So yesterday, @sparticus started a conversation on twitter that quickly gained momentum with a number of Christian youth workers. His original tweet was:
Every month @youthworkmag put a fake job advert in the back of the magazine. Can you tell what it is this month?
— Mark Walley (@sparticus) April 18, 2011
He later explained it in a post on his site:
As far as I’m aware [my tweet] a complete lie, but it sparked a discussion around what was reasonable to pay a youth worker as a salary, and that some churches seem to be advertising less than reasonable salaries…
Is this pay or compensation enough to allow the worker to live in the area they are ministering to?
Over the day the discussion about youth work pay developed into other aspects of youth ministry including longevity, volunteers, and church leadership. This prompted people to start thinking about a tweetup to discuss some of these ideas. However, as more people got involved, the messages became quite comical:
— Martin Saunders (@martinsaunders) April 19, 2011
As I understand the conversation (I dipped in and out during the day), there is a concern about the amount of pay being offered by some churches for youth workers, and a recognition that many churches simply can’t afford to employ a worker. In this situation, how are churches supported and encouraged to develop work with young people?
In addition, once a youth minister has significant experience and/or training, there seems to be even fewer opportunities for them. At this stage of their career (or in some cases ‘calling’) they often have families, mortgages and other responsibilities, yet there are no senior positions that reflect their abilities.
I need to point out that getting a balanced and detailed view from 140 character messages is very difficult! I’m not sure how many denominations the tweeters represent, or even their own background or experience. Therefore it’s hard to say if this discussion truly paints an accurate portrait of the situation in across the UK, although it does sounds familiar.
It does link in to points raised by others recently. Ian from Youthblog wrote about the Joint Negotiating Committee (the body which sets the national framework used to grade and pay youth work jobs):
Is the JNC dead as the underpinning framework for Christian Youth work? …
Up until now the likes of Oasis and CYM have run JNC validated courses affiliated to a university body and enjoyed the fact that the Government has contributed financially a whole heap to the education of Christian Youth Workers.
However we are now in a very different world though where students will need to pay large fees to access a degree programme. Given that there is no career or structure for faith sector youth work, how attractive an option is that going to be?Â Allied to that is the fact that the statutory sector has cut so much of the youth work that is fuelled by the JNC values, and instead moved to a model of targeted work more akin to Social Work than youth work. Does the ‘JNC’ as a currency still have any clout or is the JNC a bit up in the air at the moment
These are valid points. But where this conversation goes next is hard to say. There are already some good outlets for this kind of discussion, including the upcoming Youthwork Summit which was designed to open dialogue among youth workers, but it is really interesting and encouraging to see such active participation over twitterÂ from youth workers and I’d like to encourage it to continue.
Personally, I would be keen to see a group get together and start honing down some of these questions, before posting a clear summary of the issues which could be disseminated wider. If any action is needed at a national level, then it may take events like YWS, media like Youthwork Magazine, or movements like ‘We love our youth worker‘ to get things going.
Whatever the outcome to this, I’m enjoying the discussion. It’s feeding ideas for some future projects I’m thinking through…