Youthworkers today arent speaking from a position of strength, in society or the church – but then again have they ever?

Theres a bit of a recurring conversation going on in a number of different places at the moment, that is building a conclusion that Youthworkers today arent speaking from a position of strength.

On one hand there has been the decimation, or virtual obliteration of funding from local councils (brought about from national government funding reductions, excused by ‘austerity’ as a narrative) towards statutory youth services.  This has had a knock on effect almost everywhere in regard to youth and community work, and for young people themselves. Much ink has been spilt on working out all the effects. From loneliness, knife crime, mental health on an individual and social level – but also where schools and other institutions have been subtley charged with filling in the gaps – making a mockery of funding cuts and also trying to ‘do youthwork’ without the agenda less approach of youthwork. (That post is here: The effect of disappearing youth clubs )  This reduction in youthwork, then has an effect on those seeking to be employed and qualified in it, and the reduction in courses, funding and applications for these. Yes, the voluntary sector and social businesses may have been given the open book to fill the gap, but they do so with orgainsational survival and competition as core objectives – stuff which flies in the face of partnerships, collaboration and community which underpins the very nature of what youthwork is all about. Anyway. Thats one conversation.

The other conversation is in the faith ‘sector’ , and it is similar. Though not starting from centralised funding cuts. It does have funding as part of its issue. The last 10 years has seen the gradual shift in youth work posts in faith organisations/churches in the UK.  Whilst there are still many vacancies in some areas , this is also coupled with the reductions in courses across the country. A conversation about the pay for youthworkers, isnt new, given the extortionate housing costs in some places means that this is only a profession for the single, the young, or with those with a decent second income in the family. Unless a position also includes accomodation. Some of the high water marks of youth ministry, such as Soul Survivor, and collaborative working on resources (see ‘joined up, 2003, and other resources) gave the impression of a growing impetus for youth ministry as a profession and the hope of a collective voice, that inspired and could encourage many. A look back at Youthwork magazine from 1999, and it reveals colleges and courses cramming up the pages with adverts to attract people to them, a variety of jobs and vacancies, a rhetoric of positivity and a belief that youth ministry was the future, and the church needed to catch on and up.

The conversation now is that Youth work and ministry is not in a position of strength.

The reality is that youth work and ministry never was in a position of strength. Position of ‘stuff’ maybe. 

Of course stuff was happening. The myriad of activity… But was the stuff happening that was in the corridors of the power brokers?

Youthwork slipped from the department for education (where it had sit for a considerable length of time) , but were youthworkers in that conversation. How might youthworkers affect education policy – rather than the other way around? Yet the place of youthwork slipped to crime prevention departments and now leisure and tourism…

At the same time were youthworkers in churches busy taking kids to soul survivor, were they also holding or furthering conversations at the time about increasing the status of youth ministry in the church, at a systematic level? Ensuring better pay, or housing, or stipend, or support, or recognition for the ministry within these settings? only a few, and that seemed hard work, easier to play the passive game. Not make a noise or fuss. Accept a low wage for the sake of calling. Contribute to a year out scheme that could be deemed like modern slavery. Then move on to not be a youthworker and represent young people for a stable role that carries a ‘higher calling’ (by others), but would that occur if the youthwork role was more stable?

Yes, as youthworkers we like to be in the thick of it, in the action, behind the scenes, getting messy in the margins, much of the time we’re trying to encourage young people to have a voice, and promote their voices (all fantastic) such as the recent youth parliaments and protests – all the time not realising or being able to do anything about the rug of that process and practice being pulled from under our feet. Empower others, dont do political. But thats not got anywhere. Youthwork is political. And the campaign groups continue, just. Though in youth ministry, its less a campaign group, more a few experienced youthworkers trying to get something done. Its difficult to make waves in a culture of compliance in a role that is paid for. Dont upset the payroll.

Systematic change is still required. All the stuff about young people in society requires and demands it. Imagine if loneliness is reduced because youthworkers (the same one) is present in communities for 10 years. Thatd be helpful wouldnt it? What about the same for all the activities youthworkers do, sports, social and spiritual – all things bereft in communities, where theres one crisis (obesity) to another (mental health) – so what if there was strategic and systematic commitment to youth and community work provisions in every community. How might that encourage the process of helping young people flourish, its probably immeasurable, and thats probably the point.

