In this section:
For many churches, running a ministry for 11-18s alone just isnt possible. This means that if we want to do it well, if we want to do it sustainably, if we want to create the grounds that can enable faith to flourish we must work as partners in some form. Some of the current partnerships in the Diocese of Lichfield include:
- Churches starting or running youth projects or youth churches.
- Youth events run between churches Urban Saints, and Whitemoor Lakes near Lichfield.
- An internship run by a church in partnership with the local YMCA
- A church and a (non-CofE) high school employing a youth worker together, with time spent in the school mentoring, leading assemblies / collective worship etc.
This section talks a little about some of these and other opportunities, along with some basic theory and resources for developing work in partnership with other churches and organisations.
It can be tempting for developing partnerships to seem like a peripheral activity: something thats good to do, but isnt central to our work, but despite this there are several ways that partnership working can strengthen our youth ministries:
Churches can do more with fewer resources
Churches wanting to work with 11-18s may have expertise in one area, but lack skills in another. Churches working together may be able to overcome these deficits through partnership working. As an illustration, Church A could have fantastic skills at running effective small groups, and so set one up for their 15-18s, but they are isolated from other young Christians. Church B may have a group of 15-18s attending a brilliant evening service, but there is little else for them during the week. What could happen if these churches integrated the young people of Church B into the small group, and encouraged Church As young people to attend the evening service, allowing both churches to play to their strengths and in time to learn from the others expertise?
Young people develop a broader understanding of church
Often our 11-18s have only ever experienced church in one place through one tradition. Experiencing other ways of doing or being church can open the eyes of young people and encourage reflection on what they believe and why. For some of our young people, they may even discover a better fit in terms of spiritual style, churchmanship or theology that will enable them to discover a deeper faith in Jesus Christ.
Young people find opportunities to explore vocation
Potentially even more than their adult counterparts, the 11-18s that form part of our worshipping communities are exploring who they are and what they think God wants them to do. Partnerships with other churches or organisations have the potential to increase opportunities for young people to try things they wouldnt normally do at their home church. For more information about supporting 11-18s to discover and live out their vocation, visit our Vocation section.
Partners can develop their work sustainably
Partners working together can reduce points of failure in their youth ministry, making the work more stable, less stressful for leaders, and more enjoyable for young people. Benefits can include:
- Having enough leaders to comfortably give people time off, or for people to quit without causing chaos,
- Sharing the work of DBS checking and safer-recruitment see lichfield.anglican.org/safeguarding for more information.
- Sharing the load in terms of planning.
- Widening the pool of skills you can draw upon to enrich your provision (e.g. craft, sports, teaching skills etc.)
Better-resourced or more experienced churches can support others to develop their 11-18s work
Churches with more resources or experience for ministry to and with 11-18s can bless a neighbouring parish by working with them as they develop their own youth ministry. This might be by starting a satellite youth group with some relation to the mother group, by creating a new group with leaders moving to that group permanently, or by one church providing resources to help a new group start.
There are many things around which to develop a partnership with another church or organisation. This section highlights a few ideas, theories and resources to help you get going, but below is a (non-exhaustive) list that may give you some ideas to get started:
Weeknight youth provision
Bringing part of the resources each, two or more partners come together to start or refresh a weeknight youth club.
Sunday youth provision
Partners may decide that the close proximity of their churches means that one church should focus on their 5-11s ministry and the other should focus on 11-14s, or may have a combined all-age service once a month etc.
Partners may decide to develop a youth service, exploring topics in collaboration with the young people themselves in a way that is relevant for their age and stage.
Partners may both wish to bless their local school through initiatives like assemblies, pastoral or SMSC Work or Pray.Bake.Read.
Groups focusing on a special issue or interest
Partners may decide to seek the skills or knowledge from each other to run an intergenerational group focussed on supporting the persecuted church, issues of trade justice, environmental conservation or social action in your local area. One partner might supply young people, and the other supplies expertise or a venue etc.
For example, Soul Purpose is a project run in partnership between churches in Shrewsbury and the local Youth for Christ centre. Soul Purpose unites young people from churches across the Shrewsbury area to take part in social action over the May bank holiday weekend, and continues with a series of celebrations throughout the year.
Residentials and Camps
Partners may choose to go away together on a youth camp, bringing down costs and administrative burdens for both teams. For more information, see our section on Camps and Residentials.
One of the largest and most geographically central youth camps in the Diocese is Soul Survivor, a festival attracting around 5000 young people every year at Stafford Showground and other venues in Peterborough and Kinross. Attending Soul Survivor as a group of two or more churches can help to reduce costs, the amount of administration and the resources required. This can, in turn, be passed on to our young people. For more information, visit our Camps and Residentials section here.
Planting a church or launching a fresh expression
Partners may get together to plant a new church or fresh expression, sensing the burden to do something amongst 11-18s that may never come to church as many of us know it. Examples include fresh expressions:
- A Methodist and Anglican partnership, Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries (WPM) works with young people and young adults in central Wolverhampton. It gathers in the local Methodist church, and ministers to the town via Bluefish Chaplaincy service supporting the local YMCA, and The Way Youth Zone.
- Parishes around Oswestry Deanery are fundraising, running prayer events, and meeting young people in the hopes of developing a fresh expression to serve 11-18s in rural communities outside of the town. The project is in its beginning stages.
Developing a Satellite Youth Group from existing provision at another church
Churches with expertise in 11-18s ministry may offer to develop a satellite youth group with another church nearby, allowing both worshipping communities to extend their provision for young people, train new workers and strengthen another eachs capacity for mission.
Confirmations or Baptisms
Partners may have a small number of young people exploring confirmation or baptism and could bring them together to run a course ahead of the big day. See our sections on confirmation and baptisms for more information.
