Need to know

CYM (Oxford) are doing a bit of research into Student Placements and helping both students and placement churches to be clearer about needs and expectations. I thought this would be useful fodder for the blog here. So:
As a student, what questions do you wish you had asked before committing to a placement? If you were writing a checklist that needed ticking, what would be the lists of essential components that a church needed to have in place for a successful placement.
Conversely, what should students know about working with a host church?

12 Replies to “Need to know”

  1. After being in my placement for a year, i have reflected on what questions i should have asked.
    What is the sum total of the youth ( not children’s) work within the placement community.
    How much of the work involves the placement agency.
    What is the structure/history of the agency..e.g How long has it been established. Who does what and who is accountable to whom.
    What are their values ( may be in their mission statement hopefuly posted)with the application form. Included should be their Aims and Objectives.Extremely important. You need to know as a student where the agency are going, if they dont have any idea, i would have grave concerns as to why they have sought a student placemnet in the first place. As a student you will have enough work to do without trying to understand the complexities in your first years of what is exactly going on, and being asked to sort it out!
    Who is their youth leader? How long have they been in the post? Are they paid and full time employed?
    What are the expectations for the student?
    If there is no youth leader, then the post is definately NOT suitable for a student youth worker.

  2. This subject is of great interest to me as I am involved in setting up a potential placement.
    Debbie – could you elaborate on the requirement for there to be a ‘youth leader’. Are you saying that a church where youthwork is mainly run by (a) groups or (b) rotas of people would not be suitable?

  3. Debbie said:
    :: If there is no youth leader, then the post is definately NOT suitable for a student youth worker.
    I would disagree with that as a blanket statement, but as we’re part of the same Professional Formation Group I’m aware of the issues Debbie’s referring to, and can understand what’s behind that statement.
    My placement is primarily with my own Church. I don’t have a Youth Leader working with me or managing me (I’m essentially the lead Youth Worker for the Church), and my placement is working perfectly well. Probably because I’ve been in-post in a voluntary capacity for about 16 years, and know the people and the work so well. Also, because I get on so well with my Line Manager (Minister). He’s quite happy for me to be manage myself and my work, and I’m happy with it too. I know what is expected of me, and the Church know what is expected of them.
    I think difficulties arise where the Line Manager doesn’t have the time or the expertise to manage the student and their work, and where there are unrealistic expectations on the student.
    Hope that’s helpful Dave – feel free to post further questions if not (or contact me directly).

  4. Thanks Ricky. This is all most useful.
    I’d be interested to know about the expertise that you think the line manager should have. Is it more important for them to have:
    1) Experience managing people
    2) Prior youthwork experience themselves
    3) Knowledge of the young people / workers the youthworker will be dealing with
    I’m aware that CYM give guidance and a training weekend / day (I forget) for line managers, but it would be interesting to hear your perspective.
    (Feel free to contact me directly (contact via my site) if you prefer.)

  5. I’d say that ‘experience managing people’ is essential and comes first. Whereas ‘prior youthwork experience’ and ‘knowledge of the young people/workers’ are bonuses.
    I think the most important questions to ask of a placement organisation/Church are about their vision and direction (do they have one/any?) and the nature of the work you’ll be expected to undertake and with whom, and the amount of hours they’re expecting you to work (if over the course requirement of 14 per week), and how you will be managed, and by whom. Once those kind of questions have been answered, a student should have a firm sense of whether or not the placement is right for them.
    One other area which should be discussed beforehand is what additional support will be available to the student. At our Professional Development Group this week we heard two very different stories from students with ‘issues’ (either personal or placement related). One was of someone in a poorly defined placement who was being expected to take on more work than was reasonable and being managed by someone who favours the ‘head-in-sand’ approach, and subsequently they felt under a great deal of pressure (aside from their academic studies). The other was of a student in a well-defined and well-managed placement for whom a number of long-standing personal issues have reared their heads again, but because the placement has appropriate (read: excellent) support arrangements in place the student is coping remarkably well.
    I think the idea of a checklist is great (both for the student, the placement and CYM), but there will always need to be a place for personal and professional judgement. CYM clearly do their best, but issues can still arise for a number of reasons.

  6. Hi guys, nice little discussion going on
    I had many problems last year which some of you are aware of and I give the following suggestions in response to the type of organisation I worked for and experiences I had.
    In hindsight I would have asked the following questions, all – laughably – common sense now but whilst in the process a painful learning curve!;
    How often do you meet together as a body? To pray?To plan outreach strategy? Relevance of work? Resource management? Do you have policies in place to advise relevant scenario’s? What will be my job description? How have you developed the vision? How is it realistic and relevant to this community? What has God said to you about this project? Previous words, pictures etc – what journey has this placement been on? Who is committed to this project? What committment do you give to this project? What does committment mean to you? What are your core values? Go deeper into these areas if danger signs are flagged up.
    The placement I served last year were good at talking the talk with CYM and I was niave to all of the above so yes responsibility both sides! I think if a placement visit had been made it and a discussion made between CYM, student and placement before hand problems with suitability would have been clear.
    Hope all is well guys, I will keep an eye on posts

  7. Sorry poor flow in the last paragraph! …I think if a placement visit had been made and a discussion had between CYM, student and placement – before agreement – then problems with suitability would have been clear

  8. great questions to ask….think personally that we see many issues arise when people do not share the same values….although so much boils down to how the placement bods/student/agency communicate….agh, that old chestnut again, communication!! 😉

  9. “No really, those are my actual hours? Like, set in stone, can’t be changed actual?”
    Saying that, I’m not sure ministry should have hours specified.

  10. Mark said:
    :: I’m not sure ministry should have hours specified.
    I agree – but when you’re also completing a full time degree there have to be agreed limits.

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