Tag: Youth work

Young people, spirituality and the online

It all started with radio4’s programme about yoga. As the guy wittered on about the problem of yoga being both a spiritual discipline and a franchised business. How can you franchise spirituality? Was his question, I thought the church of Scotland (or any denomination) have effectively done it for years so what’s the problem?

As I listened I started to wonder why young people haven’t caught onto yoga as a spiritual discipline. Why when you hit 20’s and beyond does yoga start to become something accessible and open to you. What are the barriers to this experience. Why do young people not respond to it? Are young people spiritual in a specifically adolescent way? Is it cultural norms rather than spiritual norms which close the door?

As I thought about this I wondered about young people.
I believe young people, like every person is inherently spiritual. Has a curiosity about spiritual things and develops ways of being/ acting/ understandings which reflect this.
Yet one main stream spiritual activity, which has dual benefits, and seeming agnostic view of religion, seems not to hit the spot.

What does hit the spot. What is the language of this spot and where does it exist/ can it accessed. My suspicion is that it is a foreign country, they do things differently there,(as someone once remarked.) I wonder what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it feels like?

Could it be online.
I wonder.

We’re all together again we’re here, we’re here.


During the training course it became clear to me that youthworkers are broadly similar in many respects.

the way YW’s try and deal with situations.
the areas YW’s choose to work in.
the young people YW’s work with.
the things that frustrate YW’s.

this really hit home in one exercise we did .
the first part created a continuum between the words ‘flight’ and ‘fight’
we were asked, ‘in relation to conflict, what is your initial response’
Accepting the flaws that the false dichotomy raises, I took part.

I stood close to the ‘flight’. my initial reaction is to avoid conflict, not to rush headline into or cause it knowingly, (there are exceptions…). I was quite far away from everyone. and quite noticeably not part of a group near the flight side, there was quite a group near the fight category though.

The second part of the exercise was similar but instead of a continuum the trainers set up a large triangle with the words ‘out and shout’ , ‘silent and hidden’ & ‘talk and sort’ at each point. “these are the tree responses to conflict. Thinking about your childhood what were you brought up with.”

This statement annoyed me. First the way the language is used in the three point statements is flaws the entire process and creates a ‘correct answer bias’. Secondly I am not sure that these are the main three ways to deal with conflict. But as I had decided not to overthink things, i tried to get over that. It was the subsequent questions of ‘ What approach do you use’ which was significant.

As there was a sudden rush to the ‘talk & sort’ sign. I didn’t rush. I went kind 50% on the line between ‘talk & sort’ and ‘hidden & silent’. Again I was on my own, nearest to the ‘hidden & silent’ sign and quite clearly out of the crowd.

The reality for me is that sometimes I need to be quiet and deal with things. Youthwork is build on communication and working together. Creating space for reflection, learning, growth and understanding within the relationship. To be me within that relationship I need to be me. ‘Talking and sort’ isn’t me.

So where does that lead me. It does confirm my suspicions that I am not the A-typical youthworker, but the conclusions to my thoughts aren’t fully formed, but I am theorising. I have some ideas but don’t quite know how they form together yet into a coherant thing.

As soon as I know…

Working with challenging behaviour…Moi?

Picture of behaviour I find Challenging

“there is no such thing as challenging behaviour, just actions, and how you respond to them.”

last week I ended up in Ayr for two days of training run by LEAP, organised by YouthLink Scotland and paid for by the Scottish Government.

The LEAP philosophy revolves around provoking personal reflection and change coming from yourself.so every discussion is very focused on the participant, their feelings, their reactions, their thoughts and their processes. as all you have the power to change is yourself. I did think about preforming the entire second day only speaking about myself in the Third person but decided that maybe not taking the process seriously!

some reflections

    It was good to be able to take time and think about the work I do.
    The course was entertaining with a good mix of theory and practical stuff to do.
    My aims at the beginning of the course was to take time to think/reflect and to be challenged. I think i achieved this (This seemed to set me apart from everyone else who seemed to be asking for new techniques and solutions to problems.)
    It was good to meet with different people who were prepared to work to be honest and open with each other.
    It was good to be geographically somewhere new.
    I quite enjoyed the role play stuff.

