What Role do you want young people to have in church?

For the majority of churches, the idea of having any young people being part of the church is a bit of a luxury. The task for many is to find them, attract them, and often this task has seemed to have fallen to the ‘christian organisation’ such as YFC, YMCA or FYT – the challenge where this happens is how the integration from organisation to church occurs.

But thats not the subject of this piece. I raised the question about the role that young people play in the church in a piece last year (here is this piece) , a piece that since April has been read by at least 10 people worldwide per day since. The role of young people in church is clearly crucial and something widely needing a discussion on.

So, what about progressing the conversation on a bit:

If its one thing to state ‘What current role do young people play?’ – and consider how passive, consuming, entertained they might be – the progressing question is :

What Role do you want young people to have in the church?

Because there is no point just assessing what kind of role they currently have, its what kind of role those who work with them want them to have, and how this might happen is key. So, this is yet another piece on young peoples participation. So, it might be worth thinking through why participation is important, and what might need to change, from the point of view of the cultural norms of church, of youth leadership and the perception of young people in the church which proceeds the development of their role. I have written before (and so have others) about the various historical perceptions of young people in churches, that needs to be changed in order that participation is increased. From the social rescue of the 1800’s, to the ‘protection and safety’ and creation of alternative culture youth ministry subsequent to the 1960’s. Throughout it all, there remains a high expectation of young people being involved in church to ‘learn’. Nick Shepherd in ‘Faith Generation (2016) suggests that shifting culture from learning to deciding is key. And I agree.

But why is increasing participation required?

On one hand, Theologically, participation is core to faith and the gospel itself. But I dont think I need to expand this here. Just look up ‘Bible Gateway’ and search participate or participation. And where there are no references, think about how God involves humans in the task of his mission, or loving and caring for the world, and developing the work of the church. Participation, and increasing it is core.

I want to look at this from a psychological basis as well. The psychologists Deci and Ryan have suggested that all of us are motivated by, and seek out continued spaces in which they feel they have:

  • Connection/Belonging
  • Competence
  • Autonomy

And, to be reasonable, developing relationships has been one of the key principles of youth ministry over the last 30 years. It may be something that still needs work, but ask a whole load of young people who have had the same leaders for more than 3-4 years, and they will remark on the depth of friendship and the value of them. Developing connections and relationships is undoubtedly key. From a young persons point of view – they will also be seeking out opportunities to create and have these connections – its worth bearing this in mind.

The second of these things is competence. It can take a number of facets, but essentially, being good at something, being confident in it and then also receiving the feedback for it. So think about it – in what ways do young people ‘do’ something in the church, that they can be praised for – that is quite meaningful? Colouring in a picture and showing it, really isnt competence inducing for a 12yr old. (especially when they’ve been in a committee in primary school)

The third is Autonomy. Which on the face of it might infer that they want to be independent, and this is partly correct, but it is a sense that they have responsibility and possibility to make decisions on aspects of things that directly affect them, having influence in the important. So – what about the youth group, or the church that young people might be important that young people could or should have influence over? Well if theyre an integral part of the church, then i might suggest almost everything. Only having a say in whether to play table tennis or indoor football may be a start, but its barely an important one. Chap Clark (Adoptive church, 2018) suggest that young people could have a say in the content or subject matter of the sermons in church. Maybe with that level of participation, young people might invest in church further. With a direct line to my youth pastor as a tennager, the youth group would make some suggestions to him, back in the 1990’s. It was great to hear on a sunday what he knew we thought was important. And not be patronised or ignored.

Think about all the aspects of the youth group, or the aspect of church – what role do you want each of the young people to play?

What might you need to do to open up the space so they can? challenge barriers? challenge assumptions? create spaces where young peoples voice can be heard? (and this not be a one off) If any church is serious about young people being more than token, more than passive consumers, then as adults, youth leaders and volunteers our role is to create the space, it is also to provide the support for developing the risk taking.

As a reminder, here is Roger Harts ladder of youth participation, which helps to give the rungs and grades of participation for young people.

