Thursday, October 20, 2005

Faith and young people

It's been furiously busy over the past week or so. Lots of things happening at church and a funeral for a troubled family. It's always the problem of church life, isn't it, that we plan and strategise and events conspire to delay or derail those plans.

We're off to Prague and Budapest at the weekend for a break - beer, jazz and conversation, history and architecture (what more could one want!) - but not before I've done a session with schools workers.

Preparing for this I've been re-reading David Voas and Bob Mayo and have got my hands on a paper by Nick Lear which is full of good stuff. I want to reflect on what difference the fact that young people know next to nothing about the Christian faith makes to our approach to Christian youthwork and schools ministry. Does this ignorance suggest indifference or hostility or potential interest?

I've blogged before on what Mayo thinks - that it's an opportunity if we're clever and creative. I think the jury might still be out. One of the issues is whether 'faith' is an option that's of any interest at all to young people. If Mayo's right that most teenagers live in a happy midi-narrative that the world as they experience is generally benign, what place would faith have in that?

What I'll be interested to hear from schools workers is whether there are social differences at work here. I would have thought that suburban kids generally inhabit a happy midi-narrative derived from reasonable income and supportive family life, combined with attending good schools and achieving reasonably well both academically and in sport. But kids in urban areas who are poorer, perhaps discriminated against because of race, facing family pressures at home and not seeing school as a place of opportunity might inhabit a midi-narrative that is not so happy.

This observation is either obvious or a cliche, I guess - and I know the pressures on suburban kids can be quite intense.

But Mayo's research raises the question about what the gospel is for these young people and how they might access it. People with no perceived needs, generally don't respond to the gospel of meeting needs - whether those needs are practical and social or emotional and 'spiritual'. If people don't feel in need, do they respond to a saviour who meets their needs? Isn't the proposition just simple gibberish?

I'll let you know how the group I'm talking to responds to this. If you have views, let me know.

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