If todays young people really are sensible, then church is the perfect place for them

Todays broad research published by on the BBC website with the headline

Generation Sensible’ in five charts

might reveal a number of interesting trends with young people currently – or where the media had once got it wrong about young people and stirred up viceral degrading of young people and affected government policy before based on a few individual cases (and I am looking at you Daily Mail) .

So, young people are , according to the data

Drinking less alcohol

Chart showing the decline of youth drinking

Taking less drugs

Smoking less

There are less teenage pregnancies

Less arrests of young people in crimes

On one hand, though the trends are reducing in these, some of the numbers could still be reduced especially in some areas. Evidence a few years ago was also saying that though the majority of young people were drinking less, as many young people were still ‘harmful’ drinking, so the laws of averages might be hiding a few issues. However.

Praise is due to the young people, if they are making different choices about their behaviour

Praise is also due to those who have brought up these young people, parents who might have also had uncertainty in their jobs in the last 10 years, still bringing up teenagers who are doing broadly well.

Praise is due to the teachers, after school club leaders, voluntary leaders, youthworkers, guidance staff and anyone else who over the last 10 years has been involved in bringing up this generation.

Praise to the government for the credit crunch. For all the cut backs in all the benefits, reductions in ema and large student debt. That this generation are far too concerned about money, debt and their future that they dont have extra money to go partying as much as before. no really.

The question is – has the rise in ‘generation sensible’ also got faith and religious attendance as a factor?  Are any young people more likely to go to church now, than they were 10 years ago? Has faith had any part of this?

The other question – is that if young people are dull and sensible – hard working and future orientated – might they be perfect young people for the church, alot easier than the drug fuelled, teenage pregnancy, asbo kids of a previous bygone era (and i joke). Church doesnt need flashing lights, it needs just to have homework clubs, reading clubs, book clubs, philosophy lectures, volunteering opportunities, all the things to create thoughtful learned citizens…

Can churches respond to the sensible generation , because, frankly a generation that does want to learn, to be conforming and avoid risk – then the church is the perfect place or organisation to be…. and if church cant attract or keep a sensible generation….

Problem is that sensible young people are already far too busy trying to acheive and put lots of stuff on their CV. Question might be – what opportunities can churches provide that are CV worthy? and other questions about making sensible young people busier…

The question is also, though what is the place for the youthworker, and how on earth will they get any funding when this is now a new generalised reality.

And it shows that youth culture is just about dead.

Lets get Theological! On making Theology, not models & strategies first in Youth Ministry

You wont read this post. I guarantee you, no one will read this post. Even with a sneaky reference to an Olivia Newton John lyric in the title, you wont read this, because its got Theology in the title as well. I should have put sex, or masturbation, or something witty, clever or clickbaity, but no, in the spirit of honesty this piece is what it says it is. It is about theology and youth ministry, and I am aware no one will read it.

So, in that case I am going to go full on, deep and thoughtful, safe in the knowledge that it wont be read. I know this because nobody attends seminars on youth ministry and theology. Or conferences on theology and youth ministry. Very few people talk about theology when it comes to solving the problems of young people ‘leaving the church’. Instead its about practices, making practice better, trying to find a missing piece, a magic formula, a new way, or method. It can be that there isnt a conversation about theology, that doesnt only exist in place of formal theological conversation, the college. And for many others thats where it often stays.

So, because there is no grafting, searching and desire from the ‘top’ to do theology about youth ministry, there can be very little appetite from the ground to see it as being worthwhile. Its easier to drag a resource off the shelf, or do what we think works, or uptake business models like ‘develop strategies’. If you want to read the part one to this post, it is here in which i suggested that youth ministry needed to turn to performance theology, rather than business strategy. This is the long awaited, and probably grossly under-read, post that follows that one.

We have inherited a practice of trying to get things right to save and keep young people, and this puts practice and strategies first over and above theology.   Image result for theology?

Youth Ministry needs Theology first. – and that takes work.

However.

