Christian Youth Work?

On Friday I spent the morning at a meeting of Christian Youth Workers who are discussing setting up a network. To help us think about what the network should be and how we could describe it Neil Pratt from ICC led us through a discussion on ‘what is Christian Youth Work?’.

I’ve always been a little skeptical of the term. I agree that there are youth workers who are Christian but I see little that defines youth work as Christian beyond the motivation of the worker.

We ended up in a discussion about motivation, evangelism v education. For me, youth evangelism is not the same as youth work. Youth work is educational and not dependent on young people coming to faith.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Christian Youth Work?”

  1. I’d agree on the distinction you make and I think Christian ‘youth work’ can be dishonest if it sets itself up as one thing and attempts the other. There are also the issues of integrity and manipulation.
    At my (now ex-) youth club we never hid being Christian and doing a ‘God slot’. It was part and parcel of what our youth club was about. It went through a phase where it seemed more like a social club and when we did try to do anything ‘Christian’ it was constantly interrupted and disrupted. We eventually said that the God slot was an integral part of the club and if anyone didn’t want to participate, then perhaps we weren’t the right youth club for them. Numbers dropped and then picked up hugely as the remainder felt happier inviting friends along.
    The problems arise when education steps over the line into the “well, now you know, make a decision!” area. Clarity, both for what is expected of leaders and what the young people can expect, is the key. Open and honest presentation of what you’re about. Anything else, as I say, has a whiff of dishonesty and will disillusion those involved (youth and leaders).

  2. Some thoughts

    Is it helpful to make the distinction between youth work and youth ministry as opposed to youth work and Christian youth work? Would it also be useful to consider the difference between outreach street work and detached street work? (outreach seeks to draw young people into something, detached work seeks to engage wherever.

    The funky prof maintains that youth work is an inherently spiritual process.

    Motivation (I am a Christian therefore i will work with people, kinda like Jesus did) is key but has to be balanced against institutional targets (expected outcomes, evaluation criteria and funding rules). Which makes something Christian. Can they be subverted on either side of the process.

    There is youth work. then their is work done with young people on behalf of various agencies or bodies. ( Health board, church) which use youth work methodology and informal methods to do their thing. I don’t think i could decide if one was more valid than the other.

    Should we call all youth work carried out be the Council “Political youth work”, should we call all youth work funded by the police “community safety, anti drugs and knifes and any other lawlessness youth work” or perhaps CSADAKAAOLYW for short.

    The reality of the changes in evaluation, (from the Scottish gov.), will affect youth work practice and make youth work’s motivation and agenda’s clear. some of this will be helpful some less so.

    Anyway i guess the key reflection on this is in different contexts, times, and areas of need and provision, the term Christian youth work will represent a myriad of happenings and events. How you sum up that truth into a defining statement I am not sure.

    on a side issue. I think the Christian definition can be unhelpful. what makes something Christian? In iTunes I have erased the Christian genre. thats just unhelpful categorisation.

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