In this section:
Weeknight youth provision can be the space where young Christians develop further their relationship with, and discipleship to Jesus Christ. There are myriad practical and discussion-based opportunities to do this, from opening the bible together, to discussing real-life situations and how one may respond to them as a Christian.
Weeknight Youth Provision can be a space (amongst many others) for 19-35s to explore their vocation to youth ministry, or leadership within the church. It is also possible that 13-18s may work with childrens groups that run before older young peoples provision before coming to their own club afterwards.
Thousands of adults volunteer at church youth clubs across the country every week. Week-in, week-out these brilliant people meet with 11-18s in their community to provide a safe space for them to be, to celebrate triumphs, play board-games, provide a listening ear, kick a football around and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sheer quantity of this provision is so massive that churches far outstrip all other sources of youth work.
The Friday night youth club at church was where many of us began our discovery of Jesus Christ. This, Im sure, will resonate with many of you reading REACH, hoping to develop further what you already do, or reflecting and praying about what you could start with your church or benefice.
Despite numbers of those attending youth clubs being down across the church and many other voluntary organisations, young people more than ever are striving for connectedness and community with other humans this is a challenge that the church is well-equipped to meet.
Weeknight Youth Provision for 11-18s provides space for young people to encounter a group of adults and other young people who follow Jesus Christ in a safe and secure environment. At its best, weeknight youth provision moves beyond mere entertainment and towards creating a space for relationships to develop, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be heard, and for the Christian faith to be seen, explored and interrogated with a view to working out whether it makes sense for them.
In the first instance, there are a number of ways you can begin to develop your provision for 11-18s. Here are just a few:
Pray it is in prayer that we discover Gods heart for children, young people and families. Why not discover where the young people gather in your parish or benefice, and deliberately choose to pray for them on a regular basis at services or other events. The vast majority of parishes will have spaces where young people meet, such as schools and colleges, youth clubs, parks, uniformed organisations like scouts or guides, boys or girls brigade etc.
Specific times of year may help you to prioritise praying for young people, why not pray at the start of the school year, on GCSE & A Level results days, or when your local University starts its year?
Do it in Partnership if you dont have all the resources available to develop weeknight youth provision, why not seek a partnership with other local churches or organisations? Partnerships can be really transformative, bringing fresh life into one or both churches, and reigniting our imaginations for mission and ministry. See also the section Developing Partnerships below.
Do it as a Team Anyone who has worked as part of a team with others will know that team-working can reap massive rewards but that at times it can be challenging. Its worth knowing that teams usually go through a four-stage process often attributed to Bruce Tuckman. These stages are
- Forming the team come together to work on a project.
- Storming conflict happens due to differences in perspective, culture ('the way we do things around here') or objectives.
- Norming team members work to resolve conflict, the team gels together.
- Performing the team is able to work together well, with each member knowing their role, how best to work with the strengths and weaknesses of their team mates and a shared understanding of your aims.
Play the long game If you are developing a thriving 0-5s or 5-11s ministry then dont be afraid to really consolidate that ministry before moving on to working with 11-18s. If you have a few 10 and 11 year olds ready to move up, include them in a conversation about what they might like to do to follow on from your childrens work and go from there (see Developing the shape of your provision below for some ideas). The RNG team would be happy to work with you as you plan the best way to move forward: just email us on email@example.com.
Additionally, be sure to update your Mission Action Plan (MAP) and share it with the Local Mission Department. This can help you communicate clearly the direction of the ministry in your parish or benefice, and can help you work out when and how to use your resources across the whole of your churchs ministry to your parish.
Keep your Safeguarding up to date PCCs have ultimate responsibility for a wide range of matters affecting the parish, including … compliance with health and safety, disability discrimination legislation and child protection. Be sure to review your policy on a regular basis, attend the required safeguarding training days, and know how to respond if you do encounter a child, young person or vulnerable adult you suspect is being or has been abused. For more information, visit our Safeguarding Website, or call the Diocesan Office in Lichfield on 01582 30 60 30.
Get Training training days or conferences are brilliant opportunities to get to know your team, network with others, consolidate previous learning, and acquire new knowledge and skills. The RNG Team run regular training in the form of RNG Labs and would be happy to point you in the direction of further training, national conferences and resources tailored to your interests and needs. Just email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or explore the RNG website.
