Church in Africa adapts too slowly to youth ministry, say leaders

By Bellah Zulu
Posted Sep 12, 2013
The church is not moving fast enough to address the needs of young Anglicans Photo: Bellah Zulu/ACNS

The church is not moving fast enough to address the needs of young Anglicans
Photo: Bellah Zulu/ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican youth leaders from southern Africa have called for urgent and practical action from the church to adapt to youth ministry.

“The church has been too slow in terms of putting structures in place,” said the Rev. Robert Sihubwa, youth coordinator for the Church of the Province of Central Africa. “While we acknowledge the verbal commitment, the lack of funding commitments indicates slow movement.”

Tony Lawrence is the provincial youth coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. He told ACNS, “Changing our approaches and actively focusing on the ministry to children and young people is critical for the growth and survival of the church.”

“Firstly, if we are serious about the continuance of the church as we know it through post modernism, then we will have to start thinking about moving the children and youth ministries to the center of all that we do as a Church,” he said.

Young people on the continent have repeatedly called for more commitment and training from Church leaders over the issue of youth ministry. Yes they say their concerns are not being heard.

In June this year, some young people in the Zambian Diocese of Lusaka decided to run their own church services after feeling disconnected from adult-led ones. Sihubwa reports that at least three parishes in the diocese are “holding their own services at least once per month.”

“There is need for a youth church by allowing the young people to have a service of their own with a singing style different from the traditional way,” said Sihubwa. “They need to have a youth pastor and not just a youth chaplain who can attend directly to their needs.”

Lawrence said, “The church maybe too locked into one historical way of doing church and too scared to venture out of our comfort zones to help young people express their worship and service in ways that make sense to them.”

He added, “This is not to say that the old way is outdated but that the way we used to do it may not serve the youths well enough, and we need to explore additional ways of worship and church involvement.”

Young Anglicans also argue that while the church seems to be willing to embrace change, there has not been any coordinated approach to train youths on the continent.

“Some people are ready for the change but there is no investment to help actualize the change,” revealed Sihubwa. “For instance, we need to invest more in youth leadership training and that of Sunday school teachers.”

But his Southern Africa counterpart thinks that even clergy need better training in ministry to children and young people. “They have yet to grapple with the concept of child theology because you cannot use the same methodologies to teach the truth of our faith for all the ages.

“For instance, most of our churches cannot be adapted to accommodate small groups or classes for Sunday school because it is difficult to move the pews and this impacts on the quality of the learning that will take place,” said Lawrence.

He added, “Additionally, the lack of training of clergy means that they in turn don’t know how to develop lay leadership that will be able minister to the young effectively and create a conducive environment for them to voice their concerns or ideas.”

Lawrence concluded that Sunday school and youth ministry have always been regarded as an “add-on ministry not worthy of much priority and attention” and that for youth ministry to receive much appreciation and support it “must move to the center of our parochial ministry.”