At September 2016 Diocesan Synod, Dan Jones (Youth and Childrens Adviser) presented to members the challenges facing the Church of England in relation to engaging with younger generations.
The presentation provided a synopsis of the current landscape, how generational theory informs thinking in response to the generational gaps in church attendance, and outlined possible diocesan responses to supporting the engaging younger generations priority. Synod members were also invited to discuss the topic in relation to their own context and the following three questions were given to facilitate conversations:
- How do we ensure children and young people are valued not just as the future of the Church, but as important shapers of the Church today?
- How do we develop confidence and effective strategies for reaching, discipling and nurturing faith in children and young people?
- How can the Diocese support parishes to effectively engage with the younger generations?
From the feedback, the common themes acknowledged the current status of the Church and society, and aspirations for the Church to change and connect with postmodern lifestyles. Comments also emphasised the importance of children and young people within the Church and significantly endorsed the participation and involvement of children and young people within different aspects of church life. Interestingly, the churches that have transitioned from a provision provider model to providing opportunities for children and young people to volunteer, lead and serve others, were commendatory about the inclusion and positive influence of this on their church.
The responses also illustrated that the challenges churches are experiencing are not concentric to one identifiable cause. Context, culture and capital (resources) all factor within the challenges mentioned. However, without commitment or a desire to address the imbalance, churches will inevitably struggle to engage meaningfully with the younger generations in the future. Understanding these challenges will enable the Diocese to enhance the support, advice, training and resources that it makes available to parishes in ways that can encourage, enthuse and maximize impact. This will further serve the Diocese in achieving the expectation of 25% growth in children and young peoples attendance in churches.
Training and resources
Specialist events: A wide range of training is available throughout the year for Clergy, LLMs, paid workers and volunteers, to encourage churches and their ministry and mission to the younger generations. In 2017 a number of specialist training events and gatherings (young vocations, Messy Church, confirmation etc.) will also be made available with a specific focus on equipping churches to engage with the engaging younger generations priority.
Creating Connections: This toolkit has been designed to help PCCs explore their engagement with, and response to, our diocesan vision and priorities. Conversations will lead to the development of a response and signpost PCCs to other resources, guides and support that will help them explore specific issues in more detail.
Safe & Welcome Awards: The SAWA scheme enables parishes to review aspects of parish activity relating to safeguarding, safety, welcome and youth & childrens ministry and to access tailored, support, advice and training from diocesan advisers. Bronze, Silver and Gold level awards can be achieved with recognition of these achievements made by the awarding of certificates.