Value intergenerational opportunities We often have people ask us arent I too old for youth work? Our resounding answer is always no! Despite our instinct, 11-18s often appreciate intergenerational opportunities, and value contact with people of all ages. Older adults are more likely to have the skills to provide a listening ear, offer wise counsel sensitively, show unconditional love and care, and share skills and expertise.
For example, about three years ago, my friend Patricia (name changed) and I worked with three 15 year old lads in a local high-school on recognising and responding appropriately to anger. These boys caused disruption to their classes regularly and had challenging home lives: one was in foster care, and another was on the edge of a local gang. Patricia is in her 70s, and far from being side-lined by the boys in our group, Patricia was the one that helped them the most: she was able to say things from the perspective of a grandparent to those boys and they responded brilliantly to her for the entire course. I may have led the sessions, but it was Patricia who made the difference.
Bless your school Your local school is a prime place to serve children and young people in your local community. As a start, we particularly recommend Pray.Bake.Read where you choose to pray for your school regularly, bake a cake for the staffroom once a term, and support pupils by listening to children read in your school (lichfield.anglican.org/pray-bake-read). For further information about this supporting your school, see our Primary Schools and High Schools & Colleges pages for more information for more ideas.
It doesnt have to be a youth club You may not have the capacity to do work with young people in the form of a youth group. But that doesnt mean you cannot work with young people at all:
- Schools transition 11 year olds moving to high school are likely to find it a challenging time: they are used to being the big kids, now they become the smallest; they are used to knowing most staff and pupils, now they may not know anyone; and they are used to one classroom, now they will have to navigate a multi-floor building with hundreds of bigger kids all around them. To support children through this transition, Scripture Union have developed Its Your Move a book and accompanying worksheets, assemblies and other resources. You can download assembly materials, resources and guidance notes, as well as buy packs of Its Your Move by searching online for scripture union its your move.
- Homework Club many young people find it hard to do homework at home. This might be because of lack of suitable space, lack of quiet, or lack of equipment. Why not open space in your church once a week with 2 or 3 volunteers, tables, chairs, stationery and snacks to your local high school so that young people can come and complete their homework? It doesnt have to be a long time: just 60 minutes could make a huge difference. If you wish to develop this work, the RNG Team would love to support and encourage you through the practicalities and to help you launch it in your local school get in touch via email@example.com or visit lichfield.anglican.org/rng
- Practical Work One church we know on the south coast used to run a furniture and practical jobs club every week. Women and men from across the church would spend Monday evening delivering furniture to people who otherwise would have to go without. Amongst this group there were one or two 16-18s who took part because the regular youth group wasnt their thing. On Monday evenings, these young people learned how to move furniture safely, decorate rooms, and develop teamwork skills alongside experienced adults. All it took was someone to be responsible for them during the evening and some basic risk-assessment and safeguarding knowledge. For more information, contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Team on the Safeguarding Website, or contact the RNG Team via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Play to your strengths Reflect on your strengths, and incorporate those into the provision you want to develop. For example:
- Choirs if you have a great choir for adults, why not use those skills to develop one for age 9-11s, or 11-14s, or 15-18s rather than an open access youth club with football and video games?
- Gardening if you have a group of green-fingered people at church, why not develop an allotment space or community garden in your church grounds or in a space nearby? Growing plants is a skill long-forgotten or never discovered by many 11-18s, and the conversations you can have with teenagers when working together on a project can be really significant for them.
Remember at all times to not pretend you are someone you arent 11-18s will not want to be part of anything you run if they sense the adults are attempting to fake it. Working with young people is often an opportunity to discover new things about the world they inhabit, the technology they use, and the pressures they face, so remain teachable, and ask them for help when you need it. Youll be surprised how positive this could be for your relationships with 11-18s.
Make space for young people on a Sunday Whether for an occasional office such as a wedding, baptism or funeral, or for a regular Sunday service to try us out, 11-18s still appear in our churches. It is, therefore, highly important that we make space for them in our services. See Sunday Provision for 11-18s for information, advice and practical tips for making 11-18s feel welcome at your services.
