Methodist Church rises to government challenge of engaging young people

The first UK Christian denomination to employ young people in anew youth strategy has pushed the boundaries of youthparticipation.

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

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

The strategy is a ground-breaking initiative designed to engageyoung people in the life of the Church. One of the many activitiesDistrict Youth Enablers will be involved in is looking at waysknife and gun crime can be tackled by young people. They will havethe opportunity to take up placements associated with Churchprojects and the wider community, such as youth offendinginstitutes.

Mike Seaton, Director of Children and Youth, said: "The strategy isabout helping the Church engage with a diverse group of youngpeople, to learn what issues are pertinent to them and then torespond and develop accordingly. It has implications for themission and ministry of the whole Methodist Church and couldinfluence the direction the Church takes."

The strategy puts Methodism at the Christian forefront of youthparticipation work alongside other secular agencies such as theNational Youth Agency. It also addresses some of therecommendations set out in The Good Childhood Inquiry, the UK'sfirst independent national inquiry into childhood, published thismonth.

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

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

Neil Bolus,17, from Coventry, said: "I came across the postcompletely by chance on Facebook and so I emailed the YouthPresident to find out more about it. "I am looking forward toletting other people know what is out there in the Church and howthey can get more involved."

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

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