The consultation was divided into two sections which unpacked the young people’s opinions on the purpose of church and their experiences of church. It is envisioned that the outcome of the consultation will formulate a response to current and future Christian youth provision and connect parishes with the diocesan priority to engage with younger generations.
It became quickly apparent in the session that the young people are deeply passionate about their faith and the church. Young people love their home churches and, while they may not fully understand the traditions, they accept and respect why they are there. They also have a deep understanding of why the church exists and are enthusiastic about their churches engaging with mission, outreach, social action and, most importantly, discipleship. Their confusion and frustrations occur when they read about the early Church in scriptures and make comparisons with the church they attend each week.
The young people talked about Soul Survivor enthusiastically, focusing on how and why their faith thrives at the event. The sense of community, the friendships and the freedom the festival embraces challenged them to be bold and brave in their faith. They leave the event feeling inspired and on fire for God but found that, when they return to their home church, things can be very different. Young people accept that their home churches cannot be like Soul Survivor; what they get frustrated about is the encounter between two contrasting examples of church and faith at work.
Young people’s desire is to see their churches be more open, expressive and ‘on fire’ in their worship, ministry and mission. Young people yearn to see their churches become salt and a shining light in their local communities. Young people want the congregations to know and experience Jesus Christ personally and prophetically. The young people want their churches to not just be supportive and encouraging, but also provide opportunities to help them transform the church and transform the world.
We are very grateful to Dan and all the young people who been involved in this very important piece of research. As a Swindon Deanery we are hugely aware of the opportunities and challenges of learning from, working with and supporting young people across our Swindon Borough and surrounding areas. We are very grateful for the expertise and wisdom of Swindon Youth for Christ who for over 60 years have reminded us to be anchored to the rock of Jesus Christ while geared to the culture.
We look forward to praying through our response to this consultation and especially deepening our connections and relationships with young people as we move into the new phase of our Diocesan vision and priorities.
Simon Stevenette (Vicar @ Christ Church & Area Dean)
If you would like to talk about the issues raised in this consultation or are interested in holding your own consultation with young people in your deanery or church, you can speak to Dan Jones, youth and children’s adviser, on 0117 906 0126 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.