10 Reasons why young people leave youth groups

Over this weekend I have been leading training with the EQUIP NORTH EAST students on the Unit entitled ‘working with young people’  (for details of the equip course see the above menu.) One of the questions I asked the students on Friday evening was,

When you were a young person, what were some of the reasons you kept going to the youth activities that you went to?  

Most of them went to things like Boys brigade, church groups, sports clubs, music related activities, after school groups, and this list of things was fairly obvious; it was things like;

  1. I was made to feel welcome
  2. I met my friends
  3. I met other friends who i wasnt at school with
  4. It was safe
  5. I learned stuff
  6. I had new experiences

In a way, most of the research about young people and groups, fitted these answers, however, I also wanted to ask them, and develop more of a discussion about why they didnt stay in certain groups, clubs and activities.

These might or might not be that obvious, but are worth reflecting on further:

Responses to ‘why did you leave the youth provision?’

  1. I was told i had to leave as I was too old for it -ie the max age was 11
  2. It was boring after a year – It didnt change at all – so i lost interest – it was like groundhog day.
  3. It was boring after a year – I felt too old for it because it didnt change – unlike Harry Potter films, It didnt grow old with me.
  4. The groups kept changing and i was forced to go in a group i didnt want to – so i left
  5. For things like sports activities, cost and travel was mentioned
  6. I felt like i needed to be taught stuff differently, it felt too much like school.
  7. The leaders kept changing, so i didnt know who to trust to speak to
  8. I was the only person that age, so the church decided they couldnt do anything for me, so i left and found a different church to go to.
  9. Other kids seemed to be favourites and get responsibility.
  10. I was too busy and had to prioritise, usually school work came first from the age of 15….

None of the group of adults in the training are over 25, so all of these experiences are in the recent past, ie in the last 15 years of being involved in youth activities in churches and sports clubs in the UK, its not an exhaustive survey, by any means, but similarly I would think there is enough even in these responses to reflect on the experiences of young adults in churches. The questions that arise are:

  1. Does Youth Ministry grow old with the young people – or are young people supposed to make the transitions themselves – ie hop from group to group as they get older?
  2. If Youth Ministry is meant to be significant to young people – why is it the first, it seems, to go when other things take priority? There is due reason for school work being so, but if sports clubs clash – why do ‘they win’? – if they have more meaning, does ‘youth ministry’ need to find ways to mean more than what could be a free social night and a few games.
  3. Young people are hugely perceptive of changes, and because they are constructing their identity ( Wyn/White) they make interpretations of the decisions made on their behalf – especially ones they dont control or feel an injustice.
  4. Young people wont stay to something that makes them feel younger than they are, but are happier to raise their game and be challenged.
  5. Young people felt quite sad that they have to leave things for reasons out of their control.
  6. Young people want responsibility and opportunities and find these elsewhere if they’re bypassed from them in the church groups.
  7. It shouldnt remind them of school, but they want to be challenged, we have got to make our youth ministry and work provision around different educational methods and approaches ( informal), learning styles , and if its a faith group use a variety of ways of forming about faith – can faith be ‘taught’ in all learning styles? 
  8. Connecting with adults on a consistent basis matters. No one said that the person has to be young, trendy, or relevant. Consistency was far more important.

So, a few thoughts on why young people stayed in youth groups & provision, why they left, and reflecting on these. They may not be rocket science. But as youth provision is a voluntary attendance, then its not about always trying to make it bigger and better, but to make it meaningful, consistent and better.

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If youth ministry doesnt mean anything to young people, they’ll find something else that does

Its just great that we have a youth group for our teenagers!

Oh isnt it lovely that young people come to the church every now and then!

We had 100 young people at our youth event last month, isnt God moving! 

As a Diocese our youth ministry team are putting together a great strategy! 

These are all statements I am hearing more and more, in churches, with other youth workers. And if they’re not said, its also the implication of the presentations of success of youth ministry in photos on social media, gatherings of people.

What seems to be talked about and valued is that ‘As youth ministers, we have managed to arrange for young people to occupy a space’  

And as Youth Ministers, Clergy, Diocese/affiliation/conference organisers – The faces, or silouetted gatherings of young people become hot property for sharing and emphasising.

