I thought it might be useful to compile a list, and some responses of the frequently asked questions that people ask often about detached youthwork. So in no particular order;
- What do you say to young people, I wouldnt know where to start?
Simple trick, say what you see. Talk about what’s going on, what the young people are doing, wearing, planning. Ask for their opinions or dreams, their likes or dislikes. Then build from there, go with what becomes presented, or then the questions they ask of you. Introduce yourself to help them feel at ease…
2. Do you get scared, arent the young people threatening?
Nope, well, sometimes scared, and adrenaline moments do happen. But most of that scaredness is irrational fears of spaces, or people based on prejudices. If young people dont want us around, then we walk away, because we can. no harm done.
3. But im too old to be out on the streets…
A common one this one. If you can walk, and be present in the space to respect, listen and try and understand life in the shoes of a young person, then age is no barrier. Its more important to be real, genuine and find them interesting, theyre usually not that bothered about us, or you for that matter. In my experience they often respond better to people of experience, and are more surprised, flattered and respectful that an ‘older’ person would actually give up their time to spend time with them. They’re tragically used to being only related to by other young adults, or adults who treat them as projects.
4. What if its cold, or dark, or wet?
Then we wear warmer clothes, take more frequent breaks, and if no ones about just leave it for the evening. Young people arent stupid, but if they are out then maybe theres more of a reason. Winter is good for navigating the area, training teams, and showing dependability. Summer helps to build on the grafting of winter.
5. What if young people are abusive?
Depends what it is, of course theyre likely to swear, to push boundaries, to ask awkward questions, but thats part of the negotiation of space, sussing us out, testing our authenticity, and working out if they can or want to trust us. Lying, swearing, joking, banter are all part of their game, part of our game is to hold onto the bigger picture taking place in the smaller picture of the conversation in front of us.
6. Do you have any top tips? –
Yes – and theres 30 nuggets of helpful tips for new detached youthworkers here
7. Can you take young people back into a building?
Yes of course you can! sometimes young people might want a look around the church, or office, if its safe for them. If its not something youve initiated or coerced then of course. some of the best times can be when theyre back in the church and they want to explore the lecturns, or pews, or bibles, or if they want a chat in a space with a drink and talk about an issue more privately. However, detached youthwork doesnt have ‘taking the young people off the streets’ or ‘taking young people to an established group’ as part of its main focus, these uses of a building arent predetermined, theyre opportunities negotiated with young people.
8. Where might detached youthwork lead to?
That depends on many factors, usually linked to what you might negotiate with the young people in the course of getting to know them, they might suggest activities, community projects, or personal support for help finding jobs, quitting smoking or something else. The important thing is to be there, to create the possibility of something happening. And maybe, by being there young people want to explore their personal faith (s) & beliefs, and you and they undergo learning and reflecting together and sharing moments of worship, or of faith, or questions or prayer, right there in the moments. The important thing is to be open, present and aware of the possibilities.
There’s just a short selection, 8 questions that are common in the FAQ’s of Detached youthwork, probably in a few weeks, ill write up a few more. Some of the reseources for detached work can also be found in Meet them where theyre at on Kindle by Richard Passmore (especially if you’re a church group) its sequel, Here be Dragons ( see links above) or information on the Federation of detached youthwork website – see links. All useful.