The first thing to say is that we are all theologians. Thats every volunteer, youth pastor, helper, leader involved in youth ministry in a church/faith setting. We are all theologians already, because, and this isnt the only reason, young people are reading us and our practices to glean theological insight through them. What we do is a theological act – it is being performed as youth ministry is done. Theology is transmitted in the way we operate.

So think about that for a second. Everything? yes…

In the way we talk about young people behind their backs, in the way we give responsibilities, in the way we decide, in the way we hold or give away power, in the drive to the bowling, or how we stay in the kitchen and dont get involved, in everything to do with youth ministry, every act is theological already. Our beliefs are already affecting our behaviour, but regardless of those beliefs, young people are reading us as if we’re the book. Our Theology is implied in what we do.

We are already in one extent performing it.

But that doesnt mean we get away with just acting it out. For, how do we know we’re acting out theology appropriately, or fittingly?  (its not about effectiveness, effecacy is a reductionist business term that we should ban in churches)

Thats where at least ‘thinking theologically’ about youth ministry also is important. If we’re in the ‘business’ of doing theology. The two go hand in hand. Theres also the theology within our institutions… however,

So, what do we need to thinking theologically about?

We need to think theologically about young people. Who they are in the sight of God, how they are created and loved, accepted and made in his image. And so much more besides….

We need to think theologically about discipleship. If this is the game of the church – to make disciples- then its not a bad idea to think theologically about what being a disciple is all about, and how a disciple is ‘formed’ and what a disciple does ‘performs’ .  What kind of discipleship? Action first or learning first, or both? So we need to think theologically about learning, about study, about actions (and the actions of God in our actions) Theres some stuff of discipleship in the categories section, and resources below.

We need to think theologically about Culture. About the place of the church in the culture, and what the role of young people is participating in the church in the culture – for, against, within, above or to transform it (Neibuhr) or something else – to offer an alternative, creating something new… What is Christ offering young people in discipleship? (and how might the church follow this)

We need to think theologically about Mission – and what we do and what young people do, what is Mission, What is God like if she is missional? How might young people play parts in mission, and who decides whether they can or cant?

There needs to be thought around theology of worship – what is it? Is only ‘christian’ worship worship? What worship doesnt need a band, a stage or a PA system, what worship is pleasing to God? What worship creates opportunities for young people to transform the world? Is worship a gathered experience or an emerging one, a public one or private one?

We also need to think theologically about how young people have faith; What is faith, how is it tested, how do they use it, act on it, and practice it in the every day, – where do they do faith?Related image

We need to think theologically about sex and relationships, about gender, about LGBT, about mental health, depression,  about drugs and alcohol, about education and ambition, about power, greed, globalisation, about politics, about technology, communication, about inclusion, money and fame. Because young people arent looking to us for the answers anymore, because half the time these are difficult subjects that we leave to one side. It is not and never enough to pick stuff up on these subjects off the shelf. Young people also dont want us to give one answer, and presume that culture has another answer, theyre far too clever for that. We need to know how to answer these things, and give tools for interpreting and navigating. There is no ‘one thing’ the bible says, or ‘one thing’ the world says about these things. To say this to young people would be patronising. But that doesnt mean to say we dont have responsibility to think theologically, biblically and ethically about these things to help young people share in and lead us in that exploration of learning.

What about what we do with young people? Might we stop and think about the activities and think theologically about these? About Residentials, gatherings of worship, games, gap years, funding, about festivals and the like, about group work, if everything we do implies theology, then what kind of God is being transmitted through these – what kind of church is? God of attendance and watching? God of large groups (where God is communicated as ‘always being’) God of challenge and risk, God that is ‘felt and experienced’ away from home, away from the local church – Thinking theologically about these things might mean that taking young people to an experience might create a view of God that might actually be unhealthy or even unbiblical. But then, if theology isnt important, then it doesnt matter..does it?Image result for theology?

