It’s about youth work again I’m sorry
I recently learned that in the denomination of which I am a part we now not only have a ‘children’s department’ and ‘youth department’ but we now also have a ‘young adults department’. Now according to PCI these terms are self-explanatory but to me they weren’t so let me explain. Category one is from age 0-11; category two is from age 12-18; and category three is from age 18-25.
When I first heard of the third category I quipped “what does that job involve?… telling 18-25 year olds that they’re adults and need to grow up?! ha ha” but no-one laughed… and that’s not really what the job involves at all.
Apparently young adult workers are required in our denomination because 18-25’s is the ‘missing generation’. People are appointed to help churches form 3-5 year strategies of how to target this specific age-group in order to ‘keep’ or ‘find’ people from this age group. Now I realise that I have graduated from this age group a couple of years ago but I have a sense of suspicion and unease about this. There are two reasons:
1) Why are we concerned with a missing ‘age-group’ in our denomination but never so concerned with a missing ‘social-class’ for example? That’s really a side-point though…
2) I suspect that the missing age-group has more to do with the fact that this generation (of which I am a part) have become consumers of church rather than active members of the body of Christ. It is this that makes me most wary about a special focus on this particular age group.
I am constantly figuring out what it means for me to be a youth worker but lately i’ve been thinking that at least part of what it means to do my job well is to tell these 12-18 year olds (that’s the youth category you know?!;-) ) that they’re not who the world tells them they are. That even though they’re young they have a story and are fully part of what God is doing in and through the Church. I feel like part of what my job is is to tell them that they’re more like the adults in their congegration than they think. My fear is that having a ‘young adults’ worker will do the opposite… not intentionally perhaps but surely by building our programes and strategies around the focus of ‘keeping’ these young people rather than loosing them to other congregations (which is true of most of this missing generation) then what we are doing is perpetuating the poisonous idea that church is something that we consume rather than commit ourselves too. We perpetuate their idea that they have a right to consume as well as perpetuate the idea to the older congregation that we have to be something that the young people want to consume or else we’re in trouble.
I do feel a little like telling this ‘missing generation’ to step up and be the church. That church is not there to serve them or make them feel good or important but they are there to serve and commit to the church even when it’s full of people we dont particulary like, or agree with or even when the music is a bit weak, or the preacher doesn’t have a beard. I want to tell my own generation that its not even about good stuff like great worshp or amazing teaching. I am called to be committed to the body of christ as expressed in the local church because that’s what God chose to fulfill his mission.
Is this unfair? is my desire to say, ‘just get on with it and grow up’ wrong?’ I dont know and i’d appreciate your thoughts.
I do know that i’m sick of people saying they’re not really part of a church because they tried it and it wasn’t really that good an experience and so they’ll just do life with God on their own. …Well we cant.
Since writing this blog a few hours ago the good man Kevin Hargaden posted this here . It makes my post much better…!