Discussing 13 Reasons Why and How to Respond – by Cassandra Smith

13 Reasons Why has been a hugely challenging and uncomfortable television series that explores teen suicide. Cassandra Smith navigates the waters and suggest ways our youth ministries can engage.

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original series based the book by Jay Asher. The drama is centered around high school aged characters whose narratives include abuse, bullying, sexual assault, self-harm, and suicide. Despite its TV-MA rating, teens are binge watching content that highlights intense issues in graphically dramatized, highly emotional narratives.

This leaves us with key questions:

  1. Do we, as concerned adults, watch the show or not? Is that helpful or harmful?
  2. With so many of our students watching—what is our best response?
  3. How do we, as ministers of the Gospel, tackle hard issues in relevant ways?

To Watch or Not to Watch

If we choose to watch 13 Reasons Why for entertainment value—I believe it could be harmful. If we watch for sake of education—there is a potential to learn a great deal on situations young people face. That being said—even with the right intentions the episodes could prove triggering for adults as well. The show does not shy away from brutally graphic portrayals of sexual assault, pornography, sexuality, and completed suicide.

Though I do not condone the show—I did watch it. Why? Because I wanted to be able to provide tools for others who might feel unsure of how to tackle such heavy material. Even with that—I could not stomach several scenes. For those of you who are uncertain about episode content, I have made a full Discussion Guide available, complete with content warnings.

Make sure you make the right decision for you—as how it affects you matters too.

What is our Best Response?

Netflix should not be the ones leading conversations about difficult topics—the church should. Over and over, my students told me they felt understood by the characters in 13 Reasons Why. The relatability piece gave them a sense of belonging. They had a script with which to attach their confusions, emotions and hurt. But I never want a streaming TV service to be the source my teens to find the language for what they feel.

Knowing that content like 13 Reasons Why is out there should push us towards leaning in to student’s stories in appropriate avenues. This may mean initiating one on one meetings with students we know are struggling, forming small groups in which it’s safe to ask messy questions or housing forums for “tough stuff” nights. Anytime we can communicate to students, “Your confusion is welcome here, let me help you find the language and tools to work through it in a healthy way” we form the sense of belonging they crave.

Tackling Tough Stuff

 Though students identify with the characters or content of 13 Reasons Why, they are also set up for disappointment once the season concludes. To stir up emotions to that magnitude and not have a pathway of hope is a real problem. Directing students towards hope is one thing a streaming media service does not have—but we do.

We have a reason for our hope. As believers, we carry a message of hope for those who are hurting. How do move that message of hope forward? Often if comes with leaning in to listen, earning trust, providing wise counsel and sharing the Gospel in the right way, at the right time, when a hurting heart is open to receiving it. It is a delicate balance—but through appropriate, intentional pursuit we have the ability to model the hope of Jesus to those looking for it.

A Pathway of Hope for Those Who Watched 13 Reasons Why

Knowing 13 Reasons Why would surface the struggles may young people face—I didn’t want them to be alone. Additionally, I didn’t want Youth Workers, Pastors and parents to feel alone.

It is why I created a Season Two Processing Guide for viewers, parents and youth workers. Students need help understanding the complex nature of issues like abuse, addiction, bullying, depression, hardship at home, image, self-harm and suicide. As we give them room to talk freely about their thoughts on these matters—we teach them how to handle them in a manner that lines up with the Gospel.

You are not alone in seeking to point young people towards the hope and help they desire. May you be given strength and encouragement as you walk with students in difficult places.

 

About Cassandra

Through fifteen years as a youth worker, crisis counseling, non-profit work, mentorship and training of millennial’s, Cassandra Smith seeks to direct teens and young adults towards a pathway of hope. Her Processing Guide for 13 Reasons Why is now available at www.BeyondTheReasons.com

Follow her at www.ChangeYourNarrative.org and on Instagram and Facebook

Living with Cancer as a Youth Worker

This brave and honest post has been written by youth work volunteer Megan Dyer, who recently was given the all clear after treatment for cancer. We hope this will be an encouragement to anyone walking through similar challenges.

Cancer, My Youth Group & Me.

Cancer:

In August 2016 I was diagnosed with a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which is a type of blood cancer. It meant that I had to have lots of different treatments and medications and trips to the hospital and in turn meant that my life became very isolated, quiet, and slowed down quickly.

It was an extremely tough time full of experiences and situations that I never expected to happen to me, and I pray will never happen to anyone ever again. It wasn’t a fun time. God, however, is absolutely amazing and has a pretty awesome way of restoring hope, love and joy; and bringing the right people around you!

‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.’ [Psalm 28:7]

My Youth Group:

I volunteer at a youth group called Redefine on Sunday nights. It’s an amazing team with fantastic young people, and it is very very special to me – for multiple reasons. How they all reacted and supported me through my cancer and recovery just astounded me and made me so very very thankful!

The Sunday after I was diagnosed I talked to the team first, and then the young people. I said that I had cancer, and that I would be going on a series of treatments and medications. This would mean that I wouldn’t be able to volunteer as much as I would like for a period of time, but that when I was better that I would come back. They were all so amazing about it – and I was fully aware that they were all praying for me. This was a huge comfort!

I kept them updated throughout my treatment and was hugely comforted and held-up by their messages back.

Me:

I am 100% fine and healthy now, and I’m back at Redefine and I love it!

One of my favourite teaching series that we did a while back was called ‘what makes us tick’ where each volunteer was given a session to speak about anything they were passionate about.

Part of my talk in this series was telling the whole group how their prayer and my prayer was answered at a pretty critical part of my treatment, and how ridiculously grateful I was for all their love and support! Their prayer meant that I only had to do four months of chemotherapy instead of six, which was amazing!

What I’ve learned

Life is an adventure. Which means it can be both wondrous and fun and exciting as well as bleak and tough and exhausting. What’s amazing though is that we don’t have to do it alone. We have God but we also have people. If you’re a leader going through a tough time, then trust the people around you. Let them help. If you’re a team with a leader going through a tough time, be there for them. Encourage them and support them. Check in on them. It often means the world that people care enough to remember and send a message to just say ‘hi, hope you’re ok, we’re here and we’re praying’.

 

I work as a volunteer for YFC at Redefine youth group with Tim and some other awesome people. I’ve been a part of the Redefine team for almost three years now and I adore it! I have two jobs! You’ll either find me building websites or laughing with customers in the retail shop I work in. And at home you’ll find me watching murder mysteries, reading for hours on end, or out and about, walking.

