Youthwork: the importance of developing young peoples narrative identities

Johanna Wyn and Rob White say something, i think, quite profound about the views of adolescent development; one that certainly youthworkers in faith based settings, and schools should reflect on, they propose that:

Product Detailsa relational concept of youth offers an approach to understanding the social meaning of growing up that can take into account the diverse ways in which young people are constructed through social institutions, and the ways in which they negotiate their transitions (Wyn and White, 1997)

What they compare their approach to is many of the psychological, and physiological theories of youth development which can objectify this period of time for a person as a stand alone moment, and more significantly can imply that there are correct, uniform ways of completing this phase of life, and by not being ‘correct’ a young person can quickly be deemed at risk, deviant of different.

So, what Wyn and White are suggesting is that instead of  ‘youth’ being a period of transition, instead it is a time of construction.

Some of you might have more likely come across David Elkinds book, All grown up and no place to go (1998), in it, following work by Piaget, Elkind suggests that at some point during adolescence a young person will begin to create personal fables of themselves, doing so with a concept of past, present and future experience. It might only be when the person has the capacity, mentally, to do this that it occurs, but at this point something shifts in a young persons thinking. But they can start to go beyond the here and now, they might be able to describe themselves differently and play around with word play, however, it is the fable construction that i think is interesting, especially as it ties in with Wyn and White above, that youth is a time for construction and negotiation of social institutions, because at the same time, this negotiation involves a young person being able to narrate their own fable for coping/surviving/flourishing within it.

We are heading towards thinking about narrative identity.

A Narrative is another way for saying story. Bruner says that as humans we either reflect on our lives pragmatically (the facts and figures) or we understand the world through stories (human wants, desires, goals, motivations). It is part of ourselves to tell ourselves stories during every day to help us through incidents and experiences, it is a story of a memory that is positive that might help us through something unpredicted, it might be that we survived something previously that means we can do it again. Some of these stories have themes, such as agency ( i survived with purpose and confidence), Redemption ( it was tough but i made it through, or something happened to rescue me), Communion (i was helped and we got through the ‘love’ of someone motivated me) and without probably realising it, we tell ourselves these stories, as adults all the time. However, when it comes to difficult or trauma situations, we can find ourselves only being able to tell half a story  (as we are still living it in the moment) or a contaminated one – (all was going fine, then this happened, and i lost it, got angry and i am never going to go and see that person/dentist/doctor again- for example).

However, the stories we tell, that shape our narrative have a huge impact. For if we can tell ourselves positive redemptive stories of past experiences, then we are likely to be courageous or confident about a situation. (after all it didnt go too bad last time, or the pain was worth it..) The narrative identity provides us as with a unity of the horizons of our past, and our future in order that we can make sense of actions in the present. McAdams and Mclean state that; ‘Narrative Identity is a persons internalised and evolving life story, integrating the reconstructed past and imagined future to  provide life with some degree of unity and purpose’

If any of you have seen the film Inside Out (2015) by Disney,  you will have seen an example of how a traumatic event brought chaos to the narrative identity of a young person, all the thoughts about their life that were in positive joyful stories became affected by one event. The trauma became the lens, and the young person struggle to renegotiate and reconstruct new stories, redemptive, agency stories about how she could cope in the future. What you might have noticed was that it was not the events per se that cause the negative emotions, and what might (if it wasnt a Disney film) have resulted in depression or mental health concerns, but it was the narrative created by the young person towards the event. They had disunity of themselves and couldnt cope, and no experience of a similar situation to overcome.

So, Youth is a time of construction. Constructing narratives about 1000’s of interactions, about 5-10 institutions, about friends, about heroes, about hobbies, about skills.

But where do they get the tools to create stories, well, easy, for many young people it is from their childhood, the stories they hear, the archetypes of characters, the arc of storylines from Mr Men books to Harry Potter, to watching films. Crucially a young person may conceived of many narrative types and assimilated their own to it, before that have the mental capacity in adolesence to construct their own stories.

