Back in the halcyon days of mid-2004, millions of viewers around the country sat on their sofas and tuned in to see six friends walk out of an empty New York city apartment, the purple door closing behind them as a cultural phenomenon ended. The finale of FRIENDS, complete with its romantic endings (I got off the plane!) and nicely rounded-off storylines, marked the end of a decade-long shared experience. For years, shouting “pivot” when moving furniture became as iconic as “to me, to you”. “How you doin’?” became as gratingly annoying as the “whassup” zeitgeist of the early 2000s, and for a while guys up and down the country yearned for the opportunity to own reclining leather lazyboy chairs and pet chickens and ducks.
Ten series, ten years, over and out – tied up with a little bow, easily landing itself in the pantheon of all-time iconic TV shows. But before we’d even managed to get our hands on the final series DVD (remember those?) we were greeted with ‘Joey’ – a spin-off show following the life of Joey Tribbiani, everyone’s third or fourth favourite FRIENDS character (Ross is the best – fight me). Lasting two series before it was eventually axed, ‘Joey’ committed the cardinal sin of all those who follow something of cultural significance – they tried to be the thing they followed.
Back in the halcyon days of mid-2019, thousands of teenagers from around the country gathered on a showground to mark a final moment of similar cultural significance. Having run for the best part of three decades, the Soul Survivor summer festivals closed their doors for the final time and with it a chapter of youth ministry in the UK drew to a close as well.
What happens after Soul Survivor?
For almost thirty years Soul Survivor encouraged hundreds of thousands of teenagers to explore what a relationship with Jesus would look like. Through a simple trio of worship, teaching and ministry in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the summer festivals became a place for Christian young people to go deeper in their faith, engage in mission, understand purpose, calling and vocation. The events became the place that it was fine to take non-Christian friends to, knowing that if they didn’t quite get what was happening on the mainstage, they’d find dozens of other ways to engage with the event. For the best part of three decades, Soul Survivor became a place that young people could call theirs, a place they felt safe, encouraged, and welcome.
So, in early 2022, how do we at Youthscape – organisers of the first ever Satellites summer event in August this year – not fall into the trap of creating another ‘Joey’? How do we build positively on what has gone before without trying to just replicate it? How do we engage with a group of young people for whom the idea of spending a week camping on a showground is beyond bizarre? Well, as the Youthscape Director of Events, I wanted to let you into my thinking about some of the things we’ll stay true to as we start out on this adventure.
It’s not about us
Firstly, and most importantly, we trust that God is in this and that he has called us to be a part of this. One of the great joys of being a part of pulling together a project like Satellites is not that we get to create a big fancy event or put something on that thousands of people come to. It’s that we get to join in what God is already doing up and down this country in churches and youth groups all over the place. It’s that in the summer, the event we put on gets to be a staging post in the journey of young people growing in their faith or experiencing a relationship with Jesus for the first time. At Satellites, we are not out to carve out our little part of the Christian event world, but instead we’re here to play our part, doing what we do well in serving the young people of this country.
Secondly, we’ll ensure that we serve young people holistically. Fundamental to the vision and values of Satellites is encouraging every young person to live with God at the centre of their lives, so this means taking a keen interest in the many and varied parts of the lives of young people. We’re going to deliver a broad, diverse and innovative programme of activities and events that meets young people where they’re at and encourages them to take that next step, however small, to ultimately see God not as a distant figure or someone only interested in the ‘spiritual’ part of the life, but to see him as intricately involved in everything they are – their mental health and wellbeing, their friendships and families, their hobbies and imaginations, their goals and dreams and aspirations.
A summer event with God at the centre
And finally, we’ll stay true to who we are. Just as we wouldn’t dream to rock up at NASA and tell them how to fly a rocket or waltz into an operating theatre and lecture the surgeon on which way round they should hold the scalpel, at Youthscape we know what we do well and we know what we need help with – and this is exactly the same for Satellites. So, in the summer, we’ll be joined by a load of our friends, some of them experts and leaders in their fields, not to take part in an event, but to join alongside us in collectively helping encourage young people to understand how fulfilling life can be when God is at the centre of it. We’ll stay true to the cornerstones of Youthscape’s identity; our work will be based in research – ensuring we’re meeting a need with the work we do; we’ll continue to innovate and reimagine, always asking whether there is a new way of engaging young people; and we will never forget that our first and primary objective is to serve the young people we work with.
So, will Satellites be the new Soul Survivor? In a word, ‘no’, but then that isn’t what we’re trying to be. We’re trying to be true to who we are, true to what God has called us to and true to the vision and values that have served Youthscape well over the last few decades. The result of this will hopefully be a new and different event for a new and very different time that young people come to love and see as their own. We’ll celebrate the legacy of Soul Survivor, not by trying to be them and dusting off what worked for them, but by embracing what we’ve been called to, being daring in trying new things and never forgetting along the way what a privilege it is to see young people take the next step along the way in their relationship with Jesus.
Satellites launches this summer and you can book tickets for you and your group now! Get in there before the February early bird deadline – find out more here.
Read more about the Satellites vision and values here.
And why not check out Orbit, a new daily devotional we’re running to help young people connect with God.