Youth Ministry clearly means something to us as professionals, leaders and church leaders. We are rightly proud of the ministry we have, like parents at the parents evening or end of term certificate evening, we want to show off what has been achieved. And gathering young people into spaces, ensures that, in the expectations of keeping young people safe/diverted/away from the sins of the world – we have also succeeded. (Youth Ministry has an underlying aim of safety, Pete Ward, 1996)

The Question is;

Do young people find the same meaning in youth ministry?

They might not know it, as young people, but as Humans generally we find meaning in things that provide the following:

  1. Purpose – our lives have to have purpose, eg getting a job, raising family, buying a home, being successful
  2. Value and Justification – our lives must be in some way in accordance with a moral standard, and we can present ourselves as a good person, (often we’ll re narrate past events to assert that we have acted morally)
  3. Efficacy – This is where we have the capacity to achieve something, to make something happen, to be in control of that achievement, to contribute to society, a community
  4. Self-Worth – This could be in the achievement of something, the feedback of something, and having a stable sense of self which is evidenced by stories of others and their admiration of us.  (Jocelyn Bryan 2016, p62, based on Baumeister, Wilson)

We might find meaning in youth ministry, but looking at this list- where might young people?  Critically if young people dont find meaning in the practices of the church they are likely to decide to leave.

I wonder, when we plan for activities with young people in churches, residentials, camps, events (if its in that direction) or developing groups, activities, emerging church with young people – it is imperative that these spaces young people find meaning. If at least one of the aspects above isnt there, they’re likely to leave.

We should create practices of ministry with young people that give young people a sense of life meaning, including helping their self worth, their purpose, their ability to ‘do’ things and also their value. It must mean something for young people, mean something more than them turning up and playing games and hearing someone or watching someone. If this isnt possible in the kind of spaces that can be photographed, then maybe the need for photographing young people in these spaces is to be reduced to concentrate on places of healthy meaning making with young people.

Shall we try in youth ministry to create places of welcome, ministries that mean something, churches and organisations that enable young people to have purpose, Value, self worth and also creative space to develop ideas that give them possibility to transform society.

Would that not be a pretty dynamic youth ministry? Might it scare the church, scare society that young persons could be given this kind of space, and opportunity.

Youth Ministry practices have to be places where young people themselves find meaning in it. The danger is that if it is only viewed as a form of entertainment, then an alternative will easily be found that its bigger and better. It has to mean something to them more than this.

Can youth ministry be judged on how it created opportunities for life meaning, where young people felt self worth, where they participated and contributed and where they were valued.

Of course there’s plenty of situations where this happens, but if the life of discipleship doesnt mean something to young people, that they find identity and pluasible faith (Shepherd 2016) that has practices of meaning. Then theyll find it elsewhere, from the football team that makes them captain, or the vlogger who identifies with them. Theyll worship something else that gives them meaning.

9 Reasons why Young people shouldnt bother to Vote in #GE2017

The General election is now only 3 days away.

If for a variety of reasons you’re not already counted and registered, and theres been a huge surge in trying to get young people to vote.  I mean why? And what is really in it for the young person? will they get a free download? or be entered into a prize draw? Image may contain: text

Here is one of the over reactionary, done in a war time recruitment style posters going around.

Its almost as if it sounds like it should be made compulsory for young people to vote, its getting to that level.

If you’re a young person, heres 9 reasons why you shouldnt bother voting in the General election.

 

1. Generally the people who are in the government talk to the people who vote for them. They’re not talking to young people, so why bother voting for them.  

2. Nothing that happens to you in your life has anything to do with what happens on TV with those people who shout at each other. 

3. Adults over the last few years have made the best decisions for the country, and for your interest at heart, so why not trust them again. 

4. You’re just a big child, you dont really know anything about really important things, probably the only thing you’re interested in at the moment is trying to get cheap train fares back from Uni, or the price of a pint on student night, or your exams. Why bother fretting over a bit of politics as well, why vote at all, just keep doing the stuff in your life – why worry about politics and voting? 

5. It seems so hard work. walking somewhere – cant it just be done from clicking the buttons on the Xbox?, i mean its such an inconvenience going outside to vote. 

6. You keep being told you’re not engaged with politics. Every time theres a flipping election, ‘young people are disengaged’  so you’re better off keeping up the stereo type, after all all the other stereotypes adults have of young people are right as well arent they?  So why not put on your hoody, get pregnant and collapse in the streets drunk then queue up to the dole queue and threaten people in the shopping centre, whilst taking stressful exams that get easier every year and just be bored. Dont bother changing peoples perceptions of you – you’re disengaged from politics – dont bother voting! Live the dream!   

