Youthworker: Are these your 20 superpowers?

Fast on the heels of last week’s piece on the 35 experiences of youthworkers comes this reflection on the superpowers that youthworkers are expected to possess, given the range of questions, reflections and comments about the last piece, it figures that youthworkers are expected to be superheroes? Doesnt it.. well at least they might have to at times possess all or some of the following:

1. To live off adrenaline after 3 60 hour weeks and a weekend residential at the end of them

2. To only take school holiday holidays but be able to find holidays they can afford without a teachers salary. Oh and plan 3 holiday club weeks and summer trips for the other weeks. And take that weeks holiday and switch off…

3. To become the manager of your own management group who may have 2 weeks youthwork experience between them. To manage upwards with no management experience (often)

4. To work with a smile even when there’s only 3 months funding left (a requirement for some funders who won’t fund projects with long term reserves)

Image result for youth worker superhero

5. To be able to take young people off the streets. Or get them jobs when there arent any.

6. To help young people like/persevere/cope with church* (*could also mean school) – or as one contributor suggested: ‘Be capable of fully explaining the reason why young people don’t attend church and fixing it without changing Sundays one bit’

7. To divert young people into being part of the capatalist system.

8. To be the only people left in the society who want to talk, sex drugs and alcohol with young people.

9. To provide young people with the tools for resilience, when they themselves might not be coping

10. To be able to retrieve information from every movie, song or sports event in the last 30-40 years and use it in conversation or for a session

11. To find the magic funder, that no one else has found , who will fund good youthwork and fund good salaries and core costs

12. To be amphibious and chameleonic – to be able to work in a number of settings whilst trying to be facilitative and almost invisible.

13. To be eternally youthful – even though they grow old – to never give up the fight for equality, against injustice and to maintain a view that transformation is possible – and not be resigned to fate.  (though that doesnt mean trying to be like young people’)  To keep pushing for something better…

14. To be ready to listen, to be ready with questions, to be ready with suggestions for conversations with young people – but maybe not ever ready with solutions and the ‘fix’

15. To empathise with those in structures like teachers and clergy who trust you in conversations – without thinking – ‘yeah I wish I had your problems that involved job insecurity and funding… ‘Image result for youth worker superhero

16. To get stuff for free on discount, like trips and activities – be the great convincer or bargainer – then the great apologetic when the young people trash the venue.

17. To have the endless time to commit to your own ongoing CPD, further reading, studying, career development and fund your own retreats.

18. To be able to say no to a young person without offending them and maintaining the relationship

19  To do all what you do that young people and volunteers see, with next to no need for any planning (at least thats what your timesheet says)

20 To manage other peoples expectations of what you’re actually able to do

and an extra…

21. To have the ability not to get caught reading this blog during your work day

 

What ones do you have? Which ones do you need right now? Which ones might help see you through this weekend? 

You are a superhero, regardless if you dont think you possess all of these things, as what tends to happen if that you’ll find a way to be able have these superpowers and grow into them. Its just sort of what happens. You rise to the next level, in the new situation you find yourself, whether that’s managing volunters, staff, funding, or strategising, or working in schools or developing a project. Thats the true mark of the superhero youthworker, you rise into the roles, and well, as Freire said, make the road by walking them.

what superhero powers would you add? 

 

 

Because Im not a superhero, and do my writing and reflecting as a hobby, I would appreciate any gift or donations to this ongoing site and my consultancy work. if you are able to make a donation towards this work, please do so, either by donation directly to my UK account  click here for the details. Or you can make a donation via Paypal, just click the button below.

Thank you in advance, and thank you for sharing and reading these pieces.

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Why might churches (only) advertise for a passionate, excited youthworker?

All together now, you know the tune:

‘The wonderful thing about youthworkers

is youthworkers are wonderful things

their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs

Theyre bouncy, trouncy, flouncy pouncy,  fun fun fun fun fun

but the most wonderful thing about youthworkers is i’m the only one….

Youthworkers are cuddly fellas

Youthworkers are awfully sweet

Ev’ryone el-us is jealous

That’s why I repeat… and repeat

The wonderful thing about youthworkers

Is youthworkers are working all hours

They’re burdened with being all jumpy

They’re running on overactive powers

They’re jumpy, bumpy, clumpy, thumpy

Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!

But the most wonderful thing about youthworker is

I’m the only one

 

A cursory look at the most recent job advertisements for youth workers and ministers, not only reveals that a pioneering/creative spirit is required, and so is qualifications, but that the most common attribute for the ‘new’ youth person is that they are the following……

EXCITED! (and closely followed by..)

PASSIONATE!

and the job is usually exciting too!

Everything is exciting, Everything as LEGO says is Awesome… I have seen roles for administrators being described as exciting, in the same way i have seen roles for running Sunday schools as exciting opportunities, and also developing new pioneering youthwork as exciting too. Everything is exciting. The person needs to be excited. The person needs to be passionate. In short it feels as though any new recruit to a youth ministry role needs to be some kind of ‘christian tigger’.

Bouncy, fun, lively, on the go, busy busy busy, no time, no stopping, hours upon hours, happy, smiley, exhausting powers upon powers and ideas and on the go, passionate, excited, creative…

Lets ask a question: Who might be wanting ‘Christian tigger’? the church or the young people?

