4 helpful questions for dealing with narcissist leaders

Its one thing spotting a narcissist, and what that person is doing to you, its quite another thing being able to do something about it.

This article in Psychology today, describes some of the signs of narcissist abuse and also the common phrases that they use.

There are a number of ways, and I am seriously no expert, apart from considerable personal experience, in trying to deal with a narcissist in a personal capacity.

For me this isn’t the issue right now.  And, if you look at the list above you will see signs, fairly easy signs, that narcissism is rife in the leaders of the UK and USA at the moment.  The trick, is not to diagnose, that’s been done,  its what to do about it.

Gaslighting is one of the main forms. This was evident in the Bleachgate of Trump.

Step 1; Basically say one thing

2. ensue Media frenzy

3. Then dispute having said it, and virtually blame everyone else for not recognising sarcasm.

The stuff on gaslighting is far more complex. And it can taker many forms.

Therefore, theres a need to be armed with different strategies.

One of the main problems is that the media only operates at a pace of speed.

Watch the press conferences, watch the desire to have a moment to ask a question, watch the journalists clamber to say something and ask something for their readers. Its then written, reported and turned into a news. Its then debated. Its then rebuffed, needlessly by bleach companies, and so much time is wasted. So much, but then, when the narcissist in chief says anything, that’s the news.

Note what happens when the press argue, their source is challenged (fake news)

Speed is the playground of the narcissist.

Have you noticed how quickly Trump talks?  yeah… it’s far…too…confusing. Bewlidering in fact. Johnson is the same with much bwiffwaff.

Presidential platforms have become the objects of propaganda in a time where deep humanity and assurance would be significantly more helpful.

However.

I really cant expect the western press to read this, or neither do I expect them to become emotionally adept at dealing with the narcissism in front of them, but I offer the following for anyone who is dealing with a narcissist.

In the UK, the reaction to ‘100,000’ tests being achieved (when they were not), or the ‘Care badge’ or the other distractions, misinformations being spewed , is similar.

I am happy to be wrong by the way. A few weeks ago I got angry, and suggested that I though the press weren’t doing their job.   That was harsh of me. The problem is that they are used to being reporters of news for a narrative,  not emotionally adept readers of the narcissism they are being subject to. Effectively being used. The system they are in being the incubator of narcissism.  And, by the way. Getting angry is exactly what a narcissist wants, drama. The other option is the silence.

Remember the face of the scientist who couldn’t speak at the briefing when Trump suggested bleach? – well this is the face of someone who in the face of something so incredulous shuts down. Brain does not compute. Its like sucking a lemon and time going so slowly.. yup, that’s what happens.  Anger or shutdown. And an angry press journalist heads into a fight that Trump will turn back. Creating drama. Another trick.

If drama, anger, questions and silence, don’t work – then what? – what might be the best way f0r the press to deal with the narcissist?  After all, its them who are in the firing line, we’re just sitting on our armchairs, watching and trying not to react, overreact and ascertain something helpful through it all.

The first thing, beyond anything, is to slow the process down. The best way to deal with the speed issue, is to slow down.  If speed is what the essence of the game is in the press room, then do whatever can be done to slow it down. You need thinking time to deal with a narcissist, especially the very self absorbed ones that currently are in power.

Time is power, so, take some in the room. Slow down. You have got to get some time in the room. Time to compose.

So, I offer 5 questions the press should be asking the politicians at the monument- to enable proper scrutiny and more accurate news.

  1. Can you clarify what you are saying?

Given the vitriol spouted at times, asking DT or BJ to repeat or clarify it, will cause them to have to think through whatever the lie is.

Slow them down.

Ask for clarification

‘you have made so many points – what are you actually saying to us.? Can. you add clarification to it, detail even…

it hurts them to slow down. Hurts even more when there’s silence.  This question can give time. It also means that, like anyone who is lying, getting them to talk more about it, what they have already said, their story, gives you time to be able to focus on that one issue.

2. Do you mean what you say?

See bleach gate.  ‘Do you mean what you say about people injecting bleach?’ if this was the question, and Trump had to say ‘yes I do’ or ‘no I’m being sarcastic’ or ‘im just thinking out loud’ or ‘I just saw it on Fox News’ – then time would have been saved.

‘Do you mean what you say – when you say 100,000 tests have been carried out Matt Hancock?

Trap them by their own words, make them believe what they are actually saying. Hold them to it.

