Every so often, in Christian circles, I am asked the question of whether I am doing youth work of youth ministry. I tend to say that I do youth work, because there are certain models of youth ministry out there that kinda scare me (Follow these 5 steps and you too can get loads of kids 'saved').
But youth ministry does not always look like this. My undergraduate degree was run by an organisation called the Centre for Youth Ministry. Throughout the course of doing this degree I was certainly not given set ways of doing things that would lead to however many kids getting saved each week. Rather, I was encouraged to think for myself, to doubt, to question, to work out possible solutions for myself.
That's all well and good, but it doesn't really help me answer the question of what it is that I do - youth work or youth ministry. The title of the most recent issue of Perspectives, a Christian youth work journal I subscribe to was "Christian Youth What?" There are four articles each written from a different perspective (!!) discussing what it is that Christians, churches, youth groups, clubs, ministries etc are actually doing with young people. It certainly makes for an interesting read.
I recently bought a book called Experiential Youth Ministry by John Losey. I've not read it all yet, but what I have read has got me wanting to read a bit more. Quite a lot of the book is full of ideas for "how intentional activity can make the spiritual stuff stick". Now the idea of pre-written youth work sessions is something that doesn't sit massively comfortably with me, I guess I prefer to take my ideas from the young people I work with, and work out some kind of a programme with them, that is right for where they are at at the moment. Thankfully John Losey gets this point, and acknowledges that what he has done in writing this book kinda goes against those very principles.
He suggests we make what we will of his suggestions and ideas for youth work sessions, but what definitely is useful are the early pages in the book, outlining the theory behind what he (and me and lots of other people) is (are) doing. He presents an easily digestable outline of praxis, and some of the basics of (what I understand to be) informal education. I think that these early pages would be the kind of thing you could easily show to other people, volunteers, church leaders, youth workers/ministers etc. Its good stuff.
I am aware that one of the reasons why youth work and youth ministry have become somewhat confused has been the American influence. In America, from what I gather, all activites and programmes done by the church to engage with young people are referred to as youth ministry, while in the UK, there is still a fair bit of confusion and questioning going on.
I wait to be corrected, challenged, questioned.....