Are our employment practices driving youth workers away? (Research writeup)

This is a great piece of research, conducted and summarised for us here by Jonny Price, a quality and thoughtful youthworker from York.

 

I am deeply passionate about youth ministry. I believe that through Christian youth ministry, we can see lives transformed, chains broken, and bring people to fulfil what they were created to be through the redeeming love of Jesus.

To do this, I believe that relationships are key. The relationships we build during our teenage years can shape the beliefs and values that we hold for the rest of our lives. Youth and children’s workers are essential in leading ministries which allow relationships to flourish.

These relationships, however, take time to build. If our approach to the employment of youth workers doesn’t support this, then the relationships won’t get built, and the lasting impact with be negligible.

The Research

While studying theology, I spent some time researching the employment practices of Youth and Children’s workers by churches. I did this to discover if we are, in fact, negatively affecting the long-term relationships needed for healthy young people.

I have been working in youth ministry for a while and during that time I have seen several skilled and talented youth and children’s workers walk away from ministry, and some the church altogether, because of the way they were treated while employed by churches.

I got in touch with 17 Anglican Diocese (the ones who replied to me), the Methodist Connexional Offices, and Baptist’s Together. I had an online questionnaire, which gathered nearly 100 responses, and I interviewed 12 people who were either youth and/or children’s workers, had been youth and/or children’s workers, or who had managed youth and/or children’s workers.

There were many interesting things that came up in the research. With all the usual disclaimers about sample size, researcher bias etc, here are the six things that stood out most to me that we should all be aware of.

The Results

1.    Too much/not enough freedom

This is a two sided coin, and boils down to the way we are managed. Many of us will be placed under the supervision of the minister of the church/es we work for, and this can be an awful arrangement. For one thing, many ministers have no formal training or experience of supervising staff, which often means they do one of two things:

  1. They have no idea what they or we should be doing, and so go completely hands off.

    This can mean that the worker has no clear idea what their role entails, particularly if this is their first experience of employment, and so can drift from one thing to another with no plan. This can lead to disillusionment, purposelessness, and very little to do. Add to this that churches will pay for a worker out of their giving, it can lead to serious guilt.
  2. The minister goes to their only experience of supervision: training.

    I spoke to several youth workers who had been managed in the same way a trainee minister would, despite being experienced workers. This led to overly specific aims and goals, micro-management, and a sense of being patronised with no creative freedom to approach ministry in their own way.

2. Working to different goals

Generally, church ministers work to a bounded-set model, where membership is based on certain pre-set commitments. For example, church ministers would see attendance on Sunday as a sign of membership. Youth workers, however, often to work to a centred-set model, where membership is defined more by closeness to the centre (Jesus), than attendance at certain events. This can mean that there will be a communication breakdown between church ministers and youth workers, which will inevitably lead to frustration as they will be pulling in different directions.

3. The move to “proper” ministry

Many youth workers go on to make very good church leaders, but that doesn’t mean we all want to do it! There is an assumption, which I am sure we have all experienced, that we will move on to church leadership.

This came out in my interviews with diocese youth advisors, and some ex-youth workers (though interestingly, not children’s workers). Even in church literature about lay ministry, youth or children’s ministry is rarely mentioned. All of this serves to undermine youth and children’s work as valid ministries, and leads to workers in these areas feeling undervalued.

4. Lack of spiritual support

Church ministers, particularly in established denominations, have access to support from wider bodies, as well as having things like sabbaticals and retreats built into their working agreements. These are rarely, if ever, thought about for youth or children’s workers. One interviewee mentioned that they had asked if, as they were entering their seventh year in post, they would be entitled to a sabbatical, as clergy are. They were laughed at.

If we are to avoid burnout, we have to build spiritual care into our employment practice in the same way we do for church leaders

5. The longer we are in post, the longer we are likely to stay

As part of the research I looked at the amount of time people stayed in posts, the number of posts held, and their attitude changes over time. This was fascinating.

There was a definite trend that showed the longer a person stayed in ministry, the more problems they saw with the approach of churches to it, but the longer they saw themselves staying in it, and the fewer roles they averaged. Of those who had been in this ministry 7-10 years, just under half had done this in just 1 role. The average time in any one role was 2 years.

I believe this points to parts of the workforce with a strong vocational calling to this specific work, who will continue in it despite the problems they see, because they see the value of this work.

6. Continued professional development, or the lack of it.

Across all the research there was a repeating theme that Churches are unwilling to spend either the time or money on proper training for youth and children’s workers.