3. Is this for real, are you being truthful?

Is a slightly better question than ‘are you being sarcastic?’ – but you get the gist.  Challenge whether what has been said is not only real, but also true.  Often a narcissist will have a created world, that only they know what’s really going on. They cant do anything other than be truthful in that world, but its often not a world anyone else inhabits, its just their ego. Asking for clarification of truth, or if it is actually real, and real for the many other people not in the ego world of narcissist leader, will cut through to it.

4. Stay firm, aware, and composed. Try and see the strategies ahead, they will include distraction, blame, not taking responsibility, and also projecting their own victim status. (and I got that right in my other blog) . Dont fall for it.

Question 4 could be anything, as long as it starts with

‘Are you going to take responsibility for…….’

and this could include ‘the death count’ ‘free school meals being a disaster’ or ‘telling people to inject bleach’ , ‘the governments response to this virus’  – and do this in real time. It forces responsibility. Which narcissists almost cannot do.

oh and dont ask them to take responsibility for something of human concern, their empathy is only strategic

There’s no point attacking them. The process of writing a story, social media and media reaction and then the sarcastic dismissal has let the gaslighting cat out of the bag. Old media processing has to be cuter and cleverer than that. It worked when the leaders where at least truthful with some spin, not manipulative emotionally distant narcissists.

On a collective and personal note, there is no chance of changing a narcissist. Not at all. But, you can  change around them, so they might change their behaviour slightly. Work out their game and they try a different one, or get angry, or hide. Which is what Trump did. If you change the behaviour, they’ll change theirs, hold ground, not attack, not silence.  I am sure the press conferences are tightly rigid affairs, questions known in advance etc, and so who am I to say and advise.

Personally you can get out of the cycle, and getting out of a narcissistic relationship is key. Collectively this is difficult when two nations are stuck with narcissist leaders. Stepping out the cycle means switching off and creating boundaries. One way T and BJ get in is through the media who allow free access, they also manipulate within social media too.  Getting angry back, especially at the incredulity. Best, seriously is not to let them in. Follow the president on twitter when its healthy too. Not when they’re trying to provoke, lie and create drama. Egos are fuelled by notifications, and thriving off the drama of their own making. Neither the UK or USA can get out the cycle of being emotionally abused. We may just need the press to help us all with playing a different game with the news media.  Being gaslit on an international scale about injecting bleach, at a time of international crisis should provoke a different way.

Because at the moment, the public are losing out to a media that isnt working in the face of narcissism. It needs new tools.

25 things for the youth and community worker to do during the Coronavirus outbreak

By now, most of you reading this will have probably cancelled youth group meetings, youth clubs and detached sessions, today I have suspending normal operations and trying to organise responses to this crisis. And it has crossed my mind, that as someone who is used to a youth work office, the regular face to face contact of young people, the delivery, then removing this, and there energy that this brings is likely to feel like a loss, a grief. Face to face is what we do, mostly isnt it.. but not now… not for a few weeks – so – what can you do now – assuming that you’re now working from home – should this be possible. Heres 25 suggestions:

