Friday, 28 September 2012

Why do we do youth work (like we do)?

My good friend Randall (see over there on the left) posted a link to this article on google+.

One of the striking things I've noticed about youth work over the last couple of decades is how little it actually brings youngsters into the church and, if you DO see them, they don't stick around for long. Some youth groups semi-recognise this and sever the link between them and church completely, other than using the building.

Here's a quote that made me double take:

Here’s a little test I’ve developed for determining real values (which, by the way, are the driving force behind the real meaning of “Youth Pastor” in your situation): resource allocation reveals values. So, your church might say, “we have a high value on our youth pastor building meaningful relationships with teenagers.” But if your resources of time, money, energy, focus, creativity, people and space are dominantly used for prop up a Christian-y social club for teenagers with the measuring stick of how many are coming, or how many don’t leave, then that value is suspicious.

I read But if your resources of time, money, energy, focus, creativity, people and space are dominantly used for prop up a Christian-y social club for adult churchgoers, because the automatic assumption was there that a church that cared about youth would put it's resources there, and one that didn't would be building a social club for churchgoers. The idea that putting resources into youthwork might be a fruitless waste of time was a new recognition for me, even if I'd been aware of the relative uselessness of so much youth work before. "It's sharing Jesus with the kids" had always been justification of itself, and it was just a sign of how hard our area/society was that it didn't bear any fruit.

Now, youth work isn't something that I naturally gravitate toward. I have funny memories from when we were newly married, being part of a New Frontiers church in London and asking to get involved in the youth work there because that's what our previous mentors had done at that stage. So we went along, being only 21 & 19 ourselves, and after a few sessions we were allowed to lead when the current leader & church pastor was away. I forget how it went, but I'd been praying about things and felt God say certain things for certain people, to encourage them, so shared that.


Teens didn't quite understand (and we were new still) and parents were concerned. Cue closed-door chats with pastor etc about what we'd 'done' to the kids. But the curious thing was that a lot of the stuff we'd put into words came to pass, and - related or otherwise I've no idea - some of them are still involved in church and have gone on to good things. However that was the end of my 'youthwork' era.

But I am concerned when a youth group doesn't have a direct connection & feed into church, to participate in the family life and bigger picture of the church. I'm pretty sure but there's a link, almost for certain, between the disconnection between multi-generational church and the relative failure of youth work. My generation was the last to grow up as a *kid* with the church like a bigger family, at least in my experience, and our kids didn't do it very much, even though we were so very involved and active. I'm saying no more now, but want to ponder this.

Food for thought, and maybe action.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely food for thought, Toni. We, as youth leaders, understand that it's not all about the numbers. We strive to connect on a more personal level with the kids. Of course, there will always be those who view youth group as a weekly social club, but we fight against that and strive to show that living the Christian life is about our relationship with Christ and with others. I, myself, could do without the hoopla, games and activity as I prefer a more personal approach, but I understand that relationships need to be started before going deep with a heartfelt trust


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