise what children and teenagers need most, which is to be needed and meeting that need is about organising our communities so that the contributions of young people can be invited and celebrated. Our current way of organising lifts up consumption to such an extent as to render young people to the margins.

going on to say that the kind of youth work that attempts to bring young people into organised youth programmes misses a trick in that it fails to bring them to the core of the community that has sought to exile them stating:

As well a providing such programmes and access to them, youth engagement must also concern itself with building a bridge between young people, productive adults and the centre of their communities. The very same communities it has to be said, who all too often exile their most ‘needy’ young people to the margins.

In closing he suggests that young people and adults, and older adults are more segregated than ever, in my view this segregation is also cultural, young people are segregated from adults because of access to prosperity, academia, employment, housing and more importantly hope. Cormac concludes by suggesting that, due to this segregation, and the view of young people:

  1. There is space and hospitality within every community for the gifts of all young people (regardless of their history or reputation) if we intentionally invite it in and make the connections. These spaces will not be found unless we actively seek them out.
  2. We do not have a ‘youth problem’ we have a ‘village problem’. Every young person regardless of past transgressions has strengths that are needed to tackle this village problem, and by so doing, to build inclusive sustainable communities.

From this article – I want to reflect on the following question.

Does the church have the same village problem?

For so long now, in many local settings the youth worker has tried to give young people a ‘voice’ in the community of the church – but legislation, or implied disinterest, has maintained segregation. Can young people change the village of the church using their gifts alone – or is church too wieldy for this to happen?  Is Sunday a space of segregation of young and old? and should this be challenged?  How might a church recognise the gifts of young people, inside its walls, and also outside in mission, so that they too are ‘at promise’ and invited into the core of the community- the faith

Is Sunday a similar space of segregation of young and old? and should this be challenged?  How might a church recognise the gifts of young people, inside its walls, and also outside in mission, so that they too are ‘at promise’ and invited into the core of the community- the faith community. Might ‘faith community’ need to behave according to faith values – where love, faith and hope – for all prevail – in order that the promise of young people is realised?  And they are not viewed as the world views them – but i dare say more like God does.

I know too many questions. But Cormac as ever poses them for the community of the young person, yet, where that community helps to shape a young persons identity in the faith community then the same questions should at least be asked.

How might young people be at promise in the church?  Can a youthworker help to heal the village- or are they (often) the scapegoat? Does the village need healing or does the church act in a better way than this – better than using young peoples gifts – or does it have a theology that causes this to be an exemption.  I would argue that focussing on young peoples gifts in a church should be an absolute minimum for discipleship and their identity, to help them find identity in the local faith community and the ongoing drama of redemption that they play parts in.

 

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