In some ways this is understandable if short sighted. If youth workers are only going to stick around for a couple of years, then why train them? The simple answer: if you train them, they may well stay around longer! They will feel empowered in their ministry, more capable and confident in what they are doing, and will know how to take more care of themselves and their young people.

In short, we will develop a workforce that is more motivated, more capable, and with greater longevity.

Conclusions

Let’s really work this problem together! There is a clear correlation between poor youth and children’s workers management and poor youth and children’s work. Our employment practices (or lack thereof) are driving quality people away who might otherwise have been totally committed to the long haul.

  1. Youth and children’s workers need to be treated as independent workers, not trainees. They need clear goals and accountability, with the freedom to creatively pursue the best in their work.
  2. There needs to be clarifying conversations between minister and youth/children’s worker about what constitutes success and what models they are working to together.
  3. Youth and children’s workers are genuine lay ministers and need to be referred to, celebrated and supported as such.
  4. Further to this, youth and children’s workers need the same levels of spiritual support built into their contracts including training, sabbaticals, and retreats.
  5. Youth and children’s workers need to be encouraged and supported to stick to single posts, rather than moving around every two years.
  6. Proper training and professional development is essential for youth and children’s workers. This should be generously budgeted for and expected.

 

Jonny Price is the Youth and Children’s Ministry Leader for a Clifton Parish Churches in the North of beautiful York, where he lives with his wife, Carly, and son, Ethan.

When time allows he can be found cycling, either road or mountain, cooking or reading.

He holds a BA (Hons) in Mission and Ministry with a specialism in Youth from Cliff College, and is currently studying for an MA.

He loves Jesus and the Church, and wants to see the Church work to help young people live transformed lives by experiencing the redeeming love of Jesus.

6 Announcement Slide Mistakes & How To Fix Them – by Lindsey Moss

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 09.28.21Great post from  Lindsey Moss of ChurchMediaTech.com. Re-posted with her permission. Check out the original here and have a browse through their other great articles here.

 

There are many studies published online confirming that visual cues help us retain information which is what I love so much about announcement slides! When you add visual cues to your announcement segment, it helps the congregation commit the information to memory.  I’ve also found from experience that engagement is higher when there is viewable information involved.

That being said, it can be easy to go overboard! I want to give you a few tips on how you can get the most out of your announcement slides by examining some common mistakes.

Let me first preface this by saying these are all optional changes. This is just an article written by your friendly neighborhood Designer who understands the frustrations that come along with creating announcement slides that will impact your congregation. I want to make things easier for you. So let’s get started!

To help you see the difference it can make, I’m going to show you how I took the slide on the left and transformed it into the slide on the right by fixing these six announcement slide missteps.

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1. Wrong Image Size or Resolution

ConnectionCafeSlide2.jpg

As you can see in the first image, there are black bars on either side of the image. These typically happens when the slide isn’t the same size as your screen. You should reference your screen and projector manual to see what the best image size and pixel ratio is for your setup to avoid stretching, black bars, and pixelation. For reference, for a typical HD slide I set the image size to 1920 x 1080 px, resolution to 72, the color palette to RGB and I export as a jpg. This will usually give you the best color profile and size for your projector without the file size being out of control.

So, let’s fix the image size…

ConnectionCafeSlide3.jpg

2. Misuse of Photos

Okay, now that our black bars are gone we have another issue here; there’s a watermark on the photo. I understand that many church budgets for announcement slide elements is minimal or non existent so I’m going to replace it with a photo from pexels.com. This website provides a wide variety of photos you can use for anything! You want to avoid using photos from Google, Pinterest, or images that include watermarks.

Now, you don’t have to use a photo! You can easily use a graphic. Do whatever you like best. I personally find images easier to work with for those that don’t have much design experience but they still want their slides to look professional. Also, I want to change the photo to something that implies a sense of community and conversation. Let’s try something like this…

ConnectionCafeSlide4.jpg

 

3. Mismatched Fonts

Awesome! We’re definitely getting somewhere. Now, let’s address the use of font here. The text has a slight drop shadow, which is always a great way to enhance the legibility, but the words don’t seem to flow with the image. You definitely want your slide to have character, but using too many fonts can be overwhelming. Here’s an awesome article on pairing fonts by Brady Shearer. For this slide, we’re going to only use two fonts.

I’m going to use Bebas Neue for the Title and Information because it’s bold and easy to read, and I’m going to use RachelHand Medium for the Subtitle to give it the feeling of a hand written note that fits the feel of connection like the photo.

Here it is… 

ConnectionCafeSlide5.jpg

 

4. Misuse of Logos

Now, we have to address what I think is the most serious offense in this slide; the misuse of the church logo. Even if your church doesn’t have branding guidelines, it’s never a good idea to change the color, shape, proportions, or elements of the logo.

