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Time to think strategically about ministry outside our churches.

health issues in evidence across the Western world. It seems to me that we need to speak theologically into the space inhabited by young people, including into their apocalyptic concern about climate change threatening to extinguish all human life, their concern about injustice and their horror at a geopolitical situation that reveals the despair caused by revolution, fundamentalism, oppression and famine. Furthermore, we have something to say to their current dilemmas, where hopes that sexual consent education will resolve all problems to do with sexual liberalisation would appear to be unduly optimistic and defective in terms of a Christian understanding of human nature. In short, we need to apply the saving knowledge of Christ to show that we have a better story, a better narrative to inhabit, and a Saviour from the apocalyptic scenarios so many of our young people inhabit. Currently, might our concerns as a Diocese be seen as an inversion of the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7), where the shepherd leaves the 99 to go in search of the one? Are we in danger of applying this parable unhelpfully? It is not the 99 who are “safe” and the one that needs to be redeemed. It is only the “one” that is in any sense safe – that is, the 1 per cent of our population who can be found Sunday by Sunday in Anglican churches. It is easy and, in some ways comfortable, to direct all of our attention to those within our walls, but what about the 99 per cent in the rest of society? In terms of youth, they are not in our churches by and large, but they are to be found in schools. Is this not an argument for churches to use their theological expertise to resource Christian ministry in schools? This could potentially be a helpful symbiotic relationship: if schools can be assisted with their Christian ministry and bring more young people to the Lord Jesus, they can potentially provide

Imagine if your church had 25,000 new faces each week

renewal in terms of congregational growth in churches from within the younger years. Sometimes, the questions of whether to focus on youth ministry in churches or in schools are seen as a zero-sum game of competition. In fact, we need both and we need transition links and co-operation between each. We need parish clergy, and principals and chaplains in Anglican schools, to build bridges to one another. We need churches to regard the opportunity of Special Religious Education in Government schools as a strategic opportunity. We need churches to help Christian teachers, in whatever sector they work, to think about how to apply a biblical mind to mission in their workplace. How well, in fact, are we currently equipping members of our congregations – whether teachers or people who work in other occupations – to minister to the world outside the church? Are many of them, in fact, spectators to the work of clergy in churches, unable to bridge the divide between Sunday and Monday, unable to apply theology outside the congregational frame of reference, victims of the sacred/secular divide? It seems to me there is a real call to think within our churches and Diocese about stepping outside the pen, which has only one sheep within it, and going in search of the other 99. Schools, among other places in the public square, are helpful ways to exert this Christian influence, particularly in the face of the obvious reluctance of the 99 to come onto our turf (i.e. into church buildings). We need to look out as well as in. Let’s think strategically about this! SC Dr John Collier is chairman of the Anglican Education Commission (EdComm), Head of St Andrew’s Cathedral School and Head of Gawura – St Andrews’ Indigenous K-6 school.

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