Mapping the Landscape: Report

Research from South West Youth Ministries captures how churches and Christian organisations are working with children and young people across the region.

As we set out on this project, our hope was to get a snapshot – a broad overview of where we are at this moment, particularly in the context of the impact of COVID. And so we began with several questions in mind:

  • How has COVID challenged and transformed approaches to Christian ministry?
  • Are there any issues that are particularly relevant for specific geographical areas?
  • What common challenges are churches and organisations facing?
  • What success stories might we be able to learn from?
  • How might any findings inform not just SWYM’s strategy but also the strategy of denominations, local organisations and churches?

Our hope is that this research will be the start of a conversation, not the end; a significant moment to pause, reflect, and perhaps re-shape what we are currently doing.

Summary of Key Findings

Finding 1: Where are the volunteers?

A lack of volunteers is the most significant concern for churches working with young people.

Churches, and to a lesser degree organisations, identified a lack of volunteers as a significant problem, with 59% of churches saying that a lack of volunteers was challenging or very challenging. The evidence indicates that smaller churches found the problem of a lack of volunteers more challenging than larger churches. Further analysis showed that rural churches were less likely to employ someone to work with young people, the implication being that more of their ministry must be reliant on volunteer leadership.

Finding 2: Training and recruitment

Churches and organisations are facing challenges in training, recruiting and retaining paid workers.

Churches who employed someone working with young people were found to engage with greater numbers, work over a broader range of ministry, have more focus on activities that encourage deeper relationship, and be more likely to take young people to camps, festivals and residentials. However, over 40% of those in employed roles had been in post for less than three years. Additionally, the majority of respondents viewed academic or professional qualifications as unnecessary for working with young people.

Finding 3: Reaching out together

Organisations are taking a lead in partnership and outward focussed activity.

Christian organisations across the region have a very different attitude to partnership and approach to ministry than a majority of the churches. 81.3% of the organisations said they would often or always work in partnership; the figure was 26.9% for churches. Similarly, organisations were more likely to be involved in activities with a more outward focus like detached ministry or working in schools. In addition, organisations were more likely to engage with young people from deprived areas than churches.

Finding 4: Family based future?

There is evidence of a move towards more intergenerational approaches to working with young people.

The survey showed that there were 15 different titles that were used for roles that are connected to working with young people. Six of these roles, and the most popular role, had ‘family’ as part of the title. The qualitative feedback showed that many Christian ministries are moving away from compartmentalised forms of ministry, preferring instead to adopt a more family-focused, intergenerational approach.

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Post expires on July 24th, 2022