Having some key aims that you and your team can agree to can make significant difference to how you run your youth provision. Below are some things churches may wish to consider when developing youth provision:
Purpose It is important to know why youre working with your 11-18s, and are honest about it with them and their leaders. This benefits everyone as:
- Leaders to have a clear aim If the group is to be specifically evangelistic, for example, you might choose to develop aims like:
- We want to see [number] young people come to faith in Jesus Christ in the next three years.
- We want our young people to know that church is a safe space to come into.
- Over the next 6 months, we will have offered to pray for every one of our young people.
- Young people know what theyre getting involved in This may seem counterintuitive: some leaders may think kids from my community wont come if they know its about God!, but the description of our work is important. If they know from the start that those running the group all love God and want to share that with them in a sensitive and appropriate way, then its easier to build trust. Its even better when they then also discover that you like having fun, too!
Remember, if you are setting targets, be sure to make them Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-specific (SMART). For more detailed thought around developing your youth provision, see Sustainable Youth Ministry, by Mark DeVries or search online for 'smart targets'.
Develop a routine and culture for your group create a rhythm that the young people know will happen every week (exceptions like special events etc. are allowed). Despite being older, routine is still important for 11-18s and can help them feel settled. Things to consider include:
- What happens when they arrive
- How they are greeted
- What each part of the session is about (when we play games, when we have discussions etc.)
- How the leaders behave with each other and the young people
- How this groups leaders handle discipline
- When and how the group will finish etc.
Connect the work with the Wider Church if you have people in church that have skills that your young people may not have seen, why not invite them to come and share this with them for a week or two. This might be wood-work, crafting, make-up skills, music or drama etc. This enables your young people to see something different that they may enjoy, it also enables them to see that other Christians exist, and that they inhabit all spheres of life.Play together as a team it really shows to young people when a group of leaders love and care for one other. If you can, prioritise spending time together socially as well as at planning meetings or running your group. Benefits include:
- The work becoming more fun because you know each other better.
- Working better as a team.
- Modelling good friendships to your young people.
- Better understanding of each others perspectives and sensitivities.
Focus on the young people related to the last point, why not develop a culture amongst your team where you focus primarily on engaging with young people throughout your provision, and catching up with your team before or after? Without meaning to be, we can often be distracted by chatting with other team members, and we then miss prime opportunities to engage with young people and hear what is happening in their lives.
Acknowledge young peoples context and experiences The 11-16s coming to our churches at whatever time exist not in a void or vacuum, but a real-world context, connected to people and institutions, with their own experiences and perspectives. Their opinions will be rich and varied, and they will bring these with them to Sunday mornings. Rather than empty vessels to be filled, it is important that we work with them to hear about these challenges or problems and to overcome them together through a cyclical process of action and reflection. This concept by Latin-American educationalist Paolo Friere is called problem-posing education, a form of teaching where
The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teachers, but one who is himself [or herself] taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. In this process, arguments based on authority are no longer valid; in order to function, authority must be on the side of freedom, not against it. Here, no one teaches another, nor is anyone self-taught. People teach each other...
(Paulo Friere (1993), Pedagogy of the Oppressed, London: Penguin, p66)
This may all sound very conceptual and complex, but the reality is simple:
- We start from where our young people are in terms of their understanding and interests
- We work with them to help them articulate what problems they want to solve
- We commit to working with them to solve them, becoming learners as well
- Together we commit to taking part in action that informs reflection in a cyclical manner
In practical terms, this might mean different things for your provision:
- The 15-18s cell / bible study group want to learn about prayer, so you explore Lk 11:1-13 (the Lords Prayer and 2 short related parables) with them. After exploring what it might mean to pray the Lords Prayer, and how it relates to vv5-13 (reflection). You might discuss ways to learn to trust Gods goodness more, and encourage them into action throughout the week to experiment with what happens in when they pray. You return next week to reflect some more, and work out the next thing to do during the week.