7. Dont bother voting – just march instead, theyll be plenty of marches coming up, anti brexit, anti austerity, anti climate change, anti tax cuts or benefit cuts. If you dont vote, think of all the exercise you can get, placards you can make and travel to london you can do protesting. Itll be amazing, all yours if you dont vote (of course you can vote and still march, but really you have a chance to change things before then…)

8. Theres no point in voting, after all, all the people you see on social media are going to vote in the same kind of way, so your vote isnt going to make a difference. Even though they all live all over the country, they can be your vote. Why bother, they’re already going to. 

9. Citizenship classes were boring. 

If these are the actual reasons why you’re not going to vote, then please reconsider. You have the opportunity to be make a real difference, it doesnt matter where you live or what the likelihood is. If larger numbers of young people vote every time then politicians will have to start taking you seriously, as seriously as they do older people in society.

For every piece of legislation or service or resource or education system that has been changed in your lifetime and penalised you – these have been decisions made by the government – and they get away with it because they know that you probably dont realise this, and you wont vote until you’re at least 30, thats when you discover the news channel for the first time, and start paying taxes. But you already pay taxes, and have benefits, or didnt get education grants, or cant get a house.. so all of these things already affect you.

Remember, the government really does not want you to vote. The proof of this is that in the last 7 weeks, not a single encouragement to register to vote was put out on social media by the conservative government, if that isnt an indictment that theyre threatened by you, i dont know what is. 

Adults in society dont really want you to vote, not in large numbers, and start taking politics seriously. But that and being able to change things should be enough of a reason to do so. If you dont know stuff, find out stuff. Do the same research you do for choosing your next phone, compare and contrast the parties as if theyre new phones, what they say, what they do, and what theyve done before. None of them are perfect, all have skeletons in their closet, so vote for the one that listens to you and promises something that you might like for now or the future. and if they say nothing, or think of you just as an economic entity (ie just to get a job or house) then think about what kind of world that will be.

Take the opportunity to make a difference, everyone only has 1 vote. Make yours and make it count.

Take a selfie at the polling booth, go in fancy dress, brave the rain, and vote. Go on. Take a lead from the millions of young people that voted in scotland over the last few years, their politics has changed considerably. Go on.

Dealing with the difficult: ‘the day after’

Later that Day, two of Jesus followers were walking from Jerusalem to the Village of Emmaus, seven miles away’ – this is the unassuming beginning of how the gospel writer Luke opens the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

‘Later, Jesus appeared to the disciples beside the sea of Galilee, many of them were there, Peter said, ‘Im going fishing’ and they all joined him’  is a paraphrase of Johns description of what Peter and some of the disciples did, a few days after the resurrection.

‘The Ethiopian had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and now he was returning’ is Lukes description of the Ethiopians situation in Acts 8.

For all of them it was the day after, or at least the evening after. 

For Peter, it was the day after the miraculous resurrection, but he knew there would have to be ‘a talk’ , For the disciples there had been such a commotion after the resurrection that they needed to head home, maybe they had to go anyway, back to Emmaus. For the Ethiopian, he was on his way back to Ethiopia after being to Jersusalem on some kind of pilgrimage and hed left probably early, disheartened and confused. We know he wouldnt have planned to be travelling during the heat of the sun…

What of the days after in our Youth work and Ministry;

the day after the residential – everyone had an amazing time but back to the office and you wonder how to make it even better next yearImage result for youth camp

the day after the detached session when there was a fight and you ended up chatting to the police till late, today you have to let the chair of trustees know

the day after the PCC meeting that really did. not. go. well

the day after every youth group which gives us challenges, hopes, energy and life – to be met with a monday day of admin

the day after the funding bids returned unsuccessful

the day after handing in the essay or dissertation to be marked 

the day after anything can be a day of mixed emotions, when the adrenaline has peaked and run out, where there are difficult decisions to be made, where there is sense to be made in what might be complexity and confusion. What we might also be good at doing is creating the highs for others, including young people, the event, the club, the camp, the holiday club, and so for them they also have the ‘day after’ to deal with. God might be said to be more miraculously present in the high.

