In Youth Ministry: we need to talk about post-Job recovery.

There is no easy way to talk about this. The culmination of the lack of longevity in youth ministry positions in churches (usually about 3 years), funding shortages in the public sector, the competition for funding in the voluntary sector and even the shortage of funding in voluntary denomination projects, and all the other reasons why a youth work might leave a post (see,)

What this boils down to is that there is alot of turnover in the world of youthwork and ministry. And this has a detrimental effect on young people. It also has an effect on youthworkers themselves. 

There is no easy way to talk about this. Because even in situations where ‘leaving well’ has been attempted. It doesnt mean to say that there isnt some kind of recovery needed for a worker beyond a post.

I would like to think that for clergy and Ministers who leave churches, that affiliations and denominations so something to look after their previous incumbents and leaders, even if they left in a negative situation. That there is support offered, guidance or communication.

Would it shock you to realise that there is nothing in place for the out of work youthworker?  So, Not only might the youthworker be responsible for their own career path, they are also responsible for their own ‘in between jobs’ career or personal support. No, thought not.

Having heard about situations where youthworkers are bullied out of roles and jobs, even in churches, this is a shocking realisation. But even when leaving is planned and ordered, it can be difficult, because it is almost so regular, short term contracts (ie 3 years) means that leaving is an inevitability. For all what i hear about developing innovative youth ministry in the UK, i hear nothing about the dynamic support for the out of work youth workers. Or, the recovering from previous employment youthworkers.

However, this wasnt meant to be a post on the attack because of a gap in the youth work and ministry scene. Support for the previously employeds. What it was meant to be was a reflection on the recovery often needed afterwards.

Of course the reasons why you might have left a youthwork and ministry post is virtually unique. You may have been in the situation where this has been something of a personal and deliberate choice, to move to something different, for reasons of pay, vocation, location, experience or nature. However on other occasions, when personal choice is lacking in the matter the recovery can be difficult.

In a recent post in the Guardian, an anonymous contributer suggested that because of targets and cuts that they couldnt work for a local council anymore when it came to working with young people, that article is here:  I love working with young people, and that why im leaving the public sector , what this reveals is the tendency, a natural tendency in the recovery process, to swing from one sector to another in the hope that things will be different – the grass is greener tendency. When as many pointed out even in this situation, the clamber for funding in the voluntary sector means that funding and targets exist there too.

Another aspect of Job recovery is the emotional one.  There is pain in leaving. There is pain in thinking of the what ifs. There is pain in thinking about the situations and effect of negative interactions and actual bullying. There is pain in thinking that you might be responsible for causing other people to lose their jobs. There is pain in thinking that young people arent receiving a service or provision. There is also just the pain in leaving people behind, especially if you have been able to develop deep roots in a community. Recovery after a role is an emotional one, even in the best of circumstances.  And thats before the emotional effect on your family in a relocation.

In the best of circumstance, when things go well, the next role might be difficult to match up to. In a situation doesnt go well, then the next role might be hard to want to move into quickly. Fear of the unknown, fear of the same happening again.

There can be a tendency to keep on moving quickly. Especially if financial commitments require this, so not having recovery time at all, but getting stuck into something new, and something new pretty quick. This can be beneficial, it can be therapeutic. But youth work and ministry is an emotional, physical and spiritually demanding role, there will be a knock on somewhere if there are wounds previously. They might uncover themselves as stress or burnout in the next role which might bring them on quicker.

Beyond the ‘sector’ swinging. There is the all out vocation swing. It is not just that you dont want to work for the council, the charity, a church again as a youthworker. It is that you dont want to be a youth worker anymore. Recovering after being a youthworker might bring on questioning about being a youthworker at all. Of course theres always management, academia or teaching to go into… or the graveyard for christian youthworkers, the DYO role ;-). But in all seriousness, the time in recovery from a youth work role can cause serious questioning over continuing in the role at all. Yes this might be no different to other jobs, like teaching or nursing. But even if it is, it doesnt mean to say that it isnt difficult to deal with.

Whats the advice? Surround yourself with people who you can confide in about your work and ministry. Who you involve in talking about the deep stuff and also arent involved in the specifics of one situation. Yes it is the external third party supervisor type person, but it is also other youthwork friends who might also be able to understand what it might be like to have to recover from leaving youthwork and ministry posts, especially when the leaving is challenging or difficult. And get professional help if you find or afford it.

I dont think we talk about Job recovery enough in youth work and ministry. In fact i dont think we talk about job recovery at all. In work we might barely have some support for being there, supervision and networking, but afterwards when we have exited the main stage there are needs of recovery, and also needs to encourage, support and also reassure. It is no trivial thing to leave a post. It is no trivial thing to realise quite the effect of this might be, and usually we might not know it until it happens.



One comment

  1. Such a timely post James. As a sector we need to have conversations about the processes we have in place. We need to see the youth worker as more than just meat for the grinder.


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