Finding a good youth minister
- Written by: Graham Stanton
Where can I find a good youth minister?
In over twenty years of youth ministry training there is one question I’ve been asked more than any other. The most frequently asked question comes from church leaders, be they rectors, vicars, or senior pastors who all want to know, ‘Do you have anyone good who we could employ to be our youth minister?’
There’s a lot to like about that question: These churches want to employ people to work with young people. These church leaders don’t just want anyone, they want someone ‘good’. And there’s an assumption that training institutions (or at least those that I’ve been connected with) are the kinds of places where you’d go to find such a ‘good’ youth minister.
Unfortunately, going hand-in-hand with the most frequently asked question is my most frequently given answer: “Sorry, but no, we don’t have anyone who’s particularly looking for a new position right now. But if you send someone to start training, we could help you form them into a good youth minister over the next three to four years.”
The reality is there isn’t a pool of excellent youth ministers sitting around looking for work. Most students pursuing training in youth ministry take on theological education alongside an existing ministry with young people having been sent by their church to be trained. That reality leads to this enduring principle for finding a good youth minister: growing your own is quicker than waiting to buy one off the shelf.
I’ve had ministers ask me year after year if there’s anyone good who’s available to take up the youth ministry role at their church; and year after year my answer was the same, ‘all the good ones already had a role when they turned up for training’. Recruiting someone who could be trained and equipped to become a good youth minister is hard and takes a long time; but it will likely take less time than waiting for someone good to turn up.
So, if your parish is looking for a good youth minister, here’s my advice for how to grow your own:
Step 1: Pray
So much of what is involved in initiating a new ministry among young people requires divine providence and wisdom from above. Any search for a youth minister must be bathed in the prayers of the parish leadership. Pray for guidance in how to craft a position description; pray that the Lord would provide the right candidate for the role.
Alongside the personal prayers of church leaders and individual congregation members, looking for a youth minister should shape the public prayers of the whole congregation. Our prayers both express and shape what’s important to us. The search for a new youth minister needs to capture the hearts and prayers of the congregation and leadership to promote the kind of church culture in which a new youth ministry will be able to flourish. Pray not just for a youth minister but pray for young people. Pray not just for young people to come to your church but pray for young people to find life in Christ. Lead the congregation in prayer for young people asking that they would be ready to take full ownership of a ministry among young people, whether or not the Lord provides a youth minister.
Step 2: Articulate a Vision
UK youth ministry author Tim Gough talks about the magic of ‘something’: we want to do something for the young people. The problem is that ‘something’ can easily become ‘anything’; and ‘anything’ can be done by ‘anyone’. This results in the unhelpful line of thinking that, ‘provided there’s someone doing something for the youth, the rest of us can get on with life and ministry’! Rather than looking for a Lone Ranger to ‘take care of the young people’, make this search the time to frame a holistic vision for a whole church commitment to sharing Jesus with young people.
What is the particular thing you are wanting for the young people in your parish? If you want weekly evangelistic events that attract hundreds of non-church youth you’ll need a different plan than if your dream is to see the children of Christian families happy to stay in church with their parents as they move through senior high school into young adulthood. You may not know what ‘something’ ought to be which is precisely why you want to employ a youth minister. In that case, make the vision that you would understand the needs and opportunities of ministry with young people in our parish.
My advice is to get advice. Seek out parishes that are like yours that have existing youth ministries and find out what they do. Talk to your Diocesan Youth Ministry Officer, or whoever provides youth ministry training in your part of the world.
Pray for a vision, and then call on God to see that vision fulfilled.
Step 3: Write a Position Description
Writing a workable position description is often where the wheels come off. To be frank, many advertised youth ministry positions should never be filled:
We’re looking for a dynamic and energetic young leader, with significant years of experience in a large ministry, advanced theological training, and skills in youth discipleship, evangelism, first aid, mental health counselling, and a mini-bus licence, to organise youth group and youth bible study groups, plan and lead an annual youth camp and mission trip, recruit and train leaders, run outreach programs in local schools and community groups, and assist with the mid-week after-school children’s program. Position is 12 hours a week, must have own car, and find own accommodation within the parish. Anticipated outcome is the establishment of a thriving youth ministry of 50+ young people within twelve months.
Thanks, but no.