Several things occurred to me outwith these direct reflections. one thing was that i have been to training with a different organisation who work with LEAP, and their training course was an almost complete ‘lift’ from what LEAP did and do. this got me thinking about how fair a critique of youthwork being a profession which is happy with ‘simulacre’ was.   This copying is prevalent in some of the youthwork I hear about and see. Perhaps I am being judgemental because I am comfortable thinking about things,  writing my own material for everything, being creative with a topic, and trying to engage with people in new ways. not every worker can do this comfortably. ‘Simulacre’ seems to be growing though and everyone can be subject to it. I should point out I am unsure if this is the fault of the worker, the manger or the employing agency. (By ‘simulacre’ i mean copying without giving credit, or knowing who credit should go to.)

Youthworkers are remarkably similiar. (why?)

the way i choose to work with young people seems to be affirmed by being on this course. (I think…)

I need to think more….(hmmm. more later possibly?)

anyway all in all a good two days. nice people, good time to think, good to paddle in the sea,

Good to be

A book I have Read -A Tale of Two Youth Workers: A Youth Ministry Fable


A Tale of Two Youth Workers: A Youth Ministry Fable – by Eric Venables

Due to the combination of having a birthday, and having an amazon wishlist, I managed to get some books i was looking forward to reading. SO I got this one and read it one evening!

This book is a fable around the clash of youth ministry ideologies. One Charactor Wes has just moved to a mega church style church and taking one approach with a large youth group. And Britt an older youth worker who has a much smaller group. and their conversations as they discuss youth ministry and how it is done.

some obersvations

It was a good book. The story is readable. It is short enough to read in one sitting, (It takes about 2hours to read this book, while watching TV.) and I know what the book was trying to get me to realise at the end.
It helped to reinforce some of the things i believe and how i try to work.

Two small things bugged me about the book.
firstly the story struggles to stop feeling like an illustration for the points the author was trying make. It felt like a youthworkers story with the points signposted so everyone knows what you are meant to know by the end.
secondly chapter end with statements like this.
“What neither of them knew is how significant both Melanie and Britt would become in their lives – but not in the way they imagined.”
Stop it. It’s just bad to do that. I think the term bad comes to mind.

anyway I don’t read much fiction, but I did enjoy this, despite my frustrations. It was a fun easy read, which made me laugh at points, feel better about the work i do and glad about the fact i had read it again. Interestingly (for me) it used some of the language I had been using to describe my way of working over te last 5 years almost term for term.

so if you can read it, it is a decent read if you are interest in youth ministry.

The influence of religious beliefs on parenting, from the perspectives of both adolescents and and parents

Joseph Rowntree Foundation has a new piece of research issued today.
It is a study on “Religion, beliefs and parenting practices. The influence of religious beliefs on parenting, from the perspectives of both adolescents and and parents.

I found this great accurate and question provoking quote in the findings

Most young people and parents recognised that life in the faith community, particularly its worship but even age-related education groups, often had little appeal to young people. Sometimes quite young children could be reluctant to take part in such activities which they found boring, irrelevant or patronising. Faith communities themselves lose out on the energy and enthusiasm characteristic of the involvement of young people and faith leaders therefore need to learn how to be more inclusive of their participation. Parents wanted more support from their faith communities for the task of parenting adolescents. There is a need to support authoritative parents, building on what is already being done, according to the literature on parenting adolescents. This needs to be completed with the full participation of young people who demonstrate a willingness and understanding of these issues in relation to their lives. It should include a more balanced understanding of the role of faith-related education and faith schools from the perspective of young people and parental choice.

From the paerspective of a worker for a religious body the questions which struck me were-
Are our worship services, (and age specific activities), boring, irrelevant or patronising?
Does the church individually and corporately miss out on the vibrancy and energy young people can bring to it?
How much of youth work is about supporting parents in relation to supporting young people? (should it be about supporting parents?)

the document is an interesting read and mostly quotes from participants which includes, catholic, CofE/other christian, Muslim, no religion and Hindu participants.

lots of stuff to chat about within it
download it ::[[click here]]::

Build the Starship Enterprise from useless office supplies

one of the cool things about doing youthwork is that you are able to go to sites like indestructables. Basically the site teaches you how to consturct things out of things you may have lying aound your house (using cartoons format instruction sheets in the early days.) One of my favourite one was the marsh mallow blow pipes, Which we build one year at carberry out of Plastic water pipes and had a darts contest with. it was class.

anyway I am currently very much appreciation the goodness of the Build the starship enterprise from useless office suppies instructable. i have always thought I had an eye for design and construction!

check it out here

Evaluating Youthwork


In the recent few week i have been thinking alot about evaluation.
– A student in the local area has been asking to evaluate the Third Sunday event
Stewart Cutler has been asking does Youthwork Work?
– I have been thinking about what makes a great concert. (and by default a great interaction/youthwork engagement.)

