Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Chelmsford Diocesan Synod – the parliament of the Church of England in Essex and East London – has approved six key priorities for youth ministry that will challenge young people to be transformational in their communities and the wider world in keeping with the diocese’s own priorities set out in Transforming Presence.

Young people were included in a year-long consultation ahead of the new strategy. The priorities for youth work, which are also in line with national research, will remain in force until 2025. The Diocesan Youth Advisers will be reporting back to Synod in 2019.

Youth ministry aims to help young people grow and strengthen their faith in Christ, enjoy a fullness of life and serve the church, their community and society.

With a strategy for youth work in each Deanery or Mission & Ministry Unit, made in consultation with young people, the aim is to have a responsible person for youth work across the area and youth work that is relevant to each church and context, whether this is ministry within the church, a school or across a Mission & Ministry Unit.

Synod listens to young voices

At the Synod meeting in March youth representatives Eno Essian (15), Anitie Essian (13) and Karis Barlow (13) from St Peter and St Paul’s church in Grays were interviewed by diocesan youth advisers, Mark Tiddy and Hannah Robinson, who attends the same church. They were joined on the platform by Rita Donaldson (83), also from St Peter and St Paul's.

Picture on home page - Anitie Essian at the microphone with Youth Advisers, Hannah Robinson (left) and Mark Tiddy and Lay Chair of Synod, Robert Hammond (right)

Mark: What do you enjoy about attending church?

Eno: Church is a place like no other place. It's a place where you get to talk, share and develop your faith.

Anitie: I enjoy socialising with people my own age and some of the older members of the church. I especially like the mix of cultures we have in our church and the ‘around the world’ bring and share meal that we had where we got to sample different food than we would normally eat.

Mark: Do you feel included in the church?

Anitie: Sometimes I feel included being part of the choir and meeting different people of different ages. Also at youth group where you get to discuss and socialise with people your own age.

Eno: Christmas is where we mainly feel included it's when we get to play a big role in leading the services especially the crib and nativity services.

Mark: What would you change about church?

Eno: Being able to play more of a leadership role within the church - not just being given something as it seems a good idea to get a young person to do it. For example, only rostering young people to do Bible readings at an All Age service or taking the candle up to the baptism families. It's embarrassing being given the candle at the appropriate moment by a server and then being ushered up to get it lit by another server to then give to the vicar to pass to the family. When we got to plan and lead an entire young church session and do the feedback to the church was one of the first times I felt that a young leader I was being taken seriously.

Anitie: For there to be more interactive and engaging sermons and intercessions which are more relevant for children and young people not just the adults. Also members of the church family getting to know us and not always thinking of us as a problem.

Mark: What ways would you say that young people have a voice in the church?

Eno: Being a role model to the younger members of the church - for example, at Christmas Hannah wanted to get some of the younger boys to do some street dance in the nativity. They did not want to - so she approached me and asked if I would come and do it with them. Immediately they threw themselves into the dance and it went really well.

Anitie: In youth group we get to choose the subjects we look at and have an open discussion where we can share are views plus when we got to lead the end of term young church session. If we ever have something we want to share to the vicar or in the main service of the church currently we feed it to our youth leaders who pass it on.

Mark: What ways can young people stand up and play a role within the running of the church?

Eno: Take a role within the leadership of the church - readings at non All Age services. Doing the tea and coffee. I would like to see a Youth PCC - which can feed into the main PCC and be taken seriously.

Anitie: We can inspire the next and older generation, by being role models to the younger - I often have the younger girls coming up to me at the end of the service to chat to me. We can also help the older generation understand something about being a young person in 2017. But also learn things from them.

Mark: What one thing would you like people at synod to take away from today?

Eno: Children and young people have great ideas and voices and they matter - engage with them.

Hannah: What is your experience of church?

Karis: My Dad's a vicar so I have always attended church. We have been at St Peter's and St Paul's for ten years now. As Dad's the vicar I spend more than an average time at church and are part of the youth group, choir and have to go after school to look at boring things like lights and help with tidying.

Hannah: How has your experience of church changed from being a child to a young person?

Karis: Church has changed a lot over the last ten years. We now have a lot of different cultures coming to St Peter and St Paul's with the congregation getting younger. With the congregation getting younger the church has a more modern feel with lights and projector and more modern songs. There has always been a young church which caters for primary aged pupils. But in 2013 a youth group was formed and meets weekly.

Hannah: What do you enjoy about the youth group?

Karis: I enjoy the social and meeting together, love the bacon butties and the Biblical discussion and end of term Messy quizzes. As young people we have been given more responsibility. I am a team leader in the choir so I have to look after the younger members of the choir and make sure they are on the right page in the books. At the end of the summer term we also get to lead the summer party for young church. Last summer we did a quiz and gunged one of the leaders in front of the church - which was very different service for the church.

Hannah: What have you learnt from the older generation and why is it important?

Karis: Rita who is with us today has friends in Scotland - every Christmas we have a cheese and wine and evening at our house Rita always brings smoked salmon from Scotland. It's really yummy and she gives me some to eat. Rita also has lived in Grays for years and she will tell us stories about when she was a young girl and we did this and we never were able to do that. It's history and we learn the history of the church.Rita is like a Nan - there is a mutual respect and she will listen to your point of view and share with you here point of view. She treats us like adults and doesn't look down on us.

Hannah: What do you think churches can do to make young people feel more incorporated within the life of the church?

Karis: For churches to listen to young people's views and the experience they have. In choir our choir master has only been leading us for a short time. He'll play something and if we have sung it before and we know it to a different tune, he'll listen to us and take on board the experience we have. Some young people have been part of the church family for a long time and have a lot of experience. For churches to do more fun things where the church family comes together to do things to help others. Also making sermons more interactive and diverse would be appreciated.

Hannah: If you can challenge Synod to take one thing from listening to you, what would it be?

Karis: To go away and listen to the young people in the church and understand that we may do things different to how you will do something - but we will do it.

Six Focus Areas for Youth Ministry

  1. Listen to the voice of young people.
  2. Support growth in faith amongst young people through discipleship and the encouragement of inter-generational ministry within churches.
  3. Provide and distribute resources for working with Secondary Schools, Further Education and Higher Education institutions, training, supporting and linking in with established para-church organisations and developing new opportunities. 
  4. Continue to put on Diocesan and Area Events to draw young people together from different contexts to strengthen their faith – including SOLID, Bradwell Festival, Sanctuary and Mission trips alongside new initiatives.

  5. Support to each Mission & Ministry Unit to be provided by the Deanery Youth Champions and Youth Advisers.
  6. A simplified Youth Work Authorisation Scheme for Youth Workers
Charter Mark for parishes’ training and support/mentoring provided for Youth Workers.