What of the disciples as they walked away into the night from Jerusalem

What of Peter taking the boys out fishingImage result for peter fishing

what of the Ethiopian travelling home

None of them were technically alone, they each had persons with them, whether the chariot rider, fellow disciple or mates on the boat. But having been in the moments of ‘high’ they were now alone, their emotions all over the place, confused, perplexed.

No one is remotely surprised by this, not even Jesus has a go at Peter for fishing. They needed time to breathe, recharge and remind themselves of a skill they once had, the familiar.

However, it is in the day after that God met them all in the familiar. On the familiar road, on the familiar beach with that familiar smell of fish being cooked, and in the familiar chariot hurtling through the desert.

It was in the day after that serious business was taking place. Serious education, discipleship and questions like:

what are you discussing as you walk – tell me more’ – Jesus wants to hear and help us understand

‘Do you understand what you are reading‘ asks Philip, tell me more about how you perceive it, feel about it

Fellows have you caught any fish‘ asks Jesus, the bread is nearly ready, and I know you’ll feel alot better a)having caught something, and b) eating it.

Now come and have breakfast‘ says Jesus who spends time with them on the beach, in the day after, Can i find understanding, belonging and acceptance here?, asks the Ethiopian on the road, Did our hearts burn as we began to understand? – exclaimed the disciples on their road.

So, whats it like for you in the ‘day after’ ? More to the point, what might it also be like for your volunteers, young people in the day after also.

without intending so, our ministry moments might be so highly narrated with God, that by default it can become that day to living is devoid of seeing the spiritual in the mundane – when this neednt be the case

understandably ‘the day after’ a day before of a struggle, challenge, meetings or big decision can bring about a range of emotions, confusion, fear and anxiety. Going fishing, walking or a drive in the car (across a desert..?) may be whats required.

We might also need to be present in other peoples days after, in between the spaces, not just in the spaces, but in the spaces of time, in the day after.

This isnt the time to talk about self care in ministry, only to reflect on the effect of its variety of challenges and emotions.

So – what about you – what about the ‘day after’ for you- what do you do?

If God met the disciples in the days after, we should expect the same dangerous God to meet people in the times unexpected to our design today too, including ourselves.

 

Forget growth strategies for church & youth ministry; meet (young) peoples needs.

I am happy to be corrected by this. But I am struggling to remember an occasion in the last few years where a church or youth ministry organisation who has adopted or created a strategy for growth, has included the notion of ‘meeting peoples needs’. I wonder if this has been bypassed somewhat; for the sake of ‘evangelism strategy’, or ‘social action project’ or ‘organisation objectives’ , i only wonder as i am happy to be corrected. But it feels a little as if meeting peoples needs has got out of fashion. Especially in a climate of organisation survival of the fittest.

Before a few of my esteemed colleagues point out that meeting peoples needs has been usurped by ‘developing their gifts’ , ie Asset Based community development. I am already there, as you might tell, this isnt about developing work from a needs based approach, this is about what it actually means to meet peoples needs, at least getting that part done might be a minimum requirement, or at least recognise that developing gifts and meeting needs go hand in hand in meeting peoples psychological meaning. And this isnt just spiritual needs, I mean human ones. Meet their deepest psychological needs and their gifts might also be part of the equation.

At this point, you might expect me to refer to Maslow. And, i will. Only to say that despite the criticisms of his hierarchy, there is something critical not to be overlooked in what he proposes. Forget the hierarchy for one moment, as these get us into knots. But what if the levels were summarised:

Image result for maslow hierarchy of needs

So, consider them as these, starting from the bottom up:

  1. Survival and Security
  2. To know and to live
  3. Affiliation and relationship
  4. Achievement and purpose needs.

So, how many growth strategies for organisations start with ‘meeting the needs of people’, a bit of me wonders whether some initiatives dont get further than ‘base level’ – providing a social service, a valid and meaningful one – like food, or money advice or youthwork conversation, but there become a bottle neck, blockage or barrier to preventing persons starting from this point to have other needs met in the structure of the church or organisation. But what of the people who are already in our youth clubs, churches – in what way are their ‘creativity’ and ‘affiliation’ needs met – in more than status? 

