Detached youthwork- An A-Z Guide

I have written a number of pieces on detached youthwork, most of which are on the archives on my http://www.jamesballantyneyouthworker.wordpress.com site , many top tips, top tens, and pieces on specific issues. But I have never tried to write an A-Z, and do so with the aim of collating a definitive guide to detached youthwork. Image result for a to z

So, at the beginning of 2019, I have tried, with mixed success on some letters to write one. wondered what an A-Z of detached youthwork would look like. So, here, with a sentence or so for each, is my A-Z of detached youthwork – see what you think:

A. Available. This is one key essence of detached youthwork, that workers and volunteers make themselves available in the spaces where young people are. Its obviously but its key. 

B. Bravery, and courage, is required for detached youthwork. Bravery is required, not because of young people necessarily, most most young people are chatty, lively and amiable. Few aren’t. There’s bravery in being in the public spaces in the evening, often drunk adults or dog walkers can be more abusive than young people. There’s bravery in trying something new. We didnt call the book on detached work ‘Here be Dragons‘ for nothing… 

C. Context is key. Every context shapes detached youthwork, a housing estate with a park causes detached youthwork to feel much different to a city centre, as does a rural space or village environment. All have an impact on the background of young people and their social interactions, it makes every context different and important when it comes to detached.

Another ‘C’ is Cold Contact, this seems to be the key marked difference between detached and other youth provision, and the aspect most likely to provoke fear and trepidation. Its an important aspect of detached – that first meeting with young people, and where you ‘warts n all’ try and engage in conversation with them.

D. Dialogue. I would have said conversation, but i think C should be context. Dialogue is conversation that leads to action. Most times on the streets conversation is the aim, beyond banter, where there might be some disclosure, some amiable chat where a transfer happens.

E. Education. Much youthwork, but i think detached more than most is about constantly learning. Also there is education involved constantly in helping young people understand our role, and the dynamics of this, in the informality of the space of the streets, there is transferal of knowledge. it is an educative experience. (its also why R= research)

F. Freezing cold nights. Its a fact of detached life. Yes there are pleasant spring afternoons, but some of the best chats are at evening, and in autumn, and these can be cold.

G. Groups of young people. Its the meat and drink of detached. Detached is about finding, identifying, listening to, learning from, groups of young people. How they operate, what they do, what they like, the leaders, the core and the purpose. The task of detached is to find a way of gaining rapport and acceptance with that group, to have conversation and develop group work.

H. Hopeful attitude, is what is needed at the beginning of each session, and every conversation, to try and be positive and help young people towards an individual or collective dream, to ask the ‘what if’ question.

I. In their spaces. Detached youthwork happens in the context of young people. it changes the power, responsibility and duty of care issues considerably. It changes the nature of the relationship created. Improvisation is another I that is part of detached work, it involves thinking on your feet.

J. Jousting. Sometimes the conversation is more of a jousting match of random banter. You might just be present whilst young people are in their zone doing their thing communicating with each other in the contextual codes of banter, grunts, comments and expressions. Detached youthwork gives you this insight. It also gives an opportunity to be questioned and be challenged, it can be a joust. But that might be the kind of adult/adult conversation that is possible where the power dynamics are so different.

K. Killing time. Or Keeping up morale on quiet evenings. Quiet nights could be opportunities for doing informal supervision and training with staff, to learn about the context, to take a breather.

K is also the Kit bag. After all: what do you take on the streets with you?  – This could include, games, toys and activities, torches, first aid kits, hand warmers, hats gloves, bottles of water, confidentiality policy, referral sheet, organisation business cards (ie ‘the project’) , spare change,  and probably a few other things besides. All neatly packed away in a small kit bag. That now weighs a ton.

L.Long term. Detached youthwork is a long term game. It requires patience, it is counter cultural to the quick fix mentality operating in much of support services. Detached is a long term venture that when done well requires time, time to learn, identify and work with groups.

M. Money is tight even if the budget is low. Because it can be difficult to get funding in the first place, because although usually very needed and worthy, fitting detached into outcomes and funding requirements is still tricky.

N.New. Even though its been around for 100 years or more. For many people who have orientated their youthwork or ministry around buildings and institutions, detached youthwork always seems new. Strange. 

O. Opportunities. Most youthwork is this to be honest. But detached youthwork gives you opportunities to

  • see young people in their chosen space, doing their chosen activities, with their chosen people
  • to converse with young people where they may be more at ease
  • to be in a place where young people have more opportunities to deny adult engagement & conversation
  • to work with and develop conversation with young people not in other provision (not that there is much other provision)
  • Opportunity to have conversation with young people without worrying about buildings, materials and equipment.

P. Policies. You must have them, even if they need to be specific to detached youthwork. And another P, planning. Detached youthwork still needs it, its different planning, but it involves getting volunteers trained, observing in the local area, identifying which area, contacting and discovering other agencies, creating ID badges, safeguarding, team building, contacting the police (possibly). There is planning involved, it just looks different

Q. Quiet. It can be. But not always.

R. Research & Reflection . Detached youthwork hones the skills in a really good way. Its as if you start to develop young people awareness goggles, trying to observe, listen, and discover them, how they react in the community context, what the community is doing, what might be learned through the context, research is continual as groups change, activities change and communities change. Then of course, from research comes reflection, thinking and asking the critical questions of those observations. R for ‘risk’ also works, young people might be doing ‘risky’ behaviour, young people might provoke us with risky questions, we might push young people to new actions which might be risk taking on their part. Risk is unavoidable – but lets do what we can to minimise actual harm… 

S. Supervision. Either you need it, or you need to give it to your team, volunteers and staff. Some good guidelines and ideas for it are included elsewhere on my other site. 