Your logo is a visual representation of your church and the last thing you want to do is give the impression that you don’t take the identity of your church seriously. I know that seems a bit harsh, but it’s true. It’s important to be consistent with your branding so you can be easily identified.

Now, let’s say that my church logo is neon pink. Neon pink isn’t going to fit so well on a slide about a chill session over some lattes. So what do you do? The best option in this case is to simply use a watermark. By using a white version of your logo and lowering the opacity to somewhere around 60% you’ll still get the visual of your logo without the overpowering look of neon pink.

Let’s see the slide with the watermark version of the logo in the correct size, and proportions… 

ConnectionCafeSlide6.jpg

5. Too Many Colors

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s take a look at the colors. First of all, I don’t necessarily have a problem with mixing colors. Sometimes it can take a bland slide and make it much more intriguing! However, when you’re working with a background image as bold as this photo, it’s important that we aren’t distracting viewers from the overall feel of the image by our color choices.

For this slide, I’m going to make all the font the same color. There is already some visual diversity with the mixing of fonts so it won’t seem bland, and the consistency of color will help the entire slide come together.

Check it out…

ConnectionCafeSlide7.jpg

6. Too Much, or Too Little, Information

Okay ladies and gentlemen we’re almost home! Last, but certainly not least, is information! This is especially important if you’re planning to have a slideshow of your announcements playing pre-service. If there isn’t enough information on the slide, the viewer doesn’t have much to go on and will soon lose interest, if there’s too much information they may not have time to read all of it before it progresses to the next slide.

Let’s condense our information into a single line. Something that can be read quickly and retained easily.

You want to answer the following questions in as few words as possible:

What? When? Where? and SOMETIMES Why? (see what I did there?) You don’t always have to include the why because sometimes it’s obvious. Other times, like for a fundraiser, you may want to add why this event is important.

In the case of this slide the answers to these questions are: Connection Cafe, before and after the service, in the Welcome Area, to drink some coffee and create community.

We’re going to highlight this information by adding a dark brown rectangle behind it and lowering the opacity of that rectangle to 80%. If certain elements of a slide start to look too separate or overpowering, lowering the opacity is a great way to blend everything together.

Here it is folks! Our finished slide!

ConnectionCafeSlide.jpg

 

You can download this background image for free here: https://www.pexels.com/photo/restaurant-hands-people-coffee-5362/

You can download Bebas Neue for free here: http://www.dafont.com/bebas-neue.font

You can download RachelHand Medium for free here: http://www.dafont.com/rachelhand.font

Check out this years’ Youth Work Awards

logo--youthscapeGuest post sent from Youthscape – a quality resource and research organisation dedicated to “working for the good of young people of all faiths and none.” Check them out at www.youthscape.co.uk

 

Youthscape launched the Christian Youth Work Awards in 2011 and recently opened nominations for the sixth year running.

The awards are intended to celebrate the very best of Christian youth work in churches and organisations across the UK, inviting nominations across six categories.

They also seek to encourage youth workers everywhere by sharing stories of the great things youth workers are doing and inspiring others to do the same. One of last year’s shortlisted nominees confirmed for us just how important it is to recognise and encourage our youth workers, saying,

“I have been involved in youth work for 15 years now, in many guises. I came back from the summer feeling pretty close to burnout and receiving the nomination and then hearing that I had been shortlisted, was an amazing boost and exactly what I needed.”

YWA15 YWOTY Lee Kirkby2015’s Youth Worker of the Year was Lee Kirkby from St Michael Le Belfry in York. Receiving the award, Lee thanked his wife and team, his church for their committed investment into youth work and said that he was “blown away by the honour shown to youth workers by the awards.”

Categories this year include Youth Worker of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Young Leader of the Year, Best Youth Work Resource, Best Youth Work Employer and Most Innovative Youth Work. All nominees receive a postcard to encourage them in their work and shortlisted candidates are invited to a prestigious award presentation event in November.

You can nominate someone for an award at youthworkawards.co.uk. Nominations close on 31st August 2016.ywa16 ywoty

 

‘Sola’ Powered Youth Work

Screen-Shot-2015-12-16-at-17.47.08Guest post by Todd Warden-Owen; musician, comic-book lover, volunteer youth worker and administrator for Llandudno Youth For Christ. Check out more at www.llandudnoyfc.com

 

Originally published here.

Now by the title, despite the picture above, I don’t really mean ‘solar powered’ like the pictured superhero; but rather ‘sola powered’, referring to the five solas of the Protestant Reformation.

