Listening and learning from young people…

Listening and learning from young people…

Spring 2024
Chris Curtis

Chief Executive, Youthscape


Most young people have a refreshing habit of letting you know what they think. Listening to a single young person gives you vital nuance and story, but assessing data from tens of thousands of young people gives you a broader insight that allows you to make strategic decisions about what you’re doing as an organisation and where you should be focusing. 

But the point is we listen – and learn. 

I think one of the things that trips us up is that we have all been 14. Adolescence is common to us all, even if it was a long time ago. I was 14 in 1979 when the Buggles were singing “Video Killed the Radio Star” and flared jeans were a sought-after fashion accessory. 

But being 14 in 2023 is not like 1979, it’s not even like 2013, just 10 years ago. Thanks to the pandemic, in some ways, it’s not even like 2019. Our world is changing and it is changing more quickly. More than ever, it is vital to listen. We have all been 14 but none of us have been 14 in 2023.

Working together with The Boys’ Brigade, the Youthscape Centre for Research has conducted what I believe is the first post-pandemic analysis of how life is different for teenagers compared to
a decade ago. 

It’s exhaustive, drawing from more than 90 pieces of published research. It’s comprehensive, covering different areas of life for young people including ‘health and wellbeing’, ‘identity, values and beliefs’ and ‘behaviours and lifestyles’. But above all it is listening to young people – and, of course, they have much to tell us.

Young people are disillusioned with religious faith. They are the least likely generation ever to describe themselves as religious. It is, I think, not so much a complete rejection of spirituality as a rejection of the institution of the Church. It’s hard not to think of the warning given by Dr Martin Luther King, writing about young people and the Church in 1963:

If today’s Church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early Church, it will lose its authenticity and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 20th century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the Church has turned into outright disgust.”

Sadly those words are echoed by this research. But they actually make the work of The Boys’ Brigade even more important. I have no doubt that joining a BB group and discovering Christian faith through their activities might help tell a better story of the Church to young people.

That’s just a glimpse into one aspect of this report and so I urge you to read it and engage with it.

To conclude, I might venture to say that only adults, and organisations, who are willing to listen to young people are likely to be regarded by them as having anything worth saying. That puts The Boys’ Brigade in a strong position going forward. 

Head online to download the research: