“The youth of is the future of the Church” is a family member of “youth-and-future” maxims and one which has influenced a lot of our thinking about the way in which we minister to the youth of our communities and congregations. However, using this maxim as a starting point almost always ends up with the view that the “value” of the youth is to be found in the fact that they will one day be the Church.

I think this maxim needs to be challenged. Armed with the newest South African Census data I think it is safe to say that the youth is not only the future of the Church, but in fact IS the Church, and what a young church it is! According to Census 2011 29.6% of the South African population is between 0 and 4 years young and another 28.9% between the ages of 15 and 34.

At the same time the realization dawns on how young South Africa’s population is we must also unfortunately admit that ministry to these demographic groups are some of the areas that the Church struggles with most and in certain aspects lack altogether.

It might be that the youth of the Church is not the place where the primary financial contributors are to be found, they are not going to pay for the upkeep of the buildings, the salary of a minister, or even the utilities bill, nor will they necessarily toe the party line or accept all the orthodox teachings of the Church simply because the Church teaches it. Engaging with the youth is always going to be a challenge, at best a controlled storm of difficult questions, critical thinking, new insights, unexpected challenges, shifting paradigms and a constant feeling of being off-balance. However, no matter how challenging the youth might be, the reality is that the “future” of the Church is already present and if we fail to minister to the youth in their own vocabulary and grammar, we are failing the Church.