Detached youthwork : taking our cue from the context

If every single moment with every young person is a new moment, a different moment, then what are the cues that we take into that encounter?

One thing ive realised, that, different to the club or centre based work, is that the context of that space is hugely significant. I found especially recently, even in one area of Durham, that doing detached youthwork in a neutral open space like the skate park, has a vastly different feel to it that in a park surrounded by houses, or in and amongst the streets between those houses. Maybe that’s a reflection on how i feel about the space – but i dont think its far off the mark to say that encountering young people in a space they’ve chosen to go to to have their own activity away from their homes, is different to when we encounter young people within 20m of their front doors, and when parents may be in the front garden watching, or looking through the kitchen window. its not a neutral space, chosen by a young person, its only where they’re allowed to go and within eyesight.  Being aware that the detached youthwork is taking place in the heart of the community is due reason to have greater diligence in terms of the performance of the detached work, it would be truly accountable to the community, who may be watching on, and also being ready to be introduced to parents and relatives who could be introduced to.

It also brings up the awkward question of speaking to young people, not only when they might be in their front gardens, but also if they are with their parents? my usual thought would be to ‘ignore’ family groups on detached – but that might be discretionary – and only count in the ‘neutral’ spaces of public parks, not just outside young peoples houses, where it might seem odd not to.

Over the last few years i have done or tried to do detached youthwork in two very similar sized small towns/large villages, and if you were looking at population size, local amenities and proximity to larger town/city – they wouldnt too different.  Yet trying to do detached youthwork in a more middle class area, such as East Devon – where almost young people dont need you or on the contrary expect huge amounts of stuff – seems vastly different to East Durham villages where young people are intrigued, ask questions, are happy to chat, in comparision they seem grateful. They also, in comparison with the same age young poeple have a greater confidence in the space of the small town, they grew up in, that the city-based young people who are in a pecking order for territorial influence, on estates where larger groups of 15-6’s roam around like packs on the pride. Surveys in the Guardian, based on the Census results also showed that in this same East Durham Village there was a higher proportion of people who identified with a faith tradition/community – this again has been reflected in the oppenness of the young people to share and have questions about an aspect of their life they are familiar with even if they dont attend the village parish church.

So, in exploring the land, in encountering young people in their chosen context, we are to be aware of the nature of the land that we are exploring, not who it belongs to per se, but how the land has an effect on the young people – what it means to them in that space? how safe is it for them? how chosen is it? and what does our presence do in that space on the occasions we are there, and what about the times we’re not?

Does it make a difference if we observe and be part of the young persons activity? ie football or skateboarding, or if we are the activity – when theyre bored and we are the entertainment- there are differences to us and how we are with them, and how they interact with us.  What if we’re to be with them during activity that they dont want us to be with them – ie drinking?  or if the entertainment they want from us is to be publically racist/sexist and endorse their way of thinking. Does the context have an impact on this – well i guess it does- if their language and endorsed values stand up in a small community- seperate to family- then it might be that these are easier to break down and encourage reflection, but if this positon is held in proximity to a larger closer knit family community – then it becomes a significantly different ball game.

Just a few more reflections about the context of detached and how being part of this space causes us to think about the kind of space it is for the young people and the kind of space we’re creating by being there.





Going beyond the fourth- to challenge the fifth wall?

So if participating is on the stage, what part might a renewed audience play in becoming participants themselves, if their initial experience is in receipt of the threatened breaking of the wall? (by the actors performing across the wall See

Is the fifth wall the gatekeeper who allows the viewings of the performance to be viewed by the performers – the barriers to participation?

Would they be akin to Jesus’ disciples who prevented the children, who disregarded bartimeus, who dismissed the plea of the bleeding woman?

