May
26
Author
Edd Graham-Hyde
The next generation

This is the third post in a series of blogs about Brexit by guest contributor Edd Graham-Hyde (more about Edd below), which we're posting in the run up to the snap 2017 General Election...

If Brexit showed us anything, it is that an overwhelming amount of young people wanted to remain as part of the EU. Polls indicate that as many as 75% of the electorate between the ages of 18-25 wanted to remain (New Statesmen), with 16-18s not being given the vote at all. Rhetoric about the future of the UK was tossed around by both sides throughout the campaign and this has continued since the result. Ultimately, many of these young people, who have more stake in this future for a longer period of time, feel that they have been robbed by an older generation.

General election statistics demonstrate that young people do not engage in politics in the same way as the older generation. Voter turnout of those aged between 18-24 has decreased from 63% in 1992, to 44% in 2010 having already dipped to just 37% in 2005 (Independent, 2014). In the 2013 local elections only 32% of 18-24 year olds turned out compared to 72% of those over 65 years old (BBC, 2013). Interestingly, voter turnout for the referendum of those aged between 18-24 was 64%, compared to 90% over 65 years old (The Observer). 

There are a plethora of different reasons given for why there is a lack of voter turnout among young people. While I would argue that young people are politically engaged through other means, other research suggests that those who aren't engaged have justifiable reasons (White, Bruce & Richie; 2000). In summary: apathy is a result of disempowerment.

The simple fact is that young people feel like they are not listened to and, even if they are engaged, policy is made without their involvement anyway. This trend will continue, and in extreme cases it will push young people to look for a sense of belonging through other means: gangs, crime, and cults notwithstanding. More young people than ever before are becoming involved in the aforementioned – maybe that's just due to a postmodern approach to spirituality and belonging; I personally believe it is because they are providing something they do not experience elsewhere: empowerment.

Unfortunately, I only have anecdotal evidence to support the next claim in this blog; however, every time I have witnessed young people being empowered to lead and be involved deeply within something in church it has always led to amazing things happening.

I believe strongly that church is a safe place for young people to lead on things for their own peers. Whether this is an event which simply gives young people something to do, or a youth-led Alpha Course, the imperative is that the youth group have led it through themselves. It gives them a sense of ownership and a passion for its success – it empowers them to be the change they want to see in their community.

We have to give our young people space to do this, and continue to support them through discipleship and teaching them, making sure they know that they have the backing of the church when they venture out on things like this. Once empowered, you'll see a generation emerge that isn't apathetic, will learn to engage in all walks of life, but most importantly, you'll see young people engage in the Kingdom in a way that will not just change politics, but change the world.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guest contributors are those of the author. Although broadly in keeping with the objectives of Jubilee+, the views and opinions of the guest do not necessarily represent those of the Jubilee+ team and directors and/or other contributors to this site.

Edd is a fully qualified RE teacher and currently teaches A-level Sociology and Politics; he is also currently lecturing ad-hoc at the University of Central Lancashire while completing his PhD in socially fringed groups and religious narratives with a focus on social policy. He is part of the Christ Church Blackpool church plant and is an advocate for planting more churches by the beach!