T. Team work. Even a team of two is a team,attending to the relationships between the team is crucial as you will almost always need to work together and trust each other in decision making large and small. All activities that enhance team are worth it, from before and after session reflection, conversation and debrief , team meetings, end of year dinners out. All build team. And young people see that a team is doing stuff for them. It may reduce dependency. And help young people develop relationships with many supportive adults, not just one.

another T is Training. Some get out there try stuff, and then develop it, some people prefer the before the starting training to allay fears and give staff and volunteers a sense of whats to be expected and how to deal with things, both are valid.

U. Undervalued well yes,  detached may be cheapest, and be often able to reach some of the more difficult young people, but its hard to define, measure and manage, so because of this it gets undervalued and chopped easy.

Its also Unpredictable – and that’s a beautiful part of it. But no youth club night is the same anyway.. is it?

V. Visibility. A detached youthwork team needs to visible (and distinctive) and is different to the general public and other public space adults like police, street pastors or sales people for under age nightclubs..

W. Walking to where theyre at. Not just walking a drive might be needed. Yet alot of walking is often required and repeatedly so. We make the road by walking…

X. Hmm. Poetic licence required.. exit strategies? Detached youthwork is as much about being self aware (like much youth work) as it is being spatially aware, knowing where you are, the dynamics of the route, the cul de sacs, and alley ways are critical for knowing how to leave a situation if it starts to get out of hand and you need to extricate yourselves. Its a strategy and action, not just a reaction, leaving says something about how you might be being treated by a young person, you can leave, and so can they.

Y. Ymca/YWCA If i might be personal for a moment, Perth YMCA was where I cut my mustard as a youthworker doing detached work, and YMCA’s have in the past been good at doing detached work and sticking with it. It was a YWCA where Joan Tash and George Goetschius developed detached youthwork and researched it at the time and wrote ‘Working with the Unattached’ for me the Bible of detached youthwork. A review is here .Other organisations may have done detached work to. But Y standing for the Ymca seems to fit quite well. 

Z. Zealous. Were a zealous bunch at times, us detached youthworkers, making ourselves out to be unique, ‘the only true youthwork left’ and defending the practice of it to the hilt. But then again, if youthwork itself it maligned then detached.. Someone might have to stand up for it..

There you go – an A-Z of detached youthwork… enjoy.. oh and I know that..

Even with a list of 30 or so aspects, this is probably not conclusive, i havent talked about outreach vs detached, or referrals and signposting, about partnership work or schools, about alcohol, sports or specific interest detached work, or faith based detached work. So there are more to add, definitely. Neither have i mentioned the few writers and theorists, like Graham Tiffany, Richard Passmore or the Federation of detached youthwork, or organisations like FYT which do alot of detached work too.

But then again, theres always more to add…

 

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How will we find the good in youth ministry, if we don’t even look for it?

Oh well at least no one died tonight. 

This can often be the mantra at the end of a crazy out work session. But its not setting the bar very high in regard to evaluating or reviewing a session. Duffy Robbins in a piece on Youthwork Magazine 12 years ago wrote a piece on evaluating youth ministry, describing how for some volunteers, a good youth programme or activity or weekend event occurs when ‘young people cry’ at the end of it, and this was something that in the piece was manipulated by leaders though ‘inserting appropriate music’. Crying or not dying? are these the only factors that we’re looking for in youthwork practice? I would hope kind of not. The other measure, i hear very often, by clergy more than anyone else is well ‘if young people came back, then you’re doing something right’ this however also has its limitations for what constitutes appropriate or good practice, leaving little other than the unpredictability of attendance as the key marker.

If having successful youthwork is what we crave, then what we measure is critical.

There has been a trend to develop good reflection in youthwork and ministry practices (a trend, more a core component in youthwork, but hey), and yet, reflecting after a youthwork session can still feel like a painful delay, and pointless exercise in the midst of putting the chairs away and I wonder whether this is for a number of reasons, firstly that we’re asking the wrong questions, well at least we’re asking questions that have little context to them. For example, we might want to ask, and legitimately so, ‘in todays session, what went well?’  this is a great question. The problem with this question, is that without knowing what ‘went well’ looks like, and volunteers have an understanding of the identifyers of ‘went well’ then this ends up being the ‘nobody died, someone cried, or we had young people attend’ response.  ‘What went well, is a great question, if those involved know what is being looked for.  The opposite question, is then usually asked, what didnt go well. And this section can take ages to fill. Reflective youth workers can nearly always fill that box, as we’re never more than a footstep away from the precipice of doom that always finds ways to do things better, or on a bad night finds faults in everything or everyone. But this needn’t and shouldn’t be the way. We need to ask ourselves better questions. More to the point, youthworkers themselves should decide upon the questions, and not have questions imposed from above, which doesnt work.  (Sue Cooper, 2012)

Asking these 5 questions at the end of every session will transform your youth provision. Related image

It is a bold claim.