Vanhoozer (2014) states that “Audience participation is part and parcel of the theatre of the gospel, indeed to invite others into the action- the triune communicative action oriented to communion and reconciliation- is the very purpose of the play” (2014:46) going on to say that “The church being both the school of discipleship and the stage for interactive theatre”, though  if the stage is the church – what might that imply about the audience?  and how the audience interacts with the stage, who can and how might participation occur? and maybe as importantly how might the church-as-stage be the barrier in itself for audience participation?

so is it cost? – ie who can afford to participate?

is it access? – who is able to get in? who can experience it?

is it langauge? power of language, translating?

Is it ability? behaviour, class, culture?

how is this decided? who holds the keys to the power that does? or is the performance itself the factor that decides who can participate.

Does breaking down the fourth wall, allow for the freedom of participation, or should the actors be aware that the fifth wall is the main controller of the participatory space of the audience.

yet what about institutional church – or the trappings of (youth) ministry – if theme park days out cost £25 (with a christian band), or SU holidays 4 times that (cost) – or that services are scripted for those who can read ( in maybe one or two languages) and rarely are powerpoints in more than one language (and never in braille). What of the young people who think or learn in different ways than ‘just’ crazy games, or being sung at in a school by the latest christian _____ band. Maybe these are actions within the confined of the fourth wall anyway, and not beyond the fourth, invisible, wall. Given that in the main, the buy in for these experiences, their language, culture and community is already realised, others have to fit in.

So, what of improvised performances beyond the fourth wall, and challenge the power boundaries of the fifth?  What of the christians who have worked, like my wife, with young people who’ve had abortions, where does Christ not only meet them- but where do they perform? or the young people with alcohol addiction & mental health? what of the generous spaces where conversation between LGBTQ people, christians and church emerges? or dialogue between the muslim and the christian, between the poet and the artists. Some of these challenge the barriers of the fifth that seek to control who is included in the audience.

Does detached youthwork confront and dissolve the fifth wall? – is it an open space for inclusion, for embrace, for performance, well it can do, depending on its approach, depending on how its performance encourages and challenges the status quo. Yet its more of an equal space as we’re with young people but as we journey with them, then the inequalities stacked against their favour emerge.

Our conversations on the streets over the last year have been mostly about three things, 1. who we are as DYw’s, 2. School/College/future and 3. Religion/Spirituality/Faith – It would be obvious to suggest that none of these subjects would be the hot topics of the young people if we werent there, however it does show that young people, have an interest in faith, in church, in religion – despite, or because they havent had an experience of church. Maybe they’re more interested because its an unknown space, a space they havent been disillusioned, bored, or annoyed by. If breaking beyond the fourth wall causes us to interact in the world, how might those outside maintain an involved participation that starts from these initial moments of conversation and exploration on their level. (and resisting pre determined, non-improvised programmes), and once this occurs, what about the fifth wall – the barriers that young people face in their participation – whether from within the values and behaviours of their host community and family, or from the gate keepers of the faith community themselves- not unlike those first disciples who wanted to decide whom, when and how people could participate.

Cockburn & Wallace (2010) talk about youthwork practice that is both liberal and critical – as christian faith-based youthworkers we have a role in acquiring spaces outside of the established church – to the streets, to the clubs, to the schools, and in that understanding of life beyond the walls, challenge the barriers that prevent participation so that the stage can be enlarged, and new local performances occur, yet in that shared space with young people the injustices and barriers are ‘hopefully’ felt and desired to be acted upon and challenged.

Vanhoozer (2010) in the context of the segregation that befalls America at Sunday at 11am, states that “The church demonstrates her understanding of atonement by breaking down the dividing walls of racial and ethnic hostility” (2010,440) – yet i would also add that there are walls of participation in the church of young people, of young + disabled, young people suffering with mental health, LGBTQ? people, and ask who is in the critical, free, space to encourage the breaking down walls? who supports the wall breakers? how much power is maintained to keep the walls?  is it easier to create new communities of acceptance outside the walls of the church, than keep trying to find acceptance/participation of young people within the established walls?

Dan Crouch recently discussed about participation , you can read his thoughts here, essentially youthworkers , if they take their critical, reflective role seriously are attempting to encourage young people to be liberated to become, as Boal would suggest ” a subject, an actor on an equal plane, with those generally accepted as actors, who must also be spectators” (1970: 135).