However, moving on from Maslow, Over the last few months I have been writing an essay for my Psychology class on Myth Making, one of the books that I read during this was Jocelyn Bryans reflections on Christianity and Psychology book; Human Being (2016),  in it she argues that Humans develop a narrative identity that provide themselves with a meaning of life that has to consist of all four of the following for a person to consider their life as meaningful:

  1. Purpose – our lives have to have purpose, eg getting a job, raising family, buying a home, being successful
  2. Value and Justification – our lives must be in some way in accordance with a moral standard, and we can present ourselves as a good person, (often we’ll re narrate past events to assert that we have acted morally)
  3. Efficacy – This is where we have the capacity to achieve something, to make something happen, to be in control of that achievement, to contribute to society, a community
  4. Self-Worth – This could be in the achievement of something, the feedback of something, and having a stable sense of self which is evidenced by stories of others and their admiration of us.  (2016, p62, based on Baumeister, Wilson)

If theres an underlying reason that people go to church, or church related activities: that ‘it provides things the world doesnt dish up’ (Marschall, 2004, Youthworker magazine, US)  i wonder whether of all the summaries of human needs described here, that churches, youth groups and youth work organisations have focussed on to the detriement of others.

On one hand it would be easily argued that is the Christian faith that has the capacity to provide a persons needs (and Bryan suggests this) – and so the story that is told, the way it is told and how young people acknowledge their place and purpose in it is crucial. Yet it is not the Christian faith that young people leave when or if they leave the church, it is the organisation of the church, so which of the human needs of young people isnt being met and how might meeting peoples needs become a focus. In recent research, The fuller institute discovered that a ‘healthy place’ was where young people stayed in a church beyond the age of 14. I would be confident that a healthy place might be where young people, and their family and others needs are intentionally met.

This is not a selfish proposition. It is about how communities of faith act as community to enable all the flourish within in it. But we have to take into account in church that human drives, urges, motivations, personalities and goals play a significant part of decision making and being part of a social group. Its not about getting what I need, but being in a space to flourish so that I can contribute in a healthy way. Surely thats ultimately not selfish.

If i had a haunch, then most people leave churches or youth groups because 1 or more of their needs isnt being met. A disagreement leads to loss of belonging, being cast as sinful/guilty/shame doesnt endorse a personal morality, it doesnt fit with life purpose, or what I am beginning to think more and more. Church doesnt fulfil a need to be challenged (healthily), or to build on and use creative gifts for a larger purpose (with the exception of a few creative gifts/music being one). People will stay if church and youth ministry is able to give them meaning and purpose, you can fill in the blanks regarding the opposite. Church is to be a place of deep meaning and where people flourish.

So, if the church is serious about keeping people, or attracting people, our strategies need to include being able to meet peoples human needs in the functioning of the community. What might that mean

  1. Creating places of welcome and belonging
  2. Teaching that provides people with value and purpose
  3. Opportunities for meaningful and ongoing challenges appropriate to the person and for them to have some control over them (and not limited by age, gender, disability)
  4. People have positive feedback. yes thats positive feedback in a church. (uh oh, heres the impossible one, i think i was ok up to point 3 ;-))

There are tons more, that you could probably think of.  And I know this is completely impossible etc etc, but start with the small group you might already be involved in, the youth group, house group, knit & natter group – think ; in what way can we improve on helping people to flourish through meeting their life meaning needs?  do they need to be part of a challenge and stretched, or be commended, or just continue to belong and give them opportunity for this.. – the way that people belong… it when they make the tea in your house. 

Church might offer something different to the world – when it develops peoples needs, facilitates and fosters creativity, purpose and challenge – as well as create spaces of welcome. Its what people need.

Lets have meeting peoples needs, that enable them to flourish in their community as the church mission and youth group strategy. Lets have meeting peoples psychological needs so that the spaces are created so that their creativity is harnessed, their gifts used and as persons they are contributors.

Oh – and youll find Jesus did most of this with his disciples. So its pretty biblical too. He probably over worked the challenges, and that didnt do the worldwide church any harm from those 12.

 

 

Dealing with the difficult; Closure, Failure and Redundancy

Im writing this with lots of emotions, feelings and thoughts running around my head. Part of me feels sadness and loss, for part of me theres a sense of having tried and put alot of effort into something and it just not happen, that theres an abrupt change of pace, part of me tries to put on a brave face, part of me is even slightly relieved, that an probable impossibility has come to an end.

Less that 3 hours ago the decision was approved by my trustees to start the process of closing down the charity that i work for. Even though this was the decision this evening, the writing has been on the wall a while, so its not a shock today, more an inevitable stage along whats been an ongoing process since the beginning of the year.

