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Feel Good News Report


This week we launched our Feel Good News Report, the second part of our Translating God research. In a nutshell it discusses what about the Christian faith felt like good news to today’s young people. You can read all about the research here but we thought we would flip this on its head and pose the question – what in this report feels like good news (or not!) to Christian Youth Workers?


What was Good News for Youth Workers?

The Feel Good News report is the output of an online survey which was carried out with a representative sample of 1,000 young people in the UK aged 12-17 and aimed to explore which theological ideas resonate with them. We hosted a couple of workshops with some Youth Workers to discuss the findings and this is what they came up with:

What Youth Workers thought was Good News and the challenges they identified:

Young people are drawn to ideas about hope, justice and community


this is very much on a macro level, they were less comfortable with the idea of personal change or accountability, seemingly unprepared for the internal work that goes with pursuing these values and they didn’t connect Jesus’ death and resurrection with any of this.

Young people like the idea of God and God’s love being powerful


they are less keen on the idea of God giving up power to become human and more vulnerable

Young people want to feel loved always for who they are


at the same time they are uncomfortable with the idea of intimacy with God or Jesus (it’s ‘creepy’) and see God’s love as something ‘out there’ rather than personal

Young people are warm to the idea of God existing


have little desire to reach out to God for themselves

How can the Youth Ministry sector respond?

What can we as Youth Workers do?

  1. Don’t just make space for questions, provoke the difficult questions. This can be hard, we might think our youth groups are spaces where young people can ask anything they want but if we really want to know what young people think we probably need to dig a bit deeper and be more provocative.
  2. Avoid answers, suspend our own knowledge for a while and resist the temptation to ‘correct’ theology or interpretation. Most of us need to work hard at this, we naturally want young people to see the beauty of the gospel as we see it. But they aren’t looking through the same lens; if we want to understand how they interpret it we need to listen with curiosity and be open to what we can learn.
  3. Be patient! Young people might like the idea of God as a Good Fairy with magical powers to instantly make the world a better place but we know the reality is much more personal and messy and can be hard work! If we want to help young people on a journey from that ‘warm apathy’ or hope that something out there will one day intervene and wave a magic wand, to a life-changing relationship with an intensely personal God, then we need to take it slow. This is a long journey, one where we hope to awaken their curiosity, grow and learn together and ultimately see them discover the joy of relationship with God and connection with Christian community.

What can the church do?

  1. Support Youth Workers to invest time and build relationships. Our church structures and systems need to better support Youth Workers to be in a role for the long haul, not on short term contracts or just as a stepping stone to ordination. Research by Johnny Price in 2018 stated the average length of time a Youth Worker spent in any one role in Youth Ministry was just 2 years (https://youthworkhacks.com/emp...) and that the lack of interest from a church in the Youth Worker’s development was why Youth Workers moved on. Ali Campbell’s research in 2019 found that more than half of youth workers had been in their role for less than 3 years, 34% less than 2 years and only 8% over 10 years, contrasting with a whopping 74% that said they would stay in Youth Ministry until retirement if they could (https://theresource.org.uk/wp-...). Young people need Youth Workers that are supported appropriately by their churches to be committed and consistent for years, not just months.
  2. Resist the fight/flight instinct. I recently re-listened to a podcast with Elizabeth Oldfield in which she described her interpretation of ‘turning the other cheek’ as simply resisting our instinct to fight back or to just run. When we’re hit with something that knocks us (e.g. the idea that young people find God or Jesus ‘creepy’) the temptation is to either try to come back with a clever response, strategy or programming that puts that idea back in it’s box, or to let fear get the better of us and pretend we haven’t heard it. But we can’t fight our way out of this (if you’re in doubt look at the last 30 years of youth ministry in the UK) and we certainly can’t hide from it. Perhaps, as church, we just need to stand firm and metaphorically ‘turn the other cheek’, encouraging young people to keep telling us what they think, provoking them to think and walk with them into those spaces. Because this is not about survival of the church into the future, this is about enabling new generations to discover God for themselves. If that happens the church will thrive, not just survive. After all, we are called to make disciples, it’s Jesus that builds his church.

There was so much richness in our discussions in the workshops and there will be much more coming in Part 3 of the research later this year. Do check out the Translating God website to read the Feel Good News report in full & see what you think is ‘Good News’ for Youth Workers and share it with us on our social media!

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