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I have just finished reading a new book by Jason Gardner, Youth Project Researcher of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (and a member of my extended family), I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to any Christian as the issues it covers relate to the whole of the church body and the relationships within it, but particularly to those wishing to change and shape church leadership. Below are a few comments;
Jason Gardner begins by carefully examines society and in particular the nature of young people and their relationship to adults over the last 100 years and looks at the changes that have occurred in a measured rather than in a sensational or rose-spectacled way.
He then looks at how the church has mirrored society in its treatment of the young, the contradiction of expectations and the polarisation of church communities. Not just in terms of youth congregations and ageing churches, but in terms of how churches create niche groups by age and how leadership delegates youth management responsibilities (appoint an underpaid, under respected youth pastor to reach and deal with ‘youth’, so the leadership does not have to).
I won’t spell out all the recommendations, but to say that the proposals that Jason Gardner outlines are challenging to the church but necessary to avoid a greater distancing of the generations and ultimately the breakdown of the church. With the external challenges faced by young people in particular, and different role that the church fills in society it is so important that churches can be the one place that generations can be side by side working together for Christ and the Kingdom. Through analysis, practical examples and suggestions, this book makes a positive contribution to achieving this aim.
On a side note, of particular interest to me were his points on parenting, one of which suggested that as parents feel guilty about spending inadequate time with their offspring, the time that they do spend becomes child-focused which does ring true. This can lead to the parent-child relationship being about fulfilling a child’s needs rather that the parent preparing the child for adult life. Maybe I should feel like it isn’t such poor parenting by getting my son to help with the DIY rather than doing something he would choose to do. This isn’t a parenting book, it is just one point that I found interesting.
Mend the Gap by Jason Gardner is available through IVP.
There is a good article on Nathan’s blog about church marketing. It is specifically written for small churches which makes it relevant to my situation.
It contains 10 points including the obligitory post on creating a church website and important points relating to youth.
The kids are the single most important part of your [church’s] ministry. Spend a lot of time, money and effort on having a good children’s program … You have a responsibility to those kids to give them a good foundation.
There is an interesting article from C B Anderson about the need to invest in youth marketing.
Last year MTV, VH1 and other youth-related groups spent billions of dollars marketing to America’s youth.
The local church did not.
The marketing the article suggests is along the lines of a youth minister and giving them the financial resources to do fun things with the youth.
There are no churches that would not benefit from having an active youth, but unless a church makes the effort to reach the youth (and this will inevitably involve some level of investment), the church may miss the target.
The article makes one final important point by quoting Bill Parnell (youth minister):
However, he [Bill Parnell] says that it doesn’t matter how much money is spend on gadgets and production, if you don’t reach out to them on a personal level.