Its not new, I’m guess that most youth workers have been made redundant. Many youthworkers have lost jobs, moved on from them. Many have faced horrific cuts, changed roles and shifts due to funding streams and council priorities.

However, what the last few months, and few hours has brought the fore, is that the three words; Closure, Failure and Redundancy seem difficult to have conversations about. It would be odd to put ‘today I failed in my youth work practice’ as a facebook post – or ‘our church is making the vicar redundant’ on the diocese website – for example. Yet the reality is that these things happen. But they’re the things that go underground. And because they’re not talked about so much- how can we prepare others for them as almost an inevitability?  The alternative is not to bother and hope that a person manages to do so – usually alone.

Even writing this feels weird, raw, vulnerable. But isnt that what life is now and then, a bit raw, weird and vulnerable – especially but not exclusively in youth work, in faith settings, its gets emotional now and then, and difficult. Maybe we live in a culture where we aim low and get low and are happy, try and do something challenging and fail… well best stay away. But that’s not real, real is to try and keep trying, to give and try and make something happen, to invest and fight and strive – and then hope and dream and have faith. Its about a trying and taking risks because good things might happen – not just because it’ll be well paid or that it’ll work, but because its good.

So, as of this evening, redundancy is heading my way, and its ok. Im not belittling it or trivialising it, but it is happening, it isn’t great, but its not the end, its not a statement on me for not trying and taking a risk, and for most youthworkers thats the same, we fight, give, invest in young people – but usually things out of control take over – but its not that we failed, failure isn’t a gift we need to embrace, accept or take, and I am not either. Failure is for those who don’t try. Feeling like i’ve failed isn’t what i’m feeling right now, more that it could be how others might perceive something ending.

Closure is another word, but no one promises that things will last forever. Not even the building of the church will ultimately, Durham cathedral will pass away. But closure and endings are hard, for a while, and then people get used to it not being there. Like Woolworths or BHS (shops in the UK)  or something else that’s been turned into a poundshop or a coffee bar. Why do we not like things to close- because change is difficult – and as creatures of habit we like the status quo. We feel attached to the group, club or ministry, or organisation, sometimes too attached, sometimes obsessively so, Closure is tough.

Youth work and Ministry is not for the fainthearted. The Christian life is not for the joy riders. Its a tough place where risks are needed to be taken, where emotions can be on the line and discipleship is an ongoing call and response. No one said that call and response was to avoid the tough muddy paths, the quick sand or the storms. Closure, Failure and Redundancy, they’re difficult words. But they’re a reality in most of ministry – or at least the fear of them can be.

There is no at the moment redemptive happy ending at the end of this article. No reference to Jeremiah 29:11 to wrap it all up and give it the hopeful dream of a better future, or certainty of something else – because i know of too many others for whom that hasn’t been the reality. So right now, am in the midst of the myriad of thoughts, and trying to work through these three difficult words, and talk about them and get them out in the open for discussion. So, youth workers, we need to talk about Closure and Endings, Failure and how not to embrace it, and Redundancy – and realise we have value beyond what people pay us to do. I think.

 

8 common reactions to the displays at the conference market-place.  

There’s a thing in christian and other conferences circles. It’s the publicity stands that adorn the outskirts of many a conference hall or networking event. They’re usually manned by ‘the weekend staff’ a volunteer or the sole person in the organisation who has to be there to advertise the organisation or project or opportunity.

The stands bring out an array of reactions.

What’s noticeable from running a stand at a variety of places is that the mixture of reactions by the general public to such publicity stands.

Heres a few of the more popular ones;

1. The ‘can I get away with just taking a leaflet and not have a conversation’ person.  These people often glide past the stall holder, give no eye contact and head straight to the table, the leaflet, pick it up, give it a read, quite seriously. 

2. The ‘glazed eye view’ these people are easy to spot. They walk past stands with glazed eyes, polite smile but then walk on.

3. The overkeen. Mega enthusiastic people, go to every stand, sign up to everything but don’t commit to anything.

4. The freebie frenzy. They leave the christian conference with 30 free pencils, badges, USB sticks, 200 leaflets, 30 sweets.

5. The long conversation, difficult question people. Usually they appear when there’s 20 other people who look actually interested but you end up using up all your attention on the responses from this awkward customer who wants to know your theological position on mission or why anyone should do youth work with young people outside the church. Meanwhile the resources and possibility of 20 others goes untapped.

