The Free Church of Scotland has taken the unprecedented step of launching its own web-based youth work programme to improve the quality of activities and teaching for young people.
Staff at the Free Church College in Edinburgh have devised what is understood to be Britain’s first youth worker Diploma course that can be completed by web-based part-time study.
Students will cover a range of topics such as ‘young people and lifestyle issues’, ‘critiquing secular youth work’ and ‘communicating God’s word through social media’ within a 12-month period.
The Free Church’s vision is to have people trained in youth work in every congregation, and it is hoped that this diploma course will help raise the standard of youth work to enable people to better engage with young people - whether in the church or in the community.
Although the denomination has seen the number of young people attending its services increase by 30 per cent over the past five years, it knows more can be done.
Professor Bob Akroyd, course leader, explained: “We believe this innovative programme will help the Free Church to engage more effectively with young people – to reach them with the Good News of Jesus and to build up young believers in their faith.
“The teaching of children and young people, regardless of their background, is an essential aspect of our testimony as a church.
“Society has changed so much in recent times, and we must adapt our teaching methods accordingly. For example, Facebook and Twitter can be used to connect with a younger generation.”
Rev Alasdair Macleod, who chairs the Free Church’s Youth Committee as well as ministering in Ullapool, added: “Where would we be without the willingness, diligence and concern of those who serve in Sunday School or the other youth ministries we have?
“They are often the unsung heroes of the congregation as week by week they give of their time to prepare, plan and deliver an age-appropriate message from the Bible.
“What this programme does is encourage and equip new and existing workers with additional tools for service.
“We recognise that many people have jobs and family commitments, so we are hoping that being able to access all of the materials from the comfort of your own home and complete them at your own pace will prove successful.
“Most of our congregations cannot afford the luxury of a full-time youth worker, but this course offers at minimal cost a way of having theologically trained workers to teach our young people about the good news of Jesus Christ.”
The course costs each Free Church student £250 with another £250 paid by the congregation who will benefit from the training.
To complement the web-based materials, there will also be youth work placements in the local area where students get hands-on training, feedback and experience in the wide variety of issues related to young people.
This diploma course is aimed specifically at those involved with Sunday Schools and other youth activities.
It is thought that the web-based study facility will particularly benefit many of the Free Church’s congregations in more rural locations across the Highlands and Islands.