Can the Church ever reach young people again?


Amongst the rather depressing statistics about decline in attendance at Church of England services, one that stands out is the plummeting of engagement with young people. Jimmy Dale is the Church of England’s National Youth Evangelism Officer, and I had the chance to ask him about the current situation—how we got here, and whether anything might change in the future.

IP: How did you come to faith? And how did you end up working in the area of youth evangelism?

JD: I was brought up in a Christian household (my dad was a strict Baptist minister), but like many clergy children, I fought against my parent’s faith, until upon moving out from home at 18, I had what I’d call a conversion moment at an interview for Carroty Wood Adventure Centre. From there, I worked in adventure sports until sensing God was calling me into something else, which eventually resulted in me taking a job with an Anglican Church in East London, where I served as a youth worker for five years.

After that, I set up a local Youth For Christ centre in Newham, East London, with a strong sense that we needed to do more to equip the local church to do sustainable and effective youth ministry. For the next five years, the team and I worked with over 90 churches to help set up, establish and grow youth ministry around Newham. From this role, I was encouraged to apply for the new Youth Evangelism post with the Church of England, which I stated in 2017.

IP: A generation ago, there appeared to be a wide variety of ways that churches were working effectively with young people. What has changed—is there a single major reason why the situation has changed so much, or are there multiple factors?

JD: This is a really challenging question, and there are lots of factors at play. I think in the last ten years, youth culture has changed, with the pressure around exams is so much greater than it has ever been before. A decade ago, parents looked for things to keep their children safe, so organised activities were invaluable. Now we’ve moved on from that, with young people who are time-poor and parents looking for what Andrew Root calls activities with ‘the greatest good’ for their children—the activities that will give them the best advantage in life.

Our response as the church has often been to drop our USP of introducing young people to Jesus and see them discipled in favour of fun and group activity. The track record, unfortunately, shows that this hasn’t had the desired effect, with the number of churches engaging in growing youth and children’s ministry in steep decline.

IP: We discovered in General Synod that there are some churches which are working with significant numbers of young people. Do we have anything particular to learn from them?

JD: I think we often operate out of a self-written narrative, and one which is prevalent in youth and children’s ministry is that of “the big church”. As you note, a small group of churches (6.4%) represent a considerable amount of the children and young people we see on a Sunday (44%). There will be a whole host of reasons for this, be it a by-product of being a large church, historically having run a robust youth and children’s ministry or great leaders (be they employed or lay leaders). The struggle is how we view them, either with resignation (we don’t need to do anything because they will) or contempt (they’re stealing all the young people).

I think excellent youth ministry is built around two things: people with a heart for those they serve; and churches with a culture to resource and prioritise that ministry. I think some of those churches with lots of children and young people have found great ways to grow both of these things, and I’m excited to see how this can be used to resource the wider church.

IP: For the average local church with an ageing congregation, is there a feasible way back to engaging with young people? Or does something different need to happen?

JD: I think it starts with a church’s heart. The phrase “a church exists for the benefit of its non-members” is really important (and very rarely true). The danger is making—and we often do make—decisions based on what benefits our existing congregation most and what will rock the boat least. The church you describe needs to decide to see youth and children’s ministry as a priority rather than just another possible thing on a list.

An analogy I often use is when I completed an Ironman race (if you’re not sure what that is, it’s a triathlon with a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and then a 26.2 miles run). There was an enormous level of training to compete in the race—4 am cycle rides in the rain, every weekend and evening were given over to sessions, I was doing over 30 hours of training a week! There’s a joke in the Ironman community that if you get to the start line and you’re still married, you haven’t trained hard enough! I did all this because I wanted to do an Ironman race; it was on my bucket list.

I also say that I want to learn French, that’s also on my bucket list, but I’m not committing 30 seconds, let alone 30 hours a week, to learning French! If I devoted 30 hours a week, I could speak French. But although I can logically conclude this means I don’t really want to learn French, I still believe I do. The conclusion I’ve come to is that I want to have the ability to speak French—as long as I don’t have to do anything, change anything, and it doesn’t cost me anything. If I can click my fingers and be fluent in French, that’s on my bucket list. The struggle is that despite realising this, I will continue to communicate that “I’d love to learn how to speak French; it’s on my bucket list”. We have lots of churches that want to have children and young people. My challenge is whether this area of ministry is Ironman or French? What are they willing to do, to give up, to commit to seeing it happen?

But it’s not easy. Thinking practically of the church you describe, I’d suggest starting by running a weekly prayer meeting to pray for the young people and children of the parish, the young people and children they know. This will begin to build the culture that is so key. It also helps develop the hearts of your parishioners. More importantly, it tells you if this is ‘French’ or ‘Ironman’! It’s that culture that’s so key—people who are committed to seeing children and young people in the kingdom of God regardless of what it costs.

And for those who have discounted themselves because they are old—I would take an 80-year-old who passionately loves young people any day over a 24-year-old who’s there to tick a box or because their friends are involved! Young people want to be seen, they want to be heard, and they want to be unconditionally loved. That’s something anyone can do—but you need to choose to do it, and it won’t happen by accident.

IP: What are the major questions for young people about faith? What issues do we need to engage with them?

JD: I think there are many questions young people are asking but three rise to the top: who am I? where do I fit? and what difference can I make? Young people are desperately grappling with the questions of identity, affinity, impact and power that these questions encapsulate.

Alongside the issue of which questions are being asked, I think we also need to consider our models for engaging with these questions. The student movement Fusion created a handy model called Mission Styles, which I find really helpful when thinking about this. They say there are four Mission Styles, modelled by Jesus in the gospels as ways of sharing faith with people. They are:

  1. Convince me (likes to weigh stuff up before coming to conclusions);
  2. Let me experience (just goes ahead and tries stuff);
  3. Talk with me (is looking to connect through conversation); and
  4. Show me (Wants to see the practical outworking of faith).

I think we have a tendency to gravitate to whichever missional style we like to engage with. For many, that’s ‘convince me’ and looks like apologetics, but it’s so vital that this does not become the only way we engage with young people’s questions. Mentoring (Talk with me), worship and service (Let me experience) and social justice (show me) are as relevant in helping young people answer these big questions and see the difference that following Jesus can make.

IP: How do you see your role as National Youth Evangelism Officer? How can we make best use of you?