Would this be the same in churches? The best examples of where youth ministry works is where the persons have been around for more than 5 years. Not unlike the community, any community thrives on this kind of stability, and young people are no different. And I am guilty as charged, given up a role after 2 years, and struggle with another after the same. It would systematic change of thinking from funding and affiliations to commit to fund workers who are involved with youthwork for them to have significant long term contracts, and the stability equivalent at least to the minister. But this is not an argument from a position of strength, but then again, even at its surfing of the crest of its own bouyant wave, it was barely strength anyway. Strength implied that people were listening to youthworkers and their voice and enabling them to have increased participation in processes, methods and politics, that youthwokers were trying valiantly to encourage young people themselves to have. And whilst i write off the last 20 years in one fail swoop, there are and were some exceptions to all of this. But very little of that has lasted to the point where current decisions about youthwork and young people are made in the knowledge and collaboration with youthworkers or their approach. Theres dragons den meetings to decide funding, and consultations that appear relatively tokenistic.

What might it take for youthwork to actually be in a position of strength?  In both the government and the church?

and who is prepared to make a stand to cause this to happen, and how will anyone know when this has happened? 

Was youth work in a position of strength? Maybe it was just in a better place than it is today by a long way – but strength?  not sure about that one..

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Whats the point of youth work?

A pretty easy to answer question- isnt it? However, I was asked to do a 5 minute presentation on this question, and could have probably expanded it to a 150 credit module length of study. I imagine, knowing what the point of youthwork is is worth knowing so we know how to justify it and plead for its continuation. Here is what i think the point of youthwork is:

Youthwork is about young people, first and foremost, it makes it different from school, from social services and other institutions as young people are and should be placed first and foremost as the point for and at which the activity exists.

As a definition i would say that youthwork is a professional relationship with a young person who is the primary contributor in their social context.

Youthwork as a philosophy is geared towards and biased towards young people, being with them, not just for them, and has young peoples education, welfare and community as its core. Youthwork is about developing positive purposeful relationships between young people and adults, and learn, and create opportunities through these relationships.

Youthwork exists within the local community as it is affected by it, as young people learn to use, accept or reject the resources in their community, as youthworkers our role is to help young people navigate through these choices and also remove barriers that prevent them from participation.

The point of youthwork is to believe in young people and to work with them to use their gifts and accomplish dreams they may have for themselves and their local community.

  1. Youthwork is about values – empowerment, inclusion, participation, valuing young people
  2. Builds on what is already – turning open activity sessions in young person led and developed spaces of participation and empowerment
  3. Youthwork opens the opportunities for young people and their participation, from attenders and deciders to creators (and challenging the barriers that prevent this)
  4. Youthwork trusts young people and raises their game to take risks
  5. Youthwork is a place of fun, social relationships and creativity.
  6. Youthwork creates a safe space, a home for young people, where they can belong.
  7. Youthwork values young people individuals and groups in their community
  8. Youthwork challenges the narratives about young people and is inherently political
  9. Youthwork recognises that young people have needs, but focus on their gifts and positives in order to overcome them
  10. Youthwork creates a space for innovation and improvisation
  11. Youthwork is a space to help young people reflect on their place in the world and contribute within it
  12. Youthwork is also what people who do youthwork say that it is, it is an ongoing conversation. It continues and is future orientated.

The point of youthwork is that it strategises from the point of contact, it involves young people and believes in them to be better than what they may have been told about themselves. Youthwork changes young people, it changes all of us in the encounters we have.

You will notice a variety of influences here, from Howard Sercombe, Kerry Young, Jeffs and Smith, Goetchius and Tash, all deep thinkers and practitioners who have shaped the conversation so far and its our job to keep the conversation going. And help the conversation about young people be integral to other agencies and institutions.

What do you think – whats the point of youthwork?

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?

Pioneering cant just be the youthworker/minister, it needs to be a whole church approach.

One of the my most read articles this year was based on Brian Mclarens research and highly circulated piece on why pastors leave the church, building on this, i put together this piece on ‘why do youth workers leave the church’ – a link to this piece is here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-10B.   Brians piece recounts how a Pastor meets head on the culture and organisational structure of a church, and finds it wanting when it comes to mission. Some of the story is below:

As a leader in the church I feel I am expected to be silent and non-opinionated on these issues.  Ironic.  When I look to the life of Jesus religion seems to have been low on his list of cares other than to challenge the religious elite of the day.  Jesus cared about people who were on the margins, He cared about the list of things that I feel I cannot talk about as a leader of the church. So how do I passionately follow Jesus and ignore the very work that defined his ministry?

McClaren says; Clarke, and many like her, are being drained of passion by the relentless focus on religious trivia and the relentless avoidance of issues that matter morally – and in terms of human survival.

When I watch the news, I feel passion.  When I hang out with kids who are struggling with great questions for which I have no great answers, I feel passion.  When I see someone searching to find their place in the world, I feel deep passion, when I see people trying to understand one another despite their differences, I feel deep passion.  When I see young people starting a recycling campaign or a stop bullying campaign, I feel deep passion.  I went to school to become a leader in the church because I somehow believed the church would be the platform from which I could work alongside a community of people to engage these areas of passion. I think I was naive. 

For, there is no doubt whatsoever, none at all, that the desperate passion that a youth worker feels for young people spurs them on within ministry. There is often no doubt that it is one of the key reasons for them being a youthworker in the first place, That same passion of the hurting, passion to help those with questions, passion to help them find place in the world, and to challenge the status quo’s that are barriers to young people being included, accepted and thriving.  McClaren contrasts the danger of Mission and the Safety within church saying: “Worship is safe, service projects are safe, Bible study is safe, talking about bulletin size is safe.  I don’t think passion is ever found in the safe and I don’t think important change comes from there either and so we have become passionless and barren.”

It has become popular to employ the dynamic , pioneering Minister, or youthworker. The above example is ‘just a pastor’ let alone a pioneer. It has become equally as popular to hope that they might be able to work alone. That the church who employs them might not change its ways. Often this complete change of working ways becomes too much of a challenge, becoming frustration on both sides. The pioneer finds a home in the margins. Finds God in the margins. The church often prides itself as the epicentre of God, and the destination of mission. The pioneer might contest this. The pioneer goes and finds, the church can often wait.

A suggestion might be that the pioneer goes off and begins faith communities outside of the church. For that is where they might feel at home, and also where the people they do faith with also do.  Unsurprisingly. And developing pioneering churches from scratch is popular. It is also fraught with challenges (often from the inherited church about their validity).  But for many it feels the only option. And there are some excellent projects, communities across the UK doing this. They are inspirational.

But I also love the church, i think, and there are some good people in the church, and there might be many who, with some training, thought and renewing of the mind, might actually find adopting pioneering a refreshing and positive one.

So the question remains – what happens to the ‘existing church’ – is its only destination a gradual decline – (outside of the university city) when it might only rely on its own families to stick around – can a whole church become a pioneering one? – and what might that look like?  Even the churches who employ or have pioneer youth/ministers – does that lead to ‘whole church’ pioneering? Though it is unlikely an existing church is going to undergo a pioneering process without one- or a pioneering spirit within it. I wonder might it be possible for the inherited church – ‘the old dog’ to learn – new tricks? 

Because, in the main – if a church was even inclined to employ a pioneer worker – would they be open that this became a whole church approach to faith, to discipleship, to community, to ‘the margins and the centre’ – to an understanding of faith as mission, and also what inclusivity, love and worship might be – in a pioneering way. And – if a local church is unable to conceive of being pioneering alone – then maybe it has to be adopted as a process across whole denominations, affiliations and diocese. So that it is not an alone task – but brought about through cultural change. If Youth Ministry and its worship orientated ecclesiology can change the church in 40-50 years, and it has,  – then a pioneering approach- to potentially save the church – needs to be implemented alot sooner.

