Employed Youthworkers – My response

31 May

There have been a number of posts recently around the issue of whether churches should employ youth workers and whether it is an ideal that churches work with young people from within. As a full time youth worker who is ‘professionally’ trained this obviously resonates with me and has major implications if we ever did achieve this ‘ideal’.

There seems to be a number of interelated issues that are taking place within these discussions and also a number of questions that need to be addressed before making such statements. Within this post the term youth worker can be substituted for youth pastor/minister director as they seem to be used almost interchangably within the church as i don’t think much distinction or difference is made.

Firstly, what is youth work? It seems simple but many churches, para-church organisations and youth work practitioners would disagree somewhat right from the outset. For some church based youth work the aim is discipleship and evangelism. These are the core elements and what the churches are seeking from the employment of a YW.

However for some youth work is a much bigger thing than this. It involves being a forefront of local authority youth work policy, liasing with statutory youth provision, working with and supporting schools in a number of ways (including RE/RS lessons and assemblies but also with subjects like PSHE, PSE and Citizenship). Churches already impact schools in a wide variety of ways and even in places where i have worked projects including, behavioural mentoring, transitional mentoring, classroom support, working on a school informal team, anti bullying and self-harm workshops are being run.

Some people seem to suggest that churches are almost in favour of a seperate youth work from the rest of the church. From my perspective this just isn’t true. Don’t get me wrong this all age community thing is in pracitce very difficult to achieve and i struggle with it daily as i have blogged about in the past. But to say that people see this as the ideal i think is unfair, if it is true it is the job of church leaders and youth workers to deal with this mind set. Let’s be honest there’s a fair amount biblibally that supports our arguement.

So in essence i think that the role of youth worker is valid and even essential depending upon what the churches mission is. If it is one of solely discipleship and evangelsim of the ‘nice kids’ that come with their ‘nice families’ then yes i agree an ideal would be for this to take place within the church community.

However if youth work is seen how i see it and i draw from the national youth work agency in many ways as well as relating to the churches call to be a missionary people. Youth work is about developing people as whole people, we often see the need for spiritual development whilst completely neglecting the person as a whole in terms of their physical, social and psychological development. If churches really want to engage with the issues around our communities we need to engage in a more wholistic manner and not bury our heads in the sand. The kids who need us just as much as the nice kids are the kids who hit, throw fireworks at you and spit in your face (all of which i have had happen). Don’t get me wrong the difficulty and reality of putting this into practice is as hard and scary for me as anyone. I don’t have many answers but i do have hope. I am trying to figure this out in my nice posh bit of north london but we should be doing this as a whole Church.

So i guess if this is what we seek to do we need passionate practitioners on the ground working full time to do this. I do know the feeling of seeing so much need but not knowing where to start and that’s why it is a whole church family call and not just to one designated ‘paid’ person. Youth workers have a responsiblity to raise the issues and address them in the best way with the help of others.

I know that feeling however of doing more and more that there is no time to focus on things properly and it is very difficult to get off of the treamill once it has started to see the bigger picture.


One Response to “Employed Youthworkers – My response”

  1. Roy June 5, 2006 at 9:33 am #

    great post, challenging and encouraging – thank you

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