8 Dec | 11:25 am
The day I left for university was absolute chaos. Making sure I had everything I needed was a fortnight-long process with a list straddling several A4 pages. There were shoes, stationary and noodle based snacks everywhere. On the day of departure, the suspension on my dad’s car was riding dangerously low and the boot at serious risk of popping open. But in my parents’ minds, my preparation for this moment had lasted 18 years. They had been packing the spiritual car, filling the emotional backpack and investing in my character bank account for years. They wanted to be sure that I had every possible chance of thriving in life beyond home.
As youth workers, we know this feeling too. In some cases, we get 7 years with our young people before we send them off into the next stage of life. And as my parents packed the car, as delicious and nutritious as the Chinese chicken noodle-based snacks were, there were some more core components in that boot.
By the time I send them on their way, I want my young people to be best equipped for the next stage of their journey. To have given them firm Biblical foundations, to have talked about the issues that are relevant to them, to help them thrive in healthy relationships, to equip them seek God and share their faith. With a bunch of other youth workers, we have been asking what the essentials are that they need in their backpack.
If you meet up with your youth group just once a week, [excluding holidays] that’s about 40 sessions a year. If each young person in that group journeys with you from 11 to 18 then over 7 years you get about 300 sessions with that young person. That’s a really exciting amount of time to put some key items in that car boot.
However, we would seem to have a problem. Research published last night – https://www.youthscape.co.uk/research/publications – revealed that almost half of church youth groups are not covering the ‘basic beliefs’ of the Christian faith with their young people. Most churches are not even touching relevant issues such as same-sex attraction, addiction, pornography and other faiths. Furthermore, young people want to talk about these issues. The research also stated that the top three issues young people wanted to talk about were mental health, sharing faith and sex and relationships. Three-quarters of young people want to talk about evangelism. That’s great news, right!?
At YFC, we LOVE the church. We are passionate about discipleship. If you are a church who want to fill the spiritual backpacks of your young people with the essentials and the issues that they want to talk about, we would be humbled and delighted to help. We have thought seriously about the 300 sessions you get with your young people. We base them on seven core principles and create almost 40 new sessions each term to ensure that you have everything you need. Of the list young people came up with, our programmes covered drugs, addiction, pornography, same-sex attraction, sex and relationships, social media, other faiths, and there is, of course, a huge amount of sharing your faith with your friends and two entire resources for those working with unchurched young people.
And we are not alone. Our Kingdom mates at Youthscape, Urban Saints, Scripture Union and other organisations create fantastic resources as well and all of us are of one mind to see young people come to know Jesus and be best equipped to follow him with all that they have. The research presents many challenges but talking more with young people about the essentials and the issues they are facing is a pretty easy win and a good start. Together we can make that happen.
Laura Hancock is the Head of Church Resources.
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