Or at least, that’s what we want to pay a youth worker to do.
Harsh? Or deep down is this what churches are really thinking?
Twice in the last year I have heard the word ‘feral’ used to describe groups of young people.
As many times more have I heard that getting young people into church is the only answer to solving their problems.
Forgive me for just a little over sensitivity.
But WHAT THE ACTUAL F***?
Has brexit unleashed a whole new generation of intolerant uncompassionate baby boomer/late retireds who have a compassion and humanity chip missing?
Have church leaders forgotten what love and ‘people made in the image of God’ looks like?
Has personal blame, rather than community responsibility and societies ills been sidelined?
Or is church still set in Victorian ways.. still happy to feel colonial and superior and retain this by the use of Victorian language.
So I’m bloody mad.
But if this is actually what we’re thinking as churches when it comes to working with young people, then churches and the congregations in them have got to own this.
Own that this is how they actually feel about young people. Own that working with young people is only code for ‘bringing them into church’. Own that they are scared and frightened of young people, and where these feeling originate. Often from the media, and when powerful leaders in churches use negative stories of the world outside and young people’s actions. Own it and be honest. Own it and challenge i. Own it and be collectively self aware.
I just don’t think the problem is with young people.
It’s with us.
It’s with the us who know better
It’s with the us who still believe
It’s with the us who hope that change is possible
It’s with us if we have any desire to realise that God’s love is inclusive.
It’s our problem. It’s our problem as church if this is our starting point. Or what we actually mean, but try and hide it.
It’s our problem if we believe some young people are worth more in the kingdom of God than others.
It’s our problem if the culture of church favours the behaved. Or people only like us.
It’s these expectations that cause challenges with employing youthworkers. But if it’s out in the open. We have to own it.
I may be critical and angry. But this is also heartfelt passion.
‘Sorry and We have got it wrong’ have to be the starting point. We will not provide reconciling spaces if we’ve already judged.
Whole communities do need restoring, encouraging, loving, understanding and being present in.
Those feral young people might be the key.
Those feral young people have had their life opportunities restricted by austerity policies that weren’t their fault.
Those feral young people are angry. Those feral young people need compassion not criticism.
Those feral young people are creative, determined, passionate and resourceful, and God is provoking us through them. They are the visionaries a dying church needs.
Those feral young people, and not other, they are not scum.
Those feral young people… are not other, they are us.
Maybe we do need to understand before were understood.
Maybe hearts need breaking first. Ours.
Maybe anger is a good thing.
God, please one day might there be a church where ‘those’ young people are welcome, understood, loved and cherished. And I hope it is in my lifetime and I am able to play a part in it happening.
And I haven’t started on the ‘getting them into church bit..’…