‘What are the five solas?’ – I hear you say.

The 5 solas, or solae of the Protestant Reformation are a foundational set of Biblical principles held by theologians and churchmen to be central to the doctrine of salvation as taught by the Western Protestant church. “Sola” is Latin meaning “alone” or “only” and the corresponding 5 ‘solas’ are:

  • Sola Fide, by faith alone.
  • Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
  • Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
  • Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
  • Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

Although they were often used by Reformers in the 16th century in their writings and speech, such as when Philip Melanchthon wrote in 1554 “sola gratia justificamus et sola fide justificamur“(“only by grace do we justify and only by faith are we justified”), they were never formally compiled or grouped together until the 20th century. A great example of this compiling of the ‘solas’ is in The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (1996).

Recently at ‘Redefine’, our Sunday evening youth Bible Study, we had a look at the 5 ‘Solas’ as part of an evening themed around the idea of survival and what do we need as essential for survival; a question often posed and answered in demonstration by people such as Bear Grylls.

It was a fun night, and we really wanted to see the young people grapple with what the essentials of the Christian faith are, hence a look at the ‘solas’.

They are a great way of summing up essentials in the Christian faith.

Faith alone (Sola Fide): Justification: being put right with God is received by faith alone, without any need for good works. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura): The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behaviour must be measured. The Bible can and is to be interpreted through itself, with one area of Scripture being useful for interpreting others. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Christ alone (Solus Christus): Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man, and there is salvation through no other. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father. (Hebrew 10:12-14)

Grace alone (Sola Gratia): Salvation comes to us by divine grace alone, not as the results of anything we have earned or merit.  It is given by “unmerited favour”. This means that salvation is an unearned gift from God for Jesus’ sake.

Glory to God alone (Soli Deo Gloria):  All glory is to be due to God alone, since salvation is God’s gift and work. Our lives as a response of God’s great gift of making us right with himself through the death of His Son Jesus, is to live lives that bring glory to Him (1 Cor 10:31).

That is the 5 solas very briefly summed up, I must say.

The reason I tilted this post ‘sola powered’ and put the picture of ‘Superman’ at the top was because it was catchy, but also to get us thinking of the parallels the metaphor presents.

‘Superman’ gets his great strength and abilities from how his Kryptonian physiology metabolises solar energy – he is quite literally ‘solar powered’.  As Christians, we get our strength, encouragement, gifts, in fact, all we need for life and godliness from or because of Jesus (Phil 4:13, 2 Thess 2:16, Eph 4:7, 2 Pet 1:3). Jesus is God’s great gift to all mankind. Jesus is our source. He is our sole provider; to quote the Parachute Band’s song ‘Amazing‘. We are ‘sola powered’, referring to the 5 ‘solas’ as explained briefly above. Our strength and provision comes from God, and God alone.

We are not like Superman empowered by the sun, but are rather empowered by the Son.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Heb 1:3.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor 3:18.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Col 1:15-20

Let us thank God for sending His Son Jesus.

Let us thank God for giving us His precious Word.

Let us trust in and rely on Christ’s strength in and through our lives.

Let us live lives that bring glory to God alone, responding in faith to His great grace towards and for us.

Youthwork Around The Globe: South Africa – with Ryan Rudolph

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 08.00.27Another great guest Post By Ryan Rudolph. Youth Worker in South Africa, graduate of Oak Hill College and blogger at ryangrudolph.wordpress.com

1. Where are you based?

A medium sized Baptist Church in the CBD of East London, South Africa. It is a small, coastal city on the east coast, and is affectionately called “Slummies”, as in a slum-town. We are in an area called Southernwood, historically one of the oldest parts of the city.

2. What unique challenges do you face?

Some of our biggest challenges as a church are based around the area we find ourselves in.

  • Being in the city centre means we are more pre-disposed to issues arising from poverty. Prostitution is large and there are many homeless and hungry on our doorstep.
  • Drugs are readily available. At the end of a Friday night, I can get offered an assortment of drugs at the various places I drop some of my kids off. You would think that after 3 years the drug-pushers would know me by now (at least in the very recognisable church bus)!
  • South Africa still has a race struggle, I believe. Being where we are has helped me to address this in my personal life as well as in the lives of our kids.
  • Most of my youth are young black boys from the Xhosa culture, and generally poorer backgrounds (though not exclusively). This provides the most unique set of challenges:
    • Culture: How do we present the gospel effectively as I’m not talking to white-middle class kids as my theological training taught me? This opens up another unique struggle we face: Our boys enter a rites-of-passage ritual whereby they enter the bush for around 4 weeks (after having their foreskin sliced off). These practices are flooded with satanic/witchdoctor (known as Sangoma’s – “Sun-gor-ma” rituals from sacrificial offerings to ancestors, to scarification on the body and wearing beads and bottles of blood for protection. I’ll speak later how we’ve begun to address this.
    • Language: Often I feel like the odd one out at the youth group I run. I don’t understand their language, their jokes or when they are upset with me. They can talk English – they just chose not too! This is a challenge for me to learn Xhosa, but also what happens when we have a non-Xhosa speaking person coming? Youth groups often attract those on the fringes, those who are shy, and those who struggle to make friends as it is. Further alienation because of language can sometimes be a real issue.
    • Boy-dominant: We have very few girls. And a large portion of the boys we have don’t know how to treat girls with respect. This could be because of culture, but also because of a lack of godly-men in their lives (or any men, for that matter).