Thinking Theologically about youth Ministry, might mean more than being motivated by the faith. Though its a good start. Working out how Faith and Beliefs motivate us in youth ministry is definitely a first step, we can spend too long busting a gut to get this bit right, and in reality, we’re never going to get this perfect (theres no such thing). What we need to do in youth ministry is live with the imperfection and the ongoing drama of it, but theologically thinking about youth ministry, given that as youth ministers, volunteers, pastors, workers and leaders, we are urged to be both theological and practical, reflecting and active. Part of the tool kit for us is Theology, our story, our church’s story, and the story we are called to live, the story which we perform and encourage others to. It shouldnt just motivate us like a bad head teacher with a stick (thinking Miss Trunchbull in ‘Matilda’) – but well at us from the deep, call us to something higher, take us (and others) to the margins, where likeness of Jesus is an ongoing task.

Theology emerges from the deep, from the margins. Theology might emerge through conversation between friends (Emmaus), might visit unexpected to give peace, might be present in space of the unlikely. We dont need to try and think theologically if what we’re doing is already good, loving, kind, faithful, generous, and working towards peace, wholeness and restoration – these marks of the kingdom need no law. But we might need to develop new theological language, reflection and resources for the road on which these travels take us. Theology from the streets, like St Francis’s ‘Sidewalk Spirituality’ or Ignatius, or other Saints of the Past. Thinking theologically about ministry might itself call us in new directions, new learning, new faith, thats where we might need to take risks, having experiences of God in the space of the margins, might cause us never to go to the gathering to find God – and thats ok. Youth Ministry is, like any ministry, an ongoing dramatic act. And in the drama, what kind of God is needed for the ongoing walk? One that Speaks and Acts – one that is present and urging, as Kevin Vanhoozer describes – is the holy author in our midst. 

Always speaking. Always giving us reference points. Always giving us things to relate to. Always prompting and provoking.

Image result for theology?

Where is the space for the Holy Author in the Midst of Youth Ministry? In every conversation – possibly, in every approach – possibly, in every action – maybe. The truth is we cant model our Youth Ministry on God – we’re not perfect enough for this. God isnt a model to be copied. God is a mystery who speaks, a creator who does as he pleases (Daniel 4:35) and is not restrained. We need to think and act and listen theologically. Its that Holy Author who will communicate and save. Its that Holy Author who is happy for an ongoing communication, whether this is ragged or poetic, praiseworthy or problematic. Its that Holy Author who is present in, with and amongst. God who might, just might not be white, distant and male – and that might change everything.

In conclusion, Theology needs to go first. Not just because we’ve tried everything else, but because thats where it should be, and not even because by doing this ‘it will work’ – no- because ministry is a risk taking endeavour not an exact science. We dont need to just ‘get on with the job’ of youth ministry, and neither is theology ‘just for the college’ and no one can avoid being theological. Putting this off does a disservice to young people, it does a disservice to ourselves. We can try and find a perfect method, strategy, model, process and practice. And that could consume us (and we can nearly always ‘do’ better) but that search is a painful one and full of frustration, comparison and frailty. Lets ditch the models, and have meaning, mystery and mission first.

Oh and some of this is only the tip of the iceberg….. directions to start, not journeys of discovery along the way hence some resources below:

References and Resources

Talking about God in Practice (2010) by Helen Cameron

Youthwork and the Mission of God (1997) by Pete Ward

What Theology for Youthwork?  by Paul Nash (Grove Booklet Y8)

Faith Formation in a secular age by Andrew Root (2017)  

When Kumbaya is not enough by Dean Borgman (1997)

Models for Youth Ministry by Steve Griffiths (2013)

Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry by Andrew Root (2007)

Starting Right – Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry by Dean, Clark et al (2001) 

Remythologising Theology by Kevin Vanhoozer (2010) (more on theodrama in the categories section)

Faith Speaking Understanding by Kevin Vanhoozer (2014)

The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry by Kenda Creasy Dean/Andrew Root (2013)

Faith Generation by Nick Shepherd (2016)

Here be Dragons; Youthwork and Mission off the map by Lorimer & Richard Passmore (and me) (2013)

Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf (2007) 

 

10 Questions with Natalie Collins: On Young People, Sex and Domestic abuse

I caught up with Natalie, after following her on twitter for the last few years via God_loves_women , after I had drafted a post on young people and sex that I was going to publish. After being in conversation she suggested, and I realised that I had much to learn on this subject, and that our conversation might provoke, challenge and help others who work with or who are parents of young people. This is a candid transcript that includes conversations about sex, sexual behaviour and young people, you have been warned.

