Where is reflective youthwork practice in the Practical Theology discourse?

One of the real benefits of studying at ICC on the Ba in Youthwork and applied theology, and I imagine some of the other equivalent courses in the UK, was that a deliberate attempt, due to national youth & community work accreditation, for these courses in ‘Christian’ colleges (colleges which adhered to ecumenical Christian values ) to educate and give christian youthworkers a language of their practice which enabled them to be as well versed in community based, council funded, settings as also church related settings, and for this much credit has got to be given. Shared language and practice guidelines were and are exceedingly helpful

And so, many shared aspects between christian faith based youthwork, and non-faith based youthwork have similar characteristics, and some of these i have identified in my #ywaf15 blog which is here http://wp.me/p2Az40-fJ. Along with practice aspects such as reflection (Kolb) , person centered work (Rogers) and liberation ( Freire et al) . This is immensely useful.

However, in my Practical theology lectures for my MA, aside from work by Pete Ward, the overall discourse about youthwork, and youth workers using Kolb, or reflective practice is sadly lacking. I wonder why is this? (many state that professionals such as teachers or social workers use Kolb- but theres barely a youthwork mention in sight..)

Are there youthworkers who are writing in the practical theology field? – well i’m sure there are (other than Pete Ward), but why in all the guide books on practical theology is a ministry that has an 4,500 FTE workforce within the church not even mentioned? Does it not exist? does no one realise that youthworkers who have been academically trained might have insight into reflective practice which might actually help clergy and others studying academically practical/reflective practice?

So, whilst the christian youth workers have strived to keep up with the discourse of youthwork (when i say strived i mean that at least they have been in the main given the tools to from some academic establishments on the course) – the direction of youthwork practice has remained under the radar for clergy in training (who will have to do some practical theology). The ironic thing is that, because of imposed ideologies within other practices, such as teaching and social work (these are often mentioned in the practical theology discourse) these professions have more limited opportunities to develop a true reflective practice, and not that i’m saying youth workers always can either, but youth work might have some good examples of its use, and be a educative practice that could provide clearer insight of its use for clergy. So, i lay down something of a personal and collective gauntlet,  to make further contributions in this field. Maybe youthwork is too new a profession and thus there are few contributors. Maybe youthworkers are too busy to write using a theologically reflective methodology?  and contribute to the field.

What is encouraging is that Practical theology is creatively reshaping the methodology, derived from Kolb, adapting it to include collaborative, and collective voices,  or as in Eric Stoddart (2014), to take seriously the powers at work in the context of reflective situations. These too are an area that youthwork is rich in , as it strives for young people to be liberated, and that forces of power are often stimuli for action in the world of young people. Its enlightening that theology has creatively shaped reflection from Kolb, and so Youth work should in some ways catch up and contribute to the discussion. If it is, and I’ve missed it thus far then great, I clearly haven’t done enough reading on it, or too new in the field. But at the moment the youthwork voice and example is sadly lacking as a profession in the discourse.

So , whilst being able to contribute to professional youthwork has Christian youthwork/ministry not kept up with the educative discourse of clergy in their training, thus is one possible factor in clergy not being able to manage youth workers as effectively because they have no reference as to what they do. Its probable that if you’re a youth worker in a church right now, you might have no idea that your minister (if Anglican) might also know Kolb…(at least its a starting point for shared language..)

This week i am undertaking a practical theology assessment on Thursday, on the subject of management of youth workers in churches. Maybe this is a toe in the water of contributing to the field.

But come on Christian ministry training – give credance and acknowledgement to Christian youthworkers whove been using Kolb, Argyris/Schon, Freire (amongst others) in practice for at least over 20 years now… ignore the youth workers in the midst of the church no longer….


2 thoughts on “Where is reflective youthwork practice in the Practical Theology discourse?

  1. I just stumbled across this post and lots resonates. I’m a youth worker who’s just started an MA in advance theory and method in practical theology in urban settings (rolls off the tongue). Would love to discuss!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.