Image result for tigger

If it is the church in general, why might a church want someone to be ‘passionate’ and describe that their role is ‘exciting’ or that a person needs to be ‘exciting’?

Is this just good sales techniques? and attempt to make the role attractive to the prospective applicant?

Possibly. Or maybe theres something more than this.

What if instead it wasn’t just good sales, but that deep down there’s a fear that the local church needs a pick up, an energy boost, a lift and it is the role of the ‘new/excited/passionate’ youthworker to somehow lift the local church out of a bit of the doldrums.  Don’t get me wrong, its almost human nature to want a new person to add energy or something new to an old way of being (though ironically, how much change is a youthworker allowed to actually fulfil..) . But there’s a deep down fear as well, that Andy Root suggested in ‘Faith Formation’ ;  because of society’s equation of youthfulness with authenticity – and anything that seems old fashioned/old is not authentic – then what a local church might be buying into with the ‘passionate youth worker’ is for that person to be the person that helps them to starting thinking and being youthful again.

There’s a fear maybe that a church is getting old, and the enthusiastic youth worker might be the person that helps the church feel young again. Is that the real reason an enthusiastic person is required… that’s some responsibility… not just bring youth into the church, but bring youthfulness too. What do you think – ever seen this happen?

Whilst ‘passionate’ is flavour of the decade for the youth worker role – whatever happened to compassionate? 

Again, a quick cursory look around the youth ministry job adverts, and compassion is lacking. Even in some of the job descriptions, passion is ahead of compassion – its compassion that may just be what young people need/want – and empathy – well above just someone who might be ‘passionate’ to be there and full proverbially of themselves. Compassion situates the ‘ministry’ of young people with young people – young people as primary. Compassion is about the other. Because as we fundamentally, young people don’t care that much about the youth worker anyway, or the church, or the ministry, or the activities, they are more interested in themselves – so the more compassion a youth worker has the better. The more the youth worker is less of themselves, less of their own powers, passion, ministry – and the more listening they do and being interested in young people the better.

This is nothing new, Young Life in the 1960s, developed contact ministry – in which youth workers would spend more time in the world of young people than the opposite, be in their space. Be less passionate, be more dependable, be more compassionate, or more enthusiastically present.

If young people designed job adverts for the youth minister- would they opt for passion or compassion, what do you think?  Because they’re looking for passion and excitement, are churches are looking for is someone for themselves – not just someone who is for and with young people?  And yes of course it might be a bit of both. But is it passionate excited youth ministers who churches have in mind in their job adverts…

Why might churches want a passionate, excited youthworker ?  Because maybe, there’s too many Eeyore’s in the church already, and a tigger is needed.. What happens when the Tigger cant be Tigger anymore?

What if a youth worker helped churches to be more compassionate about young people in their local community, to fight for injustice and help to remove barriers – would compassion lead for something good happening that the church locally could be part of. Not just the passionate youth worker tries man/womanfully to engender youthfulness or passion in the church and ministry of it. I wonder…

NB – And sorry, the tigger song will be going through your head for the rest of the day now…

References

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

Ward, Pete, Youth work and the Mission of God, 1997

 

‘Are you looking forward to your sabbatical?’ and 19 other unlikely phrases said by youthworkers

Picture the scene, theres two youth workers chatting together at a conference, and you’re listening in to their conversation, I would put a fair wage on none of these statements being mentioned by either of them:

1. Your sabbatical is coming up, what are you planning to do?

2. I’m off next week for my annually organised cpd to help me on my designated career progression training programme.

3. Oh yes, there’s a problem with the damp in my flat, but I can ring the diocese and they’ll sort it.

4. It’s great that the church decided to keep me on instead of the vicar, showed real pioneering spirit and value of young people.

5. Oh good, nothing energises me more than the thought of obtaining funding for my own salary.

6. Nowadays, there’s just so much positivity about young people in the press.

7. I love the security of my role.

8. Nothing pleases me more than trying to justify my job as a youthworker and try and get young people to attend church (or an employment programme)

9. Working in this denomination _______________, they really know how to support their lay youthworkers and provide sustainability.

10. I was so pleased that my church or organisation gave me a £100 budget to spend on books for myself, and continued it even when money was tight.

11. Its great that when i have a problem with my management i can chat with a union rep.

12. Honestly I have so many volunteers I don’t know what to do with them all.

13. Writing funding bids really is the highlight of my year

14. Administration, I’m given loads of time for this.

15. Do you know what, im pretty sure Ive got all the DVDs ill ever need

16. Theres nothing better than reading Shakespeare or Jane Austen to inspire my youthwork practice

17. It never ceases to amaze me how many people respond positively to my youthworker communication letter.

18. Shawshank Redemption, now theres a crap film.

19. No, actually I dont drink coffee (sorry, but i know there are a few non coffee drinking youthworkers)

20. Im just so encouraged to see each local school and church re-order itself around the needs and gifts of children and young people. 

Ok, so may be a few are far fetched and portray the inner frustrated dreamer in me, and yes Satire may well be the last known tool of the powerless. And this may be just that, a little sunday evening Satire. Yet, at this time, youthworkers are probably placed in the most powerless than they have ever been, and as my previous post suggested that although on a better footing, youthworkers have never been in positions of power. So, maybe satire it is one of the best ways to see the lighter side of being a youthworker.