So, Natalie, my first question; where did your passion to develop a ministry around the issues of sex and young people emerge from?

Well, I was once a young person.  I like to think I still am (I’m 33, so probably still pass for young in the Anglican church).  Growing up in Christian culture was both awesome and hideous.  It meant being part of a big family, with bring and share lunches and lots of love and fun.  However, it also led to me developing a whole lot of toxic ideas about sex, relationships, my body and gender.  At 17 I ended up in a relationship with an abusive guy, and after being manipulated into sex, I felt horrified about having betrayed Jesus and concluded the only way to resolve it was to marry him.  Within six months I was pregnant, and at eighteen I married him.  Four years later and he had almost destroyed me and I escaped him after he assaulted me when I was pregnant and my second child was born three months premature.  The dramatic nature of my journey is perhaps unusual, but the mess caused by purity culture, porn culture, gender stereotypes and complementarian theology has impact generations of young people, to a greater or lesser extent.

  1. What are the kind of activities/programmes that you do as part of your ministry in this area?

A decade ago I wrote the DAY Programme (www.dayprogramme.org) and since then have trained over 300 practitioners using it across the UK and the Isle of Man.  Last November I trained a group to use the materials out in Cape Town which is really exciting!  I have written a Christian version of the programme too which includes material on critiquing Christian culture and theology. I’ve also written national resources on child sexual exploitation and create materials for children and their parents to understanding pornography (see here: http://www.dayprogramme.org/creepynakedstuff.htm).  I also deliver training on these issues to practitioners, churches and other interested people.

 

  1.  What would you say are the key issues that young people face regarding sex, especially young people linked to churches?

The issues sit at two ends of the same spectrum.  On one end is wider culture, in which pornography consumption is normal; girls and boys are being shown via pornography that you finish sex with a “facial” (ejaculating on the female’s face), that anal sex is clean and easy and that women want to be degraded and violated, and that turns them on.  They are taught by adverts that women are sexual objects, which comes across in girl’s pouty Instagram photos, and boys are taught to be aggressive and are rarely given emotional literacy.  Young people think they have to be having sex, and have no framework for good sex or intimacy.

For young people in the church, they also have purity culture to reckon with.  Within this framework they are taught that their virginity is precious (particularly girls) and that they have to save in until marriage.  They are told masturbation is VERY BAD.  For girls, whose sexual organs are internal, this is particularly problematic as there is no healthy way of them gaining literacy of their own bodies.  Often girls become ashamed of their sexuality and genitals.  It’s different for boys, the external nature of their genitals enables them gain a more natural understanding of arousal and sex, simply because there’s a visible erection.  The church’s obsession with the nuclear family presumes that all young people are on a trajectory for marriage (even though there aren’t enough Christian men in the church to make that work) and so girls are presumed to be waiting for marriage and babies.  The lack of female leaders in the church leaves girls with implicit messages that their call is always to wife and motherhood.

72% of girls will be emotionally abused by a boyfriend by the age of 16 in the UK and 32% will be sexually abused (NSPCC stats).  Young people are not being socialised or taught how to have respectful, positive relationships.  Boys are growing up believing they are entitled to get what they want from girls.  Girls are often socialised to be passive and not assert boundaries or their own rights.  They are taught their value is in the boy/man they are in a relationship with.  The church perpetuates these message through a focus on marriage and babies.