 

 

 

 

Photo by Logan Nolin on Unsplash

Should Dr. Jordan Peterson be a role model for Christian youth workers?

Jordan Peterson. Is he the opium for the masses of yesteryear – fighting a last hurrah for traditional masculinity before it plunges into the abyss? Or is he the the national self-help coach, strapping a pseudo-understanding of a plethora of human interest topics onto his otherwise robust portfolio of clinical psychology (with grey tape and bungee chords), and hoping that no-one noticed? Is he a misunderstood messiah, or troubled and troubling? Who is he, and do we really want to learn from him?

Upfront I want to say that I like Jordan Peterson – mostly. I’m not a lobster t-shirt wearing ‘bucko’, as his more effusive fans are affectionally called. I’ve read ‘The 12 Rules for Life’ and, despite being written in uninspiring prose, it does have a lot of well-tested, sensible ideas to take away. I’ve also listened to many of his interviews and lectures, and have learned much in the process. Some of it I liked straight away, other parts challenged me directly and won me over eventually. I respect that, however unpopular his ideas might be, he engages in calm and collected reasoning, allowing anything to be discussed on the table as long as it is presented respectfully.

I think Dr. Peterson is helpful on the legal issues surrounding gender pronouns, helpful on the need to do stuff and not just yell about stuff, helpful on compassionately responding to suffering, and helpful on taking responsibility. I think he is less helpful on conspiracy theories, less helpful on equality (although that’s a mixed bag), less helpful on social order, and less helpful on developing community.

From a Christian perspective, there are some specific problems to navigate through. These are issues that need to be taken on board very carefully before we surrender our own reasoning abilities to his. Dr. Peterson is becoming a role model for many ministers of the Gospel, but some caution is needed before getting too caught up in his approach.

Tread Carefully

I’ve just finished an MA in the hopes of soon starting a PhD, and – although I did well – one of the most consistent pieces of feedback that I received from professors is that my analysis is good but my conclusions are often overstated. I wonder if the same can be said for Dr. Peterson?

When you listen to Dr. Peterson question, dig, differentiate, clarify, and present clinical studies as evidence – he is on fire! His critical reasoning abilities, especially in the line of hostile debate is incredible. His analysis is often spot on, sourced properly, and undergirded with a startling, well-honed talent for critical thinking.

His conclusions, however, often jump wildly to something that can be completely left field. His credibility was built during the analysis, which – guard now dropped – makes us accept his conclusions all too readily.

The underlying problem is that he is looking for the ‘true’ meta-narrative of the universe without actually knowing God. He is attempting to find this ultimate truth in the orbits of myth, legend, ancient story, classical philosophy, and even the Bible. These, however, all surround an aura of an idea that he hasn’t properly grasped or digested, thus are all held with equal weight.

Dr. Peterson is looking for an ultimate ethic; an absolute foundational set of principles to guide humanity, but without a living relationship with the living God. This means that he is working from the outside in – getting close, but misunderstanding the weight of his evidence, and thus missing the truth.

Without a fundamentally Christian ethic he can only get close, but not actually get on point.

What does this look like?

His idea of the divine results in an Eastern balance of equal and opposite forces – almost karmic. The yin-yang is his meta-type metaphor that he uses to explain the chaos and order which battle in the world. This stems from a serious lack of understanding of the nature of sin (the actual bringing of chaos), and the character of God (ultimate order).

His conclusion is balance (over equality), and with this comes an acceptance of suffering as a part of life, helped only by the masses individually trying to correct unjust situations.

There is a lot of admire in this, but ultimately it is a pure form of humanism, and not compatible with Christianity.

Aspects missing from Dr. Petersons worldview – but clear in Jesus’ – are things like:

  • Ultimate sacrificial love
  • Servant-hearted leadership
  • An honour in humility
  • Seeking to be last in order to be first
  • Dependence upon God
  • Seeking the goodness of others above personal success
  • An end to suffering – ultimately
  • Chaos solved by surrender to, not creation of, order

This is not to say that Dr. Peterson isn’t immensely compassionate, and fiercely ethical. I believe he is. Christian ethics, however, cannot be tamed by conventional wisdom, or dammed by conventional fears. The God-man, Jesus, demonstrates the perfect picture of leadership that runs counter to the ideas of self-actualised success as presented (at least in my understanding) of Dr. Peterson’s work.

Some of this comes down to him being a traditional scientist, measuring all evidence with equal weight as is responsible to the method. Thus the Bible is put alongside other sources rather than above it. Some of this, however, also comes down to a poor understanding of the Bible. When he does quote from Scripture, he seems to cite odd scholarship and rather mess up fundamental exegetical methods. Finally, I think some of this comes from a dark worldview that is strongly reactionary (and rightly so) against the Communist atrocities of the last century – particularly in Russia and China. He sometimes just seems a little without hope.

We do, therefore, need to tread carefully when mirroring Dr. Peterson’s worldview. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t learn from him.

What can we learn from Dr. Peterson

Going back to his analysis, I think that the most important takeaways from Dr. Peterson is both his critical thinking ability and his calm response to conflict.

Critical Thinking

I believe that critical thinking is one of the most undervalued aspects of early education. Throughout high-school (in the UK at least), the emphasis is placed on the memorisation of facts, rather than on the discovery of them.

This in turn has deeply effected our evangelism. I guess that almost half the questions that I’m asked by young people would never have been asked in the first place if they were taught how to think. Misplaced stereotypes and new-atheist propaganda has been swallowed hook, line, and sinker, as if it was candy rather than a barb.

When we are asked a question, our natural response is to answer it – either as stated or as categorised as something we’ve heard before. Neither of these, however, might actually answer what the asker was interested in.

Instead, when asked a question, Dr. Peterson, clarifies the question. He asks a question back (or twelve), not to avoid, but to focus. In doing this he better understands the question, shows more respect for the person asking the question, and he starts to find holes in the assumptions given within the quesiton.

Take this question for instance:

‘If God exists why is there suffering and evil?’

There’s a question we’ve all heard many times, and we probably have a stock answer ready to roll. However, using critical thinking and being a little Socratic about it, we can have a much more effective answer. How about responding to that with one of these:

  • Why do you think suffering and evil means God can’t exist?
  • What kind of God are you talking about?
  • What kind(s) of suffering and evil are you talking about?
  • How would you do it?
  • Can you think of any way suffering happens for a good reason?
  • Are you struggling with something right now? Do you want to talk about that?