JD: As the National Youth Evangelism Officer, my role is to promote and resource youth evangelism across the Church of England. I see that as doing a few things.

First, it’s about trying to hold a national picture of what’s happening, not just within every level of the Church of England but more broadly in youth culture and society.

Secondly, the role looks to help resource young people to share their faith with their peers, something we have looked to do through resources like Mission Academy Live and programmes like Amplify.

Thirdly, it’s about helping churches and dioceses think more creatively about their youth ministry, and more specifically evangelism, as an absolute priority.

Finally it’s about creating (and pioneering) more significant systemic ideas and initiatives that help open up new opportunities for youth ministry to flourish in the Church of England.

IP: Is there hope for the Church of England in its work with young people?

JD: The Church of England has just announced its vision and strategy for the next ten years, a Jesus-centred church which is simpler, humbler and bolder with three strategic priorities:

  1. (To become) a church of missionary disciples;
  2. (To become) a church where mixed ecology is the norm;
  3. (To become) a younger and more diverse church.

At the recent Synod debate on the Vision and Strategy, one of the bold outcomes mentioned in relation to the final strategic priority was Doubling the number of children and young, active disciples in the Church of England by 2030. While this might seem an ambitious target, especially given that we are currently in decline, this target excites me for two reasons.

First, it specifically calls for growth in young active disciples. This means this isn’t just a numbers game—finding clever new ways to count bums on seats—but instead points to the core aim of seeing children and young people’s lives transformed.

Secondly, though, it excites me because it’s an all-in or all-out target. You’re not going to achieve this with some new resources and a bit or good comms. This is a call for an ‘Ironman, not French’ approach to tackling the area of youth and children’s ministry in the church. Without a total commitment to a culture change at every level, be that parish level, within the diocese or from the national church, we run the risk of not doing anything, either through fear of not knowing what to do or just doing too little.

This target doesn’t give us the option to sit back, hoping someone else will do the work for us; it calls for all of us, at every level, to engage with how we can share a new the good news of Jesus with this young generation.

IP: Thanks for your time—and thank you so much for engaging in this exciting and vital ministry. We pray that God will bless and sustain your ministry, and make it a very fruitful partnership with churches and dioceses.


Jimmy Dale is the National Youth Evangelism Officer for the Church of England, responsible for promoting and resourcing youth evangelism across the country. Jimmy is based in London and is married to Sarah and has a 1 year old daughter called Elsie. As well as being passionate about youth ministry and evangelism, he is a keen Spurs fan, a running enthusiast, and a passionate advocate of Apple products (Ed: he must be a good thing then!).

 


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76 thoughts on “Can the Church ever reach young people again?”

  1. Thank you, really helpful article. We have become convinced that the loan ‘youth worker’ model doesn’t work long term. Often when the YW leaves so do the youth. We have employed a part-time youth enabler who specific job is to encourage, enable and engage our existing team of leaders in the work with our young people. It’s church members that encourage and work alongside our young people, we don’t have many youth, but with those we do have, it does seem to be working. It is a cliche but true, that works in this context, that it takes a village to a raise child/youth …

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  2. The “Church” has never failed to reach young people! it has sometimes failed to keep them interested, but they seem to always reach young people through one medium or another. Why does the church struggle to keep young people, is simply about independence and them not feeling trapped , by rules regulations buildings and times, perhaps part of the reason they prefer to hang around the streets is because they do not feel so confined, and they have there own set of friends, which is different to another set of friends in the same group. Failing to engage is about the right people being together so that some do not feel excluded or under pressure, through lack of understanding or boredom. Sometimes just the challenge of organizing themselves to be where they need to be. it can be a lot of pressure. Personally i believe the Church does engage and sometimes it is in the fleeting encounters with young people as you pass by , that they remember, that is what the church does, they take an interest, embaressment may play a part , Church enters into “personal space” just by the nature of spirituality. It all has to be worked out especially if they lack confidence and feel they are not good enough. I really think that this is about the beginning of journeys and the engagement part comes later when they are seeking something to enable them in other relationships and with their feelings, which they want to clarify.

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  3. Where have all the young people gone? is the title of a recent piece in Premier’s Christianity magazine by Emma Fowle. The number of under 16s in the C of E has fallen by 20% in just five years. Three quarters of Anglican churches have fewer than five under 16s and a third have none. Models of youth work “haven’t been effective in raising robust, independent followers of Jesus. Attendance and discipleship are not the same. If we did have robust disciples, who knew how to spend time with God on their own, who knew the scriptures, who knew how to hear from God, we wouldn’t be worried” (quoting Tim Alford, director of Limitless). Parents, if they have a living faith of their own, need to take the prime responsibility for bringing up their children.

    If – this is me speaking – they don’t have a faith of their own, then they should be the focus, not the children. They need to grow into robust, independent followers of Jesus. In today’s God-hostile world, half-hearted Christianity does not stand a chance.

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  4. Thank you, Ian, for what – as ever – is a fascinating piece. Shining the light on the great opportunity we have today to engage, and faith-journey with, today’s young people as long as we are willing to venture out of the box (physically and spiritually) and meet them where they are.

    I know you are certainly no stranger to Scripture Union (!) where we continue to serve local churches in their mission to go out to the 95% of children and young people in their community with whom they have no regular contact.

    Can I recommend folk consider SU’s renewed ‘Revealing Jesus’ mission framework (www.su.org.uk/revealingjesus) and contacting one of our local Mission Enablers to investigate how, together, we can help children and young people explore the Bible, respond to Jesus, and grow in faith.

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  5. I suspect the whole LGBT issue now has a major impact on the views of ‘youf’. Even if they were interested in church, the majority will likely choose not to be involved with a church that does not approve of such relationships.

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    • There is no evidence at all that this is the case. All the churches I know that are attracting young people are ‘traditional’ on marriage and sexuality, even if that is unevenly expressed. Around me, I don’t know of any ‘liberal’ churches that are attracting large numbers of young people.

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      • I don’t think a tiny proportion of young people attending conservative churches is quite the win you think it is.

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        • Well done for knowing what my thoughts are!

          The C of E wants to attract young people. It knows which churches are working effectively with young people. It wants to learn from them. A major point of learning is that you don’t attract young people by looking the same as culture around, on any ethical issue.

