Scotland’s Kirk told to ‘give young the chance of leadership’

National Youth Assembly moderator Robin Downie at the General Assembly in Edinburgh
National Youth Assembly moderator Robin Downie at the General Assembly in Edinburgh
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The “missing generation” of young people in the Kirk needs to be urgently addressed to ensure its survival, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has been told.

Kirk membership at the end of 2017 was 337,000 with approximately 50,000 under the age of 18, with numbers falling.

The majority of those attending church are aged over 60. The number of members in their 30s and 40s also in decline.

However, Robin Downie, 23, Moderator of the National Youth Assembly (NYA) of the Church of Scotland, said many young people were keen to take up leadership roles in the Kirk.

“Young people don’t always feel they are being listened to and respected,” said Mr Downie, a first-year nursing student at Stirling University.

“Many NYA delegates want to become elders but don’t know how.

“ A huge number of ministers are retiring so we need to get young people involved in leadership.”

“The church is now one of the places where people of different ages and backgrounds can meet. 
In the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People this year its great to see churches across the country engaging with this.”

Mr Downie said young people had opinions on the subjects debated at the General Assembly this week.

Speaking about the “pockets of resistance” to female Kirk ministers in some parts of the Highlands, Mr Downie, from Lochcarron in Wester Ross, said: “I hadn’t heard a woman preach until I was about 14 or 15. I though ‘wow, this is amazing’...it was just as good, if not better than a man.”

The perceived divide between the generations was also highlighted by Rebecca Gebauer, an elder from Wellington Church in Glasgow,

“Our ‘millennial’ generation is not well understood in the church, perhaps that is why we are misunderstood.

“If you Google ‘millennial you will get things like ‘buy too many avocados, can’t afford housing.’

“The church is an incredible resource with people who would know how to help my generation, but we don’t get together.”

Earlier a report by the Mission and Discipleship Committee, urged presbyteries and Kirk Sessions to engage in the Year of Young People and promoted the idea of young people being given leadership training to encourage them to take up positions in the Kirk.

“There are many examples of where this is already happening. For example, in Arbroath St Andrew’s the Kirk has deemed it important that new, younger people are brought into leadership circles even while overall eldership numbers are being reduced.

“To this end, a long-term approach to leadership has been adopted.

“All of those within the 18 to 25 year age group are invited to be part of this process.”