In a random room at Cheltenham Race Course the Youth Work Summit Crew(www.youthworksummit.com) assembled as part of Greenbelt (www.greenbelt.org.uk) Tom Wade presented the future of Youth Work, 'Youth Work 4.0' to a room full of Youth Workers and we sat in silence, a little stunned to be honest, as he announced that we should all stop being full time Church based Youth Workers and become TEACHERS!
Initially my heart jumped into my mouth, I wanted to scream at him 'Your wrong!' & I could feel the inner rage bubbling to the surface but I sat back and listened a) because I am not brave enough to be that rude and b) because I wanted to hear him out.
Essentially Tom's message draws our attention to the reality that young people and teachers have more meaningful connection time that we do as Youth Workers. Teachers have the power, should they choose to assert it, to positively influence the lives of lots of young people over a prolonged period of time. He suggests that instead of encouraging young leaders to become full time Youth Workers we should actually challenge them to be Christians in the role of full time Teachers. Now as someone who is passionate about being a full time Youth Worker, not just as a stepping stone but as a career choice, I struggled with this thought but by the end of Tom's presentation annoyingly I was starting to agree with him!
Here's some reasons why I agree with Tom:
1) Lots of meaningful connection opportunities with actual young people
2) Measures of success that can be seen - you can measure your impact on young people
3) Semi regulated hours - I know teachers don't work school hours but there is a rhythm to the hours they work
4) School holidays - I appreciate many teachers work during the holidays but they definitely get more than 4 weeks annual leave
6) Not having to live every six months wondering if funding for your post will happen
7) Regulatory provision for sickness, maternity & employee rights
8) You can get a job as a teacher with or without a VAGINA
Now you have to appreciate that even writing down this list is painful for me, every cell of my body screams 'We should do something!' 'Change it...don't bail out!' but I am struggling to see if the current model of Full Time Christian Youth Ministry can be sustained? ... redeemed even?
I want to inspire another generation to reach Young People but right now I cant put my hand on my heart and say the current model is working for my generation never mind the next, Youth Workers are leaving Youth Work, some are dead in Christ & others are literally just DEAD! Women Youth Workers are struggling to get employed by Churches, the hours we work are often illegal, our pay (what pay you might say!) is low, annual leave is sparse & there are little opportunities for career development. Is that how we want the story to continue?
Nope me neither! So maybe Tom is right? Perhaps after completing the MA I'll add a PGCE to the mix of qualifications ...
The talk can be downloaded here http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/media/talks/17836-martin-saunders-youthwork-summit-greenbelt/