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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

When might we be honest about failure?

Writing about failure in the practice of youthwork feels like a daunting task, its the conversation no one wants to talk about. Never from a platform, a stage, a training event, or even in articles or books. It might be that youth work & ministry is a bed of roses, and thats the only way to sell it – but that surely hides a reality of its challenges, and also at its worst points – failure. Maybe we engage in the process of ongoing reflection and improvement almost as a way of seamlessly moving from one experience of practice to another, positioning ourselves as the central point that is able to make failure or non-failure happen. The other difficulty about failure is that it stands in stark contrast to success, and the conversation about what success in youth work & ministry is like. For instance, do we regard a practice of youthwork to be successful numerically if 15 young people enjoyed it, or that 1 person was excluded from it, or that 15 young people attended out of 10,000 that might live in the town. And thats only about assessing success and failure in regard to viewing young people as numbers, as attendance- a potential failure in itself.

Also, for the sake of self protection, the responsibility of failure is often laid elsewhere – outside of the youthworker (unless they internalise it and reflect on it) and the approach (youth ministry) but attributed to ‘the church’, ‘the management’, ‘clergy’ , ‘the schools’, young people (for not meeting our expectations), or families. Could it be that responsibility for failure lay not in the persons, or structures, but in the approach instead?

But if we are honest about failure in our ministries- which are the failings that hurt the most? when did we completely miss the mark?

For me, its the failings that occur in my family, because of  youthwork / ministry. 

Its the having to move jobs, houses and communities for me, but also jobs, houses, schools, friends, communities for my wife and children. Either because of changes in jobs. Nothing in the work of ministry quite matches this for the effect of what might be professional failings. Yet, even in ‘stable’ youthwork roles, these are subject usually to changing funding pressures, expectations and politics, all of which have an effect on stability, longevity and the possibility to have a stable family life.

Setting this aside, though not belittling it for one moment, what are the professional failings that hurt the most – that we need to talk about?

A failing for me is when I fail to notice what’s going on with a young person. When there’s too much going on in the situation, in the group, the club or the street, where the club is short staffed, or there an activity in the programme, and then that’s the actual moment when a young person in a conversation drops a subtle bomb about something. For me its a failure if id not been able to give that young person time, in that setting to talk further – because i was so busy, being busy and trying to focus on the practice of the work, not the young person who its all actually for. 

Thats one of the big failings in youthwork for me.

A benefit, in some ways, of working with young people who are more distant from the church type activities, ie street based work, or open access clubs, is that its less likely that the work would put people off being interested in the christian faith.

Its not as if what i do in these moments is to do the ‘youth ministry’ thing which bends over backwards to try and keep ‘christian’ young people (and more than often is faced with a reality of leaking them left right and centre) . So its a luxury that the work im involved in is starting at the other end of the spectrum, which in many ways just tries to give young people respect, time, and explore with them a positive side of the faith, without the politics, barriers or challenges within church, that ‘church’ young people face.

Maybe its a personal failing that as far as i know, not that many young people have ‘become christians’ in the process of the time that i have spent with them, in Perth or in Durham – so is that a failing? or is it better to think that neither were young people turned off of the christian faith because of me either?  But if i have done that – due to incorrect attitude, actions, words then i would consider that a failure – because i hadnt even given that young person a chance that they could explore faith from a point in an early encounter with a christian youthworker.

Failure is a tough one, whether its failings on our part, which we might beat ourselves up over, failings of the organisations or churches we work for, which might cause bitterness or cynicism, or failings in the approach we are asked to take – which might cause, again, reflection, but also a challenge to rethink again approaches, methods and assumptions about the work.

Is it possible that the failings of some of youth work & ministry are downplayed , and why might this be the case?

Might it be because the youthworker is encouraged to be the person who internalises the fault of it?

Is it because theres too much invested in the current status quo of youth ministry – especially in ‘evangelical circles’ to think that it has failed many youth ministers, and especially young people. The key propenents of it survived, those that didnt aren’t around to tell those tales.