I exaggerate, but only slightly. From position descriptions I’ve seen over the years, many churches are either enormously optimistic about what a youth minister can accomplish in 12 hours a week, or hopelessly ignorant of what a youth ministry involves.
If you’re crafting a new youth ministry position, start by talking to colleagues nearby in similar sized parishes who are currently employing someone in youth ministry and look at their position description (provided that it accurately reflects the actual ministry being fulfilled). Alternatively, get the advice of longer-term youth ministers nearby, whether at a parish with a more established youth ministry in your Diocese, or your Diocesan Youth Ministry Officer or training provider. Get the advice you need to craft a position description that can realistically move toward fulfilling your vision.
Step 4: Do whatever you can to make the position full-time
I know that offering a full-time youth ministry role may sound completely out of the question for many parishes. But if we go back to the original request, there are two options for finding someone good: headhunting or growing. If someone’s already in a role, they’re likely to need the offer of a full-time position to convince them to move. If you’re going to grow someone into a role, they’re likely to need a full-time position to enable them to stick at it for the long-term. Youth ministry done well needs positions that enable people to stay in the role long enough to get good at it.
So how can a full-time role be possible without being a large church with an already large youth ministry, or a small church with a very large bequest? Let me offer four suggestions:
First suggestion: Make the position a training role that grows over time. Find someone who has some gifts and interest in ministering among young people, employ them for one day a week, and send them to theological college for the rest of the week. Keep the position description narrowly defined for that first year while they get their foundational ministry training under way. In year two you could increase their employment to two days a week, with four days a week of study, and a day of rest. By year three your trainee could continue with full time study and part time ministry (with a duly circumscribed position description), or shift their study load to part time (say three days a week), and increase their ministry days to three, with a day of rest. After a third year of part-time study, year four will have a much lighter study load (perhaps completing a practicum ministry placement unit together with a capstone project), enabling the ministry load to step up to four or five days a week. Finally, after graduation, as the church has built the capacity to sustain a new staff member, you’ll have a home-grown youth minister—five years in the making, but quicker than waiting for one to turn up on the doorstep.
Second suggestion: Change the role from ministering to young people, to ministering with and on-behalf of young people. It’s true that not many youth ministries are large enough to justify employing someone full time. Yet rather than just ‘looking after the young people’, youth ministries will flourish when teenagers are energised and enabled to fully take their part in the life and mission of the whole church. An effective full-time youth minister won’t only minister to the youth, they’ll also advocate for the young people, teaching and equipping the whole congregation to take on the shared privilege of handing on the good news of Jesus to future generations. A full-time youth minister can be part of the church leadership team with a special eye out for how young people can participate in and contribute to church life. A full-time youth minister with a congregation-wide focus of promoting and enabling ministry to, with, and by young people, is a vision for a long-term, specialist ministry, equipped and skilled to enable young people take their place as full members of the body of Christ.
Third suggestion: find complementary employment in a local youth-related field. Having to juggle two roles will come at a cost—the church-based ministry will remain part-time, and part-time ministry presents challenges to boundaries and puts limits on vision and innovation. But when a second job is needed to make ends meet, a well-chosen second job can provide effective bridges into the lives of young people. Common options in this space would be a local school or a para-church youth organisation. Other options would be working alongside teenagers at the local McDonalds. Entrepreneurial options include setting up a social enterprise business such as lawn mowing, or a laundromat, cafe, or home tutoring business.
Fourth suggestion: Make the adult ministries part time to free up the budget for a full-time youth minister. Change the vicar’s position description so that they become the youth minister. Have the vicar run Friday night youth group and mentor the teenagers and find someone part time to organise Sunday services!
Now even I realise I’m entering fantasy land, but the thought experiment is worthwhile. What objections would come from the congregation (and clergy!) if the ministry roles focussed on adults became short-term, part-time, with no accommodation available, and training optional? Could those objections perhaps echo the kinds of objections we’d hear from young people if they were able to express them?
Step 5: Look beyond the usual suspects
Youth ministers are often gregarious extraverts in their early 20s. Yet though this is often the case, it is not always so. In fact, almost all of the best youth ministers I know are nothing like the stereotype. One of the golden rules of effective youth ministry is this: young people don’t need leaders who are like them; they need leaders who like them.