Partners could gather their staff (paid and volunteer, ordained or lay) together for training. This might be where one partner has expertise the other doesnt, or partners share the cost of inviting training from a third party with the necessary skills and experience.
Partners may discover issues affecting the lives of young people in their community and resolve to work out together with local young people how best to solve it. For more information, visit our section on starting from scratch.
Large Evangelistic Events
Partners may share a burden to call young people to faith in Jesus Christ, and may run evangelistic or missional events together to do this.
HEY! is a monthly youth event for young people to bring their non-Christian friends to. It is run at Whitemoor Lakes, in partnership with local churches and Urban Saints Midlands.
Introduction to Christianity Courses
Developing a separate Youth Project
Using existing business, legal or charity expertise, youth work skills and other resources, partners may start a local charity focussed on the specific needs of 11-18s within their community. For more information, advice and support about developing partnerships, contact the RNG Team on email@example.com or get in touch with Youth for Christ (https://yfc.uk/) who have considerable expertise in this area.
Partners may be found within a variety of contexts. The list below isnt conclusive, but highlights some key opportunities available to churches:
Within the Benefice or Deanery
Made up of several parishes, benefices or deaneries can spread across a large area and can network together to develop a style of youth ministry tailored specifically to their context. Benefices or deaneries developing a partnership-based youth ministry could:
- Gather to pray for the 11-18s in the local area, dreaming together about what they might do to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them in word and deed.
- Develop a cell-church model, with small groups of young people hosted by local congregations and gathering once a month for a youth service.
- Support one churchs ministry to their local high school, college or 6th Form by offering volunteers and practical or financial support.
- Run a youth-camp together during the year.
For more information, advice and support about developing a partnership across your benefice or deanery contact the RNG Team on firstname.lastname@example.org .
There are often several churches of different denominations all ministering to the same community. Formal partnerships such as Churches Together can be a brilliant place to pray for local area, and dream about what might be achieved together.
City or Town-wide
Churches serving the same town or city may find they have noticed similar needs affecting the lives of 11-18s in their community and may be better placed to overcome them together. Responses to issues discovered in consultation with young people and churches can be highly creative and divers, but popular options can include developing a new youth club, starting a weekend of social action or a chaplaincy in your local school or town centre.
Organisations like Youth for Christ (https://yfc.uk) and Urban Saints (https://urbansaints.org/) offer a variety of ways to work in partnership.
Youth for Christ support churches working together to set up new ministries to 11-18s. They can either be volunteer led Projects, or a Centre employing one or more workers through the creation of an independent charity. For either option, national YFC provide advice and support to help your joint project off the ground. Visit their website at yfc.uk for more information.
Urban Saints, in addition to their youth work resource Energize, deliver evangelistic work across the country, with staff co-ordinating different projects according to needs and opportunities in different regions. In the Midlands, Urban Saints offer activities such as:
- Spree, an 8-15s evangelistic weekend at outdoor activities centres across the country
- Shine (a weekend for girls aged 11-18).
- HEY! a youth celebration delivered in partnership with churches in the Lichfield area and Whitemoor Lakes Activity Centre.
- YOU Training events for youth workers in partnership with Whitemoor Lakes.
Local Government, schools and third / charity sector organisations may feel a call to work for and on behalf of 11-18s in a similar area or on a similar issue. For example, one of our churches employs a worker in partnership with a local high school. For two days a week their worker takes part in the life of the school and a local pupil referral unit (PRU) through mentoring, delivering assemblies and other pastoral work for school. For the rest of the week, they spend their time working with young people in their church context, calling young people to faith in Jesus Christ.
The Church Urban Fund has some brilliant tools to help you start your own project in partnership with other organisations. They particularly favour using an approach called Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). For more information visit their website here or email the RNG team at email@example.com .
Our overarching question for all youth ministry is this: how is what we are doing serving the needs of the people we encounter, and does it help them to discover more of the person of Jesus Christ and the God revealed in him? This question helps us to remember the real criteria for success in the midst of pressure (perceived or otherwise) to measure our work in more worldly terms. Without meaning to, we can adopt the language of empire, stemming from a desire for control, of looking good, of perpetuating a system for our own benefit. Tell-tale signs of empire thinking are hearing statements like this:
- We need more young people in church
- The church down the road stole our young people what will we do!?
- How will we benefit from this joint project? Whats in it for us?
This outlook is diametrically opposite to language rooted in Kingdom thinking:
- The 11-18s in our community need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- How can we release our young people flourish, to experience the Shalom of God and discover what it might mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
- How can we bless the 11-18s in our community, even if it will be costly to us?
The first list is preoccupied with issues of control, self-benefit, looking good and feeling successful. The other is interested in the flourishing of both our young people, the community in which they live, and other churches or organisations; of trusting that God is at work in the situation, and of willingness to accept that what is best for others may leave us looking foolish or unsuccessful in the eyes of the world.
Tools for Reflection how to articulate what you want out of a partnership
In order to make the process of developing a partnership more fruitful, it is often helpful to get a clear idea what it is youre seeking to do, why you might like to do this with others and to be able to articulate this well. Working through some of the questions posed in 5 Important Strategy Questions for Youth & Children's Ministry and Children's & Youth Work Audit may help you to explain clearly what it is you are hoping for in a partnership. You can find these on our strategy resources pages.
DeVries, M (2008) Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why most youth ministry doesnt last and what your church can do about it, Downers Grove: IVP.
Sapin, K. (2010) Essential Skills for Youth Work Practice, London: Sage Publications.
Saunders, M. (2013) Youth Work From Scratch: How To Launch Or Revitalize A Church Youth Ministry, London: Monarch Books.
Shepherd, N. (2016) Faith Generation: Retaining Young People & Growing the Church, London: SPCK.