Instead churches, it feels, have become about efficiency. Efficiency isnt about Goodness, Mission and Risk taking. Its consolidation and value for money. There’s no point employing one person to be the sole risk taker in a local church – though by all means give it a try. Whole churches, that’s entire congregations, need to begin a task of pioneering. Churches already sign up to a number of ‘certifications’ whether its hygiene, or health and safety – but what might a certification of pioneering look like? – and how might pioneering, birthing ‘new’  life/faith/community – be facilitated in a church that is an existing church so that it has a pioneering mission ongoing intention in its way of being. Can that happen when a church has got set in its ways?

Can pioneers find a ‘home’ for pioneering in an existing church that also embraces pioneering?  probably. Until then, the pioneer might find be ploughing alone in a church – or finding the fertile soil in the community having to do this at a churches arms length. This isnt sustainable. Whole churches and denominations are as tasked with mission, risk taking and developing faith in communities as the pioneer is.

FYT are offering to be a home for Pioneer Youthworkers. And that is great, because often pioneers dont fit in other places, in the church or in structures. Helping to guide churches to stop, think and do different things to focus solely on the mission that might be required in every local context. Pioneering Mission needs to be rooted in the systems, cultures and practices of the existing churches. Its not quite as brutal as pioneer or die, but a form of death to the old may be required.

 

References

Moynagh, M Church for every context, 2010

Passmore, R Here be Dragons, 2013

To discover more about Frontier Youth Trust, especially if you’d consider yourself a pioneer and need a home, for support, learning and community – see http://www.fyt.org.uk. 

Recognition & recommendation from Australian youthworkers

Blogs for youth workers

I was away last week, didnt do any writing, and then went to the Frontier Youth Trust Community gathering over the weekend, so I didnt get chance to reply to a particularly welcome and humbling recommendation for my blog on youthwork, youth ministry and detached youthwork by Aaron Garth at the Ultimate Youthworker Site, and team in Australia.

No one writes copious amounts of drivel on youthwork for recognition, or money or awards, no not even me, it is mostly as a reflective tool for me personally, to share a few ideas, develop thoughts from what im writing or doing or had conversations about during the day with other youthworkers. Sp, for other people to like what I write, find it useful and recommend it to others is a very humbling. Yes i know we youthworkers need to stick together at times but it i do thank Aaron and his team for the recommendation and kind words. Please do check out their site ‘Ultimate youthworker’ too its on the links below.

Heres their recommendation, and id also recommend the others listed here too.

So, from ‘Ultimate youthworker’ site:   http://ultimateyouthworker.com.au/2017/06/blogs-for-youth-workers-you-must-read/

Our must read blogs for youth workers

Youth work is a strange beast. We aren’t great at tooting our own horn. Even worse at sharing what we do. So when people step into the gap and share their thoughts, dreams, aspirations, research and their passion it is a fantastic sight to see. There have been many youth work blogs that have come and gone over the years (a testament to our sectors difficulties). With this in mind here are a few of the blogs for youth workers we read regularly that keep us up to date and get our creative juices flowing.

IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK

We have been keen followers of the crew at In Defence for the last six years. The mix of news and thoughts on where the sector is at in the UK always keep us interested and informed. Tony Taylor does a great job bringing it all together with the occasional guest post from others throughout the sector. In Defence have a great open letter to the sector which states their view on youth work and how it should run. This is a must read for anyone who wants to stay in the youth sector for the long haul.

DETACHED YOUTH WORK – LEARNING FROM THE STREET

Over the past year we have got to know the writing of James Ballantyne really well. James writes at the intersection of Youth Work and Youth Ministry and brings a detached youth work perspective to his writings. James has a depth of knowledge and wisdom that shows through in pretty much every post he does. Another UK Native James brings a strong dose of detached youth work to his readers, a concept we should all get our head around. This blog is a fantastic resource for youth ministers who are looking to develop their skills and knowledge, and is a fantastic read for the rest of the sector to see what youth ministry could be like with a bit of youth work injected into it.

Exploring Youth Issues

Alan Mackie is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh who’s areas of interest include education and youth work. His blog brings articles o politics, young people, youth work and education together to give us a smorgasbord of thoughts. Alan’s blog is one of those We go to if we want to challenge our thinking and the way the world sees young people.