Image result for youth participation

It might be said then, that increasing young people’s participation isnt just a nice to do – its actually what they need. Beyond connection, competence and autonomy are shot through the participation ladders higher rungs, decision making, doing stuff, creating things, taking risks – all deeply connected to a young persons needs (whether they know it or not).

Naturally, there are some areas in a youth group in which young people can have more participation than others (the games rather than the faith content..often) – it can also be said that some young people are more likely to be given roles than others – its usually the:

  • ones with the leadership potential
  • Right gender, race or ability…
  • extroverts
  • the oldest
  • the loudest
  • those known the longest
  • the most well behaved.

But what about the others? might a church be setting itself up to be accused of favouring the strongest (rather than the less visible) for participation, – is this theological ? After all – who did Jesus prefer. The irony is that ones who are likely to have participation opportunities in church, are as likely to be those who have them in school. So – the least get left out twice. The opportunities for participation might need to be adapted to the persons in the group. fancy that.

So – what kind of role do you want young people to have in their local church? or their youth group?

You might be content with them only having a token role in the life of the whole church, then dont be surprised if they only seem to have a token faith, or a token investment back. ‘The more we invest in young people the more they are likely to invest in their faith’ is a paraphrase from Christian Smith seminal 2003 book. Do you, does the church have increased and full participation as a main aim – but what kind of participation is actually possible for the 11 year old or 14yr old?

If you want young people to stay, and children beyond messy church and sunday school – then increasing participation in the local church is crucial. Its almost the only way. Its why when they have experienced it, ‘just going’ to a ‘event or festival’ might seem boring in comparison. Its participation free.

Without participation young people might get bored. And thats not because they need greater entertainment, its that they need greater respect and involvement. Relationship, Competance and Autonomy – might churches, and youth groups be places where these deep needs of young people are met? They might only be met through increasing participation. So – what role do you want them to play in the faith community? – what role do they want?

References:

Joined up – Danny Brierley, 2003 ( a chapter on participation)

Human Being, Bryan, Jocelyn, 2016 – On personal motivation/goals and a consideration of Deci and Ryan.

Adoptive Church, Chap Clark, 2018

Faith Generation, Nick Shepherd, 2016

Soul Searching, 2003, Christian Smith/ Denton

The following Anvil Journal has pieces on Participation and Empowerment – might be worth a read.

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10 mistakes that hinder youth ministry that can be changed!

I imagine you have heard the old joke:

How Many Youthworkers does it take to change a lightbulb?

100

why 100?

Well its 1 of them to change the lightbulb and 99 to write papers on coping in the darkness.

As I thought a little about this, I wondered whether there are other aspects of youthwork and ministry that we as youthworkers might be as guilty of, that at the same time as youthworkers we have to capacity to change.

