Church youth agencies launch training programme in response to new data
Christian youth workers are responding enthusiastically and practically to the latest research into young people’s perceptions of Jesus. The research has been a catalyst to a peer-led youth evangelism training programme called ‘Mission Academy Live’ to be launched in September, equipping young people to talk about Jesus and to demonstrate his love as a natural part of everyday life.
The research which has fueled this initiative was commissioned by the HOPE Revolution Partnership and carried out in December 2016 by ComRes. This research was published by some of the partners. It showed that more young people are positive about Jesus and Christianity than previously thought.
‘Whatever young people mean when they identify as “followers of Jesus”, it means we have a great starting point as we seek to equip young Christians,’
21% self-identify as followers of Jesus
13% of young people aged 11-18 say they pray and read the Bible weekly and attend church monthly
said Phil Timson, HOPE’s youth director and one of the team who commissioned the research. ‘The research didn’t define “church”, so for a young person this might include chapel services at faith schools, youth groups, Bible studies, prayer events or any other manner of things that young people could identify as “going to church”.’
The research also shows that young people are open to Jesus and the Christian faith
‘That means there is openness to Jesus and the Christian faith,’
33% of young people have not made up their minds on belief in God
56% of young people, when talked to about Jesus, feel comfortable
Through talking about Jesus with Christians, 1 in 6 (16%) want to know more about Jesus
Jimmy Dale, the Church of England’s national youth evangelism officer, adds, ‘What is really exciting for us is that there is this warmth and openness that we are seeing among young people – they are really open to faith.’
The HOPE Revolution Partnership, which includes the Church of England, Elim Pentecostal Churches, and eight Christian youth organisations, has developed ‘Mission Academy Live’ to help young people make Jesus known through their words and actions.
From September hundreds of locally-based Mission Academy Live small groups will be established across the country, facilitated by their local church leader or youth worker. Through the following year the small groups will use 10 specially-produced, video-based sessions to explore God’s story of forgiveness, prayer, and evangelism, helping to equip young people to share their faith. Regional hubs will bring the small groups together, enabling the small groups to stage larger events, as well as offering support for local youth leaders.
Mission Academy Live will be launched with six regional events on Saturdays in the autumn: 30th September – Peterborough; 7th October – London; 14th October – Burnley; 21st October – Lichfield; 28th October – York; 4th November - Bristol.
Martin Saunders, a contributing editor for Christian Today and the Deputy CEO of Youthscape, is skeptical about recent media reports on the research but said, ‘If this many young people called themselves Christians, then that number is almost certainly receptive to the faith at least. And when you dive down deeper into the data, 16% of young people said they wanted to hear more about Jesus, and 56% said they'd be comfortable with being told about another person's faith. Those are really encouraging statistics which should embolden our youth evangelism – especially when it's done peer-to-peer. There's a large number of teenagers out there who are essentially waiting for us to tell them about Jesus.
‘If it encourages us that teenagers are receptive to our message, and helps to restore a bit of the Church's lost confidence, then it's a useful rallying cry.’
Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf, the National Mission and Evangelism Adviser for the Church of England, one of the HOPE leadership team said, ‘I know of one church who thought it would be pointless to try to work with young people. When they saw this research, they realised there is hope, and that maybe they should do some youth work. That’s great news!’
Full details of Mission Academy Live and the research are available at www.hopetogether.org.uk/MAlive
The HOPE Revolution partnership includes: HOPE, the Church of England, Urban Saints, Youth for Christ, Limitless - the national youth ministry of Elim Pentecostal Churches, Soul Survivor, Scripture Union, The Message Trust, Xplore, Tearfund and the Pais Movement.
The youth survey was commissioned following a similar study undertaken amongst adults, called the Talking Jesus research – www.talkingjesus.org
Commenting on the youth research results, Katie Harrison, Director of ComRes Faith Research Centre, whose team carried out the research said: ‘We recruited respondents using equivalent online panels to those used in similar studies of adults, for consistency, and asked parents of young people in this age group whether they and their children were happy for their child to participate. This meant we established equivalent methodology and rigour to enable comparison with similar research among adults, while also gaining access and consent.
‘The sample size of 2,000 is large enough to be credible for analysis, and there are some fascinating findings here. It’s important to note that the findings tell us how young people answer these questions; it’s not an observation exercise to monitor actions or behaviour. When we ask young people these questions, these are the answers they give.’