We simply must demolish the myth that effective youth ministry ends on someone’s 25th birthday. We must demolish the myth that youth ministry is a transitional stage before moving on to ‘proper’ ministry with adults. That thinking has kept young people having to put up with a series of short-term inexperienced youth leaders. Imagine if the local High School changed their staffing policy so that instead of employing trained and experienced teachers, they opted for untrained volunteers all on two- to three-year contracts. The fees would be low, the energy might be high, but the stability and outcomes are likely to suffer.
Once you start looking beyond the usual suspects it may be that there’s a future youth minister already in the congregation. They’ll be the one who knows the teenagers’ names. The one who prays for young people at the prayer meeting. They may well be in their 50s or 60s, they may not have any tattoos, and are unlikely to be on TikTok, but if they love young people, and love Jesus, and would love to introduce them to each other, then they’re great candidates.
Step 6: Actively wait
Waiting in scripture is never a passive thing. To wait for the Lord doesn’t mean just sitting around. Rather, we anticipate and prepare for his coming, expectant, and full of hope.
Wait for a youth minister to be raised up and keep looking for who the Lord may provide. That looking might involve actively going to the larger church nearby and asking for someone to come as a missionary to your parish. It might involve connecting with youth ministry networks in your Diocese so that you and your congregation might be equipped as youth ministry supporters.
Wait in hope, and as you wait, keep praying, keep loving and serving young people. Perhaps in time you’ll become the answer to your own prayers.
Graham Stanton is the Director of the Centre for Children’s and Youth Ministry and Lecturer in Practical Theology at Ridley College, Melbourne.
 Tim Gough, Rebooted: Reclaiming youth ministry for the long-haul. A biblical framework (London, UK: IVP, 2018).
 And if you’re stuck, look at the early sessions in the online unit in the Ridley Certificate, Introduction to Youth Ministry where we cover the what, why, and who of youth ministry (and you can even stick around for the later lessons on the how). https://certificate.ridley.edu.au/courses/introduction-to-youth-ministry
 For most training programs, three days a week of study equals a 75% equivalent full-time study load, which meets the requirement of being a ‘full time student’ for the purposes of accessing Centrelink benefits. With a combination of FEE-HELP, government support for genuine students, and a ministry allowance packaged with a non-taxable fringe benefit, it’s possible to pull together a reasonably sustainable living for a trainee position.
Becoming Single Minded
- Written by: Dani Treweek
In one sense, it’s no more important that we Christians be more faithfully single-minded right now than at any other point in our history. The Body of Christ has always included single men and women. Biblical passages such as 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Timothy 5 disclose the vital presence of unmarried, divorced, and widowed members within the first-century church. The Early Church Fathers demonstrated high regard and concern for those who remained unmarried (or, in their vernacular, virgins). There was also a prevalence of unmarried men and women throughout the Middle Ages. This included monks, nuns, priests, and ordinary, everyday “single” and “single-again” Christians. Indeed, unmarried individuals, particularly unmarried women, would go on to constitute a significant portion of the population of early modern Europe as well as those nations that it would colonise.
That is to say, there has never been a time in the church’s history when singles have not formed a recognisable and substantial part of its membership. As a result, there has also never been a time in the church’s life together when it hasn’t been necessary for the church to be genuinely and earnestly mindful of its unmarried members. And yet, there is a genuine sense in which our current moment seems especially imbued with a call towards a renewed and re-energised sense of faithful, Christian single-mindedness. The reasons for this are theological, pastoral and also, missional.
While the Australian divorce rate has, happily, remained reasonably stable for some years now (in 2020, there were 1.9 divorces per 1000 people), the same cannot be said for our nation’s marriage rate. In 1989, Australia had a crude marriage rate of 7.0 per 1000 people. By 2010, this had decreased to 5.4 and then to just 4.5 in 2019. (In 2020, it plummeted to only 3.1. However, this very steep decline was largely reflective of pandemic-related gathering regulations.)
Of course, such statistics do not allow us to extrapolate that there has been any directly correspondingly sharp increase in the number of Australians who are remaining single. After all, the prevalence of de-facto relationships provides some vital context to our nation’s decreasing marriage rate. But perhaps even more significantly, the term “single” itself is rather challenging to define in our modern missional context. In a society with countless relational in-betweens, what does it mean for someone to be single? Adding yet another layer of complexity is the fact that society’s apparent classification of whether an individual is single or not may stand at odds with that individual’s self-perception of their own status.
