Former Archbishop of Canterbury Declares Need To Reach Young People

The church of England has been in decline for a very long time and I am not sure most of the leadership gets it.  Oh, they see the decline in the reports but the general response has been less than inspiring. The evangelical churches are the only ones actually growing (sweeping generalization) and they face greater challenges in proclaiming the gospel than we see in churches here in the states.  So, the former ABC's (Archbishop of Canterbury) comments here are worth taking seriously.  A few excerpts and comments:

     Christianity is just a “generation away from extinction” in Britain unless churches make a dramatic breakthrough in attracting young people back to the faith, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has warned.
     Clergy are now gripped by a “feeling of defeat”, congregations are worn down by “heaviness” while the public simply greets both with “rolled eyes and a yawn of boredom”, he said.
     His comments at a Christian conference came as a stark report laid before the Church of England’s General Synod warned that its position as a “national institution” will be in doubt if numbers in the pews drop much further.
     The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, also underlined the scale of the crisis telling members of the Synod they must “evangelise or fossilize”.

The challenge of reaching youth and young adults in England is unlike that of reaching this same age group in most of the states. Here we can generate a buzz with an aggressive outreach plan and a program or church service that is unlike the typical church.  In most places, youth inviting friends to a gathering will see some response.  However, in England, youth inviting peers to a Christian gathering is pretty much asking to be bullied or ignored.  In the latter, one often becomes a social outcast.  Despite the former ABC's best intentions, young people by and large are not going to go back to the faith because they did not have the faith to begin with. They need to be brought to the faith for the first time!

     He called for an ambitious campaign aimed at the “re-evangelisation of England”, on a par with the ministry of the northern saints such as Cuthbert, Hilda and Aidan who spread Christianity in Anglo-Saxon times.
     The Synod responded by voting to set up a committee.

Wow!  I can get excited about an evangelism strategy that would be on par with the celtic saints that spread the gospel so effectively.  But, a committee? The celtic saints came from Ireland and Scotland and travelled around, setting up monasteries from which they trained people to go out and share the gospel.  These were more like seminaries than monasteries in some respects.  My understanding of that history is that they went to the people and brought the gospel and settled with the people to set up churches where more folks could hear the gospel.  It was all very gospel driven and not institutional.  Some years ago I read a fascinating book called "Columba" by Nigel Tranter.  Tranter was a scottish historian who put history into novel form to make it very accessible and engaging.  Columba was an Irish monk who brought Christianity to Scotland and is credited for spreading the gospel across the land. The picture that Tranter paints is that of a tireless man who gave his life for the sake of the gospel. So, the synod set up a committee.  The word that comes to mind most readily is "Yikes!" If I understand the system correctly, the best a committee can do is write a report and commend that to be read widely.  In the mid 1990's there was a report published that I believe was called "Mind the Gap". It advocated for more youth ministry to take place across the nation.  If one looks at the stats, the number of employed youth workers rose significantly between the mid nineties and present day.  Yet I wonder if Lord Carey would make the same assessment about church decline and the need to reach young people in 1995 as he did recently.  How does someone set up a massive evangelism campaign  today that would be on par with the celtic saints?  I'd give anything to be part of that!

     He warned against relying on “more gimmicks” to revive the Church’s fortunes adding: “The most urgent and worrying gap is in young peoples work."
     “So many churches have no ministry to young people and that means they have no interest in the future."

This last statement is also an accurate assessment of North American Anglicanism.  We have lots of churches with 75 or so people in them and no ministry to teens.  That reality is becoming the focus of more of my energy these days in my diocese and beyond and is the task before the Young Anglicans Project at the moment.

The whole article is here 

(by Dave Wright)