From Sunday Schools to Christian Youth Work: young people's engagement with organized Christianity in twentieth century England and the present day
AbstractThis thesis considers the peak and decline of Sunday Schools in the twentieth century and the emergence of Christian youth work over recent decades. Bringing together historical and contemporary research allows patterns and shifts within the discourses of young people and Christianity over time to emerge. The historical research was informed by the records of the Sunday School Unions for 1900-1910 and 1955-1972. For the contemporary study, young people and youth workers from across the Christian denominations in Birmingham were interviewed. 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 twentieth century, Sunday Schools were highly-structured, centralised and attached to churches and Unions, with their original purpose made redundant by the growth of mainstream education. They faced rapid decline in the 1960s; 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-identifiable 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. This echoes the discourse of Sunday Schooling where religious education and church membership became prioritised at the expense of social need. In bringing together the historical and contemporary research patterns of struggle between social need and institutionalisation emerge. By focusing on factors internal to Sunday Schools and churches, the thesis asserts the role that churches have in their own fate and challenges the popular discourse of them as passive victims of secularisation.
Stanton, Naomi <http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/view/creators/Stanton=3ANaomi=3A=3A.html> (2013) From Sunday Schools to Christian Youth Work: young people's engagement with organized Christianity in twentieth century England and the present day. PhD thesis, The Open University.