  1. Proclaiming the darkness, without trying to change the lightbulb (something I wrote about here: https://wp.me/p2Az40-1c7)
  2. Over Egging our own pudding things like : ‘Yes, church leader, get a youthworker with (insert organisation name) and we’ll be bringing the young people into church by the thousands, we are the answer to your problem’.
  3. Under egging our own pudding, things like ; ‘This was nothing to do with the youthworker, it was all God, or all the young people’- sometimes we do need to allow ourselves positive feedback, as often no one else might do. Its an unhealthy thing not to take some positive credit for our calling, ministry and actions in the moment, blaming ourselves for the crap moments (or others) and yet deferring every positive to God is really unhealthy.
  4. Making Youthministry Amazing again. Blowing our own trumpet is one thing, using the word amazing to describe it, as an enticement for others on the starting point – when at the same time the budget cuts and long term sustainability in the role is truly awful. It is not an amazing thing all the time, and can we use other adjectives in job descriptions instead of ‘exciting’…
  5. Not looking after ourselves. This time last year I wrote alot on self care in ministry (check out the articles in the search engine) but in a ministry where our satifasfaction is usually to help and support others we can neglect ourselves, boundaries, time and other relationships, let alone health, exercise and spiritual inner life. We can do something about this, by managing ourselves.
  6. Dropping the books post college; Ongoing reflective practice with young people demands that we keep ourselves sharp. If we want young people to have a deep faith, deep experience of life then they need to see that in us too. We need to equip ourselves with knowledge and believe that thinking and reading is important. If a fall back is to keep things simple for them, because its all we can cope with then, young people will find somewhere else to find depth. Without maintaining reading we have less to fall back on, and brains that start going stale.
  7. Liking our Hero status too much in our own Ministry; A level of ‘expert power’ is likely to be transferred from others to the lead worker, the professional or paid person who has arrived with great fanfare to spin the deep magic and rescue the church/young people. It is likely to be transferred as it is almost normal. As youth workers can we guilty of liking our hero status too much? When this gets in the way of young people or volunteers being participants, or developing the skills and opportunities for others. Or holding onto more jobs that we need to, so that we can be heroic…
  8. Only being critical, and not being constructive. It is easy working out what we dont want to do, what we dont want to be, how we’re not like others who work with young people, how we might see young people differently to others, how we’re not liberal, or not prosletysing, or not a short term fix, or not shallow or complicated – this is easy, and we , and i include myself (critical/satirical blogs get higher views, constructive theological ones dont) in this – but constructive pathways encourage others to join in, critical ones turn others off. We have something to say, we have a way of working that is positive and values young people, we are to dream and pursue a positive dream (even in the midst of the darkness, or where others dont see it) .
  9. Believing Bigger is better- and draining in expectation- Once we start playing the numbers game, its the numbers game that people will judge us on, once young people stay consumers and us entertainers (see my posts on participation) then the responsibility is on us to entertain, attract, grow and that pressure is immense and without a cure, except burn out and spinning a hamster wheel that is tiring. And then when youthworkers talk and proclaim ministry, numbers can be the core definer. This is also linked to the comparison trap, your young people and group need not be compared with others.
  10. Blaming everyone else, As Naomi Thompson in young people and the church since 1900 highlighted, there can be a tendency for churches to defer responsibility, and so as youthworkers in the church this can also be the case. Its the parents fault, its the elders fault, its the schools fault, its Gods fault (because I prayed), when all the time, its my line managers fault, ‘everyone else needs to ‘get’ what Im doing’. We need to be more self aware and take responsibility, and actually our poor practice or reliance on methods or decision making is our responsibility, sometimes we cant blame others, but when youthworkers get together, there can be a collective blame thing going on.

Some of these might be common in other ministries, especially the numbers game, and possibly even the limited positive feedback. Culturally every ministry role in the church times or other publication is being described as ‘Amazing’ or ‘Exciting’ so its not just the youthworker problem this. As youthworkers, and ministers we do need to look after oursleves, but also have agency an responsibility to enact some of the changes we want to make, challenge where necessary and develop new cultures of working where we can.

‘They’re just kids’ and 11 other reasons for not giving Young People responsibilities in Churches

When religious communities do not invest in their youth, unsurprisingly their youth are less likely to invest in their religious faith (Christian Smith, 2005)

That investment, is not just financial, though it helps. There was no paid youthworker in my church growing up, but If you read my story about how I grew up and stayed in the church (it is here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-Ph ) you will have noticed that from the age of 12 I was given responsibilities in the church community, these included teaching young children in the Sunday school, helping with the music on the overhead projector slides, the PA and sound recording onto ‘tape’ – I was given responsibilities.

One of the recommendations from ‘Soul Searching, by Christian Smith (2005) is that he suggests that attention needs to be given to help young people away from a strong inclination to an individualism of their faith, one way I suggest might be is to give them responsibilities within a faith community/church in order that they play a collective part in the practice of the community. However, as Nick Shepherd writes in Faith Generation (2016), young people can be perceived primarily as learners in churches, as opposed to participants, deciders or creators. Now, it might be that these two publications have described a world alien to you in your church, significantly alien if there are no young people, or one where young people are key contributors and participants, and that would be great. But I wonder whether what the key reasons are why young people arent given responsibilities in churches. When, as a comparison, in schools, another learning community, they have many opportunities in committees and group work to have responsibilities.

