The Kirk’s “youth parliament” for people aged 17-25 is to be disbanded – at a time when the average age of a Church member is 60 and it is desperate to attract the younger generation.
The decision to scrap the National Youth Assembly (NYA), where young people meet to discuss Kirk policy as well as religious and social issues – as seen in the youth “silent protest” earlier this week against the General Assembly’s decision to continue investing in oil and gas companies – is being justified on the grounds it is too expensive to run, especially its residential weekend, now that a legacy which had been funding it is running out.
Instead, following a review, the body, which was set up in 1994, it is to be replaced with a children and youth committee with events for 11-18s and 18-30s run by presbyteries across Scotland.
There had been some criticism that the NYA only reached a small group of people and that new tactics were needed.
Tamsin Dingwall, Youth Moderator, told commissioners yesterday how NYA members had gone through a process of denial and anger before finally accepting the decision.
Norman Smith, co-chair of the mission and discipleship council, told the General Assembly: “The National Youth Assembly has been successful. However, it is a creature of its time.
“The group looking at this has tried to discern a structure, a programme, a way of nurturing faith that will do for the next generation what the NYA did for the last.”
He added: “No future funding has been identified for the continuation of the NYA. That means we constantly have to prioritise.”
Seonaid Knox, clerk to the NYA, was among those raising concerns about how the views of young people would be heard in the General Assembly while the new structure was being implemented.
Rev Stewart Cutler, from Stonehouse St Ninian’s, Hamilton, said it would be “disastrous” to stop the NYA until an alternative is set up.
He said: “The Church has gradually disinvested in its young people.”
Rev Scott Rennie of Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen, said: “Council has agreed extra resources for contemporary songs, agreed to a new book of Common Prayer – but we are told there is no money in the bank for a National Youth Assembly.”