Search the site
An Heroic Ministry
Verse of the day
YWI - working with...
YWI is pleased to work in association with
Fuller Youth Institute, US
Sophia Network, UK
It's good to talk...
When planning sessions, youth workers rarely build ‘a good long chat’ into the program. But if we want significant and lasting relationships with our young people, conversation is the key, suggests Arthur Brown.
Many youth workers find it difficult to quantify their role. They might mention words like ‘evangelism’, ‘discipleship’ and ‘nurturing’. They might talk about sessions they facilitate. Often there seems to be the need to justify their role in terms of busyness, numbers of young people and breadth of networks. It is as if they do not believe in the effectiveness of conversation as an educative and developmental tool.
Informal Education is one of the core values of youth work along with voluntary participation, empowerment and equality of opportunity. Much youth ministry, however, is more formal than informal. There often seems to be ‘an expert’ (the youth worker), imparting their ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’ onto a group of young people. This can be an effective form of teaching in certain situations. However I am not sure that it can necessarily be labeled ‘informal education’.
Jesus talked. He engaged in conversation. Jesus asked questions so he could find out what made people tick. He wanted to find out about their lives because he was genuinely interested.
As a youth worker, how you perceive your relationship with a young person determines how you talk to them. If you perceive them as a child, you may ‘provide’ for them in terms of program. If you relate to them as an adult, the nature of the conversation will be different. Think back to when you were their age. If you are anything like me you wanted the adults around you to treat you as an adult, to talk to you with respect and to listen to you and value your opinions - even if those ideas were not fully developed.
The best youth work is often unplanned and unexpected moments in which young people simply ask a question and a conversation develops. These times may take place outside of the planned ‘session’ but they should be seen as youth work interventions. Look out for those moments. Don’t try and force them to happen. Simply be prepared to engage in conversation.
The art and the science
A conversation is a dynamic interchange of ideas between people. It is both an art and a science. It is important for youth workers to understand elements of both within the conversational process.
1 - Trust
For a young person to open up about issues, they need to trust you. They need to trust that you will take them seriously, value their opinion (even if you do not agree with it), and not laugh at them for being different. This is not always easy, but effective conversation cannot take place if there is constant doubt of the other/s.
2 - Willingness to be changed
3 - Go with the flow
Allow young people to steer conversations. You are a guest in their culture. It is important to trust the young people to talk about things that are important to them at their own pace.
4 - Interpretation
5 - Be yourself
It is tempting to put on a mask in order to be the youth worker you think young people expect you to be. However, remember that the best youth work often takes place in those still, quiet moments of conversation. Then it will be easier to be a youth worker whose message will be remembered for generations.