The church should take a lead in providing a vision of a better world for today’s children and young people, according to a youth work expert writing on the cover of the Baptist Times newspaper today.
Jill Rowe, Director of Church and Community Development for Oasis UK and a regular columnist in Youthwork magazine, said that in the absence of a “bigger story,” or meaning to their lives, children have no choice but to define their value and worth by what they own or their place within their peer group.
“We appear to have lost our sense of the bigger story of life: the one that casts vision and direction, not just on a societal scale, but also for individuals and communities,” she said.
“Without the existence of a big story, the one of regeneration and hope… there are a million others to take its place, such as the priority of instant gratification, the cult of celebrity, the celebration of people’s failure or the rightness of consumerism.”
Her editorial comes in the wake of recent news stories reporting on the stress that the 12 million children and young people of the UK experience, and the Unicef report last February which placed the UK at the bottom of a league table of industrialised nations for child wellbeing.
Ms Rowe said that the individualisation of society had led to children growing up without a sense of community. She also said it was not surprising that young people turned to gangs for support:
“There is truth here for all our children and young people, many of whom find that the adults in their lives are noticeable by their absence. In the vacuum of care that this can create, they turn either to each other for help and support, for community and family, for direction and guidance, or they turn to one of the myriad of other providers such as the TV or the internet.”
She called on the church to carry the story of hope, redemption and restoration by “doing and being,” in order to turn this around, following the example of Oasis’ community hubs, which are places committed to holistic community wellbeing: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically and educationally.
“We, their community, must be intentional, deliberate and determined in bringing them up, walking with them, sharing with them a different story of possibility, transformation and of being made in God’s image, not leaving their development to chance or neglecting our responsibility. If we do this, then their future, and ours, is full of potential, rich in opportunity and brimming with hope.”
Jill Rowe will be speaking at the Faithworks Conference, Change Agents, on 1-3 November 2007 in London. The conference aims to resource and inspire churches to be part of a vision for social and spiritual transformation within their local communities, including involvement in projects working with children and young people. For more information visit www.faithworks.info/conference
For the full text of Jill Rowe's article, visit www.baptisttimes.co.uk