I was in a conversation with someone who was working in a church recently, who was receiving a really difficult time of it and about to leave their role, and had been involved in 2 other churches and faced other personal and professional issues in them. On one hand the person was seriously wondering about their own ministry, and felt that they were at fault in them. However, the common denominator, was also that the person had been badly managed and employed and communicated to in 3 different churches. Maybe its that churches dont know that they treat people badly, and maybe if we’re part of the church in youth ministry, we and the young people might be personally subject to the churches failure also.

Sometimes the failure we feel, maybe isnt ours to keep. But without voicing them collectively these stories arent told.

Maybe we fail young people because of something on the day – like being too busy in the club, and that can be sorted. But what if our ministry doesnt listen to young people at all – have we failed young people completely?

I wonder- do we ever think we fail in youthwork because we don’t trust young people enough? or give them space to think? or give them responsibility? These dont sound like the main voices of failure – for most its that young people dont turn up to groups and clubs that theyre meant to – just because we put all that effort into them, not that we failed to do more than entertain.

When we think of failures in youth work – mine would be that ive not done enough to listen, encourage and challenge young people- in the spontaneous moments- usually opting for the safe option, especially in the busy moments.

What might be the other aspect of youth work and ministry that we might consider that we’ve failed in – and how might these failings be embraced – how might approaches of youth work/ministry / church be awakened to the reasons that failings occur. Are there 1000’s of young people in the UK who have a story that suggests that their involvement in youth work/ministry was at fault, not them as a young person, but us, our representation of the church/gospel in our youth ministry, are these unheard stories out weighed by the one church leader who had a great experience in youth ministy?  And what might those of us still involved in it learn as a result? Can ‘ministry’; include a reality about failure, and still be ‘ministry’?

Let open up the conversation…. Lets talk about failure?

 

Learning Hope from Seaham beach

Seaham Beach is only a few miles up the road from me, here in Hartlepool. Up until about 50 years ago various coal mining industries peppered the East Durham coast, including some that were situated on the coast itself. They poured out their blackened waste products onto the beaches starting at Seaham and the ‘slag’ worked its way down the coast, there’s a black ridge of muddy sand on the beaches at Horden and Easington. But its Seaham beach that I love. The Beach was so black that it features in the ‘planet’ based shots at the beginning of the film Alien 3.

Its an often heard comment that Youthworkers seem happier, not dancing in the rain, but wallowing in the darkness. Wallowing in the muddy, coal ridden pool of water, and only being able to see the water around. The dark gloomy outlook shaped by the government ideology of neo-liberalism, the restrictions on funding, the council cut backs, young people and communities left behind in the funding rat race.  I wonder as well, whether the church is the same, sometimes wallowing in its own self-pity, or narratives of decline.

For 40 years, Seaham beach (the south bit) was a no-go area, even now it looks abit toxic with bright orange pebbles, grey sand and relics and monuments of its past. But the clean salty water has changed the landscape.

Is it possible that in the critiquing the darkness of the situation we’re all in- we’ve been too focussed on the present, understanding it, and adapting to it. Its almost like weve tried to stay afloat in the muddy water – not encourage the tide to come in and clean it all up.

What would an alternative reality be in Youthwork?  The present may not hold many clues- being too formulaic, clean cut-, the past was industrious and possibly messy- but is romanticised. What of the future- and what kind of society might youthwork – and the church- seek to want to create in a new reality, to be as both Tony Jeffs for the sake of Youthwork – a Forward thinking profession, and as Healy argues for the church to be practical and prophetic, not idealistic, but dawning in a new reality.

Hope is about finding ways the future can be embedded in the new present.

Visit Seaham beach, and other places in the North East, many stories can be told within the landscape. Its still a mess, an atmospheric mess, a combination of rock pools, landslips, rocks and the most beautfiully weird coloured stones. Yet visibility is over 50m in the sea and jellyfish have been spotted, the whole area is a site of special scientific research. Nature is finding a way back to redeem what was destroyed.

 

 

If you can deal with all of this, then being a youth worker is the right job for you

Beyond the table tennis jokes, and being paid to have coffee and go to meetings, being a youth worker is far more complex, from viewing young people in a distinctive way (at odds at times with the government, media, schools and social services), being involved in their lives in an equally distinctive informal way. Being a youth worker will require that you are astute in the following art forms, if you can rise to these challenges, then it might just be for you.

