Does youth work work?

The other day my colleague emailed to say that he was working with a church who were considering employing a youth worker but they had asked a question that had stumped him.

‘Will employing a youth worker make a difference?’

It stumped him because they were asking for hard proof.  Not a series of anecdotes.  Not some platitudes or fob offs.  They really wanted to know.

So, that’s my question.  Does employing a youth worker make a difference?  How do you know?  Who says?

I’ll post some thoughts soon but I’d like to hear your stories, evaluation methods and research.

5 thoughts on “Does youth work work?”

  1. I suspect, to paraphrase Deep Thought, that you really need to know what the question means before you can understand the answer.Otherwise why not simply answer “yes” and let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no”, “no”.

  2. Of course the question is important Peter.  Their question is ‘If we spend money employing a youth worker will it make a difference?’.  We might want to clarify that and ask ‘What difference is it you want to make?’ but I think the premis is fair.  Does employing a youth worker make a difference?  Or, what difference will employing a youth worker make to us?

    Sure the question will have different answers in different contexts but I’m more concerned that no one is asking the question, or attempting to find out what difference having a youth worker makes.

  3. I think you are right to question this. And I think the question should be more of What difference do you want it to make? Would they envisage the youth worker building a full programme of activities for young people or would they envisage him sat in Starbucks having coffee and building relationships? What will be their measure of success – numbers or changed lives?
    It really is a toughy – anecdotaly (sp?) I would say so much depends on the youth worker. My two lovely teenagers have had varying degrees of contact with the church and youth workers and to them it was always the relationships that mattered not the activities (which they rebelled against completely). The personal contact touched them in ways that ‘programming’ just couldnt.But then activities do bring you into contact with young people….then relationships can be built…..This is def a toughy…….

  4. Yes. It might depend on the person, but as a young person who’s had two youth workers I can only say from my personal experience YES YES YES. I don’t have time (only 2 mins left on connection) to list why. I don’t think I could give you a list of definite reasons anyway… our youth workers completely changed the lives of me and my friends in our youth groups and the community as a whole for the better times a million. Just the fact that you were considered important enough to have someone committed only to you makes the world of difference.

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