At this point it is worth reflecting on the roles of the people then to support young people. If the young person is in a period of time where they are constructing narratives of their principle institutions,

If the young person is in a period of time where they are constructing narratives of their principle institutions, care givers, friends and the like – what might be the best role for a youthworker to take in this? especially when a young persons mental health ( and incidents of mental health issues amongst young people are rocketing) is at stake?  There is the temptation to ‘be another institution’ – so an employment group, a schools lesson provider, or something else similar, maybe even the church

There is the temptation to ‘be another institution’ – so an employment group, a schools lesson provider, or something else similar, maybe even the church sunday school – it could have the same institutional feel. Quite interestingly if a young person doesnt have power or autonomy in a situation then they are more likely to construct a negative narrative about, one that demotivates- and to a point we all know what that is like. So, even though it might be a personal narrative, socio and economic factors are in play, for not only might less opportunities for a young person be available if they are from a ‘poorer’ background, but the ability for them to have choice about their destiny is reduced, as is their autonomy, agency or power. What might this mean for their narrative identity? what kind of stories will they continue to tell themselves? – so it

What might this mean for their narrative identity? what kind of stories will they continue to tell themselves? – so it isnt that there is a scheme for disadvantaged young people and they are labelled as such, it is that they might have no choice but to go on it… or be sanctioned by the job centre, or be forced to leave a care home. Even if something deemed positive is presented – are they as likely to have choice in the matter..? its so important..

The key ways in which a young person is given affirmative tools for narrative construction are, yes the stories from an early age, but also the space to reflect and talk, someone who will listen and affirm them, and some one who will help them to understand their experiences and reappropriate them in their own story.

It like being what Coburn and Wallace say youthwork should be – a ‘border pedagogy’ (2010)- someone who is  between the institutions, in the gaps, to help learning across it all. Someone who helps a young person by asking them reflective questions and helps them make sense of the world. The tragedy is that those who want to fund youthwork want to put youthworkers in institutional roles, in delivery agencies- rather than in the gaps where they can be most helpful and helping a young person form constructive, and reappropriate negative- narrative identities.

What is additionally interesting, is that young people assimilate their narrative identity, like we all do, with an emerging larger story about their place in the world, of life purpose or goal – or ideology, meta narrative (dont tell me they dont exist)

If you’re not that interested in faith based youthwork/ministry – then maybe look away now – but the ideology could equally apply as something like socialism, marxism or agnosticism.

During the period of narrative construction, the young person is also trying to discover how their life story includes, resonates with and is part of the bigger life stories in the world, such as religion, ideologies, beliefs or values. The mind of the young person is trying to make sense of the world and therefore is asking questions about faiths as they see contradictions, or inauthenticity – but also because they want it to make sense, and be true enough to adopt, and form their narrative identity around the ideologies that they are part of.

So, let me ask these questions –

  • For the young person who has been brought up a faith – and leaves the ‘church’ before the age of 12 – are they likely to incorporate the ideology of that faith into their life narrative?  maybe – maybe if they find an alternative, or had a bad experience of ‘leaving’ .
  • Alternatively how might a young person adopt a faith as a life narrative if they only join it at 14-15?
  • What damage is done to a young persons narrative if a church rejects them, but they wanted and needed the ideology of faith to motivate and guide them? –
  • How might the young person narrate the church as an institution, verses its story of faith as an ideology..?

These arent easy questions – but have we ever considered them in youth ministry in relation to a young persons narrative identity, and what it might mean that their identity becomes wrapped up in the story or stories of the faith?