  1. If you can cope trying to view young people as more than just an economic contributant, with the dominant narrative of the neo-liberal agenda
  2. If you can react to having to find funding for your own role, from at times funders that have adopted the similar political agenda, whilst not being detrimental ethically to the young people and communities you seek to work with. (ie seeing people as more than ‘needy’)
  3. If you can cope when your job is one of the first to go, and shift to every government agenda for young people, to the point when the job that you trained for, barely exists in any pure form.
  4. If you can cope with 3, with barely a union, or collective voice to stand against the cuts. Or in a sutuation where your own professional accrediting body (JNC) is withdrawn from validity by said government.
  5. If you can react patiently when people ask you what you do, every time.
  6. If you’re ok being a professional working with young people that has their voice & opinion minimalised in most state structures such as schools, even if you’ve worked with the young person and their families outside of an institution for a while.
  7. If you can find job satisfaction in a role and find goodness in young people, despite maybe not being able to record, monitor or prove it.
  8. If you can resist external pressure to view young people into what they might become, rather than who they are.
  9. If you can cope being the only youth worker in some towns, villages or rural areas for quite a few miles.
  10. If you can work with the community centre/Church caretaker and get a set of keys.
  11. If you can cope with the people in your own family who have negative views of young people and challenge/bite your lip appropriately.
  12. If you can deal politely with the expectation that being a youth worker is only a stepping stone to a ‘proper’ job, like Clergy, Social worker or Teacher- again from your family at times…
  13. If you can cope with the multi-skilling involved in every week, from planning sessions, follow up work, youthwork in different settings, preparation, all the issues young people want to tell you about – such as school, mental health, self harm, sex, relationships, bullying, hopes & dreams, fashion. Then there’s the tidying up, evaluating, training volunteers. And finishes of 9-10pm, or later on detached possibly.

If you can rise to these challenges, doing so because you want to fight for, and believe in an approach that will transform young people in the context of their community, that is pioneering in valuing young people, that seeks the best for them, going beyond behaviours, narratives, structures and policies that constrain, then being a youth worker is for you.

14. If you can be inspired by hope, and love the work, approach and philosophy of Paulo Freire.

15. If you can dream and believe in a different future for and with young people.

Then become a youthworker. Join what nows seems more than ever a revolution.

 

Overcoming the fear of walking

I’ve made a number of excuses for going for a run, or doing any exercise this year so far. Exercise thats involves more than walking around Durham with 100’s of library books, or walking around tescos pushing a shopping trolley. These have been the common excuses for not going out running;

  1. the only time Ive got I should be doing something else more important (even walk the dog, but study has also been pretty intense)
  2. the time i have ive only just eaten
  3. its raining
  4. its cold
  5. the first run after 4 months is going to hurt, and i’m not desiring the pain
  6. the whole changing, showering and recovering time might be longer than the run and is it worth it.
  7. We have enough washing to do, without extra sweaty running kit to get washed

These have been the excuses that have stopped me going for a run this year, or more pertinently since the indulgences of Christmas.  Most of the other new years resolutions I have tried to keep, but the exercise one has been a bit more of a challenge.

My fears & inhibitions about running, and accompanying excuses, ive noticed are matched by an area within youthwork management that has been a struggle for me over the last few years also. That is the fear of walking.

Walking, or should I say, making a path by walking is the metaphor that Horton and Freire use to describe the process of creating something new (and has a book of the same name) , an enterprising making of a new path as it is walked. They use this image to describe the process of education in community, of community liberation.

Walking is to act and make the path.

My problem is that I’m too aware of the dangers of the path. I can picture the fields of corn that would be great to walk through, but I fear unadherance the country code, the farmers dog, or the tractor out of control. And stick wisely to the path already trodden around the edge- subtle changes to whats been done before.

