Ali Campbell, DYO for Chichester, is hosting our panel “Where is youth work going?”.  Panellists include:

  • Jude Levermore, the co-ordinator for Children’s & Youth Work in the Methodist Church
  • Richard Passmore who works for Frontier Youth Space
  • Hayley Moss who is the Youth President of the Methodist Church

Question 1: We’ve got a challenge to do with unity in the church, but we have a lack of diversity, and a lack of understanding cultural and faith dynamics.  How does that link to faith formation?  Does it matter if you have an all white youth group and they don’t link with others?

Some thoughts from the floor:

  • Rather than manage we need to gather like a pentecost.
  • If there is diversity in the community why is it not in the church – hard questions need to be asked.
  • Diversity was part of God’s creation so we want to foster it – we should take people out of their context if it is lacking in diversity and find diversity to celebrate.
  • We don’t see there is a problem as we are welcoming churches who will make their effort, people need to have self-confidence to come into church.  //  Other disagree that the church has a massive issue in this and isn’t in the right places to see that, for example LGBT young people aren’t welcomed into churches.
  • A friend’s church had limited diversity so took some of their diverse young people to that church.
  • All the people on the stage weren’t the same colour, the beats weren’t the same beats – how do we share culture?
  • I like my culture so don’t want to change my culture in the same way you don’t want to change your culture.

How do we blend our ethnicity and nationality and cultures in the body of Christ?  How do we reflect this in our worship?  We have been institutionalised, and there is a fear of what will happen, but maybe God has something amazing in store, but we’re not willing to be open to that.

If we’re not blended, then there is something wrong if we can’t model that to our young peiople.  That is a challenge for us with all our young people.  If the church is the people then it is all something we need to tackle.

Question 2: Is there any future for youth work in the church?  So much is tied up in church politics so do we need to create something new outside of church, maybe the future isn’t church, do we need another reformation?

  • Is “Church” a scary word – we’ve made meeting together such an alien concept – none of the boys will sing words as it is all girly – so we try doing things more cultural – doing cavemen building houses, hunting for food.
  • People see the news and are put off – how do we share that God loves them – the Ned Flanders affect.
  • Some many issues drive the church apart – women in leadership, same sex marriage – they see it as barriers to their faith.  In a small town with a number of churches but young people don’t distinguish between denominations – the young people just want to know what God has done for them.
  • Is “relevance” a red-herring – we package up truth in a different way but should we be discovering truth together co-creating together.
  • If you take youth work out of the church then you lose the multi-generational aspect, you lose the sense of family.
  • Christians are born of the same spirit, there is a sense of family in church, no where else in society does that multi-generational work happen.
  • Church is a relevant motivator for youth work – we want to see young people go through change – socially, spiritually, physically.
  • As become Christians we don’t want them to fit into a certain mould.
  • What is youth work trying to do – are you trying to Christianese them or are you trying to meet them where they’re at – then the church rules don’t need to be stuck with.
  • There is a place for Christian youth workers in the secular world, but we also should have people building church in the place where young people are at journeying together in a faith journey.
  • Because of the funding shortcuts lots of people are being approached to run local youth groups by councils – they know we’re Christian but we’re just there to love them and be around them.
  • What is church – we seem to have a lot of cultural hang ups – don’t think that the church that Jesus had in mind would be hard for young people to sign up to.
  • Are young people doing church as they meet together even if they don’t know it?
  • Maybe they don’t need church on a Sunday, what is it they need.  Missionaries don’t sit in the middle of a culture and say be like me, but instead get uncomfortable and meet with them – surely we should do the same.

Richard: But the New Testament church was very varied – Jerusalem, Ephesus, Corinth.  Maybe we need to tallk about missional language rather than church language.  Jesus used different styles and language with different people but the absolute of Jesus’ teaching was love, beyond that it is hard to fathom more out.

Jude: A little girl says to her newborn baby sister, “Can you tell me about God I think I’m forgetting” – they will know more about God then we will ever know.

There is a challenge for us that we are teachers and imparting knowledge, so we are being changed as God is always present and often working in ways unseen.  The story is not different, but our language and where we do it may need to be different.  Do we have the spaces in our churches beyond what we are doing that the church would be happy to realise.  What happens if we were given a blank piece of paper and cheque?  What happens if the children’s work is larger than the church because so many children want to connect to new ways of church outside of the traditional models.

Question 3: What does it mean to share the gospel in a powerless way (you have no power over truth etc.)?

  • The question was difficult so made it “How can we get young people to tell the story in their life?” – hearing their testimonies is better than us keeping the power and sharing our testimonies – encouraging them to see the wonder in the everyday things where God meets them and is present in that moment.  Using their stories to inspire them.
  • We go with a specific plan but often young people digress and that is great as they are led by God too.
  • Don’t fall out with God because you disagree with what the next person says.

Ali: The best example of Jesus showing us powerlessness – Jesus at the well – all the power was with him as a man, and it ends with her becoming an evangelist and rushing back into her town to tell her friends about Jesus?  Do we shape the encounter and say what we think has happened, or do we allow children and young people to lead?

Praying for a child at New Wine who scrunched up his eyes and then open them, Ali asked what was the problem, the child said I don’t want to fall over, he was so worried about that he couldn’t meet with God, Ali said lets sit down and the child was so relieved and they prayed together.  In everything we do how do we move beyond our and the young people’s expectations?

Richard: what’s a metaphor to describe StreetSpace – the place on the old map where it says “here be dragons”.  The dragons aren’t scary, go out and be church with young people in the land of dragons, don’t be scared, our God is bigger.

Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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