But I am willing to make it. If you’re as serious about young people in the ministry as the ministry itself, then these are the questions to reflect on at the end of every session with young people. If we ask these, and have responses to them, then we will know that a ‘session went well’ or didnt – because these happened or space was created for them to happen. The other claim I make is that it doesnt matter what your youth provsion is – these questions will transform it. It could be a youth worship event, an after school club, mentoring or youth fellowship group. More to the point, i am willing to also suggest that if we cannot put a positive answer to these questions on a regular basis in the youth provision, it is likely to not be enjoyed or attended by young people after an initial buzz or excitement of it existing. So, what are the questions? 

1. What were the quality conversations between leaders and young people?

A youth provision in which there was no conversations between young people and supportive adults is just an activity centre, a creche, a place to be entertained. Developing conversation turns a place of activity into a place where life happens, where shared understanding happens, and is the basis of purposeful relationship building. Our role is not to watch young people do an activity from the comfort of the kitchen, but to be involved in it, not youthworkers are not observers of young people, they are involvers with, and this is about conversation. So its a good idea to ask a question about conversations.

None of the conversations need to feel deep or meaningful – but thats only ‘to us’ they might be deep and meaningful to the young person

They dont have to feel significant- but they might be

It might be just a short chat about football with a young person who hadnt spoken to anyone for a few weeks, but its still of value.

Yes, for recording purposes we dont want to write down names of young people and who said what, but we can record initials, and general content like school issue, or family, or health, or sports, or housing or hobbies, and then any tangents that this took us into. If we’re good at creating a space for conversation, then this might take time. But thats a good thing right?

We could do stuff with all the subject matter and upload into charts or graphs, but more importantly is that these conversations are happening, and continue to do so. They represent that young people trust that the space is safe for them, because the people in it are safe to trust with the daily stuff of life – or the personal stuff of challenge. So, the first question, is about conversations – are they happening, who is having them (to develop training) and what are they about? and are they of quality – not just abusive banter (though they might be the start) .

2. In what ways did young people increase participation?

I am indebted to a student who I was delivering training to yesterday for this question. This was theirs. And so thank you. It is too good not to share.

During the activity, session or club – in what ways did young people increase participation? Is an absolute gold gem of a question. I have written on Participation before, so am not going to repeat myself here (see the ‘participation’ tag in the menu)

Participation can be seen in a number of different spheres. Young people may increase their participation in the current club – through helping with something, suggesting an idea, responding to an instruction – that sort of thing, but they may increase in participation as they take part in something of their own choice that they wouldnt normally (and being a volunteer in the god slot activity doesnt count), they might participate in deciding future activities, or decision making in the style of the group. I remember once when a group of young people who didnt like a youth event, went round as a group to the leaders house, shared their ideas, and the event changed direction completely as the ideas were responded to, and from then a open youth music cafe was started that gave young people space to play their own music, that ran for 7 years. (It was about to close otherwise) . The participation from young people at this venue went from merely observers in it, to high participation almost overnight. At their call.  Image result for participation ladder

This ladder might help in thinking about what increased participation might look like. It doesnt help us think about where the areas are in the activity we run where participation can happen. It may be easy to create spaces for participation in the areas such as food, or games – but can we increase the space for participation in areas we as adults prefer to be more in control of? There are a few examples here, in a journal piece ive recently written for CMS.

But what about where young people want to make a positive step to have greater participation in the organisation, school, charity or their local community? Through positive action and decision making, can this be facilitated through this youth provision – when we hear this is what young people want to do? Facilitating young peoples participation in the wider society, might be our role as purposeful adults – especially when we are trusted (via conversation! ;-))

But hang on, what if you’re thinking ‘our group isnt about participation, its about giving young people a fun space and telling them a story about faith’ – well if it isnt about young people developing participation in the faith community, and in the story itself, and this is modelled by participation in the group or session – then the story will remain only a story, and not one that young people can or would want to involve themselves in. No participation, will also mean eventually, no young people. Or at least none of the same ones after 6 months. And none very interested to be there at that. (its then we resort to bribery, ‘if you dont keep coming, you wont go on summer camp’.. shudder) . If young people are bored, then its not better entertainment they require, usually it is more meaningful participation.

Participation is key to everything, and so creating spaces for increased participation (even if it is counter cultural to the rest of the church, or organisation) is essential and as is a question at the end of every session to encourage it to be continually important.

3. What did we learn?

Young people are key to youth work – agreed? Good, thought you’d say yes to this one. And youthwork and ministry is about education – agreed? lovely. Therefore, one of the questions we need to ask at the end of every session has to have something to do with education, or learning to do with it.

In asking the question we put ourselves in the role as continual and ongoing learners, a place of humility and discovery, a place of wonder.

We might learn something about ourselves – our strengths or limitations (and think about how to enhance both) we might learn the same about young people

We might discover a gift, an ability and unseen talent in a young person (or volunteer)

We might learn about an attitude, a belief or a desire in a young person

Who’s voice have we heard from? 

We might learn to change our own views about something – because we’ve been open to learning from a young persons perspective

or something else…Image result for learning

We might be tempted to ask what did young people learn (because we tried to teach them something) but thats a path fraught with difficulty, because, what they heard and what they learned might be completely different, what they learned and what we wanted them to learn again very different. Young people may have learned who to get attention from in the session, yet we hoped they learned how to behave better. So the question is for us – what did we learn? 

The fourth question is this:

4. How did we take a risk with young people, or encourage them to take a risk? 

Unchallenging youth practices are boring. Or at least they will be fairly quickly. But you really dont need me to tell you this. If we’re not careful though, youth ministry takes the relevancy route and makes faith as easy to believe in as technology is trying to make everything as easy as possible. Making youth provision challenging is counter cultural. But challenge is what young people need.

