With this approach to confronting the awkwardness in mind, you may not find it hugely surprising to open this extra-special, one-off-because-you-can-only-get-away-with-this-once, issue of Premier Youth and Children’s Work, tackling some of the biggest ‘elephants’ in youth and children’s ministry.

We all know these topics exist, but for reasons of awkwardness, pride or taboo, they simply never get discussed. When they do, we limit ourselves to pat answers and hypothetical, third-person examples. And because of all this awkward silence, none of these things get solved. So it’s time for some radical honesty; time to talk about the things we don’t talk about. And so, we’re going at them head on. Each and every one of these subjects will make us feel awkward and hopefully ask good, probing questions of our ministries. So over the coming pages prepare to think about what hell, corporal punishment, abortion, transgender young people, the God of the Old Testament, homosexuality, other faiths and masturbation mean for your ministries. Welcome to the most awkward issue of YCW ever printed.

Here’s my promise to you: we haven’t just done this to cause controversy and get a bit of attention. We don’t want to create more divides and arguments, in fact, as you work your way through the magazine, you’ll find common ground you didn’t know existed (finding some of it came as a glorious surprise to us). We’ve put this together because we think it’s important, because these questions can’t be ducked and avoided any longer; these subjects reflect the daily reality of the world we live and minister in.

The bad news is that we’re not going to provide concrete answers here. In fact, we’re going to hear from a variety of views in each of these areas: an article outlining the youth and children’s ministry impacts, a conversation between two people who disagree and, perhaps most importantly, we hear from children and young people on each of these things (obviously discussed at age-appropriate levels). We’re grateful to all who shared their stories and the children and young people who told us what they think.

Instead of answers, we want to provoke questions in ourselves and in our ministries. There will be things in this issue that you don’t agree with. That’s fine. In fact, that’s to be encouraged. But there will also be things which prod and cause you to think again. Please don’t dismiss these moments, instead choose to journey with us as we tackle these elephants head on.

Perhaps ironically, for all my talk of confronting things directly, I’m taking this moment to exit. This is my final issue as editor as I head off to the Salvation Army to work on some youth discipleship ideas (no, I won’t be wearing a uniform or playing the trumpet). I genuinely think editing the magazine(s) has been the best job in the world, and I’m eternally grateful to an amazing team and set of predecessors who I’ve adventured with over the last six years.

And while this isn’t just an attempt to avoid dealing with the fallout of this edition, I’m delighted that the person who will have to do that is Ruth Jackson. Ru has been around the magazine for a couple of years and has played a huge part in the merge of Youthwork and Childrenswork (RIP). She’ll do a great job; us readers are lucky to have her.

Finally, thanks to you, dear readers. Thanks for the encouragement and the challenge. This magazine is nothing without the extraordinary youth and children’s work communities; all we do at the magazine is channel the amazing vision, stories and creativity that you guys work out in your contexts day by day by day. Your giftings, passion and commitment never cease to amaze and inspire me. Never doubt that God smiles on all you do and all you are.