I've just had a most agreeable lunch plotting the future of our youth work. Nick, my youth work consultant, helped me to clarify a few things. He also suggested that what we wanted to do, though good (even essential), was not common.
One of the problems we face - I think in common with a lot of churches - is that we are quite good at gathering and teaching children and young people. Over the years hundreds have been through our youth work. But many of those young people are not making it to the world of adult discipleship. Somewhere between A levels and mortgages, they lose interest in the church and possibly in Jesus as well.
So our plan is to appoint a youth and young adults worker, someone who will create a programme, recruit, envision, enthuse and train a team of good volunteers (as well as taking on the many excellent volunteers we currently have working with our young people) and build a work that disciples people from their teens into their twenties.
What are the reasons why twenty-somethings fail to stick in the church? What puts young adults off being disciples of Jesus? If we can answer these questions (and others), then maybe we can create a way of working with our teenagers that gives them the resources to navigate the choppy waters from education to work, living at home to being independent, having a child's faith to being an adult disciple.
Many of the issues we need to address are those being tackled by emerging church thinkers. In some way we are gearing up for creating the church that will replace the existing one - that is surely the task of each generation: to mould structures that embody the gospel in a way that is attractive to our contemporaries. For this reason the person we appoint will be part of our core leadership team helping to shape (and be shaped by) the overall vision we have the church.
Obviously the person we're looking for will be exceptional - but there are exceptional people out there, looking for a challenge. Maybe it's you...