Thursday, September 22, 2005

Youth work or Youth Ministry

I was at a meeting about being a fieldwork tutor for CYM today and the topic of Youthwork/Youth Minsitry came up. This is a topic that Agent K and I were discussing last night because of some stuff we're writing about women in youth ministry. The question is can we use the phrase youth work as a straight alternative for youth ministry jst to bring some variety to our vocabulary or are the things distinctly and definitely different?

Well we concluded that all youth ministers can be called youth workers but not all youth workers can be called youth ministers as some youth workers do a purely secualr job. However, if a Christian is employed as a youth worker even in a secular setting can their work not still be also their minsitry? I know that when I was a university lecturer my life was my ministry yet it wasn't my JOB to be in ministry. Nevertheless that didn't stop my job being part of my life ministry.

Well today at CYM we were talkng about the placements and competencies and all that kind of stuff and it was made clear that for the additional placement which CYM students undertake (the non-church placement) there was no requirement for the students to o a theological reflection. In fact it was discouraged to demonstrate the difference between the two settings.

Now I know that in statutory youth work, Christians are not there to evangelise and should not do so as if it were part of their job description yet in the very fact of BEING a Christian they are evangelising in part. They are sharing their life and their journey and example with people. I found it difficult that theological reflection only applied to specifically CHURCH MINISTRY. I would encourage all people to reflect theologically about all aspects of their life in whatever they do for a living or for relaxation. Otherwise we're in danger of keping our faith just to Sundays.


This has turned into more of a discussion than I meant from me. I was intending to point peopel to so much more coherent thoughts about the subject from Mr Youthblog and his readers, Tim S, anybody else like to suggest some thoughts?


Anonymous said...

I don't thiunk they were discouraged from theological reflection in their journal's ... it was just that they'd removed that competency from the line manager evaluation as last year they were asking statutory bodies to grade students on their theological reflection.

Sarah Brush said...

Oh ok. Perhaps discouraged was a stronger word than I meant. Fair point if it was the line manager bit. Maybe I'd misunderstood that - it was quite late in the day

EasyRew said...

Great timing Sarah - for me at least - as I'm starting the Engage course with CYM this Saturday.

I've been involved in "youth work" in my Church for a little over ten years, but would argue that only in the last five or so years has it developed into "youth ministry". Looking back, I would say that previously I was just a "youth leader", whereas I now have a more holistic approach to the work I do with young people. My aim now is to love and support the young people, to share the Good News and to "make disciples". It is difficult to articulate - but there has been a marked change both in my outlook/approach and in the response of the young people.

I agree with your idea that a Christian youth worker in a secular position can still be "doing ministry", and also that even in a secular role, a Christian youth worker should be theologically reflective.

Looking forward to reading the thoughts of others.

Man it's late - must get some sleep and see if I can produce something more coherent in the morning...


simo said...

I find this a very interesting thought as it has been suggested to me that although being a church based youth worker I am not a ‘minister’ which I have to admit was a concept I struggle with, I think as you mentioned even when you were a university lecturer although not a minister in title ministry still comes into our everyday lives if we are truly living as people of God. How many Christians do you know who work in a secular work place, for whom at times it can almost be a point of ridicule from work mates but at other times when a crisis happens in the life of a co-worker often the Christian in the work place is the first sometimes the only one to know about it, why is that, because there is a sense that as a Christian they might be able to listen and help, they can minister, As Christian’s whether in Ministry or not at times at least we all minister! That would be my thoughts anyway.

Tim Sudworth said...

I'll try and not draw too many conclusions cause youthblog and dotdash and I are meeting in October to reflect on it.....with an open mind!
BUT an unnegative approach definition as follows

Youth work - priority of work is defined by the need of the young person

Youth Ministry - priority of the work is the relationship of minister with God.

Negative definition
Youth Work - priority of the work is defined by how much funding you get for next year. Cannot get funding work stops!

Sarah Brush said...


Fab that you guys are meeting to discuss this Tim. As you can tell my contribution is still in the "hhmm oooh err what about that hmmm" stage but otherwise I'd offer a fourht brain to the mix!

