Ok, obvious one to start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you wrote We Are Satellites?
I enjoy an obvious question. I’m Martin, and I’ve been involved in youth ministry for the last 20 years. I guess I have dedicated my entire working life to helping young people connect with Jesus, and to resourcing the amazing people who work with teenagers up-and-down the country. I work for an organisation called Youthscape, and I’m the youth minister at my church in Surrey. I’m also a parent of two teenagers (and two younger boys) and so I am massively invested – on a lot of levels – in helping young people understand that there really is a God who loves them and wants to be in relationship with them. I suppose this book is the obvious outworking of that passion.
And why is it called We Are Satellites?
The book has a single clear metaphor at its heart. It’s the same metaphor that we are using in the Satellites youth event (www.wearesatellites.com), which is launching next summer at the East of England Showground (taking some of the place of Soul Survivor). Here’s the idea in its simplest form: we tend as humans to put ourselves at the centre of our lives, and we think the world revolves around us. But ultimately we all know that that approach to life is flawed, and fails you in the end. Life in all its fullness is only ever found when we put God at the centre of our lives – and understand that we revolve around him, not the other way around. So the metaphor is about orbit and priorities, and then the book looks at what that means in practice.
What is your dream for young people?
I actually wrote this book with an individual in mind. My daughter is almost 13 years old, and had got to a point in her life where she was asking some big questions. Even though she has grown up in church, she admitted that she just didn’t really understand what this ‘God stuff’ was all about. So I asked her one day, if I wrote it down in a book, would she read it? She said that she would, and so I spent the next six months writing We Are Satellites. My dream for young people is encapsulated in my dream for my daughter: I hope that (and the book will only make a small contribution to this) they would know that God loves them just as they are, and that the meaning of life is found in knowing God and building everything around him. That’s the secret to true contentment – and so much of what I see in young people right now is discontent.
What were you like as a young person and what would you tell your younger self about coping with adolescence?
There is a fair amount of teenage Martin in the book actually! There’s no denying that I had a pretty tough time, particularly with bullying and self esteem issues. I guess if I could talk to that poor (somewhat attention-seeking) young lad right now, I’d try to convince him that honestly, God (and often other people) accepted him just as he was. I knew that as ‘head knowledge’ back then, but it took me years to be comfortable in my own skin. Oh, and I would tell myself that you don’t always have to make a joke out of absolutely everything.
We’ve heard a lot in the news lately seeming to blame young people for rising covid rates, what’s your response to that?
In a word: Grrr (I know that’s not a word). I take no pleasure in saying that I knew this would happen (and predicted it in an article months earlier). And I only knew that because I’ve been around long enough to know that history always repeats with the demonisation of young people. Every generation of youths since the 1950s have faced it (not that I was around that long ago) – as teenagers, they are no longer innocent little darlings, and not yet contributing fully to the economy; they’re everybody’s scapegoats. Sure, some young people have been irresponsible in their disregard for restrictions. But the beaches haven’t been full of teenage holidaymakers, and the pubs and restaurants (mostly) haven’t been full of young people. Young people are the easy target.
What do you think has been the effect of 2020 on young people, and how can we go forward?I honestly don’t think we know the full effects yet, and in the future we may be dealing with issues like PTSD when it comes to COVID-19. But right now I know that young people have serious emotional well-being needs which need to be on everybody’s agenda. Young people already felt betrayed by Brexit and hung out to dry by climate change – they are growing up believing they’re a forgotten generation. Everyone needs to be investing in our young people right now.
Out of your 13 books – which is your favourite?
I don’t want to be that guy, but ahem, it’s 15. But maybe you’re letting me forget my pre-evangelistic football novel, England’s Messiah. I feel pretty proud of the new book, but apart from that it’s probably my previous one – The Man You’re Made to Be, which is all about facing extended adolescence as a young man. I’ve had a lot of lovely messages about that over the past year – I think it connects with people who don’t identify with traditional masculine stereotypes. It’s also got more jokes in it. Maybe I haven’t grown up quite as much as I’d thought.
Martin Saunders is the Director of Satellites, a new event for young people launching August 2021, and Director of Innovation at Youthscape. You can buy Martin’s book from all good christian bookshops, amazon and if you buy it from BookshopUK I get a tiny percentage!