18? Getting ready to vote on 7th May? Whatever you do, don’t forget 2011


If you were 14 or older in 2011, when a number of youth services were being dismantled and specialist provision for young people was dropped overnight, you are likely to be eligible to vote in this year’s General Election.

I know that 4 years is a long period of time in a young person’s life, but don’t forget what happened. It was a really rocky period of time, with closures of youth clubs and angry young people, who were made to feel like second class citizens.

In 2011, I made a speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. I talked about what was happening in my own local area. Vulnerable young people were left to fend for themselves after services were dropped overnight, and councils were trying to balance their vastly reduced budgets. The Government did not see young people as a priority and just left things as they…

View original post 228 more words

Going deeper?

“I want to go deeper, but i dont know where it goes” (Delirious 1996)

So, when the Niceans, the chalceodonians and the apolstles got together back in the day, when they discussed, argued, voted, and sought to clarify the essentials of the emerging christian faith, the one thing that the missed off, given that it seems to be a bedrock of christian thought for the last decade, is that for a real true faith, for a significant, meaningful communal relationship with the triune God, for acting in Christ, with Christ and for Christ, none of this would be possible, unless you hadnt gone ‘deeper’. You know that unmeasurable deeperness that seems to emmanate from every festival movement, conference season since Delirious had that pop record in 1996. So, what does it mean? how can we tell if its been had, and why does going deeper, feel like doing the same standing, singing, listening, promising/pledging, leaving and forgetting – is that deeper at all – or a linguistically clever way of encouraging a state of being, that could be different, and makes the speaker of such saying valid in their inference. Is it just an easy thing to say – i mean to say “this week at _______, we’re going to go deeper____” – rather than “this week at ______, itll be shallow for Jesus, bit of singing and some great food” – its great motivational speak – but – is it Biblical?

I mean, did the discples ever sit round and go – Jesus take me deeper? or Paul, or did he encourage the churches, with exhonorations to go deeper?

The two NIV references for the word Deeper are

Leviticus 14:35, in reference to the depth of mould on a wall, and Job 11:8 in which the description of the mysteries of God are given as deeper than the depths below.

So, taking away the thought that during a conference we are to examine the extent of the mould on the wall of the butlins entertainment buildings ( a spring harvest venue) – though i have seen 3 inches of limescale on the bottom of a kettle at the aforementioned butlins. I would hope that , given the only other biblical reference to ‘deep-ness’ is ths second that we go for that one.  So Gods mysteries are deeper than the oceans, and deepest places – how does that equate to the eschewing of the desire for a personal going deeper?

To go deeper into the mysteries of God, the unquestionables, the nature and essence, the creator, author, presence and subject of his own drama, to hear from the saints who have gone before, to listen, to share stories, to discover God at work. To gather to do God in the midst of community, to love despite hate, to reconcile and restore – might these be moments of being and knowing and hearing the deepening voice of God who dances in our midst. To love God more because of his mystery, that love only a God whom i can contain in the sized box in which i like.

There are also 45 references to ‘Depths’ – of which many look like being taken/rescued from the ‘depths’, Jonah being ‘flung’ into the depths , depths of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God ( Rom 11:33), depth of my love for you (from Paul to the church at Corinth 2 cor 2:3-5), and finally Philippians 1 8-10, which states:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. 

So, Biblically, we are rescued from the depth places , flung into them against our will, or its a measure of a LOVE that is growing knowledge and insight, for discernment, for best action and personal holiness, which in itself is collective & vocational . Its not then something that occurs through the process of lots of singing, or just hearing. Its an ongoing yearning foracting in love (Love is a verb), knowing listening and being with God, for discerning right action in the ongoing drama.