A little bit of critical thinking reveals that this question doesn’t challenge God’s existence at all. Instead it brings up whether or not someone likes the idea of God, which is a much weaker – but more honest – position.

This effects our Bible studies and talks too. If we only ask closed-ended questions, or speak at young people, then we won’t be training them to discover truth for themselves. What about printing off Bible verses, and letting young people try their hand at some exegetical tools for themselves? What about getting them to first write a Bible study and then deliver it?

Critical thinking is gold, because we love and serve a reasonable God. He wants us to think, and He wants us to discover Him.

Calm under Conflict

If you watch Dr. Peterson when he comes under fire in an interview or debate, you’ll notice a few things.

First, his posture doesn’t change. He stays leaned back, with his hands folded.

Second, he doesn’t loose eye-contact. He stays connected at a personal level.

Third, his tone, although firm and direct doesn’t gain an overly aggressive edge. He remains respectful.

Fourth, he listens critically, doesn’t interrupt, and takes a minute to understand and clarify. He processes his answer carefully.

If you watch me, however, especially at my worst, then you’ll see me do all the opposite of these things! I lean in, I fidget, I interrupt, I look anywhere but at the person’s face, I speak erratically and defensively, I say off-the-cuff things or placating things, and I speak too quickly without digesting properly. Bad!

This is one of the main reasons he wins his debates, but is also one of the main reasons he is respected. He shows respect and remains calm and thoughtful when under conflict.

He can be slightly less reasonable when the person attacking him is rude and unnecessarily aggressive – which is fair enough really. However, as we work with teenagers and in churches, we may need to dial up our tolerance for this kind of behaviour.

So what?

Dr. Jordon Peterson, I believe, is a helpful figure in public discourse. He’s thoughtful, compassionate, helpful, and articulate. He thinks before he speaks and he listens carefully. He doesn’t dismiss the supernatural out-of-hand, and he believes in the power of story.

He does not, however, represent a Christian worldview, or present a complete picture of Christian leadership values as displayed in Jesus. Thus we need to tread carefully around his conclusions.

Dr. Peterson does provide us a wonderful role-model for critical thinking, and remaining calm under conflict. Both of these traits will, I believe, serve us very well in our ministries with young people. For that we should be thankful for him, and pray for him to come into a living relationship with Jesus.

The trap clause that all youth workers have in their contracts – and needs to be removed.

Endemic in the youth work world is employers who don’t really know why they want a youth worker. Most churches know that they want someone to work with young people – running Sunday schools, providing entertainment, organising camps, and doing some measure of discipleship – but beyond this, it all gets a little fuzzy.

If a church can’t answer the question ‘why do you want a youth worker’ with anything more generic broad generalities, then my suspicion is that they don’t really know what youth worker actually does, and how a youth worker will need to spend their time.

With such a limited understanding of a youth worker’s working week, and with pressure to justify the cost hiring one, a sneaky clause gets added into job descriptions. It usually runs like this:

‘Any other duty or duties that the pastor or elders deem necessary.’

And it’s everywhere!

I recently asked some professional Christian youth workers whether they have a similar clause in their contract – all of whom did. Here’s what it looks like for them:

‘Other duties as assigned’

‘Other duties as found applicable.’

‘Yes and it’s been crazy trying to say no. It’s a trap clause.’

‘Oh yeah! And I’ve realized that can entail so much.’

‘We have the other duties as assigned clause as well. They include hospital visits, handy work around the church, senior adult outings, and many other things that don’t always equal youth ministry. Throw in to that mix the fact that I am children’s pastor as well, and yea, time can be sparse’

‘That or, “Youth and Associate Minister.”’

‘Ah, yes… youth pastors can wear many “hats.” … I don’t mind doing other things so long as they don’t begin competing for time where my focus needs to be… youth ministry. Learning to say, “No” is big!’

In my time helping churches hire youth workers, I’ve never seen a contract that did not have this clause in some form or another. It’s everywhere!

So what’s the problem?

When I was working my first full-time youth work position, this sneaky little cause in my contract could easily account for between 40% and 60% of my working week.

I had three-hour staff meetings every Monday morning with the two Ministers, which required my input for maybe 20 minutes at most. This met in my office, and set the tone for my week. Off the back of this, I would often have to you organise prayer meetings, home-group gatherings, music, lifts, and often with no warning or preparation time. This regularly bleed into my days off – which, as you can imagine, were rarely taken.

Because I was still trying to perform my youth work job, this stuff was piled on top of what I was supposed to be doing. This meant that I was regularly working 70 hour weeks.

After a year of this, I raised it as an issue with my senior pastor. His slight impatient response was this:

‘Well, we all do that Tim. That’s just ministry!’

As a result I was always tired, always forgetting things, always navigating conflict, and spiralling quickly towards burnout. After nearly four years of decreasing health, and acting on the advice of a doctor, I sought another position – and almost quit youth ministry all together.

Now this was nearly ten years ago, and it is a particularly extreme example. It should also be nuanced by the fact I was too young and inexperienced to battle for my time properly, and I actually wasn’t line-managed in all the time I was there.

It does, however, flag up the potential dangers of the ‘any other duties’ clause. I have also since seen many youth workers burned out with similar stories. It has got to stop.

How to fix it… or at least start to

Some of the youth workers that I spoke to saw the necessity of a clause like this when working for small churches with under resourced teams. Some even enjoyed the added experience that came from these additional jobs. However, all of these said that it should be for a specific, pre-agreed, maximum amount of time. For instance, they said that the ‘other duties’ clause should account for ‘no more than 5% of a working week.’

This is not a bad idea, however, I have a slightly different answer:

Just take it out.

There is no practical or legal reason this clause is required in a contract. If it’s in your contract, request a conversation with your manager about removing it. If you’re about to hire someone, don’t put it in in the first place.

The ‘other duties’ statement is a trap cause, as someone said above, and as such is a recipe for abuse. It demonstrates a serious lack of understanding by the church of their youth worker’s week, and gives contractual, legal permission to burn out a fellow minister of the gospel.

This is not ok.

I do believe that youth workers should be actively involved in their church outside of youth ministry; but that it should be voluntary and given as an act of service. It’s a pastoral issue, therefore, and not a contractual one.