3. What shape and format do your youth work projects most often take?

As with most youth groups in our city, we run our youth group on Friday for very practical reasons. There is no other night that our young people would rather come. This means that traditional cell-groups don’t work for us. Our young people don’t walk around at night as the area is not safe. So unless I drop them off, we can’t meet.

Friday nights are not hugely programmed events, but are designed for a relaxed atmosphere. Most of our young people enjoy soccer and so we provide space for that. Others are happy to sit at the sides, though there are a few who enjoy a programmed event once in a while, so we do that on occasion, as well as meet with other youth groups on the odd-occasion.13059624_10156955650030533_323546162_n

I’ve always been very clear with my young people that an important part of our time together is to hear from God and allow Him to move in our lives. So each Friday we spend a significant amount of time in the word. I have a ministry philosophy that says young people aren’t stupid. If they can learn complicated scientific, mathematical and philosophical concepts and ideas at school, then they can manage the deeper truths of God, we don’t need to dumb down and we don’t need to entertain.

We have two other methods that we use to reach young people, a soccer ministry and an open gym.
Over the past year we’ve spent more time approaching other churches for soccer matches. This is a growing area for evangelism and we find that there is an openness to hear the gospel over really good, well-played and tough games. A difficulty of this, however, is that Christians are notoriously bad sportsmen when it comes to playing a game and so we have to watch our walk in a very real way when we are on and off the field. We promote clean and fair games and ask the players to be honest. We also try and let the referee be the referee! We’re not doing this well enough, I think, but each time we play I believe we’re getting better (both as a team, and as an act of direct evangelism after the games).

“I have a ministry philosophy that says young people aren’t stupid. If they can learn complicated scientific, mathematical and philosophical concepts and ideas at school, then they can manage the deeper truths of God, we don’t need to dumb down and we don’t need to entertain.”

I also run an open gym filled with rusty equipment (though I’ve put some of my own money into making it better equipped). The idea is pretty simple: young people love to work out. So I give them a space to do this. I have found this to be the most helpful area for beginning one-to-one relationships with young men, and these very quickly turn into a vehicle for discipleship and mentoring. What’s funny is that I’m a pretty slender person, the young people often laugh at me when I try give them advice. However, their opinions quickly change when I show them that I can actually lift a weight or two!

Ultimately, I believe that ministry to young people cannot be a one-size-fits all model, but has to continually change and evolve to work within the contexts we find ourselves in.

4. What do you enjoy most and what are you most proud of?

Two things. Firstly, on the ground level I really enjoy one-on-one ministry and going away with a small group of guys, having fellowship and really getting deeper into God’s word. These are profoundly enriching times for all involved and happen far less than I would like them to! Secondly, helping to train and equip other youth leaders. I guess this was a product of my own training, but I really enjoy helping other youth leaders employ workable strategies within their own ministries. Related to this, if I can be proud of anything, then it would be our local youth workers get together called “City Youthworks” whereby we get together every couple of months to talk around youth work issues and to equip and encourage one another.

5. What is your most valuable local resource?

Other Youth workers. There are youth workers who have been doing this a lot longer than I have, and youth workers who are more specialised in certain areas (for example understanding race and culture), so we tend to use each other. It’s a great relationship and an invaluable resource! Youth workers rock!

6. How often do you meet up with other youth workers? How easy or difficult is that and how?

Other than the aforementioned group, I have a few close relationships with a small number of youth workers. Some friendships are based on similar ministry contexts, whilst one or two have similar theological backgrounds which I find useful for encouragement and help in my own thinking. I try to meet up with at least one other youth worker each month. Sometimes I’m blessed with more!

7. Tell us a story about something significant that has happened.

As mentioned above, the cultural challenges we face can be daunting. Sometimes we really aren’t sure what to do, but we know we have to do something!