Yet i have many ideas of what that path may look like. I have many ideas, too many ideas. I had many plans for youthwork in Perth, in Ottery, and right now at Durham YFC, and where i live in Hartlepool. Some of those ideas would affect churches, organisations, young people, volunteers and employees. Some never get past the ideas board.

What are some of the things that stop me from walking? and acting some of these out?

Sometimes its lack of resources, young people or finances. Sometimes its fear of change, of challenge or taking the risk. Some ideas may be great on paper, but the process of them coming to fruition might seem too hard work. So, its motivation, or time. Sometimes its a fear that ill get it wrong, or that someone else might be right.  Sometimes its that organisations havent wanted to or been able to walk with me (or vice versa).

Other times Ive been paralysed by the finance question – will the idea attract funding? or create it? – worrying about funding i admit has become a dominant reason. And its a horrible place to try and walk – especially as now I have responsibility for others and their employment, life and job security- or my own.  Its a place that i hate, but one that keeps following me around, a self defeating cycle.  (this is not a plea for money, more an indication of the sector, and Christian youthwork resources)

So, if the field is Durham, County Durham and Hartlepool, what kind of paths are to be made? – for that is where walking needs to happen.

What might it take to start walking, start making new paths in christian youth work & church in County Durham & Hartlepool?  What type of organisations or none are the best to enable this to happen?  What kind of walking needs to occur? What kind of resources might this need?

Where might God be calling me to walk – and have i the trust to overcome fear to follow?

There is that addage that a journey of 1,000 miles starts with one first step. There is a path to be made, can I make it by walking?

Anyone want to join me and walk together…..

 

 

 

Youthwork and Personality types

Over the last few weeks, on my youthwork management module we have delved back into the personality styles, and management behaviour theories such as Myers Briggs, or Belbins team roles. Usually these are offered in relation well, to teams, roles within teams or how people act in different situations such as organisations, with associated questionaires and elements of contextual adaption of the person in the role.

In a conversation with a friend of mine, someone very interested in Psychology, we discussed the limitations of some of these popular identifiers, and he suggested the NEO-PIR test, one id not heard of.  Further details of this are here (wiki)

The NEO-PIR test was brought about as 5 main characteristics were identified in every persons personality to some degree or another; these are; Emotional, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Extraversion and Openness to experience. Within each of the 5 personality types contain facets, these are on the wikipedia page linked above.

The Crucial aspect of this test is that it measures personality types, not just personality styles, as generally personality is fairly fixed to a limited degree and can be plotted between the five aspects above. .

This got me thinking- if personality is relatively fixed- how might the type of working with young people that seek to improve their attributes – such as confidence, resilience or problem solving  claim to be able to do this – if the young person scores low on having these as a natural personality trait? (a trait, not a style)

The question is- in what way might any work with young people claim to make improvements of young people when aspects of personality may be more fixed that movable?

However, the trick might be to attempt to uncover the dormant strength of the personality of the young person, or to discover the areas where they are ‘high’ in to appeal to the problem at hand. The changes that a young person may be able to make in terms of personality might be small with a considerable amount of effort put in, yet a more effective method would be to discover with a young person their known personality strengths and discover how these might be utilised in the pursuit of overcoming a difficulty.

Maybe this challenges all the courses that young people are on which claim to ‘improve their confidence, or resilience’ when in fact it would be difficult to prove this from a personality trait perspective. How a young person might have utilised dormant confidence (a combination of conscientious/emotional) might be closer to the reality.

How much does youthwork take a young persons personality traits into account?  In doing so, might it enable youthwork to be better equipped in being able to meet needs and encourage the gifts of young people in the future.

Yes on one hand some forms of working with young people might be able to help young people with ‘soft skills’ but in what way do proponents of this see to make claims of what could be regarded as personality change, strong claims!

On an different perspective, I wonder what kind of personality type is the average youthworker? High neurosis and borderline emotional probably. Though i wonder whether different practices of youthwork encourage a different personality type.

If you’re reading this and have done a psychology A level you’ll know more than me on the subject, and im not claiming any kind of expertise at all, in dipping my toe in the water of thinking about personality types there may be questions that are raised as a result, yes more thinking required…

Youthwork and personality type.. any thoughts?

 

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