How many Youthworkers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Just one, but the light bulb’s got to want to change!
The most discouraging thing about youth work is when you’re working with a young person who seems unreachable. I’m facing exactly that situation at the moment and nothing I say, do, pray, give or challenge is making any discernable difference, there has been some success as I am at least liked and trusted and even treated with respect (especially compared to his abusive relationship with the rest of the world) but nothing that would constitute growth from the young man involved or recognition of any responsibility for his actions. I always come home from one of our meetings feeling heavy hearted and convinced that the next time I see him will be during visiting hour at what ever Young Offenders Institute becomes an enforced home. I’ve known him for a year and we’ve spent quite a bit of time together and I know him quite well considering how little of himself he gives away.


I called to see the lad in question last week, he’s 14, large and lives in a small, smoky, untidy house that is usually full of extended family (all young) watching TV.
He met me at the door and tried to get me back to the car as soon as possible as he “was getting some grief.” Next thing I know there are several people in the doorway and Mum shouting at me that unless I sort him out he’s not welcome back and an impressive and damning list of accusations! The upstairs window is opened and a tirade of abuse comes from there while the young man responds with surprising eloquence (though not the sort that would be awarded marks in English lessons) as I attempt to work out whether I am a mentor, family mediator or in charge of a strategic withdrawal. I go for the tactical withdrawal option promising that I will TALK to my young friend. I “ask” him as sternly as I can without making him even more angry to get in the car!
Don’t ya just love youth work
McDonalds is where we end up fairly inevitably and I’ve allowed him to have Passion FM on really loud all the way there to get some space and calm down. We get some “food” and sit in the car (it’s packed in McDonalds) and it’s over to Mr Youth Worker to do that whole informal educative stuff resulting in some owned and changed attitude!
Yeah right!
Ok some open questions about what happened this afternoon. I get a long list of what their problem is. An attempt from me to help explore what other people in the family might be feeling. I get utter incomprehension. You name it, I tried it! Tried to look at his options but it’s not a dimension in which he thinks at all. Tried to get him to think about what could happen if he went back and apologized, he has no concept AT ALL that any of the fault could be on his side. Told him I thought he was great but really didn’t like his behaviour in this situation. Nothing!
We drove back with Passion FM on again and I had no choice but to drop him off and hope/pray that he went back in with a better attitude!

The lightbulb’s got to want to change!

One Reply to “How many Youthworkers does it take to change a lightbulb?”

  1. Your aim is to build a relationship with him, yes?
    Well…
    You care.
    THIS is a new experience for him so this is progress.
    He respects you.
    THIS too is a new experience for him so this too is progress.
    Do you really need to quantify or qualify success?
    Does God DEMAND success? I think not.

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