For a young persons narrative identity in youth ministry – what kind of story do they feel part of when they join, or as they have been part? – is it a story at all – or moral propositions? what purpose does having faith have in the long term and how might that create motivational goals for a young persons identity and behaviour? It is worth then reflecting on how the narrative identity construction of young people is directly affected by their relationship with a faith

It is worth then reflecting on how the narrative identity construction of young people is directly affected by their relationship with a faith institution, or an ideology. I remember at school, lots of people became vegetarian aged 15, because a teacher could show a video of cows being inhumanely slaughtered and animal welfare being shoddy, it sickened enough of my friends not to eat meat for a few weeks, but it wore off. But a very simple ideology and message had a two week effect for most, and one or stuck with it and became green party activists. Is that the same effect of simple presentations of other faiths? Or do young people maybe want something they can believe in and find purpose and meaning in for their life story, purpose and future. I guess that’s what costly discipleship of any faith might look like.

As youthworkers, maybe our role on the streets and in the schools, is that helping young people make sense of the world, but it is also to help them to reflect on their life’s experiences to form positive unifying stories that enable themselves to have confidence, agency, purpose and determination, and that often used word resilience ( but i think i am using it right) . If we’re working with young people who have less opportunities and choice, then this will affect their life narrative – and so regardless of the scenario we need to promote autonomy and choice as much as is possible, as a way of helping their mental health. And then, as an addition, the philosophical questions of life may be significant to a vast number of young people, how might faith become coherent as part of their story, so that they play a role in whole community and human flourishing through it.

Youthworkers in the spaces, all the more reasons why its good to have conversations with young people.

References:

Coburn Annette, Wallace, David, Youthwork in schools and communities, 2012

Elkind, David, All grown up and no place to go, 1998

McAdams, Dan, The stories we live by, 1993

McAdams Dan, Kate McLean Narrative Identity, Current Directions is psychological science Vol 22 issue 3, pp 233-238, 2013

Wyn J and White, D, Rethinking Youth, 1999

10 reasons why young people might prefer detached youthworkers

This evening I have been delivering detached youth work training to a group of volunteers in churches in Hartlepool. During the evening, one of the more common exercises i do, is to think about the positives and challenges of detached youth work from our perspective as prospective deliverers of it. The usual aspects emerge, challenges include the weather, unpredictability and lack of control, benefits, meeting more young people, no need to ‘supervise’ buildings, cheap, flexible. However, i left wondering, and some of these thoughts emerge from the conversation this evening, the following question; why might young people themselves prefer to interact with detached youth workers? in contrast with building based clubs & activities. Yes i know detached youthwork can take a number of guises – but in general why might young people prefer being interacted with supportive adults in this way at this time, compared to others.

  1. They are in control. They can control the length of time the interaction occurs, ending it by ignoring the worker, or moving on themselves, they control whether interaction can happen at all.
  2. They can construct an interaction and relationship with a supportive adult- that may not know anything about them previously- so its a potential blank slate for them to construct and disclose the type of person that they might want to be seen as, outside of a school, family or other network. They can be seen as they want to be. Showing and comparing themselves in one space to that of them in another – “Im not like this at school….”
  3. They meet the person in a space they are comfortable- maybe more comfortable than the workers- they might be more at ease.
  4. They know it might only be a short burst of interaction, so for some they have nothing to lose and dive in with many questions or disclosures, for others they have nothing to gain so choose not to.
  5. They know theres little the worker can discipline them for doing, even swearing might not be condemmned, so rule braking isnt a conversation in that space.
  6. They can show off with something they like doing, ie football, skateboarding – because thats where they are.
  7. They can dictate the ongoing development of the relationship by not always having intense conversations, or being in different groups on others, they dictate its pace and development, again something they might prefer.
  8. They can be seen in environments where they might be showing strengths and natural gifts, that might be invisible in school structures, and a good detached youthworker will identity and enable these to be developed
  9. They know that they might be the sole reason the youthworker is there.
  10. They have the safety of their friends with them. But a detached youthworker in certain circumstances can also help them feel safe. (its what young people in Perth commended us as detached project for helping them feel, in a busy city centre environment)

Maybe there are a few more than this – and some will be relevent to centre based youthworkers too, it just occured to me that young people might prefer detached youthworkers and if this is the case why might this be. At the moment – the rate things are going young people might prefer any youthworker at all. but thats another story.

fellow detached workers- anything else you would add to these?