Recently a couple of our young people who are walking with the Lord and serve in our church were required to go to the bush. They really have no choice. At first, our understanding as a leadership was that they should just chose not to go as Christians. However, we’ve soon realised that this is almost impossible. The rejection from family and tribes is met out in very practical ways. Forever seen as a child and treated as one. It’s a personal embarrassment that is treated with severe familial 13105980_10156955650110533_1508408080_oconsequences, and our young people are left with little other options.

I’m reminded how Paul instructs Timothy to be circumcised even though he berates anyone getting circumcised for the sake of the law. So, instead of rejection, we’ve taken the move to embracing the young person and helping them through this often difficult and challenging time. In particular with my two boys (now men), we spoke openly and honestly about what was going to happen and why, and how they could continue their Christian faith during those trials. This involved bible studies, a weekend away, frank conversations about pornography, sex and how to treat woman as a man of God and we ended it all off with a celebration into manhood surrounded by other Christian men in the church who have spoken and will continue to speak into their lives. It truly was a wonderful occasion. Being so close to them during this, I was able to also visit them over their period in the bush, sitting with them and praying with them and their friends. I found walking this candid and open journey with our young people helps them to adjust better than their peers, and in the long run they are better off in their faith and their maturity.

We need much more wisdom as we continue these discussions. I’ll most likely be doing my research paper on this in the coming year, so would appreciate prayers and God’s wisdom in this regard.

8. What gets you through difficult or stressful times in your ministry?

Thankfully, God has blessed me with a beautiful and intelligent wife who is filled with wisdom and knows how to encourage me. She’s only been with me, however, for the past 6 months. Before that, I had some pretty bad habits. Computer games took my attention and frustrations away from the stress, but in the long run was not a helpful solution.

“I believe that ministry to young people cannot be a one-size-fits all model, but has to continually change and evolve to work within the contexts we find ourselves in.”

Taking proper breaks is a definite must. Christians are notoriously bad for having a serious work ethic. This is not good or clever but detrimental to long-term ministry. We know this, we just don’t follow through! Take breaks. Take your holidays. Take your weekends off. And make time to spend with friends and family and most importantly, make time for God outside of work. We are bad at this. Best piece of advice I was ever given is this: God cares more about who you are to Him, than what you do for Him.

9. Any final thoughts that you would like to share?

Youth ministry is amazing. The older I get the tougher it gets (you really begin to feel those late nights and creaky knees), but the joys are so much richer and deeper. When I was younger I focused on the entertainment value – because quite frankly I was catering to myself. But I’ve learned over the past 10 years that young people want deep relationships, deep answers, and a deep God – because they know life isn’t shallow. So give it to them. Don’t be embarrassed. Also, there are fewer and fewer of us up here. If you are a youth worker, my biggest encouragement for you is to stay right where you are. God loves you. God loves your young people. And God loves His church.

About Ryan:

IMG-20150717-WA0005Ryan Rudolph is a Youth Pastor in a small city church in East London, South Africa where he enjoys the challenges of multi-cultural, urban youth ministry.

He is married to a beautiful Texan lass, is a Sharks Rugby fan, and enjoys indie-board games and even more so loves introducing these games to some of his Youth!

He holds a BA(Hons) in Youth and Children’s Ministry from Oak Hill Theological College in London, and is currently studying towards a BTH.

Ryan loves young people, loves Jesus and deeply desires to see the two connect in powerful and authentic ways.

He blogs over at ryangrudolph.wordpress.com

Why I don’t do wasteful food games (By Ryan Rudolph)

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 08.00.27Great post by my South African friend Ryan. Check out his blog here, the original article here and his earlier Youth Work Hacks guest post here.

 

Why I don’t do wasteful food games

Youth work has a long tradition of using food.  We love to use it for eating, especially.  The Bible gives us great encouragement to use food for eating with one another.  Celebrating, fellowship, parties, and communion.  Food is a wonderful tool for authentic ministry.

But there is another use for food that Youth Workers revel in.  It’s particularly fun, often messy, and our young people, on the whole, love it.

Except that I don’t.

And it’s not because it’s messy.  Messy is great.  In fact, the messier the better.  My problem is the context I find myself in.  Food is expensive, and we are surrounded by poverty.

Therefore,  I struggle to find any joy in using food in a wasteful manner, because there are people in my congregation who don’t have any.  As a church we have limited resources, and we use it as wisely as we possibly can.  I don’t think I can have a young person coming into my youth, who has yet to eat that day play a game where food is wasted, and not enjoyed as it was intended.  Does this mean I’m a buzzkill?  Sure.  But you can imagine what the kids in my context feel when they see food being used in such a manner.