Radical Youth Practice

A New blog on the block is Radical Youth Practice from Rys Farthing. Rys was a lecturer of Aaron’s at RMIT over a decade ago and is now based in the UK. We expect a lot from this blog and it delivers in spades. Challenging the way youth services see political action as they worry about biting the hand that feeds them is an early taste of whats to come from this powerhouse author. Its early days but we expect to see Rys around for a long time yet.


We can’t recommend these blogs for youth workers enough.

Go and check them out.

Part of being an ultimate youth worker is ongoing learning. One of the best ways is to follow a few blogs. It keeps you current and helps you see some of the debates from different perspectives.

What are some of your favourite blogs?

From all of us, ahem, me, at Learning from the Street, thank you.

 

Is Youth work a good ethical and artistic compass for Youth ministry?

In my previous article where i revisited ‘All Joined Up’ by Danny Brierley (2003) (here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-Mf), I came across a couple of sentences in which he described that the overarching philosophy of ‘youth work’ would be a way of challenging aspects of youth ministry where it was promoting unethical practices, faith manipulation, limited voluntary participation. I reflected further on this today, I was thinking of Youth work as an ethical compass but also a lens of interpretation – for practices of youth ministry and how youth ministry might be in need of youth work, or might learn from it to improve its own practices, especially in the current context of the UK.

Youth work as Ethical Compass: 

It is not just the faith sector that the ethical compass of ‘youth work’ can be applied. More often than not it is the pseudo youthwork projects that call themselves youth work – but are really youth support, youth programme, youth development. Youth work as an ethical compass, and its purists probably wield their critical sticks the most, and i know i am guilty. In a way, its not i think that those who wield those sticks just want a pure youthwork functioning for the sake of their tradition, but more so that they honestly believe that without some form of ethical and philosophical understanding that informs practice, young people fundamentally are being treated and regarded sometimes inhumanly, disrespectfully, unfairly, as pawns within an ideology that is in need of critiquing. So its not for philosophys sake, or its art form, but because of a fundamental belief that young people are more likely to flourish and develop within a youth work value practice, for there they are  given space to view the world within it, and be able to make decisions within it, and create within it.

Whilst there is more to youth work than just values, it is worth re examining them again:

Voluntary Participation, Empowerment, Equality of Opportunity, Informal education, Democracy

It as hard to see these things in programmes that have a budget for advertising the size of a premier league footballers signing fee, or where activities have pre determined programmes and activities, or where the kind of young people who participate are the most likely to tick boxes. The ethical stick of ‘youth work’ can be easy to wield, but it is a stick wielded with sadness more than anger, sadness that what is left for young people in their local communities doesnt have young people as its core – less so its organisational survival and programme delivery.

However at the same time, looking through a youth work ethic is only appropriate critique to youth work organisations and programmes that even subscribe to the notion of trying to do ethical practice – after all where the programme or cost or delivery or numbers matter – why worry about ethics?

Youth work as a foundation?

Critically, surely it would be possible to build decent practice that encapsulated these values, surely from a faith perspective these values, combined with faith values of love, grace, forgiveness, human flourishing & justice, can be the benchmark for youth work/ministry practice. They neednt be bypassed, sidetracked or redefined, however it would make something far less controllable, predictable, efficient and universal – and have less power over young people. In short, thinking about these things, control, predictability, efficiency and universality. They are all markers of the Macadonaldisation of the world from the framework of business synonymous with that fast food chain as proposed by Ritzer.  Are young people now just the burger filler to the state ideology, or even extreme faith practices?

The essence of Macdonaldisation stand in polar opposite to the values of Youth work.

When we look at the world , and the world of young people, which has become dominated by by so many aspects of control, predictability, efficiency and universality through a lens of youth work values, of creative, constructive, political educational practice, of social justice, equality, empowerment and global inclusion , the two seem so far removed from each other.

It is as sad to see where proponents of faith-based youth organisations turning to business ideology such as above, over and above values that frame youth work practice (which can be regarded as ‘secular’, yet business practices dont get the same categorisation? )  youth work values themselves stem from Faith organisations in the first place. If the ideology of neo-liberalism has overtaken even the business mindset of faith (not just in the business mindset of commercialised youth programmes) -then thats where at least some kind of ethics and values from youth work might act as a stemming of the flow in that direction. If Faith is an art, God being poetic even? then how might youth work as an art/philosophy help youth ministry – before it uncritically accepts a scientific or business view of the world?

