Do Christian teenagers want/need the same stuff? I’m beginning to understand that they are as varied in their tastes as all the denominations. I was fascinated on Saturday evening at the reaction of a group that I took to a diocescan youth event. The teenagers from Christian families here in the rural villages are isolated and it is hard finding ways to make them feel they belong. Church can be incredibly boring here when you are a 46 year old vicar so you can imagine what it is like if you are 14. There is something about safety in numbers and I want them to know that there are other young Christians out there so I did a twelve mile circuit to pick them all up from the various villages.
On the way they were fussing about whether they would fit in OK and whether the townie Christians would be scary. I was amazed at how unconfident they sounded. All these children go to a huge comprehensive school (more than 2000 pupils) in a town 9 miles away and where we were going (Poole, 40 minutes away) is hardly a metropolis so it must have been something else.
What was good, when we got there was for them to see other teenagers putting on a drama. ‘We’ve done that,’ they said. ‘Yes and it was just as good and it used the same technology!’ said I. They really have produced some stuff that is just as good. They have written and performed a rap at Christmas time. They have produced some excellent drama sketches and they are currently choreographing a dance to a Christian rock band.
What they couldn’t engage with was the worship. (It is not as if they are not used to powerpoint or choruses). They enjoyed the first few songs but then seemed to get fed up. We don’t mind singing one or two they said but why 6 back to back and why was that man (worship leader) praying for us?
So, when it came to the second worship session of the evening they chose to opt out. I was very grateful to one of the youth ministers who spotted this and did engage them in conversion and made them feel that they did belong. Bishop David was excellent when he spoke about children in the Sudan but by then they had switched off and weren’t really engaging with what was going on although they enjoyed being out somewhere else as a group.
What is missing for them in worship is a sense of awe. Maybe it is time to try something contemplative with them and see what they make of Taize.