Because what it is be single is a very complex matter, so too is an accurate understanding of what proportion of the population we seek to evangelise are, in fact, single. And yet, there are some data points that do elucidate the growing significance of singleness as a life situation for Australians, and so also the ever-increasing significance of singleness for the gospel mission of our 21st Century evangelical churches. One of these key data points is the number of Australians who live alone. According to the results of the 2021 census, 26% of all Australian households were solo occupied, while another 11% were occupied by a single parent.  That is to say, more than one in every three dwellings surrounding our churches will, on average, be occupied by an adult who is (at least, functionally) not married. Indeed, it is projected that by 2041 up to 3.5 million Australians will be living alone. This would represent an increase of up to 53% from 2016. 
Of course, this statistic (and other related ones) will look somewhat different depending on the suburb, region, or city in which any given church is located. And yet it is surely incumbent on each of our churches to understand the demographic constitution of its local community as it considers how to best undertake its mission amongst that community.
The location and ministry of my own Anglican church in Sydney is an excellent example. The 2021 census data of the local area surrounding our church reveals that 35.5% of local households are solo occupied (compared to the national average of 26%). There are almost as many solo-occupied households as there are dual-occupied households. Even more significantly, only 20% of local households are usually occupied by three or more people who are part of the same family unit. That is, only one in five households in our local area would fit the bill of housing a typical “nuclear family”. Furthermore, there are more than three times as many never married, divorced, separated or widowed people (over the age of 19) in our local community as there are those in a registered marriage.
While such demographic realities bring great missional opportunities, they also present our church with significant challenges. For instance, the membership of our church community—and especially our morning church congregation, which is significantly constituted by mothers, fathers, children, and youth—is not a proportional reflection of the community surrounding us. Investing heavily in children and youth ministry will continue to be necessary for the discipleship of those who are already members of our Christian family, and some others who are yet to join us. And yet, such a ministry focus is likely to have a more limited proportional missional impact in our local area because of our unique demographic factors at work. Good as they continue to be, the more “traditional ways” of approaching ministry and church growth (e.g., “family services”, mothers’ and toddlers’ groups, child-focused Easter and Christmas events etc.) are, in our context, becoming significantly more niche in terms of their potential missional impacts. Wonderfully, my church leaders are pro-actively committed to helping our wider church family grapple with these (and other!) complex realities. As a result, one of the things we are praying for and working towards is that we would be a church in which ‘being single is honoured and celebrated as a life-path full of opportunities and distinctive goodness’.
Yes, my church is somewhat of a unique geographical and demographic situation. Yes, churches in more suburban settings will be missioning to and amongst quite different communities than ours. Nonetheless, I strongly suspect that if more church leaders were to rigorously analyse the data for their local communities, many would be surprised at how many unmarried people—be they never-married, divorced, or widowed—sit on the other side of their church doors. Faithful single-mindedness should be a critical missional priority for evangelical churches in the early 21st Century.
There is also a strong theological impetus for why the evangelical church (in Australia and beyond) ought to be more intentionally single-minded right here and now. If we are truly honest, we will admit that contemporary evangelicalism doesn’t have so much a theology of singleness as we do a theology of not-singleness. For decades—even centuries—the evangelical church has been rather myopically focused on marriage's theological, pastoral, and societal significance. It is not simply that we have rightly sought to uphold the biblical command that ‘Marriage is to be honoured by everyone’ (Hebrews 13:4, NIV), especially in the face of a seemingly ever intransigent broader culture. Rather, evangelicalism has increasingly held that, as Andreas Köstenberger has put it, ‘for most Western Christians it appears self-evident that marriage is the normal state’.
Where marriage is “normal”, singleness can only be abnormal, perhaps even aberrant. So it is that prominent contemporary US evangelical leaders such as Douglas Wilson insist that ‘singleness is an affliction, not a gift’, while key theological and pastoral figures such as Albert Mohler have repeatedly contended that ‘deliberate singleness on the part of those who know they have not been given the gift of celibacy is, at best, a neglect of Christian responsibility’. For his part, John Macarthur has asserted that ‘the most devastating attack on marriage is coming today from singleness’. While to those ministering within an evangelical Australian context, such American preachers and teachers may appear to be somewhat distant, even enigmatic figures, the reality is that the theological discourse on marriage (and so also singleness) of the last half-century or so has been very heavily influenced by such imported evangelical discourse. This has only become more the case in an ever more globalised, technologically driven and media-saturated society.
