Are you the excited & passionate, qualified and experienced youthworker we’re looking for?
Being in between jobs for a length of time in Youth Ministry, and also advertising roles within the pages of various sites, has given me the opportunity to read quite a few advertisements, job descriptions and person specifications for youth ministry roles around the UK.
A few months ago I penned a piece on the low to middling salaries for youth/children/community work that the church is asking for, and then one on the vacancies that seem to be long term . This piece is on the way in which the expectations of a youth ministry are appealed to on the high certainty end of the scale or an appeal is made for exciting personality and a faith to match.
To start with, here is a few, current questions that are asked as openers to job roles in adverts for youth/childrens ministry in churches in the UK right now:
Are You excited about seeing young people growing in their faith?
Are you passionate about children, young families and Jesus?
Do you have an innovative and creative approach to ministry that attracts and spiritually grows younger people?
Do you have a vision and passion for seeing lives changed by the transforming love of Jesus?
Are you a pioneer with a passion for the missing generation?
We are looking for an enthusiastic committed member of the Christian faith
and honestly – this is the best one of the lot – kid you not – this is being advertised right now:
Are you the creative, mission-focused, change-making, relationship-building, strategic-thinking, willing-to-roll-your-sleeves-up-and-get-stuck-in Children and Families Worker ___________________ church is looking for?
Having said this, I wrote this article, then went and added in the job quotes – and i found this one – it pretty much sums up exactly what this post is all about – churches want excitement, experience and education – – at least this church does:
We are looking for someone who:Has a passion for working with children and families and will develop, both within the church and in the wider Parish —–, our existing ministry to children, and move us on with fresh vision and energy to create a really attractive church community for young people and their families.
Has experience of church based families work.
Is excited about working in a ——- area
(and though the salary is over 22K its likely that qualification may be required too)
So – a quick scroll of the current job adverts in the UK for youth/childrens/family work – and the words passion, excitement, creative, dynamic all spring to the fore. And this situation isnt new. Its not a current thing. But its still just a little troubling. Many also want qualifications, and many want experience.
Often churches want all of the above, and for someone to be passionate and excited all in one bundle. It that too much to ask? And which one of these things might a church be willing to compromise… ? if they could only pick one..?
The reality is that for many qualified youth workers and ministers, since the dawning of professional qualifications – the process of learning, unlearning and repackaging faith through formal education can often result in increased doubt, reflection and questions – no less faith if anything more faith – but maybe the student/faith/learning process does reduce the ‘passion’. There isnt a module in many youth work courses on ‘how to be passionate’ or ‘how to act dynamic’ – 3 years of essays, learning and probably tortuous student placements gets rid of some of that.. some, not all..
And what about experiences? How many youth workers can honestly say if they have left one church or organisation setting before time, and not with a 7 year golden handshake, watch and leaving ceremony, that how they left (and gained experience) has created in them to the ‘energetic joy’ that seems to be required for a new role. Feeling like that could feel a world away, when the PCC have just voted you out, and you have the confusion of finding a new house, job, role and places for your kids in schools miles away, and all within 3 months. Try then to be ‘excited and passionate’ – when it feels like a hard slog. Being battered by one experience – or tired or stressed by one at the very least – doesnt really lend its self to being honestly passionate about another. But if a church wants an experience- they may have to take on the baggage.. but they really wont want to ultimately.
The energetic, amazing, dynamic, almost naive youthworker – might only be the person who isnt experienced, or qualified, or for whom hasnt been involved in too many churches and got burned. Chances are then that yours might be the one, especially if you want them to do the 70+ hour a week and take up their summer holidays taking the kids to soul survivor and holiday clubs.
Churches you might have to pick one – excitement/passion, experience, or qualifications – though you might be lucky and get two…
for the sake of the profession – id suggest you dont discount the qualifications – as that learning is vital to help young people do the faith development that many churches ask of youthworkers in the job descriptions…
Joking apart, and im actually not, there is a more serious note here about faith.
What is the reasoning behind wanting someone who has an energetic/passionate/transformational/exciting/dynamic/creative faith to work with young people?
I mean – why those qualities? Why not others – like
reflective/deep/encouraging/prayerful/doubting or even questioning faith? or coped/when/life/was/shit type faith and survived and got through to the other side? – might that kind of faith be something inspiring for young people?
Is it because the dream of the dynamic pied piper youthworker full of bounce and vigour, like a christian version of Tigger (other bouncy disney characters are also available) , is what adults think young people need in their lives? or is that a youthful youth minister can weave his (usually his) youthful magic wand and cast their sprinkle dust over the whole church so that it can move from singing songs from the 1990’s to songs in the 2010’s, thus bring youthfulness to a church that is starting to feel old around the edges?
Lets be honest though, churches dont really want the kind of youthworker who might help young people deal with deep questions, ask deep questions or help young people be provocative do we? But wouldnt a youthworker who had dealt with difficulty, and is realistic, be the kind of real grounded person that actually young people right now in real life might just need. Someone who is honest, someone who doesnt put the church performing mask on, someone who well can empathise and listen…
The person who starts a role pretending to be the all singing all dancing joyful youthworker is going to hit the honeymoon period quick, and everyone in the church is going to know it, or will at least find out. And they themselves will realise their own pretence and struggle with it.
I know that the committee who put together the job description for the new youthworker is trying to make the role or entice people as much as possible. And words like passion, excite, amazing, pioneering are all the rage. But they all now sound the same. Maybe it is just me, but experience and qualification come at a cost, and its not that the joy and passion for young people and their lives changed isnt there, but its not as there in the way that some of these adverts seems to want it to be.
Can we do away – just a bit with the over enthusiasm- or is the market place of trying to recruit taken selling roles just too far..?