As a 20-something Christian who studied youth ministry, approximately 80 per cent of my waking hours are spent on stag dos, travelling to weddings, getting ready for weddings or attending weddings. The three main highlights of this year’s wedding season were: my little brother rapping during our best man speech at our other brother’s wedding, Guvna B dancing to his own song at his own wedding, and doing a wedding talk based almost exclusively on the board game Mouse Trap
This month’s was one of my all-time favourites: a beautiful day with a fabulous couple and a heap of wonderful youth worker friends who went to uni together. We talked, we reminisced, we laughed at the fact that the new editor of this magazine used to sit at the back of lectures playing Football Manager… and then we started talking about youth ministry; about how much has changed in the last seven years. Perhaps it was our late-2000s naivety, but youth work seemed simpler back then: running dropins, discipleship groups and Sunday schools. To be honest, we all fell into running youth ministries that looked pretty similar to those we had been part of as teenagers.
But that’s not the case any more is it? The youth work my mates are doing now, four years after graduating, looks different. We run bakeries that provide skills and jobs for vulnerable women, we work with self-harmers, we’re pioneer ministers and we run charities working in deprived areas. Our youth work is bigger, yet more complex, intricate and more beautiful than we dreamed possible.
The point is this: the time of safe, churchbased, looking-like-it-did-25-years-ago youth ministry is over. Not only has the last quartercentury proved that the current shape of things is insubstantial in plugging all the holes in the Good Ship Youth Ministry, but it is also failing to scratch the surface of the breadth and depth of challenges facing young people in 2015.
In this issue, Mike Royal explores one route we might go down. He questions what it would mean for the Church to step up and fill the holes appearing in society; to plug the gaps that the Government’s cutbacks have left.
It’s not just the shape of youth ministries that are changing; the challenges and issues faced are totally different. During our three years at CYM (other youth ministry training institutions are available), we never spoke about working with transgender young people, but within a few short years it’s become more commonplace and, as such, infinitely more vital that we get our heads around it. I’m so grateful for Rachel Mann’s article on working with young trans people in this issue. We can’t afford to ignore this area of work any more and we pray that this article might reshape our thinking and practice.
In the seven years since I started youth work training as a fresh-faced (literally, the beard the came later) teenager, so much has changed. We’ve got to challenge our perceptions; we’ve got to be open to prophetic, pioneering voices that shake us out of our comfort zones.
I’ve no idea what the next few years are going to look like in youth ministry, but I’m convinced that if we don’t broaden our scope and deepen our thinking, we’re in trouble. My prayer as I start my time as editor is that this magazine maintains its place as a prodder and provoker. My prayer is that we would take more risks and slaughter more sacred cows. My prayer is that reading this magazine will never be comfortable. So, with that in mind, if you’re sitting uncomfortably, we’ll begin…
This month we’re also excited to launch our #LoveCalais fundraising appeal: an opportunity for your youth group to support refugees in the Calais camp. See here for more information.