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Considering a New Role for Youthworkers

I guess this is a kind of response to the comments and emails I've had so far to my post should churches employ youthworkers?

The predominant role of the church youthworker is to work with young people - those who belong and do belong to the church - and either keep them in or draw them in the church community. The youthworker will create youth orientated acitvities and programmes running at the same time and at separate times to the wider church services and programmes. When the youthworker is doing a really 'good' job adults and young people rarely come into contact in the church.

What about if the predominant role of the church youthworker was not to work with young people, but to encourage, equip and empower parents and other adults to be those who engage young people? Here the youthworker facilitates the whole church to be youth and children orientated. Their role is to help integration and communication, to give the church the means to be responsible for reaching out to young people, to give the church the means to fulfil their dedication or baptismal promises. This, I would argue, require a reimagining of church, for the implications of changing the role of youthworker would affect and impact who and how we are church. Children and young people would be present and visible in our churches. They would become active worshippers and disciples. This would cause us to (re-)examine what it means to be a community of God's people - who we are would now includes children and young people all the time and not some of the time. This is sorely needed not only children and young people, but for all of us who have become church consumers, where attendance at a worship service/small group has become the badge of Christianity. Ending a specific and separate youth ministry would demand that we face the questions of what it means to be God's church. From a Baptist perspective it would face us with the questions of are we a prophetic, inclusive, sacrificial, missionary and worshipping community? Youth ministry avoids us having to ask those questions, at least not in the same way, with respect to our children and young people. I would argue that provision for children and young people - in the form of youth and children's ministry - is not what being an inclusive and worshipping community means.

This post follows on from a number of previous posts and represents the next stage in my thinking as I continue to wrestle with questions of church, youth ministry, children and young people. To see some of my previous thinking go to 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.



I think this is the direction my thinking is taking too: that youthworkers are to be fascilitators, enablers and maybe co-ordinators; but not schedule managers, entertainers or activity-makers. In many ways, this might actually mean we need to employ youth workers for longer hours so that they can spend more time with and enabling, equipping and encouraging others.

As I touched upon before, when other people are enabled to get involved with young people, it dramatically challenges everyone's paradigm. Younger people realise that elderly people aren't all uncool and moany, and elderly people realise young people aren't all disrespectful and rude. It is a process of de-alienation, and it certainly isn't going to be a smooth ride the whole way. But I'm begining to think it is essential.

Pete Lev

Totally with you on this.

Ali Campbell

I agree with the vision and it is about what we are called to be as the whole church - the wider question that it raises for me is "what are church leaders for?" not just in the context of youth ministry, but any ministry . . . building up the body for works of service seem to be the thing - but if a youth worker, passionate about equipping others is led by a church leader who can't (or won't) let go of stuff that HE is overseeing it creates tension. It isn't just about whether the focus of ministry is entertainment or programs, but the role of a "key" worker in any given area of ministry . . . I've seen it work (in terms of youth ministry) where a youth worker has been in post for 5+ years and devloped teams, parents, the church . . . if only youth workers hung about in one place for longer to see that happen more often.


"Ali Campbell said "...if only youth workers hung about in one place for longer to see that happen more often."

Agree...but the reality of a paid job in youth ministry is that not many churches are going to fork out money for someone to do a 'equipping/enabling/empowering' type job! In over ten years of being in 'paid' youth ministry I am yet to come across a church in the UK which is looking for a youth ministry team leader type person, as opposed to a frontline youth worker/minister! I am sure these posts exist but they are proly few and far between.

Ali Campbell

I did it in my last job, and, if youth ministry is seen by some as on a par with church leadership - what is the role of a church leader if not to "equip people for works of service?" If the fruit is there, no one is going to ask you, "and why aren't you doing all the face to face youth work?" Why aren't church leaders leading every house group? Because they physically can't . . .

Richard passmore

kind of with you on this but wonder if this kind of re configuing of chucrch can come from understanding or within. is something that needs to be modelled and caught. remember christ brought change/redemption when crucified outside the city walls. may also want to look at the simplechurch post on children.

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