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          • Well, you seem to think that conservative churches attract young people because they are conservative.
            I think it’s a lot more nuanced than that.
            Churches can be ethically counter cultural in some areas, but not in others. And is there any evidence that young people are attracted by the ‘counter cultural’?
            There is evidence that some young people like certain styles of worship, but don’t necessarily go along with their churches’ teaching on sexuality. HTB is aware of this and has become more ‘inclusive’.
            Some ‘liberal’ churches attract young people, Cathedrals, for example.

            But none of this is more than a sticking plaster. Only a tiny proportion of young people regularly attend any church. And I don’t think any of the ‘solutions’ have any hope of working. I have no idea what would ‘work’, except that maybe that is the wrong way of looking at it. I feel no satisfaction that *all* churches are failing.

          • Penny is spot on about this. I suspect we have nothing much more than anecdote around this area. I also think churches that appear conservative on human sexuality have never discussed it – they just have a vicar who is conservative on it.

            I suspect the Roman Catholic Church does quite well with young people in some areas. It’s conservative about artificial birth control. Do the young people pay any attention about that policy? No, they don’t. They smile and go on to use whichever artificial method suits them best.

          • Andrew you are mistaken here. The evidence is in black and white in answer to a Synod question: the list of churches which are working with young people.

            I agree that not all young people follow the teaching of the church they go to. But they go to ‘conservative’ churches—including New Frontiers, Vineyard and other ‘new’ churches—and (increasingly) not many other places. What are you ready to learn from that?

            Penny, yes it is a little more nuanced than that. But can I check your argument? I was on the staff of one of the churches on that list, which still has a thriving work with children and young people. I am currently in a church which, whilst we have our challenges, nevertheless engages significant numbers of young people including students. I am in city where all the large churches engage with large numbers of young people, and I know which theological outlook they have.

            You tell me I am wrong, though you also tell me that you don’t have any ‘solution’ and you have no idea what would work. Can I suggest you visit some of the churches in Nottingham who at least are getting some things right, and try and learn from them?

          • Ian
            Thank you. It is good news that some Nottingham churches are attracting young people: they must be doing something attractive and authentic. But re my comment earlier and Andrew’s response, how do you know that they follow their churches’ teaching on sexual ethics? Andrew is right that most RCs ignore the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception and that started with my generation of RCs in the 1970s.
            And, again, even ‘successful’ churches are attracting only a tiny proportion of young people (or, indeed, a tiny proportion of older people). Decades of evangelism have failed.
            In response to the comment (below) that young people are reacting against hyper sexualisation; I think they may be but that this is not (necessarily) going to drive them into the arms of the church. Plenty of people are sexually quite conservative without being churchgoers.

          • But re my comment earlier and Andrew’s response, how do you know that they follow their churches’ teaching on sexual ethics?

            Maybe he is too charitable to assume, without any evidence, that they are all massive hypocrites.

          • “I agree that not all young people follow the teaching of the church they go to. But they go to ‘conservative’ churches—including New Frontiers, Vineyard and other ‘new’ churches—and (increasingly) not many other places. What are you ready to learn from that?”

            That such churches have good ministry among young people. I’m not questioning that at all. I’m questioning whether the people of such churches all agree with and follow the ‘teaching’ of such churches – even if it’s entirely monochrome, which I don’t think it is – about same sex relationships. And I’m even more doubtful that young people are conservative on this issue. I am sure they go to such churches for many more important reasons than its stance on same sex issues.

          • It’s also worth bearing in mind two recent pieces of work in this specific area. One is the testimony of Vickie Beeching in her book. The second is the testimony of Nick Bundock following the death of Lizzie.

            “We were a fairly typical, open, Evangelical community where sexuality was just something we didn’t touch or talk about because we knew that it was a divisive issue. But when you don’t talk about an area like that, it actually begins to close off conversations.

            “But, as we began working on inclusion, we found that, far from becoming damaged by the process, the church was actually coming to life. People from all over the country and elsewhere have come to us saying ‘Tell us about this.’ From the tragedy of Lizzie’s death, life is not only growing in our church community, it’s popping up wherever anybody is asking that question. There has been a resurrection out of the tragedy.”

          • I do find it odd if neither Andrew nor Penny you ever encounter young people who can see the problems with out culture, who are tired of sexualisation, who see the incoherence of trans ideology. Do you know no young men who read Peterson?

          • Evangelicals and Pentecostals are far more motivated. Because of their inner discovery of a true perspective and experience of real life-change.

          • I do find it odd that you can’t actually engage with what I’ve written Ian.
            No, I’ve never met any teenagers who read Peterson. But I have met those who have read Vicky Beeching and are impressed by the work of churches like Nick Bundock’s.

          • I do find it odd if neither Andrew nor Penny you ever encounter young people who can see the problems with out culture, who are tired of sexualisation, who see the incoherence of trans ideology.

            I don’t. If you were a teenager like that, and you were talking to Mr Godsall, would you ever in a million years let on what you really thought?

          • Ian

            As I said, many young people are ethically quite conservative. However, the majority have the sense to know that there is no such thing as ‘trans ideology’ (outside populist imagination) and I don’t know any young men who read Peterson, D.G.

          • @Penelope Cowell Doe

            “In response to the comment (below) that young people are reacting against hyper sexualisation; I think they may be but that this is not (necessarily) going to drive them into the arms of the church. Plenty of people are sexually quite conservative without being churchgoers.”

            Fair point – I agree that those people like myself who have become ‘sexually conservative’ as a result of our hyper sexualised culture will not necessarily be driven towards the church, although – on an individual level – I was.

            I would say that as long as the church retains traditional teaching on the place of sex and marriage (i.e. free of the LGBT+/liquid sexuality) the Church will be a visible outpost for those who are genuinely searching for a better sex ethic than that currently being offered by mainstream culture.

          • I would say that as long as the church retains traditional teaching on the place of sex and marriage (i.e. free of the LGBT+/liquid sexuality) the Church will be a visible outpost for those who are genuinely searching for a better sex ethic than that currently being offered by mainstream culture.

            And what’s more, if it stands firm against all the forces of the world, the Church will show that it really, sincerely does believe in its message, and can be relied upon not to twist like a reed in the wind when the going gets hard.

            Contrariwise, if the Church flip-flops because the old message isn’t playing so well with the youth as it used to, then it will have less credibility than Joe Biden turning up and asking you to aid an American military deployment in return for a sure promise that you and your family will not be left behind to be horribly murdered when the fickle wind of public opinion changes to blow in yet another different direction.

