Clear value bases and ethical codes

I have an essay to write at the moment that really interests me. The JNC vs Ministry type debate has rumbled around the blog for ages and so this title leapt out at me:

“In what ways does having a clear value base and a strong ethical code of conduct make youth and community workers more professional?”

So blog buddies, what do you think? In what ways does being faith based workers make us more professional AND are there ways in which our values/ethics are anti-professional?
I look forward to being able to quote you in my essay!
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11 Replies to “Clear value bases and ethical codes”

  1. Robert,
    Apologies, hugely guilty of writing in a way that only made sense in the UK. JNC (which stands for Joint Negotiating Committee?) is the professional qualifiction here in England. Virtually all full-time statutory Youth and Community Workers are JNC. There are also several Christian training courses that deliver a JNC alongside theology. The debate has been around the differences between Youth Ministry and Youth work and whether the Professional qulification should form the basis of our training or whether it should be something different.
    What’s the situation where you are?

  2. HI ian,
    This is an interesting one, here’s a couple of thoughts.
    The tool of ‘reflection’ is one which I have found is developed well within faith communities. This skill is one that faith based workers can often easily bring to their youth work.
    Faith Based workers are more and more seeing their work as ‘Vocational’ as opposed to just a job. This means that their work is wrapped up in their sense of purpose and identity, this can obviously be a good thing and sometimes not so good!
    Anti professional – some faith based workers have seemed to be soley concerned with getting young people ‘saved’ in the very narrowest sense of the word – praying ‘the prayer’, making ‘a commitment’. There is, I think the need for a broader concept of the aims of Christian Youth Work. One which has the ‘Kingdom Culture’ as it’s motivating factor – Justice, love for the poor, hope, opportunity, community etc.

  3. It depends who is assessing the ‘professionalism’ and under what authority they operate. You could interpret some of the NOS in such a way that youth ministry could not operate. Does that make all youth ministry unprofessional? The problem is the only core vlaues and codes of ethics we have are NOS ones and therefore default to them.

  4. I think this question is an excellent one!
    I’d seperate out the “clear value base” and “strong ethical code of conduct” because the question slightly implies that they are the same thing but they’re not. Both important of course but I think it is the emphasis that we place on each which would probably determine whether we were doing youthwork or youth ministry.
    I’d also want to say that having a clear VISION (whether faith-based or not) would be something that would reflect professionalism.
    I might also be tempted to examine the whole concept of “professionalism” – does being professional mean distancing and not being relational?
    How many words you got?
    Structure wise you’re looking at the possibility of a siple yes no (yes it DOES make them professional followed by oh no it doesn’t or vice versa) or perhaps taking the more complex view and treating the two things seperately along the lines of:
    a clear value base makes youth and community workers more professional
    no it doesn’t
    a strong ethical code of conduct makes youth and community workers more professional
    no it doesn’t
    The combination of the two makes youth and community workers more professional
    no it doesn’t
    Obviously beginning with what you DON’T believe and concluding with what you do.
    Does that all make sense?

  5. I think motivation has an important part to play in both faith based and non faith based. An imprtant question i like to pose to youthworkers is why do you do what you do. In a faith based structure their can be a danger of simply being motivated to get people “saved” as mentioned by ben however if we are motivated by an unconditional acceptance of all yopung people that wishes to see the best in all and see individuals and communities transformed irrespective of wheather people ake a “commitment” or not, then we are maintaining our proffessionalism without compramising on our personal belief system. Non faith based YW is as subjective as faithbased, infact in some cases i wouyld argue that they are guilty of discrimination more than faithbased as they can exclude the spiritual development of young people. many councils have a formal policy which activly discourages YW’s to discuss faith and spirituality, which in my opinion is unprofffessional. We all have motives behind our work, the quetion is do we put the YP before our personal goals? I have seen far rtoo many times churches put a lot of energy into “raeching” YP but when the yp reject the christian faith they get dumped for more “fertile” ground. This is unprofessional!

  6. I’d like to take a slightly different tack and pick up on something in Ian’s reply, when he asked “whether the Professional qulification should form the basis of our training or whether it should be something different”.
    Working towards / possessing some form of professional and universally-recognised qualification is good, but that is only part of it. Qualifications are certainly indicators of one’s profiency, but it should not be assumed that someone with JNC is a better youthworker than someone without.
    Far more important points to consider are what the YW’s motivations are, why they became a YW, and (as has been said already) how they judge their success/failure. Also, how their ideas, theories, theologies and practices fit in with those of the church and YP with whom they work. That is something which can’t be distilled into a certificate, but is, I feel, more important.

  7. Oh, and one other thing… !
    Ian asked “are there ways in which our values/ethics are anti-professional?”. Our values are focussed on people and on God – generally, “professional values” are often focussed on making money.

  8. ian, in the states the necessary qualifications for ministry vary dramatically from denomination to denomination. i am reluctantly southern baptist (basically i like the traditional doctrine of baptists but i don’t like the current denominational hierarchy and workings). within the southern baptist tradition the necessary qualifications are determined by each church. some churches require a certain amount of education and some don’t. some churches require ordination and others don’t. our denomination doesn’t have a central certification for ministers and thus there is no set qualification for youth ministers. that’s left up to each church. it’s part of our focus on the local autonomy of each local congregation.
    so for my faith heritage your question would probably be phrased in two different manners.
    1) should a seminary degree be require for youth ministers? (some churches do and some churches don’t)
    and/or
    2) should seminary education for youth ministers be “CHRISTian education” based (MaCE) or theological (MDiv) in its nature?

  9. As John Piper would say “Brothers we are not professionals”!
    Some interesting comments!
    I’m still trying to resolve my dualism here – when I worked in local authority centre my “clear value base and a strong ethical code of conduct” was part of the motivation for working and trying to see beyond some of the frustrations that were there – it made me more professional.
    Yet in a church setting where we become brothers and sisters in Christ, spiritual fathers etc. the boundaries get blurred (hopefully not too much!!) and “professional” seems the wrong word. To go back to John Piper – “love” is not something you do professionally but comes from Christ.

  10. Umm, I’m not sure. I think I prefer the word “excellence” to “professional”. Striving after excellence in all things, professional sounds slightly cold and distant to me – the opposite of the way I might want to be perceived by the Church and young people. In some ways I feel less professional the longer I am involved in youth work. Having recently re-read, “Gospel Exploded”, by Bob Mayo, I think our honesty and integrity might sink under the weight of being “professional”, I find it hard enough to be open and honest about my failings with the young people I work with, without being perceived as “professional” – I also think there is enough of a gap as there is between those of us “paid” to do this stuff and the huge army of volunteers; there are also huge expectations on many paid youth workers to deliver the goods – and operating “professionally” adds to that expectation, but you can be professional without delivering the results many church leaders are looking for – and be all over the place with gaping holes in terms of “good practice” and yet deliver something meaningful for a church and young people. Argghhhh! I guess the thing that must go with it is having a heart and a passion for young people – you can’t get a JNC in that.

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