  1. Make a list. No seriously. Make a list of all the things that you are going to do, things you have been putting off because its been too busy.
  2. Take a moment. Breathe. Now look at that list, and think – the most important thing right now is to look after myself. Yes, youth worker reading this, who gives countless hours of physical and emotional time, this is time to stop. You are human like everyone else.
  3. Maintain some contact with young people via other methods, though ask their permission first – also ask how regular they would like to be contacted – might be a time to be creative and set up a youth club WhatsApp group or something…
  4. Think about the other equivalent people in your role in the local community, youth workers, community workers, clergy even, and suggest keeping in touch and support each other, and check in now and then.
  5. Maybe even suggest that you could have local response meetings via online video software
  6. Have lengthy chats with other youth workers on the phone, share ideas, reflect and build community and networks – time to help each other out a bit…
  7. Read a book. No. Read many – and a tip – read books on youthwork that you usually put off or might be for a role you dont do, like supervision or management – read ahead of the direction you might be going in. Now may be the time to read – maybe even set up a virtual reading group as youth workers
  8. See all that admin that you were putting off? well..- not going to tell you how to suck eggs – but now is the time to reflect on your practices – and you have the time to do so in depth.. think about:
  9. The plans, planning, aims and objectives
  10. The values, principles and purposes of what you do
  11. How you record and monitor the work – do the session reviews need updating? (now might be the time)
  12. Is this the time to consider the training needs of staff and volunteers?  and do something about this, by writing up some guidance or training
  13. What about evaluation?  are you doing this ?  is this a time to think about this process more?
  14. Think about how you support others – what needs reflecting on in terms of volunteers, supervision, recruitment and their involvement?
  15. Basically, now might well be the time to look at what you do, and some of processes of the planning, reflecting and evaluation can be thought through and developed.
  16. Is now the time to update the website? – yeah possibly..
  17. Funding reports? yeah I know… – but a funding strategy might be worth developing now – develop streams of funding, and get things set up
  18. Maybe its time to think about the overall approach of what you do – have you started to see the signs of boredom in young people – have you started running out of ideas- are you drained?  – then maybe there’s an approach shift required – and this might be the time to give it some thought
  19. It could be a good time to have one to one conversation with young people – if you call them, then you might be able to ask them some really interesting questions, feedback on the youth activity agreed, but also about how they are, what they perceive the needs are locally – it might be an opportunity to recover some listening/research into the project – that you might have lost
  20. Read a book – yeah – honestly, saying it again as its worth saying twice. – Suggestions of mine below.. do add your own…
  21. Write a guest post for this blog? – youve been putting that off? – but go on share your story, case study, question – it might help others
  22. Whether planned or accidental, if you can, stop a bit, and do what you can to make the most of the time, it could be an opportunity, and yes I might not be saying this in three weeks time..
  23. Im sure there’s an admin task you hadn’t got around to that’s lurking around at no 23 of a 25 point list, insert it here______________
  24. Although no one quite knows when normality will return – but making some of the good use of this time may at least prepare you for it.
  25. And you. Again. Look after you, busy, stressed, youth and community worker – yes, keep doing what you can, and maybe even get involved locally with supporting neighbours and friends… but… you are important – focus on you. Maybe take some time and seek out someone to have a deep chat with – more than practice supervision – but to share and get stuff off your chest, maybe this is a time to focus on the personal you, the you and your self awareness, and who you are – this crisis might be the making of you. (no trust me on this)

You probably have a billion and one other things too… its weird that when some of the urgent stuff about delivery leaves the task list, its hard to focus or remember about the rest.. and that’s partly why I’ve written these above – they might be useful for you as a gentle prod. Most of the time we dont do these important things because were too busy – but when were not busy they can still be forgotten…

Official guidance from NCVO on the coronavirus is here: 

Oh and – book suggestions here please – to encourage others… my recent favourites include:

Poverty safari – Darren McGarvey

Utopia for Realists – Rutger Bregman

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

Out of Control- Natalie Collins

The man you’re made to be – Martin Saunders

Notes on a nervous planet – Matt Haig

Critical issues in youth work Management – John Ord

please put yours below:

Why practice supervision should be an essential for youth and community work/ministry roles

I sometimes think I just get paid to drink coffee. But I dont. Well, actually I do.

Actually I get paid to be a practice supervisor with community and youth practitioners and do this mostly in coffee shops around the north.

And sometimes I think i’m the only person that’s doing this, or thankfully working with organisations (or self employed) who also value this. Though im probably not… but..

In the main, usually, I supervise practitioners on a 6/8 weekly basis, and I hope, at least, I think, that this is deemed valuable for those who receive it.

For those of us who have had a high regard for practice supervision, that its deemed a luxury can be a tragedy, and real inhibitor to the encouragement of good practice, why?

Well, because supervision that’s non managerial, helps a person look at what they do, with an outside view, gives them the opportunity to describe to someone else what it is they’re doing, what their ideas are, what the issues might be, what the challenges or joys are – and in good supervision be reframing this as they talk.

Be already working out the response the issue, without much input.

Other times, the story, the situation provokes a question from me

On other occasions I might refer to a theory, a book or the example of someone else – so that the practitioner connects with another

Or they’ll talk, and ill listen, and ill just let the conversation keep going, until the practitioner has worn themselves out… and the issue isn’t the issue at all.. its something else, and we got there in the end…

I might ask : ‘so.. what are you learning?’

or ‘are you sure?’  or

‘is there anything else going on?’

or just ‘ keep talking..’

‘what theory might this remind you of’

or

‘how might your theology inspire you here, where are the resonances’ (to the faith based practitioner)

The whole aim of supervision, in this way, is to encourage, to affirm, to help the practitioner reflect, to give them space to realise the new themselves – and I know sometimes I might want to share an idea, and I probably do too much, but am learning to stay quieter for longer.

