Motives for Youth Ministry

28 November 2011 — 22 Comments

I’m wanting to do a little bit of informal research around Christian youth work/youth ministry, and our motives as workers for doing it.


I believe that most Christians would understand a scriptural mandate for working with young people. Many of us would quote [youversion]Matthew 28:19[/youversion] and the Great Commission as a reason to do evangelistic or proselytisation work, and many of us would also state that simply serving or ‘loving’ others (as commanded in [youversion]Matthew 22:37-40[/youversion]) is an equally important aspect of the Gospel. Some Christians will be doing youth work in a church environment, while others are working in statutory or community settings taking a very different approach, yet still citing their faith as the motive for their work.

There are a number of books out there on the theology of youth work/ministry, and some of you will have studied this in depth on a degree course, but I’m particularly interested in hearing from YOU about how you understand your work in light of scripture. Your interpretation will define how you do youth work, and the sort of activities, events and general approach you take. Do you have a rigorous theological framework for youth work? Or to put it more simply, how does your faith as a Christian motivate your practice with young people? What does that look like?

I would be very grateful if you would leave a comment below so we can get some discussion started on this subject! Go!

Everyone makes mistakes, and when it comes to my youth work I’ve made some clangers! Hopefully by reproducing them here, it may give you a bit of a laugh and help you to avoid doing the same thing.

Photo: 'EXECUTED BY MISTAKE' by the_moog on Flickr

Mistake #10: Ignoring disrespectful behaviour

When groups of people hang out, there is usually some humorous banter between them; a bit of cheeky name-calling, a few in-jokes, etc. When you’re working with groups of young people you get all that magnified to the extreme and often things get said that are rude, offensive or generally unhelpful – even if they were not originally intended that way. When this happens, the comment or behaviour needs to be challenged (and hopefully discussed) so people can learn how it might be insulting to others. If it’s not challenged, then it can become normal or even a habit.

The classic example for me was in my early days as a youth worker. A group of young people I worked with would constantly be putting each other down, often in very witty and creative ways. It became a bit of an art to outdo each other with insults and make jokes at each others’ expense. The things they said to each other were rude and hurtful, but because everyone joined in and because they were delivered with razor-sharp wit, I ignored it for a long time.

I remember that one of their favourite phrases was “you’re gay” – a term they used towards each other in a derogatory way. The implication in the statement was that being gay was a bad or stupid thing, and by calling someone “gay”, they were therefore inferior in some way. Obviously this should have been addressed straight away, but it wasn’t. I let it go.

My biggest regret now is that I went so long without challenging this behaviour directly. Partly I think that I wasn’t too confident in standing up to them, and partly I rationalised that they didn’t actually mean what they were saying as it was a joke. However, it was still wrong. In the end, the other workers and I enforced some rules about respect but it was too little, too late for that group.

So what about you? Have YOU ever let young people get away with things that should have been addressed? What was the outcome? Share with us in the comments!

YMCA George Williams College along with Y Care International have introduced a new Certificate in Global Youth Work. The aim is to “take youth and community practitioners on a journey to bring a global dimension to their practice with young people”.

The interest in Global Youth Work has been a growing for a while. A while back the NYA published a resource pack on the subject, and earlier this year Youth Specialties published a book on Global Youth Ministry. A short course therefore sounds really useful and will no doubt pique some people’s interest. From the info:

This course will help you to explore global issues and their connection with your own community and young people you work with. It opens up debates about Global Youth Work, inviting you to question theory and practice and critically reflect on the benefits and expected outcomes for young people.

There are four units on the course:

Unit One: Globalisation

To enable youth workers to increase their understanding of globalisation, global issues and how these impact on people and communities.

Unit Two: Glocal

To help learners explore how globalisation and global issues impact on their own local communities and the young people they work with.

Unit 3: Global Youth Work

To explore and help you to understand the concept of Global Youth Work.

Unit 4: Issues for Global Youth Work 

To critically reflect on global youth work and explore some of the key issues and problems with current global youth work practice.

Who is it for?

This new course is an excellent introduction for youth workers and managers, community development workers, staff in international NGOs and anyone leading informal education with young people.

What is the certificate worth?

The Certificate in Global Youth Work is validated by Canterbury Christ Church University and is a 20 credit Level 5 qualification.

How much does it cost?

The course fee is £530. This includes all reading materials and accreditation fees.

How does it work?

The programme is offered UK-wide on a part-time, distance learning basis. The next cohort will study from January to June 2012. Each student is required to complete the mandatory course reading, attend three study days in London and submit two written assignments (2,500 words each).

How do I apply?

You can download the application pack at For further details of this course contact Kate Reed at or phone 020 7540 4913.