- The 11-14s at the Friday night Youth Club discuss (reflect) on the state of the multi-use games area (MUGA) at the local park it needs paint and minor repairs. Acting together, you encourage the council to do this, including writing letters asking councillors to visit and raising some money to make it happen. Throughout you are able to talk about the Kingdom of God with your young people, that Christians are meant to love both God and neighbour, and that we should pray about these things to God and work to make these things better. When its complete, you could have a community party to celebrate the hard work that went into getting the work completed, and think about what next to do.
Be aware of exams exams can be a large weight to bear for many 11-18s, and require much preparation and revision. Young people can respond to this in a number of ways. They may, for instance:
- Attend irregularly just before and during peak exam times, young people may not be able to attend because of revision pressure (self-, parent- or school imposed).
- Behave strangely during stressful periods previously chatty and laid back young people can become irritable, sullen or snappy.
- Believe untruths Ive done badly in the past, so its obvious that Ill ruin these exams, too… or Im so stupid Ill never pass this exam are untruths that young people can rehearse to themselves.
- Allow their judgment to be dictated by their emotions I freeze and feel this knot in my stomach when I sit down to revise, so Im not going to do any.
- Feel pressure from their families My sisters are geniuses and got all As. Unless I get the same, my family will think I have failed. Perceived or real, these feelings can weigh heavily on siblings.
We want to create youth clubs that enable young people to try on the Christian faith to see how it fits, explore how it can make intellectual and emotional sense to them, and to ponder what it might mean for them in their daily life (cf. Shepherd (2016), Faith Generation, London: SPCK, 79f). How, then, might we do this?
Share faith outside of the epilogue Most God talk happens during the talk at the end of a youth group session, this is often called the epilogue. Why not put God talk back into the regular parts of your youth group session? Young people have incredible capacity for conversations relating to spiritual things, and its a great opportunity for these to come up whilst you play a board-game, kick a football around or sit on a bean-bag munching Malteasers. Often some of the best questions start with I wonder…. Where might you put I wonder… questions into your youth work?
To make talking about faith easier, why not try one of the following resources or ideas
- Youthscape develop sets of playing cards suitable for primary, secondary and 6th form age that cover questions about you, others, the world and beliefs. Why not play a card game with your young people or just use them as discussion starters?
- Table Talk is a game all about having conversations about the stuff that matters in life. There are many different versions suitable for lots of contexts, and the website has loads of ideas for using the game. Why not pick up a pack and give it a go?
- Try to get used to talking about your life as a Christian when your young people ask you: if youre part of a prayer triplet, why not talk about it when asked about friendship? Or talk about your bible study or home group when sharing about what helps your faith to grow? Or talk about the church weekend away when asked about your last holiday?
Be real Your youth club can be a place for leaders to be real, too. Share only whats appropriate, when its appropriate, putting the needs of the young person above your own, but allow your young people a little window into what real life as a Christian is like the good and bad. You would be surprised how this might open up conversations. Dont make anything up, just share whats real and see what happens.
Make prayer part of the groups shared life - if youre talking with one of your young people and they mention a situation that could do with prayer, offer to pray for them right there and then. If they say yes, pray for them in a sentence or two using simple language. Make sure they know it is okay to say no and that will be received without judgment or anger etc., and if they do, just continue the conversation as before. Be sure to consider safeguarding when praying for young people: stay in a public place with your young people, dont be alone with them, and be respectful of boundaries, especially regarding touch.
11-18s are in the middle of working out who they are; where they fit in the world; what friendship is; how romance works; whether believing in God makes any sense at all; what work they might do as adults; what their options may be for their GCSEs, A Levels or an undergraduate qualification; working out if they think Jesus is who he says he is and what this means for them; which apprenticeship to complete; how spirituality might relate to their life, and much more. Simultaneously, their brains, especially between the ages of 11 and their mid-twenties, are developing at an incredible rate! Your weeknight provision can be a great opportunity for stability and a safe space to explore the topics that matter most to them. Listening to the questions or topics young people in your context want to talk about, and following up on it is incredibly useful for young people. It is also an exciting opportunity to share about our own experiences, and how Jesus Christ can make a difference in their lives.
Resources to explore all of these topics and more are available online and at your local Christian bookshop. The RNG website has a whole section dedicated to information about excellent resources you might want to use with your 11-18s at your youth provision.