youth work isn’t working?

I just read an article in Youthwork magazine by Krish Kandiah which started from the premise that youth work isn’t working because the church is still haemorrhaging young people and the best we can do is stick on a bandage and at best keep them for a while until they leave in their twenties. He compares the stats of young people leaving the church as greater than those who perished in the Titanic and suggests we are in a crisis not on a cruise.

Well of course Krish is not wrong and most of what he says would find echoes in churches across the nation. However most of us hard-working youth ministers know its no cruise and the comparison with the Titanic is unhelpful when he goes on to propose youth workers need to change the way they work and get the whole church involved with young people. AMEN! I say and if he visited my church he’d know its something I’ve been heard to say regularly but the reality is when it comes to teenagers most people run a mile – and we are a church committed to inter-generational ministry!

When the Titanic sank, it wasn’t rebuilt. No one said let’s rebuild it and see if we can make it work next time. Yet we persist in working with the same design for church and when young people don’t hang around we blame the youth worker or worse still, the young people themselves. To be fair Krish has suggested there needs to be ‘systemic change throughout the whole church’s life’ but his implication is that it’s the youth worker who needs to be working on this; its the young people who can bring about change once they are in church. Of course its a bit chicken & egg, but surely we need to recognise that it’s not that youth work isn’t working its the church that isn’t working for young people. And the youth worker often has least power to affect the wider congregation – so please don’t blame the youth worker!

When we propose changes, like the ones Krish suggests that will ‘fix the leak’ we’re still no better off than the first aid approaches he criticised at the start; the leak is a symptom of a bigger problem that may include the way we approach youth work but we need to find the deeper causes and be prepared to change the design. Somehow I think those who are deserting the ship might hold some of the answers.

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2 Responses to youth work isn’t working?

  1. smoorns says:

    Thanks for your comments on my blog post. I felt uneasy about the ‘titanic’ illustration but didn’t know why and your post definitely helps bring clarity to why I did not agree with it. Thanks

  2. Lemon Grenades says:

    I suspect that many young people leave the Church for one very simple reason: they see nothing of value in the Church that they can’t get quicker or easier elsewhere. But this is a much bigger social problem, little children are naturally curious and excited about the world; everything is magical. By the time they are 12 a significant number have been totally switched off from learning, and mos to those that have haven’t been switched off are infected with a form of learning that is designed to meet the needs of the economy, not the spirit of enquiry.

    We need to build a Church that provides a radical alternative to the world, not a rather pale and ineffective copy of it.

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