 

 

For detached – why context matters

For 10 years now I’ve been involved in delivering detached youthwork in a number of settings, and not just city, rural and suburb, but also neutral space, community , school and college. For me the two key factors that enable quality conversations to happen are the following;
A. The geographical distance from adults who control the space, and B. The  Aims and intentions of the work.

Let me explain A. Because B is more obvious.

In Perth we as a project delivered street based detached for 3 years before we ventured into the schools, we’d built good relationships with young people and we’re well known.
Our first attempts at detached in what was an old school was pretty successful.  There were plenty of open spaces, grass areas and the playground. Even though young people had limited time and it was their time away from lessons/adults were generally happy to talk.

This all changed when the school updated to a new campus. Young people gathered in tables inside, rooms were locked, only a few young people went outside, and they had a greater desire for their freedom. They frogmarched to asda and back instead of staying in the vicinity of the school. All we could do was walk and wait as they gathered outside the school vicinity. So it was like street detached for about 15 mins when they gathered in groups anti socially to smoke.

Conversations inside the school were almost impossible. Too many allowed spaces, too much control, too many other teachers walking around. We became no different to teachers. The further outside the school the more young people to choose to be there the better the conversation with the detached team.

We tried doing detached in an FE college with similar results. Only young people we knew already would be up for conversation and even then it was rare.
The question is why are young people in the space? There are a myriad of reasons when they’re on the streets in the evening, these are reduced considerably during a school lunchtime. Theyre there to have a break, space away from adults, socialise with friends and unwind from the morning. The space is constructed by adults, for young people have permission to be there. Given a choice they wouldn’t want to be there at all.
Being on the streets at night is more often an active choice and decision.

Some of the same issues may happen in the community as is often the case when we deliver detached near to the houses of young people. There are conversations yes but there can be a reluctance for young people to divulge too much as adults can be around and near the front gardens.

In my experience, and it’s only my experience, where young people have more choice and their own reasons to be in the space then conversations are more likely and more likely to develop & deepen. Where the space is most neutral ie park or space away from adults who are deemed to control it (by the young people, teachers for example) again my experience is that the same benefits occur.

None of this is to say detached doesn’t work in a school. It all depends on the space and the gathering spaces for young people.

Maybe in a more contained space the approach has to change, in a space where young people arent actually bored (they rarely actually are bored on the streets) they need to be entertained to be distracted from their chosen activity, so sometimes the mobile bus, or sport cage, or other lunchtime club could be the thing that creates interest, and conversations can happen in those spaces. But its the thing of interest that attracts and then starts to drive the practice, not just the possibility of conversation, of interaction, that detached is all about.

 

Who gets to make the decisions about young people?

This afternoon I was listening to Radio 5 live in which they had an interview with Lenny Henry. He was talking about the reflecting he was doing for a lengthy Phd which had developed over a period of time. During the time he researched at the colour of skin of sports people (black) in films over and against their coaches ( white/ usually the lead role in the film), of the number of Black actors in the film industry and their roles, as well as the numbers of women and their pay in the same industry. He also talked about Prince, the musician and his fight to regain power of his music rights in the late 80’s.

One of the paradoxes in my current role as a manager in a youth work organisation, and the extra work that I do in a variety of places, for FYT for example. Is that I am often asked about activities, approaches, initiatives on the basis of whether they would be suitable for young people, or more to the point young people in the context of the Durham, Hartlepool or the north east.; “you have young people- will they like this?, or if we had this resource would it be what they want?”

As a fledging youth worker in a local church, a long while ago, there was a bright spark (im keeping all names out of this) who thought it would be great to hold a weekend event for young people, based in churches, advertised locally, a band would come up all the way from southern England no less .  (and no not delirious) . Many meetings went into the planning of this event, meant to be ‘town wide’ (ie it was held in the town), fresh (never before has a youth event been held with a band) and exactly what a few youth leaders aspired for their young people to be part of.

Lenny Henry in his interview said that the main thing that all of the situations he described had in common was the following question :

“Who gets to make all the decisions?”