I’m sure many of you are descending into the thriving seaside metropolis of Eastbourne this coming weekend for Youthwork The Conference. Hopefully I’ll see you there at some point.

As usual, it promises to be an interesting weekend with a wide variety of speakers and sessions aimed at volunteer and salaried Christian youth workers. I’m currently at the early retreat day where we’ve been exploring the idea of regular retreat, reflection, prayer and contemplation. This was likened to being in a cave, and we’ve been challenged about finding our own ‘cave’ to retreat to. The last hour was spent off on our own practising being alone with God, and it seems people had some great experiences from doing this.

Also, here’s another shameless plug for the after hours session Ali Campbell and I are hosting later tonight in the Gold Room. It’s on “Perspectives on Youthwork: The Triangle of expectation” and we’ll be having a discussion around our role as workers and the wider influences on young people. Pop in and say “Hi”!

If you can’t make it to the conference, then follow along on twitter with the hashtag #ywc2011 and join the conversation.

Children In Need Appearance

17 November 2011 — 1 Comment

Children and staff from our Launch Pad Breakfast Club will be featured on the BBC Children In Need fundraising event alongside TV & Radio presenter Zoe Ball tomorrow night (Friday 18th November).

Me and Zoe Ball (guess which is which)

Launch Pad is a FREE Breakfast Club run by Arun Community Church for up to 30 children each day and has been partially funded by BBC Children In Need since September 2010. The club accepts children on a referral basis for a healthy nutritious breakfast that includes cereals, toast, yoghurts and fresh fruit, plus opportunities for games or craft sessions before cleaning their teeth and joining the Walking Bus to school. Launch Pad was one of only a few projects selected to be filmed for this years’ event and a short segment about the club will be aired at some point during the live show.

To make the feature, a team of researchers, producers and camera crew from the BBC came to visit Launch Pad along with presenter Zoe Ball who spent time chatting with the children over breakfast. Speaking during her visit, Zoe said: “These are simply fantastic children and it’s great that they have somewhere that gives them such a positive start to their day.”

The children also found the filming a positive experience and really enjoyed hosting a celebrity for the morning. In a thank you letter to Zoe Ball, one of the children wrote: “Thank you for coming here yesterday, I had a super time. I miss you already and hope you can come back again.”

I have not yet seen the finished film so have no idea how it’s come out. They interviewed the staff team, children and a few parents about the difference that the club makes to their lives. I got in front of the camera and attempted to answer some of the questions that Zoe asked about the club, so I might make a fool of myself on national TV! Sadly I won’t be around to see it.

Tomorrow is also Youthwork The Conference down in Eastbourne and I’m hosting an After Hours session with Ali Campbell on “Perspectives on Youthwork: The Triangle of expectation” (if you’re around, come support us)! I don’t know what time the film is being shown (although a couple of my team will be in the live studio audience), but if you see my ugly mug pop onto your screen, tweet me and let me know!

Up and Running (finally)

15 November 2011 — 2 Comments

Those of you who have tried to access this website over the past couple of weeks have probably noticed some problems…

Due to a software vulnerability in WordPress, hackers were able to gain access to my website and insert extra code which tried to infect or redirect visitors to the blog. It also meant that the site got blacklisted by Google and would flag up a warning when you tried to visit! Not good. I lost tons of traffic.

Although I became aware of the problem a few weeks back, I’ve struggled to sort it all out without losing any data. Finally, over the weekend I managed to reinstall wordpress and (hopefully) make it far more secure for the future.

I was greatly assisted in this task by the brilliant @ninthart who remotely guided me through some steps, researched problems I was having, and patiently replied to my panicky emails! If you need any Graphic Design, Web Design, Communication & Publishing Services, or even some good old help with WordPress and MySQL databases, then Brad is your man. Seriously.

There may still be a few glitches with the layout of the site so let me know if you find any missing images, links, etc. I am really sorry if visiting this site recently has caused you any problems.

In a follow up to my previous post regarding the latest round of cuts to the youth service in west sussex, I’m posting below a letter I have sent to West Sussex County Council’s ‘Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee’ which is meeting tomorrow (Friday 4th November).

In addition to my role for Arun Community Church, I am on the management committee of a small youth club in Littlehampton. The club has been directly affected by the withdrawal of services by the county, and the latest proposals going to the select committee tomorrow suggest the service pull out of our club and over 20 other locations entirely. While this is not totally surprising, it is immensely frustrating considering the response to their public consultation. Here’s my letter explaining why:

Dear sirs,

We are writing to you regarding Item 6 on the Agenda for Friday’s meeting: Youth Support and Development Service Savings Proposals. We understand that the Committee is being asked to consider and comment on the proposals in the report by the Director of Children’s Services, to inform the Cabinet Member’s decision-making. We feel obliged to register our concern.

