From the Street and towards a new term

For some time I have thinking we need a new term to describe what a particular set of christian practitioners called Relational Youth Work, and I have in part been exploring this in Still Meeting Them Where Theyre At. The current thread of conversation has reinforced this. Taff’s start point about the term being redundant and Allans comments made me think again about this. Nick desire to return “street theology” also bring us towards this.

Relational youth work began in a context of practitioners largely working with young people on the edge of society, and grew to become a way of engaging more generally with those outside of church as we know it, and perhaps now as Allan suggests it is recognised that it is an anathema to not see youth work as relational. However as the strands have converged, the context has become more post christian, and the language of church is shifting, some of the informing values have evolved and some have been lost.

I spent a lot my early days talking about Incarnational Youth Work, as a metaphor that was beyond both simple contextualisation and moving into a particular area. It encompassed for me something I couldn’t articulate about my wholeness being wrapped up in the shalom of the community, the ongoing journey, the restoring of creation, and the powerlessness I feel much of the time and need to be reminded of if I am going to see the kingdom to continue to emerge. However this term is particularly christian and potentially dualistic which is something I am keen to avoid as it could undervalue places where the kingdom is emerging with young people unintentionally.

Over the past few years, I have been building on ideas around Inculturation, Transitology of Sobornost as all of these have the sense that we ourselves and our emancipation is wrapped up with other. I particularly like the notion of reciprocal approaches to youth work and mission, that together we see something new emerge. So this leaves a conundrum of which term to use, Reciprocal Youth Work, Emerging Youth Work, but probably the term that encompasses most of where I am coming from (but might mean the least to those outside) is Sobornostic Youth Work, where we journey with young people towards wholeness for all of society, creation, ourselves and others, to unfold a new way of living and being. This bring us full circle to Nicks previous post as sobornost is what I learnt from the street.

2 thoughts on “From the Street and towards a new term

  1. Yup, Richard couldn’t agree more. So here’s my 10 pence worth.

    Christian youth work:

    Christian youth work inhabits a shared landscape with other forms of youth which recognise that youth work is, to quote Young, ‘an exercise in moral philosophy’ (2010:93), where ‘it is the nature of youth work to engage with young people in the process of moral philosophising through which they make sense of themselves and their lives’ (2006:57). Or Sercombe’s vision of youth work where ‘[i]t is absolutely legitimate for a young person’s spiritual life to be one of the questions we pursue in the youth work encounter’ (2010a:33), and where youth work ‘create[s] possibilities of transformation’ (2010b:82) where ‘young people… grow up good’ (2010a:23).

    Christian youth work is committed to the view that youth work is a conduit through which a young person / young people develop their skills to critically encounter their community, society and the world around them and to proactively engage to enhance the well-being of both young person and society.

    Christian youth work is committed to Informal Education and Experiential Learning as the educational philosophies through which it engages with young people. It holds these to be constructive educational tools in the arena of personal, social, spiritual and moral development, in the construction of a flourishing life. These philosophies are also tune with a Christian understanding of the dignity of the human person in the learning process and the role of community in the construction of meaning.

    Because of this Christian youth work holds dear the core tenants of Informal Education:
    • Work for the well-being of all.
    • Respect the unique value and dignity of each human being.
    • Dialogue.
    • Equality and justice.
    • Democracy and the active involvement of people in the issues that affect their lives. (Jeffs and Smith 2005: 95-6)

    Christian youth work recognises that liberal society is constructed from a multiplicity of philosophical discourses including Christianity. Christian youth work recognises the validity of these discourses within the public square. However Christian youth work is rooted in the Christian discourse and recognises that within the youth work field while it will share a significant commonality of goals with many other youth work endeavours it also holds some distinctive essentials which may conflict.

    Christian youth work is content to live within this conflict of discoursed, it aims to utilise this fracture of views to dialogue with its peers and maintain a prophetic voice in the institutions which direct youth work policy and legislate in the arena of the young person’s life

    Christian youth work, rooted in the Christian discourse recognises that some young people may wish to, as part of their human flourishing, explore its Christian discourse. In such circumstances Christian youth work understands itself to be a hermeneutic endeavour.

    Christian youth work is not youth ministry.

    Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. K. (2005). Informal Education. Conversation, democracy and learning, Ticknall: Education Now.Sercombe, H. 2010a. Youth Work Ethics, London, SAGE Publications.
    Sercombe, H. 2010b. Youth Workers as Professionals: Managing Dual Relationships and Maintaining Boundaries. In: Banks, S. (ed.) Ethical Issues in Youth Work. 2 ed. Abingdon: Routledge.
    Young, K. 2006. The Art of Youth Work, Lyme Regis, Russell House Publishing.
    Young, K. 2010. Youth Workers as Moral Philosophers: Developing Right Thinking and Mindfulness. In: Banks, S. (ed.) Ethical Issues in Youth Work. 2 ed. Abingdon: Routledge.

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