Capital Youth 2019-20: Looking back and ahead
Sam Donoghue, Head of Children and Youth Ministry Support, reflects on a year of activity for Capital Youth and what’s coming up in 2020.
It’s been an exciting, challenging couple of years running Capital Youth, but this year our team have met more young people than ever to date and it’s been inspiring.
Capital Youth comes with an objective to see growth in the numbers of young people. Growth is good; if we believe that the love we have found in Jesus is worth sharing, we ought to want more young people being part of our church communities, experiencing it with us.
However, with objectives comes pressure. When growth is hard to achieve, sometimes the joy of a role can be lost, especially since most of our daily contact is supporting those who are working with young people to the same objectives. This year the best antidote to that, for us, has been meeting young people!
New ideas from young people
A few weeks ago, we had our second board meeting for The Spark Fund: where young people come to pitch their projects to the board, who then grant up to £5,000 if the projects are focused on reaching new young people with young people clearly leading them. We have seen an amazing range of activities planned as a new wave of creativity has been unleashed. Several projects are already underway, like the Whosoever series of events over in Uxbridge, run by a team of 10 young people.
I was on the board this time as a last-minute sub with someone unwell. At times the ideas were in unfamiliar territory for me! I have no ideas about ‘modern choral music’ that one group were planning, possibly less still about the missional potential of using ‘Fortnight’ to recreate parables (a video game where players inhabit a virtual island and try and be last person standing in a battle where you’re trying to kill everyone…). Yet it was hard not to catch the enthusiasm from the young people pitching.
Let us never be caught saying young people don’t care about church; we have met group after group who care passionately but needed the opportunity to be heard.
Starting new conversations with young people
Another highlight of Capital Youth has been the way we changed the Youth Advocates group: we now have young people there too, instead of just vicars and youth workers. Bringing young people into that conversation brought a real freshness – we met some amazing young people who reflected a diverse range of experiences growing up in London. This meeting was hosted at the Old Deanery where the Bishop of London is based. While we cannot claim to be the first people to have pizza delivered there (I did ask), it was certainly the largest delivery of pizza to that address in nearly 350 years of history!
Recently, Capital Youth launched Vocalise: a resource designed to help you connect with young people and hear their stories and perspectives. It features five young people talking about their faith on video diaries that were self-filmed over the course of a week. Rather than try and describe them, have a look for yourself – I know you’ll be blessed by what you see! Our collection of resources will continue to grow over the next couple of years, with Youth Minsters also contributing useful materials like the Confirmed course, which you can download on our youth support page.
Sowing vision for 2020 and beyond
So what about next year? Partly we’re looking for more of the same; The Spark Fund will open again for applications in January; we will recruit four new apprentice children and youth workers in the summer (if your parish is interested in joining the scheme, you need to talk to us now!); we’ll be training more clergy in youth ministry to smash our target of 50 by 2020 and we’ll continue to produce resources that any church in our Diocese can use. We’ll also be looking for more opportunities for the voices of young people to be heard in our Diocese and celebrating where they are already. But there are many other exciting things in the pipeline.
We’re launching a Church Planting Course for those seeking to plant new expressions of church that engage children, young people and families which we hope will unleash another wave of creativity. This is open nationally so if you are in our Diocese, please prayerfully consider joining the course, even if you’re not sure whether you are called to plant yet.
Another big thing will be the launch of the 2030 plan that will replace Capital Vision 2020. At the moment, we’re making sure the voices of young people are heard in that plan and that working with young people continues to be a key focus for the Diocese with a new set of objectives to reflect that.
We’ll also be launching a youth prayer calendar to help churches everywhere engage in prayer for young people, reflecting the rhythms of teenagers and phases of life they go through, as well as covering all the projects and people you can join us in prayer for.
We are working hard to keep improving the way children and youth ministry is supported across the Diocese. We’ll continue to collaborate with the ministry support team here at the LDF to make sure clergy are aware of the support they can access and have the training they need to know how to develop youth ministry in their context. We’re thinking about how volunteers can be supported locally who are running amazing things without financial resources, previous experience or formal training. All this stuff is on our radar and sometimes, it feels like we can’t run fast enough to do everything we want to, but that won’t stop us trying.
Young people face a whole range of opportunities and threats growing up in London. Our prayer is that throughout 2020, the church would become better at listening, responding and continuing together on the journey to becoming a Diocese where young people thrive. We hope you’ll join in with us as we try and serve God in this mission as best we can.