Being a Professional

On an e-mail forum recently there has been a ‘useful’ discussion on the notion of what it means to be a ‘professional’ in the context of being a youth worker/minister. One of the observations made, reflecting on the current economic climate, was that it was so called ‘professionals’ that caused the problems. Is to be a ‘professional’ a good thing or a bad thing, is it contary to a calling, to being spirit led ….. or in harmony with it? (I have a colleague who prefers to talk about doing things excellently, which I like). This whole debate being very important for the UK context where we professionally train Christian youth workers who often serve as youth ministers for the Church.
Towards the end of thread, a colleague who I respect a great deal added this ….. :


Looking at the ‘roots’ of such things … from the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, we find:
Main Entry: pro·fes·sion
Pronunciation: \prə-ˈfe-shən\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English professioun, from Anglo-French profession, from Late Latin & Latin; Late Latin profession-, professio, from Latin, public declaration, from profitēri
Date: 13th century
1: the act of taking the vows of a religious community
2: an act of openly declaring or publicly claiming a belief, faith, or opinion : protestation
3: an avowed religious faith
4 a: a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation b: a principal calling, vocation, or employment c: the whole body of persons engaged in a calling

Have a look at look at Visual Thesaurs for a ‘thinkmap’ on the word ‘profession’
…. clearly calling and vocation are central to any understanding of ‘profession’ ….
….if the professions have power, then professionals are called to use that power wisely and with integrity … it is sad (understatement) that professionals in some disciplines have abused their position and in so doing have brought into question the very nature and status of others who resolutely honour and uphold the ethical code and tenets of their ‘chosen’ profession ….
.. a re-discovery of that sense of calling and vocation maybe what is needed across the professions ….

(re-produced with permission)

6 Replies to “Being a Professional”

  1. I couldn’t agree more about the link between a calling and being a professional.
    Thomas Syndenham (who is the father of modern medicine) wrote these words about what it means to be a doctor:
    It becomes every man who purposes to give himself to the care of others seriously to consider the four following things:
    First that he must one day give an account to the supreme judge of all the lives entrusted to him.
    Secondly, that all his skill and knowledge and energy, as they have been given by God, so they should be exercised for his glory and the good of mankind and not mere gain and ambition.
    Thirdly, and not more beautifully than truly, let him reflect that he has undertaken the care of no mean creature, for in order that he may estimate the value, the greatness of the human race, the only begotten Son of God became himself a man and thus ignobled it with his divine dignity. And far more than this, died to redeem it.
    And fourthly, that the doctor, being himself a mortal man, he should be diligent and tender in relieving his suffering patients in as much as he himself must one day be a like sufferer.
    I try very hard to live and work by these words. I am convinced that something very similar could be written about youthwork: It is a calling to see young people as Jesus does, to value them as Jesus does and to use all of one’s talents to teach, nurture and disciple them as Jesus would.
    Dr Ian

  2. KT
    I reckon that while in the area of youth work you are not professionally qualified or professionally employed, you can be/are utterly professional in your approach and commitment.

  3. I think my biggest worry about youth work today (and I think I touched on this when I moaned about the “love your youth worker day” thingy) is that we’re concerned with defining ourselves as professional. I thought we were ministers in this world? Aliens, foreigners, servants of all? People called to come and die for Jesus? I just wonder if by seeking to be professional first, we lose that.

  4. Is there some conflict, or confusion even between the ideas of a profession, and a professional? I know that the idea of a professional stems from the diea of having a profession, but many people, if not all people who have jobs in one sense have professions, and are on various stages of that profession, without necessarily being professinal.
    Somehow, I would contend, that if youthwork ecomes so professional we lose the heart of the call that is placed upon us. Of course there are guidelines we must adhere too, such as child protection laws, but does this open a wider discussion upon the differing rolls of youth (work), youth (ministry), Recently had a similar discussion about the differing rolls of a manager, a leader, and a director, as an organsiation tried to employ a manager as a youth worker, never mind youth leader, and then another went for a director, but really wanted a youth worker. maybe should stop typing now, sorry for length of all this.

  5. What attracted me most about the connection between the idea of ‘professional’ and ‘youthworker’ was the the link that referred to the etymology of the word ‘professional.’ Which is probably vastly different to how many today see the concept.
    I referred above to the words of Thomas Sydenham, that are my favourite definition of what it means to be a Christian and a doctor (like what I am). I said there that I thought something similar could be written about youthwork. Well this is what I came up with.
    For you consideration:
    All of us who love the joy and the hard work of ministering to young people, let us reflect on the following:
    Firstly a youthworker will one day give an account to the supreme judge for the influence he has had on all the young lives entrusted to him.
    Secondly, whilst youthwork rarely brings financial rewards, let the youthworker remember that all his talent and energy are God-given and should be used for His glory.
    Thirdly, a youthworker should remember always that God’s own son died for every single young person. And if God thinks that someone is worth dying for, how dare I think otherwise. Most especially, let us remember that when faced with the young person who society deems unworthy of any care or attention.
    And forthly, The Christian youthworker, being himself a forgiven-sinner, let him never forget that each of the young people need example and discipleship and not condemnation and judgementalism in order to grow to maturity in the same way that the youthworker needed it too.
    Any thoughts?

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