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Ministering to Children & Young People 

Ministering to Children & Young People 

In most churches in the Church of England, young people are vastly outnumbered by older adults. According to a 2020 YouGov poll, only 6% of those aged between 16 to 24 classify themselves as being either Anglican or Episcopal. The Church of England also carried out research in this area, and their ‘Rooted in the Church’ report showed that the average age of church “dropouts” among young people is 14.5 years. 

However, across the Church of England there are many stories of flourishing ministry to children and young people – some have been profiled here – and there is now the bold and ambitious aim to double the number of children and young people in our churches by 2030. But how? As well as checking out the National Church Resources, here are some ways to start reaching out to younger generations in your community… 

1. Reach Out and Make Contact 

When it comes to ministry to children, young people and families, the key thing to keep in mind is that you’re building a two-way relationship. This involves contact in various forms, from personal visits to monthly newsletters. Ask them how they’re going, how the church can support them, and what they’d like you to pray for on their behalf.  Greeting young people by name as they enter the church can also have a significant impact on your relationship with them. Some people behave anxiously to teenagers, so something as simple as a smile and a warm welcome will always be well received. 

2. Host a Meal or Gathering 

Inviting young people into your home and sharing a meal with them is not only a sign of trust and respect, it’s also a wonderful act of generosity. Make sure you don’t rely on publicity about an event alone when inviting people – speak to people individually when you offer the invitation. 

Speak to the young people in your church and discuss what sort of event they’d like to attend, such as a discussion group, or a games evening. Encourage them to invite their friends along too, especially those who haven’t yet made a lot of connections within the church. 

Please be sure to follow all the necessary safeguarding guidelines when meeting with young people or inviting them into your home.  

3. Ask How Can Your Service Better Engage Young People? 

If you’re keen to bring more young people into your church, you first need to think about what they’re looking for from the Church. The best way to find this out is to talk to them. Ask them what helps them connect with worship, and if some elements of a service make them feel disconnected. Ask young people for their advice on how your church’s services can better engage with them.  

By asking for the opinions of the young people in your church community, you’ll make them feel valued. You’re not only helping them, and other young people, engage more with worship, you’re also offering them a meaningful opportunity to contribute to the service. 

4.  Relate to Young People and Support Them 

One of the best ways to connect to young people is to talk to them about things they’re passionate about. Discuss any campaigns and causes they’re interested or involved in and see if the church can support them in any way. For instance, if the young people in your church are trying to help your local food bank, by raising awareness or donating food, see if you can offer your talents to the project too. 

The trick is to help and support, rather than take over. Make sure you continue asking the young people in your church for their input and let them lead the project where possible. As with the ideas above, it’s all about respecting and valuing the input of young people. 

5. Offer Spiritual Space 

Mental health is talked about more openly these days, and sadly there are rising levels of anxiety and depression in young people and many are in need of a safe space to retreat to. 

For this reason, offering Christian prayer practices to young people can be a huge blessing. Contemplative prayer can be a way for them to step out of their overly anxious minds and forge a deeper connection with God. You can learn more about contemplative prayer here. 

1. Facilitate Connections Within the Church 

Chances are, your church will already have connections with several young families, and this is a good place to start. Reach out to these families and get the conversation going. Starting a group on WhatsApp might be a good option, or perhaps start a Facebook group. Things like email or phone calls tend to be less popular, so try to use a more frequently used platform. 

Once you’ve set up these groups, you may not have to provide a lot of input, allowing connections to develop naturally. You might just want to pose questions to the group, such as what people would like to pray for, and how they’ve seen God at work that day.  

2. Get Creative 

As well as traditional groups for families, your church may want to offer something a bit different. Craft groups are fairly common, but how about baking sessions, or a Lego club? These sorts of activities allow children to be creative, making edible treats or building something spectacular.  

These groups allow for a lot of interaction and discussion – from talking about God as a creator to discussing the bountiful ingredients God provides. You can also run themed sessions, perhaps asking children to build something from a Bible story that is read during the session, or decorating biscuits with themes from the story.  

3. Use Books to Contemplate God’s Work 

Have you thought about starting a book club for families? Simply choose a book that’s accessible for the group or pick books that can be read aloud to a younger audience. Then decide how much you’ll read, along with how frequently you’ll meet.  

When you do meet up, the leader of the group can ask questions about what you’ve read, such as the parts people liked best, and what themes there are throughout the story. Perhaps ask where God can be found in the text, and if parts of the story reminded anyone of a Bible story, passage or verse. It can be a good idea to have a few examples prepared, in case nothing immediately springs to mind for the readers. End the meeting with a prayer, and maybe someone reading aloud from the next chapter or book you’re going to start next time. 

