Methodist Church rises to government challenge of engaging young people

The first UK Christian denomination to employ young people in a new youth strategy has pushed the boundaries of youth participation.

Eight 17 to 23-year-olds have begun part-time jobs on the Church's Connexional Team in order to lay the foundations for the future employment of 32 District Youth Enablers spanning the Church's 32 districts from September this year.

This is the first stage in a £4 million, five year Youth Participation Strategy that will see at least 32 young people between the ages of 16 and 23 employed on 12 month contracts for 15 hours per week each year for four years.

The strategy is a ground-breaking initiative designed to engage young people in the life of the Church. One of the many activities District Youth Enablers will be involved in is looking at ways knife and gun crime can be tackled by young people. They will have the opportunity to take up placements associated with Church projects and the wider community, such as youth offending institutes.

Mike Seaton, Director of Children and Youth, said: "The strategy is about helping the Church engage with a diverse group of young people, to learn what issues are pertinent to them and then to respond and develop accordingly. It has implications for the mission and ministry of the whole Methodist Church and could influence the direction the Church takes."

The strategy puts Methodism at the Christian forefront of youth participation work alongside other secular agencies such as the National Youth Agency. It also addresses some of the recommendations set out in The Good Childhood Inquiry, the UK's first independent national inquiry into childhood, published this month.

Meg Prowting, Children and Youth Development Officer, said: "Young people have a great deal to offer and can stimulate adults and organisations to think and work differently. The Youth Participation Strategy is about investing in the development and involvement of young people so that they are engaged in the life of the Church at every level."

Some of the new interim District Youth Enablers found out about the vacancies through the UK Methodist Facebook group and others through the Methodist Youth Conference.

Neil Bolus,17, from Coventry, said: "I came across the post completely by chance on Facebook and so I emailed the Youth President to find out more about it. "I am looking forward to letting other people know what is out there in the Church and how they can get more involved."

The eight employees' contracts will run until August when interviews to fill the year-long, part-time posts will be well under way. The posts aren't just open to young Methodists, but to any young person who has an interest.

Lydia Barlow, a 21-year-old Theology student at York St John University, said: "I have a passion for bringing new things to the Methodist Church through my local preaching and through the various activities I am involved in. "My aim in this job is to try and figure out ways in which youth are already working and find out where the gaps are and ways in which they can be filled."

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