BY Ryan McDougall | May 31 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


‘Learn to listen to young people,’ Church told as survey reveals teenagers leaving the Faith

The Church must listen to young people if they are to be brought back fully into their Faith, Catholic youth officers in Scotland have said.

The response comes in light of a study of worshippers by the Allchurches Trust, a UK charity that offers grants to churches.

A survey of 800 churches across denominations in the UK, focussing mainly on England, found that 67 per cent of churches have five or less parishioners aged 11 to 18, and 26 per cent have none in the same age group.

82 per cent of responding churches said they host activities for children aged 1 to 10, but only 58 per cent claimed to have activities in place for 11 to 18-year-olds.



While 58 per cent of respondents rated their support for the younger age group as ‘good’ or ‘excellent,’ 41 per cent admitted their provision for older children is inadequate.

However, 96 per cent of churches said they would be interested in providing more support and activities for 11- to 18-year-olds if they had the resources and skillset.

Responding to the report, Mairi-Claire McGeady, a youth officer from Glasgow Archdiocese, said youth numbers can ‘vary quite dramatically’ from parish to parish, but admitted that ‘if something like that is happening in England and Wales, it’s probably going to be similar in Scotland.’


Forming in Faith

On why young people of the 11-18 age group might not attend Mass, she added: “I guess, for so many young people, they aren’t really that well-formed in their Faith yet.

“Many of them might not go to Mass because they find it boring or they’re disengaged. That stems from them not knowing what it is.”

Glasgow Archdiocese’s youth office recently met with parishioners to discuss ways in which they can engage young people with the Church.


Youth ministry

“We’ve been talking to about a dozen different people across the archdiocese interested in creating some sort of youth ministry in their parishes, so it’s really about how we can deliver that now,” Ms McGeady said.

“Hopefully, [the young people] will become more formed in their Faith in a way that’s fun and engaging for them,” she said.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t really practise my Faith but there was really nothing happening in my parish back then.

“I started going back to church at around 16 and there was no one else my age, so it was quite isolated.

“We have to have something that makes them feel more engaged.

“I think that so many young people are disengaged with their Faith, as the statistics show—they don’t know what they’re meant to believe in, they don’t know how to practise it.

“Youth groups in parishes are an opportunity for them to learn, meet like-minded people and flourish in their Faith.”


Unique generations

Fr Samuel Alabi, parish priest of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Fintry and youth officer in Dunkeld Diocese, said ‘every new generation of youth is unique’.

He added that priests need to listen to what their needs are in order to help them engage with their Faith.

“Priests need to listen to them and then they can create something that attends to their pastoral needs,” he said.


Faith journey

He also suggested that parishioners could get involved through creating activities for the young people of the church, and that they should meet one-to-one with them to discover what could help them in their Faith journey.

He added: “To really understand the kids, you have to make friends with them and make them feel loved.

“The Pope has said himself that Christ wants the youth involved, and the best way to get them involved is for priests to be close with them.”


Parish reaction

Respondents to the survey suggested that parents also have an important role in ensuring their children stay involved with their parish.

Helena Rameckers, a parishioner of St Joseph’s Church in Kilmarnock, helps out at her parish regularly.

She said: “The future of Christianity in Scotland depends upon young people being encouraged to use their natural gifts for the purpose of building God’s kingdom.

“However, this is impossible to achieve if they do not see their parents valuing their efforts.

“It is therefore vitally important that parents and guardians are respected, and encouraged to contribute to parish growth.

“All work should therefore be centred on Christ, which is a naturally inclusive and evangelical approach.”


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