4.  Encourage Godly Play 

Godly Play is a Christian movement that centres on childhood spirituality. It begins with children’s innate sense of the presence of God, offering Christian language as a support for their ongoing spiritual formation. Through Godly Play, children can learn processes that promote an inner working model for life-long Christian learning. 

The Godly Play books, along with handcrafted items that complement these books, can generally be found in good Christian bookshops or through Amazon. 

5. Offer Resources for Families with Young Children 

Families with young children may feel overwhelmed at times, so providing resources for them can be a real blessing. And you don’t need to create your own resources if that’s not something your church is able to do – there are plenty of brilliant resources available online you can direct parents to, such as: 

You can also offer opportunities for families with young children to meet up, providing a space for them to discuss their experiences and ask questions. Such groups can also be a good place to talk about baptism with parents. 

1. Help Support Everyday Faith 

Everyday faith is all about noticing God at work in the small things we see each day. As a church, you can offer support to parents, and affirm their words when speaking to their children, discussing examples of God at work with them also. Perhaps come up with other questions and your own ways of practicing everyday faith and share these with parents too. Mealtimes are often a great opportunity to talk about everyone’s day, and for families to discuss where they have seen God at work, so encourage families in your church to share stories around the dinner table. 

2. Provide Resources for Families 

Coming up with endless activities for children can be difficult for parents, so why not offer a few of your own? Suggest games that can be played, and reflection exercises that families can then go through afterwards. Even simple games, like ‘I wonder’, which involves asking a series of questions starting with this phrase, can help children feel closer to God.  

Another resource you can provide as a church are worksheets and colouring pages for younger children. These can be found online if you don’t have any of your own, from sites like DLTK’s Crafts for Kids and Flame Creative Kids. 

3.  Encourage Bible Stories 

Bible stories are often told as part of a bedtime routine, which is a great habit to instil in children. Encourage parents to think about how storybook Bibles portray their message through words and pictures – some things will have been excluded, and it’s important to consider whether more of the story should be told. Speak to parents about the key messages it’s essential to get across, perhaps providing further resources for particular Bible stories.  

There are other ways Bible stories can be shared with children too. For example, parents can encourage their children to tell Bible stories with their toys, or parts of the stories can be recreated using things like Lego, clay, or even Minecraft! 

4. Promote the Church of England’s Faith at Home Campaign  

Faith at Home is a national campaign that aims to support the faith development and pastoral care of children and young people. The Church of England seeks to provide experiences, resources and networks for parents, as well as school and church leaders. 

Resources include online videos, a Growing Faith Adventure podcast, and activities for families to do together. Each week, a range of new content is published which allows families to discuss faith and develop their practices and habits together following these themes. 

Stories From Around the Diocese

Inspiring Testimony from Southampton Youth Fest 2023

More than 130 people gathered for the 2023 Youth Fest for an incredible weekend of fun and games, worship, teaching and ministry. Young people from churches across Southampton became one church family as they encountered God’s presence together. Read more here.

Celebrating the Success of Summer Holiday Clubs Across the Diocese

Summer holiday clubs and events are not only fantastic fun for kids, they’re also a huge blessing for communities. A large amount of work, from both staff and volunteers, goes into running them too! Read more here.

Chatting Faith – A New Way for Children to Explore Big Questions

The Chatting Faith project is a joint venture between the dioceses of Portsmouth and Winchester which enables children, parents and carers to share story books as a springboard for conversations about Christian faith. Read more here.

Taizé Pilgrimage for Young Adults 2023

A group of young people from Portsmouth Diocese, with whom we share a Schools and Education team, pilgrimaged to Taize during summer 2023. Be inspired by some powerful quotes about how they encountered God in new ways. Read more here.

Reaching Out to Children and Families with Disabilities

St Francis Church, Valley Park, have been awarded a grant by their local council to invest in sensory play equipment, so they can run a play and support group for children with additional needs and their parents and carers. Read more here.

Church-led Young People’s Mental Health Project

A church-led mental health project for young people aged 11-18 is being rolled out to the local community in Totton, based at St Win’s Church. Named ‘The Pillar’, the project will use evidence-based mental health interventions alongside Christian discipleship resources, such as Youth Alpha, and will be delivered by Christians who have relevant experience in mental health. Read more here.


Want to explore new ways of approaching youth ministry? Watch this video with Andy Saunders as he discusses his experience working with young people and his involvement (through Lighthouse Ministries) in the diocese’s BCM course in Children, Youth and Families.

Other Videos 
Youth Bible Resources
Other Resources for Children and Young People 
Resources for Schools 
Resources for Youth Leaders 
Resources for Parents 
Free Online Training