Reflections on launching a Youth Church: 3

Part 3 – Relevance vs. Credibility

All too often, the church has to choose between these two concepts: She can either be relevant, or credible, but rarely both. The established church in our country has credibility that many in the free church movement can only dream of: Even now, in our largely secular 21st century UK culture, if a Bishop speaks out on an issue, it is still front-page headline news! This is to be celebrated and taken advantage of while we still can.

Sadly though, the Church of England can often struggle with relevance when it comes to engaging young people. From the perspective of the young people themselves, there are all kinds of irrelevancies creating barriers to their engagement with the life-changing Gospel message. These include aged, dusty, cold, damp medieval buildings surrounded by dead bodies (who thought of that as a PR strategy?); strange dress codes for clergy and even stranger voice intonation during services; uncomfortable seating arrangements; communities dominated by old ladies; liturgies that are incomprehensible; music that they can’t relate to; sermons that don’t connect with their life experiences; the list goes on. And of course, it’s not just young people affected by this list.

Non-denominational churches don’t necessarily have this problem and can be more relevant to young people and their needs, but they have no credibility and are often not taken seriously.

We have deliberately set out to cultivate a youth church that is relevant and credible. The problem with relevance though is that it can be very short-lived. It’s a sobering thought that the very next word in the dictionary after ‘relevant’ is ‘relic.’ It’s as though God is warning us that carelessness in this area can lead even the most relevant and credible youth church, or any church for that matter, to become outdated and irrelevant very quickly.

So how do we remain relevant and credible? I think the answer to this question is tied up in the content of my first two blogs in this series: We remain authentic and stay obedient to Jesus! May we commit afresh to being authentic followers of Jesus who remain both relevant and credible to this generation.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

- 1 Timothy 4:12