And yet such an impoverished depiction of Christian singleness is far from the honourable state spoken about in God’s word. The Bible honours godly singleness as a truly good state for the disciple of Jesus (Mt 19:10-12). It calls us to understand singleness to be a gift from our gracious heavenly father (1 Cor 7:7). It celebrates the unmarried Christian person’s ability to be undivided in their devotion to him (1 Cor 7:31-35). It suggests that the one who remains unmarried not only does “better” but is perhaps also “happier” (1 Cor 7: 38, 40). It reveals to us that we have a saviour who was himself, fully human, truly fulfilled, and wonderfully single. God’s word highly commends singleness within the Christian life and community.
It also imbues the life of one who is not married with unique eschatological dignity. Isaiah calls the barren woman to anticipate the day when she will ‘burst into song, shout for joy […] because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband’ (Isaiah 54:1). He announces that to the eunuch, the Lord will give ‘a name better than sons and daughters’ (Is 56:4). Jesus himself asserts that the new creation will be one in which none of us will be married to another (Mt 22:30). In Revelation it is the 144,000 virgins who, having the Lamb’s ‘name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads […sing] a new song before the Throne […and] follow the Lamb wherever he goes’ (Revelation 14:1-4).
Given the high significance, value and dignity with which Scripture regards the single Christian life, surely we 21st Century evangelical Christians should no longer be satisfied with a quasi-theology of singleness constructed by way of lacuna? And yet it will not be sufficient for us to pay lip service to such dignified singleness. We must understand anew why the unmarried life is theologically significant. We must grapple afresh with the purpose of singleness in this creation, as that which also foreshadows the next. We must seek to understand God’s purposes for singleness in the lives of our unmarried brothers and sisters and his purpose for them in our life together as the body of Christ. It is for both the unmarried and married Christian’s sake, that the time is indeed ripe for us to become theologically single-minded
In May 2022, I moved a motion at the 18th session of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia that it affirm that “singleness is, like marriage, an honourable state for God’s people, in which the fullness of God’s blessings may be enjoyed”. It was eventually passed, though not without some objection (primarily to do with other elements of the motion which spoke about the godliness of chastity in singleness). In preparation for my moving the motion, I asked a range of never-married, divorced and widowed Anglican men and women why they thought it was so crucial that their national church affirmed singleness as a genuinely honourable state for God’s people. Here are just some short comments from the replies I received.
“I just want to be seen as whole. As complete just as I am.”
“I just want to be considered a person of value in the church.”
“I just want to feel normal.”
Our slowness in fostering pastoral communities in which single Christians not only feel like they are “normal” but where they also feel like they truly belong is the outworking of a long-standing, underlying and often unspoken suspicion that singleness is an undesirable and even unliveable state.
When the goal of the Christian life is seemingly presented to be marriage and parenthood; when our services are frequently denoted to be either “family services” or “youth services”; when our ministry programs (and the frequent calls to fill rosters for said programs) are persistently dominated by children’s, youth and parenting activities; when it is usual for our sermons to be populated with illustrations of marriage and family life; when we speak of sex as being at the heart of authentic human experience, and sexual temptation as being all but irresistible; when we idealise romantic love as the ultimate form of intimacy, while leaving little significance for the role of friendship; when the only life events we regularly celebrate from the front of church are engagements, marriages and births; when ministry to singles so expediently becomes matchmaking ministry; when unmarried Christians are rarely encouraged into positions of leadership; when week after week families sit together in church instead of looking out for those sitting alone; when we regularly run pre-marriage and post-marriage equipping courses, but have nothing similar for those who are never-married, divorced or widowed; when we consistently have many more married people in our churches than in the population around us, and many less unmarried people in our churches than in the population around us; when only 4% of all senior leaders of Australian Protestant churches have never been married;  when all—or even just some—of these things consistently characterise our church life, what else is the single Christian left to think other than that their life situation is undesirable, unliveable, and unwelcome?
Of course, some of these things are not bad in and of themselves. However, their cumulative result—particularly when not offset by positive, proactive, and participatory alternatives for single Christians—leaves the never-married, divorced and widowed members of our congregations feeling like they are merely tolerated (and typically, “quirky”) guests, rather than equally legitimate members of the one family. Such an outcome is rarely, if ever, intentional. And yet, many single Christians will tell you that it is usually inescapable for them. Even for the most optimistic and resilient amongst them, there usually comes the point at which they struggle to any longer convince themselves that this community really is theirs, just as much as it is their married siblings in Christ.
