1st Edition

Young People and Church Since 1900 Engagement and Exclusion

By Naomi Thompson Copyright 2018
    206 Pages
    by Routledge

    206 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    When the Sunday School pioneers saw a need in their communities in the late eighteenth century, their response provoked a 200 year movement. These early Sunday Schools met a clear social need: that for basic education. By the 1960s, they faced rapid decline – a rigid institution amidst societal change.

    Over recent decades, Christian youth work has emerged as a response to further youth decline within churches. Many youth workers engage with young people’s self-perceived needs by delivering open-access youth provision in their local communities alongside more specifically Christian activities. Tensions emerge over whether the youth worker’s role is to serve community or church needs, with churches often emphasising the desire to see young people in services.

    Drawing together historical and contemporary research, Young People and Church Since 1900 identifies patterns and change in young people’s engagement with organised Christianity across time. Through this, it provides a unique analysis of the engagement and exclusion of young people in three key time periods, 1900–1910, 1955–1972, and the present day. Whilst much commentary on religious decline has focused on changes external to churches, this text draws out the internal decisions and processes that have affected the longevity of Christianity in England. This book will be of interest to researchers and scholars of young people and Christianity in the twentieth century and today, as well as youth ministry students and practitioners and those interested in youth decline in churches more widely.

    1 Introduction: Postmodernism, Institutionalisation and Social Currencies

    2 From Raikes’ Revolution to Rigid Institution: Sunday Schools in Twentieth-century England

    3 Sunday Schooling in Birmingham and Beyond: Qualitative findings from the historical study

    4 From Sunday Schools to Christian Youth Work: young people and Christianity in twenty-first century Birmingham  

    5 Christian youth work: social, spiritual and institutional agendas

    6 An American Example: Youth Worker Narratives of Young People and Christianity in Minnesota

    7 Conclusions


    Naomi Thompson is a Lecturer in Youth and Community Work at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has experience of research relating to young people and youth work. She specialises in young people and Christianity, with her PhD exploring the peak and decline of the Sunday School movement and the growth of Christian youth work. She has published on young people, youth work, and religion.

    "Thompson provides solid engagement with her subject matter as evidenced by her thorough research and detailed analysis. Her stated aim was to explore “young people’s engagement with organised Christianity in England from the early twentieth century up to the present day” (1) and she argues that “the discourse of activity or passivity adopted by individual churches affects their growth or decline, particularly in relation to engaging young people” (192). The book succeeds in accomplishing its intended goal and is recommended to scholars and lay readers alike, particularly in the field of youth, young adults, and community work." - Shaun Joynt, North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa

    "Naomi Thompson’s thesis-turned-book is a very good example of the notion in practice of a usable past, indeed her analysis of present-day successful youth work practice relies on the historical insights she brings to bear." - Stephen Parker, University of Worcester