I think part of our problem as youth workers is that we prioritize fun/entertainment over deeper concerns in the lives of our young people.  Perhaps, we can structure our group times differently.

If Jesus used food to bring people together and share the gospel, then maybe that could be a great model for our youth ministries too?

Youthwork Around The Globe: Australia – with Dave Fagg

Udemy HeadshotLooking at cultural differences and similarities in worldwide youth work, we continue with our ‘Around The Globe’ series with Dave Fagg, in Australia. Check out the first in our series, on Hungary, here.

 

1. Where are you based?
Bendigo, Australia. I live in the suburb of Long Gully, which has a high percent-age of public housing (‘council housing’ I think the UK calls it).

 
2. What unique challenges do you face?
How do I spark hope in young people whose parents and role models are living in despair? Long Gully struggles with inequality: many people are jobless, ill, poor, isolated and struggling with the stigma that all of these things bring.

In the bigger picture, Australia is divided between ‘youth ministry’ (done in and by churches) and ‘youth work’ (done in and by secular organisations). There is suspicion on both sides.

 
3. What shape and format do your youth work projects most often take?
I train youth workers with Praxis, an experiential diploma course which emphasises getting practically involved in young people’s lives. More than a course; it’s a learning community. I know most educators would say that, but it’s true!

My youth work morphs with time: I’ve led church youth groups, done high school outreach and teenage foster care, and spent a year overseas in the US and South Africa, learning from youth workers who served young people in gangs, and in poor communities. Until recently I coordinated a leadership program. At the start of 2016, I began volunteering as a youth worker at my local high school.

 
4. What do you enjoy most and what are you most proud of?
I love teaching! My greatest joy is seeing young people and youth workers gain new insights, and then go beyond what I could ever have taught.

 
5. What is your most valuable local resource?
My local state high school opens its arms to outside groups. Some Christians find ‘getting access’ to high schools difficult. But ‘getting access’ is the wrong way to think about it; it implies that the students are ‘materials’ for your ‘real’ program, which takes place elsewhere. When Christians talk to schools about the real needs of the young people, and then offer to help out, then schools are usually welcoming.

 
6. How often do you meet up with other youth workers? How easy or difficult is that and how valuable do you find it?
I would not have lasted 20 years in the youth sector without encouragement, discussion, and questioning from other youth workers. Praxis values connecting youth workers together, so I have a coffee budget! I frequently buy a coffee for someone, and chew the fat about our work, but also our dreams and struggles.

 
7. Tell us a story about something significant that has happened.
This morning I had a coffee with a young youth worker that I coach. Four years ago he started Praxis and knew everything there was to know. He was convinced that by knowing all the theories he would be a good youth worker. Our holistic approach to education struck him as ‘soft’. He left the course one year in, still dissatisfied but with some good questions stirring his pot. This morning, I asked him what I could pray for. He said he needed to have his heart broken; that he had realised, on their own, the theories weren’t enabling him to genuinely help people.

I was punching the air inside!

 
8. What gets you through difficult or stressful times in your ministry?
A few years ago I led a team from two organisations. The team was unpaid, apart from myself, and we didn’t have much time to communicate and build trust: we ran the weekly program, had a hurried chat about next week, and then left. I didn’t make sure we were communicating properly and inevitably, the team fell apart. It was difficult time; I lost a friendship which is only now recovering. I take failure to heart, and often ‘process’ things completely internally. This time, I spoke openly with trusted mentors about my failings, and then sought reconciliation with the people I’d hurt. It was so helpful to ‘get out of my head’.

 
9. Any final thoughts that you would like to share?
About 3 years, child protection agencies removed all the children from two related families in our neighbourhood who were connected to our church. My wife and I advocated with the family to the child protection agencies, but the children were removed nonetheless. One of the teenage children is now fostered by a family in our church, which has been fantastic for her, and them. The other children live all over the state. It’s complicated.

 
Youth work is often complicated, murky and we encounter all kinds of injustice and sadness. God makes no guarantees that things will fall into place in our time-frame. I take heart from the story of the crestfallen disciples, walking along the road to Emmaus. Their revolution in ashes, their Messiah executed, they pour out their heart to the strange companion on the road, who turns out to be the very one they mourn. When things don’t make sense, maybe we need to be open about it with others; we never know what might happen.

 

Udemy HeadshotDave Fagg is a youth worker from Australia. He trains youth workers at Praxis, and writes at Thinking My Way Through. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Recent Guest Posts!

We’ve had some corking, cracking, challenging and captivating guest posts this year from some talented and able youth worker from around the globe – Check them out again!

