25 years…sees quality drop! WHAT?

“The best ever…..” titles can sell music albums, provoke debate and allow for wide differences of opinion. Some things are near impossible to determine – which team was better, the Liverpool team of the late 70s or the Manchester United team of the late 90s? It is all subjective and there are so many variables that comparison is nigh on impossible.

When Mike Pilavachi says that “the quality of youth workers has gone down dramatically”, you would be wise to listen and reflect but let’s take a moment…what are the markers? What are the reference points? Mike follows by saying that many of the best youth leaders are moving on to ordination and so there is a wider context to this statement that we must consider; the ‘quality pool’ maybe more shallow because of other extenuating circumstances.

Martin Saunders, another highly credible voice, responded to Mike’s original interview with an article that sought to support and clarify what Mike was saying. This article was more troubling for me. As someone who was a salaried youth leaders from circa 25 years ago, and currently a volunteer leader, it is important that we do not compare the incomparable and we must not look back with rose tinted spectacles of the reality of those years. Some things back then were exceptional, some things not – it is no different today – some things are exceptional, some are not. The references to ‘average youth leader’ in the differing generations are unhelpful, inaccurate (even allowing for artistic licence) and prevents proper engagement with the meat of the discussion

In every generation, the same struggles exist for us all – living as Children of Light. The context of todays culture is different but the struggles are the same. If the issues of holiness, bible reading, devotional life etc. are the issues at stake (and I agree that we may need to look at this more consistently) then this is not something that should be placed upon youth leaders alone but every ministry of the Church. Discipleship is a whole Church responsibility.

In the bigger picture of life, this storm will pass. However, I hope that the heart of both Mike and Martin continue to inspire us all – they are such important figures in championing youth ministry and I value them both. I also hope that others involved in youth ministry do not feel undervalued or discouraged as they serve – you are loved, valued and are appreciated.

Thank you to everyone who engages in youth ministry – you are AMAZING!

endings need preparation?

moleskine Some endings can be far easier to deal with than others. Time specific endings given in advance can be far easier to deal with emotionally and mentally whereas unexpected change leaves a deeper grieving process. In the current financial climate there are those that have been given redundancy papers without warning and the cost to their emotional and mental health may be strong. They have had no time to prepare themselves for the things coming their way and so it has become more difficult to adapt to new things overnight. The pain is not just of those who are leaving but also for those that remain. They have to learn new systems, new responsibilities and all this without their friend/colleague to support them.

I am uncertain that you can leave any youth ministry role “well” as there are such a varied list of expectations from those people with whom you engage. I believe it is possible is to prepare people for the leaving and to leave a decent platform for those that may follow. This will allow for the opportunity for new growth and development for others.  How are you preparing?

Book Review – Sacralized Youth Work – Sally Nash

The Grove Booklet Series is one that, for me at least, helps to provoke thinking and discussion.  Their very nature means that they are easy to digest but they are best read when chewed over for a time.  One of the most recent in the youth series is “Sacralized Youth Work” from Sally Nash.

This booklet questions our approach to youth work and helps Christian youth workers bridge the gap between the secular and the sacred.  Many of the ideas expressed here relate with the ‘Generation Y’ books recently published and so, to those that have digested them, this is a whistlestop tour of the developed thinking there.

According to Nash, there are 5 key elements to sacralized youth work which are: Place, Conversation, Shared Experience, Fun and Journeying.  These are fleshed out a little through the booklet and worth wrestling through with your team.

The one quote that has stuck with me over the last few weeks since reading my copy is; “young people wanted to talk more about spiritual matters, more than the youth workers gave them opportunity.”  This quote should challenge us all.

Get hold of a few copies and read it through – it will be worth it!