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Reform Magazine | November 21, 2017

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A good question: How can Church engage with under 30s?

A good question: How can Church engage with under 30s?

One question, four answers

VICTORIA PAULDING
‘The Church needs to have genuine conversation’

The term ‘under 30s’ comprises so many groups. Within this age range are those in school, training and university, recent graduates, trained workers and experienced professionals. There are those living with parents and those living away, those single and married, those with children and without. There are so many demographics within this age range that it is impossible to give a definitive solution as to what the Church can do to engage with them. Instead, what the Church needs to do is to view people as individuals, to spend time building relationships and to meet people where they are. Of course, this form of engagement is not just relevant to under 30s, but to people of any age.

Ambiguous Evangelism by Mayo, Collins and Savage found that Generation X (those born between 1960 and 1980) have generally been ‘turned off’ Church by negative experiences, whereas Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 2000) have never entered it in the first place. It is not (generally) that under 30s have an issue with Church: they just do not see the relevance of it to their own lives. So the Church needs to be open and authentic, to engage in genuine conversation. It also needs to speak in a language that is accessible to all, regardless of previous exposure to Church or faith. …

Victoria Paulding is convenor of the United Reformed Church’s engagement with 20 to 40 year olds task group, writing in a personal capacity

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TIMOTHY GIBSON
‘Churches need to be authentic’

For many congregations, young people are viewed as a holy grail. How do you draw them in, and how do you keep them engaged? I asked a variety of youth workers for their advice, and the responses were strikingly consistent. Here’s a distillation of what I heard.

If there’s one theme that emerged time and again, it was this: churches need to be characterised by authenticity if they are to appeal to young people. As Ali Campbell, a youth and children’s ministry consultant, explains: ‘Young people can easily spot a fraud. It is much more attractive to be yourself. Go for making meaningful, honest relationships with young people over a big and brash show. We can’t entertain young people into the kingdom.’

Building relationships takes time. Don’t expect to grow your church’s engagement with young people overnight. Allow time for bonds to form, and don’t push it. Just be there for them and show an interest in their lives. When James Hall, a youth worker in rural South Somerset, started his job, he spent a lot of time just saying hello to young people. ‘If children and young people are hanging around on street corners or making mischief,’ he says, ‘go and talk to them. It starts with hello, and on the first few occasions, ends there, too. But keep at it. Youth work takes time. Run groups in village halls, lay on clubs and sports, link with schools and other initiatives in the area. Be available.’…

Timothy Gibson is a non-stipendiary minister in Isle Valley, Somerset. A longer version of this article was published at blog.churchdesk.com in May

HANNAH JONES
‘Create a space for friendships’

My first thought on this question is: ‘What would the Church class as engagement?’ Many members wish to see the under 30s join Sunday morning worship, but I think this is unrealistic. Engagement within a church isn’t just about Sunday morning but about being together as a community and being willing to work together to support the Church in its work in the community.

For many young people, Sunday morning can be easily filled with shift work or activities at university. It can also be unappealing due to the fact that it is in the morning! Engaging under 30s could quite simply be having an alternative service on a weekday evening. These are much more likely to be attended by this age group. There is never going to be a date that fits all, but two services a week at very different times would be more engaging for more people.

Other examples of engagement include hosting youth clubs and events, if resources allow. Having a space for young people to come and relax from school in a completely different environment can be very appealing, particularly if it is different from what they do at other clubs. Film clubs where you serve popcorn and drinks work well, especially as they can lead to discussions afterwards…

Hannah Jones is Moderator Elect of the United Reformed Church Youth Assembly

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DAN MORELLL
‘The Church must engage in politics’

There have been many times over the course of history when the Church has been popular. It’s safe to say that, for a variety of reasons, the Church is somewhat less popular now. That’s because the Church is no longer relevant and no longer current. Average congregation ages are older because the Church was relevant for those ‘older people’ when they were my age.

As a trainee commercial pilot, I’m lucky, as I’m looking for a job just as the Vietnam-veterans-turned-airline-pilots are up for mandatory retirement. Why did they all join at once? Because the airlines were relevant and worthwhile at the end of the 70s. The Church needs to be relevant to those who are the Church of tomorrow and the Church of today.

The Church has been stuck in a rut of presuming what under 30s don’t want or need. They said: ‘Young people won’t be interested in politics.’ Misstatement of the year! I don’t think young people have ever been more involved in politics, even those not yet of voting age, as the events of the past year or so have proven. Young people have been heavily involved in political debates and decisions, with both major political parties trying to tap into this demographic with varying degrees of success.

Politics is one of the things that young people care about, and something the Church should be engaging in. Churches exist to help serve Jesus Christ through the community in which they are based, so part of this would be to get involved in local issues. That’s just one way we can engage…

Dan Morrell is Moderator of the United Reformed Church Youth Assembly


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These are extracts from a longer article published in the November 2017 edition of  Reform

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