          • Edmund: as a matter of fact, the CofE currently teaches that lay people may enter same sex marriages and still hold lay office in the Church and should not be asked questions about their sexuality or denied any sacraments because of their sexuality. Clergy are permitted to enter civil partnerships and, except in a few rare cases, are not asked about their sexual activity within such partnerships.

          • as a matter of fact, the CofE currently teaches

            Unless I’m very much mistaken, based on what I’ve read here, the Church of England currently teaches at least three totally mutually contradictory things.

          • That is because people carelessly use the term ‘the C of E teaches…’ when they need to say ‘the C of E teaches the opposite…but they don’t demand that all people are perfect before they are admitted to baptism and communion.’

        • Penelope

          There are a number of dogmas which are being aggressively propounded by “gender identity” activists. Here are three which spring to mind:

          (1) that people’s sex is “assigned” to them at birth;
          (2) that it is possible for people to “transition” from one sex to the other;
          (3) that therefore trans “women” are actually women, and trans “men” are actually men.

          Whether these anti-factual dogmas – which a surprising number of people are swallowing – should be regarded as amounting to a trans ideology is a minor consideration.

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          • Whether these anti-factual dogmas – which a surprising number of people are swallowing – should be regarded as amounting to a trans ideology is a minor consideration

            Definition of an ideology (from the OED):

            ‘ A systematic scheme of ideas, usually relating to politics, economics, or society and forming the basis of action or policy; a set of beliefs governing conduct.’

            The trans ideology, that you outline, is certainly that.

          • Edmund

            I think you are confusing hypersexuality with quite conservative beliefs, i.e that same-sex marriage can be holy and that identity is rather fluid.

            William

            No one is aggressively propounding 1,2 and 3. Some people are aggressively attacking them. Which is a pity. Since they are correct.

          • I think you are confusing hypersexuality with quite conservative beliefs, i.e that same-sex marriage can be holy and that identity is rather fluid.

            If those are ‘quite conservative’ beliefs then why do they are people who argue them always also tend to argue extremely un-conservative things like that one-night stands can be holy?

            No one is aggressively propounding 1,2 and 3. Some people are aggressively attacking them. Which is a pity. Since they are correct.

            They’re not, though, and you aggressively promote them.

    • @PC1 As a millennial and ‘youf’, I was attracted to my church precisely because it hadn’t succumb to the LGBT+ lobby and modern sexual ethics.

      I think that for many young people, churches that teach an orthodox view of sexuality will be increasingly attractive – especially when they’ve grown up in a world saturated in hardcore porn, sex-led marketing, hyper-sexuality, disposable/broken relationships and so on.

      As I look at a lot of my non-Christian friends and peers who are approaching their 30s, I can see a real sense of disillusionment at the sexual ethic that they were presented with.

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  6. I think that one factor in this equation is church schools. The CofE puts massive resources into these. Places are often oversubscribed as they tend to be ‘good’ schools in terms of results. Young people at secondary school find that this is quite enough religion for them without going to church as well. They associate church with school – and school isn’t something they want more than six hours a week day.

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        • Yes. Either learn from those who are seeing children and young people coming to living faith, and do what they do.

          Or save the money and pull out of schools altogether.

          Research shows that children who go to C of E schools are actually *less* likely to come to faith. That is a complete disaster and an utter waste of resources.

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          • Either learn from those who are seeing children and young people coming to living faith, and do what they do.

            Or save the money and pull out of schools altogether.

            If I might raise a small concern about this:

            It seems quite plausible to me that the major influence on whether children and young people coming to living faith is not the school, but the parents; and that what schools who are successful at this do is that they select in some way for level-of-commitment-of-parents, either by being private so requiring parents to want to pay to specifically give their children a Christian education, or by existing in a town where there are lots of good secular schools so the only reason to pick the church school is, again, specifically for the Christian ethos.

            ‘Ah,’ you may say, ‘in that case the schools are not adding any value: so save the money and pull out.’

            But consider: Christian parents are facing an uphill struggle to raise their children in the face of a society that is actively hostile to their efforts, and where anti-Christian ideologies are increasingly infiltrating state schools. And not all of them can afford to send their children to private Christian schools.

            So it’s entirely possible that, while the determining factor for whether children grow up Christian is the commitment of their parents, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the school environment is irrelevant and those children would therefore grow up Christian in any school, even one that pushes the anti-Christian ideologies of our day at them every hour they’re there and in homework.

            So to pull out of schools may mean that even those few children who do manage to make it to adulthood with a grounding in the truth are instead pulled away by the lies of the world.

            (Obviously this assumes that Church of England schools do protect the pupils in their charge from the anti-Christian ideologies that infect the rest of the state school system. If in fact they are just state schools that happen to have the word ‘Saint’ in their name then indeed pulling out of them would be no loss.)

          • Ian, could you provide a link for the research about children going to CofE schools being less likely to come to faith? Seems like a game-changer…

          • When I have mentioned this in meetings, there has been no demurring. This paper shows that church school attendance has ‘no effect’. But I think there are some stronger more negative results elsewhere.

            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/49300241_Shaping_attitude_toward_Christianity_among_year_seven_pupils_The_influence_of_sex_church_home_and_primary_school

            This paper argues that it is equipping parents, not schools, that matters.

            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333431031_Sustaining_churchgoing_young_Anglicans_in_England_and_Wales_Assessing_influence_of_the_home

  7. It could be a problem – now that e IWERNE situation has at last been revealed to have existed in the Evangelical wing of the Church of England. How many young lives were spoiled by the violence and oppression of the Smyth regime?

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    • A small number, in the sense that Smyth and Fletcher were welcomed into a small, tightly knit network of churches.

      I have been around a bit—yet I never came across either of them. Not once.

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    • 1. How can ‘the Iwerne situation’ ‘at last’ have been ‘revealed’ to have existed in the Evangelical wing? Sounds like a half-informed tabloidesque cliche. Quite the contrary: Iwerne was the most public fact about their formation right until the 1970s. It was the key element in the formation of Stott, Lucas, Green, Watson (together with the Charismatic movement) and countless others, who (together with some nonIwerneites) remained close through the Eclectics and through the sense of purpose brought by Keele 1967 and Nottingham 1977 in response to the 1966 Anglican-Evangelical crisis.