Of course, the most devastating outcome of such an impoverished pastoral approach to singleness is not ultimately its impact on the single Christian themselves—though this is indeed a matter of grave concern. Most significant are its implications for how we understand ourselves to be a body, made up of many members, each diverse, each unique and each indispensable. That is to say, the single Christian doesn’t simply need the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ needs the single Christian. Pastoral single-mindedness is crucial for the church’s understanding of its own identity, life and future.
How to become more Single-Minded?
It is all well and good to recognise the importance of being single-minded. But how will we do that—or perhaps more pertinently, how will we become that? There is no simple, easy or straightforward answer to such a question. However, this should neither surprise nor alarm us. Given that our present single-mindlessness has been decades—even centuries—in the making, we should not expect or desire a quick-fix solution.
Instead, a renewed commitment to missional, theological, and pastoral single-mindedness will require us to be consistent, proactive, and intentional over the long term. It will need to be enacted through incremental but fundamental change in how we think, speak, teach, and approach singleness in the Christian life and community. It will need to be demonstrated by a willingness to return again and again to Scripture and allow its view of singleness to slowly but surely challenge and reform our own. It will need to be evidenced by gradual but inexorable changing of pastoral attitudes towards the unmarried members of our congregations. It will need to involve us holding more loosely to our tried-and-true ministry structures and initiatives as we seek to share the gospel with the members of our surrounding communities where they are, rather than where it is more convenient for us to imagine them at.
Such a slow, consistent, long-term, and gradual endeavour will require all members of Christ’s body—single and married alike—to exercise charity and patience in their expectations of each other. It will require them to be ready with generous forgiveness when those expectations go unmet. And yet, we can and should have boundless confidence in our ability, together, to become more single-minded. After all, the ultimate single-mindedness we seek is one we are called to undertake with a together-mindedness. It is concerned with an ever-increasing, ever-mature and ever-joyful focus on the one who has saved the single and married person into the same salvation, the same family of God and the same living hope. In the end, all of our single-mindedness lies squarely in him.
The Rev Dr Danielle Treweek is the founding director of the Single Minded Ministry and an adjunct teacher at Moore Theological College, Sydney. She also serves as both the Diocesan Research Officer and a member of the Archbishop's Doctrine Commission within the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, Australia
Australian Bureau of Statistics. "2021 Census Community Profiles." Accessed July 9, 2022. www.abs.gov.au/census/find-census-data/community-profiles/2021/POA2042.
———. "Household and Family Projections." (2019). Accessed July 9, 2022. https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/3236.0Main+Features12001%20to%202026?
———. "Marriage and Divorces, Australia (2009)." Accessed July 9, 2022. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Previousproducts/1D63A0059ECDFDCFCA2577ED00146123?
———. "Marriages and Divorces, Australia (2019)." Accessed July 9, 2022. www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/people-and-communities/marriages-and-divorces-australia/2019.
Froide, Amy M. Never Married: Singlewomen in Early Modern England. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Köstenberger, Andreas J, and David Wayne Jones. God, Marriage, and Family. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2004.
MacArthur, John. Children in the Shade, CBMW Pre-Conference. Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 2016. Video.
McCrindle Research. "Australia Street Infographic." (2020). Accessed July 9, 2022. www.mccrindle.com.au/australia-street-infographic/.
Mohler, Albert. The Mystery of Marriage - Part 2, New Attitude Conference. 2004. Audio.
Powell, Ruth, Sam Sterland, and Miriam Pepper. "Demographics Paint a Picture of Local Church Leaders." National Church Life Survey. (August 2018). www.ncls.org.au/news/demographics-of-senior-church-leaders.
Wilson, Douglas. "Singleness as Affliction." Blog & Mablog. (November 25 2020). www.dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/singleness-as-affliction.html.
 For example, unmarried women formed 27% of the English population between 1575-1700. Amy M Froide, Never Married: Singlewomen in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press, 2005), 2.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, "Marriages and Divorces, Australia (2019)." www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/people-and-communities/marriages-and-divorces-australia/2019.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, "Marriage and Divorces, Australia (2009)."
