Category Archives: Reflection

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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Just seen a job advertised where an Enhanced CRB check is a requirement, but the employer is asking potential employees to pay the £44 cost of the check. All of the jobs I have applied for the employers have always paid the checks. Not sure what I think about this, seems wrong somehow. If uniform is a requirement then my understanding is that the employer is responsible for paying, but employees can be asked to pay for CRB. Thoughts?

Who should pay for CRB checks, Employees or Employers?

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Different worlds

This year there are a few ideas that I want to spend time thinking about and reflecting on. One of these relates to the relationship between Christian and secular youth work – specifically how Christian youth work can be enhanced though a better understanding of both approaches to youth work.

‘Secular Youth Work’ as a descriptor is not entirely satisfactory, but is the best I can think of to describe youth work carried out by statutory or voluntary sector bodies, without a Christian aims or ethos. In reality I am mostly thinking of youth work that was part of, the now widely disbanded, Youth Service [or greatly influenced by it]. Likewise by Christian Youth work, I am broadly referring to youth work carried out by organisations with Christian aims or ethos, and in reality I am probably thinking of mostly work carried out directly by Churches.

My background in youth work has included work within both fields. Two years ago, after mixed experiences in the Christian field I took a job with a secular organisation. This organisation folded during 2011, and I decided it was time to attempt to work in the Christian sector again. Some of my initial interactions with the Christian sector highlighted the stark differences between the two fields, who on the face of it appear to be carrying out similar work but in reality are speaking very different languages.

The issue was most clearly highlighted through a pair of conversations I was part of, one with youth workers from the secular field and one with mostly volunteers from the Christian field. The first group had conversations that showed love, compassion and an understanding of young people informed by many years of experience interacting with them. But there was something in the conversation that was lacking – a deeper purpose and understanding that comes from the love of Christ. The second conversation was clearly founded in the participants desire to show young people they needed Jesus, but there was a lack of understanding of how to engage with young people, and the difference in the language used to talk about young people and approaches to work with them was stark. One group did not know what the young people needed, the other did but had no idea how to help them find it.

Clearly this is not going to be the case with every organisation, there are Christian organisations that can and do engage with young people very successfully, and organisation that have taken from the secular field things which work for them and adapted them for their Christian aims. But there is something that, at least some of the Christian field, can learn from the secular field and I am really keen this year to see how my experience of both sectors can help develop and enhance the Christian youth work field.

The gaps left in society through recent funding cuts make this more pressing and timely. There is an opportunity for the local church to make a significant impact, stepping up to the mark and holistically supporting their local communities. But I believe this can be so much more effective if the church is willing to learn from good practice, and speak the language of the secular partners.

This is very much to be continued…

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Pilot Light

Pilot LightDuring a recent church service, someone mentioned the phrase ‘Pilot Light‘ in a prayer for a child who had been Christened that morning. I do not remember in what context they meant it, or what was meant by it. But the phrase triggered a memory of my grandparents checking the light pilot light that burnt constantly in their boiler, or maybe it was their cooker – it is a memory from a long time ago. Wikipedia describes a pilot light as ‘a small gas flame, usually natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas, which is kept alight in order to serve as an ignition source for a more powerful gas burner’.

Reflecting on the memory it struck me that the image of a pilot light serves as a metaphor for Christening or Dedication. In that in these ordinances the parents are asking God to light the pilot light of faith in the child, a small flame that as the child grows can ignite the individuals own powerful faith. I remember watching my Grandparents regularly checking that the pilot light was still on, I guess as a small child this must have fascinated me and I remember trying to look for myself to see if it was alight but not really knowing what they were looking for. But I also remember the makeshift shields they used to protect it from drafts that would otherwise blow it out. In the same way my grandparents used a piece of cereal box, parents need to protect this small flame of faith to stop it being blown out, continually feeding the pilot to keep it alight and providing the fuel and opportunity for it to ignite.

This also helps to illuminate the mistake made by so many who have children Christened for the wrong reasons. In that the pilot light is not the main flame, it is never enough to heat the boiler or heat an oven and if not taken care of can be easily blown out. In the same way that infant baptism or Christening should not be mistaken for faith and salvation. It is just the lighting of the pilot light.

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This weekend I went up to Manchester for Youth Work Summit 2011, in summary it was amazing. To read a bit more about the summit, and what it was about read this post , which just about sums it all up nicely [although I didn’t attend the retreat day]. The liturgy / poem that is reproduced there, and spoken collectively encapsulates so much of what it means to be a Christian youth worker.

I have been reflecting on what I think made the summit work, and I think there are three things that made it such a successful day.

  1. The passion, commitment and enthusiasm of the summit leadership team, and the speakers was evident throughout the day [and at the YWSFunHouse].
  2. It was also evident that the organisers have an excellent cultural awareness of those attending the summit. Presumably because they too are youth workers. This led to them including numerous elements that were so appropriate, they made attendees feel so at home and a part of all that was going on, making the day so enjoyable. this was shown most evidently through the mix of humour and seriousness that flowed throughout the day.
  3. Attention to detail. Informed by the cultural awareness, there was such attention to detail at so many levels its impossible to describe.

But most of all God was clearly at work and speaking through what was said and going on.

There was so much to take in through out the day that it is hard to process it all, so I eagerly await videos of the various talks being uploaded so that I can go through each one once again and full absorb all of the excellent teaching. [And will no doubt blog about those, more for my benefit than for anyone else.]

If you are a youth worker and did not go, then make sure you keep 19th May 2012 clear for the 2012 Youth Work Summit. As a sample this is how YWS11 started…

And this is how the day ended…

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