If we’re really honest with ourselves, there’s a gap in the church.
For some young people we work with, they are the only teenager in their church.
Recent research by Youthscape was published in a report titled ‘Losing Heart’, and it set out to find out why. It seems that what young people are wanting, and what they need, is not necessarily what the local church will or can provide for them.
If we’re really honest with ourselves, there’s a gap in the church and it’s not news.
The world has changed so quickly, youth culture accelerates rapidly, and we’ve struggled to keep up. The things we did 50, 20, even 2 years ago, they don’t seem to work anymore. We count ourselves lucky if half a dozen young people attend an event or a group.
I’m not ashamed to paint a gloomy picture. Until we realize that there is a gap and that what we’ve been doing hasn’t and isn’t working, we won’t and can’t change.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says;
"If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6 NIV)
In other words, this is not something we can continue to brush under the carpet. We are called to love, support and walk alongside young people. Perhaps we just need to change how we do that.
Despite where we are, there is always hope of where we can be. Our daily work in building an outstanding chaplaincy provision shows that when we, as the church, commit to serving young people where they are at, we can bear much fruit. The daily conversations show me that young people are not afraid to talk about faith and spirituality. The conversations about current affairs, religion, the afterlife, values, good and evil, right and wrong...they are all conversations that are happening daily in the corridors and classrooms of our local schools.
I hope that over the next few years, churches and schools might talk to each other more. That’s where we started in Felixstowe- a simple conversation over a cup of coffee, asking ‘what can we do to serve, what can we do to help’.
I’m grateful to work at the intersection of faith and education. Here I see life, an opportunity to serve and to be love. We should be mindful of the gap but always see hope.
There is always hope.
About the Author
Josh is a full-time chaplain at Felixstowe Academy working for Boost. He is inspired by the intersection of faith and education and is working on a PhD in this area.