‘Where are UK church based Youthworkers?’ The Results:

Over the last 3 weeks I have promoted and shared around a Google Map, the aim of which was to try and build a picture of where in the UK the church based employed youth workers are. It has been a not insignificant task. In case you didnt see the original post, the criteria for marking a location on the map was as follows:

  1. Employed by a single church
  2. Have ‘youth‘ in their job title (so it includes youth and children, music and youth, youth and community etc etc)
  3. Are employed to work Part or Full time (according to their contract)

That was all. If the person was employed by more than one church, such as a ‘deanery youthworker’ or work as employed by a parachurch organisation but  be based in a church in some kind of church partnership, then this person or location needs to be plotted on a different map, this one is here: Multi-church map.

So, the results are as follows. Before these are shared, I want to and need to thank everyone who has taken part, everyone who shared the map, the link, and sent it around their networks, email groups, facebook pages and groups and the rest, without all of this the map would not be anywhere near as complete a picture as it could be.

The raw data. The blog post was viewed 1,382 times, and shared on facebook by 90 people, 268 locations were plotted in the UK, and by today 1751 people have viewed the google map itself.  ( i think i might have viewed it about 50 times just to fix any problems or see how things were going).

A copy of overall UK map is here:

The following are screen shots of the original map – though you can view it yourself via the original post which is here. and zoom into areas as you please on it, and you can still insert your location, if you’re not featured on these result pages, I do a results update in a month or so, when its even more conclusive..

As of the results to the end of June 2018;

Ill start with some of the regions, from the most northern parts of the UK:

In Scotland there were 30 pins inserted. So, of 30/268 11% of the youthworkers employed by a single churches in the UK are in Scotland. The main areas where these locations are not too much of a surprise, the cities, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh, Stirling, Ayr and Glasgow.

Moving down the country, the North of England, doesnt fare quite as well. Only 6 churches employ people who have ‘youth’ in their job description. These are mostly in Newcastle, Durham or Middlesbrough, and surprising none in York, Sunderland or Carlisle. But only 6 churches out of 268 = 2%.

So, like a good weather person, I am moving down the Country, to the next screen shot, which included Mid to North wales, Liverpool, Manchester, most of the midlands and all the way across to East Anglia.

You may think that there paid youthworkers in all areas, but this showed not to be the case, as you can see:

Does any of these surprise you?

I can Imagine the church youthworker meetings in Norwich might be easy to organise. But counties such as cambridge, lincolnshire and leicestershire are fairly empty. North Wales seems to be well covered, especially compared to other areas. Theres a few positions in Hull. Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham (eventually – these were plotted very late on) have a good number, but not 100’s. There is a good number too in Essex, and even the south west of Birmingham areas.

It feels a west/east split though… So, what about the south and south west…. ?

Theres a tiny bit of overlap on the maps (apologies). But this is how London, the south east and south west looks like in regard to church employed youthworkers – any surprising gaps?

There were 34 reported church employed youthworkers based within the M25. Thats about the same as Scotland and the North of England combined. Only 1 in Kent, few in Surrey and a splattering in the south west of London, areas like Guildford and moving north west towards Reading and Oxford. The south west also has a large number. With paid youthworkers in north and south Devon and Dorset. Though none reported in southern coast cities of Bournemouth, Southampton or Portsmouth.

I am aware of a good number of caveats for these maps. They have relied on individuals plotting their locations and as such it is open to abuse (there is one pin on for a location in greece). I am aware that this was sent out via a blog page which is followed by about 1500 people and using social media and online, and not every youthworker, clergy or church is online. I am aware too that some churches might not want to disclose their locations, or make a contribution. These are caveats. Yet at the same time, over 1500 people viewed the map and could make a contribution if they wanted to.

I havent counted all the pins that feature in the 2 southern most sections, there is 36 in the Scotland and northern England one. Therefore there are 232 in the other two. Its a bit of a Sheffield south divide. Which to anyone based in the North of England doesnt come as a surprise. Theres definately clusters in some cities and a few in rural spots. This may indicate where the posts have been repeated in nearby churches, or also where this survey has been circulated. It has been said that each of the Anglican DYO’s has been encouraged to participate in this, and via social media a number of other denominations have also taken part.

Thank you again if you plotted locations, shared the post, and viewed the map with interest over these few weeks.

The next map is live, this is to plot all the voluntary youth ministry, where there isnt a ‘paid’ youthworker directly involved, where we discover the full extent of the church’s spread around the UK of its work with young people. A Link to that map is here – Voluntary Faith Based Youthwork

So, here are the UK church employed youthworkers – what are your thoughts?  – share them below in the comments:

(apologies for these ads)

Youthworking for a Para, or multi church setting in the UK? – plot yourself here!

I have had a request…. 2 days into the plotting of the youthworkers in the UK who are working for a single church setting, I have had requests to plot the number of youthworkers who are working for a multi church or ‘para’ church organisation.

And so,

If you work for a para/multi church post – here is your opportunity!

Please do stick to these categories:

  1. You are employed by a group of churches who have formed an organisation who pay your salary independently of one specific church, ie a deanery youthworker, churches together project youthworker,
  2. You are employed by an organisation that is a UK para church organisation either in a national or local capacity ( ie YFC, Urban saints, SU, FYT, YMCA etc)
  3. You have ‘Youth’ in your job description (ie youth & childrens, youth & community)
  4. You are employed in a Full time or Part Time capacity
  5. On average you have 5 hours contact time with young people a week, or 1/3 or more than of your working hours (this is important) as this is for youth workers who are working with young people – not just youth specialists or youthwork administrators/managers. Important though these people are, we are looking for youthworkers on the ground doing open/voluntary/clubs/groups/detached type work if thats ok. (If theres demand for managers, or schools employed youthworkers or youth housing officers, I can do another map. Diocese Youth Advisers? include yourselves if you do enough face to face work 😉 ..)