So, what might be the reasons for not giving young people responsibility in churches?

  1. There arent many jobs to do, and the best people are already doing themThis may be the case, and thinking about it, the technology might have changed, from OHP and Tape to digital, but its fairly difficult to make a case that a young person cant master the current technology. Other jobs, well im sure there’s gaps on coffee rotas, sunday school teaching, collection, welcome team, interviewing the new youthworker, a forum for young people in the church to suggest ideas. Young people might just need to be asked, or alternatively have conversations with adults to discover their gifts and how they might contribute. Having spoken to a few young people recently, they were enjoying having management responsibility in a task at school – how might they ‘manage’ a situation/task in a church at 15?
  2. We’re scared the young person might fall flat on their faces and fail – Im all for not giving young people the kind of responsibility where their ‘failure’ is public, so public speaking for example.Image result for failure success Whatever the task is then manage, guide, show, let them shadow, follow, copy and learn, and so that they arent exposed or alienated to fail, by giving them opportunities to fail and help them through this will actually develop resilience and character, far more than them being fearful and avoiding the task or the adults being fearful of the consequence…. the alternative to this is;
  3. We dont want them to be successful either , then they might get prideful – , like above this is a projected fear that hinders creativity in the young person, if a young person is good at something, then treat it as a gift they have been given, and help them to develop it further, for the glory of God, and also recognise their ability or character in a positive way. If the church is afraid of a person being successful because of a gifting honed in the church then this needs to be reflected on. Image result for success clipartA young person may need that opportunity to show responsibility in your faith community and gain personal confidence through it, its not the ‘end game’ but it might really help them. If there are signs of pride, over confidence then fine, have a conversation and continue to ‘supervise’ guide and coach, but that shouldnt stop it. For both 2 and 3 – a culture of ‘preventing participation’ needs to be challenged.
  4. They shouldnt do jobs here, we have to make church an easy place for them, life is complicated enough for them In a way this is a creditable reason. Some young people may 100’s of things to do in their lives especially after school, and sunday might be their day off. But that may not apply to all the young people, and it might be that even in those groups they dont get the opportunities of responsibility that you as a church can give. Yes they might play for a football team, but only one gets to be captain, you can give them responsibilty, and as per 3 this might give them a type of confidence or enhance a skill that lay dormant.
  5. Why have young people do things, that’s what we pay a youth worker to do. Most youthworkers would, i think, rather help young people participate than have to ‘do it’ themselves. They could do themselves out of a job, but youthworkers have plenty to do Mon-Sat usually.
  6. They’re just kids. Yup thats right. They are just kids. Just precious persons to be kept safe. See my previous post on young people as a separate species, Nick Shepherd highlights this when he says that young people are principally regarded as learners. A similar point is made by Christian Smith when he argues that young people are often treated as an alien species, when in reality as he says they are pretty similar to most adults, though most adults wouldnt dare to admit it. They are more like adults that children given their mental, physical, emotional and conceptual awareness, so this is how to treat them.
  7. Because of needing a DBS they cant help out until theyre 16Nope, because of needing a DBS they dont need to be checked for criminal actions until they are 16, if you’re happy that they dont pose a danger, and they are supervised throughout then they can be given responsibility. It would be Health and Safety gone mad to not let an 11 year old help with the creche – though yes let them be trusted gradually.
  8. We’ve always had adults do that jobAnd as a result adults continue to participate in the church, maybe that baton needs to be passed on!
  9. The Place for the young people is in the youth group – In the same way the place for the adults is just the pews perhaps?
  10. They dont know enough yet to be able to do that! – Teaching takes a number of forms, but thats rocket science, I learned as much about stories I had to teach others in Sunday school as what id remembered myself, it gave me a reason to learn more and ask questions. How much do young people need to ‘know’ before helping on the powerpoint, or music group for example?
  11. Why would young people contribute, their parents don’t?All the more reason to provide different expectations and new formation possibilities for a younger generation. 
  12. We don’t know what they’re good at?  – Maybe the young people dont either and so provide a number of opportunities to let them try and discover, without it having to be the ‘one’ thing, in the process they might discover the thing that they’re good at. Alternatively, work with the young people to discover their gifts as part of the youth groups and find ways of building these skills into the wider faith community, create their shaped hole, and not just for them to fit into something pre-existing.

