Engaging younger generations - Revd Adam Beaumont
Revd Adam Beaumont, team vicar of Greater Corsham and Lacock and Deanery Missioner for Schools, Children and Families, asks why we put such a focus on young people.
It seems that very many institutions are aging and always on the lookout for new, younger members. The church is no exception, and the Diocese of Bristol in particular has ‘engaging younger generations’ as one of its top priorities. Indeed, for the last 70 years, for a whole host of reasons, the number of children attending church or Sunday school has steadily fallen, and, in my role I am one among many who are charged with encouraging increased engagement.
The church, as God’s vehicle for sharing his love, has always been concerned to share that love with new people (indeed Jesus told us to!) and to use one analogy that Jesus used with a fisherman friend of his, he said, “from now on you will be catching people instead”. The image of being caught by God’s love is powerful and comforting one.
But there’s a dark side to that analogy too, as there is a subconscious tendency for the church to treat young people like fish – to catch as many as we can to stock up the freezer, so that the pews will be full and the church safe for the future! But of course, people aren’t food, they are feeders and the best food the church can offer is Jesus in Word and sacrament. Nurturing children is no different – it is about engaging with and growing young disciples who aren’t just held in a keep net but who can move freely and give as much as they receive.
When we begin to think this way, it raises plenty of questions – Why do I go to church? Why might children want to go? How do children give of themselves at my Church?
I wonder what your answers might be?