Faith-based youth work - lessons from the Christian sector

Stanton, Naomi (2013) Faith-based youth work - lessons from the Christian sector. In: Working with young people. Curran, Shelia, Harrison, Roger and MacKinnon, Donald, eds. SAGE, London, pp. 193-205. ISBN 9781446273289. [Book Section]


The fastest growing part of the youth work field over recent years has been the faith-based sector. The number of full-time youth workers employed by the Church of England has outnumbered those employed by the state since the early twenty-first century (Brierley, 2003; Green, 2006), and this does not take into account the growth in numbers of youth workers employed by other Christian denominations or the effect of the most recent statutory funding cuts to young people’s services during the recession. There are also well established Jewish and Muslim youth work movements (Marsh, forthcoming; Khan, 2006). In addition to this there are smaller pockets of youth work provision in other faiths.
This chapter is based on research undertaken with young people and their youth workers across the Christian denominations in Birmingham. After providing some information on the research study, the rest of the chapter is presented in three main sections. The first section outlines the main themes from my interviews. The second section presents an illustrative model of Christian youth work that has emerged from my research and explores how it might apply to wider faith-based youth work. The final section explores the themes presented in section one in relation to other research that has been undertaken with young people from a range of faith groups.
The chapter explores the relevance of faith-based youth work to wider youth work values. In particular it explores the tensions between understandings of youth work as a process of informal education (Jeffs and Smith,2005), with an emphasis on choice, conversation, relationships and voluntary participation, and understandings of Christian faith-based youth work (Collins-Mayo et al, 2010) which look for a greater emphasis on faith transmission. My research found that the emphases on choice, dialogue, relationships and participation in Christian youth work settings were crucial to young people’s engagement. I also found that there were tensions in Christian youth work between meeting social, spiritual and institutional agendas and explored the ways in which youth workers manage these tensions. The conflict between starting with the needs of young people and meeting institutional demands strikes a parallel with the wider youth work field where current debates are centred on the tensions between outcome-driven, targeted provision, and the soft outcomes that are often associated with universal, open access youth work. Churches often want to impose what they perceive as young people’s ‘spiritual needs’ on all those who engage with Christian youth work, whereas youth workers recognise that young people want to choose and negotiate these needs for themselves. Similarly, in the wider youth work field, funders often define young people’s specific ‘social needs’ whilst youth workers look for young people’s participation in defining these needs.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Published in association with The Open University
Research Areas: A. > School of Health and Education > Mental Health, Social Work and Interprofessional Learning
Item ID: 17339
Depositing User: Naomi Stanton
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2015 09:38
Last Modified: 30 May 2019 18:39

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