What are the common conversations in Christian youth work and ministry?

Doesnt it seem to be that there are a number of ongoing conversations about the same kind of things in Christian Youthwork and Ministry? the same kinds of things discussed over and over again, with books, articles and magazines trying to establish a new position, a new theory, a theology even, so what have been the main ones over the last 15-20 years?

  1. The Naming Conversation-  this is the ‘what shall the work be called’ and why? And most conversations start with reference to Youthwork at one end (deemed secular) and Youth Ministry at the other, yet what to name the distinctive practices in between is a big conversation, though Youth Ministry is as equally difficult to name.
  2. The Definition Conversation- Once the practice is named – it needs to be defined within that naming.
  3. The Church Conversation – How does the practice link to a church in terms of outcome for young people, or whether it should at all. Alternatively there is the type of church conversation which suggests that church might be adapted and contextualised to emerge with young people. Its still a church conversation.
  4. The Programmes & Curriculum conversation – How many programmes to use, why use them, what about curriculum, and who should set it conversations
  5. The Theology Conversation – This is the conversation about how the practice reflects, or is applied by, or an outworking of a particular (as yet undecided) Theology. Getting this right is important, it must be but the conversation still goes on.
  6. The Management conversation- This is linked to the church conversation, as usually and tragically its framed by the reality that being managed well in churches by clergy is a rarity, and that church is a space to generally cope, rather than enjoy, sadly. Yet Youthworkers in churches tend to want better and more management.
  7. The lack of decent books on Youth Ministry, Youth work and Theology Conversation. Basically its Pete Ward, a bit of Richard Passmore, John Ord and a few others. Its a myth there are none, but from a UK context there’s not many.
  8. The Proof conversation. This is the justify its working conversation, and continually battling against the notion of ‘bums on seats’ in churches. But is this reflective of the church organisation proof of success paradigm. Theres sometimes an evaluation conversation, but only if the work needs external funding.
  9. The Activity Conversation. Nothing less than a 60 hour week and 3 summer residentials counts as valid ministry. This is never linked to the burnout conversation, which is never had at conferences, because the youthworkers who have burnt out aren’t attending.
  10. The justifying the need to exist due to ‘the 300,000 young people leaving the church’ conversation. If you havent heard this one, then youve not been a youthworker long. But does the need justify what, when, and how the youthwork is done – or just that something should be done?

Do Young People themselves figure in the conversations at all? Their world, their nature, their context and environment? Its funny a profession working with young people seems to have few conversations about young people at all. More about the practices, processes, definitions and language. But Young people? hmm…

Are there any other conversations that seem to be recurring?

Or conversations that should occur more?


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