I am sure these are not the only reasons that young people arent given responsibilities in churches, you could probably add more below in the comments, it may be that the easy life is plumped for, it would take time to help and guide young people, but equally it might not either. It is for those who see young people as gifted individuals who can contribute (and that neednt be a youthworker), but supportive adults and parents, to create opportunities and shape a culture in a church where young people are key contributors and participants.

Not all young people want to take on responsibilities in local churches, sometimes ‘being a leader’ is not what they want to do, and for the love of asking might be worth asking alternative questions to giving young people tasks that seem less responsible (they might fear making mistakes) – or that they have bigger dreams and want to contribute in wider society to do something for them that might have even more meaning, ie to make the world a better place – if this is what a young person wants to do instead than ‘help in sunday school’ then as church in the business of creation restoration we might and should find ways to facilitate this.

Why I didnt leave the church

Last week you may have noticed that I posted an article that described what kind of churches in the USA were able to keep young people engaged, that post is here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-NP, the research is from the Fuller institute in the USA, and worth reflecting on. In the last few years there has been a plethora of articles saying : why millenials leave the church? or why the church has lost a ‘generation’ – whatever a ‘generation’ is, none of them help, they just brow beat and demoralise further. Because there are some very good people in very challenging places spending time with young people. Since I posted it i have been thinking about what kind of things kept me engaged in the church I went to and stayed in as a young person between 1988 and 1996, and i thought they are worth sharing.

It might be that my experience was completely unique, and yes that is philosophically accurate, it was unique. The challenge that I think there is, is whether it is right to think that the same things that kept young people engaged 20 or more years ago, will be the same today. My hunch is not, but throwing out the baby completely with the bathwater might be a mistake.

So, Why didnt I leave my church in my teenage years?

I think there was a number of reasons:

1. It was my church. 

For, although it was a church I grew up in, and therefore by default my parents and sister also went to, for a number of reasons my parents left the church when I was about 12. After that point, though i was given the opportunity to leave, I continued to go, to be part of the youth groups and what then happened is that It became a safe place, a place away from my parents, almost a place where i felt at times as if it was slightly rebellious to go, rather than rebellious not to. But it became my church. I know of other young people who felt they had to find an identity of going to church which was a different one to their parents, especially those whose parents are in leadership or important, but that neednt be so. I realise this might not be a possible scenario for many young people, but this scenario for me, enabled me to have more of my own identity in the church.

2. I was given jobs to do

From the age of 11, ie just starting High school, i asked to and was given the opportunity to help with the Sunday school, I think it was the under 6’s group. And it was great. I learned so much, and had to think about doing games or crafts or reading or stories. I was, at age 11 trusted to help and make a contribution to help the younger age groups. Im not sure I attended the ‘meetings’ to discuss the sunday school, but that didnt matter, each Sunday i was a key helper in the particular group, and at the time, I think alot of other similar 11-12yr olds were given this opportunity. I would stake a claim that most of those who took on helping roles then, are more involved in churches now. I also remember the first time i had to ‘lead’ the group because the adult leader was away, yes i was terrified, and yes it probably didnt go that well, but again it showed a level of trust, and was an important part of being an apprentice. In a way, having this role, and then a few others during my teenage years ( learning to play the guitar, junior youth group leader from 16) all helped to give me responsibility, challenges, to grow up in a church and have quality time with adults, as much as quality time with other young people.

