It has been a privilege to be part of a day in Birmingham, before the National Youth Ministry Weekend (Youthscape) kicks off tonight.


The day has been facilitated by a couple of legends and unsung heroes of Christian Youth Work in the UK – David Howells and Paul Fenton. David and Paul facilitate the Christian Youth Work Consortium – a collective, if you will – that gathers those involved in training and supporting the development of those engaged in Christian youth work and ministry in the UK.


My thoughts on the day are many – so much to think about and process, with rich conversation and thinking across the room. It is a joy to be in a space where you know those around you are equally passionate about equipping the next generation of youth workers and, helping to create an environment that sustains those in youth ministry for the long haul.


I’m just going to share a few of my highlights of the day ::


As near to you as the clothes you wear. David started the day drawing our attention to a wonderful passage in Romans 13.

Love is all that the law demands.

Romans 13:10


Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear.

Romans 13:14

I love these two verses, and they set the tone for our day – but also, they should set the tone for our youth work practice. Whatever our values, our qualifications, our level of training – even our interest (or not) in professional development in youth work. Love – that is what we are called to do. Love God, love others – love God, love young people; love God, love our churches; love God, love our leaders; love God, love those we have not yet met who do not yet know that they are loved.


And, what almost sounds like an invitation. “Let Jesus . . . ” Do we give Jesus Christ permission to be that near to us. To go with us – as with our clothes – wherever we go? Whoever we might go to and with? Jesus is near – will we manifest his presence? Will we – in our wandering through our ministry life – allow his presence to permeate our thinking, values, practice?


What a great – and challenging couple of thoughts to start the day!


The Changing Context. Paul then presented us with a snapshot of the changing picture in the UK across the youth work sector. Including :

  • The All Party Parliamentary Group Youth work Inquiry Report (Published in April 2019). Read it [here]
  • The drastic cut in youth work provision over the last decade – a 50% reduction in funding.
  • The destabilising and fragmenting of the sector – in part, in response to the above as organisations and groups have needed to focus on their immediate provision (and whether it can be funded) limiting the collaboration with others.
  • The breakdown of community structures at local level – young people being seen in a negative light (gang culture, county lines, knife crime etc).
  • The development of local partnerships to deliver anything (what is left of youth provision after austerity). This looks different from region to region. For example, in Lancashire it looks like our “Shape” in terms of working together across the sector (local authority and others) is moving towards a Safeguarding model based on developments in Hertfordshire.


National Occupational Standards (NOS). Excitingly (if you geek out over this kind of thing) “Spirituality” has been included for the first time in the national standards as something that youth workers should facilitate in their work with young people – at least, be aware of it. This is good news, as historically, certainly back in 2012, the last time these standards were looked at “Spirituality” didn’t make it in to the final set of standards. So, moving in the right direction!


The future of JNC? We didn’t really get in to this, but – just from the stats – back in 2011/2012 most of those training as undergraduates in Christian youth work would be doing a JNC validated qualification (JNC being the Joint Negotiating Committee for pay and standards in statutory youth work) This has significantly shifted since then, and now only a third provide this kind of qualification.

Coming In part 2 ::  Where we went on to look at recent research (including the work I delivered for the Bishop of Leicester on Terms and Conditions for Salaried Workers). Plus, some questions I have about where we are heading and who needs to be part of the conversation going forward . . .