Monday, July 19, 2010

Fresh Expressions and Youth

There is no doubt in my mind that Fresh Expressions of church can take hold in any group in our society. But there is also certainty in my mind that the primary Fresh Expression goal for churches such as the Anglican church in New Zealand should be Fresh Expressions of church among young people. There is a simple imbalance between young and old in our church which needs righting. Any presumption that time will take care of the imbalance without any further action on our part could be disastrous.

The good news is that Fresh Expressions among young people are already taking place. I visited one such FE last night!

The challenging news is that we need more such FEs ... and we need to continually think about the form these FEs will take as time goes by (and the young people become middle-aged, then simply aged ...).

Back to last night: a particular feature of that Fresh Expression is its 'total youth' approach: young people lead, preach, plan the FE.

That is not the only way but it is something to think about. For example, do "oldies" (such as me at 50) get in the way of youth Fresh Expressions being Fresh?


Janice said...

I read the info page at the UK Fresh Expressions site. It says that the aim is not to bring people into an existing church but to start new churches. That certainly isn't something I can see our church doing. For one major thing, we don't have the resources.

As for the imbalance between young and old, I agree that time itself won't take care of it. However, I also think that there are more differences between young and old than merely that of age or taste in music. The young were born into a very different world and tend to have very different concerns. The different world is a major reason why you don't find many young people in church. They have, I believe, been schooled out of thinking church has any relevance to them and the thing to do is show them that it does. For the ones who do attend church the different concern that concerns me the most is the one related to motivation (extrinsic or intrinsic) for attending any kind of church gathering.

Why do young people want to attend youth group meetings? Is it primarily so that they can grow in love and knowledge of the Lord or is it because they will see their friends there? Is church a special interest group meeting or should it be more like a family gathering? How can you learn to love and appreciate people who are very different to yourself if you never have to deal with them in person?

The idea of young people leading, preaching and planning the "fresh expression" all by themselves reminds me of the student revolts of the 1960s where those who should have known better decided that these young people were well able to determine what they should be learning even though they didn't have enough knowledge, wisdom and life experience to make those determinations. And look at what that has led to, first in our universities and then in society at large.

I have no problem at all with working towards doing better with the resources we have even if that means making some changes, but I also remember that in my youth, and even in to my forties, I had little appreciation of the value of a prayer book service. Now, because of what I've learned by hard experience, I value prayer book services highly. They serve as a repeated reminder of what really binds us together as a people and how we should respond to God's grace towards us and we need repeated reminders. I don't think anyone will be served if that is all thrown away.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice,
I do not think Fresh Expressions means casting out the familiar/tried and true. Nor does it necessarily mean that 'youth' are given free reign over every one of FEs geared towards them ... but it does require some significant utilization of resources, as you observe.

Anonymous said...

Jim Packer has likened Anglican liturgy to big clothes that parents may buy their children from them to grow into - if they ever do.
Fashion is a notorious and fickle thing, and most of us think the acme of cool is what we wore when we were 20 or so (to the hoots of our own children!). Maybe the same with prayer and worship. 'Lord, we just wanna like say, like ...' But I would find it hard to a have a classically biblical and orthodox life of prayer if I hadn't more or less committed these few things to memory:
- the Lord's Prayer
- the Apostles' Creed
- the Beatitudes
- the Fruit of the Spirit
- Psalm 23 and other snatches
- the Ten Commandments
Many Christians (not just the young) don't know their Bibles or some of the classic elements of Chrisitan prayer, and thwey need to know them. I'm sure Fresh Expressions would agree with this!
Al Mynors