You love your job. You’re a youth worker. You’ve worked in a youth club, with a group of young people, in a school, church or community centre. You built the group from scratch. You developed their interests, met needs, did residential,  helped them paticipate. You’ve given of yourself, your personal emotions, you’ve connected. You’ve developed a project, made it your own.  Maybe that’s your situation. Or part of it. 

But its going to end. 

All that deep satisfaction is ending, because of funding cuts. 

Or poor management

Or a personal grievance. 

Or management issue. 

Specifically it could be that you’ve acted with young people and enabled their voice to be heard, but no one wants to hear it, or that your approach jars with expectations, or that your theology does (so it causes challenges about young people & faith & worship and methods) or that the local community make police complaints about the youth centre. Or that the council want it to close. And so with all or some of this going on, the end of all that good work is pending. And you’re angry. Upset. Feeling lost. Even bereaved and broken because of having to end and say goodbye. (Even if we know not to build connections, giving of ourselves in good youthwork involves emotions).  Ending hurts. 

But then someone, often even the person who is making the decision to close. Ie your manager says those words

Make sure you leave well!

How does leaving well feel when leaving feels a shock or painful? 

There’s no doubt it’s important to do so. For the young peoples sake and especially as they don’t take on responsibility for a person leaving them. And there may be opportunities in the future in the organisation or with the young people. It also shows maturity and professionalism. 

But whether it’s the right thing to do, doesn’t take away how difficult and awkward it can feel and be to do. Of course leaving well is not just what youthworkers have to do or unique to them. What is unique is the nature of the relationship a youthworker has with young people. It is often between the structures and based on a negotiated contract, a personal conversation.  But when it comes to it ending it isn’t often negotiated. The project ends abruptly, or the youthworker is replaced (but that doesn’t matter..well get a new one).. no this is relational work. The relationship is the source of education, of trust and guidance. 

What the youthworker had to do is leave young people well, for they are their primary ‘client’. Not the institution. 

So leaving well, in the case of policy, governance,  funding, injustice, personality clash is hard to do. But that won’t stop people saying

Make sure you leave well

Grrrr… Even if you’re hurting and pained inside. It can feel trite, lacking and sadness that ending is what you have to do. Close up shop. Leave. Stop. 

Managing endings in youth work and ministry are hard to do. From personal and organisational perspectives. Are there 5 tips to help with this, nope. Just leave well. Whatever it takes. Young people will treasure the memories and the investments you made in them. That won’t end. Leave with another memory. That’s all. I’m not sure if longer or shorter notice periods are helpful in youth work. Dragging out endings can be worse. But too quick might be too quick. 

So with gritted teeth and a reminder that in most scenarios it isn’t the young peoples fault that you are leaving. However unjust it might be… 

Just make sure you leave well! 


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