Schools targeted in £3 million CofE child evangelism initiative
Posted: Tue, 5th Sep 2023
Church of England scheme to see youth ministers in Guildford running "worship events" in state schools, including a nonreligious school
The Church of England has given millions of pounds to a diocese in a bid to convert more children to Christianity.
The Diocese of Guildford has been awarded £3.2 million to put youth ministers in local schools – including a school with no religious character.
In a promotional video released last week, programme lead of the 'Youth Catalyst Project' Alastair Etheridge (pictured) says the programme aims to "encourage worship" and "develop pathways for young people to find out more about Jesus".
The project will see youth ministers placed in four state funded secondary schools to create a "bridge between church and school". The programme's "hub leaders" will "help young people within the school setting to explore and find faith" by running "termly worship events" in the school and "providing a bridge into local church where effective small groups will be running to develop the faith of young people".
Three of the schools – Christ's College Guildford, The Priory and Esher High School – have a Church of England ethos. But one, Jubilee High School in Addlestone, has no religious character.
Etheridge says the Church "has an ambition to see the number of young disciples doubled by the year 2030". He encourages viewers to pray that "Jesus can make a difference in young people's lives so that we don't just see a trickle of young people coming to faith over the next seven or eight years" but "a whole stream of young people finding faith in Jesus".
The project echoes plans unveiled by the Church in July to increase conversion of children by "creating and embedding strategic partnerships between churches and schools".
The Church, which has recently attracted widespread criticism regarding its safeguarding scandals, homophobia and sexism, has seen a dramatic decrease in membership, particularly among young people. The 2019 British Social Attitudes survey found just one per cent of 18-24 year olds in Britain belong to the CofE. Overall, less than 1% of adults in England regularly attend CofE services.
In 2021 figures revealed the Church of England received more than £750 million in public money in the form of grants and tax rebates over the past five years. It continues to call for even greater government financial support for repairs across its 16,000 parish churches.
NSS: Church is "prioritising its own agenda over the needs of children, families and communities"
National Secular Society head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "This is a cynical and opportunistic move by the Church to supplement its ailing membership figures by using our state funded schools as mission fields.
"The Church of England is prioritising its own agenda over the needs of children, families and communities. Targeting children within their schools with the aim of converting them isn't merely sinister – it is incompatible with the right of children and their families to their own freedom of religion, belief and conscience.
"All the while, as the Church pumps millions into child evangelism, it continues to rely on the state to fund repairs to its buildings.
"The Church's behaviour is unfair, unscrupulous and unacceptable. We must stop our education system being exploited by an increasingly unpopular and irrelevant minority religion. Our schools are for teaching, not preaching."