If you ask any number of young adults in their 20’s why did they attend youth provision in their teens, aside from social friendships and fun, they will nearly all say learning, new experiences and being challenged to try new things. Challenge is part of the risk taking. Challenges are good for the self esteem of young people ( Baumeister, in Jocelyn Bryan, 2017 Being Human). It is good for young people to be challenged, therefore – we need to take some risks.

We might need to ditch the programme for the evening and host space for conversation, listen and learn. We might need to do an experiment in regard to discipleship, or had over an activity to young people for their participation in running it, bottom line, we take a risk, and do so because we want young people to be challenged and to raise their game – and we give over to trusting them. A risk might be to try and talk to a young person who doesnt normally say anything, or to create space for the quiet ones to participate, or something else… Risk taking and encouraging it turns us into the kind of youthworkers and volunteers who are still dreaming for something better, we havent given up. Trusting in young people to rise to the risks and challenge we offer causes what we do to stand in the face of prevailing opinions about young people.

Asking about risk taking – is question four of five. We should be thinking of taking risks each time we meet with young people. Even if that feels like we took a risk to try and talk with a young person at the pool table, well done, even if it was just a game of silent pool, you did at least put yourself in the place.

5. What do we need to do before the next session? 

This might sound intensely practical, and it is. But this session with a group of young people may have caused a whole host of things that need to be done to be done, so, write them down, and decide who and when they need to be done.

Is there a referral to an agency needed to be done?

do we need some training on an issue young people are raising?

is someone going to contact that young person the day after their job interview – see how it went? 

what about a talk with the leaders of the church about that idea the young people had – or creating a space for the leaders to meet with the young people directly? 

is someone going to fill in that funding bid? 

how might we change something about what we have always done, and need to prep for it this week? 

not just ‘practical’ but this could also be an opportunity to develop ongoing learning and reflection, training might be needed, but it could be that before the next session everyone of the leaders reads an online article or blog, or chapter from a book (if it can be photocopied) , or watches a film, listens to an album. It is about the ongoing desire to keeping learning and doing this collectively. So – what to do before the next session might not be to ‘plan’ the next session, or follow up pledges or promises made to young people (which are definitely needing to happen) but an opportunity for reflection.

It will transform your practice, sounds like it is hard work, but if we’re serious about helping young people take risks and developing learning, then its to be part of our own culture. (Even if, again, its not part of the wider church or organisation culture) As volunteers and workers developing provision for young people, its our game that we can take responsibility for.

So, there you have it. 5 essential questions to put on the after youth session review form. That will transform it. 

Why?  Because if these questions are asked, they become important, and what becomes important becomes part of the culture, and creating a culture of conversation, learning and participation is core to youth practice. If youthworkers are setting the tone for what makes a session ‘successful’ then young people will benefit. Success or failure is not part of good youthwork, its about conversation, participation, education, reflection and risks. A session that went well, will be because of these things. Not because someone cried or didnt die.

So – why will these questions transform your youthwork practice?

If we ask them at the end of every session, and make time to do this, not running home quickly after volunteering, then these become core to what the group is all about, and volunteers and leaders will be focussing on doing these things during the session, knowing that its whats going to be asked in reflection later. There is no magic quick formula to better youth provision, but I would hazard a guess that using these 5 questions, and in each session trying to work towards these things will make a significant difference, transform it? it may well do. Take it out of your comfort zone – almost certainly, hang on and enjoy the ride.

 

References

Jocelyn Bryan, Being Human, 2017

Jon Ord, Critical Issues in Youth work Management, 2012 (Chapter by Sue Cooper on Measurement)

‘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.

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.

‘No ones ever given me Mission training before’; Should mission training be for everyone in church?

No ones ever trained me for Mission before, I have just asked to bring friends to event, or its been assumed i know what to do

This was a comment I heard when I was delivering a session of detached youthwork training to a group of volunteers in a church setting a few years ago, and it has stuck with me. This was a person who had been involved in church all his life, he was and still is in his late 60’s, a church elder. And yet in his lengthy church-life experience, no one had ever sat him down and gave him instructions on how to do mission. At the time we were thinking through developing conversations with young people on the streets. But it neednt have been.

It is worth a reflection – dont you think?

Should there be deliberate training for ‘ordinary’ church goers in ‘How to do mission?’ 

I note with positivity that a local theological college is doing a ‘theology for everyone’ seminars in the north east. Maybe Mission needs to be for everyone too.

Its not always a given that people know what mission is, from the pews/comfy conference seats, either, unless there is a special mission week, or event. It can be that mission can be about attracting people to events, or being there to serve them in food banks or toddler groups, and these things do provide a structure and purpose for missional activity, and theres nothing wrong with these. But i am saddened that the activity is seen to be important and getting people to it. And the leaders then just spend all their time in the kitchen avoiding people. sounds awful doesnt it – well it happens..  Its times like this, and others when i think how easy it is that mission has been equated to being present in an activity, and the hard work has been done. No the real work starts when people are talked to and in conversation.

But some of the rest of it is implied, isnt it.?

Many a good sermon has an element of application, though this is usually moral and personal, rather than practical, and series’ on How to do Mission – might be rarer in a sermon planner than a week without a church of England controversy. Being Called to Mission, and being a witness – might require more than imperative and deep down vocation- actually thinking about how mission is done, and how mission needs to be translated in todays communities that are working class, digitalised and distant from the church, (though not not spiritual) is one to really get our heads and actions around.

