Tuesday, July 22, 2008

THE STATE OF YOUTH/LATE TEENS IN OUR CHURCH

I was recently asked to comment on the decline of involvement of Anglican young people – or their drift from the Church – or even their drift into Pentecostal Church! Here is a response

THE STATE OF YOUTH/LATE TEENS IN OUR CHURCH
Some Observations by the Diocesan Youth Staff and the National Youth Facilitator of the Anglican Youth Network - Tikanga Pakeha
When asked to comment on the state of youth/late teens in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and in particular on the decline of involvement of Anglican young people, the general consensus was question the assumption of decline. Up until a few years ago there was a feeling that we were failing with the older teens, and struggling with the younger ones as well. At diocesan events the average age was getting younger and younger. But over the last few years parishes and Dioceses have been much more proactive in their work with this age group. As a result there is now much less a sense of decline or that young people are moving away from the Anglican Church.

Does that mean that older teens are not trying out other churches? Not at all. But in many cases the young people in question still keep contact with their “mother church”. They may attend a larger group, or go to the ragier evening service for a while, but for many “their church” remains the Anglican Church they grew up in.
There remains an issue however when young people leave home to go to a tertiary institution or for work. Our hunch is that that is also an issue for many other age groups. The primary relationships are broken, and young people often find it difficult to develop those in a new place, as do older adults. The question we then asked was how do churches and the adults in them keep in contact with these young people? We also wondered how to Anglican churches in tertiary centres actively seek to welcome students as a priority? Sadly the answer is often not at all.

So in conclusion, we are hopeful about the age group. Our initial reaction to being asked to comment on the decline of involvement of Anglican young people – or their drift from the Church – or even their drift into Pentecostal Churches was to question the validity of the question. There is lots of good work happening. More is needed. We especially need to work on engaging with young people when they leave home for education or work.