It’s the simple things (and they don’t need Strategic Development Funding) that make the difference.
I first wrote the following a week ago as a Facebook post, it is rare that I grab what I have written there and expand on it as a blog post on my website, but it feels too important to just leave it ::
I love the diversity of the church. LOVE. IT. We are not the same . . . different forms of worship – whether eucharistic, choral, word based, hillsong style praise . . . whatever. Do your thing. Be the authentic community, with your DNA, that connects with those you engage with.
I have had the pleasure and privilege over the years of serving The Church of England in particular, with all its incredible differences, and yet, so much common ground!
So . . . glancing through some of the papers for General Synod this month (yep, I do that!) I looked with particular interest at the paper that focuses on encouraging youth evangelism. There is much to celebrate in this paper, loads – and it is exciting to see it getting debate time at General Synod . . . but, one bit has given me pause – it is this :
Youth Worker Vanguard. Around 700 youth workers have been identified who are employed by churches across the Church of England. The aim is to establish a group of around 30-40 of these youth workers from across the Church of England. These youth workers will be selected from some of the biggest, fastest growing and most innovative youth ministries in the Church of England. Through meeting together, the intention is that this group will become the innovation hub out of which new resources and support are established, developed and rolled out for the wider benefit and resource of the church.
GS 2124B, General Synod Paper, February 2019
[See the whole document at :: https://www.churchofengland.org/…/fi…/2019-01/GS%202124B.pdf]
It’s mostly the words, “biggest”, “fastest” and “innovative” that have got me pondering.
No offence if that is you – but drawing a group to resource others only from a “select” group is not the way to equip the rest of the church. It also assumes that what you “have” – if you are among the biggest, fastest, most innovative (or can create, develop, initiate) is what the rest of the church “needs”. I also don’t know – if that is you – how you are going to find the time – it looks like you are already pretty busy 😉
But seriously, what are we going to be missing if the equation for a youth vanguard is based on “biggest”, “fastest”, “innovative” . . . ?
Now, let me segway in to a post I put up on the blog a few years ago . . . It’s called, “5 Ps That Will Grow Youth Church.” I really believe these work, it’s what I have seen again and again . . . in churches that nobody knows about, not noticed for their bigness – but seen as a place you can belong; not known for being the fastest, but a reputation for being faithful; not celebrated for their innovation, but rooted in their community in such a way that they meet the needs of those they encounter in the most natural of ways . . .
Not to labour the point (well, to labour it a bit), this is what I would look for as exemplars of practice, and these could be youth ministries of any size ::
- “Belonging” over Bigness.
- “Faithful” over Fastest.
- “In” their community over “In – ovation”.
OK, with that last one I’m messing with a word – but, there is something quite natural – if we are genuinely “in” the communities we serve, where we are not so much going out to try and connect with the culture, understand it and then create a product that will help us work with young people . . . we are embedded in the culture, it is our community – not some different space. You can package something as innovative, and maybe if you are big and fast (and have money) you can do that . . . but when the heart of youth work practice has not changed since I began doing it, “build authentic relationships with young people, believe in them, love them and create space for them to grow as disciples . . . ” I don’t get what “innovate” is about. We don’t innovate our practice, we might use a particular product or resource that is new . . . the who we are seeking to “be” with young people is at the heart of our practice – sometimes, I think we confuse the two. Jon Ord wrote a really helpful book that explores these facets of youth work in “Youth Work Process, Product and Practice” – everyone should have it on their shelves to refer to.
So, coming back to these “Ps” (I segwayed and then digressed). They are also what churches of all stripes, shades, theology, practice . . . whatever – have been doing for years – I wrote my blog post on these “Ps” because sometimes we need to rediscover the basics and just get on with them. Put our backs in to it.
We need to feel free to do that, without a grant from the Diocese or becoming a “Hub” or a “Resourcing Church.”
I sincerely hope, with all that is being pursued and championed across The Church of England right now that these incredible places of belonging, faithfulness and community connectedness and engagement will not be forgotten.
But more than that, they have much to teach the rest of us if we would see what they are doing, pay attention and give these spaces of God’s goodness and grace value – alongside the big, the fast and innovative.