The link to the Multi/Para church Map is here; Multi/Para church Map

Please do not linger on the page, click the pin symbol and add it to the right location.

You do not need to add the names of the centre/project or any details at all, the only

Image result for uk map

exception if there are more than one parachurch org in a town, and to distinguish between them.

If a YFC/YMCA has more than one youthworker, by all means click multiple pins in a very small square feet of location.

If a youth worker is directly employed by an organisation ie YMCA, but in a church partnership arrangement and spends most of their youth practice time in a specific place, please pin yourself in that place where the youth work is done (or the main place where it is if you’re spread over a number of places)

Please close the page after you have saved it, so that others can add theirs.

thats all, and thank you for plotting where faith based youthworkers are.

Please do share this post around so that others can plot themselves onto the graph, thank you – the links are at the bottom after the customary adverts

By the end of next week, we will hopefully have 2 maps and a whole lot of information about the whereabouts of paid faith based youthwork in the UK.

Thank you for participating and sharing.

DO NOT USE THIS MAP IF YOU ARE EMPLOYED BY A SINGLE CHURCH! ….

If you are reading this and you work for a SINGLE church- the place to plot yourself is on this post here: Single church employed youthworker map THOUGH… if you do both PT, then put yourself on both… ! 😉

Thank you…

Please do have a look around this site that is produced and maintained for free, though please do contact me for information about doing some consultancy or training for your organisation in youth work or ministry, using the menu details above. Thank you

Where are the Church based Youthworkers in the UK? (your chance to contribute)

Have you ever wondered where all the church based youthworkers are in the UK?

Are they all in one area? one diocese? one county? how are they spread..?

To find out, this is going to need your help!

Image result for uk map

Theres been a number of conversations doing the rounds in the last few weeks, about the current state of play in regard to UK youth ministry. There has been a conversation on pay and salaries which I prompted after looking through various current and past job descriptions, a conversation that has been taken on by Ali and ‘The resource’ in this video in which he also discusses the other issues regarding the terms and conditions of youthworkers in the UK, if the link doesnt work it can be viewed and commented on on ‘The Resource’ Facebook page.

So there is a discussion about pay.

The other discussion linked to pay, is to do with location.

Fundamentally there is no database that exists that shows where all the UK ‘church based’ youthworkers are, which it is why theres generally a surprise to find out where people are from when they all arrive at an annual conference. Location is also important in regard to how pay and salaries are in proportion to housing costs in a particular area, and who can afford to be a youthworker in a setting.

Location is also important, as a view of youth ministry from one part of the UK, usually from an office block in the south of England, is slightly out of kilter with a view of youth ministry from other parts of the UK. A map would also show the population to church worker ratio, and how this compares across the regions. Of course it will be just a snapshot of where things are in 2018, and my post recently also looked at where there are likely to be vacancies in roles even at the moment, and this brought up something of a north south split too.

So working together in the youth ministry conversation, lets see if this works…we need everyones help – to find out

Where are the Church based youthworkers in the UK?

Below is a link to a google map, what I would like you to do is merely put a pin in the location where either you, (or you know of someone who hasnt yet marked themselves) is one of the following

  1. Employed by a single church
  2. Have ‘youth‘ in their job title (so it includes youth and children, music and youth, youth and community etc etc)
  3. Are employed to work Part or Full time (according to their contract)

Thats all, apologies for anyone missed out, so volunteers, gap years, youthworkers in organisations like YFC or FYT, youthworkers in the non faith based field. I hear you, and we know theres more to UK youth ministry that those working in churches, but at the moment, just to get the ball rolling, it would be good to get a snapshot of those employed in and by churches to specifically be in a role that includes working with young people and this is in the job title.

All you are able to do on the map is to put a pin in a location, and obviously some locations will have more than one pin where there are 2 or more staff paid to do this, or more than one youthworker in a specific town or village.

It would be as great to map out salaries, lengths of contract, those with/without qualifications (and what those qualifictions) – those who are new in roles, but we’re not able to do this at the moment, so at this stage, itd be good to do a mapping exercise on just location just to get a broad sweep of where the UK church based youthworkers are in the country.

The link is here

UK Church employed youthworkers

Please do plot yourself or others if you havent done so already

Which you can share with others, and so please do share this post that includes the link to this map.

When you open it, just go to the pin symbol and click the location, , one extra place will be added to the list on the left, then click save on the pin. And close the map.

You dont have to include the name of the church or any other details, i know some people have already. I dont want to be foul of any GDPR, and no one is looking for this kind of information. Just locations of FT or PT youthwork employed people.

If the map is busy, and im not sure how it will work if theres more than one person adding pins, then do be patient, this is a free site on google maps, so best not crash it… (thank you)

please do save and close the screen when you’re done so others can upload their pins, thank you

Please exit the map once you have put in the pins, so others can do theirs. Especially looking for DYOs to put in as many of the employed people as possible that they know, saving the leg work for each youthworker….

