Assembly Executive: day three round up 11 February 2024

Business on day three of the 2024 meeting of the United Reformed Church (URC) Assembly Executive at The Hayes in Swanwick continued with discussions around a formal ministry for children’s and youth work. 

During the morning’s proceedings, thanksgiving was expressed for, and a gift presented to the Revd Ken Forbes who was retiring from the role of Assembly Minute Secretary, a role that he initially undertook for a period of four years but has served in for 24. 

Session nine 

Paper B1: Children and Youth Work – formal ministry for children’s and youth work 

The Revd Paul Robinson, Convenor, introduced the resolutions from the Children’s and Youth Work Committee (CYWC) which sought to hear the views of Assembly Executive on potential sources of funding for the establishment of a formal ministry for children’s, youth and/or family. There were two options initially provoking discussion:  sources within the M&M budget or sources from the wider URC family and beyond. 

This new, commissioned ministry was proposed to complement existing ministry deployable to serve the denomination. Other denominations, Paul shared, are exploring how to recognise and increase the number of those serving this type of ministry,  

In 2023, General Assembly passed a series of resolutions recognising the work in local churches amongst children, young people and families; acknowledging the ministry of Children’s, Youth and Family Leaders in local churches; and directing the mind of the Church towards a formal ministry of URC Children’s, Youth and/or Family Minister.  

Since last July, the committee has held many consultations, looked at theological considerations, the different types of ministry in the URC – ordained, commissioned, accredited and recognised ministry – and came up with three options. 

There was support for all three different options about the nature of the ministry, but an increasing level of support for an option to create a new category of ministry that is parallel to an existing form of ministry – eg Church Related Community Workers (CRCW). 

This might be a commissioned ministry, with stipendiary and non-stipendiary options, to follow a parallel path to CRCW ministry in terms of assessment of call, training and placements and deployment.  

The committee asked for Assembly Executive’s view on the proposals in breakout groups. Paul Robinson shared feedback from the groups including questions about the other options being explored, and collaboration with CRCWs, Education and Learning and Ministries.  

When the resolution was discussed, John Bradbury clarified that the resolution is seeking the direction of travel that the committee would follow for its work before the General Assembly – which funding model would best support this work.  

Nicola Furley-Smith said the financing was going to be difficult unless it was contained within existing ministry and MoM, a view echoed by Fran Kissack, and Nicola also warned of going into an apprenticeship model.  

Sal Bateman asked if this was really needed, given some of the other conversations about finance and ministry at the meeting. She wondered if this was the right time in the decision-making process.  

JB assured the meeting that this resolution sought guidance, and that General Assembly would have the full options available with the funding model when presented in July.  

Chris Atherton said that there are significant sums of money available outside of the URC for this work. Dave Coaker asked if looking at employing youth workers sustainably could be a better option.  

Alan Yates, Treasurer, and Clare Downing, said that the two funding options weren’t mutually exclusive. Alan said he was also prepared to work with CYW Committee before the resolutions for General Assembly were put together.  

The committee withdrew the resolution after hearing the feedback, which Paul Robinson said would be used in the next part of this work. 

Assembly Executive 2024 ended with worship led by Karen Campbell, and the Revd Stephen Ansa-Addo, Chaplains to the Revd Dr Tessa Henry Robinson. 

Reporting team: Laurence Waring, Ann-Marie Nye, Andy Jackson and Stephen Tomkins.