3. I was given opportunities to work things out. 

I think my youth leaders, and there is some massive credit heading their way, probably got sick of me asking things, I was curious, I asked about and was keen to learn about things like Creation, like Free will, like Suffering, at times i wasnt satisfied with simple answers, and Im not just saying that now, I remember having lengthy conversation with people in the church about these complex matters. I attended and at times enjoyed the lengthy sermons, because they caused me to think, and werent dumbed down- i was probably 15 or 16 by then. But i was able to work things out because most sunday evenings I would walk back to my youth leaders house and chat with them about the sermons, or something else ( their house was on the way back to mine), and I was given time. Sometimes the conversation would continue over a hot chocolate, or a longer walk with their dog – but time and space to be listened to and not have a stupid question belittled, or even to explore the answers together was granted to me. Deep credit to all those people who gave me time. They will remain nameless but you know who you are. Not only that, but they were there in the times of needing to chat, the life choice moments, and struggles.

4. I didn’t need the spiritual ‘special event’ because I  felt I had a Spiritual home. 

Dont get me wrong, as a church and youth group we went to some interesting special events. Nothing has changed that much. Some were dreadful. I remember once driving my car ( so I must have been 17) with a few others to a random hall in deepest darkest Leicestershire, to an event that had been ‘well promoted’ and told of a great band etc etc, only to find that out group of 8 who travelled 20 miles formed over 1/2 the ‘audience’ ( for me these experiences started to pose questions in my head even then of ‘event based’ youth ministry) , however, back to the point. And I think at least 5 times i went to Spring Harvest, which was the ‘grandaddy’ of all the events, all that Spring harvest did is put other events in the shadow. Because, looking back, the place that felt like a Spiritual home was my local church, thats where I was given opportunities to grow, be listened to and from 11 be gradually formed in a number of ways with adults, with time and with opportunities. What the events did was categorise me back into being ‘a youth’ and just with other young people – great for connecting a meeting others, but i could have been anyone in a sea of 500, or anyone in a small group of 20 and being just a receiver of what was being said.

5. I didnt leave because I didnt want to. 

I dont think that at any point between the ages of 13-18 I felt as though I wanted to leave the church. I had no need to because actually many needs and interests i had were being met by its community, and more than that, I was given responsibility and encouraged to think about developing being a leader, being helpful and contributing in a number of ways. Was there a youth group that i attended – yes. But I’m not sure a youth group alone would have kept me, though there was some fun and embarrassing moments, when someone thought that ‘four weddings and a funeral’ would be a good movie to show on a friday evening at the pastors house. Hmm, those 5 first words… In a way the group itself was a parallel to all the rest of the activity, people and support that was involved in the faith community and how i maintained involvement in it.  I wonder whether actually there are some young people who dont leave the church.

I realise the situation I grew up in was unique to me, I was probably very fortunate. Yet it is unique to everyone. In that place, in that time, I look back and think about what were the things that kept me in the local church. The question is – Can churches rely on the same things that kept young people as they did 20 years ago? 

Its kind of yes and no. It depends what it thinks those things are.

What the church needs to do is work with the young people it has today, right now, and give them responsibility from an early age, that will be different to each young person, the kind of support that gives them a culture of being able to talk, work things out, be heard and listened to and valued, deep. Provide opportunities for young people to become connected with many adults, doing adult things – ie music, or sports groups, so not just being kept with people of the same age. They also need to be challenged, or be given opportunities to find that challenge and thinking is good for them – i think this is different now – i think young people do want something easy, and easy is what they are given. Its that MTD thing (see http://wp.me/p2Az40-KS ).

The research pointed to two things: Young people appreciated a healthy place, and also a challenge.  That hasnt changed. Most young people leave because it isnt a healthy place – they are judged, they are given high expectations, they feel inauthentic, it is not a place for them, it is emotionally unhealthy – they have to connect with more leaders than they do school teachers, unhealthy ‘when its all about building relationships..’  Equally young people leave if they are under-challenged – in responsibility, in being able to ask questions, theological and practical, in tasks of mission, of leadership and learning.

