A monthly message from our Minister, the Rev Dr Neil Dougall: October 2019
‘It’s not A missing generation. We’re missing at least TWO generations’.
That’s a comment I hear increasingly. It’s usually made by a minister. The conversation has turned to the lack of young people in the church. Someone remarks that we’re missing an entire generation. Another person responds saying they think the problem is much worse. It’s not just that their congregation has no contact with children. They don’t have contact with the parents of those children either.
In comparison to this our ministry with children and teenagers in St Andrew Blackadder seems vibrant. At the 10.30 service, most Sundays, the church feels pretty empty when the younger folk go to their specific activities. We thank God for this ministry and for the dedicated people who invest so much of themselves in it.
We must not, however, be complacent. The average age of our congregation has been rising for a decade. Most Sundays the number of adults aged 20-45 is very small. On Sunday mornings we have contact with more teenagers than children. We have a large High School in our town and only a tiny proportion of the pupils in it have any contact with any of the churches in our town.
Asaph in Psalm 78 declares:
We will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power and the wonders he has done …
so that the next generation would know them …
and they in turn would tell their children (5,6)
St Andrew Blackadder wants to do the same thing as Asaph. The trouble is, we’re not sure how to do this. How can we maintain good contact with younger generations? How can we help them encounter Jesus in a meaningful way?
In September the Kirk Session decided to embark on two initiatives.
- Appoint a Part Time Youth Worker.
We intend to recruit a Youth Worker. This person will develop links with the High School and act as a bridge between it and our church. They will help run a Friday night youth activity and support the leaders of the Youth Fellowship. Last year Abbey Church recruited Hazel Gray. Her work is focused on the primary school. We are copying the model they have developed and expect our worker and Hazel to work collaboratively. In this way our two churches will be building a bridge with all school age children in our town.
During the summer St Andrew Blackadder received a gift of £25,000 for youth work. This wonderful gift allows us to make an immediate appointment. Effective youth work however takes times and commitment so we want this to be a long-term appointment. That will require financial support from our congregation. A new Youth Worker fund is being created to make it sustainable.
Please could you do two things. First, please pray that God will help us identify and appoint a youth worker. We need God’s help in finding someone who will help us turn our vision into reality. Second, please consider whether this is an appointment you are able to support through some additional giving. If you are able to either give a one-off gift, or to make an additional regular contribution, that will help to ensure this is a long term rather than a short lived venture.
- Growing Young
While the majority of churches are growing old, some are bucking the trend. They are growing young. Some churches in the US are engaging with people aged 12-30, seeing them profess faith, explore that faith and remaining active in their church into adulthood. Research has identified that these congregations have certain features. It’s not cool worship or trendy youth workers. Instead it’s a culture that makes young people a priority and creates the kind of community in which they can flourish.
A programme has been developed called Growing Young. It’s designed to help congregations create a culture where young people feel at home, come to faith and grow in it. It is planned to run the programme in Scotland in 2020. Graham Duffin, minister at Loanhead heads up the steering group for Growing Young; Douglas Hamilton and I are members of it. Our Kirk Session has said it wants to participate in Growing Young.
Growing Young has been developed in the US. It will need to be adapted to ensure that it fits the Scottish context. Graham Duffin and I are going to Fuller Theological Seminary in California during the first week of October to talk to the Growing Young team about the best way to do this.
Please pray, not just for our congregation but also for many others across Scotland, that we will discover how we can grow young. Our desire is that the next generation will discover the praise worthy deeds of the LORD, and that in turn they will tell them to their children.
To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.
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