What are 12 things youth leaders cannot do?

Thank you to Clare McCormack, for sharing the following article on 12 things that ‘Pastors’ cannot do, which you can read here: http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/298822-12-things-pastors-cannot.html?utm_content=buffer0354b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

And so, when it comes to being a youth leader/worker…

What are 12 things a Youthworker cannot do? 

From the above piece, i think three are appropriate to steal from the above list that apply to Pastors:

  1. Escape mistakes. All of us will mess up sometime, often unintentionally and even unknowingly.
  2. Live sinlessly or perfectly Nobody can. Including you. And me.
  3. Know everything. Even the most experienced and knowledgeable youth worker doesnt know everything about everything. Nobody can answer every question somebody asks.

But what else cant a youthworker do?

4. Try and keep up: No youthworker in the world can keep up with every music tase, film series, TV boxset, sports team, series, league, drama, awards nominations, soap opera, political update that will make it possible to have a conversation with a young person ‘seem authentic’ . 

5. Keep young people in the church: Young people have all the freedom in the world not to attend our groups, clubs and services. We should focus on creating the right spaces so that young people want to stay, and that doesnt include ramping up the budget and smoke machines, that might be making faith be a meaningful, practical and life, world transforming performance.

6. Run on Adrenaline for longer than a month. You know your Youth worker who leads all those sessions, plans those groups, trains volunteers and participates in all those church meetings. Thats just the bit that you see. If you imagine doing all this, then also being in schools and juggling all this when in conversations with young people they are thrust into helping deal with a mental health problem, a teenage pregnancy counselling situation, or planning a large youth event ( because ‘thats what young people need..’), and the odd preach (to cover the ministers holiday) Then it might be likely that some of what your youth worker is doing is running on little relaxed sleep and time, and mostly adrenaline. It wont last, and usually cant last longer than a month. If planned activities make a diary full, then the unpredictable has no space to be fitted in, yet a youth worker needs space to respond to crises, and also plan ahead.  If you see pro-plus, red bull or lucozade empty bottles in the youth workers bin, then start to worry, panic when they say theyre spooning coffee granules on top of their biscuits.

7. Always see church in the same way as the congregation. It can sometime be the case, that a youth worker sees the church differently. The youthworker sees the church busy day by day, often with groups, clubs and activities during the week, full of young people, families, conversations, energy and creativity. And its great. And so their view of church is different to the adults who turn up once a week on a sunday and moan that there arent any young people. Neither might a youthworker be able to find Sunday morning a space for spiritual rest and recharge, when they’re thinking ‘how on earth do young people engage with this’ or ‘ill use the sermon space to plan this evenings youth group’  (admit it you have done this too..) 

8. Create morally upstanding young people out of the congregations children  Nope, thats the parents job. What a youthworker might be able to do is help and guide young people to reflect on their place in the world, and how they might attune their life around Gods purposes for them, that include challenging oppression and power, sacrifice and suffering and also simplicity.

9. Solve the problem of church decline in the UK, or even in your local church. Even in a small congregation of 10 people, thats 10 people who can do more than one person alone, even if they are trained and employed. A youthworker isnt the answer to church growth problem and therefore they arent the solution. Though they may be able to help the church develop whole church responses in their community so that the whole church is part of the response, thats if the youthworker is given the space to do this.

10. Admin. Nope. We just cannot do it. Its not in our DNA.

11. Stop Moaning. They say that it takes 100 youthworkers to change a lightbulb, 1 to change the bulb and 99 to write papers on coping in the darkness. Being a perpetual state of frustration is part of the tension/adrenaline urgency, as is the awareness of the now/not yet dynamic to the ministry that hopes and dreams for a better life and world, where young people dont have to ‘just cope’ with life (with the help of various mental health professionals) or where churches and organisations prioritise sacrifically doing good with the weakest in communities, not just give energy to the potential leaders, and succeeders.

12. Explain what a youthworker is, nope, though we do actually know. But its easier not to tell anyone who asks. Keeps the mystery a bit longer.

So, you might think you have employed a superhero to galvanise, revolutionise and radically transform your church and community with young people, but there are at least 12 things that a youth worker cannot do.




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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