Guest Post: Is Youth work too stifled or safe?

This post has been submitted by Peter Martin, a youthworker of 25 years based in Northern Ireland:

Stifled or safe?

Recently I have fallen back in love with writing and have now started to frequently day dream about articles I could write.  Do I write about the last 12 months of enjoying open water swimming, or do a book review or two?  What about a devotional or sharing something humorous my dogs did last week? I could write about my last few years of living with chronic fatigue syndrome or my life long battle with obesity?  All these ideas float around my head like satellites around space!

Today but I have decided to write about something else. I have decided to start a wee mini-series about something I recently celebrated, well quietly anyway!  Somewhere over the past 12 months I crossed into the 20th year of full-time professional youth work practice, how old do I feel?

As a kid I loved being part of my swimming club, after-school clubs, the multiple youth clubs in the various churches of our area and of course my own Sunday school, church uniformed organisation and youth fellowship.  If something was on I was there!

I loved being about older people who knew me by name and loved to have a laugh and a bit of a muck about.  On a Friday night I was part of the Every Boys Rally, our church’s version of the Boys Brigade or Scouts.  We would arrive in the minibus having been collected and driven there by what by now was a half deaf leader.  I say that because all the way there we sang football/rugby songs and the same was done with great enthusiasm all the way home.

As we arrived and burst into the sports hall we spotted a certain favourite leader.  We would run in his direction and literally jump all over him.  With boys hanging from every limb and piece of clothing he would pretend wrestle us and even at times would send us sliding to the other side of the hall across the highly polished wooden floor.  The night was yet to officially start and yet we already felt a deep sense of connection with each other and our leaders.  We knew we were valued, safe and were free to enjoy the high levels of comradery and affection that oozed from every pore of the evening.

When I compare that to the youth work of today I wonder if our youth are short changed.  I wonder have we sanitised our interactions and cleansed the environment of risk so much that there is barely space for relational connection, physical encouragement and general adrenaline pumping play.  I am of course talking about the impact child protection has had along with health and safety.  30 years ago when I was a teenager there were no such things and I wonder was I and my generation the better for it?

Please now I urge don’t get me wrong we need child protection and health and safety but to what level?’

This is a Guest post by Peter Martin, a youth worker of 25 years from Northern Ireland, his own blog can be found at this link:  http://www.mcfinkle.com/

Please do use the contact details to submit your story, article or question, id love to hear and share it. Details in the previous post (see home page), and in the menu at the top of this page, and remember to like, share and follow to keep up to date with all the different ones! Thank you.

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