150 word response from Richard Davies

I don’t want to disagree that there are better and worse ways of doing relational youth work, but with the way it is being conceptualised. Youth work or youth ministry are always concerned with the achievement of outcomes (goods) beyond themselves. They are technologies in that they are particular value-laden (ideological) mechanisms for bringing about a range of potential goods for young people. These goods could be church attendance, the development of a particular type of relationship with the worker, a commitment of Christ, etc. The use of the term ‘relational’ with youth work is either redundant (youth work is ideologically relational) or indicates a ‘technique’ a particular way of doing youth work.
I would prefer an articulation in terms of Aristotelian praxis, a concern with a moral pursuit in which the outcomes cannot be spelt out in detail ahead of time and our concern is developing youth people’s ability to pursue the good life (see my DPhil thesis). In this account we do not need the term ‘youth work’ relational or otherwise.

3 thoughts on “150 word response from Richard Davies

  1. I think it is the idea of yw or ym being concerned with achievement beyond itself that I struggle with. I think the Aristotelian idea of phronesis has a lot to offer as a root to what outcome is being sought. And particularly when that phronesis is as much for the worker as the YP as this begins the move away from a technology towards a more missional spirituality and coproduction model. I am very aware I have just used Aristotle in a conversation with Taff so and ducking for cover as could well have got the wrong end of the stick.

  2. Interesting thought around ‘Relational youth work’, for what it’s worth I agree. From my limited perspective that ‘Relational’ descriptor of practice seems to be peculiar to the Christian environment. I recognise that historically within the context it was juxtaposed to programme based activities. However that was near 20 years ago and in today’s environment it carry’s little or no significance. Out-with the Christian field such a description would be thought a misnomer as all youth work is relational. The concept of non-relational youth work has no meaning. In 2013 all youth work, including uniformed organisations would understand their work to be embedded in relationship. Perhaps it still holds meaning in youth ministry circles when set against event evangelism, but I’m so far removed from this field I can’t comment.

    With regards youth work being value-laden it is time that we set aside such impossible notions as non-judgemental youth work and recognise that all youth work has an ideological conception of the ‘good’ and works with young people to move with then towards that horizon. The challenge is in a pluralistic environment that interpretation of the ‘good’ is embedded in our own discourses. It is from this plurality of discourses within the field of practice that conflict between practitioners and agencies arise.

  3. im thinking from relational to relationships … good being young people pursuing the good life but then also,..a plethra of good relationships that can be good for them. youth work for its own sake but also as an introducer betwixt a young person and other good people

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