So, is it the film producers and director to decide who plays which parts – and what do they take into account – a movies saleability, advertising or the powerful hegemonys of society, what of women in films and their pay. What of artists such as Prince (RIP) who took on having control of their finances, artistic rights and writing but had to change his name to symbol to assume those rights- yet for him taking control to make decisions meant being cast as weird, as rebellious, the norm didn’t like it, and fought back.

“Who gets to make the decisions regarding young people? ”

Its clearly not even teachers than make decisions about the education policy, nor doctors about the health policies, but should youth leaders follow the same model and make decisions about young people? And what about the occasions when access to decision making is closed off, restricted or inaccessible? its another sign that young peoples decision making, not just consultation is not valued or encouraged.

If they have to be done at all, Whose events are youth events for? and where are young people throughout their process? if theyre only attendees and congregants then all we’ve done is remodelled a bad, but current, model of church. Participation only granted for the attendees.

I wonder if the question is “who gets to make the decisions about young people?” – it should also read “who doesn’t get to make decisions about young people?”

 

Its as much an inclusion question, a participation question, a power question and a value question. Its also an approach question that distinguishes a ministry model for working with young people and an educational youth work approach. the latter will find tensions in the former.

If young people aren’t given the space, like anyone else, to make a decision, and be encouraged to have their voice heard, opinion sought or question explored then they’ll probably go somewhere else where this happens.  There is no working with young people if the method doesn’t involve them.  Surely if young people, though some schools dont let them, make decisions about school subjects at 13 for GCSEs (important), then, especially in church groups, giving young people opportunities to be part of decision making processes is key to the group flourishing but also their own. It might be a brave thing, but if young people aren’t making the decisions for themselves about the group that affects them then they’ll vote with their feet eventually. And no great big event will bring them back – young people want, deserve and have more to contribute, and more for adults to learn.

There are more than one way of asking- if young peoples decision making skills is what is encouraged then its going to take a change in processes, to create environments where this can happen.

 

Money, Sex and what was it again…

When was the last time you heard a sermon preached, or open conversation in a church about Power?

When I was on Oasis Frontine teams in 1996, we talked in one of the training sessions about the main temptations, and some of the main issues that are prevalent in churches that cause issues, they were, in accordance with a Book title, Money, Sex and Power.

Fast forward to a sex and money obsessed culture, either gaining it, having it, or winning lotteries to realise dreams because of it. In the church too, conversations about Sex (not just because of Gay Marriage, but the increase in youth ministry mean that its a conversation that occurs regularly in groups) and Money (tithing, poverty, resources, ) are both ongoing conversations. But the other one..?

Why the reluctance to talk about Power? to think about the power that resides in church organisations, from meetings, committees, to charismatic leaders, oppressive practices, power in language, control of resources, expertise, or popularity.  to name but a few. And power issues can be so destructive as well.

We know it exists, but why it seems the reluctance to talk about it?

Whilst there might there be resources to help people deal with sex (romance academy) or Money (CAP) – for example – but not to think about Power, or more pertinently the oppression that power could cause, in community, and also self critically in the church itself as an organisation?  Is no one talking about it?

What kind of resources would be good to help explore issues of power with young people – might cans of worms be opened? well yes, but that might not be a bad thing. It might be helpful for them to have a critical eye on life and powers that oppress, or powers that help, or powers that manipulate. Might it be that then activities for young people will have to take seriously how they might be tempted to manipulate, in whatever form.

Im not going to deliver a key note speech here about theories of Power, sources of it, and authority/control. People like Sykes, Lukes and Habermas can do all that, but its slightly intriguing that the conversation about power rarely occurs, and when it does its after the event – oh ‘our previous vicar was a bit power hungry’.

 

A theological understanding of Power might be that Gods power is enabling, encouraging and directive in accordance with his will, which is deemed good and perfect. So, thus Power from ultimate belief is deemed good. But that doesnt mean to say that power in the organisation of the church is necessarily good though. And those damaged by the church will have a different view. What about when churches have hierarchies, manage people, roles, responsibilities – who is helping churches and people to reflect on power in these dynamics?

