Professional Status of youth work in the Church - does it matter?
The church, generally is aiming for a more professional workforce engaged with youth work in the local church - in order to better link in with the statutory sector, have greater credibility, improve the prospects of youth workers, there are many reasons! Whilst within this I see a lot of stuff about "youth work practice", "key skills", "holistic working", "core competencies" etc. One thing seems to be absent. Discipleship. Anything worthy of the name "discipleship" needs to be holistic, recognising that young people are unique individuals, whose nature and being includes their sense of a spiritual self and that we MUST seek to introduce Christ in a way that is accessible and open, not manipulative or pressured - but, introduce him WE MUST.
Christian youth ministry / work is not about belief systems per se, whatever the young person considers to be right for them is relativism, and they have every right to believe whatever they want - however, we need, in some way, to articulate our "faith" (if indeed in the Church we have a collective understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ "in the same faith") not in a bunch of good principles or the "whats" in general of belief and who we are, but all of that should be rooted in our understanding of who Jesus is to us. We need to help young people answer the question from Jesus, "who do you say I am?" for themselves.
For me the starting point is not "youth work skills" that can then be topped up if need be by additional elements linked to discipleship, evangelism, worship etc. This is the flaw with trying to ape the world - we end up accepting a set of "core" competencies for our volunteers that do not include discipleship, the need for a relationship with God through accepting, receiving and believing in what Christ has done for us through his death and resurrection, and it apparently is not "core" to have an idea of the Kingdom of God . . . .
If we want young people to live well-rounded holistic lives, they will not BE whole, or achieve their full potential unless they know Christ. This is not fanatical evangelicalism - this is Christianity. We work with ALL, without prejudice, whether they come to Christ or not . . . . However, unless they are invited to find out about Christ, what are we doing?
What is fundamentally missing from "youth work skills" for their own sake, or to pursue some professional status, or to ape what NYA is doing, or to please the Government, or our paymasters - is the love of Christ, pour that on and you have incredible youth work.
None of this is to say that having a professional approach, seeking appropriate training etc is not vitally important, but . . .
We cannot serve "God and . . . . (insert whoever / whatever here)", IF we believed that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us, and then we had the courage to live like that (and I point the finger at myself here) maybe we could see a reversal in the shrinking, ineffectual, playing at the periphery, arguing over the non essentials church - to the vibrant, living community that through being sold out for Christ transforms our communities so that nobody, not government, not agencies, not third sector pressure groups, would be asking us why we weren't "professional", but they would be asking - "what is it that makes what you do and who you are so different?"