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UK News

Number of church youth and children's workers almost halves over past decade

by Kelly Valencia

The number of people training for youth and children's ministry has almost halved over the past ten years.

A new report by the Christian Youth Work Consortium has revealed the number of trainees has fallen from 613 in 2011 to 336 in 2020.

Rev David Howell, the author of the report, told Premier that austerity measures in 2008, churches struggling to finance youth and children's workers and a general decline in youth and children attending churches are among the reasons behind the trend. 

"Local Government in England drastically reduced the amount it spent on The Youth Service and therefore there was generally a feeling of 'it's not a not a worthwhile area to go into'," Rev Howell said.

"Churches were struggling financially, and therefore we're reducing staff … I think that generally there were just declining numbers in terms of young people and children in churches and that decline in numbers then is reflected in the decline in those wanting to work in this area." 

The number of colleges offering professionally qualifying programmes has also seen a decline. In 2018, the total number of programmes being offered dropped by 33 percent versus the previous year, from 184 to 123. 

Rev Howell said that although there are now less programmes available, they are still running as colleges have taken different approaches to face the decline.

"Some colleges have moved into what we call 'dispersed campuses', which is where they'll put the training out in in various places around the country… Others, for example, are moving foundation courses completely online from next September.

"Some courses have consolidated and brought different courses together. There are now single courses as opposed to a specific one for children's work and a specific one for youth work."

Rev Howell believes there's "huge value" in having a youth and children's worker in a church, especially in a post-coronavirus pandemic society.  

"I think so many churches are now realising that it is one of the things we're going to need as we come out of [the pandemic]. [These are] people with the energy who can actually take a tired and dispirited congregation and volunteers and actually enable us to say 'What is God doing in this new thing? What are the new ways that we can actually explore serving young people, serving children, serving families, and seeing the gospel move forward?'," he said. 

Rev Howell concluded by encouraging churches to recognise the importance of youth and children's workers as he believes it is "a key investment". 

"If we do not change this trend, then it just ripples down through the generations and we'll see the decline generally. It is the best place to start because significant numbers of people reflect on their own coming to faith as being primarily within the years as children and young people. If we can reinvest in this area and begin a new work in the event, I think we have church ready for today and for tomorrow." 

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