Persevering and Pushing Through In Youth Work – with Bex Baillie (England)

Phenomenology, Faith and Young People – with Katie Gough (America)

Youthwork Around The Globe: Hungary – with Rob Trenkman (Hungary)

Changing Youth Work Jobs – with Bx Belshaw (England)

Facing Your Fears as a Youth Worker – with Chloe Perrin (Wales)

Freedom To Fail – with Ryan Rudolf (South Africa)

 

And, for some extra spice, Chloe Perrin has also give us a couple of guest comics:

How NOT To Choose Young Leaders

Things Introverts In Your Youth Club HATE

How NOT to choose Young Leaders

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 17.34.22Guest comics By Chloe Perrin. Volunteer Youth Worker, Musical Theatre Tutor and Youth Charity Trustee.

 

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For more of Chloe’s comics check out “Things Introverts In Your Youth Group HATE” here!

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Persevering and Pushing Through In Youth work

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 09.28.50Guest post by Bex Baillie. A Youth Specialist at Trinity Network and Theology student at Bristol Bible College. Full bio below and check out her blog here.

 

Perseverance plays a big role in every generation of faith. If we stretch our minds back, we can see how our Youth Workers committed endless hours to supporting us, pushing through the tough times with little response in return. The art of persistence is a beautiful thing. It’s exercise for our hearts, and it helps to stretch our imaginations into new ways of thinking. Most of all, it’s a massive test of our faith.

‘Find out what God’s doing and join in.’

I love this motto! It’s a good saying to keep you grounded. Who says it has to be our original thought or creative new way of connecting with the young people? God is already there, doing great things in their lives. As the world’s greatest Youth Worker, He is their constant supporter and encourager, pushing them to think about what they believe and why.

Sometimes, maybe it’s best for us to take a step back, shadow what God is doing and then simply join in. While this might sound a bit vague at first, let’s look at our own lives for a moment. Have a think about the times we may have plowed ahead with our own great ideas – without watching out for God – and then finally given up after hitting a dead end. By tuning into God’s work, we can stay on the right track and follow the Master.

An Attitude For Perseverance

In all that we do, I don’t doubt that we have the intention to see young people grow in their faith and stick at church, but sometimes I wonder if our actions say otherwise.

If we want to produce healthy fruit that will last, it needs to grow from a well-rooted tree. While we may be well-rooted in our faith – and in many other ways – sometimes our attitude toward our work begins to lag. If we express flakiness towards our jobs or the young people, we shouldn’t expect it not to affect them. Even our attitudes teach young people. Part of perseverance is sticking at it and being committed to your plans. This means that the young people will be your priority when they need to be. When you are the best example of dedication, the young people will see it and adopt it as their own way of living.

Don’t feel like it is all up to you though, we are just one cog in a very big operation. We might be able to plant a seed in the young people’s lives; we can talk about God, tell stories and testimonies, provide pizza and give chunks of thoughtful advice here and there. Ultimately however, it will be God who will see that seed grow.

Don’t feel the pressure to complete His job and have each of your young people ‘fixed’. You have the wonderful role of Youth Worker, but you’re not God.

Perseverance For Long Lasting Ministry

Persistence. Staying Power. Tenacity. It’s not the art of proving your point, or finishing the ‘job’ for the sake of it. We want something that is long lasting, a ministry that will stand the test. Colossians 1:11 leads us to pray for “…not the grim strength of gritting your teeth, but the glory-strength God gives.” If we live by this sort of perseverance, our energy will be long-lasting and enjoyable!

In all the many ways that we attempt to strengthen our projects or clubs, we must remember that there is no quick-fix trick to success. As youth workers, we are all trialing different approaches all the time. Sometimes our ideas will take off and – BAM! – we’ve got it. Other times, we will have to ditch a plan and start again. Remember to stay on track with God, following His trail as you work with young people. Stick with it, and be glad that one day your fruit tree will blossom.

Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit.”

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 09.28.50Bex is a Youth Specialist working for Trinity Network Churches in North Bristol. Alongside her job, she is studying for a Degree in Theology, Ministry and Mission at Bristol Baptist Bible College.

Bex’s heart is in mentoring and inspiring young people. The favourite part of her job is meeting with young people over a Costa and tackling life’s big questions. In fact, the most likely place to find Bex is in Costa, with a Latte and slice of cake, scribbling down bits of wisdom from books, or typing out the next blog.

With a real sweet tooth, Bex loves to bake and trial new recipes. To burn off those extra calories, she loves to do park runs and go walking in the Peak District

Check out Bex’s blog here.