Its not appropriate that one person might feel this calling, and then receive vocational training to be ‘in ministry’ leaving many others behind. Mission, like theology, needs to be for everyone, and part of the life of the church. Its not as easy as ‘how do we do mission’ we just do mission! ( Wittertainment reference)

It might be that you completely disagree. That training people to do mission in a local setting takes away all the spontaneity, mission would become forced an unnatural. And that would be a downside. Yet as i do detached youthwork training, there are many skills and practices to harness, but not actually use – the skill is in improvising, not repetition, being prepared to use and be informal in the moment, with some readiness of what might happen. Agreed, no one wants artificiality. But what is more likely is under-preparedness and fear. One of the good things about a gap year, is that there’s some training alongside it, that is usually practical, but not everyone does a gap year, and young people themselves shouldnt necessarily wait till they are 18 until they have participatory skills in the kingdom. And most people on a gap year, do a whole load of stuff, and then reflect afterwards..

It was an interesting comment, that does need further consideration. Much of the church discipleship internally is the enlargement of fat christians, fed on faith formation and head knowledge – the bible study for example. Less is on the practical getting on with and doing mission – and thinking through and being prepared for it. And it is hard work, undoubtedly. But that doesnt make it wrong. Its just hard. Bible studies and prayer meeting are ‘easy’ and also the lifeblood at times, but mission is what the church is called to be.

So – might training for mission, the actions and behaviours of it, – might churches invest in training people for it – before it is assumed that they know what this is, or what is expected of them. Maybe it was ok to have 60 year olds in churches who werent trained in mission. But I am not sure whether that ‘luxury’ is available to churches now. If the church doesnt grab hold solely its missional purpose in every community, for every context and culture within the UK, then there really are going to be issues. Doing what we’ve always done is yielding the same results – we can re arrange the deckchairs on the titanic – but what if we put those deckchairs to better use? making mission part of the culture of the church. The dangerous risky stuff.

Maybe training for mission should be for everyone?  We need to invest in the people the church has even more. Should the lay/clergy mission training divide be removed?

Most of the time its about maintenance, but if we could shift the conversation to be more about mission, and give everyone a clue about what to do, we might be onto something.

 

(NB, I mention detached youthwork training, if this interests you, or even, if training for mission is something you’re interested in, see the menus above and contact me, thank you)

 

12 responses to the question; what is youthwork all about?

What would you say the basics in youthwork are? what is it all about even?

One of the things that has tormented many a youthworker is to establish what ‘youthwork’ actually constitutes. It may, constitute only as a conversation, being defined by youthworkers in their ongoing practice (this is also a view shared by Kerry Young, though this is not one her more popular concepts when she talks about the youthwork as an art, 1999) However, beyond what youthwork actually is, there can be a need to reflect on what the basics of developing a youthwork practice actually is.

This need can sometimes be realised when we forget what we actually do as youthworkers, as it has become ‘normal practice’ default in our brains but and we have to then share this with others, maybe even ‘young’ leaders, or teach others on an academic course. And so, for your benefit, I have tried to come up with 12 commandments of basic youthwork practice.

  1. Youthwork is about young people – but its not just about them, but putting them as the primary recipient and creating participatory agendas around them as central is part of it, yet it is about them in and part of their communities and how young people access, reject, use and change aspects of their local community for their or others good.
  2. Youthwork is about creating spaces for education through conversation – it is about conversation with them included and respected in them.
  3. Youthwork is about developing relationships –that help young people to learn, to use their talents and pursue collective and community action
  4. Youthwork is about negotiation and participation – with young people who are principle dialogue partners in the negotiated conversations
  5. Youthwork is about respecting young people and also the communities they are in and choose – it is about group work
  6. Youthwork is about challenging young people – not about just giving them what they want – its about negotiation
  7. Youthwork is about politics, because it in itself is political and young people are politicised- young people are given respect and trust – this is political in itself. Young people are marginalised through media derived policies and taregtted through an underlying current of neoliberalism. Challenging this is political.
  8. Youthwork is about opportunity- not outcomes- our strategies are to create spaces that expand possibilities, not reduce to youthwork to a process of enabling young person to get from A to B.
  9. Youthwork is about Hope and belief – that young people and ourselves collectively can and do enable something new to occur through the relationship.
  10. Youthwork is about taking risks- it is not risky in itself – because that says something about the believing the narrative of young people (to be dangerous etc) – but it is about taking a risk with young people.
  11. Youthwork is about being a youthworker and being a role model – not perfect, but persistent in ongoing learning, and maintaining a critical awareness of the world around, that young people themselves are also part of. Its about temperament, attitude and also about modelling professional boundaries, personal boundaries especially time off.
  12. Youthwork is about improvisation – its about the being ready for anything – but also being ready in the opportunities created to enable young people to take positive steps and changes. If we have a toolbox of resources that are to be ‘ready to use’ in case – not pre determined to use at all costs.