If you hire a youth worker properly, and line-manage them clearly, then you won’t need to dictate their priorities. A quality, well-supported and well-managed youth worker will develop ministry that integrates with the wider church naturally. Making sure they’re in line and supportive of the church ethos and mission will work without needing to leave a hook in.

So, please please please let’s get rid of the ‘other duties’ clause – and see if we can’t extend the health and longevity of our youth workers by a few years, eh?

Thanks 🙂

 

Rebooted’s Cover Revealed

It’s great to be able to finally reveal the full title and cover for Rebooted!

If you haven’t already heard, Rebooted will be a journey through the entire Bible with youth ministry in mind. The hope is to reboot youth ministry back to it’s basic, foundational essential pieces. This isn’t to lose or disregard the fabulous legacy and work that we do – but to restore the original biblical data, rebuild the foundations, and undergird everything we do with God’s Word.

Big thanks to the design team at IVP for coming up with such a fabulous and contemporary cover!

 

What’s my first book going to look like?

If you haven’t already seen my ‘subtle’ attempts to plug my upcoming book, ‘Rebooted’, things might start getting less subtle in the coming months – starting with the cover reveal!

This whole writing journey has been really scary. Putting the manuscript together, having it go through multiple editing procedures with people I don’t know, asking for endorsements from people who don’t know me, and generally wondering how people are going to respond to it.

I’m so glad God is much bigger than I am! I had a moment waking up today when I just felt worried for no (and every) apparent reason. I said to God ‘where should I put this stuff?’ Thinking he would bring to mind something like ‘at the foot of the cross’ or ‘in my hands.’ Instead, I head just a single word:

DOWN.

Put the stuff down Tim; I’m God, and I’ll find it wherever you leave it!

So – I’m trying now to share the story of Rebooted without worrying too much of what you’re all going to think of me. That’s really hard! I know I need to ‘sell’ copies if I want the message to be heard, and I know that means plugging it. I’d rather do neither though – so be nice.

In the next couple of days I’ll reveal the cover on here to you, but for now, here is the pre-sell write-up that my publisher is using. Thanks!

Most youth ministry is simply too small. Or too time- or fad-bound. Or based on a model of some sort but without solid biblical foundations.

The author is passionate about growing youth ministry that can outlive the youth worker.

He deplores particularly the call for ‘something’ for youth.

Something just won’t do. Tim Gough seeks to redress the balance. He takes us on an expositional journey through the Bible as he sees it relating to youth work, pulling out purposeful themes through key stories and passages.

He offers guidelines which can be used by any leader as he casts this strong, healthy biblical vision to inspire us. Here is youth leadership training for the long haul.

I asked 150 youth workers what they would be if they were not a youth worker… here’s what they said.

A few months ago I wrote to a huge number of vocational youth ministers and asked this:

‘Finish this sentence: If I wasn’t a youth minister then I’d be…’

The following list is the results. On the surface this seems like an odd, slightly fun, but irrelevant question. If you read carefully, however, it provides some interesting insight into the heart, attitudes, skill sets, passions, and varieties of people in youth ministry.

Some of these were what people used to do, some are what they would like to do – others or a little more existential! Here’s the answers…

  • A tree surgeon (that one was me)
  • Working in the copier/printer industry
  • Running a golf club
  • Living in a van down by the river!
  • Dead
  • A millionaire
  • A rollerblading coach
  • Much better rested
  • Selling dolphins on the black market
  • Police Officer
  • Social Worker
  • Open my own health food store/cafe
  • Working for the outdoor channel/have my own hunting show that ministers to men/dads and their families
  • A rodeo clown. Sometimes I feel like it’s nearly the same line of work!
  • Account manager
  • Funeral industry
  • Bored
  • I’d get my alternate certification and teach at a High School
  • Miserable, unless I knew God was leading me in a different direction
  • Teacher/Coach
  • A teacher or missionary
  • A dentist
  • Sane
  • Teaching high school English
  • Military
  • Rich probably, or at least have a comma in my bank account
  • A funeral director
  • A Pokémon Master!!!
  • Not answering this question
  • Indiana Jones
  • Social worker
  • Board game/coffee shop owner
  • Living somewhere else
  • Bartender
  • A chef
  • Financially stable
  • Server
  • Still discipling students
  • Well rested
  • Missing out
  • A coach or a teacher
  • A college professor
  • Coach
  • Accountant
  • Relaxed and full of free time…just kidding…kind of.
  • Coach
  • Missing my kids
  • School teacher or coach
  • Mobile sales
  • Happy
  • Real estate agent
  • Working in technology of some sort
  • Game show host
  • Web or graphic designer
  • Less tired
  • Financial advisor
  • Pursuing a job at Disney
  • Sad
  • In HR
  • Politician or Insurance Salesman
  • Owner of a gymnastics gym
  • Sane
  • Bummed
  • A voice over actor! I do a mean Mickey Mouse!
  • A volunteer youth worker, with some job that pays the bills and drives me crazy
  • Radio DJ
  • In Coaching or Teaching at a high school
  • Sane
  • Coach or teacher
  • Marketing guru
  • Teacher
  • Wildlife Biologist
  • Social worker
  • Bus driver
  • Searching
  • Taco/Chicken wing Food Truck owner
  • Paying all my bills on time
  • Driving a new F150
  • POTUS or food critic on the Food Network
  • Working at one of my businesses
  • Working with people with cognitive disabilities
  • Full time counsellor
  • Small business owner. Specifically in coffee
  • Bored
  • Idk… can’t picture myself doing anything else honestly
  • A real pastor
  • A Jedi Master
  • Preacher
  • Working at a 5 star resort serving everyone
  • I would try to open up a live music venue/coffee shop. Coffee shop during the week, shows on the weekend!
  • Well rested
  • Either a small-time politician or an author
  • A Care Bear! Oh wait….only in youth ministry can you be a Care Bear
  • Running a comic/game store. Holding events for tabletop role playing. Interacting with youth that way
  • Lounge singer on a cruise line
  • Distilling bourbon
  • Surf bum
  • Actually do the whole “Jesus Thing” by being a fisherman and a carpenter that tells everyone to be nice to one another and fights for love and equality
  • History Teacher or a brewmaster
  • Fishing
  • Teacher
  • The epic movie trailer guy/ voice overs /audio book narrator
  • Either a HS Teacher or a Law Enforcement Officer
  • A coffee house owner
  • Teacher/coach and/or do bass fishing tourney’s full time
  • Photographer
  • Real estate investor
  • Unemployed
  • Photographer
  • Architect
  • On broadway
  • Well slept
  • Missing out on my dream job
  • A police officer, still working with youth and mentoring
  • Financially strapped
  • A family counsellor
  • Artist
  • IT Tech
  • Graphic designer, journalist, or writer
  • An Ancient Near Eastern Historian
  • Rich
  • Lumberjack
  • A cruise director
  • Public Address Announcer for a college or professional basketball team
  • A comedian
  • Rich
  • Without a career, because I put all my eggs into this basket
  • Board game store owner
  • Lost
  • Sane
  • Either high school teacher or an electrician
  • An ice-cream taster
  • Videographer/editor
  • Writer
  • Asleep
  • Venture capitalist
  • A youth volunteer…… or in politics
  • Not living in a one bedroom apartment with a 1996 car
  • Depressed. I love what I do
  • Landscape Designer
  • Cabinet Maker
  • Salesman
  • Able to afford date night regularly
  • Fuller brush salesman
  • More rested
  • Married
  • Strength and conditioning coach or mna fighter
  • Designing logos for companies all over the world! Or playing pro ball
  • Salesman
  • In jail

