“We need more young people” has long been a cry in many of our Methodist churches and I can’t believe that, as a person committed to supporting children and young people’s work in our Methodist churches what I write here might seem to contradict this.
I don’t think it’s the statement itself which is wrong but perhaps the reasons why we hear it said so often. So what I write of course is only my opinion but one which I found affinity with in an article written by the Rev. Dr Neil Richardson in a Methodist Recorder article (May 8th 2020)
We are trying to move forward now as the lockdown measures are slowly eased but in May Rev. Richardson likened the situation to the Babylonian exile and refers to Psalm 137 and the familiar questioning verse: “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” and to quote from the article “there could be no going back to how things were before, nor should there be for us….no going back to supporting the Church, keeping our church going as before. God does all that anyway – or will, if we trust.”
This raises radical questions about our motivation as churches especially to do with our mission and for me leads to a questioning of the motives which are sometimes behind the opening statement. For if we say we need more young people in order to: ‘keep going’; to fill the church roles; to complete the tasks and so on, we are getting distracted from our real mission and outreach I believe. And there is something going on here which we need to question about all our mission to all people.
Again Rev. Richardson puts it better than I can when he says: “Can we think of our outreach…as being in and for themselves and not for what they might bring to the church?” In other words when we say ‘we need more young people’, what we mean is that our motivation for outreach needs to be pure Jesus love. It needs to be born out of a real sense of care and concern for the lives of the children and young people in our town.
I rejoice where I see this actually happening in the children and young people’s groups that meet as such an important part of the work of the Circuit churches of Northampton and other denominations too. My prayers are especially with those leaders who are (as I write) exploring ways of starting face-to-face meetings again in the not too distant future. Please pray with me for them and the children and young people they work with.
Deacon Richard Beckett August 2020