I would have thought it possible to have three priorities:

young people

in youth ministry but I'm not sure what that would mean for youth work - missing out God? I think that's too simple a distinction.

Richard Passmore said...

Sorry to harp on, and link everything back to my current bolgs on church but I think the discussion is a non starter because our definition, is flawed due to false idea of church. Differentiating between worker or minister is the kind dualism we need to fight against. Tims definition of youthwork starting with need is as ministry focussed as it could be. For too long the thinking and theology has been guided by greek (dualistic) thought patterns rather than the hebrew (wholeness) that most of the gospel writters would have been shaped by. ie it was written with one paradigm in mind and translated within another. Apologies Sarah for the rant

Sarah Brush said...


No apology needed. Welcome to the debate.

I think the issue of defining CHURCH is very pertinent to the whole ministry/work debate.

I think the original "thought world" of the Gospel writers is relevant but I think the current situation is more so.

It's interesting that you pick up on Greek dualism vs Hebrew wholeness. I'm always struk by the way that the Hebrew Sriptures use duality to symbolise wholeness, (for example in the Genesis 1 story of creation; separating dark from light land from sea means putting everything in its proper place)

I'm not entirely certain it's necessary to the integrity of our ministry to define precisely what we mean by the terms work and ministry yet I think it is important to state what we do mean by it if we want to distinguish between the two.

Anonymous said...

ackulgmk... oops sorry wrong box...

Lets be honest about this... ;-)

Youth worker is what we call ourselves when we talk to statutory people ... Youth minister when we talk to church people... it's all labelling when you come down to it... Is a youthworker who does not reflect theologically unable to call themselves a minister... if so... does a youth minister who does not reflect upon adolescent psychology and secular theory have no right to call themselves a youth worker? ... maybe it is about areas of learning, maybe it is about context. whatever it is wrong to set up some sort of scale... following easyrews comments, I have known many who do "ministry" but are appalling youth workers.

Tim Sudworth said...

"I think the discussion is a non starter because our definition, is flawed due to false idea of church"

I think we need to look at the discussion in a broad brush stroke instead of a macro level - ie its not we have a false idea of church firstly we are church secondly there is a general consensus that Gods spirit is challanging us to think wider of what we can and are as church. Just to say we are wrong or that the modernist approach to church doesnt work, is incredibly nieve. As the great John Smith (god squad etc) said a few years ago 'Postmodernity/postevanglicalism is the basterd son of modernity it wont show us anything new it will just tell us how bad the parents were'

"Differentiating between worker or minister is the kind dualism we need to fight against. Tims definition of youthwork starting with need is as ministry focussed as it could be"

Fair enough in the context of inspring layity and the preisthood of all believers it is a dualism worth ignoring. But in the context of 'youthwork' nationally in UK it is a very valid dicussion. As with the emerging paradigms realisation that we need to be God focussed not buildings or programmes focus so we as 'youth ministers' need to be God focussed. Surely that fundementally changes the make up of who and what we are. Priority number 1 God. Thats it.

"For too long the thinking and theology has been guided by greek (dualistic) thought patterns rather than the hebrew (wholeness) that most of the gospel writters would have been shaped by. ie it was written with one paradigm in mind and translated within another."

Yes we do have to be aware of the cultures and environments within the writings and interpretations of the Bible. (a bit of an assumption that all gospel writers would be writing without any Greek influence but Ill let that one go)
Yes we do have to to minister to the whole but bottom line God shapes our ministries, lives and call to serve young people. Not the government, and not connexions, That changes things
Maybe the fact that so many people are engaging in this points towards the need for the discussion, dualistic or otherwise!
Rant over may the discussions continue

Pete Lev said...

Can't believe I missed the debate! Not much to add at this late stage, except it would be interesting to see if the tenion exisits for other "ministries" - e.g. kids work/ministry, pensioners work/minisrty etc.
I still think the heart of the matter is about the goal. Surely the goal of all ministry is to make disciples?