I do despair that so often this kind of reflective space in supervision isn’t deemed essential for roles – sometimes management is barely adequate to be honest, sometimes practice reflection might highlight the need for better management…

But if management is about helping a person set and then meet designated goals, then supervision, for me, if the roles are separate, is more open, set by the practitioner, with subjects, content in what they want to talk about – reflect on, share – and yes the conversation might wander…It’s the space of the practitioner, and this, I think is the crucial bit. And it is safe. It is a place to do real if need be, if it needs to be a space of wallowing, of heartache, then it might need to be – but then it is also a place where the rebuild might occur, through the conversation.

Because its tough out there in ministry, community work, youth ministry – isn’t it?  really tough.. pulled in all directions, managing up and downwards, delivering and planning practice, trying new things..pressure to keep organisations going, worry, stress.. and so, whilst supervision might not be the only answer… its a place to step out and reflect. To breathe….

are you telling me that this isn’t essential?  no though not…

I have had to be manager/supervisor to a few people, and id almost have to pre empt a change in style to go between the two saying ; ‘you know im not often like this, but,  I will say that you need to do_____’ – and be more directive in that moment- when the rest of the time I might be more reflective.

Its as if they are improvisatory conversations, within which there’s reminders of the tools already available, reminders of the resources that are within grasp and reminders that the person genuinely isn’t alone.

And its great, in the main, to hear of the progress of a project,  the learning of an individual, the change a person might make from one supervision to another, and not everything happens to plan, ever, and not everything even happens at all – but if its taken seriously, then the process can be valuable, I hope through reading this you can tell that is.

So church – if you value your youth workers, clergy even – creating and purposefully including non managerial supervision (and its different from spiritual director/retreats/management) as part of their role might be the best thing you could do for them.

So, yeah, I get paid to have coffee, on one hand. Maybe I get paid to increase the longevity, creativity, support, learning, awareness of community and youth workers, and do this through conversation- helping community and youth workers discover that they can do this themselves..and that they’re ok…  Though I might need shares in the many local coffee shops in the north….

‘How was your experience of youth group today?’ Evaluating Youth work in an evaluation culture

‘How was your experience in Tescos today’

‘please tell us how you feel about the cleanliness of the toilets today’

‘share your experiences of the airport security today’

‘your opinion matters to us’

How satisfied were you with your experience today?

In case you haven’t noticed, its as if we’re living in a culture where opinions and where evaluation is all around us. I was travelling to Canada last week, and at each airport (3, Newcastle, Heathrow, Montreal) I had the option to rate the toilets, the security, the check in experience, and virtually in real time on screens I could see the current percentage of how people felt about their toilet/security/check in experience. It’s the same with Google maps, though I do quite enjoy rating my restaurant or hotel experiences, maybe on the hope of getting free food or hotels, but its good to share a photo or comment where its due. And if you want a laugh, some of the google reviews of churches are funny. But they’re often short.

Image result for how was your experience

But it really does feel as though we’re living in an age that’s saturated by evaluation. Our opinion matters.

But it wasn’t ever the same was it, and certainly not real time push button evaluations.

So the questions this pose for me are; what does it feel like when so much of culture is open to evaluation – when some isn’t, and secondly – what might it be like to grow up as a young person in a culture that is almost at evaluation saturation?

Please rate your experience of church today’

‘your youth group really appreciates your views- do give us a rtating’

‘share how the youth club made you feel and leave a comment so that we can improve our service to you’  

These sound awful in a way. And we might baulk at churches, youth groups or clubs aligning themselves in a service provision/entertainment way – but when a lot of the time, relevancy and attraction (rather than meaning/sacred/participation) are the drivers for an attendance, then it could be easy to forgive those who attend for thinking theyre being short changed because they aren’t given an opportunity to rate the sermon/games/activities/coffee/chat/atmosphere/friendliness – in a way that the same people can give an opinion on their travel, school or shop experiences. Yet Evaluation culture is all around, and whilst for some people it might be a relief not to have to give an opinion of everything – having no mechanism for giving an opinion, that is validated and sought for, means that there is no response, no way of sharing reflection, that doesn’t seem like wingeing in the coffee time, or over lunch a few hours later. Having no mechanism, apart from not being present – ie walking with your feet – seems to be reactionary and possibly avoidable.

I once made the mistake in one youthgroup a number of years ago, of giving out a 3 page end of term questionnaire. Don’t do this. It really wasn’t a good idea, but I was full of the dreams and ideals of a college course. And trying to see what young people thought of their youth group sessions of 3 months previous really wasn’t a good idea, and I took too seriously the requirmnent to do an evaluation for an essay, too much. I guess that’s why they have push button instant evaluation in the airport toilets, no one really wants to fill in a survey then. Evaluation has to be appropriate. And not having any – is that really an option?