Dr. Andrew Root’s response to my critique

Earlier this week I posted a critique of Dr. Andrew Root’s work, particularly on relational or ‘incarnational’ youth ministry. My hope was to encourage a little more critical reading of his works considering his slightly unorthodox theology.

I’m a great admirer of Root and wanted to give him the opportunity to read and respond to that post before I published it. He graciously did so, and his reply is below in full. I incorporated some of his suggestions and clarifications, and I agreed that my lack of engagement with his later books puts me at a disadvantage. However, as he agrees, many of my issues still remain.

My drive behind this dialogue is not to make anyone simply agree with me, or even with Dr. Root, but to engage in a public exercise that encourages more critical reading of the resources we adopt.

With that in mind, here is – with his permission – Dr. Root’s reply:

 

Tim,

Thanks for this email and thanks for engaging the work.  I think this is fine and mostly fair, but there are parts I’m not sure about.

First, the reduction of evangelicalism is a fair critique but this must be read next to my support, affirmation, and commitment to an evangelical perspective in Christopraxis.  As a matter of fact, to truly understand what I’m up to, you’d have to look there.  The other works, as you mention, are trying to balance idea construction with the practice of ministry.
Second, no doubt, I’m bound to Bonhoeffer as a theological dialogue partner, and seem to understand the atonement different than you.  But to understand this all you’d have to engage the conceptions of Luther and the passivity of human action.  My point is that your critique is not so much with Bonhoeffer as it is with Luther.  Looking at work from Christopraxis on will show a deeper engagement with orthodox and Pauline conceptions, which don’t show up in your review.  You mainly just stick with 2007, 2009, and 2011 work.  I hope I’ve developed since then.  So putting your critiques in dialogue with Christopraxis, Faith Formation, and Exploding Stars would be important, I think.  I’d imagine some of your concerns will remain.

Third, the burnout thing is most troubling.  I’ve mentioned in multiple places that you can only be a place-sharer to about 5 young people.  The push of the perspective is to change the youth worker’s conception from being the one doing all the relational ministry to ordaining other adults into ministry, to take responsibility for their young people.  I’ve also discussed a lot about open/closedness and claimed that place-sharing provides starker boundaries than other forms of ministry.  And this is based in a certain anthropology.  You may rightly disagree, but it isn’t right to assume that my perspective doesn’t see or deal with boundaries.  Also, you mention Blair and Christy’s review, but don’t offer how I responded to their critiques.  You’re welcome to critique my responses to them and call it inadequate…but I did have responses to their critiques you don’t mention.

Finally, and this is probably where we differ, my whole project revolves around conceptions of revelation.  I’m simply trying to explore where and how we encounter the living presence of God.  I think a legitimate critique is found in contrasting my views of revelation with those of others.  The first question really is, “Do you see ministry as centrally about revelation, or something else?”  So critiquing my conception that ministry bears the weight of revelation is fair, as is offering an opposing view of revelation.  At the end, stellvertretung (place-sharing) really isn’t the center of my thought (I mean, it’s close to the center) but the real core is ministry as the constituting reality of God’s act and being.  So yes, sin, salvation, etc. must be seen through the biblical narrative of God’s act to minister to Israel, to be a God who is found in historical acts.  Again, wrestling with Christopraxis will more clearly show this.

These are simply my reactions, since you kindly asked.  But again, thanks for writing something up.
Blessings to you,
Andy

 

Dr. Andrew Root (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is the Associate Professor and Carrie Olson Baalson Chair of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, Minnesota. He is the author of fifteen books on ministry and theology, and an experienced youth worker.

 

A Call for More Careful Reading of Dr. Andrew Root.

This is just a gentle post asking for some care when reading Dr. Andrew Root. He is well worth the effort and he is invaluable to interact with. I am personally challenged by his experience working with so many hurting and broken young people throughout his career. I’m inspired by Root! I like him, and he has a lot of value to add to the conversation.

However, his densely written work is easily accepted as completely correct because it is written a head higher than most other youth work literature is. Many of us in the youth ministry world are simply not used to reading academics, and therefore we don’t bring the level of conversational critique required when engaging with the convincing and well-cited prose that academics, like Root, writes in.

Before publishing this, I sent a copy to Dr. Root and asked for his thoughts. He graciously and very gracefully replied. On the whole he saw it as a mostly fair critique, noting that we probably do come from different theological angles. Agreed! However, he did also clarify a few areas. Some of these have been incorporated into what I’ve written below. The main thing, however, is that his thinking has developed in more recent publications, particularly in his book, Christopraxis (2014). However, I have not yet read this, so cannot comment on it. This may make some of the critique below moot, however, as Root said in his email, ‘I’d imagine some of your concerns will remain.’

As this post is designed to encourage more critical thinking and careful reading, it’s not important that readers necessarily agree with my critique, so much as they simply engage with critique. For this reason, I have asked Dr. Root for permission to publish his response. If he is agreeable, then I will do so as soon as possible.

Dr. Root brings us a massively useful set of perspectives that we should carefully consider in our work, but that doesn’t mean that he is completely, one-hundred-percent on the ball, or that his views should be appropriated in their entirety. Academia works by moving conversations forward in micro-increments, with hypotheses tested, and attempts made to falsify. That’s how iron sharpens iron in the academic world. However, as Root’s books tend to skirt the middle ground between academia and populous, that context can easily be lost through no fault of his own.