Might Youth Ministry need youth work? 

Where Youth Ministry needs youth work is in that it gives it the ethical base line to encourage reflective practice – and prompt questions such as : How voluntary do young people participate? , How might young people be empowered at different levels of this practice?, What kind of education is occurring? How are decisions made and what decisions do young people participate in? and ‘are we being fair and open to all? ‘  It is in responding to and asking those questions where Youth Ministry becomes a practice that allies closely with youth work further. Youth work values prod and provoke in a way that is in the interest of young people.

Youth Ministry might need youth work because at its heart is informal and ongoing lifelong learning. Education in youthwork is a two way process, where both worker and young person share in learning experiences together and these are ongoing, it requires that worker is dedicated to a learning process, ongoing reflection, the challenge of deepening knowledge through life, not just organised cpd, or a seminar at a conference. Youth work as a process of learning challenges youth ministry as an activity and received knowledge practice where this occurs. Learning is core to the Human experience and Faith discipleship is an ongoing learning process – youth work and its philosophy of education has much that youth ministry can and should draw from.

Youth Ministry needs youth work as a critique of inclusive practice. Some aspects of youth ministry have got themselves so middle class ( as they serve churches in middle class areas) or one ethnic orientated – that something has to be challenged- and yes in some areas of the UK there are predominantly only British white people. An ethic of equality of opportunity, and equality of access from youth work will provoke youth ministry to consider its acceptance of others, its programmes that alienate or isolate young people with behavioural issues, or have a middle class feel to them, or feel ‘white’. and thats before practices that have equal opportunities relating to gender or sexual orientation.  Youth work has been at the forefront of anti-discriminatory practice – not just inclusive practice – Youth Ministry might again reflect on the processes and journey that youth work has been on, why, where it succeeded in being more inclusive.

Youth work might not just be an ethical stick for other practices, it might invoke reflection and a considered look at practice from a value base- but also there might be key ongoing learning points that ‘professional’ youth work has encountered, faced and is now undergoing that youth ministry might well learn from. Does youth ministry need youth work?  I think so.  Passmore goes further, suggesting that there might be a symbiosis between them.

References:

Brierley, D All Joined Up (2003)

Jeffs and Smith,  Youth work Practice (2010)

Passmore R, Here be Dragons: Youth work and Mission off the map (2013)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on 2016 and the most read articles

Self indulgent article alert, but everyone is doing it at this time of the year….

I started 2016 with the thought that I wanted to do a bit more writing in the course of the year, 2015 I had had about 3,500 people read my blogs, and so I thought that I would try and at least match this in 2016 and write at least one or two articles a week, and match that figure of 3,500 views in 2016. I have written over 150 blogs this year on a range of subjects, linked to either what i have been studying at Durham University, reflections on work, culture, local church or conferences. I have covered themes such as Youthwork Management, Self care, detached youthwork, Mission and a few, but not many on Theodrama and the work of Kevin Vanhoozer – which is going to take up alot of my attention in the next 6 months as it is the subject of my dissertation.

Over the course of the year a few things have been noticed.

  1. Nobody reads top 10 articles anymore
  2. On a general basis people in youthwork (the deemed secular) side of it are up for more discussion, reflective learning and thinking, its is from people in this domain where more shares, comments and feedback is given. Quite what this says about the ‘youth ministry’ world that seems not to engage with voices which might be on its fringe might be up for debate, however, at the end of the year it is fascinating. Probably only articles that Mike Pilovachi writes, or that appear in youthwork magazine get any traction, unless…
  3. The Title is important. Tragically my most read piece was a 5 minute throwaway article – but it had a good title.
  4. Articles that are deep, challenging and critical only get traction with a good title, or have alot of effort put into to distributing them.
  5. The timing of when blogs are published is important, as is whether to actually respond to a latest policy initiative by the government, or a controversial piece in a newspaper, blog or journal.

