Youth Ministry, to hug or not to hug?

calvin hug.jpg Still a million and four thoughts in my mind about our theology discussion but for the moment I want to talk about hugs! No youthblog is not getting all touchy-feely, just wanted to explore the subject!
The Guardian ran an interesting article called “losing Touch” about teachers and carers being afraid to offer comforting hugs to children. But what of Youth Ministry? I certainly think that if in working with young people we need a hug from them, we need to look to see if ministry is serving our needs or theirs. But giving a hug where needed, Basic Humanity or Potential Accusation? As a male worker it’s a bit of a mine-field, or feels like one anyway!
One of my favourite books in my Library is vol 5 of a particular encyclopedia, it has on the spine, “FUN to HUG” but can I put it on the shelf with my Youthwork books or should it be put in “Fiction”? Any bloggy wisdom or experiences?

6 Replies to “Youth Ministry, to hug or not to hug?”

  1. Well funnily enough i spent all Thursday on a sexually offending behaviour course. It was run by a guy who has spent the last year working with perpatrators of sexual crimes, particulary those against children. he had a lot of good things to say around the area. One interesting bit was how the media have told us that abusers abuse because they were once abused. This, he said, is a myth. There is no evidence for this and his experience also tells him it is a myth. Anyhow we looked at hugging for a bit. He talked about “shoulders up” hugs where only from the shoulders upwrads is there any contact made (this was for adult to adult hugs too) I have always worked on the basis that hugs can be dangerous especially for us blokes. I worry that even when a hug is the apparentr right thing to do and u use the old side hug, sometimes a young person might mis interperet that to mean something else, espec wen at these time they are often emotionally vulnerable. Ive got to be honest i try to avoid them all together. I know this can mean our young people loosing out on the benefits that appropiate hugging can bring, but when my whole life and ministry could be put at risk, id rather be a non hugger who is still able to help kids than the worst case scinario. I remember one time a 16 yr old girl who id known since she was 11 cam e uo to me in the middle of the high street in preston and pretty much jumped on me giving me a front to fronyt hug my alarm bells were going crazy. I think its a shame that the reality of our society means that the first thing i think is not How amaxing was that, she had so much “love” and respect and trust that she felt comfortable to hug me in public, but was actually “oh my God what will other people see this as?”

  2. Teenagers need positive touches just like adults do. There are so many people who are only touched to be hit or to be taken advantage of in some way. Appropriate hugs are not only OK I feel that they are important.

  3. I think, as in all things you do have to think “WHY is this hug happening?” Sometimes a hug is JUST the thing needed but, as someone who is a naturally hug-loving person, I have learned that in fact the rest of the world is NOT like me. There are many people out there who do NOT like their personal space being invaded.
    So in my professional life I pretty much NEVER initiate a hug or offer one that often either. However if the young person initiates that shows that they are comfortable. Of course it could also indicate a rather unhealthy attachment on their part. This is not solely the preserve of the male youthworker either. Though it continues to amaze this 30 yr old, it is possible for young people of either gender to have a crush on a leader of either gender.
    A DEFINITE minefield. Perhaps we need to play the Campolo card and look at the issue through the eyes of Christ!

  4. good thoughts, keep em coming. Sarah, Re your “mind of Christ” thought or to re-phrase it, WWJD? Good call and I reckon he’d give a hug!

  5. I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about tensions and potential problems in the relationship between the two genders, not least provoked by reading a link from Amy Loves Books – http://amylovesbooks.blogspot.com/2004_06_01_amylovesbooks_archive.html (see 2nd post on Thurs 24th June), regarding the relationship between the two main characters in the film ‘Lost In Translation’.
    I wonder if teenagers would, in fact, like to talk about when it’s ok to hug. There’s surely nothing wrong with a mini group session discussing when it’s appropriate to hug? Also, as there are so many different *types* of hug, maybe it’d be a good start to differentiate between them in a group situation – that way, you also have the opportunity for joking around (although perhaps demonstrations could get slightly out of hand!).
    Anyone ever read ‘The Tiny Book of Hugs’, by Kathleen Keating? You can find it on Amazon, and the illustrations are very cute.

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