I’m sure Root himself, from an academic background, would fully support me by encouraging us to engage in these kinds of innovative conversations with critical thinking and great care. Nothing should be swallowed hook, line and sinker, without some real thought – especially when it is at this kind of level.

This post isn’t written to target Dr. Root, but to use him as an example of taking care when reading literature that sits on the line between dense academic work, and popular practical materials. Root has become this example because of the number of blogs and groups currently reviewing him are in complete agreement and offer total support. It concerns me that reviewers and interviewers don’t ask critical questions of some of his more abstract or innovative ideas. They may simple not be aware of how unorthodox some of his claims are.

I recently wrote a paper analyzing the last few decades of ‘incarnational’ youth ministry theory (mainly looking at Pete Ward, Dean Borgman, and Andrew Root), and – after reading everything Root has published specifically on the subject – I was left with a few concerns that I’d like to outline here:

Approach to Evangelical Youth Ministry

First, Root’s own analysis of evangelical youth ministry is a little bit reductionist at times and comes with a tendency to erect a straw man in its place. He may, therefore, simply be fixing the wrong leak!

There is plenty to agree with in his survey of youth ministry. For instance, he says that there is a ‘dangerously high reading of cultural influence its blood stream’ (2007:23, 81) and it has settled into a pattern ‘that is more embedded in individualism’ (2013:110-111). Amen to that and let’s get on it!

He then, however, reduces evangelical youth ministry into a formulaic or purely functional approach, that makes ministry ‘goal-orientated rather than a companionship-orientated’ (2007:23). He, using this false dichotomy, writes as if any kind of potential influence is unhealthy, and thus any youth ministry that is trying to influence a young person to become a Christian is depersonalized and dishonest (2013:113-114). He sees this as manipulative leverage (2007:17; 2011:151).

There is very little nuance in Root’s critique. He doesn’t, for instance, differentiate been healthy and unhealthy influence. Talking someone down from the ledge before committing suicide would surely be an example of healthy influence? Many evangelicals would argue that this is exactly the type of influence they exercise by trying to help young people know the Gospel. Root, however, doesn’t consider these potential perspectives. Because of this, academic reviewers such as Dr. M. Dodrill (2013:12), Dr. B. Bertrand (2013:46), and Prof. R. Haitch (2013:38) believe that Root misunderstands evangelicals.

Root provides an important cautionary tale about manipulating young people through inauthentic relationships. However, he would do well to read other evangelical youth work theorists less as strawmen. Further, his sweepingly negative comments about influence cannot stand under scrutiny. Relationships are by their nature influential and contain a variety of moving goals.

In Root’s reply to me, he said this is fair critique, however should be placed in dialogue with his affirmation of evangelicalism in Christopraxis (2014). I will update this after I have read it.

Place-Sharing in Practice

Second, Root’s view of ‘place-sharing’ is dangerous if improperly applied. As much as I love Root’s compassion-driven model which focuses on empathy with the pain of young people, I’m troubled about what that could look like in practice.

For Root, we most deeply encounter the nearness of Jesus in His crucifixion, so Jesus empathised with our pain deeply that we – using the crucifixion as our base line – should likewise share in the pain of young people. Place-sharing requires us to indwell or inhabit another’s pain so completely that it becomes our own (2007:129-130; see Smith, 2009:113). This is not about getting young people to ‘accept… the gospel message’ it is about ‘sharing in suffering and joy, about persons meeting with persons with no pretence of secret motives’ (2007:15). One begins to wonder what the distinctives of the ‘gospel message’ are under Root’s theology (a point we’ll return to in objection four)?

Root’s approach puts the youth minister into very vulnerable positions. In his impassioned plea to place-share in the pain of young people, Root has encouraged muggy boundaries (Hickford, 2003:111). An immersed relationship cannot extend to a group of young people, twenty-four hours a day. This is a recipe for burnout — and sets a precedent for young people to allow themselves into unsafe situations. In Root’s response to me, he reminds me that he does say on several occasions that the youth minister can only be a place-sharer to perhaps five young people and should see it as a responsibility to ‘ordain’ other adults to do the same. Root also talks about openness and closeness and claims that place-sharing has starker boundaries than other methods (although this I believe points to the poor practice of those other methods, rather than to the soundness of his). Root does, however, indeed give more boundaries than I initially suggested. That granted, I think my problem remains. Empathising so deeply with a young person that their pain becomes our own is dangerous with any number of young people. It doesn’t provide a healthy relational dynamic where the hurting party can develop without attachment, and where the outside party (now the equally hurting party) can detach and remain true to their own identity and responsibilities. I recently shared this concept with both a Christian psychotherapist, and a PhD in child psychology. They both were deeply troubled and saw this as a fundamental gap in Root’s knowledge of counselling theory

This reveals another significant problem in Root’s writing. His relational examples are only between equal partners (marriage and friendship). This ‘leads to an overly simplistic and gendered divide between instrumental and expressive relationships’ (Betrand and Hearlson, 2013:49). Frankly, expecting a teenager to be an ‘equal partner’ and carry the baggage of a much older youth minster is a recipe for relational abuse – if not actually abusive in itself.

Root has responded to Betrand’s and Hearlson’s critique in the Journal of Youth Ministry (2013). Where they believe Root is ‘not interested in in young people hearing the Gospel’, Root responds that he wants ‘nothing more, than for young people to encounter and respond to the gospel’ (59) and says that this is not encountering an idea but Jesus himself. This Jesus is met, Root believes, in the revelation of ministry, thus Jesus is genuinely present within place-sharing. Salvation, he says, is found in encountering Jesus through participation in relationships. He concedes that he has ‘little concern for people converting to the idea of Jesus’ (60). Again, there is much to agree with here. Surely encountering the active person of Jesus is essential to the gospel. However, reducing the gospel narratives and Pauline materials on salvation to simply ‘encountering Jesus’ without doctrinal subtext is simply too small a picture of Jesus. It seems that for Root, salvation is little more than relational closeness to Jesus, rather than any atoning consequence of dealing with sin on the cross to win our forgiveness. Two people being close does not make them married. Covenantal promises, commitments, and sacrifices to adopt a whole new way of living is also important for a couple. Further, leaving that encounter necessary for salvation to be contained within the practice of human relationship feels very much like remoulding Jesus into our image, rather than seeking His. Root’s response is worth a read as it does clarify his position somewhat, however I was left with more concerns than less, as both the focus of salvation and Root’s very particular approach to Bible interpretation became starker.

