Category Archives: Youth Work

I think I’m in Manchester for #YWS14

…but I feel disconnected.
At previous youth work summits I have had weeks of build up making plans, discussing things via twitter etc.

This year is different. [For reasons I am yet to blog about] I have been too busy to stop or to prepare myself. Just sitting here reading the programme for the first time it is dawning on me how much I have been rushing from one thing to another without space to breathe. I’m really hoping, actually please pray, that I am able to switch off from everything else and fully engage in the moment. And get much needed refreshment and inspiration throughout the day.

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Youth Residential? What’s The Worst That Can Happen?


It started on the journey to the residential centre. A joke between leaders (referencing the Top Gear OAP car) almost resulted in a severe beating by a group that were quite possibly Paralympic rugby players. We talked our way out of a pasting, but not a good start to the trip. However also not the worst that could happen.

On arriving at the residential centre, everything initially seemed to be going well, until the our group started to strip the building of anything they deemed of value, pipe work, locks, taps, roof lead etc, before disappearing into the woods in all directions with their loot. Not all of the young people left however. One stayed behind and started a Hot Fuzz style armed battled between himself (armed with a shotgun) and two or three of the remaining leaders (armed with a blunderbuss). It did not end well.

Ok, clearly this was a dream. A bad dream. It would appear that I was getting more anxious than I realised about the upcoming residential. It will all be ok, I’m sure. However if you are planning a Youth Residential or trip to Soul Survivor and someone ways “What’s the worst that can happen?” feel free to point them here and I dare you to work some of this into your Risk Assessment. In fact if you do get any reference to this in your risk assessment I want to see a copy of that document.

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Imaginative Partnerships the Trick to Unlocking Funding

It was reported in our local press (or download pdf if article expires) that a partnership between Suffolk Mind and Churchs’ Conservation Trust has secured £3.6m of funding to restore and re-purpose St Mary at Quay churchas a ‘community wellbeing centre’.

St Mary at Quay

St Mary at Quay, Ipswich

This is an excellent case study on how imaginative partnerships can provide access to funding that might otherwise have been unavailable. I would suspect that securing funding for a basic restoration would be very difficult, if not impossible. Without a clear purpose for the restored building there would surely be little to distinguish this church from the many other redundant churches that could also benefit from restoration. Likewise sourcing funding for a new building, or conversion, for Suffolk Mind’s use would be similarly difficult and take a great amount of work and fund-raising. But combined they have been able to secure funding.

It would appear that Suffolk Mind has gained much more from this arrangement – in that through this imaginative partnership they have been able to access funding intended for “sustain[ing] and transform[ing] our heritage” and using it for what is arguably predominately a mental health project. Granted much of the actual capital will be spent on the fabric of the building and it is another step in the process of restoring the whole waterfront area, but the long-term benefit gained from this funding will in reality predominately be found in mental health & well-being.

Chasing funding can be a struggle for many youth workers and youth project, especially in the present financial climate. This case study, although from a different sector, is a great reminder of the benefit of using imaginative partnerships to unlocking funding which would otherwise be unavailable to us. This is not about partnering with similar organisations to increase the size or efficiency of our funding applications. But bringing together very different organisations to devise unusual projects of mutual benefit that will stand out and appeal to potential funders. Examples for youth sector could include a similar partnership of a historic building charity with youth project that needs a venue, a mobile youth project with a historic vehicle collectors, employment or skills training organisations with an old building in need of restoration. The opportunities for partnership are as limited as our imagination and our ability to network & build professional relationships.

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Developmental Priorities of Adolescents // YWS12 Early Day

At the YWS Early day Marko shared how the priorities of adolescents have changed over time. He suggested that teenagers have three developmental priorities Identity, Autonomy and Affinity. Explaining that in the later 20th century teenagers’ primary priority was in gaining Autonomy, and the other priorities were then understood and worked out in the context of Autonomy. Where as there has now been a shift towards Affinity [understanding where do I belong] being a priority with the other elements being set in the context of to what to I belong

A key point being that many of the models of Church youth ministry that we use are based on the model of helping young people develop autonomy by working with them seperately from the body of the church. Where now we should be focusing on helping them to see where they belong. However it has now struck me that two of the youth work values that we are taught to uphold as sacred in youth work, are also aimed at autonomy. Voluntary Participation and Empowerment, as valuable as they are, should perhaps be joined by a value to Enable Belonging. In the context of my own community based youth work, where the primary aim is not discipleship, I can now see this working our in that the young people are developing a sense of belonging to the project. This also helps me to understand why my attempts to empower them in their community have been met somewhat with less enthusiasm than I envisaged.


But what does this say about longevity and commitment to youth work. I am convinced that short term community youth work can be more damaging than nothing at all – a funding requirement in a previous project meant that I was never able to work with young people for more than 8 weeks. Given the what I have written above, young people would in this situation be looking to us to see if we offered a place where they could belong… just as we stopped. I did not need today’s teaching to show me this was a bad model to work with. However the alternative does then cause us a danger to slip towards the endless pressure put upon youth workers in supposed relational youth work – where there is never enough time to spend the time with every young person that deserves it

There is therefore a need to recognise the importance of creating a sense of belonging, brought through longevity in youth work, without that belonging being focused on us as individual workers, but belonging to God’s family through Christ. How we practically do this? I’m not quite sure…

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Youth Work(ing) Hours (Poll)

A conversation on twitter earlier sparked off a thought about youth workers and the time we put into our work. This is aimed at employed Youth Workers, Youth Ministers, Youth Pastors, Youthworkers, Youth Work Students on Placement or Volunteers working as if paid (eg gap year volunteer). If you fit into one of the above categories, or anything similar, then please answer this quick question about the time you put into your youth work.

I know this kind of question has been asked before, so thanks for taking part (I hope you did). I also have a few further questions that I’d be interested to know the answers to, but I’ll save those until I have a few responses to this question.

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