Youth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society through non-formal educational activities that combine enjoyment, challenge, learning and achievement. Youth work provides for young people’s well being and development in all its various forms – intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual.
Youth workers work primarily with young people aged between 13 and 19. Their work seeks to promote young people’s personal and social development and enable them to have a voice, influence and place in their communities and society as a whole. (http://www.nya.org.uk/information/108501/whatisyouthwork/)

Can I prove various things within that statement.  yes.
Should I prove the things within that statement. no

what does that prove? Does it prove I am a good worker? Does it prove i am effective? if so effective in what?
How can you prove that “young people learn about themselves, others and society” without introducing a test for the young people. It would need to assess them individually on a situation which relates to the subject of which they had the interaction with the youth worker about. Kind of similar in nature to the tests at the end of Dog Borstal. (although perhaps the rosette is slightly to far to copy.)

So that leaves us in a quandary. How can I justify my position to my boss, my boss’s boss and ultimately to those who pay my (decent) wages. How can I as a worker, be clear in what I do having worth and importance.

We have to justify our work within the basis of our our current economic system. That system is based upon the production of widgets. if you work hard i will see the widgets you have produced, therefore I will know you have worked hard. (exchange widget for any thingy you wish) The history of youthwork is that people have judged youthwork in that widget counting way.

The current practice is to measure outputs – how many clubs are you doing. What different opportunities are available for young people to avail themselves of. This system speaks of dealing with youth work by not dealing with the work itself, more where and when the work could take place.
The Scottish Government is pushing youthwork to measuring outcomes, as a worker you set an outocme for the session and using Outcome Focussed Planning and Practice you then assess if you met your own outcomes or not. I think that this is closer to the way of measuring youthwork, but still has problems.

How can you measure the outcome of a session of alcohol awareness? Immediately after the session? Immediately after the first time they are offered a drink?
I had a friend who did a session on drinking with a group of girls, talking about some of the effects of alcohol on the body. The response was not what was expected or wanted. The response the next week in discussion was that the group had still went out and consumed lots of alcohol, but they had wore jackets as in the session they had learned that alcohol lowers the body temperature.
Which box does that tick if we are assessing outcomes. They did learn about drinking, they did modify their behavior in relation to drinking practice, they drunk the same amount as they were planning to before the session. Is that successful or not? The problem I guess is that there is no easy way to do it.

If accepting this conception of youthwork. then traditional methods of measuring the process cannot be appropriate. Outcome based practice has got closer but yet i do not feel is actually the answer.

I have a suggestion but until then. the question of “How do you measure something which is unmeasurable” remains.

Should youth workers slap?


Quite apt cartoon from Dave Walker at Cartoon Church

A DAD says his life has been ‘wrecked’ after he was locked up and got a criminal record for slapping his unruly daughter.

Community worker Jim McCullough was arrested and cautioned when 13-year old Jess phoned police because he hit her for ‘terrorising’ a neighbour.

Now he has quit the football coaching and community centre work he has done for more than 15 years, because the caution could stop him working with vulnerable children.

Mr McCullough, 44, says he has never hit his daughter before but felt it was the only way to get her to understand what she had done after she terrorised a neighbour by banging on her window at midnight.

this is a sad story but, sorry he kinda deserves it.

If the only way you can to communicate with a 13 year old is to physically hit them. then perhaps working with young people isn’t for you.

Our current societal view is that hitting people to communicate is wrong. and perhaps things were better when we had the Belt in school, Public Floggings and Hanging. But the Uk parliament on behalf of the people of the UK decided that was not that great an idea and not what society should do. I wonder if the slap got the message through to the girl, or if it was the fact of her dads criminal record and subsequent job loss which brought her actions home to her?

I believe that you may have assaulted people in the past or done a bunch of stuff which was “nasty” and that you can change. I believe in change. I do wonder though, if you have used a behaviour in the past how likely it is to reoccur. I have been responsible for people with a past and as a someone responsible you do pay more attention to potential risk situations.

Perhaps though I am wrong.
Perhaps I would be a better youth worker if i slapped the young people i work with.

Perhaps not

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