Place-sharing, if clearer boundaries were applied, could be a helpful way to talk about the value of interested adults in the lives of young people. However, Root’s presentation of it as the Incarnation’s continuous form is unsound, and as a practical approach it is a recipe for burnout and abuse.

Theological Basis

Third, Root uses Dietrich Bonhoeffer as his de facto foundational thinker, but he also sees Bonhoeffer through rose-tinted lens. As much as I would agree that we have a plethora of helpful things to learn from Bonhoeffer, it is also worth noting that there are problems and nuances in Bonhoeffer’s theology which are heavily influenced by his context.

Bonhoeffer’s Christology was born out of a very turbulent life experience. He emphasised the this-world focus and concrete nature of Jesus becoming flesh (words used by Root) which was heavily outworked in a strongly social gospel. Abstract or internal knowledge of God was almost entirely dismissed by Bonhoeffer. He intended that ‘all Christian doctrines be reinterpreted in “this world” terms… The only way to find God, then, is to live fully in the midst of this world. Christians must participate in Jesus’ living for others’ (Godsey, 1991). Bonhoeffer, during the later period of his life, discontinued his daily Bible meditation, denying that Scripture contained any timeless principles. He said, ‘we may no longer seek after universal, eternal truths’ reading the Bible (Bonhoeffer and Krauss 2010:71). Further, as someone who leaned towards universalism, Bonhoeffer lacked a strong theology of atonement or soteriology (Weikart, 2015).

In many ways, Root’s understanding of the Incarnation is not his own. The ghost of Dietrich Bonhoeffer walks each and every page. Haitch sees Root’s work as little more than a ‘cut and paste’ approach (2013:13-14). Even the phrase place-sharer is Bonhoeffer’s (Stellvertreter) (2007:83). Root said that Bonhoeffer’s part in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler was driven by the belief ‘that it was the only way that he could truly (truly = in the imitation of Christ) share the place of those crushed by the wheels of the Nazi political machine’ (2007:85). This would have been the ideal place for Root to have added some words of caution about using Bonhoeffer as a de facto position on Christology, however we are left wanting.

It’s not that Root using Bonhoeffer is a problem. Bonhoeffer is a legend with much to teach us! However, Root uses him uncritically, and that is what causes issues. This is the same difficulty that I’m having with popular reviews of Root. There is much for value, but it must be read carefully and in balance.

In balance to this, Dr. Root would like me to be aware that in his later work, particularly in Christopraxis, (but also Faith Formation in a Secular Age, and Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs and Zombies) that his thinking has developed and shows deeper engagement with orthodox and Pauline conceptions – and particularly with Luther. I concede that not reading these yet puts me at a disadvantage, however, Root also concedes that despite this some of my concerns ‘will remain.’

Understanding of Salvation

Fourth, Root’s theology seems to miss key creedal components. He seems to go out of his way, for instance, to avoid talking about the atonement in any distinctive form, which makes me wonder what Root’s theology of salvation really is? He writes as if he is trying to unstick the incarnation from any kind of soteriology (2013: 132-133, 148-149; 2007:91-94), and avoids it being the way in which God’s wrath is appeased (2013:128).

From my reading of Root, salvation is reclassified as ‘finding your person bound to God’ (2013:70; see Bertrand and Hearlson, 2013:47); sin is re-understood as ‘antihumanity’ (2007:90-91); and new-creation is deemphasized in favour of individual, world-bound empathy (2013:99, 149). He does not cogently discuss victory, God’s glory, heaven, obedience, or proclamation in mission. He, I believe, marginalises the Father and subtly remoulds the classical understanding of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (2013:147). Finally, Root neglects to properly unpack essential views that emphasise the historically understood divine aspects of the Incarnation (such as Athanasius or the Nicene Creed) – and favours writers like Barth, Torrance, and Bonhoeffer, all of whom lean towards the Incarnation being something in itself salvific.

I find it difficult, in how Root has written, to see much effectual reason for Jesus to have died for sins apart from fulfilling some kind of ultimate act of place-sharing in our death. Root frequently moves the ‘goal’ of incarnation from a divine action to a participative human action (2007:89-94).

Summary

Do I think these objections result in an insurmountable problem with the work of Dr. Root? Certainly not – and in many ways I don’t like nit-picking someone whom I respect so deeply. It’s easy to find problems in anyone, and I’m sure Root could answer or clarify his approach to all of the above. Many of these are probably just misunderstandings, or rabbit holes that needed a little more clarification and nuance at the time of writing.

The problem is I – as a reasonably well-informed, theologically-educated, and experienced youth leader – after reading all of Root’s work, came away with these issues. It worries me greatly, therefore, that in the youth work populous, little, if any, critique is being offered. Why is it that the only real critical questioning has been relegated to the academic realm?

Let’s please read innovative work carefully, and appropriate it into our contexts with great attention to the young people that God has placed in our lives. It’s important to engage with deep thinkers, but deep thinking alone doesn’t make something correct or adoptable. In the case of Root, there is I believe, enough serious divergence from orthodoxy to require great care in reading.

My absolute best to Dr. Root, who I think is an invaluable thinker in our times. My hope for all of us, however, is that we can gracefully look deeper and more carefully at what we adopt.

 

References:

Bertrand, B., & Hearlson, C. (2013), ‘Relationships, personalism, and Andrew Root’, The Journal of Youth Ministry, 12, 1, pp. 45-55

Billings, J.T. (2012), ‘The Problem with ‘Incarnational Ministry.”, Christianity Today, 56, 7, pp. 58-63

Bonhoeffer, D. and Krauss, R. (2010). Letters and papers from prison. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press.