So, shall we give up singing songs about intentions, and actually do them?  Maybe ‘we need to go deeper’ is just becoming a new pet-hate – just as much as ‘we need to go forward’ was/also is.  Its more that its become synonimous with the trickets of a personal expression of faith, rather than the desire to love and worship in action the complex trinitarian, incarnate, merciful biblical God. To dance his dance in the community, to explore the mysteries of God with and grow with others, thats deeper.


Youthwork and my left foot

Ive been off this week, hasnt it been glorious! or at least it has in the best place to live in Britain, the North East.

Because the weather has been so good, ive been out on a number of occasions with my son, George, playing football, the best place for this has been on the beach where weve had acres of space. As he’s played he’s reminded me not only of me, as an 11 yr old aspiring footballer, but also my practice of youthwork.

He is very right footed. almost totally. To the point where he is almost unconsciously competent on his right side, controlling, passing, skills – very accomplished for his age. However Daddy this week has been cruel; trying to get him to use his left foot to control, pass and volley the ball. He’d had to think about what hes doing ( it been possible to see the thinking) and trying and replicate the balance on his right side, but do this on the left.  As he was trying this he said that he didnt want to do it on his left because ‘it might go wrong’ to which i said to him, that the worst that could happen would be that the ball would go array, in the sea or mean a bit of a run to get it back. But that trying to practice on his left foot, with me, on a beach is a better time to start than at football training in front of his coach, and peers.

There were a few things i reflected on in this episode:

1. Do we as youthworkers allow for the ongoing practice of empowering young people to develop and use new unused skills, behaviours, based on new understandings of the world?

2. where are safe spaces that we allow young people to rehearse/practice?

3. How do we equip young people for the possibility that they might fail in trying to do something new?

I say this one, on the basis that the former Fairbridge training group in their evaluations would say that according to their evidence that young people, even with additional support, education and guidance, will try to use new ways of acting in situations, feel that they havent gone well, and then almost go 1 or 2 steps back as a consequence. Research also indicates that in mentoring, relationships over a year are ones where the safety net is congruent enough to catch a young person, and allow them to flourish, yet the ones less than a year offer hope, but deliver failed promises that damage young people more than if the mentor hadnt appeared in their life at all.  So its not without due reason that part of empowering a young person, might be to equip them for a time that things dont go well, not expect failure, but to expect that the environment around the young person might not allow for their new thinking/actions to be validated.

I guess the other thing would be that i am a cruel Dad, it would be easier for me to give George lots of opportunities to increases his prowess with his right foot, after all that would be his current strong point – and as youthworkers we might focus on young peoples obvious strengths, but how might it be empowering to focus on young peoples weaknesses too?

As a young person, i wouldnt have said i was a leader, in fact, in comparing myself to other people, as i still do, id say other people are more charismatic, creative, reflective, thoughtful and visionary than me, and there was a number of people in my church who id have said the same about. At 17, When I applied to do Oasis Frontline teams, though i was aware the question would arrive i genuinely did not see myself as ‘leadership’ material. Id hated being school football captain ( we lost 6-0), or embarrassed doing the ‘up-front’ stuff, and was fairly quiet at school, so leadership wasnt something id wanted, nee almost shyed away from. (On a slightly seperate note, i was lucky being male, as i dont know whether leadership is something that is thrust upon females, especially in churches, in the same way.)  I wouldnt have said it was a weakness, but just not something that id been able to rehearse to gain confidence in. However, my experience of leadership here, might be nothing in comparison to the hidden, dormant capabilities of young people you might know.

As an 11 year old, i tried so hard to get my left foot to work on the football field, in the same way of trying to get a backhand in tennis – both give me the consciously incompetant heebie-jeebies. Inhibited by a fear of trying, a fear of making a mistake, a fear of embarrasment.

But what about the young people we encounter in our communities, what for them is the equivalent of my left foot, how might we discover this, how might they be empowered to safely use, develop and practice it.