But what does it say when an organisation doesn’t have any mechanism for this, when so many others do, and are open for it- peoples opinions are valued in airport toilets – but not in churches – is sanitation a place where peoples opinions are more important than sacred?

I am about to run a session on developing evaluation in detached youthwork, and it crossed my mind, the extent to which young people have grown up in an evaluation culture – where so many things in their lives have   an opportunity to give an opinion. Though, if shops, cinema, travel, toilets (!) are all open for evaluation – do young people have the same afforded to them when it comes to things that matter? Can they rate the maths lesson as they leave, or the careers talk, or even, rating how uncomfortable parents evening was for them – however there are other aspects of a young persons life that are important, such as faith, as voluntary groups – and these can offer scant opportunities for a response or opinion. It could be argued that young peoples attendance and achievement is more important than whether they enjoy what they’re doing at church, swimming club or scouts – but if google is valuing young peoples opinions (for whatever reason) then surely it makes some sense that if evaluation culture is part of a young persons life then the youth organisations might acknowledge and realise this so that they can hear from young people to. And, don’t use an end of term survey… a few tips for evaluating:

  1. Make it relevant to the audience and appropriate to the group
  2. Keep it concise and easy to do – single words/emoticons/post its – and – especially in conversations – note any feedback or comments there too!
  3. Realise the power dynamic – young people won’t want to be honest to offend you or challenge the relationship – so bear this in mind
  4. Use the information for reflection and to have a conversation with young people – to create new from within- and not just kept in a cupboard or filed away.
  5. Its an opportunity for young people voice to be heard, value and treasure it!

What if we treated young people (in the church) as Human?

What is it about young people that seems to be that they’re treated as something other that human?

And, before someone in the church responds to say that they have a healthy and positive respect for young people, it’s the church that whilst it generates and maintains a good number of youth work and ministry provision, might also be in danger of regarding young people as subhuman.

My recent case in point is Neil O Boyles book ‘Under construction’ which – if you read my most recent two pieces, details and shows examples of where young people are patronised (told that sex is for having babies), given simple answers to complex problems (you’ll not become a child killer, if you don’t watch video games) , restricting their view of sin, shame and maintaining a cultural view that the individual is responsible (whatever the horror situation is dealt with) and infantalising young people (something is interactive because it has ‘puzzles’ and join the dots). On one hand I had many issues with that book. Not least its view of God. But its view of young people is equally as odd.

And if this is endemic – what does this say about how the evangelical church – and the wider church view young people?

Its as if young people are less than human people…- a few examples:

Talking of Sub-human – There can also be a view that young people (for arguments sake the over 11s- the post primary schools) are somehow a weird, alien, arrived from space species – this was picked up by Christian Smith in 2003 (p259), when he urged US churches to not hold this view, seeing that those who are over 11 upwards are closer to the adults who read or write blogs like this, or run churches or are congregants, than the children in Sunday school and messy church that seem to be viewed as treasures and darlings. All of a sudden theres a collective defeatist disempowering thst ‘we don’t know what to do with them’ yet, ‘them’ has been known for 6 years already. The challenges is the attitude fuels the approach, and approaches are often lacking. Of course changed young people aren’t going to like what they had aged 9, but they’re not necessarily going to like high energy games or simple bible stories or moral talks either. But they’re not aliens, just changed…

What they might like – is being treated as a human – not an alien

Or maybe even – not a project, or a puzzle to solve and then boast about.

These pages, articles and theres blogs everywhere on how to reach, teach, keep, pass on the faith to young people. Young people (once the church has stopped putting its foot in its mouth about sex) is also on high alert for the quick win, model, method, way for arresting the decline of young people in churches, and now that project ‘employ a youthworker’ has changed to ‘employ a resource church faith enabler for millenials’ or ‘an outreach worker for the 25-40’s’ its as if the church, worry stats included this week, has given up on trying.

However. Whilst young people (the 11-25’s) in this case are mentioned. What about the over 65s or under 11;s – are churches bursting their seams with them? No- thought not…

Then, as Andrew Root suggests, the desire for young people in the church is not for their sake anyway, its so that everyone else can feel not only that the institution may survive, its also that Youthfulness=Authenticity in todays culture – so increasing young people can help those involved in it to feel as though its up to date, its real. Somehow. (Andrew Root, Faith Formation in a secular Age, 2016) Young people then, aren’t treated as Human, but as signifiers of institutional relevance.