The results page (for pins up to Friday 29th June is live) but if you want to add your pins you still can. With more results after this phase.

So please do get zooming into locations and inserting where the UK church employed youthworkers are. And will post the results after then. It might reveal what is already known, but there may be some surprises.

So at least then we all know where everyone is, and maybe as importantly how many of you are out there!

Where are the UK based youthworkers? with your help, we might find out…

if you are employed by a group of churches, or by one church covering many churches, an affiliation, charity, or parachurch org to work in a church setting the link to the map for you is here:

(This map is closing on 12thJuly)

Thank you for visiting this free blog and website, please do have a look around, click the categories and tags for articles on a range of subjects on youthwork and mission, youth ministry and theology. If you would like to contact me to do some training or consultancy for your church, organisation or volunteers, please do use the menus above. Thank you again.

Thank you to all who have put their pins on the map, the results and data will be shared soon.

In the meantime, do add anyone who works as a youthworker to the parachurch/multi church (deanery) map.

I apologise for the adverts below this line:

When so many youthwork jobs are staying vacant – whats going on?

And i dont just mean the underpaid roles. Image result for situation vacant

I mean good solid, permanent, well paid, interesting roles in creative cities and projects. All going unfilled , all in the last 18 months. Sitaution vacant seems to be common.

This has been relayed to me time and time again over the last 4 years since I have been in the North East, but it was also a problem in the south west.

Are there just no youthworkers around who are looking for new jobs, new roles or are wanting a change?

At Durham YFC we had difficulty filling roles, as have churches, community groups and projects in the north, my surprise also, has been the amount of roles i have heard of not being filled in Scotland also, at projects with very good people. My experience and knowledge does not extend too far in the southern end of the UK, to know the employment scene down there. Though from what i hear its not so different.

At the same time, there’s 1000 people, maybe many youthworkers signed up to be going to the national youth ministry weekend later in the year. At least theres 1000 people working with young people there… how many of them are in the employment scene? At least thats a snapshot of some numbers in the scene. However, the curious lack of filling roles recently, causes a few questions to be asked.Image result for situation vacant

  1. Is this universal? Many in the north/north east/north west – talk about being unable to fill youth and ministry roles. Bishop of Burnley talks about a clergy gravitational pull to the south (and this is where, excluding Durham) many theological training courses are. But how common is the ‘unfilled’ youth work/ministry post say in the Home counties, or shropshire or Kent? Or are these posts, with a decent salary filled without a problem?  I literally do not know. But wonder.
  2. Is the reduction in college courses now biting. Less newly qualifieds entering the arena for youthwork employment, therefore less people to employ, also less spaces to advertise. Is there just not the workforce, and can those who are qualified look for roles in hotspots and where they want to, and be picky? But is the gradual reduction in workforce now having an effect?
  3. Has the moving for a 2-3 year role stopped? Its not something I would be willing to do ever again. So if people are reluctant to move, then theres going to be some serious upskilling of local people to fulfill the requirements of job descriptions in some areas.
  4. Those who did move have now got homes, teenagers in schools, feel called to an area, and if there isnt a huge number of newly trained workers, willing to move and take a risk somewhere new, then this could be a major issue.
  5. Is the pay not good enough? Id agree in some cases. But in others, recently there were 4 roles on premier youth childrens work, all over £25,000 – so this seems more than reasonable (just depends on their location) In this post here, there are some shocking low paid roles, and even today on some denomination sites some youthworkers are being paid very little above the living wage. Shocking.
  6. It could be that this isnt a new problem. Theres probably more situations of ‘we need to get a youthworker’ than there are youthworkers around, or at least there was, and so theres a residual over capacity.
  7. Maybe its a problem of expectation – being a first person in a role, following a really good person in a role, working for a church with a ‘reputation’, working for a project that is so ‘out there’ and trying to be ‘original’ and ‘radical’ all the time. It could be too much pressure…?

Related imageFrom the perspective of the prospective new employer, church, organisation, community group, this situation can then cause a bit of a headache. Imagine the example of the church who want to reach out to their community, do a lot of leg work, raising funding, creating employment process and management, advertise, maybe even find accommodation – only then for no one to appear, when this has been the pathway all along. Or, what of the situation in a church where there has been a youthworker to do a lot of activity, maybe schools work, detached or partnership work, and this position remains unfilled. But getting a youthworker, praying for a youthworker, and expecting a youthworker, almost feeling like a place on this basis (dare i say it) deserves a youthworker , when this doesn’t happen, is an issue. Its one thing asking the question what a church or group doesnt when a youthworker leaves, its another when the expected person didn’t even arrive, when many people are gearing up for it.

Stuff would have been held back – we’ll wait for the youthworker to help us with that

People will have been denied a space – the youthworker will do all this for us

Super -person is waiting just around the corner… but doesnt arrive…

And some of this is implied through the actions of trying to find and appoint someone, rather than what is explicit, but and ive said it before, employing someone can have a disempowering effect, when there might be other opportunities to grow and develop those within, taking significant risks.

In her book Young people and the church since 1900 (2018), which no one is going to read because it is £100, Naomi Thompson describes how a capatalist approach is often used when a youthworker works for a faith based organisation, that essentially they are employed on a payment by results, bums on seats. Or, as likely, they get given the stuff no one wants to do, or be trained up in to do – youthwork – and receive few volunteers, support and structures. But those days are long gone arent they, no church treats a youthworker like that anymore do they….(especially not an underpaid one…)  I say this just to reiterate that the crest of a youthwork wave is on its way down… the enthusiastic have become battle weary and some of the markers of its success have faded..

