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June 06, 2006


Phil Rankin

I think that I should say from the outset that I do not think that Church should be employing youth workers. Indeed I do not think that Church should be employing anyone at all. There are many reasons for this cutting across many disciplines – theology, psychology, economics, sociological – but to reflect on it as succinctly as possible I’d like to raise just two things. To quote from ‘Buried Spirituality’, “…youth work is something that everyone can do and also that there are too many young people for them to be engaged with only by employed staff.” If the Church is committed to mission and relationship as part of that mission, then it is imperative that every participant in the Church takes responsibility for this. I understand the idea of youth work being about enabling other people to become involved with young people and can certainly see a place for that. However, immediately an individual or group become employed by Church the responsibility for the young person will lie with the employee. Young people are people first and foremost and they should be treated with the same level of engagement as every other person in or out of Church. Another commenter wrote that “Pete Greig once said something along the lines that people who complain that separate youth ministry and even separate youth congregations are segregating the church need to realise that the kids sitting in the back rows, bored out of their heads during the service are by no means included and integrated.” This is absolutely true but the solution is not found in employing someone to work with them. It is found in the whole Church being open to what they have to say, being willing to hear and having relationships that mean a way to include and integrate HAS to be found. If there is a whole Church approach to this and every other difficult issue facing Church in the U.K., then each one of us can also be committed to one another in the very long term. It was recently suggested to me that Church related youth work in the U.K. costs upwards of £10 million a year (this seemed excessively high to me!). I suggest that this money might be better used with those in our nation and world in need of housing, clothing, food and water and that each individual part of the Church should get up and fulfil mission because it is their responsibility, not because it is their ‘job’.


Interesting points. I definately agree with you, that the responsibility lies with the whole church, and it is not right to delegate this to one person.

However, I do see the reasons for having employees in the Church. For one, some things in the church take lots of time, and if someone is juggling a job, they may not have the amount of time the church work deserves. My church has a paid minister (We are Anglican, so we would have), because it is a recognition that it is a full-time job, and that, however regrettable, in today's world people need money to live. But it is not a salary, it is a 'stipend'. The difference is, that a salary is awarded for works done, whereas a stipend is considered more as compensation, or an allowance. It says 'because you are doing church work, you do not have time to earn a living, so we will support you.'

Whether this is right for youthworkers or not, is a different issue, of course, and one I'm not sure about.

Phil Rankin

Ash, I understand what you are saying about the minister situation but Im not sure that it has to be the way you describe. If Church remains as small community then all 'jobs' can, and should, be done by the whole Church.Thinking of some of the 'jobs' of a minister-preaching/teaching, visitation, ceremonial-these are all things that should be participated in by the whole Church.I also understand the difficulty of juggling employment with Church but again, it doesnt have to be that way.Two things here-first, small communities can easily undertake to participate as a whole Church, thus spreading out the commitment. Second, in my work for 'Buried Spirituality' I became aware how much of the point Church really was missing.Over a long period of time it seems that if Church is too busy to create space with others, then the busyness takes priority.If Church really is serious about mission, and thus serious about people, it will not be for free - and this might include being employed less so Church can make people the priority.

andy goodliff

To jump in here - I think God calls people to ordained ministry within the church. THe ordained minister is one is trained and equipped to minister Word and Sacrament. Preaching and administing takes particular skills and some training, which I think many can learn, but the ordained minister (hopefully) is someone who has taken the time to learn and craft those skills. Time which is hard to come by if you have another job. The question is do we need youth ministers who have learned the skills and craft of working with young people?

Phil Rankin

I agree that God calls people to ordained ministry but I wonder if this may be because this is how the ‘system’ currently operates rather than the way God actually wants them to be? I do not agree with the basic premise that the tasks of a minister or those of youth worker require special training. All can and indeed should do ministering Word or administering the sacraments. Perhaps the old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ applies here? I understand these principles the same whether it is ordained ministry or working with young people.
What skills and crafts are we actually thinking of that might require some special training to be able ‘to work with young people’?

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