In what way might those who have responsibility of local churches enable young people to feel that the church is their church?

 

15 tips for every church to disciple young people

or ‘if you want to keep young people in church, value and trust them’

Its pretty obvious by now that churches are local, contextual beasts. There’s limited cultural shifting in any organisation thats over 25 years old, and so many churches fit into that category. So no amount of diocesan training, denomination conferences, inter denominational collectives, or summer worship at festivals, will enable dynamic shifting to take place. Maybe in some, no shifting is needed. However, the strategies for retaining young people through a meagre diet of Sunday school, summer camps and attending the regional city based youth orientated worship event are common,  But what might every church be capable of in terms of young peoples discipleship?  here a few ideas, tips or pointers.

  1. Cultivate a small group mentality from an early age  – spot the group of them at age 9-10-11, in existing provision ( sunday school, messy church, confirmation classes) and develop small groups – in houses, cultivate depth, social connections and spaces where discipleship can happen.
  2. Cultivate the gifts and abilities young people might have, or might not know they have yet. The leader 0r musical person might be easy, but how might the hospitable, the encourager, the reconciler find a space to have this gift encouraged in the church.
  3. Value the few young people, give them spaces to join in with other groups, with adults in small groups – dont assume young people just want to be seperate in their own groups, having them learn with adults in groups will help and challenge both age groups.
  4. Give young people responsibility and trust them if they fall, and trust them if they succeed – give them small jobs then larger ones, and from an early age. ie 9, 10 or 11.
  5. Dont put expectations on them to ‘bring friends’ to church things that a) they havent organised, b) they’re not involved in or c) that adults dont model the same behaviour.
  6. Create spaces where their voice is heard in decision making processes in the church, from members meetings, PCC, on youthworker interview panels, vision days, diocesan initiatives. Ask, how is the church actively excluding young people through its processes – and how might this change?
  7. Ditch relevency, for depth.
  8. Create mystery and spaces for enquiry and exploration
  9. Assign mentors to pray for specific young poeple ( make this anonymous)
  10. Dont force them to go to the latest christian ministry offering by ‘evangelical’ youth church initiative , valuing a young persons faith might not mean they have to support someone elses ministry. even if your church and the other church or ministry want to support each other, the young people in the church neednt be the pawns in what might be ministry game, if they say no to your pressure to go then recognise the strength of character, and their readiness to take responsibility for their faith, rather than conformity to their leaders.
  11. Find ways of developing discipleship with the few, and not bemoan the days of larger groups in the 60’s-70’s or 90’s. That isnt the young persons fault, if anything its yours.
  12. Let them be involved in deciding programmes, subjects, methods in their groups and group work from as early as possible. Give them ‘just’ space for conversations and see where this goes also. young people in churches might just be programmed to death..
  13. create a positive mindset about young people, as young adults – not youth/adolescence – but young adults whom you as a church are receivers of and responsible for – if the church doesnt think of young people positively, then the media who already doesnt has affected the church too much, that needs to be challenged.  If church is a family, or a body, or a city on a hill, then all play parts to contribute in its flourishing.
  14. Dont create a strategy for youth ministry – cultivate a culture that welcomes, encourages and disciples young people.
  15. Explain and talk through with young people the actual stuff in church – like liturgies, meetings, and ceremonies so that they can understand and find meaning in them.
  16. provide tools for exploring, for interpreting the world around them, and the scriptures- not just the answers that you want them to say, and they feel you want to hear.

Not all of these things are possible, though for many its a question of priorities, or changing existing ways of doing things, or employing the professional youthworker to ‘do it all’ . And culture within churches is hard to shift. Yet what if every church began to think about the ways it worked with young people- from programmes to people, from attendance to involvement, and activity to discipleship. It might be that even one of the above would represent a huge shift for your church – but maybe thats all it would take to think about the work with young people further and think about the young people differently and their faith development in the community of the church.