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, "Marriages and Divorces, Australia (2019)."
 McCrindle Research, "Australia Street Infographic," (2020). www.mccrindle.com.au/australia-street-infographic/.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, "2021 Census Community Profiles." www.abs.gov.au/census/find-census-data/community-profiles/2021/POA2042.
 Andreas J Köstenberger and David Wayne Jones, God, Marriage, and Family (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2004), 173. Emphasis original
 Douglas Wilson, "Singleness as Affliction," Blog & Mablog (November 25 2020). www.dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/singleness-as-affliction.html.
 Albert Mohler, The Mystery of Marriage - Part 2, New Attitude Conference (2004), Audio.
 John MacArthur, Children in the Shade, CBMW Pre-Conference (Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 2016), Video. 1.54mins, 2.30mins
 Ruth Powell, Sam Sterland, and Miriam Pepper, "Demographics Paint a Picture of Local Church Leaders," National Church Life Survey (August 2018). www.ncls.org.au/news/demographics-of-senior-church-leaders.
Editorial - Spring 2022
- Written by: Gavin Perkins
With the last edition of Essentials having a focus on retirement, we considered it highly appropriate that this edition should turn the focus onto youth ministry! Graham Stanton writes on how to find a good youth minister, while Tim Stevens and Matt Jacobs reflect on youth ministry in country and regional areas respectively. As I read over those articles it occurred to me that perhaps youth ministry and the opportunities of retirement are not so far apart after all, especially in country areas.
In a time of unsettledness and challenge for evangelical Anglicans in Australia it is vital to be reminded of the ever-present task before us of reaching, discipling, and training the next generation of servants of Christ in our churches.
It is no easy task to boil down the key insights and applications of a PhD dissertation into a feature length article, but that is precisely what Dani Treweek has done for us in this edition. She masterfully leads us in clear thinking about singleness as well as showing powerfully the pastoral challenge and mission opportunity that singleness represents in our churches and communities. While Dani’s work is a vital contribution to many ongoing debates, I read her article as a profound challenge to do better in our church at loving and reaching the single within our church and in our town.
With these contributions and others besides, I commend to you this Spring edition of Essentials.
In Christian Fellowship
State of the Nation
- Written by: Stephen Hale
What is the current state of play in the Anglican Church in Australia*? That’s a big question and the following are a few perspectives.
It used to be that there were three evangelical Dioceses in Australia – Sydney, Armidale and North West Australia. It was that way for a long time. Today we can be encouraged by a big shift. Many Dioceses have changed or are changing! It is a fundamental realignment. Even in Dioceses where evangelicals are in a minority, there are great signs of change and growth. This showed up more fully at General Synod in both the range of speakers from right across the country and also in the election results.
This growth and change can be attributed to many factors (in no particular order):
- Two strong theological Colleges in Moore and Ridley (are they the two strongest Anglican Theological Colleges in the western world?)
- Healthy and encouraging episcopal ministry in many places
- The work of BCA/CMS
- EFAC’s role in being a fellowship and a place of encouragement for gospel ministry and biblical preaching. People know each other across our country because of the many Conferences held over many decades
- Healthy models of good parish ministry and good quality clergy and high calibre lay leadership
- An ongoing commitment to ministry with children and families and young people
- Strong student ministry
- Church planting and evangelism
- People’s willingness to participate in Synods both nationally and in their own Dioceses
- Community care expressed in all sorts of ways in all sorts of places
- Work in schools
- Cross cultural ministry and the growing number of language specific (non-English) churches
- Indigenous ministry and partnerships
There is much one could say here as well, but here are five major challenges.
- The future of the parish
In many parts of the country the parish system is struggling to survive. This is particularly the case in remote rural Australia, as well as in parts of our major cities where the demographic realities (aging congregations) are now pushing many churches into precarious places. The first step is often moving to part time ministry and then the cobbling together of unviable churches as a way of continuing on. Most people go to the church of their choosing and this has big implications as to the shape and relevance of the so-called local church. How many micro churches can a Diocese sustain and how do we manage decline while responding to new opportunities for growth?
- Rebuilding during an ongoing health crisis
Generally speaking, many churches are 20% to 30% smaller in mid-2022 than in mid-2019. This has been very tough as people are having to manage two things simultaneously: maintaining ministry in a context where the impact of illness is a week in and week out reality and having less people overall. At the same time, many people are seeking to rebuild ministries that may have fallen away during these past two years. The overall sense is that many people are both exhausted and somewhat disheartened.
