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An Heroic Ministry
Introducing Pastor Steven from Rwanda:

Pastor Steven

Pastor Steven Turikunkiko has set up a community in Rwanda for victims of the genocide. 160 widows & teenagers & 80 younger children live with him; farming, sharing their lives and caring for those dying from AIDS. The community subsists on less than $1 per person per day.

At enormous personal sacrifice, Pastor Steven and his wife have also adopted 20 orphans - who live with them and their 2 other children.

For more information on Steven and this incredible community of hope, click here

 

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It's good to talk...

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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. 

 

When someone discovers that you spend time with young people and asks,
‘what do you actually do as a youth worker’, how do you respond?
 

 

Chatting to friendsMany 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

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’.

Going back to the question of ‘what it is we do’ as youth workers, when was the last time you heard someone answer, ‘we talk’? Often people say that youth ministry is about building relationships. But how does this happen? Through talking.

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.

Sometimes, we get so preoccupied in ‘doing youth work to young people’ that we lose sight of the relationships, and what happens within these relationships.

Conversation

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.

Unexpected moments

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.

Programs are important – but only if they allow space for dialogue. When you have a chat with a young person, inside or outside of planned session time, this can be even more significant. It shows real concern for the young person and provides inroads into significant future conversations.

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.

I remember very little of the content of the youth ministry sessions I went to as a young person. It was not the session ‘content’ I was interested in during my teenage years. What I did seek was the acceptance and value given to me by the youth workers. What I remember is the fact that they were willing to chat to me about my life; they showed me respect in the way they talked to me – not as a child simply there to be taught – but listening and asking questions because they were interested.

There are a number of values associated with conversation that are significant within youth ministry.

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
If two people are simply trying to convince each other of their own opinion, in order to get the other to ‘change their mind’ there is not a conversation going on, but simply two monologues – two people talking at each other, not listening and engaging with the other person’s perspective. When this happens youth work stops happening! Being willing to have your views changed is not the same as being indecisive. You may choose not to accept the views of the other person but this decision can only be taken after you have thought them through.

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
Conversation involves a high degree of interpretation, and the filling in of ‘gaps’. As we spend time with people, we learn what assumptions to make and add our own words to help us understand what is being communicated. We must be willing to ask for clarification if we are unsure of what is meant.

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.

 

Arthur Brown is a youth work consultant working for BMS World Mission.
He has recently moved to Beirut, Lebanon with his wife and two daughters.