How might the church act differently if it didnt consider itself to be powerful any more? How would its language (about being an army, of poverty, or serving) adapt accordingly – when these hold with them an element of being able to make determinations of definitions from a position of power. Would it make judgements of people in the same way?

Does retaining a belief in the all-powerful God, cause power to be uncontested within itself and for it to consider itself as holders of power in communities still?

What about power of normalisation ( Foucault) – this occurs when the ideas (or theology) determine the ‘middle/normal’ ground (especially but not exclusively theologically)- and then opinions divergent to this are disregarded, parodied or belittled rather than engaged with and had conversations about.  Is this a type of retained power to be critiqued? or is there too much at stake in the ‘normal’?

What if the church began to unmask the powers that oppress people in local communities, yet it might have to reconcile its own plank first, but might this be a more helpful use of its time and enacting liberative freedom in peoples lives, other than what seems continually obsessing about Sex, or worrying about Money.

As Foucault said : Power is everywhere. Lets open up the discussion about it and not let it fester, and i know, i dont have the power to say this or enact it, or enforce it, but maybe cause it to be thought about.

 

Helping young people just cope isn’t enough..

I was recently in a conversation with a youthwork professional who was describing a situation where they had given young people in a church the opportunity to share their issues about life,  questions they had and to use these to plan the future direction of their group in terms of activities.  Amongst other things, such as bullying, eating disorders and pressure to conform,  the worker mentionned that the young people started to ask questions of the church and growing up in it, struggles they had and felt being there.

It was a church based group after all, for them a communuty in which they could be part of, that their parents were definately part of and involved and they were also there.
I would imagine that this is a well trod scenario, where if you give young people the open space and the trust in you to provide issues and opinion then they may just do that.

Its our responses to it that matter. For it would be the easy option, the, ‘we can feel needed option’ , if we plan a course to give young people the tools to cope; cope with being bullied, cope with school pressure,  cope with fears and worries, cope with uncertainty, cope within communities like a church or other community where they feel out of place, out of sync, ignored, unvalued or unimportant. But just cope.

Maybe this is the get out for the easy option for many of us as youthworkers in whatever setting. Maybe this is the mantra of our funding reports, aims and objectives.  We’ll support young people to x or y or z, help young people deal with their issues.

And not only cope, we could as youthworkers add to their lives by distracting entertainment,  play, group work, education.  All good skill based activities, not addressing the real issue,  the elephant never even in the room.

What would it look like for youth ministry professionals in church settings to challenge any oppressive power based organisational structures in churches as young people name and identify them?
What of the youthworker that tries to take on the system or ideology of a school that exerts a type of education that doesnt fit the young person?

Is it time to be honest with the realities young people name for us,  if theyre struggling how might change be enacted with them to enable them to flourish? . What are the systematic powers in society that are subliminally causing oppression and might these also ring true in the organisations?

Coping cant be the sole solution.  Yet coping in these powerful systems is apparently the easy way. Its especially the easy way when its the system that also pays the bills.

We have a faith and a philosophy of youthwork that can challenge the powers and in doing so liberate the captives. If organisations and churches have structures and processes that restrict, disable or inhibit then its the role of the
youth worker to critique and propose with the young people opportunities for change.

Youth ministry and youthwork has to do more that help young people cope, become resilient or play the system. Its the oppressive systems themselves that need
naming and for young people to be liberated from and within.

“Unfortunately, what happens to a greater or lesser degree in the various worlds into which the world is divided is that the ordinary person is crushed, diminished,  converted into a spectator, maneuvered by myths which powerful social forces have created. These myths turn against him ; they destroy and annihilate him… they drown in leveling anonymity, without hope, without faith, domesticated (in the system) and adjusted” (Freire 1976)

Young people might sometimes be treated like the stray cats of society,  but instead of domesticating them into systems, lets give them space and encouragement and permission to challenge, critique and be free from just coping spectators awaiting rescue but to be actors freely playing in the theatre of the world.  I feel like the youthwork equivalent of bloody braveheart. Maybe its Freire getting to me.