Bridal Church – There’s something about Mary

“Whoever wishes to think about the incarnation of the Word of God must look carefully for the woman” (Hans urs von Balthasar)

Ive got to admit, this piece has taken a while to write; its been swirling around my head for about 4 months, since Christmas. That’s when id got to the end of the books on my bookshelf i wanted to read and started to read ‘The Von Balthasar reader’ (1997), as it was the last of my theology books i hadnt read. The other reason its been sitting on the drafts pile is that its become either difficult/popular/patronising (delete as appropriate) for men to talk about society’s & the church’s attitude to women (especially on twitter), however i thank @markrhewerdine, for forming a conversation on this, and also the Easter holidays when ive had some time off to try and articulate some of this.

At the time of beginning to think about this in Dec/Jan, The church of England had passed a motion to allow for women Bishops, and subsequently appointed three ( it might be 4 by the time ive finished this), three women too are knocking on the door of the westminister elite, and roundly being praised for their ideologies, passion, compassion and wisdom after the leaders debates last week. There is an emergent conversation about the opportunities for women in society currently, to have a voice that they possibly couldnt before – whether thats because Social media is an egalitarian space to have a voice, blogs circulated and articles shared, or something else, but im not a sociological expert on these things.

So, early in January i was at the YFC Conference, and was reading the aforementioned writings of Balthasar, if anything just to keep me sane, and also because i wanted to finish it before my chosen books of choice from christmas got opened, where i began to hear various proddings about voice and shape of women in the church.

On one hand the low-church evangelical in me was awoken to the relevency of the ‘catholic’ faith as a teenager with a good friend of mine, and also in the ecumenical flavour of the theology taught at ICC, and in Bathasar ( and Vanhoozer) this continues;

In a study of the people around Jesus, Balthasar compares Mary ( mother of Jesus), John the Baptist, with Peter. With Mary and John there is an origin story, there may in all likelihood have been communication between Mary and John. John is the first to proclaim the saving-act of Jesus after that with which Mary had known since his birth. Yet somewhat ironically, the shape of the church subsequently has had little, if anything to do with the nature, theology or ministry of Mary or for that matter John – who proclaimed him directly from God, instead ‘overtaken’ by those chosen by Jesus, the disciples.  In describing the incarnation Balthasar uses the depth of the female body, the womb

In describing the incarnation, Balthasar uses the depth of the female body, the womb as a metaphor for the depths, almost obviously, where Jesus emerges from- and as metaphorically it is from this depth the Word must rise from- the ‘bottom most foundation of life’.

In relation to the Ephesians 5 22-24 passage, Balthasar describes that “the church (as his body) owes its existence as a whole to him who brought it forth out of his own fullness, only then can there be any talk of the church as “bride”. Here the church is wholly female, it is conceiving, bearing and giving birth to what she has received from Christ as his fruitfulness” (HUVB p232)

He goes on to say that the church in its infancy was described, perceived and represented almost entirely as female despite its leadership being male. There is some sense of dischord between then the pronouncement of the church as female, and the disappearance of the female evangelist ( ie Mary after the tomb), however, this is a somewhat secondary point that kind of hit me between the eyes as i was reading Balthasar in January. Two questions that this segment of Balthasar raised for me are:

1. What of the conceiving, bearing and giving birth nature of the church still remains? – and how might church be female? and;

2. If ‘traditional’ youth ministry is shaped by the ecclesiology of its local church, how is youth ministry also akin to the ‘conceiving, bearing and giving birth’ female nature?

It is kind of ironic that the structures of the church, from the Fathers onwards have pre-eminated maleness, but that the nature, character and essence of the church was female. In Christs self giving, he bestows upon the church a desired form and structure, the life of the Holy Spirit that corresponds to him ( ibid p234), So in going back to the questions, what of the female nature of the church, in and amongst the metaphor of the church being the freed bride – in waiting.

In some ways youth ministry, taking the example of YFC in Britain as a starting point, began from a male led church and pursuit of evangelism (in comparison with so called ‘christian america’), it became a youth ministry of programmes linked to churches. When at the same time (1967) community based  youth work approaches were also being pioneered by agencies such as YWCA and the like.

