Thursday, 13 September 2012

Youth Work 4.0 Series - 1) Lots of meaningful connection opportunities with actual young people

Disclaimer - For the record I am a Youth Worker, I have been involved in Youth Work for the last 16yrs, both in and out of the local church.  I am undertaking an MA in Youth Work at my own cost & those that know me will tell you if you cut me in half you will see Youth Work written in seaside rock style formation!  I have also been part of a school chaplaincy team & I have worked in a school for a number of years but it seems that I managed to annoy, frustrate and get under the skin of a few people when I wrote a reflection on Youth Work 4.0 is the Future of Christian Youth Work to become a Teacher?  This was total not my intention at all but a by - product of wanting to open the dialogue to seek to make the future of Christian Youth Work both sustainable, to those of us in it, and obtainable, as a career choice for those young leaders coming up through the ranks as I type.  Please do NOT pray for my soul, it is my intention to fight to keep full time Youth Workers alive! 
  
Big love to Sarah Fegredo for fully entering into the intended spirit and blogging her reflection here and with the page open for discussion perhaps you would like to add your thoughts? 

So why might a Christian Youth Worker want to transition to be a teacher?
Point 1) Lots of meaningful connection opportunities with actual young people 

In the last year I have had the immense privilege of talking to lots of other Youth Workers across the county to talk about the youth work they undertake.  I have been incredible aware that many of my friends are no longer just responsible for the 11-18s in their church but many have had to become jacks of all trades and to tackle roles that support Children, Young People, Students, Families & Parents and even some now find themselves with titles like Buildings Manager! The reality of all this is that many Youth Workers are actually spending very little face to face time with actual young people (defined by 13 - 18yrs old as inline with NOS & JNC) & many are spending considerable chunks of their time in meetings, prep, admin & supervisions.  Of course there are exceptions to every rule & I appreciate that many Youth Workers work above and beyond the hours they are paid to in order to deliver a quality meaningful package to young people.  But I guess my heart says as the church is in decline, as funding is cut how do we retain that meaningful face to face contact time and not be sucked into the whirlpool of of being jacks of all trades and masters of none? How do we get the Church (wider church) to see that not all Youth Workers are natural Children Workers, not all Youth Workers place priorities in admin and that many of us have been called to specifically work with real actual teenagers.    

Being a teacher generates lots of face to face time. Five days a week, 7 hours a day, 38 weeks a year teachers have open access to young people & I appreciate that many will argue with a ratio of 30 to 1, a prescriptive curriculum and the absence of voluntary participation is it possible for teachers to have the connections Youth Workers feel they have with young people? 

I think they can! Hear me right, I do not think that all will or do, but I do believe that if you choose as a teacher to have a meaningful connection with young people aged 11 - 18yrs old than you will.  I remember teachers who poured into my life at senior school, they took me to events, they put me forward for out of school opportunities, they wiped my tears and encouraged me to keep fighting against the estate I was born into.  More over I live with an amazing teacher, this means that during the last week of July I physically saw young people crying and thanking them.  I helped to eat & drink the room full of gifts that they received from grateful parents & students.  I get that as a teacher this is hard to do, but I do not think that as Youth Workers we have all the bragging rights to this area.  Do Youth Workers have direct face to face contact time of this proportion?   

I have to keep a log of face to face contact hours for the JNC part of the MA, this means I know that in October 2011 I had 115 face to face hours with young people aged 13 - 18yrs old. I am genuinely interested to hear from other Youth Workers how much contact time they have? and what their thoughts are on how, as Youth Worker we keep this hours up and the other hours of our multi layered roles smaller. 

Please note that this leads us to think about how we measure the success of our contact and I haven't forgotten that, it will be point 2 of this series :) 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gemma
    Great post that covers a lot of ground so I'm not going to respond to all of it, but I think you're right to question the balance between the "backroom" work and the face to face work. I think that any job has its tedious aspects - in my job I refer to "counting the tuckshop money". It has to be done, but it's pretty dull. So I guess to expect that Youth ministers can get away without having to do some of this type of thing would be unreasonable.

    On the other hand though, I'm an ordained, accredited, Baptist Youth Specialist. I work alongside a pastor (who is great, none of this is aimed at him) and I have been a pastor's wife (I still am) and my observation is that "the pastor" gets to avoid some of the admin and background stuff because churches have secretaries or administrators, and volunteers who do the nitty-gritty. They are then free to come and do the "spiritual" bit. Should the same apply to the Youth Pastor?

    Having said that, I also know pastors who are expected to preach on Sunday, minister to the sick, get a builder organised to fix the roof, and unblock the toilet that is flooding. It's part of a bigger question about the nature of ministry - and different denominations' ecclesiologies might produce different answers.

    All of which means, I think, that it's very complicated! But the discussion is still worth having.

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