Dodrill, M. (2013), ‘A call for more critical thinking regarding the ‘theological turn’ in youth ministry’, The Journal Of Youth Ministry, 12, 1, pp. 7-20

Glassford, D.K. (2016), ‘Bonhoeffer as youth worker: a theological vision for discipleship and life together’, Christian Education Journal, 13, 2, pp. 435-437

Godsey, J. (1991), Bonhoeffer’s costly theology. Available at http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-32/bonhoeffers-costly-theology.html

Haitch, R. (2013), ‘Response to ‘Incarnation and place-sharing’ by Andrew Root’, The Journal Of Youth Ministry, 12, 1, pp. 37-43

Hickford, A. (2003) Essential youth: Why your church needs young people. Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications

Root, A. (2014) Bonhoeffer as youth worker: a theological vision for discipleship and life together. Grand Rapids: Baker Books

Root, A. (2013), ‘Evangelicalism, personalism and encounters with the person of Jesus: a rejoinder’, The Journal Of Youth Ministry, 12, 1, pp. 57-67

Root. A. (2013), How we talk about sin in youth ministry. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7I4gHCKElw

Root, A. (2011), ‘Participation and mediation: a practical theology for the liquid church’, International Journal of Practical Theology, 15, 1, pp. 137-139

Root, A. Relationality as the Objective of Incarnational Ministry: A Reexamination of the Theological Foundations of Adolescent Ministry in Griffiths, S. (ed.) and International Association for the study of Youth Ministry (2004) Journal of Youth and Theology Vol.3 No. 1 April 2004. pp.97-113

Root, A. (2007), Revisiting relational youth ministry: from a strategy of influence to a theology of incarnation. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books

Root, A. (2013), ‘The incarnation, place-sharing, and youth ministry: experiencing the transcendence of God’, The Journal of Youth Ministry, 12, 1, pp. 21-36

Root, A. (2013), The relational pastor: sharing in Christ by sharing ourselves. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP

Root, A. and Dean, K.C. (2011) The theological turn in youth ministry. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books

Smith, F.J. (2009), ‘Revisiting relational youth ministry: from a strategy of influence to a theology of incarnation’, Theology Today, 66, 1, p. 109

Weikart, R. (2015), The Troubling Truth About Bonhoeffer’s Theology. Available at http://www.equip.org/article/troubling-truth-bonhoeffers-theology/

White, D.F. (2008), ‘Toward an adequate sociology of youth ministry: a dialogue with Andrew Root and Anthony Giddens’, The Journal of Youth Ministry, 7, 1, pp. 91-100

Winstead, B. (2016), ‘Bonhoeffer as youth worker: a theological vision for discipleship and life together’, Wesleyan Theological Journal, 51, 1, pp. 230-233

What does a Church-based youth worker do? With Jonny Price

Welcome to our new series: the variety of youth workers. We’re going to be looking at six types of Christian youth worker including; The Consultant, The Freelance, The Parachurch, The Church-based, The Secular, and The National Role. Each will be written by a known practitioner in that field.

Last week Liz Edge told us about being a Freelance worker, and the week before Ali Campbell explained his role as a consultant. This week, Jonny Price, Youth and Children’s Ministry Leader in York, returns to tell us about being a Church-based youth worker.

 

What does an average week look like?

There is a strange mix of regular, set in stone, activities; those things that need doing week-by-week, and then some less regular things which come around monthly, annually, or are just a one off. The few things that I know will be in the diary each week are:

  • Staff meeting
  • Wednesday Youth Cafe
  • Friday Drop In
  • Sunday morning
  • Younger JAM, our Discipleship group for 11-14s
  • Older JAM, our Discipleship group for 14-18s

Around those I generally have prep time, admin time, supervisions, and meetings. Meeting up with young people, meeting with volunteers, meeting with other youth workers from around the city… just generally a lot of meetings!

Each week I try and make sure I have one solid office day. This is so I can really get my head down and power through my to-do list, as well as take a slightly wider look at what is going on across the ministries I oversee. Alongside that I have half a day reading time each week as well, although often that is the first thing to get squeezed out when things get hectic.

Finally, there are the things that come up within the calendar. At the moment, for instance, we are looking ahead to our Good Friday sleepover, and putting together all the practical things for prayer stations, food, films, popcorn, and all the rest of it.

What are your top priorities?

There are three really that carry across everything we do in Clifton Parish. They are:

Make sure that my volunteers are equipped and feel able to fulfil their roles to the best of their abilities.
Give all the young people and children we come into contact with the opportunity to explore their spirituality, and to introduce them to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Make sure that – across everything we do – we are allowing our young people and children to take the next step in their faith, and to take their faith wherever they go in the world.

I feel that I need to explain why my volunteers are at the top of my list of priorities. Without them, nothing else can happen. If my volunteers are well equipped and trained, if they feel called to what they do, and if they feel confident in what they do, then everything else will follow. If they aren’t, then priorities 2 and 3 are a bit pointless.

What are the hardest things about being in church based youth work?

There are a couple that really stand out to me. The first is that often you are treated as a young person because you work with young people. I have lost count of the number of meetings I have been in with clergy who have felt the need to explain to me how I should be doing my job, as if it is not something I have spent a significant amount of time and energy thinking, praying, and reflecting on.

The second is the weight that you can carry for other people. Because of the part we can play in young people’s lives they will unload their burdens to us, open up to us about things they haven’t told anyone else, and they can lean on us heavily. The challenge in creating boundaries so that we can serve them safely, look after ourselves, and not create a culture of dependancy, which can be really hard.

What are the best things?

Because you are investing in a community and (hopefully) spending a significant amount of time there, you see young people grow up. I spent nearly seven years in my last job, and seeing the young people grow from young teenagers to adults was one of the greatest privileges.

As well as that, I love seeing people step out in faith and try things for the first time. I have a number of people on my teams who have stepped out of their comfort zone to get involved in youth or children’s ministry, and it has helped them understand what gifts God has given them, and has had a wider impact on their lives.

How do you think Church based youth work is different to other kinds of youth work?
Being Church based means that we can be more holistic in our approach to young people than many other organisations. We can offer them the chance to become part of an multi-generational movement through which we can transform local communities.

Many organisations can do the individual bits which make up church based youth work, but having the church as the basis for the work that we do is what gives us the opportunity to have long-term, significant, and hope-giving impact on communities which otherwise struggle to find any hope in the world.

What would you say to someone considering becoming a church based youth worker?

‘Great, are you sure?’

It is a fantastic role and I would not have spend the last 9 years doing anything else, but you need to be ready for it.

Talk to people who have been doing it for a while, find out what to expect, make sure they are telling you about the ugly bits of it, and then pray. If God wants you in this, you won’t be able to stay away.

And before you jump in, make sure that you have people there to support you when things get tough.

Anything else you’d like to add?

This is the best role in the world. We have the opportunity and privilege to connect a generation to the church, and through doing that to transform both. We can see young people discover who God made them to be, see them step free of damaging patterns of behaviour, and watch them have a positive impact on the world around them.

And if we occasionally have to explain why we don’t want to be vicars, then I think I can live with that.

 

 

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.

 

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash