Churches Report 'Dramatic' Loss In Confidence Over Youthwork

Churches have lost confidence in providing youth work, according to ground-breaking new research launched on Wednesday.

Smaller congregations often do not offer anything for teenagers and even those who do provide for young people say what they offer is not effective, the research found. It highlighted a "pretty desperate" state of care in churches. 

Only 50 per cent of churches regularly talk about basic Christian beliefs with young people and the majority never discussed pornography, same-sex attraction, other religions, drugs and addiction.

It highlighted a disparity between what church offers and what young people want to talk about, with many reporting they "lacked confidence" to talk about difficult topics. Only 51 per cent said they even occasionally talk about mental health despite 80 per cent of teenagers saying they wanted to learn more about it. 

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Losing Heart was launched at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday evening by Youthscape Centre for Research, a Luton-based youth charity, who surveyed 2,054 churches across the UK. The study found many churches are "struggling" to offer the bare minimum and "feel a general sense of desperation" about how to improve. 

Director Phoebe Hill said the findings showed a "stark" lack of confidence over youth work.

"So many of the churches surveyed felt ill-equipped to handle the topics that young people really care about; but more than that they were often shockingly disparaging about the quality of their youth work.

"When asked 'what's going well in your youth work', common answers included 'not a lot', 'nothing', and 'it does not do so well.' That's very hard to hear as a youth specialist, but it can't be the final word. We clearly have a job to do in terms of reinspiring confidence."

Chris Curtis, CEO of Youthscape, said: "We had speculated about how difficult some churches were finding youth ministry, but now research is telling us there's a real problem.

"However, so often it's moments like this where we realise that all is not well, that spur us on to change and to grow. I am full of hope that over the next decade we can reimagine youth and children's work in this country and renew it in ways that we have yet to discover."