Youth work and faith: debates, delights and dilemmas

Smith, Mark K., Stanton, Naomi and Wylie, Tom, eds. (2015) Youth work and faith: debates, delights and dilemmas. Russell House, Lyme Regis. ISBN 9781905541867. [Book]

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Following recent decline in state-sponsored youth work provision alongside growth in the faith-based sectors, thinking about youth work and faith is crucial, both to those working in faith-based settings and those working with them as partners or funders. This volume draws on the debates, delights and dilemmas of the relationship between youth work and faith. It is informed by a range of perspectives, from specific faith traditions as well as considering the cross-cutting issues.
Since the 1990s, the balance of youth work provision has markedly shifted so that by the early twenty-first century it was claimed that, in England and Wales, more full-time youth workers were now employed in faith settings than secular ones (Brierley, 2003: 12; Green, 2006: 3). This text aims to address some of the underlying tensions within faith-based work and to embrace the contribution made by the faith-based sector to the youth work field. Whilst using the term ‘the faith-based sector’ to discuss the many expressions of youth work that come under the umbrella of faith, we note that the faith sector, like youth work overall, is not homogeneous; indeed, it incorporates a whole spectrum of missions, values, affiliations and interventions. Moreover, there are many people ‘of faith’ who work in the ‘secular’ sector and, increasingly, vice versa; particularly, as religious organisations have taken over previously local authority run youth clubs under the Government’s Big Society agenda and its concurrent austerity drive. Whilst we recognise this text is particularly timely in the current political climate, with the Government arguably using the faith sector as a device to shrink the state (which is, indeed, a thread of the chapter by Nigel Pimlott), we are keen to emphasise that tensions may emerge from the faith sector allowing itself to be embraced by the objectives and funding of the state.
The chapter authors approach the issues from academic and practitioner perspectives and the book covers a range of pertinent topics, including some of the ‘tricky issues’ such as sexuality, death and indoctrination. We hope that the book will open up debate between the faith-based and wider youth work sectors, recognising the field in its current form and the issues and opportunities we face as we approach a new era in youth work policy and practice.
The book begins by looking at three specific faith traditions with established youth work narratives; these being Jewish, Christian and Muslim. The next three chapters of the book consider some of the cross cutting issues for faith-based youth work from the perspectives of research and theory, these being involvement with civil society, discussions of sex and sexuality, and the issue of indoctrination. The text then considers the notion of interfaith integration, both in the context of training for youth workers of different faiths and none (Bardy et al.) and in the youth work setting itself (Henry). The three final chapters of the book take a more personal and practice-related approach to reflecting on the meaning of faith and spirituality in youth work. Through personal reflections and experiences, Bernard Davies considers the role of doubt in youth work and Maxine Green offers some thoughts on the use of our ‘spiritual self’ as a tool for practice. Jess Bishop then considers the oft-neglected topic of working with young people on the issue of death and dying.

Item Type: Book
Research Areas: A. > School of Health and Education > Mental Health, Social Work and Interprofessional Learning
Item ID: 17343
Notes on copyright: Access to full text restricted pending copyright check.
Depositing User: Naomi Stanton
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2015 10:12
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2021 18:34

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