News - Sixth Form

Reflections on launching a Youth Church: 2

Part 2 - Authenticity

One of the most important lessons I have learned over recent months since launching a youth church at St. Christopher’s is about the importance of being your authentic self at all times. Sociologists talk about different masks that we all wear around different people. We may have a mask we hide behind when we’re with our families, a separate one with our work colleagues, another for our friends, perhaps different ones for different friendship groups. Some of us have so many, it becomes easy to lose track and forget who we really are.

Thank God He doesn’t relate to us through any of these masks, but He is interested in our real, authentic selves; not the mask-wearing multiple ‘social selves’ or personas that we manufacture for our own perceived benefit.

I have found that young people also have this God-like quality of being completely unimpressed by any number of masks that hide who we really are. They are only interested in the real you, and they have an almost supernatural ability to spot inauthenticity a mile away.

Over the years overseeing RE in secondary schools, I have seen many ‘cool-looking’ youth workers come and go, often speaking a language that I can’t even comprehend. Some are better than others of course, but the danger here is that those of us who can’t speak the language or don’t look the part, can start to believe the lie that we cannot communicate, or much less connect with, young people. And this is a lie - from the pit of Hell itself!

Key members of our core youth church leadership team are old (middle-aged is putting it kindly) and we certainly aren’t anything approaching cool or credible for young people in any conventional way, and yet the relationships based on trust that we have been able to cultivate, that form the basis of the success of the church, have been nothing short of astonishing.

What young people need is the same as what we all need: People in their worlds who are real, who are consistent and who are there for them over the long haul. With these core elements in place, it’s then that they begin to be open to what we have to say about our faith.

So may we all learn from the young people in our worlds and be our authentic selves; firstly with God, not least because it’s pointless being anything else with Him, but also with those whom He has placed around us. May we have the courage to be whomever we authentically are, so that our witness is not compromised and that the God of all authenticity may be glorified in us.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

- Romans 12:9