A SEVEN-YEAR plan to commission 1000 younger leaders to serve in Church and society was launched on Monday at the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery. The Younger Leadership College (YLC) is for ages 15 to 30 — a generation that the Dean of the YLC, Andy Wolfe, said should not be written off.
The Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul Williams, said that the diocese was not reaching younger people enough. “We want to see them equipped, inspired, and having a sense of being commissioned by God,” he told the gathering. “This is not simply about providing new leaders for the Church, but about the whole of society. It is not about the survival of an institution, but about the revival of the whole Church.”
The C of E’s presence in every community made it a significant player in schools and universities, the Bishop said, and gave it natural avenues into workplaces of all kinds. “Influence enables us to exercise leadership.”
Mr Wolfe, formerly the Vice-Principal of Nottingham Emmanuel School, emphasised the need for Christians in every walk of life. “We need to invest in this in a long-term way if the role of faith is to have a wider impact on society than any of us can imagine,” he said.
A core team has been working since September to put programmes in place for the two streams: aged 15 to 18, and 18 to 30. Weekly formation groups for the younger age-group have been set up in partnership with church and school leaders, focusing on developing “discipleship, leadership, character, and culture”.
Members can take part in a residential course in London in February, when they will be able to meet church and other leaders. They will also have the opportunity to have a Martin Luther King international-leadership experience in the United States, “learning about leadership in the footsteps of the great”, Mr Wolfe said.
Formation groups are also part of the 18 to 30 programme, alongside mentoring by leaders for those interested in exploring their calling and leadership. Speakers at monthly Saturday-breakfast meetings in the Broadway Cinema will address the difficulties of leadership, covering areas such as ambition, burn-out, and resilience.
An intern programme is already under way, and includes three placements with Trinity Church, Nottingham, a new church for younger people being set up in the Creative Quarter of the city, and backed by Holy Trinity, Brompton. The young have “an incredible capacity to dream about a better world”, a YLC co-ordinator, Beth Yearsley, told the meeting.
Funding for YLC has come from a £1.2-million grant from the Church Commissioners. It is part of the wider diocesan strategy “Growing Disciples: Wider, Younger, Deeper”. Targets for 2023 include welcoming 7000 new disciples, planting or grafting 75 new worshipping communities, and growing 25 larger resource churches: all these seek to “serve as one Church contending for the gospel in every community and sphere of public life”.