Where have all the young people gone?

They have been named the Covid Generation.

The long-term impact on education, employment and mental health are still unknown, but one thing is certain; it will be felt for generations after this one.  Our children and young people have been coping with:

  • Cancellation of exams (and a fight for those taking BTEC exams to get an answer)
  • Algorithm mess up of results which led to a campaign which led to the Government making a u-turn and saying sorry; but the damage was already done for many young people who lost out on university places
  • They have lost good endings – no leavers balls, services, hug goodbyes
  • They have lost jobs: Under 25s are twice as likely to have lost their jobs as over 25s and more than half have had their working hours halved.  DWP have started the Kickstart Scheme – minimum wage for 6 months work experience.  And also investing in the apprenticeship scheme; but is it too little too late?
  • They have lost education: Pupils in private schools were 5 times more likely to have 4 or more online lessons during lockdown 1.0 than students from state schools. 4 in 10 pupils are still not getting the same number of school hours as they did before lockdown. Source: Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics
  • We have seen the disproportionate effect of Covid on the poor: Digital poverty – (rural and inner city).  Disadvantaged backgrounds – needing to be fed; one pay cheque away from poverty.  One school was given £13,000 - £21 per pupil extra money given by the Government.  But the laptop costs for 30 students was £8,000
  • We have seen a rise in poor mental health: Increase in anxiety; eating disorders and depression – nursing and counselling all saturated and unable to cope.  Online mental health services like Kooth, have 4000 visits per day.  Demand for the service increased: 13% up on self-harm. 20% on suicidal thoughts.  Isolation triggers mental health issues. Younger adults were more likely to report that they have depressive symptoms and to have suicidal thoughts than people over 30 years old. Source: Samaritans
  • They have lost people
  • They have lost connection
  • They have lost freedom

Where does their resilience come from?  How have we, as a church, come alongside and just been with our children and young people?  I know that many children and youth workers have been furloughed in this season and many more have found their jobs redundant.  Yet some churches have recognised the importance of this ministry and have managed to employ new children and youth workers workers during lockdown which is amazing.


I heard a great quote recently: "Being a youth worker is enabling young people to live in God’s goodness".  Where can we listen to our children and young people?  How can we help them lament in this season?  How can we move ourselves from lament to gratitude for all that God is doing in this season?


Jesus spent 9% of His time working with people; 1% working for people and 90% being with people; the disciples, people in towns and villages.  Yet much of our C&Y ministry is spent working for our C&Y.  Maybe we are losing our C&Y because we have spent our time working for them and not enough time being with.  Maybe we are losing them because their grief is so deep and so painful that they are just mad at God and not us.  Maybe we are losing them because we haven’t provided a space where they can just talk and be listened to.  Maybe we are losing them because life just sucks for them at the minute and even getting out of bed in the morning is painful in a world that doesn’t see them anymore.

Jesus Shaped People gives churches the chance to be with C&Y and to listen to what God is saying through them and in them in a very real way.   If done properly so as to intentionally hear them and not as an add on so that we can do adult ministry uninterrupted by the wonderings of a 5 year old or the questioning of a 13 year old, it can be an amazing gift.  If we are wanting to change the way that we ‘do’ church and reach out to our communities, why would we not want to hear from the generation that has been the most impacted as a result of the pandemic.  And I don’t mean giving them a craft to do and then only listening if they come up with an idea that we (as adults) deem appropriate to investigate further.

We have written some intergenerational materials to help us come together and listen to what God is saying to ALL generations at the same time.  I don’t know of any other organisations where a 5 year old can sit beside a 90 year old and chat about what God is saying to them – how rich is that?   If we are real about wanting to hear where God wants us to move, let’s do it together.  Let’s listen to one another; learn from one another and emerge from the pandemic a stronger and healthier church as a result.