 

I have avoided, or at least tried to avoid using words that have become acknowledged as the ‘Values’ of youthwork – such as equality, as participation, as empowerment – because whilst they are implied in nearly everything ‘basic’ youthwork is all about – they are open to considerable interpretation, and at times need themselves to be challenged and critiqued, and their current use might not be what the intention of them was. Empowerment a case in point. So, instead, I have tried above to focus on the practices of what basic youthwork might be about, so that these are the starting point for developing further practical ideas, and activities for training others, optimistically so that youthwork has a conversational future.  Each of these 12 things might need breaking down further, and often things like communication skills, group work development, conversation, risk assessment, strategy, power, leadership and management are all part of all of these in different ways. It is not always the case the if we get the basics right we get everything else right, because sometimes in youthwork there is no one ‘right’- and why 12 basics might be better than 6, because youthwork practice can be broad, unwieldy and open. It is after all in many ways a continual conversation that includes conversations.  Critical conversations, hopeful conversations and inclusive, participatory conversations, but conversations none the less.

Anyway – Starting right- or at least trying to put words to what we might already do, What might else be included in the 12 basics of youthwork practice? – what are we trying to be about?

‘You’re on your own pal’; preparing for the aloneness of Christian & Youth Ministry

I started this article thinking about the complexities of working in a parachurch or interdenominational set up, in youthwork, with the funding cut backs there have been, and how all of a sudden it is becoming more and more likely that ministries like this are being run by individuals, where before there were teams of members of staff.

Add to that with the type of youth work that is naturally isolatory- detached youth work, not that other methods are less anti social, but even in a busy office lots of people have left to leave the detached youthworker eating their tea and waiting for the evening session to happen. moments alone are common. And contrast with team moments.

Then i thought about comparing that to the youth worker that works in a busy church office, or the deathly quiet one, without making too much of  big deal about it, there can be the sense that even in a busy office you might be the only person who knows about your role, and it is a bit apart, compared to others.

Then theres the youthworker or group of volunteers who are in a rural spot 20 miles from the big city with the many workers, many ministries, many resources, and all you have is an old OHP and a leaky roof. But its ok because their great big ministry that gathers lots of people to it is there to help you feel less isololated hmm.. not sure it feels that way on the monday.

Then theres having approaches, intentions or theologies that might be different to an established group or church. Then being alone is the call of the pioneer.

On this one its not just about the Youthworker though is it?  For Clergy across the land – maybe their only colleague is in a different parish, but those borders can be difficult to cross.

I wonder -though,  was Youth ministry meant to feel this way? I get the impression that being in youth ministry is about having amazing experiences, the photos in youthwork magazine are smiling groups of people, gap years spend lots of times together, as do students on youthwork courses (where there isnt a 150 mile round trip to the college)  and obviously too on Theology and Ministry courses. The collective buzz is high, the community that sends the (youth) minister out is strong. Does having lots of collective supportive experiences in formation prepare you for the potential aloneness of ‘paid’ ministry..

Then they are sent, or they are in a paid professional Job as a youth worker.

And, it can be an incredibly alone filled experience.

Your friends you left at college. Your friends you left in your home church.

Your friends you left when you had to take a different job somewhere else because it didnt work out. 

Was it ever meant to be this way, the path of faith and ministry an alone one.

Well, actually maybe yes.

Remember that Jesus person, the one who called you. How lonely might he have been? intensely i would imagine – and thats not just at the obvious times like the wilderness, like the times when the disciples abandoned him, or the walk with the cross itself. He was always at odds with those around him, trying to justify his purpose, not fitting in, being surprising but at the same time not being acceptable. Yes Jesus went to parties and weddings and joined with the fun, but could he really commit to friendships with the Peters and Marys of this world- knowing how they would be torn apart by his destiny?

yeah, im not sure either.  But there is someting intriguingly aloof about Jesus throughout the Gospels, being at odds with those around him, it was an isolated path, and one that he needed all the resources of the Trinity that walked with him.

So, if Youth Ministry and Ministry is actually a lonelier path than we’d like to admit – what steps can be taken to help? Especially if it doesnt feel like anyone is talking about it.. is it a taboo subject?

  1. Have realistic expectations in the first place – and these can be helped if conversations about this are held during formation training
  2. Be ready to be alone in ministry. If you know you find it difficult to work alone- christian /youth ministry might not be for you. However faithful you might be.
  3. Not only might ministry be seasonal but it also fluctuates between social and alone and might require shifts in temperament , in concentration and self determination. And it’s not easy sometimes to make those shifts.
  4. Self care is essential.
  5. Find similar friends even via social media. The ministry and youth work world is small, join it!
  6. Find a spiritual mentor
  7. Or a supervisor (or both)

There might be a few additional things you can do. The best thing might be to be prepared from the beginning for the reality of the post formational experience.

However it can feel like that Green day song at times.. ‘am i the only one and i walk alone’. Be ready for it! Being called to this includes the times of aloneness and potential loneliness, it will undoubtedly happen.

Does the church benefit from youth ministry Gap Year students?

Talking about the very popular, and they are in many shapes and sizes, the Church/youth ministry Gap year.

Let me put this out there. I was one of a long line of young people from my church in Market Harborough who participated in the Oasis Trust Frontline Team, Gap Year scheme, which ran for most of the 1990’s and into the 2000’s. It’s 20 years this week that I left home and was sent to a Hartlepool church with 3 others.  In the main, it was an enjoyable experience, in fact it was more than enjoyable, and one that set me up and ignited and desire to be involved in missional youthwork that has barely been dampened since. During my time in Perth, i was involved in a project which was able to take on Placement students over a period of 3 years during their time of studies at ICC, and in my current role and situation I am involved in training or supporting people on Gap year type schemes too. I am also in the process of trying to start up a gap year scheme with a number of partner organisations in the North East (See Launching Equip NE EQUIP)

So, there’s my experience stuff out of the way, you’ll be glad to hear, what want to share are my thoughts on what situations make for a good gap year experience for a student especially in church type situations, some of the issues about Gap years, and also where the positives are. I realise that my last post was a tongue in cheek list of reasons why Gap year people are often put upon to work with young people when adults make excuses for not doing so, but as this is a reality, its probably worth giving the whole Gap year programme situation some further thought.

