By: Amy Cheng
A key indicator of a flourishing church is an effective youth ministry, a leader in youth and children’s ministry has said.
Reverend Craig Roberts, CEO of Youthworks, would like to see churches flourishing because they are “God’s given means for a saving relationship with Jesus”.
“Where you see an effective youth group, I guarantee you, you will see a flourishing church because it is fed by a really good creche, preschool, Sunday school program,” he said in an interview.
“It’s got a functioning healthy, young adults ministry and that’s the pool from which lots of the youth group leaders are sourced.”
“That’s a church that is multi-generational, with each generation telling the next generation the wonders of the Lord.
“In the same way it takes a village to raise an idiot, it takes a church to raise a mature disciple of Jesus.”
“Global Domination” of the Gospel
As part of Youthworks’ five-year vision, Reverend Roberts would like to see a “global domination” of the gospel.
“When I say I want nothing short of global domination, I’m only half joking, I want to see local churches flourishing everywhere because that is where people are established in faith, brought to maturity in Jesus,” he said.
“Not only are they saved from their sins and an eternity separated from the true and living God, who was perfectly good and just, it’s also good for them now.
“Jesus said ‘I’ve come that you may have life and have it to the full’, we know that when churches flourish, it’s good for people and it’s also good for society and culture.”
Growth of the Internet and Digital Resources
The pervasiveness of digital resources could help bring about this vision sooner, according to Reverend Roberts.
“In decades past, we’ve sent container loads of printed resources over to Africa and, in some cases, they have just rotted in the heat because the people can’t read or they haven’t got the logistic resources to spread them into the villages.
“But with the growth of the internet now, it is very easy to get resources, at no cost, into the hands of each young person if they’ve got a smartphone.
“We have developed an array of resources that are digital, they are small, so they don’t take up a lot of bandwidth on the download.
“So, we’re able to very efficiently scale the reach of Youthworks beyond the geographic boundaries of Sydney.”
The Triangle of Influence
Youthworks would like to strengthen the ‘triangle of influence’ around each young person.
“The three institutions that have the most influence on a young person’s spiritual development are home, school and church,” Reverend Roberts said.
“We want to be building capacity in each of those three institutions to better commend the gospel and better nurture the faith of young people.”
It does this through helping school chaplains connect with churches in that school’s geographic catchment area, particularly with youth and children’s ministers.
In the home, Youthworks provides resources for parents to give them “confidence and competence to do what God has commanded them to do” as the “chief disciplers of their children”.
Celebrating 100 Years
Last year, Youthworks celebrated 100 years of its publishing arm, Christian Education Publications.
“Over a century, in churches and schools, young people are being nurtured in the faith chosen for them by their parents,” Reverend Roberts said.
“We are one of the biggest publishers of SRE (Special Religious Education) resources in Australia; some 350,000 young people are able to question, explore and discover the wonderful life-giving truths of the gospel.
“The sociological research is clear that faith is good for the psychological and emotional wellbeing of young people and their parents as well.
“It’s a privilege to be in partnership with local churches and local school educators in delivering key psychological benefits, (and) a thick, multiculturalism in our local school communities.”
Youthworks will continue to invest in complementary multimedia resources that allows teachers to use hardcopy teacher manuals alongside a variety of freely available multimedia resources.
These can include video, links to websites, colour visual aids and various subject-relevant and age-appropriate games and activities.
Future of the Church
Reverend Roberts believes the need for the gospel is even greater today.
“The narrative of our culture is that your identity is up for grabs, it’s fluid… the gospel of Jesus Christ gives hope and sure footing and rock solid identity that is independent of looks, feelings and performance.
“It is anchored in the bedrock of history, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, so that means the future of the church is more hopeful but also the need is more urgent.
“The church (needs) to be intentionally prioritising investment in effective ministry to youth and children, and Youthworks stands ready to partner with churches and schools and families to this end as we await the return of our King.”
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.