Christian Youthwork: Visiting young people in their homes.

If we’re honest, we all feel ‘at home’ in a wide variety of places. From the comfort of our dining table eating homecooked food, the lounge listening to music, out for a walk along the beach, there might be many places where we might call ‘home’ – it could be the allotment or the shed, or riding a bike – anywhere! Image result for at homeHowever, have a moment to think about being a young person, when you were a young person – ‘where were the spaces you liked to call ‘home’?  was it your bedroom, the park, a bus shelter – where was your space. Its funny that theres less spaces that might feel at home for a young person – a space to get away as many places might feel ‘not theirs’. Do a google search for images ‘at home’ and teenagers hardly feature in any that have pictures of indoor interiors.

A friend of mine, a very creative and inspiring friend, did a study on the the concept of Home and young people, as part of this she asked young people from the project she was working in in Scotland to use a disposable camera to take photos of the ‘places they called or felt at home’ and yes there was a number of photos of bedrooms, of peoples homes, but also park benches, bus shelters, parks and climbing frames – these were places where young people felt at home, a space away from sometimes shouting, from chaos, space to smoke, a space to gather thoughts. Image result for park bench dundeeFor some of the young people, they took photos of the youth work project sofa, the pool table, the room where they sat and drank coffee. Home felt like many places for young people.

I wonder whether for those of us in Christian faith based Youthwork, we have to take seriously the concept of visitation. Terminology for our practice might have looked like ‘detached’ or ‘street based’ or ‘community work’ – all are perfectly valid. But what if we took seriously the concept of creating home, or visiting young people in their home space? 

From a Theological perspective, there are examples of God making visits, or promised to make visits; Joseph promises that God will ‘visit’ them ( Gen 50:24), It was said that in Jesus , ‘God visited his people’ (Luke 7:16). The root word is epi + skopos, not to over see, but to ‘go and see’. Jesus himself visited people in their homes.

I am Just reading ‘The Pastor as the Public Theologian, by Kevin Vanhoozer (2015), and in describing the ministry of visitation, suggests that; “The purpose of visitation, like all other forms of the ministry of the word, is to communicate the gospel by embodying Christ, Gods love for the world. To love the people of God means going to see how they are getting on. Only when Pastors come to see the context of a persons life can they minister in particular ways that direct people in the way of Jesus” ( p155)

Visitation is one way that youth workers can participate in Jesus Ministry to the poor, the sick, dejected, ignored, struggling, alone…

So, i think theres two things going on. One is to identify the places, or create places for young people can call a place of home.

the second is to visit them in those places ( with the exception of their bedroom)

There might be pressure to do, when we visit, what we do when we visit is communicate by visiting in the first place, visiting a young person in their place of home, the bench, the park, the street and asking how they are getting on. Visiting them, not just meeting them where theyre at. Creating home and Visiting.

How important might it be to create the right kind of space in our youth work provision where young people can call it ‘home’ – not just a place to go once a week, a space where they can relax, kick back, make their own cups of tea, a place to maybe not call their own, but to feel like it could be. What of the sterile, multi use building – very effective & efficient – but is it ever ‘home’ or ‘homely’ well of course it could be. with a little imagination and investment in second hand leather couches! And if we genuinely meet young people in their home space out in public, then all the better.

How much easier might it be to host conversations about life for the young people, about their direction, about beliefs and faith, in a place where they can call home. A place where we might continue to visit together. It is about placemaking and making places out of empty spaces.

As Nigel Pimlott, in youthwork post-christendom 2008, suggests: 

if a by-product of this coming alongside is that such young people are set free, then this will be a cause for rejoicing, but it would be hoped that the primary reason for being there was just that – being there”

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