If you can deal with all of this, then being a youth worker is the right job for you

Beyond the table tennis jokes, and being paid to have coffee and go to meetings, being a youth worker is far more complex, from viewing young people in a distinctive way (at odds at times with the government, media, schools and social services), being involved in their lives in an equally distinctive informal way. Being a youth worker will require that you are astute in the following art forms, if you can rise to these challenges, then it might just be for you.

  1. If you can cope trying to view young people as more than just an economic contributant, with the dominant narrative of the neo-liberal agenda
  2. If you can react to having to find funding for your own role, from at times funders that have adopted the similar political agenda, whilst not being detrimental ethically to the young people and communities you seek to work with. (ie seeing people as more than ‘needy’)
  3. If you can cope when your job is one of the first to go, and shift to every government agenda for young people, to the point when the job that you trained for, barely exists in any pure form.
  4. If you can cope with 3, with barely a union, or collective voice to stand against the cuts. Or in a sutuation where your own professional accrediting body (JNC) is withdrawn from validity by said government.
  5. If you can react patiently when people ask you what you do, every time.
  6. If you’re ok being a professional working with young people that has their voice & opinion minimalised in most state structures such as schools, even if you’ve worked with the young person and their families outside of an institution for a while.
  7. If you can find job satisfaction in a role and find goodness in young people, despite maybe not being able to record, monitor or prove it.
  8. If you can resist external pressure to view young people into what they might become, rather than who they are.
  9. If you can cope being the only youth worker in some towns, villages or rural areas for quite a few miles.
  10. If you can work with the community centre/Church caretaker and get a set of keys.
  11. If you can cope with the people in your own family who have negative views of young people and challenge/bite your lip appropriately.
  12. If you can deal politely with the expectation that being a youth worker is only a stepping stone to a ‘proper’ job, like Clergy, Social worker or Teacher- again from your family at times…
  13. If you can cope with the multi-skilling involved in every week, from planning sessions, follow up work, youthwork in different settings, preparation, all the issues young people want to tell you about – such as school, mental health, self harm, sex, relationships, bullying, hopes & dreams, fashion. Then there’s the tidying up, evaluating, training volunteers. And finishes of 9-10pm, or later on detached possibly.

If you can rise to these challenges, doing so because you want to fight for, and believe in an approach that will transform young people in the context of their community, that is pioneering in valuing young people, that seeks the best for them, going beyond behaviours, narratives, structures and policies that constrain, then being a youth worker is for you.

14. If you can be inspired by hope, and love the work, approach and philosophy of Paulo Freire.

15. If you can dream and believe in a different future for and with young people.

Then become a youthworker. Join what nows seems more than ever a revolution.



Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust (www.fyt.org.uk) and Communities Together Durham (www.communitiestogetherdurham.org) and am also self employed and do various aspects of youthwork consultancy, including training, writing, lecturing, seminars and written pieces, including organisational consultancy, community profiling and detached/youthwork training. Please do get in touch if I can be of help to you in your church, project or organisation to develop your youth and community work. I have contributed to 'Here be Dragons (2013), and two recent articles in the youth and theology journal and 'ANVIL' the CMS online journal. My recent employment includes, working for FYT as a youthwork development adviser, being the centre director at Durham YFC, and before this I was known as 'Mr Sidewalk' as I was the project coordinator for the Sidewalk Project in Perth, where I facilitated the delivery of 5 years of detached youthwork on the streets, schools and communities to engage with young people , and support through alcohol misuse issues. In 2017 I completed an MA in Theology & Ministry at St John's College, Durham, and in 2008 graduated from ICC (now NTC Glasgow) with an honours degree in youth work with Applied theology.

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