Young adult conferences: your biggest challenge

Monday, 29 July, 2013

James Henley, Jon Curtis, Laura Whitmarsh, Bryony Wells, Damien Hine and Hannah Jackson share the biggest challenges of pioneering amongst young adults, in interviews recorded at the Fresh Expressions young adults round table conferences on 13th April 2013 (London) and 18th April 2013 (Sheffield).

Duration: 5:58   | Download Download video (flv) | Download Download video (wmv) | View on YouTube


James Henley: My biggest challenge I think, on a personal level, has been a case of being able to stop and take time to listen to God for myself. And so having been moved into a new context, to the place where we've been for the last few months, straight away my temptation is to jump in and do stuff because I'm a doing kind of person. Especially having a salaried kind of church position as well there's almost a kind of pressure in the back of your mind that you're thinking 'I should be doing something, I need to justify my role, my job, I need to justify my salary', and so it's a real challenge to actually say 'God I'm going to trust you, I'm going to listen to the people that you're drawing me to meet and I'm going to trust that you're at work in this and I'm going to do nothing and just wait and try and discern and see what emerges'.

Jon Curtis: I think the biggest challenge regarding the fresh expression I work with is people's expectation, not just people that come along who think they know what they're going to encounter, or what they're not going to encounter, but also from all manner of wider authorities. So x, y or z makes it legitimate or a, b and c doesn't make it legitimate, I think it can be a challenge what that outside views what's going on. But despite that, I feel like we've got a really great opportunity here to do something really positive and I hope I'm able to blank out some of the white noise behind us – that might enable me to purposefully drive forward in my task.

Laura Whitmarsh: I think the biggest challenge is trying to get people alongside you, build up a team, find others who are like-minded. I've found that to be a real struggle, having been working within the inherited church – so sent by them – I've found that there tends to be a bit of resistance. Even though people kind of want the change, they know that something's got to change, that process is still quite difficult and so I'm finding that in everything I'm doing that I'm having to bring them alongside with me. Also I think trying to get the young people on board and trying to disciple them in such a way that kind of contradicts how they might have been taught in the past: that church is a consumerist, 'get what I want' kind of culture, to actually church isn't about me, it's about other people – and wanting them to engage with that. But also just trying to find out where 20s and 30s are in Shropshire! They seem to be quite few and far between so a lot of my work at the moment is just hanging round in cafés and pubs, walking the dog and to others that might just seem kind of a bit lazy, not really work, but I'm just really blessed that I've been able to be paid really to be able to do those things and try and connect with others in my age group.

Bryony Wells: I think the biggest challenge for us is probably working out how to do mission where people are – young adults who are all grappling with the issues of I'm starting work, am I going to get into a relationship, am I buying a house, I've just got all this money, so dealing with people who are having all those questions, that are also encouraging them to be missional where they find themselves, especially if they've been students where it's been quite easy to be missional because they're living with non-Christians, they're working alongside them, suddenly they get into the workplace and maybe they commute to a job, it's like their whole life has changed a lot so it's working out what does it look like to be like Jesus where I am now, because it might look quite different from being a student. So I think helping them to process that transition and to keep them passionate and let their… I think a lot of young adults start the beginning of their twenties feeling like I'm going to really do stuff for Jesus, it's going to be really exciting, you know. Get later on in life, a few years in, life has just become mundane and I suppose giving them a credible challenge into that would be a challenge at the moment.

Damien Hine: The new form of church community has grown up from young people and I think we're in a place where the community aspect of it is very very good, the discipleship is very good, we raise up leaders well. The struggle that we sometimes can have is with a sense of insularity perhaps: how can we connect with new young adults and what are the places we can go to, where is community happening for young adults, how can we go into those places and build new relationships. There can be a sense that once you've established something that's really good you need to fight to keep that mission edge there.

Hannah Jackson: I think thinking through what discipleship looks like. The community that I lead of young adults is very varied, we've got people from different backgrounds, socio-economic groups, we've got people from lots of different countries, English is a second language for many of them, what does discipleship look like when you can't just sit down and get a bible out and do a discussion. So what does discipleship look like I suppose in a more creative way, or alternative way. I suppose I have been challenged by Beth's research that we're about creating community, creating a place where people can doubt or whatever, but actually am I making disciples? That's my challenge I suppose to myself as a result of hearing this research.


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