The Keystone Centre in Wick, Littlehampton (formerly Littlehampton Boys Club), has been providing a variety of activities for young people since 1976 and has the aim of helping and educating young people through their leisure-time activities. We have traditionally had a strong partnership with the Youth Service (now YSDS), however staff hours were withdrawn from the centre as part of the 2010 review of services (implemented in April 2011), and the club has found itself struggling to open its doors to young people without this support. Currently YSDS run one session a week from the centre.

We have read with great interest the Youth Support and Development Service Savings Proposals and are extremely concerned about the disconnect between the information in the report, specifically the responses from the public consultation, and the resulting proposals going forward.

In the response summary to the recent public consultation (Item 3 on the proposals report), there was strong support for more preventative work with young people and the continuation of open access clubs. Item 3.3 states:

“All respondents agree that it is important for the YSDS to deliver early intervention, prevention, targeted and specialist services. A slightly higher percentage of respondents felt that prevention services were extremely important. It would appear therefore that prevention services may be a slightly higher priority for respondents.”

Additionally, item 3.5 shows how important open access clubs are and how much value respondents place on them:

“To prevent young people from offending there was a very strong call for open access provision for all young people and access to positive activities.”

Furthermore, when the consultation asked about use of buildings for youth activities:

“There was a majority disagreement with the proposal to keep dedicated youth centres only in high need communities (40% agree, 54% disagree), with a strong preference (85%) for the importance of having dedicated youth centres in all areas of the county.”

58% also disagreed with the proposal to pull out of all centres.

Yet despite all this evidence for ensuring open access provision in youth centres and a clear need for preventative work, astoundingly the proposal in Appendix 5 is to withdraw resources completely from even more youth centres including The Keystone Centre.

In item 4.2 it is proposed that the savings are to be made “primarily by a further reduction in the YSDS staffing in open access youth provision that currently provides early intervention and prevention work in areas of need” – precisely the services that respondents were keen to keep. And in a clear case of irony, Appendix 5 (page 4) shows the Ham ward in Littlehampton as the highest for child poverty in the county, in the 10% of most deprived wards in England (1st/2nd in WS) with 11% of the cohort in youth offending – while simultaneously proposing to withdraw from two centres serving that community.

YSDS claim to ensure a number of opportunities for young people, in particular for the most vulnerable or targeted groups (Item 1.3), yet the proposals made in this report clearly do not endorse that statement.

We fully appreciate that savings must be made and services will be withdrawn. We also accept that The Keystone Centre will not be immune to these changes. However, the deep cuts and withdrawal of support from the majority of youth clubs and centres in spite of overwhelming public opinion for open access and preventative work is hugely disturbing and will have an enormously negative impact on young people across the county for decades to come.

We hope that you are able to review the proposals carefully and find a way forward that actually takes into account the needs of the majority of young people in West Sussex, not just the few.

Yours Sincerely,

I want to be clear that I’m not criticising the workers and managers in the service here. As Hilary explains, it’s a tough time for everyone in the service and they’re trying hard to cope with the changes and still provide services for young people. However, I do feel that’s it’s extremely important to speak out on this subject and the impact it is having on other centres.

What about you? What’s happening in your area and how does it affect your work?

Youth Work Week ’11

31 October 2011 — Leave a comment

Today marks the start of National Youth Work Week 2011. This years theme is: “Youth Work – Bringing Communities Together”.

National Youth Work Week has been coordinated by the National Youth Agency since 1993, providing an opportunity for youth organisations, youth workers and young people engaged in youth work to celebrate the achievements and impact of youth work throughout the UK.

A lot of effort has already gone into the week, with numerous youth projects hosting special events and celebrations. There is even a Youth Worker Award (although the deadlines for nominations was 14th October). If you want to get involved or find out more, you can visit the Youth Work Week page on the National Youth Agency Website. There are various materials available for download including ideas for things to do. You can also join in on twitter using the hashtag #YWW11, and Facebook.

Go get involved and promote youth work!

Eloise Joy

21 October 2011 — 4 Comments


Here she is, the tiny addition to the Jolly family! So far, she is doing great: eating and sleeping well, and getting lots of cuddles from her dad. Big sister Hope is also very pleased.


Thanks for all the messages we’ve received so far. We really appreciate them.

Unashamed Youth Ministry

18 October 2011 — 8 Comments

Why Christian youth work must become more open about its purpose by reflecting on its practice and not being afraid of its Christian voice.

Luke already had a broken collarbone when he came on the residential…

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