Youth participation: does it have a place in the Samoan traditional church? Exploring youth perceptions of the EFKS in South Auckland
The concept of youth participation is explored in the EFKS church context where the perspectives of young Samoan people of South Auckland are explored. In the Samoan culture, children and young people are usually the unheard and quiet voices at formal settings (Simanu, 2002; Tamasese, 2009). This thesis analyses the place of young people in the EFKS as well as their views and experiences on church issues. The EFKS which was first established in New Zealand in 1962 celebrated its 50 years anniversary in December 2012 (Tauafiafi, 2012; Oka, 2005). For the EFKS to be in existence for another 50 years, it will need the support and leadership of the youth of today.
The Talanoa methodology is used to interview 12 youth participants from 5 different churches of the EFKS Manukau matāgaluega with the understanding that the data obtained will be used to find possible solutions to achieving effective youth participation in the EFKS church. Some critical questions that were generated from the Talanoa are – What is a safe avenue or method for youth to voice their opinions? What is a culturally appropriate way for youth to speak in church settings before their elders and church leaders? How can the youth be critical of church matters and not be seen as disrespectful? What does specific positive youth participation for Samoan and Pasefika youth look like? What is positive youth participation in a traditional Samoan church? How is it different to the national definition of youth participation? To assist with obtaining a clear understanding of this thesis, a brief history and background of the EFKS is presented as well.
As a result of the Talanoa, different themes emerged from the interviews with the 12 youth participants. In-depth notions include identity, gagana Samoa, fa’aSamoa , financial issues, as well as challenges that are experienced in the church. The research findings state that the sharing of knowledge, awareness of youth issues, having adult role models and acknowledgement of young people is vital for positive youth participation in the church. This can be achieved through youth services, youth workshops and conferences as well as youth representatives who would be able to sit in on church meetings and boards.