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…
Christian Smith, 2003, Soul searching
Chap Clark, 2018, Adoptive church
Andrew Root, 2018, Faith formation in a secular age.