In a way i wish this was a post I needed to write more often, and in a similar way it a post i hope that i didnt have to. Why, well, sometimes i would like to think that churches would have some kind of plan/strategy/pathway for thinking about the discipleship of their children and young people (beyond them just attending groups). In another way there is often talk from a more regional level about developing a ‘youth strategy for a diocese, or deanery, or affiliation’ in which then someone outside of the jurasdiction of local churches is making plans, shaping ideas and practices for a local church to implement, be guided by, and how it might be resourced.
The reason that i wish i didnt have to write about this kind of thing is that because there are so many factors involved in the implementation, impact or outcomes of such a strategy that they can be little more than well merited & intentioned and thought through broad brush strokes. They might focus the mind, but they can often breed disillusion, false hope, and unreal expectations. However, they have become a bit of a trend. So what might a good youth strategy take into account?
What might be some of the key factors to consider before developing regional youth strategies.
- Whose strategy is it? So – is the young peoples and they are shaping it, or is it for the leaders and the bosses of the affiliation or organisation…
- What is the strategy for? Can it be more than a paper excercise, heralded at a launch event, but nothing has really changed..?
- How might it take into account the cultural shifts required for empowering discipleship to occur in a church? If young people are to go from learners to deciders and then creators as part of discipleship (see this http://wp.me/p2Az40-HX ) – what might be needed for a culture shift to allow this to happen in a church setting?
- What might a regional strategy look like that might suggest that local practices need to take their cues from their local context, resources, partnerships and demographics- not to mention theology? and culture…
- How might the success of a regional strategy be realised – in terms of long term discipleship – or short term initiatives – and does short term thinking prevail so that quick wins are garnered..
- How might young poeple be intrinsically involved throughout the process of resourcing, developing and implementing such a strategy and for making it accountable?
- Are the people making the strategies the right people to make the strategies? What methods of youth work/ministry might they favour and how might this shape a strategy to the detriment of other work with young people?
- How might a strategy be implemented if local culture might just as they say ‘eat strategy for breakfast’ ?
- Is there more resource put into making a strategy than being on the ground to enable good practice with young people to happen?
- Does youth ministry use good community youthwork strategy and evaluation tools to create strategies, processes and objectives and develop ongoing communities of learning and practice, or is it just a piece of paper to be signed off.
So, just a few thoughts from me on the things to consider when developing regional strategies in youth ministry, generally id argue that without creating cultures of learning, of empowerment and of collaboration that the strategy might only exist as a paper exercise. Developing culture might be more difficult, but its from within this that young people and those who work with and for them are more likely to be able to thrive.