Category: Sydney Anglican Diocese

Radar 'Keeping the Faith' Cover

In today’s Radar (a section of the Sydney Morning Herald) they ran a feature on religion amongst young people. Lia Timson, the journalist, interviewed a number of young people, as well as consulting some other opinions, including mine.

She suggests that “Rumours of the death of religion among young people have been grossly exaggerated.”

Read the full article here. 


Here’s an excerpt:

“There is a resurgence of spirituality among youth,” says Jodie McNeill, a theology lecturer at Youthworks College, an Anglican school. “It’s a lot to do with generation Y needing to have experiences rather than explanations.”


McNeill leads a new chapter in the life of the church. Using his Blackberry, a blog and two websites, he keeps in touch with students and parishioners at the Sylvania diocese where he is a minister.


He also runs Year 13, a program for school leavers who want to make a contribution to the world and their own religious upbringing. Last year, 16 students took the course, which included a trip to disadvantaged communities in Africa. This year, 30 have enrolled and another 50 are studying for a diploma of theology.


“We live in totally decadent times,” McNeill says. “We have so much prosperity, we’ve got all the toys – the latest iPod and phones – [yet] young people are wondering how come they are still not happy.


“After they immerse themselves in the whole materialistic thing they feel an emptiness and a sentimentalism, to a certain extent … There is a longing for a time when it was right to be an activist and fight for what really mattered.”


He also says we live in conflicting times, torn between consumerism and the need to sign up to worthy causes – hence our readiness to buy $2 wristbands and cause-related pins. But for some young people, that is not enough.


“It has to do with being post-Christian, as well. Before, kids could ask their parents what it all meant. Now the parents don’t know. There’s a spiritual desert out there. So [interest] is bubbling to the surface.” 

Generation Y Conference

I’m speaking at the ‘Why care about Y?’ conference on 31 March on the topic of ‘Reaching Gen Y.’ As I’ve been researching the topic, I’ve been trying to work out the difference between culture and generation. We like to say that Gen Y are all technologically savvy, but so am I (and others older than me) who are Gen X (or even Boomers.)

It’s interesting researching the range of opinions on the topic across the Internet. However, it reminds me again of the fact that ministry to God’s people must be prepared to change style, but never substance; language, but never message.

Further details about the conference can be found at It goes from 9.30am to 1pm, and costs $25. Greg Clarke will also be speaking.

Increasingly it seems the achilles heel of atheists is the discussion of relativism. When anyone holds any claim to absolute truth then the secularists rise up in cries of protest.

Read the colourful responses to Philip Jensen’s Good Friday sermon in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Here was my unpublished letter to the editor in response:

It seems that the only people who took offence at Philip Jensen’s Good Friday sermon were secularists and atheists (Letters, April 17). The majority of Australians who believe in God warmly welcome such debate about religious beliefs. If secularists and atheists want to be taken seriously then they should enter the stage and join the discussion, rather than shouting “racism” and “arrogance” from the cheap seats in the crowd.

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It was the day Jodie might have turned his back on church youth groups. Aged 13, the young Anglican went interstate for a year, taking fond memories of ‘Teens Group’ gatherings in the Sydney suburb of St Ives.

Turning up for a church-run teens program in a new city, Jodie tried to picture what he’d find inside. “I assumed that every single youth group you went to would have a bit where there’d be a talk from the Bible and the youth would be encouraged to pray for their friends, the world and each other.”

Not so, he regrets. “All this group did was just run around and play games.” Jodie never returned to that youth group.

Sadly, for kids genuinely interested in being open to God, such a disappointment might have meant the end of church involvement. But not Jodie. Rather than turning from God and church-run activities, it helped form his views on what a good youth ministry should be.

Now, as a 34 year-old Youth Ministry Trainer and Adviser with Anglican Youthworks in Sydney, Jodie McNeill is putting that memory to good use–making sure modern youth groups turn kids to God while balancing the spiritual message with an attractive, nurturing environment.

“Youth leaders today aren’t just thinking, “Well, how do we give our kids a good night out once a month?””

The ‘Social Influence Upon Faith Development’ report–produced by NCLS, and sponsored by the Bible Society–has found youth groups are now a rising force in pointing people to God.

“Church youth groups are now almost as important as church services in bringing 15-29 year olds to faith,” report co-author John Bellamy explains. “Youth groups have had a much greater impact among younger attenders, confirming their importance in any overall strategy to minister to children.”

When researchers asked churchgoers aged 15-29 years what had influenced them most in their faith, some 38 percent ticked the box next to ‘youth groups’–second only to main church services (42%).

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