In few parts of these discussions – of church growth and young people , does the subject of actual young people, actual processes, mission, values, and human dignity appear. Its high reaction, responsive, soul searching and trying to do better. But what if the following…

Instead of trying to project, solve, judge , patronise or reach young people (no one talks about reaching the over 75’s…)

Because, as my most read piece, since it was published, suggests, young people are treated as human, when it has been established what role they have in it – just like everyone else – or more so.

Why not instead work on thinking about young people as humans? Fully human, fully who they are in the sight of God at this present moment- not in need of change, but as they are…

Think of them as not them – but us

Think of them as spiritual – and actually religious

Think of them as gifted – and our task to harness those

Think of them as having passions – and adding resource to enable these passions to be realised

Think of them not as without, not as deficit – but with character, with determionation – who already in the midst show a kind of resilience, resourcefulness that would put adults to shame

Think of them as not ‘the youth’ with a ‘youth’ room – but part of the church

Think of them not as tokens to be paraded, a group to have sympathy for – but like every other human – with a contribution to make within the places where contributions are made by everyone. Think of them as not done to, but those who create for themselves, and to be heard

Matt Haigs Book ‘Notes on a nervous planet’ says the following – in relation to all of us, and the state were in on the planet we currently occupy, what if we reminded young people, and we remind ourselves, of the collective humanity that we are all part.

‘Remind ourselves that we are an animal united as a species existing in this tender blue speck in space, the only planet we know containing life. Bathe in the sentimental miracle of that, define ourselves by the freakish luck of being alive, and being aware of being so. That we are all here on the the most beautiful planet we’ll ever know’

What if there was something about the very young people in your church and parish whose humanity imight be revealed to you? What if their place on this glorious planet was no more or less significant than yours – what if young people are aware of participating in something much bigger than they know yet – and they dont have those dreams and stories and actions quashed by the very adults who say that are working with them, because there’s a drive to be pure from sin all the time.

Maybe the first thing is not to talk about young people as if they’re not in the room. But they are. Not in the room about them…. and where their involvement is too purchase attendance tickets to the thing we think they might like. Hmm, some humanity there.

What if there isn’t a new model, method or idea – but what if theres just something to be said for listening, inviting, sharing space and enabling young people to belong, to do, and to be challenged, and have opportunities to flourish and make decisions.

Maybe if churches thought about young people as the humans that the other humans would like to be treated – then this might be a good first step.

Do I really need to make a theological case for treating young people as Humans, from the biblical material? No thought not, most of you youth workers recite it all anyway, and adults hear the same messages…; Created and made in the Image of God, Loved, gifted, persons who can be in conversation with God, in community, capable of feeling, emotion, intellect, generosity.. and participants in something God is calling them to – and that needs a conversation, respect and time – not a programme, a method or a model.

What if we began to reflect seriously about the humanity of ourselves, and the young people who are part of our communities, parishes, churches and groups?

And took what we might find seriously..?

Bryan suggests that ‘We understand who we are primarily through reflecting on the story of our lives. Every day we share stories about what happened to us and what we are anticipating or hoping for in our future, but each of these narratives is embedded in the broader stories of our family, the social groups we belong to , society, and beyond that to the unfolding history of the world’ (Bryan, 2016)

Locating and regarding young people as Human, and developing their true humanity is what we are to do – again, and as Bryan writes, and I conclude, with this to reflect on

‘An essential part of who we are is rooted in human beings as co-creators and participants in the unending story of God. It is the living story of God which defines who we are and who we become’  (Bryan 2016, p5)

How might young people be part of the stories of the church as they are?

How might church be part of the stories of the lives of young people?

How might church encourage the stories of young people as they participate in Gods call in the world?

And not just that, creative, quiet, loud, questioning, faithful, determined, thoughtful, considerate, loyal, you know – just like the rest of us…

 

References:

Christian Smith, 2003, Faith Formation in a Secular Age

Bryan, Jocelyn, 2016, Human Being

O Boyle, Neil, 2019 Under construction

Root, Andrew, 2016, Faith formation in a Secular Age

Haig, Matt, 2018, Notes on a nervous planet

 

 

8 ways to get money for youth and community work:

I note with interest, and no shortage of encouragement to Martin Percy and Ali Campbells piece in the church times recently, who after receiving data from over 600 church based youth workers in the UK, concluded and made recommendations about the future pay of youthworkers, especially those based in churches, and maybe specifically the anglican church – but also denomination wide.

