It's not looking great. Recent statistics for the UK show a 90% decline in the numbers of people under 20 attending church over the last 20 years[1]. What will that mean for the church in the next 20-30 years? It ties in with John Drane's comment from a few years back, "we often say that if we could get people into the church they would realise that what it has to offer is good news. But it is the people who know us best, from the inside, who are rejecting us. If we could merely hold onto our own children, who desert the church in droves, the decline would be turned around."[2]

Depressing? It could be.

But our experience is that children and young people are fascinated by Bible stories and very open to spiritual realities. In SU Scotland, we've just had a summer in which we've seen greater positive response to the significance of Jesus than for many years.

A key question arises

What needs to change in order to see these children and young people play a full part in Christian churches and communities across Scotland? We need to function differently as the body of Christ if these children and young people are to feel church is a place where they have gifts to offer, where their contribution is valued, where their issues are addressed. Too often we expect them to adjust their mindset to fit with our expectations of church; to slip neatly into our comfort zone. The result: almost 40% of UK churches have no one under 11 and 60% no-one between 15 and 19[3]

How can we change it?

Change never comes without disruption. But it is easier when the alternative is so starkly pessimistic. We need a new mindset which asks: is our way of worship stagnating? However lively, have we settled for something safe and unchallenging? Is our approach to teaching and preaching engaging with where people are? Have we sinned in neglecting the gifts of the whole body (including children and young people)? There is a spiritual thirst amongst children and young people. Will we be impede or alleviate their quest for meaning? Are you interested in finding out more? Join us for the Children in the Church Community Conference on Saturday 29th October at the ICC in Glasgow.

[1]These stats come from an interesting article entitled: 'Does the Future have a Church' by Tim Thornborough. Find it at [2] Third Way, April 1999 pg 5 [3] See Thornborough

Andy Bathgate

Andy has been CEO of SU Scotland since 2001. When he's not busy with us, you'll find him playing with his grandsons or in an art gallery with his wife.