What if churches signed up to be ‘Young people Friendly’?

Fresh from my last post on the 16 statements of intent from IDYW (please give it a look) to re-imagine a new youthwork provision for young people in the UK, it crossed my mind that there might be a necessity for churches to have or create a similar statement of intent for its involvement with young people. Call it a charter or statement of purpose, or a set of common principles, that help young people to know not only how they might be treated, but also what might be expected of and on them. One of the ongoing discussions, both north and south of the border is whether youthworkers themselves should be registered into some kind of professional standard, equivalent to the kind that teachers and doctors do. I wonder whether, instead of the person of the youthworker, if the faith sector adopts it, being registered, that the settings or churches which are in reality individual organisations should be encouraged to make some kind of pledge, or commitment that begins a process of culture change within them, rather than have the youthworker be responsible for being the catalyst of that change.

So, there are many charters, red kites and certificates, but I am yet to find one that doesnt instill confidence in the viewer of it, whether its the hygiene certificate at the restaurant or the first aid registered persons on the wall of the church kitchen. There, at least is something of confidence that is created when persons or an organisations signs up to something. It gives credibility, to a point. The same could be of a church or organisation that goes out of its way to sign up to a pledge, a charter for young people. It shows that an organisation is for young people as a whole. A statement of intent to be a young person friendly? Image result for youth charter

It might mean that parents, or young people themselves have that same confidence, either of a group of volunteers or ‘paid’ group of people who are facilitating the youth provision, confidence in being treated well, confidence in being listened to. Confidence too in terms of safety. Interestingly, that ‘base’ line has often been met, as a reaction to culture and controversy, the base line of ‘safety’ in terms of policies, disclosure (DBS) checks and risk assessments is usually the first on the ‘basic’ list of any youth provision. So that is why I think its should just be lumped together in ‘safety policies’ – there needs to be space in the 10 points in the charter for other, maybe more productive, positive aspects of what a young person might want to expect from a church or faith organisation.

If a church is really keen and committed to developing a welcoming culture for young people- then there wouldnt be any reason not to publicise a commitment to do these things.

So- What might be in such a Youth Charter for churches or faith organisations? I am sure many of you will be able to articulate these things better than me, and add or want to change things, but as a start- what about a commitment to do these things? Importantly – how might it be worded so that young people themselves are the hearers and readers of it, and they have confidence in the church?

 

  1. We believe that you are made perfect and we will accept you as treasured and part of Gods ongoing plan- and nothing you do will change this.

  2. This Organisation has done everything possible to ensure that the setting and people are safe for you, and we will listen to you if you think that we could do better, or we let you or your friends down.

  3. We want you to be involved in this provision and contribute to it – create it with us, we pledge to give you space to make decisions, lead and for your voice to be heard at all levels of the organisation.

  4. We want this to be a place where you feel at home, where you can make a cup of tea, find a space and be yourself.

  5. Please do not be afraid to ask difficult questions, provoke and challenge us – we want to hear your voice, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

  6. We promise not to make changes to the youth provision without consulting you

  7. It is our dream to help you grow, to be more fully human in the process of exploring faith within this faith community.

  8. We might fail together in trying new challenges together, but we commit to create risks so that we are all challenged in discipleship.

  9. We want to create spaces for you to use your imagination, ideas, and dreams for church, worship and serving the local community

  10.  We believe that you deserve better from churches who have let you, or others in the community down, please accept that we want to do better.

  11. We promise that this is a space where you can talk to anyone about anything.

  12. As an organisation we pledge to use positive language about young people – even young people we dont know yet, and who we want to get to know, you deserve much better than what the media say about you.

It might be that some of these things are a ‘given’- but so should be having a food hygiene certificate in a kitchen. What would happen if churches and faith organisations singed up to something like this kind of 12 point charter, which recognised to young people either in or outside the church that it was committed to creating a young people friendly culture, not just ‘appoint a youthworker’. A church that reimagined its youth provision as part of its whole ministry and organisation, a church that saw young people differently.

Maybe I have taken too many hopeful pills – but what might be the dream for every church that began to work with young people? What might young people like to know as soon as they walked in..?

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