  1. Gap Years can cost a lot of Money for the individual Student – even if they get some of it back in ‘pocket money’ – mine for example pretty much wiped out my savings at the age of 18. And if they are expensive – what does this say about the access of future ministry for those for whom finances might be a barrier. Some Gap years do offer the options of PT work during the course, but the equality and access issues remain, especially in a team situation. let alone a burnout situation during the year, and is a year of burnout a good starting point for a ‘taster’ time in Ministry..?
  2. If a church is lucky to have a team of gap years, then as they are able to create lots of new opportunities, groups and clubs, because there are more than 1 of them – then how might a church sustain this new work? or more importantly not just the work, but the hopefully positive relationships that have been started between the workers and young people. Not letting gap year teams ‘just get on with it’ in the course of a year would be beneficial for a church in the long term.
  3. Gap year people are trained during the year – and not always on the most immediately useful aspects of youthwork, or mission, or ministry. Ill let the Oasis 1996 guys off this one, as Youthwork/ministry was still relatively in its infancy even then, though the book list and reading was impressive, it did include Ashton and Moon, David Watson and Jim Packer – the latter two being evangelical theologians, all of only some use for community work amongst (oppressed) young people in Hartlepool. But the point being, the gap year person may only have a small bank of reference (personal experience & theory) to draw from in their development of groups, activities and mission locally. And, thinking about point 2 – in very few occasions might gap year people be able to increase local capacity of volunteers by training and supervising them, when their own practice is in a formational stage. It can happen, but unlikely- this is still the churches/agencies role.
  4. Will taking on a Gap Year person/team – diminish the role of your current volunteers, or disempower them? Does the ministry of your church need to ‘grow’ with new people. or deepen with the equipping of existing people, including the young people as junior leaders for sunday school, or leaders at all. Would i as a young person be given more or less opportunities to serve in a church if there was a group of ‘strangers’ imported to do some of the roles? Is it better to be a sending church of young people on gap years elsewhere, or a receiving one.. and how can you enable this to happen…?
  5. What long term strategy do you have as a church? And how is a gap year person/team part of that strategy? Is a critical question – for then at least they and you will know what they are needed to do as part of their role.
  6. Will having Gap Year people for youth ministry in a church reinforce the notion that working with young people is a young persons game? what does this say about how a church values young people – that they’re not worth personally investing in, but paying for potential outsiders to deal with..? And people who pay for the privaledge at that. Are there different options available for a church if they dont have resources to maintain current youth provision, that a gap year person? Will your young people benefit from ministry from people in the congregation of experience, from faithful disciples, or… emerging adults who are in training?
  7. Having existing work with volunteers will enable the gap year person to settle in, but for them to be challenged they might need space to develop and have volunteers ready to help them, so its worth having a pool of people ready.
  8. Give the Gap year people the chance to be thought of in their own right, actually this is the same for youthworkers, and ministers. No one likes being compared to the previous team, minister, youthworker, what they did/didnt do. These Gap year people have this one year that might help form them into a future vocational calling, help them to make it work for them too.
  9. There will be a culture shift and shock- especially if the student is new to the area and just left home. Maybe not so if theyre older, or have been to Uni – but your context will be different to what they know. And it will take time for them to understand, settle and be able to be effective in that context – some say, and id agree, one year isnt long enough for this to happen. But no one wants to do a gap year for 7 years.
  10. If you’re in a situation where you host a gap year student or team, and they have signed up to a charity/organisation to do this, and they send the team to you – is there a ‘serving a poor’ area power imbalance, and might you be in danger of being a CV filler for a young adult on their step to a university education who need to show ‘compassion’. But seriously – are you wanting to be viewed as a charity case? or your young people as needy, underprivledged (compared to the ‘rich’ gap year person, from X place where they can afford to pay for the gap year) – is this a power imbalance that you feel is appropriate for you, your church or the young people?  Nothing worse than being on the receiving end of charity for a long period of time, or the place where people are ‘sent to’..?
  11. Saying all this, The Gap Year, is often highly beneficial for the person participating in it, and that is a good thing. Many develop new skills, life experiences and even stay in ‘the ministry’ in a number of forms. If they can do a gap year that has decent qualifications, like level 3, diploma or degree then all the better. If they have good supervision, management and support than better still. However, i do wonder whether the gap year person stands to benefit more than the church at times, in the long run.
  12. Oh, and lets not forget the young people again. This is a relationship, relational orientated type of work. Yes, gradually if more and more gap year people are involved in a church the young people might become desensitised to the emotional connections that could be made, ie ‘theyll get over it’ or ‘we’ll get another one’ but that means that young people are having to cope with another potentially emotionally difficult situation, caused in churches, at the same time as all the other emotionally challenging situations in their lives already. Young people and new, ‘even for a year’ gap year people will make some kind of emotional connection. It happens, so be ready for it, and think about the effect of this on the young people you have in the church. There is nearly always a leaving moment for gap year people – even if they do 2-3 years, they usually leave. If your youth ministry in a church is based upon a relationship strategy, then will a gap year student help with this? especially if they will only be able to connect with young people for a year?  Different if its a programme or ministry strategy where they don’t connect in small groups with young people, and just preach or do assemblies or lessons.
  13. On a positive, I have found that being a youthworker in an organisation and having a gap year student alongside can be really helpful to start new work, or maintain activities, the questions over whether this is in the long term helpful for upskilling existing volunteers and young adults in a church is still valid though. But in an ecumenical type organisation this is a very helpful resource.

