Young people today

The Children’s Society put on a good training day recently for some of us Bishops – thank you to them for the way in which so many of their staff pitched in both thoughtfully and honestly. The overall theme was how we can make a difference in the public realm, but one info session from Jim Davis gave me some take-away thoughts in particular. Here are three of his slides for you to ponder as well:

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The first one is a necessary prod for bishops who (I speak from experience) can get too used to being the centre of attention and presuming the world revolves around them. The second is a good reminder of something that both research and experience show us about church: people, young people included, are hungry for companionship now, and we can fail to connect if we focus on addressing the individual’s journey all the time (important though that is).

The third needs reflecting on. It seems to say – after solid research – that 10-12s in the UK are the least self-confident in Europe. The question more precisely was how happy they were with their level of self-confidence, which is slightly different. Perhaps it is measuring the gap between aspiration and felt reality, and perhaps we live in a culture which (whether it is by advertising, peer pressure or government policy) is always wanting us to aspire – but a society which also often fails to deliver on the means to turn to aspiration into reality. Even in an ideal world not everyone can do or have everything; and our world in which the poor get poorer by comparison with the rich is by no means ideal.

I want to do some more thinking on this subject of aspiration. Having lived and worked in a number of what are seen as low-aspiration areas I’ve tended to want to look for levers to help young people especially raise their sights and be ambitious for more. To some extent that has to be right. We are all surely to be ambitious for each other to use all the gifts we have been given and find love, joy and peace in abundance. But aspiration can become too much a matter of material goods and economic prosperity; and more perniciously it can turn into a sort of “do better, boy” hectoring, even forcing us to try and make bricks without straw if the resources for say improved education or healthcare are not put in place alongside the challenge. Watch out for more when I’ve had time to think this one through.