Age Boundaries

This is a question that arrived in my in-box from a discussion forum. I’ll ascribe it to Mrs Trellis of North Wales to preserve the anonymity.

"A lot of our "youth" work seems diluted by the presence of both pre-teen children and excessive numbers of adults.
I have a growing apprehension that "Youth" is being broadened to include anyone younger than 35-40.
What do you think?"


My response so far! Please add your thoughts?

thnker1blog.jpg“Young people need to belong to community but also benefit from being in a peer group and having interaction with positive adult leadership. If the group is not age boundaried it will expand! It will expand from the lower age range who find the activities that they are currently linked to, too childish. It will expand at the top end as people never actually leave, the group being more ‘where they are’ than the ‘adult’ alternative.
(The effect of this widening age range that results from not having boundaries is a group that is less attractive and less attended by the age group that was originally intended ….. it becoming either a children’s group or a young adults group)
There is good evidence of society being a more teenage one in it’s attitude and outlook. The main issue though is that 20’s and 30’s (and indeed 40’s) relate far more to a youth appropriate approach and environment than they do to the inherited adult model of church etc that culturally is a million miles (intentional hyperbole) from who they are.”

9 Replies to “Age Boundaries”

  1. what ‘exageration’ ?!?!?!
    For many people I’m sure they try and stay in a group because it gives a more authenic experience of what they believe church should be (a place where they are welcome, valued, listened to, spoken to in a way they understand about issues they relate to etc) than the ‘adult’ alternative where they listen, shut up and make coffee once a month

  2. I’m definitely the wrong side of 18, and agree with all of your comments. Wonder if we should start groups for people who have never left/progressed beyond adolescence? Aah-yes, Called youth workers me thinks…
    (do you like my new YB name – was confirmed on the journey home!)

  3. Maybe the church reflects society in the move away from boundaries…some good comments….an example of smudging the boundaries is when a young person asks me to listen to his lastest download ( Screamo music)…..’hmmmm interesting’…my reflection on the music.

  4. I think Taize has it right (as they often do) Young people are aged 16-29 with a new category of 30-35. They’ve recognised that “youth” is extending further into adulthood than it had previously; partly because of delayed financial independence, more people not starting work until after uni and partly because of people getting married later too.
    It think there is also some evidence that the 20/30 bracket now are those who have experienced youth work and want something like it to continue into adulthood and why not?
    My only worry would be that as much as the 20s and 30s might like it it is sometimes against the interest of the young people as it means when they get “older” they’re still not the the oldest and so they don’t get that experience of taking a leading or pastoral role in the sae way.

  5. The whole issue of post 18’s is an interesting one, couple of points to mkae.
    I would suggest that maybe the style of teaching for those under 18, is still relevant for those under the age of 35,therefore they would stay because they would get loads of the way and tyel in which they ar being taught.
    secondly, Maybe this is where youth work teams need to grow, why shouldn’t there be an 18-30’s group, and have leader for that, in the same way that htere is a leader for11-14 and 14-16 and even 16-18, why not for the next level. Style and everything can stay the same, but then they wll be in their own piers.
    It can all come under youthwork, and ultimately a youthwork pastor, but different people to lead the different sections.
    culture is ve much teen, lead, or even driven at teens, so this will also includethe under 35’s and maybe even baove, so style, aproach, content, rleevance, the whole lot needs to be geered that way, when I say youth lead, I mean orientated around youth ad I use youth in the broadest possible terms.

  6. I agree quite strongly both with that statement, Ian. In my experience (some 12 years post-training now! ahhhh!!) youth group age ranges maybe need to be ring-fenced in order for them not to loose their sense of identity and purpose, and to looks after those for whom they are indented. I agree that this also needs to be complimented with an equal commitment to all-age comings together too. Love Greenbelt! The dynamic can be changed to the point that the group no longer meets its ‘aim’ if those either too young to old regularly attend in significant numbers. The result, in my humble experience, is that those in the ‘target age group’ start to drift away and feel the group isn’t for them any more. Maybe this also points to a needs of the younger & older groups either not existing or not adequately meeting the needs of those who could attend (tweens group ‘too babyish’ or young adult group ‘too straight & no fun’? As we all know the youth group is the coolest place to be seen!?!) It can be a minefield (like most youthwork issues!) and I don’t like discouraging anyone from attending anything, it goes against the grain for me. I guess it just depends on your particular situation & how you deal with it. That statement just rang so true for me at this moment. See you, young & old at Greenbelt.

  7. I suppose I have an interesting perspective as I didn’t leave for Uni like the rest of the middle-class kids at the church I went to and there was nothing for me save a distinctly older house-group for Uni students had their CU or ‘Crusaders’ and whilst the crusaders welcomed me I was in a strange no-man’s land…
    I do however agree with the age boundaries as they were set Pathfinders ‘something to 15/16′ and then CYFA ’15/16-18’ – I do think that leaders should allow for some flexibility but I don’t think we should ignore the fact that as we grow older we should also grow up despite the media encouraged view of childish indulgence [because you’re worth it] and I think christians should be radical in this as in other areas…
    I was too old after another year to be a genuine member of CYFA and the leaders knew that as well as I – the problem was that there was not much else, there was a gap between I and the next ‘church level’ of involvement as I did not really fit in with Uni students as I did not have the experience of being a Uni student until later…
    Because there is a problem does not mean that we should merely treat people the same even though they may not think there is another option. Having an awareness that there are younger folk means that ‘house groups’ could be generated which would be focused on gathering like ages with an ‘elder’ presence could be one solution but another church I went to had a ‘group’ called Second Quarter which was for the 20s to 40s and it kind of ran itself by its own members and why shouldn’t we be able to expect that to work as those who are younger and want to get involved can be ‘apprenticed’ by the older folk….
    Just a few observations…

  8. I agree that smudging the boundaries can cause complications especially for young people whom lack confidence and self esteem. I think identity is really important to some teenagers, I wonder if diluting ‘youth’could make it more difficult for some young people to establish an identity. Or will young people go to more extremes to regain their ‘exclusive’ youth culture? Just a thought. In so many areas age boundaries are falling away e.g. Back packing round the world….how many 55+ now do this….? Summer festivals…….. rumour has it the carparks are full of expensive cars….? My thoughts are that there is another reason some older people want to buy in to the youth culture….. because there is so much consumerism in the adult world which has drifted into the teenage world….. whats left? Maybe ‘spiritual experiences’ an area young people have often valued in the past more than adults in my veiw. (Having been an adult for far too many years and struggled with regular conversations about ‘flooring’ and such like!!!)

  9. My church back home defines youth to be 25 or younger and I think that it will give younger teens some advice and mentoring from brothers and sisters who have stepped into the corporate world for 2-3 years without being too intimidating. After all, once it crosses 25, a whole set of issues such as marriage, housing, finance and family commitments come into play! (and that’s my stage now)

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