Yes taking on gap year people or teams, can be a great way of increasing ministries in churches, existing groups, giving volunteers an extra hand, and meeting new people, sharing your ministry and work with them, and educating them, discipling them as part of their time with you would be of critical importance, and they use the time to build on experiences and knowledge of your setting, and so it is then less about what they can do for you, and what you can do for them in practice, knowledge and life experience. Will a gap year person light sparks, yet – might they be disruptive – yes – will they realise it… probably not!, Will they be keen to learn, hopefully, will they transform your church and save a lost generation…only if you as a church are already in that business already and not leaving it up to them to do on your behalf.

So, my year on Oasis Teams was a hugely challenging, formational and informative one, some things ill never forget, some things ill want to but cant. Im still involved in youth work and mission, as are a few others in my year, and others before and after. Undertaking a gap year, in the current economic climate is a risk, or an opportunity for someone who wants to have experience in ministry before academic qualification. Its a risk for a church too, and young people, and also an opportunity. But undertaking it without thinking it through for the student, the church congregation and more importantly the young people is crucial.

Investing in volunteers is better that employing a professional youthworker

Yesterday i wrote a piece about what a church needs to do, if they were thinking about employing a youthworker as a member of staff within a church, to help with the designated need and work required. However, during today i have realised that this is a luxury that many churches have absolutely no hope of even thinking of, given tight resources and budgets. Having no young people is not an excuse however, as id argue that a youthworker should be employed to do mission work in a local community amongst young people whom the church doesnt yet know in a pioneering way, more so than in situations where their role is almost solely within a church & groups setting. But thats another discussion. So if its resources that prevent you from being able to employ a youthworker, or some other reason, then there are a number of alternatives open to you, that as a church should be done and are probably being done, with a few hints & tips that might be of use.

  1. Invest in current volunteers by giving good supervision, training and opportunities for challenge, growth and reflection. In effect disciple them in their current roles. If you have no volunteers- see point 9.
  2. Develop opportunities for training for current volunteers, like a rat in London, you’re probably not more than 10 miles from an unemployed or youth worker in need of a small extra job to deliver some training for your volunteers.  In house training in the context is ALWAYS more beneficial than sending volunteers to conferences, dont believe the hype about conferences. Get training you need specific to you and ask a youth worker about what they can offer, many should be able to lead sessions on group work & dynamics, ways of using the bible, reflection, conversations, young peoples issues. Yes you might have to pay for a days training, but itll be worth it. and more value for money than most conferences. and specific.
  3. Use some of the latest books on youth work & youth ministry as study materials in home groups for the leaders, yes its not the Bible – but neither were Nooma DVDs. As a start, ‘the art of youthwork’ by Kerry young, or ‘youthwork and the mission of God’ by Pete Ward are accessible and informative.
  4. Use the resources available from affiliation staff, Diocesan youth advisers those sorts of people.
  5. Facilitate ideas and vision days for the work with young people, and again arrange for someone to help you with that.
  6. Develop leadership skills with the children and young people so that they take on responsibility and decision making as part of the groups, as part of their discipleship – surely you dont need a youthworker to do that..
  7. You may be able to find a year out type youth worker locally depending if an organisation locally has them, but be aware they often take as much managing and will arrive with little training (regardless of what the leaders tell you) and may take a while to fit in. They also usually leave after less than a year. (this isnt the time to do a pros-cons of gap years, but getting ‘one’ is no walk in the park, but its an option)
  8. A similar option might be a placement student from one of the few university courses doing christian youthwork/ministry. This will depend on your location, and on resources again, its an option. You could ‘share’ a student with another local church, again an option.
  9. You, if you’re clergy reading this, might have to lead in discipling the young people, and thats maybe not your calling, but if taking a lead disciple role in discipling others isnt the role of clergy..? Maybe the young people currently in the church are too important to not be given the professional spiritual guidance that you are equipped to offer. For their sake, building a supportive relationship with a member of the clergy might have a much more significant impact on them, than effectively outsourcing it to dare i say it ‘ a youthworker’ or a one year gap yr student. There’s plenty of help around if you want it, see points above.

Sometimes the best option isnt to get the external person in, invest in who you have already. Especially as these people might be less likely to leave, and be able to support the young people for longer. It’s then about finding ways and approaches of working that enable both the volunteers and young people to be discipled. It’s not about running groups, but about discipling young people, so find ways that work. If its movie & sports nights with prayer, bible chat and lighting candles, then do this. And not unlike the

And not unlike the emmaus road, sometimes joining them in that discipleship, and other times be prepared to allow them to walk alone to discuss, think and reflect, question and react. If the group work model requires too many helpers, then find another one. Be Creative and consult with the young people. Let them lead you in this process.

The alternative to a youth worker, might not be a youth worker at all. it might be a church with a culture that all are disciples with responsibility to disciple everyone else. Young people might not be so different- just need time, space and respect, theyre not so separate or distinctive in any way.

 

 

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