6. The person who thinks you’re someone else. So after a long conversation and interest, the persons says ‘oh I thought you were from ________ organisation,  not that one, sorry to waste your time, (sigh).

7. The person who only wants the free pencil, but acts politely and has a conversatiom  just to not feel too guilty about taking it.

8. And yes there’s the perfect person. Who asks good questions, listens intently and signs up, and then emails back and then participates in the programmes, course or opportunity. But its probably about 1 in every 8 people. Actually it’s more like 1 in every 18.

So. The conference stands, from the other side we watch how our displays have a strange reaction on the conference delegates. I guess from the other point of view there are a few approaches that work well for attracting people to a specific publicity stand and in a competitive christian market place these can be bigger brighter and more outlandish. Yet often the more useful or appropriate ministry for you in a church or as an individual might be the smaller stand or might not even be there at all playing the conference publicity game. Because for 1 opportunity out of 15-18 it’s often a tough gig and time consuming. Though there can be some really good networking & conversations between stand holders and shared opportunities too.

If this is what Christian women hear – what about the female young people & children?

If you havent been following social media in the last few days, theres been an eyewatering thread going around, one not linked to the General election, you can follow it using the hashtag #thingsonlychristianwomenhear: a selection of the top ones are below.

It is worth taking time to reflect on what was said, whats implied about relationships, about women, about power and faith through what are 12 sentences.

The Current generation of young people have been shafted, no wonder they’re Unhappy

In the midst of the General Election updates, news and conversation, this article got my attention: It said that UK Teenagers are the Most unhappy – theyre also stressed about exams.

It led me to a conversation I was having with a family member the other day, as we were walking with the dog, we noticed a small group of four young people, aged about 13, they were a bit giggly, well dressed, out in a country park and to me seemed pleasant if a bit daft. The family member made a comment about whether they thought they ‘were like that as a teenager’ ie a few decades previously… obviously i couldnt let this go unchallenged. However, a few days later. I reflect on the thought that even well mannered, clean, chirpy, conversational young people are looked on with a certain amount of judgement.

The family member, then later, suggested that they thought that the young people ‘looked troubled’ .  Blimey, ive seen worse, but it might be suggested – where might the cause of that ‘trouble’ come from.

Then i read the article above. Let it sink in.

Young people in the UK are the most depressed.

Thats young people stocked to the gills with technology, items, TV, magazines, clothes, access to the internet, games, DVD’s – they are depressed. Yet theyve never had it so good – right?

After all all i had was a football, and a muddy field – but stuff is relative, we didnt know what we didnt know to have.

The problem is that young people dont have it all now. They only have it all now in the short term, in the immediate, its stuff is probably all they have that is more than previous generations, and knowledge ( there is more to know as history unravels) Image result for stereotypical teenagers

But in the wider and long term- what do young people have more of now than before?  Heres 10 things they dont have:

  1. Security of a job beyond University
  2. Housing benefits cut over 16s
  3. Educational maintenance allowance
  4. One parent who probably doesnt have to work, because mortgages so high/wages not so
  5. A life that wont involve debt after university
  6. A variety of education pathways that include vocational, philosophy and artistic subjects ( the government are narrowing this down)
  7. Reduction in funding for FE colleges, so again other options narrowed
  8. Heightened awareness of major world disasters on phones/screens – increase in fear/anxiety
  9. Lack of access to mental health provision, to cope with the shit theyre faced with
  10. Youth provision culled from most councils – yet social care for adults gets precepts and increased council tax priority – and even underhand tactics from the conservative government in Surrey
  11. Schools in competition for the ‘best’ marks, best pupils and therefore less time & finances to encourage the potential of those who could thrive with it, (same schools where teachers are off stressed)

And this is only the first 11 things that come to my mind, theres at least 20 others… . As one youthworker said a year ago to me, its the have it all baby boomer generation against the F-all younger generation, and its being made worse.

So tell me, calm and certainty about the future? which part of that includes young people?

Someone surely has to start taking notice and put next generations first. Because at this rate my grand kids will be back down the mines at 12.

If young peoples life goals are so uncertain, then theyll have to find value in the immediate, the stuff of things and technology. No wonder they’re unhappy.

Though as a response. Those over 18 can vote. Vote for a party thatll turn around all that is being reduced, shrunk and taken away from young people. This is only one response, but at this moment i cant think of many others.

To register to vote, if you’re 17 or above, do so here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

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