  1. Do you think it is more difficult for young people involved in churches to deal with their sexual feelings, identity, development and exploration? (As opposed to young people not in churches)

I’m not sure it is more difficult.  I think it is different, and the risks are different.  For churched young people, sexual dysfunction will often involve a great deal of shame and guilt around sex which can last long into adulthood (and sometimes forever).  Many women particularly feel hugely betrayed by the church when they get married and discover sex is painful and makes them feel bad.  They were told that waiting will lead to mind-blowing beautiful sex and instead they feel constant shame and can’t switch off the strategies they developed to avoid pre-marital sex.

For those outside the church, they are perhaps having sex earlier than is helpful.  The recent story about Aziz Ansari and “Grace” and the New York Time’s short story “Catperson” reveals that those outside of Christian culture are navigating a whole load of messy situations.  They have been told they are powerful and sexually liberated, but discover that men still hold most of the power and they end up constantly trying to navigate their own needs, the men’s needs and the fear of what those men may do if they are rejected.

As you can see I’m talking mainly about the issues for girls and women.  I think it is much easier for men, both within Christian culture and outside of it.  The presumption in Church is that men want to have sex and that must be managed.  The presumption for women is that they don’t like sex.  At one Christian event a couple of summers ago, the man leading the seminar about sex told the gathered Christians that when women are having sex “they’re thinking about their shopping lists”.  Men (both inside and outside the church) are conditioned to believe that their sexual needs are of greater importance than women’s and so that leads them to behave in damaging and unhelpful ways.

  1. When I was growing up I was forced to watch ‘oranges are not the only fruit’ (as part of A level English studies) which detailed how a church tried to ‘remove demons’ from a young person when they were accused of being a lesbian. This seemed an extreme form of spiritual abuse linked to sexuality, but do you think that today there might be unhealthy approaches to talking about sex with young people, that could also be harmful?

We’ve eradicated certain illnesses (e.g. TB), but that doesn’t leave us presuming health issues are not a problem anymore.  In fact, we have seen increases in other health issues (e.g. cancer).  It’s the same with issues around sex and relationships.  We have this idea that things are a lot better now, reparative therapy for LGBT people is generally no longer acceptable, women can work, vote and have independent lives.  Things have improved.  But that can make us oblivious to the continued issues we face, many of which have become worse in digital culture.

I would say that for youth practitioners in the church, some of the harmful things they need to be aware of include:

  • Gender stereotyping (boys can you move the chairs, girls can you do the washing up)
  • Perpetuating neurosexism (boys are visual, girls are not)
  • Placing greater sexual responsibility onto girls (girls’ need to wear clothes that don’t cause boys to “stumble”)
  • Unrealistic abstinence teaching (just don’t think about sex, the end)
  • Making the only criteria for a potential partner their Christian faith (as long as he’s washed in the blood, then that’s enough)
  • Presuming marriage and children are the trajectory all young people are on
  • Treating masturbation as always sinful, compulsive and addictive
  • Making young people feel their virginity is the most valuable thing about them
  • Using terms like “tainted”, “defiled”, “dirty” to describe the effect of having premarital sex
  • Not making sexual violence a core part of any talk/session/resource about sex and relationships
  • Ignoring the different degrees of harm between consensual sex and being subjected to sexual violence
  • Not making wider relationships, including friendships an integral part of conversations about sex
  • Presenting sex as a worse type of sin than other sins
  1. If there are unhealthy approaches, what do you think a healthy approach is to sex and young people?
  • Young people need to know they own their bodies and that they have actual choices to make about sex and relationships and that if something doesn’t feel like a choice, they need to be seeking help to understand why.

  • They need to be taught to critique culture and recognise the messages co-opting them into particular ways of thinking (e.g. why do girls feel they have to shave all their pubes off? Why do boys feel they can’t cry in public?).

  • By giving them the skills to know God for themselves, and relate with Him, we need to get to a point where we can trust them to hear from God about how to be (or not be) physical with their partner.

  • We need to contextualise the Bible’s messages about sex (and about everything!) and enable them to understand that there are different ways of understanding the Bible, and that there is often ambiguity where they’ve been taught surety.