There might be other reasons, too, but from the point of view of the advertiser, what do you do with a constantly unfilled role? 

Options like rewording the documents, re-advertising, trying to advertise in other places are all legitimate and common and a good shout for after a few times of not finding someone, or even getting applicants. (And for a small fee id be happy to have a look through the documents and give you some advice, but i cant magic up youthworkers)

but what if the reality is, is that there just isnt the youthworkers in the mixing pot anymore?  

though the other reality might be that all the youthworkers are concentrated in some areas of the UK. 

It is as much of a reality that, at the same time as churches feeling like a youthworker is needed in an area (because the statutory youthwork has been removed), as the same churches have less resource to do this work, due to aging population and a myth that youthwork occurs be being young, the need stimulates action to act- at the same time the other part is that the courses, colleges and opportunities to train and ‘get qualified’ are reduced. Communities are needing a church based youthworker more than ever, yet at the same time the scene has dropped out with colleges and courses closing.

Might central funding help colleges and courses increase, if demand is clearly there? Go on church commissioners – fund some youthwork training!

Of course, paying someone well, also means asking for qualifications and experience. Its become a bit of a circle.

Can churches take a gamble and try different approaches? might it be good to develop ongoing apprenticeship and learning posts?

is there a different way to employing the full timer? 

Training is possible in areas, and new areas if there was demand for it – and so would one-two day training be possible in roles. What about digital youthwork/theology training for areas where rural/distant travel is too much of an ordeal? Is it better to invest some of the salary on an external person to train up someone who is in the area already and pay for their education fees (if there is suitable courses available). Im sure there could be are other options too. Maybe the trick is not to start with only one option in the first place – the default we’ll get a youthworker to do this

I realise I may not be speaking for all the sector, the country in terms of the availability of youthworkers to the roles. If theres queues outside churches in the south because of the high level of applicants for roles, then this isnt a world that i am seeing, or speaking of.

It is more that trying to make every role seem ‘exciting’ ‘dynamic’ and ‘pioneering’ because every advert for a youthworker says the same. Everything is exciting, pioneering and challenging. Changing the wording isnt going to magically generate youthworkers. And a frustrating time of waiting continues.

They say in housing whether theres a sellers or buyers market. At the moment, its probably a buyers market in the youthwork world, with few youthworkers and much choice. Yet at the same time, there are places where there are youthworkers and limited choice. Like the housing market it has regional variations.

So – whats going on in the scene? And what might the future scene need to look like?

Questions:

Is this a universal problem in the UK?  Are there posts unfilled in every diocese?

Who are the people willing to move to an area for a role – have youthworkers stopped doing this?

On average, if you’re trying to fill a youthwork role – how many times have you have to re-advertise?

Is a north/south divide too lazy – is it more complicated than that?

 

References

Thompson, Naomi, (2018) Young People and the church since 1900.

 

 

Some advert below reminding you that this site is free, but the cost is this advert. Apologies. Also a gentle reminder that if theres stuff i can try and help you with, including training volunters in churches, so that finding the elusive youthworker might not be your only option, then do please get in touch. Id love to hear from you to help you develop sustainable relational youth work.

‘Its not about the money’- but are young people valued enough to pay youthworkers appropriately?

Image result for pay packet

Is a youthworker really just paid peanuts?

No one goes into youthwork for the money, like many ministries, and vocations, pay is secondary in job satisfaction to the desire to change and make the world better for others in whatever that means, education, health or support. Where Nurses have campaigned rightly for pay increases and teachers too, the individual church based youthworker is rarely able to negotiate such an increase, neither are there national bodies that assimilate pay. I have realised also that one thing I have rarely talked about within these pages is money, the bottom line, the pay of the youthworker. Its not something to talk about in church culture, often as ‘our work is for Gods glory’ is often said. But families of the youthworker also need to live, and feel as though Gods work is fairly valued financially. But ‘how much should we pay the youthworker’ is one key question I am often asked, when helping churches write up a role and advert for employment, and usually their starting point is lower than what I would thought is appropriate, especially as it doesnt usually include housing, utilities, moving costs etc.

But maybe the lid needs to be lifted and there needs to be a conversation about it. But, not for the first time in the last 10 years I find myself trawling through the job pages of the various employment pages and sites for all the main youthwork employers, and there’s a few things in terms of pay that have stood out.  In my posts on this site on youth ministry and management (see the categories) I talk about many things, strangely not pay, salary and the costs involved in employing a youth worker in the current day and age. Often its not money that causes a youth worker to leave a post, more the internal politics, but I am hearing stories of how low pay is a large cause of stress for youth worker, especially in church settings. So maybe it is time to have that conversation.

The first thing I was thinking about was whether anything had particularly changed in regard to Church youthworker pay, especially since the professionalisation of youthwork.  Like a good hoarder of resources I have copies of ‘YouthWork’ Magazine from a variety of dates, spanning 1997 to 2017, strangely the time when i was most likely to be in receipt of free copies, and when i was most directly involved in youth ministry, working for a church or a youth ministry organisation.

So, here is a quiz for you.

Below are job adverts for roles advertised in Youthwork Magazine over a span of 20 years. You have to try and guess which year they were advertised, based on the role advertised and the pay being offered, good luck ! ( write your answers in the comments section)

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

Please write your answers in the comments below 1-10. And i just want the year you think the role was advertised, and it could be anytime in the last 20 years. Studious readers or editors of youth work magazine might recognise changes in type, but otherwise please just give them a go.

I have tried to find church based posts that are all relatively similar in terms of full time, and their nature. All of them are based in England. Most suggest qualifications, experience and working with young people on a regular basis.

Without giving any of the game away, in terms of which decade some of these were, there does need to be a conversation about the worth of a youthworker in a church, and how this worth is linked to their salary. If there are nurses in the UK who are in need of food banks, then i wouldn’t be surprised if there are youthworkers. What is clear from the examples above is that pay for what seem similar roles has fluctuated from 10,000 to ‘a package up to 25K’ in that time period, and this may have a number of other factors, the pay of the senior pastor, the pay that the church can afford, any other local or national pay scale within a denomination.

In the last few years there have been national changes to minimum an living wages that may have had a knock on effect on the amount being paid to youthworkers, hoping that they might be paid above this for the roles that they do, though with the expectation that some roles may be up to 45 hours per week, this is unlikely. Some roles on the Job Search site for YCW magazine currently are above £20K, but others only advertised on denomination websites are only £16-£18K. And i do mean only.

Because, given the price of rent, food, bills, internet, gas elec and the rest, this kind of salary is only for the single person renting somewhere small, or where this wage is not meant to be the main one in a family, therefore making family life very difficult (one person working for that wage and long hours, with partner also working full time) . Or a student. It is a statement that youthwork is only a first step career, not something for the experienced. A stepping stone to ‘real’ ministry. And that might not be the intention, but its what is possibly implied by low salary rates.

Maybe I protest too much. Maybe churches shouldnt keep up with the rising costs of living in many areas of the UK (even in the north east house prices and thus mortgages have gone up 3x at least since 1997) , but very few youthwork salaries have done so. Some are less than they were in 2005.

When it comes to paying a youthworker appropriately, there are many factors to consider, and these arent going to be repeated here, such as experience, qualifications and the role expected, and how it might involve managing, coordinating or training. As i said, there is more to employing a youthworker than just pay, and this post describes the minimum requirements for doing so , but pay, when this is linked to the well being of the worker in a situation, and says something (not everything) about the value of the work being done, and the recipients of that work ( ie young people) is important. Even if its something that at times we might find difficult to cope with.

And if a church doesnt want to keep increasing pay to reflect life in modern Britain, then there have got to be other innovative ways of making things work, such as paying utilities, or housing, or something else.

But what is a reasonable amount to pay a youth worker – does anyone know? If you have struggled with money as a result of being in a youth worker role, then privately do get in touch, and if you want to share your story you can do so as a guest post, i am sure others will want to hear. I am not sure Ill be able to help in any way in your situation, but if sharing it helps then you can do so here.

Whilst ive raised this subject – and if young adults and children really are important, what might be some of the solutions to the inconsistencies or low pay for jobs even currently being offered. There is a premium on youthworkers, there arent too many around, but it doesnt work like supply/demand to keep wages high like the issue is in housing. There are national agreed pay scales for some, though these are guidelines. I am not aware of any national denomination which directly contributes funding to local youth work posts, but there might be, because it would be politically awkward. Theres not going to be any quick solutions to this issue, a problem in some areas.

Maybe a youthworker in a job in the current day and age just needs to be grateful and shut up about their pay. hmmm…

One question might also be, what might a church be more likely to invest in, instead of using this to pay for salaries?

Anyway – your answers to the adverts above – what was the year?

Did you write your answers down – no cheating now… Here they are:

  1. 2005
  2. 2004
  3. 1997
  4. 1998
  5. 2004
  6. 2005
  7. 1999
  8. 1998
  9. 2004
  10. 1998

Are we on Red, Amber or Yellow warnings for the end of Youth Ministry in the UK?

If we’re involved in the business of youth ministry we need to ask ourselves this very difficult question. Are we the last generation of youth ministers, and are the current young people involved in youth ministry the last generation of young people who are?

This might seem a world away to you.

You might be reading this in a large city or mega church with 100 young people – so it cant be an issue here

You might be reading this in a movement of youth ministry that attracts 10,000 young people to a summer festival – so it cant be a relevant question

You might be reading this question as a leader of a large youth ministry organisation – that connects with 100’s of young people a week – so why ask this kind of question to prick an otherwise flying bubble? 

It is a question that needs asking, because it is a question that might be true. Of course, we dont know if its going to be true, we dont in youth ministry know what is going to happen in a year, (even if we have signed up to the national youth ministry weekend!) , so – most of the time we dont spend any time thinking about 3 years ahead, let alone whether 15 or 20 years ahead what the state of UK youth ministry might be like.

For a moment, lets look at some evidence.

The Peter Brierley Consultancy – ‘Have Youthworkers worked’ said this :

“If one assumed that the overall trend of losses experienced in the 1980s had continued in the 1990s, then the actual count shows that many more children left than expected and also adults aged 30 to 44 and 45 to 64, many of whom were probably the parents of the children who left.
The number of teenagers who left was less than half what might have been expected, and the number in their 20s leaving was also less (some of whom would have been in their teens in 1989).Youth workers by definition work with “youth”, not always interpreted identically, but usually meaning those 15 and over in many churches. The number of youth who left the church in the 1990s was far fewer than would have been expected from the 1980s data, suggesting that youth workers,who largely began working in churches in the 1990s, were making a real impact in their churches and enabling more young people to stay on in church life than might have been the case.
If the constraining mechanism used in Table 14.5.3 is ignored, and one just looks at the actual full results given in , it may be seen that the actual number of teenagers who left in the 1990s was still much less than would have been
anticipated from, the 1980s data.Youth Workers work!
The conclusion is that the employment of youth workers was successful, if “success” means young people staying on in a church fellowship. That this was also the result on the ground is evidenced by the fact that many churches seeing this success, but also observing in experience the appalling loss of children under 15 in the 1990s started to appoint Children’s Workers as well as Youth Workers in the hope that they too would see similar success. Some churches have gone further and appointed Family Workers to take account of the loss of parents as well as children.”

You can read the full report here: ‘Have youthworkers worked’  at http://www.brierleyconsultancy.com/where-is-the-church-going

The conclusion that Peter Brierley arrives at is that Youth workers work!  The same conclusion is reached in the Fresh Expressions, church growth data, or at least, what it suggested was that a Youth worker based in a church is likely, or a cause, of a church being able to grow numerically.

However, Peter Brierely is quick to say that no attempt was made in 1989 to forecast the numbers of young people attending church into the future – ie the then next 10 years. Since 2005 ( the last set of figures)-then- what are the current projections for 2015, 2025 or 2035?

The university of Wales suggested that, using similar data, that each generation of young people 1/3 is lost, many young people leave the church, and never to return. For some, the best that can be hoped is that when they have their own children they will want to bring them back. And there is a little evidence to suggest this happens. But what if even this reduces by 1/3 each generation.

The other issue to contend with here, is the decline in FT or Paid youthworkers in churches. And at the same time, the decline in church based youth groups, ministries and house groups across the UK. With less resources, and less investment in young people (because less are visible on sundays) then whole swaithes of opportunities to develop working with ‘unknown’ young people is lost. If its likely that when FT youthworkers are in churches, the church and its youth ministry is likely to grow – what happens when there isnt a FT youth worker? its children ministry with volunteers, and then ‘the kids all leave by 11’- the common complaint…

Without an investment in training for youth ministry from central sources, there might be no qualified theological youth ministers in the UK within 20 years. The rate of closure of courses, colleges, the shrinking of year groups, and value placed on youth ministry as a vocational career is tangible. For those who qualified in the last 15 years, it can feel as though we (and i mean we) were sold a promise, and ended up with a dud. There are less courses, less opportunities and less investment in working with young people, and ultimately then less youthworkers, and if youthworkers did work on a national basis – then will youth ministry in one generation die out?

From where I sit right now, there are almost 0, Full time youth ministers based in churches north of York. It is not quite 0, but as a % it would be less than 0.5% of all the churches in the North have a full time youth minister just for their church. I dread to think how many youth clubs, groups, and ministries have closed in the last 5 years in the North east. And, Im not saying a FT worker is the answer to everything, but without time for young people outside of ‘the youth group’ it becomes difficult to do anything other than ‘invite your friends’ type events, without being present in schools, on the streets or developing vision, and investing in young people sun-sat.

So, what if the reality, is that the North East will be first to predict that on current estimates, due to resources, investment in young people, that any young people currently involved in the traditional youth groups type ministry, will be the last – what plan, strategy, process and approaches (not to mention theology) might be needed for the future? Not to plug the gap – but to start again. Sadly the plague of absent young people & youthworkers in 15 years time, might catch on elsewhere. What could be ascertained in the demise of Sunday schools was the rate of closure as there was recorded data. Without any mechanisms, we have no idea the rate of closure of groups, clubs and ministries with young people in churches across the UK. There may be headline figures, like less young people attending festivals, or less young people in churches on sundays – but theres nothing on youth ministry itself. Yet, other signs of closure are occuring, such as YFC centres (that start to receive less an less ‘church’ funding).

So, might in youth ministry is it the right time to ask the difficult question – has youth ministry only got one generation left?  I dont think im going early on this. There will not always be young people in churches. There may always be young people and their families living in the vicinity of churches, but young people in churches at all? What if there are no youthworkers based in churches in 10 or 15 years time either?

Maybe in the North- we’re ahead of the game, this question is a current reality and there;s something new to be developed- and it isnt whats happening in the south (we dont have the resources).

In the South- some areas of it- and university cities and city churches – be blessed by a continual incoming group of young people via education, and do what you can with them, because more and more of them will have had less and less connections with churches, outside of an assembly or attendance at a messy church up until the age of 9. In the South it might not be time to ask the difficult question. But if nothing else, someone involved in youth ministry needs to be thinking 15 years ahead. If this was about to be true – what difference would it make? Would there be more investment in working with young people?  Would there be a national conversation within church affiliations about training for youth ministry? a joined up approach perhaps? or something else…

Youth Ministry in our time, might be the Sunday School in our parents time. Theres Red, Amber and Yellow warnings around the country, the question is, is it like for like replacement, or is something more pioneering required to as a replacement, where youth ministry has failed and about to be extinct… There might be a chance to do something about it before things get to that stage….

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