One of my churches has the opportunity to do some youth work. A local woman approached me about getting the church involved with finding ways to reach out to the kids who roam the streets of the village. She isn’t part of any organisation, but has stopped to talk to the kids that hang around, getting to know them, and asking them what they want to do. I don’t know if she has any religious beliefs, but feels the need to be attached to a larger organisation.
I think this person has a great idea about reaching out to the kids. And I have to be honest, I see in her a challenge to myself and the church in that she is doing what we are called to be doing. But, I have been wondering what it will mean to have the church’s name attached to it? Will the nature of the work change? The best I can tell, there seems to be two approaches:
- No faith aspect whatsoever: the major thrust here seems to be let’s get people across the door and offer them hospitality. Whilst I understand this approach, I am not sure how what we would do here is that different from a social work programme (I mention this the other day in my concerns about the Methodist Church).
- Full-frontal evangelism assault: Perhaps an overstatement, but in this type everything done is to present the kids with the gospel and make a decision. Maybe this is the overstatement because I have seen the former more so than the latter, so I haven’t seen anything else done well.
For me, I want there to be some sort of goal (for lack of a better word) that people encounter the gospel with a view to discipleship. From one person who I have discussed this with, the goal is not make the young people Christians. I have said that if that means what we normally think of as Christians (Sunday morning Sunday school attending, members of the church), then I quite agree. But, if we mean by Christian a new way of being one – one that even may break from past Methodism, I don’t see that as a bad goal (knowing that not everyone will make that journey).
I’ve not discussed any of this with the person interested in doing the youth work, so I don’t know her reactions to what it would mean to add a faith element to it. That may not be what she has in mind at all. If so, what does that mean about our involvment?
So, I am looking for help: is there a way to balance between the two, or should I just count of people coming into the church and hope that God reaches them through our outreach (albeit without talk of faith)?