Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Youth Work 4.0 Series - 2) Are we nearly there yet? Measures of Success

Youth Work 4.0 Series - 2) Are we nearly there yet? Measures of success that can be seen

A little while ago I began a series entitled Youth Work 4.0 raising many questions about whether the future of Youth Ministry actually is to become a teacher.
Click here to see the start of the journey

You can also see my first post that sought to expand my thinking point by point & a disclaimer validating my love of all things Youth Work (not hatred as previously thought) 
Click here to see point 1 - Meaningful Connections

However as you will see this point 2 comes after a rather large gap, the reason for this is not that I haven't had anything to say but more because I have been busy doing life with lots of amazing people.  This causes me to actually have so much to write about that I then have chosen to write nothing! But after lots of chats with other Youth Work veterans I feel its time to share some thinking:

So the big question is what makes one youth worker or one ministry more successful than another, not that we ever ask that out loud of course! But in essence I like many others find myself comparing numbers, looking for evidence and justifying my time to the powers that be.  Whilst we might all be aware as Youth Workers of the soft outcomes that add value to the lives of the young people we seek to support the harsh reality of the finance is we need to prove hard outcomes.

So what is a measure of Christian Youth Work success? What markers do we place on the table to try and grade young people against? 
* is it about attendance %?
* is it the number of different Christian activities they attend each week?
* is it whether they progress through the rites of passage our different denominations set?
* is it marked by their service to others?
* is it the length of their connection to the Church or which generation they fit into? (By this I mean I am a first generation believer, my parents do not/didn't believe but because of Jesus in my life my kids are second generation believers)

Truth is I just don't know anymore, having been in Christian Youth Work for a number of years I have seen perceived success in many young people only to a few months later find them in situations where they have 'moved on' from that phase of life.  There are stories of continued connections to the church but these by far are out weighed by those that keep connections with me but not Jesus or any other members of the church family & I've found myself asking lately is that enough?

My fabulous friend Dan Crouch (Follow Dan here) and I were discussing this a while ago and we came up with an analogue that's its a little like a CRB, the measures of success we have within the church are only valid on the day the measurement is recorded, everything else is subject to change. See a CRB is only proof that on the day my name was entered into a system there were no convictions against me on record, it doesn't prove I have committed any offences moreover it proves I haven't been caught & it certainly doesn't tell you what I might do or might not do in the future! It's all just a snapshot of a moment in time.

Teachers by very nature have defined measures of success, whether you agree with them or not! Some are based on attendance, some on academic achievement, some in participation but ultimately the goals are clearer and more concrete than un targeted Christian Youth Work.  The young people are clear on whats expected, parents see the end goal, it has the ability to be reached or not. Whether you agree with this as an approach or not teachers know whether they have succeeded in the tasks.  Their snapshot is in focus!  

There are an abundance of Youth Work Theories available to us, that many use, to establish their ministries with clear measures of success, my preference is 40 Developmental Assets  butdo are we guilty of over complicating it? Recently I've been hit hard by this passage:

Luke 23: 42 - 43 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come [d]in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Jesus makes the measure simple.

Any how this is supposed to be a conversation! So over to you what measures do you use, do you and your Church have the same measurements in mind? What good tools do you implement as a guide for your ministry? What scriptures reinforce your work?

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