  • We need to stop pretending that abstinence guarantees awesome married sex. We need to be honest with young people about how messy it can be.  We also need to critique cultural narratives about sex and talk with them about how hookup culture can also be really damaging.

  • We need to provide role models for them of adults who are happily single and those who don’t have kids, and perhaps invite those people in to talk about how the church has been hurtful and difficult and (with the single people) how they deal with their sexual desires.

  • We need to be totally comfortable with talking about sex, we need to be literate about sexual organs and sexual acts that the young people will be familiar with (Urban Dictionary will help with this).

  • We need to tell them that it is all really complicated and we are not sure about how to make sense of it all, that sex can be the most awesome thing two people can do together but it can also be the most destructive thing. And that we’re all trying to make sense of it, and they need to get to a place where they can live out the courage of their convictions, hopefully in deep relationship with Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit.

7. Is abstinence the only way?

I think abstinence as it is currently understood is too problematic to be helpful.  Is it possible to be single or unmarried and choose to not engage in sexual activity until marriage and to remain a healthy, sexual being?  Yes, I think so.  Does everybody who subscribes to an abstinence only approach experience it as healthy and life giving?  Absolutely not!

8.The #churchtoo hashtag detailed stories of women who had suffered abuse in churches, when you reflect on these stories what do you think the church needs to do, and what advice would you give anyone currently suffering in silence?

I’m currently writing a book with SPCK about Christians and domestic abuse. It’s about 80,000 words.  There’s a lot that needs to change, not only in our practice, but also in our hearts and minds, and there’s no way I can detail all of that here!  You’ll have to wait until March 2019 to get a fuller picture of what we need to do.  For now though, I think the first thing churches and Christians need to do is to understand that abusers exist in our communities.  We need to stop “othering” those who are perpetrators and those who are subjected to abuse.  That is a scary thing to do though!  We all want to believe that we would easily be able to identify abusers, and accepting that people we love and trust could be hurting their partner can leave us feeling very unsafe.

For those who are currently being subjected to abuse, or have been in the past, I would say, they are valuable and important and even though they probably struggle to believe me, that is true.  If the church has been part of their pain, I would say that is not what God thinks.  God loves us and is justly angry and the way they have been hurt.  I would also say there is hope and the possibility of transformation.  Gaining knowledge and understanding it the first step, along with trying to find safe people to talk to.  Most local areas with have some kind of specialist service who can offer help, either domestic abuse services (you can find your local one here: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-abuse-directory/) or Rape Crisis, who can help with any form of sexual harm, not solely rape, (you can find your local one here: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/rapecrisisspecialistservices.php).

9.I notice that you have done some work on domestic abuse training recently, what are your thoughts on domestic abuse and young people?  Is this something that needs to be talked about more with young people for them or for if they encounter it amongst their friends?

Oh absolutely!  All youth practitioners should ensure they have had training to understand domestic abuse.  I developed the DAY Programme to ensure young people have access to good quality resources about abuse and exploitation, but that they are also equipped to critique popular culture and are able to identify the messages around them that normalise abuse.  Young people will either tell no one, or tell a friend about how they are being hurt (NSPCC research), and so not only do young people need to know how to recognise abusive behaviour and how to behave respectfully in a relationship, they also need supporting to become a good friend.  All practitioners are given safeguarding training to know how to deal with disclosures, but the majority of disclosures are between young people, what training do they have in understanding and responding well?  How can we ensure they are supported in this?

10.What advice would you give youthworkers and volunteers about how to talk about sex with young people?

  • Reflect on your embarrassment and other issues which prevent you being open and honest with young people.

  • Get equipped.

  • Assume in every session you deliver that there will be young people present who have been subjected to sexualised abuse, rape, physical violence or emotional abuse.

  • Seek to help young people make intentional choices about sex. How old do they want to be when they have sex?  What sort of relationship do they want to move beyond kissing in?  How do they feel about watching pornography?  Rather than starting from an assumption that they won’t have sex until marriage (the vast majority won’t wait that long), how do we ensure that they are making intentional decisions, rather than “accidentally having sex”.

