It Always Seems to Be the Same

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22)

I went along to a Sunday night youth group awhile ago and what I saw saddened me. There was nothing wrong with what the youth worker was saying or how he was saying it. The problem was it looked like the youth group I used to attend when I was sixteen. That was 11 years ago. I used to take my group along to a monthly youth event and found the same thing there.

ice-breaker. ‘sung’ worship. notices. talk. ‘sung’ worship to end.

Now I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with any of those parts. It’s just the fact it’s always been like that. Young people are not the same people we were 11 years ago so why are we still doing things like they were. The reason people are leaving ‘traditional’ churches is because of this model of church. Rather than a place of interaction, it is often a place of passive receptiveness. A place where one person leads and everyone else listens.

All this generally creates is converts rather than disciples. People who attend meetings rather than take part. If our youth work is to become more about apprenticed lives than programmes, as Jill Rowe (Ethos development and Resourcing Director for Oasis UK) puts it, then we have to move away from this model of youth work.

The only problem is, that’s easier said than done. How do you create a youth work programme that centres on ‘discipleship’? What do we even mean by that term? Does it mean head knowledge? If our young people can roll off some bible verses and know a little about God, is that success? Or is it about the choices they make? That’s very hard to achieve one night a week.

I’m not sure what the answer is then but I know what it’s not. There’s a new monthly youth event starting in Kilmarnock in October. I’ll take my group along to the first one and pray I don’t feel like I am sixteen again.

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