So, in the spirit of everyone else looking back on 2016 with a mixture of gathering in the best bits, chewing them over and hoping to forget some of the more despairing moments, here are my top 5 most read articles for 2016.

at Number 5 is ‘Recruiting for NCS might just kill detached youthwork for good’  http://wp.me/p2Az40-y3  in which I suggest that if those running NCS use detached as an outreach service for NCS then detached is in big trouble.

straight in at number 4 is ‘13 details of a youthwork practice that are never requested in Funding bids’  this was the only ‘list’ blog that got any wide readership, as it struck a chord with many many youthworkers and managers who have to battle with funding application forms. I only wrote this one in October so it really did sneak into the top 5.. If you want a read it is here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-GN

Number 3 is a familiar one, ive probably written two or three similar to this, suggesting that in the current government policy climate, the open universal provision of youth services that has been decimated has opened up such an opportunity for the church (and voluntary sector), a return to the historic beginnings of youthwork provision in the UK – and so ‘youth work; church its over to you (again)’ http://wp.me/p2Az40-tQ

A long way off the top spot, but in number 2 is ‘Proposing youthwork in schools shows that the government doesn’t understand youth work at all’  Casting your mind back to pre brexit britain there was a call for youthworkers to provide wrap around care in the afternoons for pupils as they finished school past 4pm. Ie to be pseudo teachers. to have large groups. To be employed by councils on a grand scale – just after theyve all been designated the scrap heap/self employment route ( as per the above blog).  Anyway, this one got about 400 views, if you want to bump it up to 500 it is here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-oF

Drumroll not required, there was only 1 top spot this year, and ‘Clergy, if you want to disciple young people, quit doing assemblies’ was it.  It was probably the title that got it shared, or the questions, or the right time. It was the only article ive written that i would say was ‘youth ministry’ orientated that received any kind of ‘going viral’ moment, probably because it got the attention of clergy and schools workers alike. Since it was written in May, nearly 3,000 people have done so, ie as many people as read my entire writing in 2015. Like a good repeats show, and best of, if you want a reminder it is here; http://wp.me/p2Az40-t3

All that remains is to play out some up beat music, and herald in the new year, by the way this blog is live, I am writing this now, its not been pre recorded in June like most of the between Christmas and new year TV. It is also to thank you for reading, sharing, commenting and providing feedback for my writing efforts, i probably cross the line at times, but i do try and be constructively helpful for youth work, youth ministry, mission and the church and so some of what i write might appeal to distinct groups, but it is the between the gaps world that i locate myself, its why the streets appeal.

Thank you again, and Happy new year of reflecting and creativity in youth work, ministry and the church in 2017.

 

Questions raised for Youthworkers by ‘HyperNormalisation’

If you havent seen Adam Curtis’s film ‘ Hyper-normalisation’ do so. Its on BBC i player, and a link to it is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04b183c/adam-curtis-hypernormalisation, you’ll need a strong coffee, a comfy seat and a large dose of concentration to get through all 136 Minutes of it, but if being a politically, worldly aware youthworker is your curse, then its worth it

.Image result for hypernormalisation

An overview of it is provided here: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/oct/15/hypernormalisation-adam-curtis-trump-putin-syria

In 136 Minutes Curtis takes his audience on a monologue containing arresting images of the significant political, economical, social and technological order of the last 40 years, since 1975. The key message being that the presented reality on the screen is different to real life, and that these messages have veered towards the simple narrative of the world – hiding its complexities. I am not going to be able to the whole documentary justice here, and make no excuse for avoiding trying to. Having watched it yesterday, it has caused me to reflection on it and ask some critical questions for youth work and youth ministry in the culture in which hypernormalisation is said to occur.