 

There is much to ponder on here, depending on the situations that we work in and are involved with young people, the streets, clubs, schools or churches and how we might educate, influence, guide and support. Natalie Collins can be contacted via her website in the links here: https://mrsglw.wordpress.com/   , undoubtedly the issues and scenarios raised in this interview are complicated, and there is nothing simple about sex, about identity, relationships,power and abuse. If you have been affected please do seek help, and the links are included. It is not an issue that goes away. I want to also thank Natalie for her time to share personally and thoughtfully on this very important issue.

In 2019, Natalie is hosting an event in London with a large array of speakers on the conversation of domestic abuse, couples and conflict in the church, there will also be a launch of her book. More details are here: https://www.nataliecollins.info/outofcontrolevent If there are aspects of this post and here story that have affected you, or you want to find out more about how you can help in situations then please do be in touch with her and attend the event to hear and discover more.

If you would like to have 10 questions about your ministry, theme or issue please do be in contact, if this is a platform in which you would like to share your story, ministry or perspective.

Brexit blog: Young people, Sex and lowering the voting age to 16.

As a youth worker who voted remain last thursday its been a tough weekend, not least because I’m also trying to finish an essay. But one of the thoughts that has been going around has been the conversation about young people, how leaving the EU will affect them, and also conversely whether as a youthworker I could have done anything differently to help the situation, or increase participation in the process.

And the simple answer is no, as a youth worker i coudnt. And neither can schools either.

According to the Sky news poll – 36% of 18-25 yr olds voted, it was over 70% for the 65-80’s. At the same time 75% of the younger age group were to vote remain, only 39% of the older age group.

There are obvious reasons why it is important for everyone to vote, there would have been even more reason in the eu referendum for more of the 18-25’s to participate. But this got me wondering… arent the current 18-25 year olds the first group of young people to have been given citizenship lessons in schools about 10-14 years ago?  Then a reaction to low voter turnouts in elections, to encourage younger voters?

So what happened- why didnt they vote in droves? was it poor education (the usual suspect) or something else..?

And this goes back to the original question. As a youthworker, if we have a conversation about Sex with young people, or its sex education in schools. Young people in the room will either a) be thinking about it, b) in relationships and thinking about it c) ignoring it, but still thinking about it or d) having it  or e) watching it.

Whether any of these options are legal or not, it doesnt matter, because there is a possibility that for the young person a conversation about sex in a youth club or sex education lesson might be immediately relevant, and if not to them to their friends. It could be what they’re about to do that weekend, its has an immediacy that fixes the attention in the brain, whether its acted upon or not.

Citizenship lessons aren’t like the ‘sex’ talk though are they. Unless somehow someone tries to put a condom over a nigel farage shaped head. As a youthworker i could, and we did have conversations with young people about democracy, about choices, and about the EU referendum, and they had opinions and were interested, but they aren’t going to get chance to vote, whether they wanted to or not, not for another 4 years. The only influence they might have had would be to plead with their grandparents to vote choice on their behalf.

It would have been even worse for the young people for whom citizenship classes are a distant memory, especially distant after a good year at university with some alcohol consumption. And, for what its worth any citizenship class more than two years ago would not have included the prospect of an eu referendum, as it was barely on the cards then, and hardly likely to be in the curriculum.

I am sure however that if young people are given citizenship classes at 15, and can vote at 16 then the early participation in the process and the closeness of it to the education of it, and the right of passage that this will bring would increase it participation. It would provide urgency to educate young people into being active in the democracy process, so that they are informed about what is going on.

Given that citizenship education has been scrapped, then its all the more important that those who influence young people in youth work settings give opportunities for young people to understand the wider political world in which they are part and in relationship to, but at the moment the odds of young people participating when they are able to are stacked against them. Actually if were working with young people and dont educate them in terms of the political powers around them then we’re doing them a disservice. But voting itself and participating, that at the moment will have to wait.