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[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] Youth and children’s work in churches received a boost in Australia after research analysis revealed the majority of Sydney Anglicans became Christians in their teens. Sydney Anglican’s youth section, Youthworks, has issued a renewed call for churches and families to work together to support the faith of young people.
Youthwork’s head of ministry support, Ed Springer, said: “78 per cent of people turn to faith in the years up to age 19, and 46 per cent in the teenage years. That just encourages us to keep young people’s ministry a key priority in our churches.”
However, he said it also highlights the challenges of retaining church membership for people in their 20s.
The report’s statistics came from questions commissioned by Youthworks in the 2016 National Church Life Survey and was written by Anglicare researcher, Dr John Bellamy.
“Another finding that struck us was that there is room to grow in how we do our intentional young people ministries,” Mr Springer said. “We need to equip parents to be active disciplers and to encourage the whole Christian body of all ages to be involved.”
Mr Springer said, “It mirrors a report from 2011 which said the most significant people in faith development are still Christian parents. When they actively read the Bible, pray and then to a lesser extent, discuss Christian things or talk about questions and doubts, that helps young people stay in church.”
A challenge for churches across the world is to retain youth and children attenders into adulthood. The report found retention for Sydney Anglicans, at 59 per cent, was slightly better than the average for other Anglican or Protestant churches but Mr Springer warns the dangers are real.
“We know that a certain percentage of young people will choose to walk away from Christ at some point . . . this is part of the adolescent season. But the important finding is that there is no data that youth come back to church in their 30s.”
According to the research, Christian faith wasn't the result of a Christian household for many church attenders.
Mr Springer said: “Youth ministry is a very significant time for young people coming to faith from non-believing families. That encourages us to keep looking outward, helping build pathways from local friends, from school, into churches where faith development can be explored.”