You can read the full report here

There is somewhat of a slight general problem here. In case anyone hasnt yet noticed. An increase in Youth and Community/Youth Children workers in churches pay – because they are more qualified (quite where these qualifications are coming from when there’s less than 10 different youth ministry degree offering colleges in the UK) – also means that churches are going to have to find more money to employ them.

Problem? Well, unless your church is full of the Mercedes driving , mega rich, tithing generously, there’s a colossal amount of churches in the UK that barely have pennies between them, and shoe horning money that is in the coffers for youth work, better luck trying to find integrity in the tory party. Political metaphors aside though, whilst some churches may have money to pay youth/childrens workers more appropriately, the challenge remains how to find funding for these roles, and any other similar roles in a church, or youth work organisation.  So, whilst I have written pieces here on the trials of finding funding, or what the perfect funding application looks like – I haven’t ever shared what might be considered helpful advice on some of the different ways of generating funding for youth and community work. So, here are a number of them.Image result for money

  1. Personal Donations

Any Youth ministry/youth/community project is going to need a fair share of these. Having a generous, giving community who supports a project with regular donations is literally a God send. For one thing, any personal donations can then also have gift aid claimed back – but also usually most personal donations can be received and spend as ‘unrestricted’ – ie they can be used (unless specified) in any way that the charity requires. And potentially, do the core work, or with with groups that might not be as easily funded, or do it without prescriptive targets that trust funding might require.

For the charity – maintaining personal donations is critical, and often people become regular donors at the start of projects, through specific appeals, if they have personal interest, and it is important to communicate to personal donors regularly with stories and ways in which their donations are making a difference.

For the charity – creating easy mechanisms to collect donations is critical, there are online fundraising schemes ( Justgiving is one example, there are others) – it needs to be an easy mechanism.

Personal donations are also key to create other funding, as they provide match funding and the people who like to see match funding are…

2. Charitable Trust Funding

Probably the core funding for many a youth/community work organisation is the grant/charitable trust funding. From Children in need, to local community foundations, from £500 from the co-op to £500,000 from comic relief – Charitable trust funds are varied, and can provide huge one of, or sustained funding for projects, sometimes core staff funding, and equipment, buildings and resources. Check out local community foundations, charity newsletters for lists of these. There’s websites like funding finder where you can sign up and receive updates.

For all the grant funding can provide the big money. Boy is it a challenge, a waiting game like the dentist at times, sometimes huge amounts of effort, contacting, meeting funding reps, writing reports, gathering data and evaluations, and making plans that sometimes meet criteria, only to be turned down. Needing more than 70% of a total annual income from grant funding is not necessarily a recipe for sustainability or calm, but for many its the only choice.

3. The Business subsidiary.

This is interesting. And often underutilised. Its a way of generating funding though running a subsidiary business whose money is channelled back into the charity. So, for instance charity shops – are often linked to their core charity, but separate for insurance and liability purposes. There are community youthwork projects around the UK that have many charity shops, YMCA for example:Image result for ymca charity shop and BLEND in Derbyshire have this model. It can guarantee income depending on the business and its profits – there are spin offs too like being able to train young people in retail as they help in the shop and volunteering opportunities. But they do require effort, and also then funding to employ someone to run the charity shops, even as a PT manager. Other options for a subsidiary business are possible – but charity shops are clearly the most well known.

4. Fundraising events.

These can be as good for profile raising as they are for the actual funding that is received from them, but its great when people are keen to raise funding through doing events for you, sponsored activities, fetes, sales etc. Even better when you as the charity leader dont have to organise them…

But have too many…. and people get tired…

Image result for fundraising events

5. Crowd funding.

These can be for specific pleas and causes. Say as a charity you desperately needed a mini bus, kitchen equipment, or sports stuff – or maybe even one persons salary – With a supportive community, social media and a good cause, crowd funding can be one way of generating this income. The charity must also give back for donations, so it might be that you give away a free resource to everyone who pledged £10, or offer a free use of a hall for a donation of £500, but its about partly to give a small reword for anyone who pledges a certain amount. There are many crowd funding websites, and range from size, fees and commission, so do look around.

