One of the questions our Youth Connectors get asked the most is “So, what can we do?”
Since we launched our Youth Connect vision at the start of 2021, Senior Youth Connector, Barrie Voyce, has been meeting with ordained and lay ministers up and down the Diocese, sharing the vision and challenging them to think about Youth Ministry. For many, the lack of young people engaging in the life of their church is both a barrier and a cause for concern.
Our churches are eager to connect with young people, but they often don’t know where to start! So we asked Barrie, and Vicky Falvey, Gloucester Deanery Youth Connector, for their top tips for churches:
1 – PRAY
We know it sounds a bit cliched but we can all be praying for young people! If there’s a secondary school in your parish pray for it. Do you know any students, teachers, or governors there? Is there someone who would be willing to update you on what’s happening in the school to inform your prayers? Even if you don’t have a school there will be young people living in your parish. Pray for them!
How about setting up a regular prayer meeting specifically for the school and young people in your parish?
2 – Listen to the ones you already know
We know from experience that there can be huge pressure to create youth programmes and events that cover all the bases and can accommodate a few youths of very different ages. The only apparent alternative sometimes being to find another youth group to send young people to.
Instead I think there is huge possibilities in embracing the reality of this very common situation. It may not afford breadth of activity but presents opportunities to meet the young people where they are.
What if we asked young people the question ‘What do you need to help your faith go deeper?’ and gave space and time for them to respond? What answers would we hear, when we are spending time with them and getting to know them as individuals? How would this shape youth ministry in our context?
3 – Extend your children’s work
Most of our churches have great things going on for primary school children – it might be links to the Church School through collective worship, Open The Book, foundation governors or ad hoc activities like listening to reading. We also run lots of Messy Churches and other things for children. So what happens when they get too big for those things? What could you be doing with those children in year 6 as they head towards secondary school and youth work?
Scripture Union produce a great resource called “Its Your Move” which helps children think about and prepare for their transition to secondary school, and lots of our clergy (and others) run these sessions in school in the summer terms. As a part of that, how about planning a “reunion” for the year sixes at some time in Autumn – gather them back together in November to reflect on their first few months in Big school, reconnect with old friends and remind them of God’s presence. That might be the start of a regular youth group…
4 – Find out what’s else is going on
Your church might not be doing any youth work, but what about the church in the next parish, or from another denomination? Find out what’s going on and offer to join in. Everyone is keen on new volunteers! And if the churches aren’t doing it, who else is? There are some amazing charities running youth clubs up and down the Diocese, and many of them (The Door, The Rock, WAM, Youth for Christ, Increase The Peace, Sportily, Breathe, TAYCT) are run by Christians!
5- See a gap? Go for it!
Don’t feel like you must wait for the perfect moment to start something new (because there is no such thing!). If you have identified a gap and want to start something for young people, then Go for it 😊. It doesn’t have to cost the earth or be the finished article. The key things young people are looking for is integrity and relationship – two things which as Christians we should be really good at already.
Blog by Vicky Falvey, Youth Connector and Barrie Voyce, Senior Youth Connector