  1. Did the church adopt the ‘simple message’ narrative – ie was this formed from within such a media infested culture that this shaped the type of evangelism, and descriptions of Jesus that have been unnecessarily simple, reducing myth, mystery and complexity.
  2. Who might youthworkers and youth ministers need to actively seek to communicate to – if they might only be in an echo chamber of their own voice? After all, there’s no point in me writing this, or other blogs if no one who might need to hear it is hearing it. Should the voice of youthworkers be in The Church Times, or TES for example? and not ‘just’ in its own publications (CYP Now, Youthwork magazine)
  3. How might we promote authenticity in a world of falsehood, and false realities – where ‘even’ news is manipulated by media organisations, editors and the pursuit of ratings figures and narratives.
  4. How might young people be guided into discernment and also to be rewarded and empowered to critical thinking, that frees and liberates them above the presented lies that make life a simple but pressurised race for popularity.
  5. How might youthworkers enable young people to think about the grey areas of complexities in situations, when simple responses (such as ‘no one has jobs because of immigration’, or if we topple dictatorial leaders democracy will ensue) are presented? One of the simple maxims being that if young people go to university they will get a job…
  6. The Occupy movement and its other social media equivalents were criticised for galvanising a collective of people against something, and even how to order a new reality – but couldnt fill a vacuum with what a new reality actually stood for. If we’re keen for young people and youth work / youth ministry to be for a common good – or the Kingdom of God then this higher reality needs to be realised somehow in the everyday practices and galvanised protesting.
  7. 136 minutes felt a very long time in a world of immediate tweetable soundbites. But tweetable soundbites relay simplicity, set up arguments only for them to be shot down. It took a long time for something to be considered in depth, and even then was pretty light on theories. Theres something about value, attitude or belief change that might require a similar amount of comparative longevity – but whilst short term projects are what young people are ‘exposed to’ then transformation might only be surface or behavioural.
  8. Taken together the Media and Film have captured that fear can be heralded and a nation can become frightened as a result. Narratives of fear are rife, see headlines in the Daily Express or Mail.
  9.  There is a need for Narratives of Truth, that are real in a culture that is presenting unreality as truth, and an unreality that is so distinct from the day to day. It’ll be a tough gig to deconstruct simplified arguments without a truthful reality to embed them. There could be nothing more prophetic to recognise those who have spoken truth to power, and those who embody truth in their very essence. The authentic kingdom orientated gospel of Jesus might, you never know, be prophetic right now.

I am acutely conscious of this post, and all the others, of just another piece of information that gets circled around an echo chamber, one or two of my friends, a few youthworkers and like minded people will read it. Genuinely, by the end of the week if 10 people read this post i will be astounded. But it is symptomatic of the echo chamber, that many pieces of information or insight barely cross over to others.

Fortunately, the work of the youthworker is more grounded, as What we do in the conversations with young people is create moments of influence in other peoples circles of influence too, on the ground, not just via social media. This is the space where true dialogue occurs, where truth can be found. Is everything else just presented as truth?

 

 

 

 

10 reasons young adults make the best youthworkers

You’re getting on a bit to be a youth worker aren’t you…

Is a common statement. As is the joke about being a youthworker and getting a proper job. Yeah as if being a vicar is a proper job… but why is age such an issue in youthwork as a caring profession?  No one say the same about teachers, nurses or social workers, none of these have age as an conversation about effectiveness. So let’s examine it further… why do make younger adults between say 18-30 make better youthworkers? A few reasons*

1. Because older adults have better things to do all of a sudden.

2. Because those adults who saw it as something to help them in their progression to another career don’t want to do it anymore. That baton is now yours.

3. Young adults are in the same confusing state of identity and student debt and this is a great place to add the emotional and spiritual responsibility of young people too.

4. They need to have the experience of working with poor young people on their CV’s.

5. Young people will relate to young adults better. If we keep saying this over and over again well believe it to be true. And flatter these 18-24 yr old volunteers.

6. Young adults have the gift of being young. Adults have developed the non gift of youth work. In fact the gift of coffee rota is proclaimed and prioritised.

7. Young adults are still more like the young people, in fact some of them are so cool that young people are bound to love and relate to them. And if young people relate to them because of coolness than that’ll be great for youth work.

8. Young adults will be great to work with young people as if they do make mistakes they’ll only be around for a year till they finish their gap year, or university. Young people in groups in youthwork will really benefit from having someone around just for a year..

9. Young people aren’t going to benefit in any way from spending time with people who are over the age of 30, because people over the age of 30 have nothing to offer.

10. Adults have worked with young people once, in 1980’s. And this means they never do it again.

So yes young adults are definitely the best people to sustain the work with young people. Or are they?

*or excuses given.

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