How might churches invest in young people? (if that’s one of the only ways young people will invest in the faith)

This is effectively the sentiment from Christian Smith who wrote, in 2003;

‘Young people are more likely to become serious about their faith, if the institution of the church makes significant investment in them”

So.. whilst invest possibly is a word that we might challenge for its financial association. There is a reality that churches who dedicate themselves to young people, and values that include, create safe space for and enable participation, are more likely to have young people within them who have a dedication to the faith. Honestly, drum kits and worship styles might matter far less.. especially, if, as Chap Clark recently suggests in ‘adoptive church ‘ these are merely tokens and are purchases that are bought instead of relationship.

So. Getting back to the sense of investing in young people, the first thing we might think of is money. But don’t. Because buying a Youth worker in, really might not be the right thing. Especially if buying a Youth worker causes all the people in a church already developing positive relationships with 11 year olds, to stop doing so. Honestly.. if you’ve got that far.. the best thing is to continue…

On this basis, investing in young people is far less about money. And far more about investing in them as people. Investing in them and connecting them in relationship with other people in the church, investing in their gifts and abilities, investing in them and understanding their social world with empathy. Investing in them so that they explore and create expressions of church that give them a sense of wonder, relationship and participation, not just attendees.. , invest in young people and their discipleship and their ministry in the world (not just volunteering to to the chairs), but invest in what they can bring to the world in response to God prompting and speaking through them.

So, it’s nothing like just about money. Investing in young people and their faith is a whole lot more.

It’s about investing in thinking positively about young people

It’s about investing in the volunteers who work with young people, with training and supervision

It’s about investing in the young people as more than recipients of resources

It’s about investing in their ministry and supporting them in it

It’s about making spaces inclusive and safe for challenging conversations

It’s about enabling participation in the whole faith community.. including the decision making processes.

It’s about challenging the stuff that young people have to deal with, not just supporting them through it.

It’s about investing in the 5 or less that you have, not the 25 you wish you had.

And a whole load besides… but I’m sure you get the point.. It’s not about money, trips or festivals, it’s about belonging, participation in ministry and the life of God and community.

Creating a culture of sharing life, of family, of participation and faithful risk taking, that might give young people, and anyone, the clearest indication that it’s people that matter to God, not structures and organisation.

Maybe then young people might invest in their faith back…

References

Christian Smith, 2003, Soul searching

Chap Clark, 2018, Adoptive church

Andrew Root, 2018, Faith formation in a secular age.

Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust (www.fyt.org.uk) and Communities Together Durham (www.communitiestogetherdurham.org) 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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