- Children’s, Families and Youth
There has been a general decline in the number of children, families, and young people with whom churches are connecting with. While there has been a necessary focus on being child safe, this has made the task of raising volunteers much more complex and challenging. New innovative ideas are needed for connecting with non-church children and families as well as young people. Helping young people (and their parents) to navigate the complex sexual and identity issues of our day is incredibly demanding and pastorally challenging.
- Ordained Ministry
At present there is an increasing concern that the number of people offering for ordination is not sufficient to meet the ongoing needs into the future. Whether this is a temporary blip, or an on-going trend is unclear. Many (one could even suggest, far too many) clergy are being asked to go into unhealthy churches in the hope of pulling off a revival. While this is possible and does happen, in many cases it leads to people being crushed and often leaving ministry. In the main, most clergy would prefer to work in a team rather than on their own. It is easier to start a new church than to turn around an established church.
For the last decade or more there has been a huge conversation going on about mission and how we enable our churches to become missionally effective. These conversations have been important. At the same time, it has become increasingly complex and to some extent overwhelming. There are so many ways forward being promoted that it can be confusing and disempowering for many people. In the midst of all of this discussion and ferment we seem to have lost sight of simply seeking to see people come to faith. In a context where the wider culture is seemingly running against us, this passion for the gospel and for reaching the lost needs to be recaptured and encouraged. In God’s providence the language specific (non-English) ministries set a shining example for us.
Bishop Stephen Hale
Chair, EFAC Australia and EFAC Global
*Contention around orthodoxy and marriage were addressed in my report on General Synod in the last edition.
Essentials - Spring 2022
- Written by: Gavin Perkins
Essentials Winter 2022 pdf (4MB)
Essentials Autumn 2022 pdf (4MB)
Essentials Summer2021 pdf (3MB)
Essentials Spring 2021 pdf (3MB)
Essentials Winter 2021 pdf (3MB)
Essentials Summer 2020 pdf (3MB)
Essentials Spring 2020 pdf (1MB)
Essentials Winter 2020 pdf (1MB)
Essentials Autumn 2020 pdf (4MB)
Essentials Summer 2019 pdf (8MB)
Essentials Spring 2019 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Winter 2019 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Autumn 2019 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Summer 2018 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Spring 2018 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Winter 2018 pdf (5MB)
Essentials Autumn 2018 pdf (5MB)
Webinar on US Evangelicalism
- Written by: Chris Appleby
This Webinar with Rev Dr Mike Bird and Rev Heather Cetrangolo was held at Ridley College on June 7th 2022
Book Review: Cynical Theories
- Written by: Tim Horman
Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity — and Why This Harms Everybody
By Helen Pluckrose And James Lindsay, 2020.
Pitchstone Publishig, 2020
Reviewed By Tim Horman
Helen Pluckrose, editor of Aero magazine, and James Lindsay, a mathematician and cultural critic, have written Cynical Theories to explain how Critical Theory has become a driving force of the contemporary culture wars, and to propose a “philosophically liberal way to counter its manifestations in scholarship, activism, and everyday life.” Their book traces the evolution of postmodern and post-structuralist theory over the last 50 years, showing how these theories have moved beyond the academy and into popular culture, particularly the modern Social Justice Movement. Cynical Theories is a story about how the “despair and nihilism” of postmodernism found confidence, which then developed into the sort of radical conviction “normally associated with religious adherence.”
The story, as Pluckrose and Lindsay tell it, begins with the ‘postmodern turn’ of the late 1960’s. Postmodern and post-structuralist academics such as Jean Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault, began to deconstruct what the authors call the “old religions” of human thought, which included traditional religious faiths like Christianity, secular ideologies like Marxism, and “cohesive modern systems, such as scientific approaches to knowledge, philosophical liberalism, and the concept of progress.” Early postmodern theory achieved this by questioning the capacity of language to produce meaning, by rejecting the legitimacy of metanarratives, and emphasising the endless deferral of truth or objectivity, since ‘truth’ is merely the socially constructed effect of language games. Such ideas were effective at dismantling those ‘old’ modes of thought, but not particularly useful for reconstructive social change.