by Richard Peers, Quodcumque – Serious Christianity:
In today’s (23rd August 2019) Church Times, I draw a small parallel between developments in education and what we do in Church. That parallel could be drawn much wider. Data in the diocese of Liverpool shows that in the last year we have information for the number of under 16s attending our churches declined by a staggering 8.9%. Like everywhere else there weren’t that many to start with. In my Sunday cover and visiting preaching around the country I am often the youngest person in Church (I was 54 in July).
There is no magic bullet that is going to lead hordes of young people to our doors. There are many factors that keep young people away and stops so many of those that do come from continuing to do so when they reach adolescence. I believe that we have to address two key areas if we are to evangelise the young. The head and the heart. Young people want an intense spiritual experience. Much of what I write about in this blog, speak and talk about is how we can nurture that intensity of experience and how it is our living intensely that will show Christianity to be attractive. That will be contagious….
…Obviously what happens in church on a Sunday (and that may not be the best time to teach children the Christian faith) is not ‘school’, but we have underplayed the importance of ‘teaching’ in Christian life. Jesus is directly addressed some 90 times in the gospels, on 60 of these occasions he is called ‘Teacher’. What Michaela has proved – and this is a movement, there are many other schools doing this – is that knowledge-rich, content-driven teaching works.
[Editor’s Note – Peers’s point about the need to find creative and compelling ways to enable young people to gain biblical literacy and engagement with the practice of the Christian faith is a good one. Anglican Mainstream agrees that the crisis of the exodus of young people from church cannot be solved by ‘dumbing down’ Sunday school or youth groups. However we would probably differ markedly from Peers in terms of the content of what should be taught to children. From reading his blog, he would have a different understanding of ‘evangelism’ and ‘making disciples’ to an evangelical one. This huge diversity in what the C of E believes, together with the reliance on volunteers unsure of their own beliefs, could be a reason for lack of confidence in teaching the faith to children in church / RE (apart from what we find in churches still able to retain young people).]