Youth Ministry. Youth Work. Education

The relationship between youth ministry and youth work is a subject that keeps coming round. There’s been a useful exchange of ideas happening on Deep Thought that has then flowed onto other sites. I’ve written about this before and speculated whether we’d actually understood the question?
I agree with Richard Passmore that to polarise the positions of “worker” and “Minister” is unhelpful (and in my view impossible)
A youth worker works with young people so does a youth minister and the two approaches are not contradictory. The terms both carry some baggage though and their interpretation varies (a lot). They can both flow into each other and mnistry can be/is also influenced by the field of formal education.
YW & YM.jpg
YW= Youthwork YM= Youth Ministry E= Education (formal)
As Christians are we called to Minister? I believe the answer is yes. Will being an effective youth minister require youth work skills …. again I believe yes.
In light of being part of a Royal priesthood (1 Peter), being sent (John 20:21) and commissioned (Matt 28) I believe I am called to Minister. (What we mean by minister I realise will be a whole other debate but I’m playing with a definition about being intentionally Christ-like in a situation and open to God’s leading, guiding and empowering through/in his Spirit).
Now I think it gets messy because a lot of youth work skills are actually Biblical principles. Jesus was a superb informal educator (using experiences and events to promote learning, encouraging people to “do” in order to discover and grow). I therefore see a huge overlap (as above) between Youth Work and Youth Ministry. I’m sure that youthwork helps my theological reflection and that reflection helps my youthwork. There are overlapping skills as we journey with and help young people to become mature, whole & contributors to community. We can gain some great youthwork skills from theological reflection but they can still also be associated with youthwork practice.
Some Youth Ministry is also shaped and informed by formal education, educative in it’s approach to ministry and less youthwork(ery)
I believe I am a Youth Minister and a Youth Worker, mostly with these being one identity that forms the main circle above. There may however be situations where I am much more of a minister in my approach (not just my motivation) and times where I am more a youth worker in my approach (but still motivated by my ministry calling). I am both but they are not seperate!
I don’t in anyway reject youthwork in order to minister or reject ministry in order to youthwork, to do so would be to reject my faith or to reject important aspects or practice.
I see myself as a Minister existing in the circle (in my diagram), partially shaped and informed by youthwork practice and theory …. informed in some ways by education. I have skills that could exist in the arena outside the circle too …. in education or youthwork.
Anyway the whole point of this was to say that they (YW & YM) cannot be defined seperately. What we need to do is explore the relationship and seek to understand both elements more fully as well as how they could/should/do interact AND where they differ and are different in their practice.

6 Replies to “Youth Ministry. Youth Work. Education”

  1. My brain is in diagram mode this morning so I now understand it!
    It’s really good mate and your theological reflections on the whole deal is ace too.
    I promise to stop rambling now and defer to your diagram. :oD

  2. Thanks Ian, very helpful! Last night when pondering this stuff I ended up in a similar place – that those seeking to do mission and ministry with young people use the skills and experiences of youthwork. But for me there is still a major difference between what churches do and what local authorities do – and its a difference at the foundation – Christ!
    The other related question is one of funding – should Christians really seek funding from agencies with a different agenda (I’ll be careful as someone part funded by the DFES!).

  3. okay who else now needs to apologise to their teacher for telling them they would never use stuff like venn diagrams in real life

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