Coping isnt living, its just coping.

Where is reflective youthwork practice in the Practical Theology discourse?

One of the real benefits of studying at ICC on the Ba in Youthwork and applied theology, and I imagine some of the other equivalent courses in the UK, was that a deliberate attempt, due to national youth & community work accreditation, for these courses in ‘Christian’ colleges (colleges which adhered to ecumenical Christian values ) to educate and give christian youthworkers a language of their practice which enabled them to be as well versed in community based, council funded, settings as also church related settings, and for this much credit has got to be given. Shared language and practice guidelines were and are exceedingly helpful

And so, many shared aspects between christian faith based youthwork, and non-faith based youthwork have similar characteristics, and some of these i have identified in my #ywaf15 blog which is here http://wp.me/p2Az40-fJ. Along with practice aspects such as reflection (Kolb) , person centered work (Rogers) and liberation ( Freire et al) . This is immensely useful.

However, in my Practical theology lectures for my MA, aside from work by Pete Ward, the overall discourse about youthwork, and youth workers using Kolb, or reflective practice is sadly lacking. I wonder why is this? (many state that professionals such as teachers or social workers use Kolb- but theres barely a youthwork mention in sight..)

Are there youthworkers who are writing in the practical theology field? – well i’m sure there are (other than Pete Ward), but why in all the guide books on practical theology is a ministry that has an 4,500 FTE workforce within the church not even mentioned? Does it not exist? does no one realise that youthworkers who have been academically trained might have insight into reflective practice which might actually help clergy and others studying academically practical/reflective practice?

So, whilst the christian youth workers have strived to keep up with the discourse of youthwork (when i say strived i mean that at least they have been in the main given the tools to from some academic establishments on the course) – the direction of youthwork practice has remained under the radar for clergy in training (who will have to do some practical theology). The ironic thing is that, because of imposed ideologies within other practices, such as teaching and social work (these are often mentioned in the practical theology discourse) these professions have more limited opportunities to develop a true reflective practice, and not that i’m saying youth workers always can either, but youth work might have some good examples of its use, and be a educative practice that could provide clearer insight of its use for clergy. So, i lay down something of a personal and collective gauntlet,  to make further contributions in this field. Maybe youthwork is too new a profession and thus there are few contributors. Maybe youthworkers are too busy to write using a theologically reflective methodology?  and contribute to the field.

What is encouraging is that Practical theology is creatively reshaping the methodology, derived from Kolb, adapting it to include collaborative, and collective voices,  or as in Eric Stoddart (2014), to take seriously the powers at work in the context of reflective situations. These too are an area that youthwork is rich in , as it strives for young people to be liberated, and that forces of power are often stimuli for action in the world of young people. Its enlightening that theology has creatively shaped reflection from Kolb, and so Youth work should in some ways catch up and contribute to the discussion. If it is, and I’ve missed it thus far then great, I clearly haven’t done enough reading on it, or too new in the field. But at the moment the youthwork voice and example is sadly lacking as a profession in the discourse.

So , whilst being able to contribute to professional youthwork has Christian youthwork/ministry not kept up with the educative discourse of clergy in their training, thus is one possible factor in clergy not being able to manage youth workers as effectively because they have no reference as to what they do. Its probable that if you’re a youth worker in a church right now, you might have no idea that your minister (if Anglican) might also know Kolb…(at least its a starting point for shared language..)

This week i am undertaking a practical theology assessment on Thursday, on the subject of management of youth workers in churches. Maybe this is a toe in the water of contributing to the field.

But come on Christian ministry training – give credance and acknowledgement to Christian youthworkers whove been using Kolb, Argyris/Schon, Freire (amongst others) in practice for at least over 20 years now… ignore the youth workers in the midst of the church no longer….