      2. How many young lives? In this country probably about 30 were affected in some way – a fairly high proportion of these suffering somewhere in the region of 1 to 3 beatings – though to be definitive about the total is hard because of the secrecy. And – again because of the secrecy – those not beaten were not affected or in the know. This is why we cannot speak of a Smyth ‘circle’ without further qualification (though we can speak of a sphere of influence) since Smyth operated in his beatings one to one or one to two.

      3. Regime? Hard for something private and secret to be a regime. It was one, however, in the lives of the victims. And one would never guess from your presentation that Iwerne/Titus lasted 90 years, Smyth’s UK ill deeds three and a half years (with, one hears, the possibility of some earlier activity too on a smaller scale). You are therefore omitting 95% of Iwerne/Titus.

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      • Since you remain an apologist for the moral and theological cesspit which was Iwerne/Titus I strongly suggest you read Andrew Graystone’s forthcoming book.

        Reply
        • I never attended Iwerne and neither did anyone in my circle (even when I was evangelical) – but to call Iwerne a “theological cesspit” is to damn a vast range of people (including the AbC), on the basis of one not particularly prominent individual. I could justifyably condemn Anglo-Catholicism on the same basis (Peter Ball) who was both more prominent and significantly more apologised for.

          Iwerne’s “theological” basis, was not different from that of Scripture Union through who’s camps probably passed the bulk of the current leadership of the Church.

          Frankly it’s basic catechism with a pietist/conversionist edge – the mainstay of evangelical teaching for 200+years

          Reply
          • That’s the one bad apple theory. Clearly, there was more than one, not least because the trustees have known the truth about Smyth since 1982 and suppressed that knowledge. Reputation management at the cost of shattered lives. This has, of course, happened in other institutions and other areas, as you say. The AC theological underpinning which protected Ball is equally egregious. Quite frankly, even without the abuse, the elitist white misogynistic theology of Iwerne is repugnant. No doubt the same could be said of Ball’s ACism.
            Welby says that he was a junior ‘officer’ and knew nothing of the abuse at the time. I believe him. Why he hasn’t done anything since beggars belief.
            Secrecy, abuse, misogyny and elitism are not gospel virtues.

  8. I think that Jimmy’s comments show that he is close to understanding the problem – but then other statements in the article show that he isn’t there yet. Firstly – this quote from the article shows that he understands what I believe to be the two key points when it comes to reaching young people:
    “Our response as the church has often been to drop our USP of introducing young people to Jesus and see them discipled in favour of fun and group activity. The track record, unfortunately, shows that this hasn’t had the desired effect, with the number of churches engaging in growing youth and children’s ministry in steep decline”.
    The two key points made here are that we do what is wrong and we fail to do what is right. The wrong we do is to offer Christianity to people in a way which is inconsistent with its heart – and the right we should do is to offer it consistent with its heart. But what exactly is offering Christianity to people inconsistent with its heart? It is here that I believe Jimmy shows that he has more to understand. He says (if the article quotes his words correctly):
    “Young people want to be seen, they want to be heard, and they want to be unconditionally loved. That’s something anyone can do—but you need to choose to do it, and it won’t happen by accident”.
    It doesn’t matter what young people want – what matters is who God is. God’s love is not unconditional. We therefore should not be offering unconditional love to young people – or anyone – if we do we are telling people that whatever they feel and want is God and he exists to be its servant. In behaving like that we show that we stand for nothing – if this is how we behave people will rightly conclude that godly love is no different to worldly love – that it is tolerance.
    In order for us to have access to God’s love we must accept the terms under which he offers it to us. The UK gospel has removed these terms – in doing so it has erased the holiness of God – a gospel which on longer speaks of a holy cannot impute his holiness and righteousness to anyone – it has has no power to save anyone. We think that there is power in our gospel only because we supposedly believe that it is only possible for us to approach God because of the cross – but we are wrong – it requires us to understand more than that – we must also understand and live as if God too approaches us only IN the cross. The cross isn’t an example of God’s love for us – it is the entirety of it. And God doesn’t offer us love – he IS love. We can be the most despicable of sinners and yet approach God in the cross but whether or not our sin is societally acceptable or not if we are contemptuous of the mercy and grace of God there is no sense in which God can continue to love us. We have turned from God and therefore turned from love. I used to think that it was part of being a credible witness that we continue to show love to people who have demonstrated committed contempt for the mercy and grace of God – but that’s wrong – God’s love means nothing to such a person.
    To sum it up in a sentence – God offers his love to non-believers – but he does not continue to offer it to unbelievers.
    But what about after we come to faith – don’t we then stand under the unconditional love of God then? No we don’t – here are three verses which show that God’s love is not unconditional – even to those who profess a faith:
    Jonah 2:8 ESV
    Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
    Romans 11:22 ESV
    Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
    Hebrews 10:29 ESV
    How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
    None of those statements remove the opportunity to have complete assurance of salvation – but I have said enough – I won’t open that subject unless people want me to explain that.
    So the contest is not between love and hate – the contest is between two ideas about what love is. If the church concedes to the world’s ideas about what love is then it no longer is the church.

    Reply
    • God’s love is unconditional. To make it conditioned is to make it earned is to make it wages is to diminish the holiness and immutability of God and to put men at too high a status.

      You use Romans 11:22, but right after in Romans 11:23 ESV we have “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.” which shows that a person who goes from ‘non-believer’ to ‘unbeliever’ is not from there forsaken. And Romans 11:28 ESV (still talking about the bulk of unbelieving Jews) reads ‘As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.’ which demonstrates explicitly that God still loves his un-believing enemies.

      (And of course, Jesus explicitly tells us to love our enemies. So even if God didn’t love unconditionally, we still ought to demonstrate our servitude to God by loving as God commands us to love.)

      Reply
      • I’d suggest that God’s love is predicated on who he is in eternity and as demonsrated in his relation to creation, and pivotally, humanity.
        As revealed in the whole Bible, longtitudinal history of redemption, or put in another way, the Christian theology of history.
        In that regard I’d suggest that the conditional/unconditional nature of his love is tied to the covenants he made. So they are both conditional and unconditional, both fulfilled by God Christ and as obedient Son of Man. It is here that there is a vicarious Divine Exchange, our sin his, his righteous obedience ours.
        But as an old geezer, who took part in much sport in much earlier years Michael K euleman’s general point seems correct; how does the church connect with unchurched youngster and what are the points and places of connection, even commonality of language, meaning and references.