6. Membership schemes.

These are probably the most underused form, but could be really good. If you’re a charity of some description (and there are many categories CIC, CIO) it is likely you will need charitable trustees, and in addition you should also have members of the charity to which the trustees are accountable to. Often, a charity will have trustees but not members, and in their constitution ‘membership’ of the charity should be defined. But, simplified, anyone should be able to become a member, and pay a nominally determined fee to be able to do so, and this may give them the right to vote at an AGM and be the people who the trustees are accountable to. Think about it, if you have 100 members, who each pay £5 /month for the privilege, then this could be an untapped income. You can set conditions about membership and who becomes a member – ie having broad sympathies with the charitable aims, and yes a bit of power of the trustees is given away, but as a positive it means that the governance of the charity has some accountability. Members and trustees in conversation, or accountability.

7. Social enterprises.

Not unlike the varieties of charitable set up, there are many ways in which a charity might set up a social enterprise to raise charitable funding. Broadly they are developed by users of the charity to raise money which is then put back into the charity. Examples can include T-shirt printing by young people, food cooperatives, sale of items, childrens party inflatables, maybe even trades like hair dressing. They tend not to be run as separate business, though they could be once established, but part of the charity itself. A friend of mine @valbarron9 is currently doing a PhD on faith organisations and social enterprises, could be worth keeping an eye on. Its also something Kenda Creasy Dean has talked about for developing in youth ministry as part of the youth programme.

8. Paid Events. 

Celebrations, Dinner parties, Breakfasts, all good opportunities, if a charity has considerable local support, or to increase good profile into better profile, then a charity event, held and hopefully subsidised by a local hotel or restaurant can be a good way of raising funds, both for the entrance fee, and any fundraising during such as raffles, games, silent auctions. These can be good for getting the business community to get involved.  These can be risky… especially if ticket sales are low…

There are a few others. The biggest thing with each of the above, is that there are positives and negatives with all of them. There are risks and opportunities with all as well. And just because something worked one year, doesn’t mean it should be repeated. It is worth also thinking through a number of factors with each such as who is being asked to fund. Ie its one thing asking young people to contribute £50 per summer for a camp, but should they also pay £20 a month to attend the youth group, or at least this is what it feels like to parents who have to sponsor youth projects, attend events, and are asked to make personal donations too. An extreme example may be. But asking members of a poor-ish neighbourhood to pay for a service, without having any decision making seems a little unjust or unethical. Successful crowdfunding might require a group that capture the imagination and already have close friends who have large disposable income. Charitable trust funding can provide large sums, but the effort, and losing maybe some control and identity to them, can outweigh the benefit of the funding.

The question may well be, that plans to grow a small project currently run with volunteers might be valid, but they are ways of growing small, and employing sessional or self employed staff first. Or thinking about funding for a fundraiser and admin staff first – and not just a youth/community worker who might end of getting bogged down with charity admin. (something they will love… trust me) By the way, it isnt funding that closes projects, its the poor governance of money. Money does need serious thought, and with many options needing to be considered. Sticking to one funding source is likely to end in disaster. When two or more may have advantages that outweigh their disadvantages, but that requires more work.

I hope some of this is helpful, I am sure I have missed some, do share any other examples of funding you have done, the fails and successes, as others might have better success in their context…thank you.

 

10 things you’re unlikely to see in Christian youthwork.

This almost feels a bit like the endgame on mock the week, when ‘unlikely things you’ll see…or hear’ is the opening strapping for which then the comedians are then tasked with completing. Today I was chatting to a few youthworkers about a youth work project that had a very similar name to another, and had used a bible verse number as their name. You know the one. It’s the life to the full one. (10:10). It got me thinking, if 3:16, 10:10 are commonly used, and there are some other common things in Christian youthwork.

What might be things unlikely to see or hear in Christian youthwork?

1. A project that has the name ’23:20′ after the profound words of Ezekiel.

2. A large worship gathering admit that financial reasons, and the need for advance funding, or internal poor partnership working was the reason for its demise. Far easier to say that ‘ the Lord is calling us to something new’

3. An all female worship band.

4. A Christian youthworker stay long enough in a church based role to be eligible for a sabbatical. And then to get one.

5. A youth pastor not use an analogy from Star wars/Lord of the rings or a U2 lyric in a youth service.

6. Young people involved in creating their own youth provision. Especially any collective worship space that’s apparently for them.

7. A job application for a youth worker that asks for a quiet, reflective, critical theological youth worker.

8. A youth work not have expectations that the Sunday school will be as full is was in 1890, after they’ve been in post 4 weeks.

9. A youth worker without 9 different coffee shop loyalty cards in their purse or wallet.

10. A commissioning service for the arrival of a new youth worker in post.

Here are 10 of my ‘unlikely to see’ in Christian youthwork, what might yours be?