If there was a simplistic contrast, is that one looked at the gaps in the churches where there were no young people- was organisation first, the other sought to spend time with young people in their community, listen and learn about and from them, an experience that was painful and testing. It might not be too far off the mark to see the masculinity in one of these two approaches, and the more feminine in the other.

Yet it is the church as an organisation that should (more than a so called ‘para-church’ organisation) have more female and feminine tendancies. Has this more masculine / evangelism focus of youth ministry been effective? – what are its limitations- due to its nature – a lack of discipleship and focus on renewing of an initial buzz or high? – how might it become truly compassionate, caring, bearing or maternal?

In thinking about church – does it look/feel/act like a female organisation? (it would be as fair to ask if it acts male – but thats not the point here)

Does church act with compassion, tenderness and loyalty to those within, to those struggling, to those on the edge?  (does even the pre-requisite of inside/outside show a tendency to ‘model’ church on a business paradigm?)

If church as female is a metaphor – more than a model, would it look at people differently – possibly more in terms of human flourishing, rather than coherant obedience/adherance?

And what of the churches work with young people – maybe more delivered by females traditionally ( as they wouldnt have been allowed to ‘teach’ adults) – but what of the ‘big elements of youth ministry’ – the events, conferences, camps and programmes – do they have at their heart an essence of the feminine?  how might mission statements, strategies for evangelism, programmes for discipleship, be models that could be dispensable, yet at the same time the church got in touch, quite literally with its feminine side? less proclaiming, more listening, less organisation, more love.

In the tragedy of the last act of the world, so that the nature of the person (female) and its role ( male) church seems at a contradistinction – at an odd state of suspense. Like the early church -its actions and acts tend to be male, yet its essence, where love, growth and friendship (discipleship) occur would be more female.

For the church to conceive, bear, to grow, to birth – what might that mean in your community, in your church? what might that mean in your youth ministry or youthwork at the moment? As Balthasar goes on to say, the church often appears as a mother with whom it is hard to get along (p252), the motherhood of the church often only appears as a transmitted word which, in the present age has lost all helpful meaning.  Does todays church need to be more female/feminine/maternal?

When I read this , I was at the YFC conference, where it was pretty obvious that the voices that were most prophetic were either those from females, or were from men who used pictures, drama and poetry as illustrations of theology – as a way of drawing thinking, of conceiving thought and ideas, in contrast with those who simply shouted and used the platform to tell their own stories in the hope that these would inspire – in a male kind of way. The same male way that doesnt allow women to speak at first in groups when i meet mixed groups on the street, or the same male way that interrupts women on bbc’s question time.

This is long enough as a thought, yet, even though the question has stuck with me since January, i havent got any further with it- , and so i leave it with you – How might youth ministry be more metaphorically female? – How might the church? what about its activities like conferences, in terms of delivery & style?

I hope this hasnt offended or patronised anyone, its an odd place to be male and wanting to connect with the female nature of the church, and do so with a male voice. If it comes across as patronising then i am sorry, its not meant to be, it was a personal awakening for me of the key relationships of Mary & John to Jesus , and the nature of the church as the female bride, and what that might mean in todays church and work with young people.

Improvised leadership beyond the fourth wall

If the cues for work amongst young people beyond the fourth wall involve taking our cues from the street , where do we take our cues from for leading/managing work amongst young people  beyond the fourth wall?

In a lengthy quality conversation a month ago, with community based youthworkers at Cafe Leadership in Manchester, it became clear that we could validate our work with young people, its value, its place and its need, and that because our work collectively would loosely be described as kingdom/missional rather than ‘youth ministry’, and as a result started in community, in the space of the young people. Yet as we spoke, it became noticeable, that our reference points for an emerging leadership within christian youthwork were places within the walls of commerce/retail (ie bad/good experiences from ‘secular’ work, or from business), the walls of the church, education or walls of sport, yet as relative pioneers navigating in community based christian youthwork where should we take our cues from if leadership is needed in that space?  where are the cues for leadership if the ones learned from other fields have limitations?