        Reply
        • And of course, there is a raft of fatherless generations riding the white water rapids of cultural progress before the unseen waterfall catastrophic drop: the opposite of a cartoon launchpad to Himalayan Heights of human destiny.

          Reply
      • Hi Kyle.
        I presented a series of propositions:
        – that God is love – a different thing to his offering us love as if love is something separate to himself.
        – that the cross isn’t an example of God’s love but the entirety of it
        – that not only can we relate to God only in the cross but he relates to us only in the cross
        – that showing contempt for God’s mercy and grace in the cross is turning away from love – that therefore there is no good that will come from continuing to offer love
        – that the cross has not annihilated the holiness of God causing God’s love to be unconditional either now on earth or on the day of judgement.
        I presented three verses as part of making the last point.
        Can I ask you to clarify which of the propositions above you believe to be right and which not? You disagreed with the last but a series of steps led up to the last.
        Let me respond to two things you said. Firstly you said that I over emphasised the human place in faith. In response I ask that you look at the following three verses which I believe each imply that the only way in which we can have access to God’s love is by exchanging everything for it. In other words faith isn’t only that Jesus died for us – it is believing that Jesus is who he said he is – that he is lord – and therefore we are not – true faith is demonstrated in our offering him all of our lives.
        Matt 16:25 ESV
        For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
        Matt 13:44-46 ESV
        “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it”.
        Rom 12:1 ESV
        I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
        Secondly let me respond to your comments about how I have used Romans 11:22. You raise helpful issues in understanding it but I don’t believe that the Romans passage is saying that God has made a promise to Israel which is in some way inconsistent with the way in which he relates to all human beings. I have free will – I can choose to follow God or not – and so can everyone else – however God can still arrange creation in such a way that I exist at a particular point in time to achieve particular things – and that I have the opportunity to relate to people who are equally yoked with me. God’s promises about Israel – that he has hardened them for a time that all may be grafted in – and that he will later graft them in – should be seen as operating consistent with all people having free will – and God being able to align the existence of people with particular points in time – not as God showing tolerance for committed contempt for his mercy and grace to anyone.
        Finally let me point out one other passage which is wrongly interpreted to mean that God’s love is unconditional – Romans 8. We use the last verse as if it means that God’s love is unconditional:
        “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
        without looking at what comes before in order to understand its meaning. Verse 31 says:
        “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
        I cannot prove to you that the verse means that God isn’t for all people – I have sought to do that with other verses. But I raise it to point out that it leaves open the door to the fact that God may not be for all people.
        Consider the implications of God’s love being unconditional – is the message of Christians to Donald Trump – whose behaviour towards particular racial groups and vulnerable minorities is without mercy – that God loves him and is eager to forgive him? Are there no actions where an announcement of God’s impending judgement is appropriate and offering grace is not. Should Christians have preached the gospel to Adolf Hitler. If God’s love is unconditional then the answer is yes. God does not act naively about evil – he acts as if those who live in committed contempt for his mercy and grace will face judgement – he doesn’t act as if they are just a prayer away from salvation. He does because people always respond to his mercy and grace the same way – whether positively or negatively – they don’t change. That’s what Paul’s disagreement with Barnabas in Acts 15 about John Mark was about. Paul knew that John Mark had already had opportunity to respond to God’s grace and he knew that time wouldn’t cause him to respond in a different way.

        Reply
        • Well, the gospel should have been preached to Hitler (I expect it was), and John Mark is traditionally thought to have gone on to better things.

          Certainly we ought to give God everything (the fact that the verses you used aren’t even the verses I would use demonstrates how recurring a motif this is). However, it is we who are loved first and give love in return; not God.

          On you several points, I do disagree more than just the conclusion. But even if I didn’t, it is not as if you produced a syllogism.

          – that God is love – a different thing to his offering us love as if love is something separate to himself.

          This is true, but God does have love which He does offer to us.

          – that the cross isn’t an example of God’s love but the entirety of it

          No. When Jesus fed the five thousand was this not God’s love? When God fills us with the Holy Spirit is this not God’s love?

          – that not only can we relate to God only in the cross but he relates to us only in the cross

          Honestly, I’m not quite sure what is meant by ‘relates’ and how this would happen via the cross. But, we have an interceder in heaven in Christ Jesus who suffered as we suffered before the cross. Our Father is all-knowing and sees our sorrows and hears our prayers And, of course, again, the Holy Spirit.

          – that showing contempt for God’s mercy and grace in the cross is turning away from love – that therefore there is no good that will come from continuing to offer love

          People do in fact change. If not, then why did God send the prophets to Israel.

          Why did Stephen pray for forgiveness to those who stoned him. Why did Jesus pray to His Father for those literally mocking Him upon the cross. And, of course, Saul of Tarsus.

          – that the cross has not annihilated the holiness of God causing God’s love to be unconditional either now on earth or on the day of judgement.

          This is true. But the atoning sacrifice – to be able to put on Christ’s holiness – is how sinful people can be in the presence of a perfectly holy God. We are not a perfect people having earned God’s love and fit for God’s holiness.

          Reply
          • “Well, the gospel should have been preached to Hitler (I expect it was),”
            You didn’t say why the gospel should be preached to Hitler but based on what you said later I presume you believe that people can at one moment experience the mercy and grace of God in creation or in the gospel and yet find nothing to move them in it – and then on another occasion be so moved by it as to have their whole life turned around. It is clear that someone can through circumstances have their experience of mercy and grace hindered – but not by knowingly refusing it themselves. Take for example Nicky Cruz (famous convert from New York 1950’s gang scene) – he was involved in all kinds of violence and sexually immoral behaviour – but his actions were an expression of anger that there was no love – no goodness – in the world. He was in effect saying “You’re wrong world – I’m worth something”. The second he experienced the love of God he was changed – instantly – he is a perfect illustration of the fact that when we are exposed to the mercy and love of God it will immediately move us if it ever is going to. Again I need to be clear what I am and am not saying – someone might come to church with us and sit while the gospel is preached and not respond – their reason for not doing so might be that they fell asleep or were distracted – or they misunderstood the message. But we should not live as if those in our lives who have experienced the love of God through us and have not been moved by it will suddenly change. There is one other possibility – God can sovereignly prevent a person from accepting the gospel until a time of his choosing (I say sovereignly because he alone knows that they will still have an opportunity in the future to accept it) for his own purposes – although I don’t mean that they don’t respond to it at all – I mena that God may ensure that they are burdened in a way which they cannot lift until God allows the burden to lift.
            “and John Mark is traditionally thought to have gone on to better things”.
            What edifying purpose do you give to Paul’s talking about his disagreement with Barnabas – and what reason do you give for why Paul does not take him on a second trip?
            “Certainly we ought to give God everything (the fact that the verses you used aren’t even the verses I would use demonstrates how recurring a motif this is). However, it is we who are loved first and give love in return; not God”.
            I never disagreed with the fact that God loves us first – in saying that you aren’t correcting anything I said. God’s grace must enlighten and enable us in order for us to be saved – but before repenting we haven’t gained access by faith into the fullness of his grace (Rom 5:2) – we aren’t under his love. Whilst we need grace in order to repent it is also true that we must be repent in order to be saved. The situation isn’t that people must be saved – in order to repent.
            Acts 19:3 ESV
            Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,
            “On you several points, I do disagree more than just the conclusion. But even if I didn’t, it is not as if you produced a syllogism”.
            I wasn’t suggesting that each proposition logically proves the next – I was only seeking to understand which part of what I was saying you supported and which you disagreed with.
            “This is true, but God does have love which He does offer to us.”
            Yes, but the reason he has love to give us is because he is love. The thing I am trying to get across is that if we think about God’s love as something he offers as distinct from who he is we will grant ourselves an inappropriate freedom to think of God’s love as being of a different nature to God himself – it can then become a “love” which is not for example just and holy – or even merciful (tolerance isn’t mercy). Those who are refusing God’s love are refusing him. People who accept and refuse God don’t change course in that – Jesus doesn’t say to the thief on the cross “today you will be with me in paradise as long as between now and when your punishment finally takes you you don’t change your mind”. The reason the Bible says that we must endure to the end in order to be saved isn’t to introduce the idea that truly saved people change their mind but to make clear that there are types of faith which last for a time but not to the end.
            “No. When Jesus fed the five thousand was this not God’s love? When God fills us with the Holy Spirit is this not God’s love?”
            I am not saying that the only thing Jesus did which was loving is die on the cross. I’m saying that everything that God does is an expression of the one plan – to love us in the cross. God’s plan before creation is that all people relate to him through Jesus – that Jesus is the means by which people are gathered to God.
            “Honestly, I’m not quite sure what is meant by ‘relates’ and how this would happen via the cross. But, we have an interceder in heaven in Christ Jesus who suffered as we suffered before the cross. Our Father is all-knowing and sees our sorrows and hears our prayers And, of course, again, the Holy Spirit”.
            See my previous answer – I’m only saying that God’s actions are all an expression of his single plan – that anyone in Christ be able to know him and his love.
            “People do in fact change. If not, then why did God send the prophets to Israel?”
            People change yes. The issue isn’t whether people change. The issue is whether people ever alter their response to the mercy and grace of God. I am saying people don’t alter in the way they respond to these. God does not speak about all people in scripture as if they are just one step from being saved, with some they are one step away from his eternal wrath. Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit – we don’t become a good tree by becoming a Christian – we either are or aren’t by how we ALWAYS respond to God’s mercy and grace.
            “Why did Stephen pray for forgiveness to those who stoned him? Why did Jesus pray to His Father for those literally mocking Him upon the cross. And, of course, Saul of Tarsus.”
            The reason why Jesus and Stephen prayed for those who are killing them is provided in each passage – because “they know now what they do”. The issue isn’t about how seemingly bad people’s actions are. Someone can even execute Jesus without having a revelation of his mercy and grace – Jesus’ disciples spent three years with him without being allowed to “see” him – by God’s design. That’s why Jesus and Stephen both say “forgive them FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO”. It’s about their state of knowingness in respect of God’s mercy and grace in respect of their actions. You mention Paul – I’m glad you have – he explains the situation in respect of himself in 1 Timothy 1:13:
            “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,”
            Earlier I called knowing rebellion unbelief but the key point isn’t what word we use but the fact that as he says he acted ignorantly.
            “This is true. But the atoning sacrifice – to be able to put on Christ’s holiness – is how sinful people can be in the presence of a perfectly holy God. We are not a perfect people having earned God’s love and fit for God’s holiness”.
            I agree – God’s actions toward us will always be the bigger story than ours towards him – but the fact that we cannot earn God’s forgiveness must not lead us to imagine that whilst the Bible says salvation is a free gift (Rom 8:32) that receiving salvation costs us nothing. Salvation is a free gift in that God in Christ enlightens us, enables us to repent, and has sacrificed himself for our sin – he doesn’t ask anything from us which is not to our blessing to give. I have shown (and you – thank you – conceded to the idea) that to be saved costs us all that we have and are.
            Thank you for engaging.

          • I think my main question after that – I think most of our differences our terminology and verbiage issues – is how do you know that the teenager has received a full revelation of God’s mercy (being in the right mental state) with a confidence that it can affect your actions?

            (And, of course, the crucial issue that even if you thank that God doesn’t love particular examples of our enemies and our neighbours, we are clearly commanded to.)

          • Kyle, when considering the implications of the issues I have raised for how we relate to young people the primary need isn’t that we not offer the truth where it has been refused. It is that we represent God’s love consistent with its true nature. If we don’t one of two things will happen:
            – people will conclude that godly love is no different to worldly love and therefore have no reason to sign up – this is what has happened in the C of E – the reason why only some conservative churches have grown in the C of E is because only their gospel has some trace of God’s holiness in it. We cannot create holiness of our own – we can only become holy receiving God’s holiness.
            – young people will rightly consider the attitudes of the Christian God towards evil as inappropriate – naive – corrupt. Young people are now educated about various forms of injustice – whether environmental or social – if they are told that God’s response to those who have generated these forms of injustice is to tell them that they are just a prayer away from being in his prsence for eternity we will cause young people to rightly conclude that they are unable to relate to the Christian God (as he is being represented).
            As a final proof that the early church were preaching the gospel in a way that is consistent with what I have described above (they sought to faithfully speak and represent the true character of God whatever may come of it) consider Stephen’s final sermon in Acts. He stands up in front of people committed to ignoring the truth and says only that they are and always have – and is then stoned to death. Instead of embracing our authority to speak and model the truth we have forfeited it – we have made God look like a fool – like a friend of evil – we have acted and spoken as if God’s wish is to be as nice to people as possible – wilfuling ignoring his heart revealed on every page of scripture.

          • Ian it’s great to have your endorsement. Some may consider me presumptuous for concluding that on the basis of only a single sentence from you – especially when the sentence related only to the number of words I used to argue my case. But if you had disagreed with the thrust of what I have said you would have said so – as you regularly do and have done elsewhere on this page. If my point – that the nature of God’s love is completely different to that which is being spoken and modelled in the UK church – was wrong – surely it would deserve correction. I certainly haven’t prevented that correction being offered. I have – apparently to a fault – laid out my reasoning. Yet you made no criticism of my view or reasons for it. That then leads to the question – if you agree – and if my words are calling from the wilderness – if they are not yet embraced – why you did not specifically welcome them? You have no reason to disapprove of me other than that I openly express disagreement with the direction of most current church leaders. That isn’t a crime – my reasons are not a secret – they’re all on this page! The reason you respond the way you do is because you and the truth currently have an unhappy relationship – you have pitched your tent on a foundation which is a mixture of supposedly conservative and definitely progressive principles. The quasi conservative principles are that you will consider a church who believes that every word of the Bible is necessary for life and faith to be faithful even when they refuse to represent the character of the God revealed in it faithfully – now God is allowing most of those groups to fade away – and some who remain exist only to be used uncooperatively for his purposes. Your progressive views – your “justice means equal opportunity” ideas reflected in supporting the ordination of women – have not seen a single church run by a woman grow. God is washing away much of what you have allowed yourself to be aligned with. He doesn’t approve. I suspect that driving your behaviour is some kind of ‘wedge’ – this is the tactic that the devil is using with God’s approval against many men of God in the UK. An example of a wedge would be something like this – your wife may believe that because you are in ministry she has made sacrifices being married to you – when if she was faithful she would realise that those sacrifices – if as a result of your obeying God – were her bread not her burden – and so now she might insist on wearing the pants with you in your relationship – or in respect of your beliefs as some kind of pay back. It is issues like this which lead some men to offer support for women’s leadership – they refuse to model the character of God to their wife – or to those whose love they refuse to lose. Being faithful might see their relationship or relationships fall apart for a time or even for good in situations where the other person is not committed to worshipping God alone – so instead of let that happen they match their theology with their chosen direction. It will be an issue of this nature – God will insist on it as proof of our having no higher loyalties – which sees you protesting instead of endorsing what I have been saying. Your comment is in effect saying that even if what you write in your articles doesn’t have God’s approval at least you make your points with less words.
            I have zero desire to use the truth as a way to elevate myself over others – my longing is that I will experience the fellowship of sharing the joy of being aligned in the truth with others. This is the only heaven God is offering me – and I want it. I am willing to let all relationships in my life take whatever course others choose in order to lay hold of it. Since this is the only heaven there is if you were the only person on the planet who agreed with me I would treat you as if you were family in the deepest possible sense – I imagine I would move to Nottingham or whatever would express that equally yoked relationships are highest priority. But you don’t want that – my commitment to living for the truth cannot be valued by you while you still choose to align yourself with those God is evicting from his presence. You appear to be willing to let what is around you get torn down and rebuilt in a way that meets God’s approval – but you aren’t really – you aren’t because you aren’t willing for God to do that in a way which involves having your current or past direction corrected.

  9. A very unspiritual response if I may!
    In Lancashire most parishes used to have their own football team. This is the sport that engages the vast majority of boys – and increasingly girls too.
    It would at least renew our contact with young people and bring them into the church family.
    From then on, it’s up to us to teach them about sin, salvation and holiness.
    If we are out of contact with them, not all the theological correctness in the world will help.
    Mike Keulemans

    Reply
    • A couple of thoughts on this.

      Football can be effective. Some years ago my church had a Norwegian connection through a guy there who was yearning for charismatic renewal in the Lutheran church. We had a number of interns coming over from Norway for ministry experience. Several of them had become Christians through a football team run by a Christian. As a result of this connection, our church football team improved its results quite a bit!

      On the other hand, at the Church for quite a while I was involved with an open youth group for years 7 to 9. This was very successful in drawing in young people, partly through the connection with the Church school. It became to be the place for these folk to meet on a Friday night*. On one occasion we had about 90. It was basically activities with the aim of building relationships, and perhaps for those who attended the church to use as a route to inviting their friends An attempt to introduce a ‘thought for the day’ resulted in some pushback from some of the kids. Also, with that many coming, there was not that much opportunity to build relationships. Few made the transition to the older youth group which is much more explicitly Christian.

      *It started on a Tuesday evening. However, the change to Friday meant it could be later (7.30 to 9.00) which meant it was easier to get the volunteer leaders who could get there after work. This is one of the tensions of youth work. Sometimes the best times for this, e.g. after school, are not the times when volunteers are available and few churches can afford to employ the number of people you really need. The success of the club was partly due to the variety of skills which the different leaders brought.

      Reply
  10. An interesting take on the current schools strategy in a period when it is seen to be at its most vibrant, thought out & purposeful, in its ascendancy nationally. Too early to tell the impact? What do young people say about their engagement/non-participation?

    Reply
  11. The problem with some of the comments above is that the approach is purely sociological. If young people come and hear a robust gospel some will be converted = saved. The new life at work in them will grow when they are fed the word of God. I have seen this happen over many years. Liberal churches have no gospel to save and to keep. They are merely an echo chamber for the world. In fact, they are the world. No-one is converted to theological liberalism except disaffected evangelicals.

    Reply
    • John, you are right. Where the approach is purely sociological, then that is the fundamental wrong-footed way of looking at things – real life is of far fuller glory than the disembodied and depersonalised sociological approach by itself. Secondly, it is a bit sneaky, because it is as though people are plotting in the background that others will come to church if we follow steps x,y,z. Thirdly, it feeds the idea that filled seats in the assembly are the point rather than transformed lives (of course, we want both, and indeed they can be closely interrelated). The gospel transforms.

      Reply

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