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The future is now

Sandra Morrison, Nathan Dick and Catherine Solomon at the Moggill and Karana Downs Day Camp. Photo by Mardi Lumsden
THE AUSTRALIAN population is in itself ageing but according to National Church Life Survey (NCLS) data, the church still has more people aged over 50 years and fewer under 40 years than the general population.

According to NCLS data, the Uniting Church has the fewest members (8 per cent) aged between 15 and 29 of all Australian mainstream Christian denominations.

In fact, 56 per cent of Uniting Church members are aged over 60 years.

Fast forward twenty years, who will be leading our church?


Moreton Rivers Presbytery Youth, Children’s and Families Coordinator, Ms Cox said we often underestimate young people in the church.

“We seem to have very few expectations about what our young people are capable of or might be able to achieve.

“It’s not hard to miss the mark when we aim pretty low.

“Perhaps it’s time to not simply demand more, but support and encourage the absolute best from our young people.”

One of the Synod functions removed during painful budget cuts in 2009 was the Youth and Children’s Ministry Unit (YACMU).

An issue many people are now addressing is how to cater for youth ministry without a central office.

“It is a huge issue when we don’t have somewhere central for people to go to for help, resources, encouragement, networking, advocacy and support,” said Ms Cox.”Sharing ideas is helpful but not easy.

People are naturally very protective of their own resources.

“It feels a bit like the Church has been willing to cut out resourcing for young people in the cut backs and are slowly starting to see the impact of that filtering through congregations.

“It’s not just about money though, it’s about the value we place on having young people being a part of the whole people of God.

“In my mind, the ‘space for young people’ is not so much about an office at Bayliss Street, but about the space in the hearts and attitudes of all people in our congregations.

“It’s about the way we live and work together towards God’s mission and ministry here on earth.

“The moment we exclude people of any age we need to stop and reconsider what it is we are doing.”

We say that the Uniting Church has no young people but every day thousands of young adults attend our schools and hundreds attend holiday programs and events like the National Christian Youth Convention held on the Gold Coast at the beginning of the year.

It’s not that we don’t have access to young people; it is just that most of them aren’t warming the pews on a Sunday morning.


Clayfield College Principal, Brian Savins, said schools are a place where young people are seeking connection; with each other, with adults (teachers) and with Christ.

Mr Savins said Uniting Church affiliated schools, like Clayfield College, a PMSA school in Brisbane, could be seen as an agency of the Church. Clayfield College Chaplain, Rev Paul Yarrow, said Uniting Church schools should seek to live out the values of Christ.

“Many young people simply don’t have any firsthand experience of the church or the Christian faith,” he said.

“In our church schools we have an opportunity to share about Jesus and as best we can, to live out our Christian values.

“As a church I think we should see our schools asanother part of who we are and how we are present in the community.”

Mr Savins said that in our society, attending church was not commonplace among most families like it was in the past.

“Independent schools today are living communities of students, staff and parents and therefore the Uniting Church needs to recognise that in supporting such schools, it is in fact growing its future members.

“Schools are not about converting young people into Christians.

“For me, the most important thing we can give our young people is a belief that Jesus loves each of us and that we can follow his way in loving and caring for the needs of others.

“As a school, we have anobligation to nurture each child’s God-given talents so that they may go into the world and use such skills to the glory of God and for the benefit of humankind.”

Day camps-

Catherine Solomon ran one of many successful July holiday camps.

The long-running Moggill and Karana Downs Day Camp is an initiative of the Moggill and Karana Downs Uniting Churches, in conjunction with the local Anglican, Baptist, Catholic and Community Churches.

“As director my purpose for Day Camp was to share God’s love with children in the community (whether they go to church or not),” said Ms Solomon.

This year’s camp had 231 primary school aged campers, 76 high school aged (or older) helpers, 32 leaders, and countless volunteers.

Ms Solomon said the camp isn’t just focussed on the campers, but also on the leaders.

“We had a training weekend in February for helpers and leaders to train them in practical ways but also spiritually.”

She said the flood affected community was ready for some fun after a hard start to the year.

“I thought, not knowing who was going to come, those flood affected or those not, let’s have it as a fun time.”

She said building a youth or children’s ministry, as with any ministry, was about building relationships.

“We have youth group and even though it’s small (with eight to 10 young people, when originally we had two), it’s a start.

“They’re not huge numbers but we’re actually connecting and building relationships with people.”

Photo : Sandra Morrison, Nathan Dick and Catherine Solomon at the Moggill and Karana Downs Day Camp. Photo by Mardi Lumsden