Might leadership within the interactive space of beyond fourth wall work encapsulate the artistic, creative and poetic? And how might management encapsulate youthwork & possibly Christian values – that have empowerment, servantheartedness, mercy and equality at their core?

What might leadership mean when the notion of leader is so easily critiqued and deconstructed – leader seems almost a bygone term that sits within Business leader or church leader – when other people based professions have adopted ‘worker’ – ‘coordinator’ or ‘manager’ – the world of sport has almost no mention of ‘leader’ at all.

One thing about detached work is that the space is equalised, and leadership is firmly diminished. There is limited difference in the status of each person in the team – until the first people speak, and even then it might not be obvious. But that is on the streets, and not every act of youthwork is set there. Yet often young people relate to a youthworker as a person first, rather than an authority figure second, given that its only after the relationship is established that a young person might ask about ‘what a youthworker is’, and if they get paid.. the other day on detached a young person asked what my job actually is, not believing that being as informal could be a paid role.

What might leadership, (if leadership at all) would look like in an improvised space of mission beyond the fourth wall (of working with young people outside of the structured spaces of church, school, business, social work) when so often the theories of leadership are taken from within those walls, as they hold the power of narrative, of academia, and practice.  Life on the street, taking cues from the street might be a place of leadership neutrality. It might emerge, rather than be implemented, it is negotiated rather than dictated, earned & given, not delegated. Yet if leadership is authentic to the Theodrama, then it becomes appropriate to the ongoing context, and according to the place of the play set before us, and reliant on reflection in and on practice.  Maybe thats where peer supervision is an aide to leadership, in that its for others ahead in the field ( and i use this loosely) to peer supervise those emerging, and have a continued conversation, which is probably why Cafe Leadership and its conversations floated my boat particularly.

Youthwork: learning from the water carrier

“As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, The teacher asks – where is the room that i can eat the passover meal with my disciples” (Luke 22: 10-12)

Possibly not the most well know episodes, statement or actions of Jesus, an unremarkable instruction. But , aside from the due diligence, dedication and devotion of the women at Easter (John 12: 1-12, Luke 21 1-5, Luke 23: 26-33 and Luke 24 1-12), its this simple little episode that has got my attention. For at least two reasons, and two reasons in which we as christian faith based youthworkers might reflect on further.

Firstly, Jesus knew the routines of the community. Ok this might reduce his aura slightly, but instead of him knowing prophetically that the water carrier was there, he’s actually seen him on previous occasions, doing his dutiful actions, day by day, collecting water, filling the buckets and delivering it. Maybe thats a benefit to being up early, Jesus might have seen him on his early morning prayer times.. but Jesus had some knowledge of this routine, this person, his duty, his influence and his resources. It was all these he needed at a time of pending crisis.

Secondly, moving on from the first. Once the routines of the community had been sought, Jesus could use the resources that the Water carrier could give. The water carrier was familiar to the community, had power and resources, did a daily routined job well, hidden (possibly) and was relied upon for an essential resource. Crucially at a time of crisis, Jesus didnt turn to the powerful leaders to give him and his disciples a home, a space, a welcome. He found, not the least likely, but someone dependable, reliable, familiar and unassuming. And the water pitcher led them to the right place.

At Easter this year, i wonder whether as youthworkers we take our role as the water carrier a little more seriously. Often we are hidden and unassuming in our communities, and actually deep down we know this is a space we love to be, hidden in the margins, guiding and leading, having conversations – yet all the while young people are led to new places, places where new things become familiar, because we do do the regular, the week by week, listening to the community and its resources, and most of all being familiar in times when young people need someone who can be trusted.  Its a sacred space, a gritty space.

Crucially too, the water pitcher, is relied upon by Jesus to propel him and his team into the space of the last few days of that Holy Week, the ordinary used to lead to extraordinary. As youthworkers our role in the ongoing drama is to have conversations which reflect a new reality that propels young people to new ideas, dreams, visions – but that will only occur if we aware ourselves of the drama of that change.

Happy Easter!

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: