Professional development for Youth Ministers about youth work.

We know that a significant number of our readers are youth ministers who are seeking to develop a deeper understanding of young people and youth work. We commend this endeavour. One of the slurs thrown at youth ministry is that it is little more than games and coffees… We disagree wholeheartedly. Youth work in a church context has become more and more complex over the years. More youth ministry professionals have sought to bring the training of youth ministers in line with their secular counterparts injecting developmental and psychological understanding into the theological context. 

Over the last couple of years we have had the opportunity to support a number of youth ministries to develop their youth work capacity. Particularly, we have been involved with a movement of the Church towards relational based work with young people. Our work has been to provide a sounding board for ideas and a check and balance process when implementing them. We have also had the privilege of training a number of chaplains in supporting young people, mandatory reporting, suicide intervention and emergency management. These chaplains now have more training than the teachers and principals they work with in adolescent welfare. Over all we have seen a marked increase in training and professional development for those in youth ministry roles towards a more traditional youth work focus.

One group we have been keeping a keen eye on is the team at Youth Vision Victoria &Tasmania. YV, as they are fondly known, have spent a lot of their time developing youth ministers within the Churches of Christ denomination. YV run training and internships, regular professional development breakfasts as well as a number of programs for young people. One other thing that is put out is their quarterly journal ‘Youth Vision Quarterly’.

YVQ February 2014
In the latest edition two articles in particular stood out to me. The first by Mark Conner looks at self care for youth ministers. It could have come straight out of one of our posts on self care with the model used looking very familiar. I was glad to see self care being championed as this is an area that we are really passionate about. The second article by Keith Farmer looks at some of the transitions happening in ministry in Australia. One area that Keith illuminated was that of deeper relational focus in the work. This is also a huge area for youth workers to grapple with.

If you are a youth minister or an interested youth worker I highly recommend the work of the YV crew. Check out there website at http://vic.youthvision.org.au

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Is the professionalisation of our sector destroying the very foundation of youth work?

Thoughts on professionalisation

Over the last couple of days I have been re-listening to some of my favourite podcasts from c2ypodcast.  Two in particular grabbed my attention as the guests spoke about the failure of the professionalisation movement in light of youth work core principles. We have stated a number of times on this blog that the professionalisation debate is lacking and unhelpful at best. We believe that qualifications and metrics don’t make a professional… it takes passion, calling and a whole lot of work.
ProfessionalisationFirst up was Professor Dana Fusco who in discussing her amazing work “Advancing Youth Work: Current Trends, Critical Questions” spoke of the threat that certification of youth workers holds for youth work. The research for other professions appears to show that certification and professionalisation of other professions has not led to the recognition which we as youth workers are seeking. Dana’s discussion led me to think that the striving to become more professional in the human services sector has led to a watering down of youth work principles and practice wisdom.

The second conversation was with an elder statesman in the field of youth work, Dr. Gerry Fewster. Gerry spoke of how insidious and easy it is for us to fall into the trap of practicing just like other human services professions such as psychology or social work in a world which waters down our practice as youth workers. That our uniqueness and ability to work with young people in a fluid way is compromised by blindly following into the mire of professionalisation.

Neither of these professionals believe that youth workers should be less than highly professional. What they do argue is that by limiting the scope and practice of youth workers through managerialism and metrics whilst seeking to gain a better reputation is ludicrous.

Lets be more professional every day, but let us never give up that which makes us unique.

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Be transparent!!!

I was watching an Australian political review program this evening and as I was watching I realised something much more profoundly than I ever had before. When people actively try to hide their business from others we don’t trust them. When governments say they have policy initiative but then do not show them, we don’t trust them. When military say that they are doing things by the book then don’t  show their video of their work, we don’t trust them. When corporations use their considerable funds to silence critics, we don’t trust them.

In youth work I have heard a number of my colleagues over the years say that they could not speak about the type of work they do because of confidentiality issues. Let me just say BOLLOCKS!!! I have heard of organisations who actively seek to limit their public accountability. Currently there are a number of inquiries in Australia into lack of transparency of organisations and in a number of these organisations youth workers have key roles.

To save the reputation of our profession and it workers we need more transparency. In our individual work and in our organisations we must come to the understanding that if we want to have complete respect of our work people need to understand what we do.

Be transparent in all you do. It will get on peoples goat… But it will help you to have a successful career.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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We need to fail more youth work students: youth work is not a profession for the non hackers

The argument levelled at youth work as a profession and youth workers in particular that gets my goat the most is that we are untrained, unqualified yahoos who do more harm than good to the young people we work with. I have spent my career fighting this argument. Against social workers with four year degrees and psychologists with masters degrees a two year diploma at best seems trivial to other social services professions.

In the discussion of our brothers and sisters in the professionalisation camp many have stated that a degree should be the minimum qualification for youth workers. In Australia over 50% of youth workers have a Certificate IV or less. But as we have said before we believe that more than qualifications are required for Ultimate Youth Workers.

That being said we believe there are a lot of people passing youth work qualifications who should not have made it through. Over the summer we spoke with a number of youth work lecturers and teachers from Australia and across the world. In many of these discussions they lamented the calibre of students which were leaving their courses. Students who were doing the course as a stepping stone to something else. Students who were doing it to keep their welfare cheque coming in. Students who were not putting in effort in academic areas or in field placements.

As a teacher I tell my students that I have no compunction in failing them if they don’t make the grade. That I expect excellence in the classroom because I expect it in the sector. When students struggle I give them all the support available. If they still fail then thats it. 

I have heard of a number of students who have been passed in their courses so that institutions can get the money available for graduating students. I have heard of lecturers and teachers passing students just to get them out of their classes. This type of behaviour needs to stop.

If we as a profession are to gain credibility in the community sector it must start in qualifying only those who meet our stringent standards. Minimum qualifications and coasting through need to be wiped out.

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Dealing with the down time: Youth worker patience.

If you are in anyway like me you spend most of your working days going flat out. You run from meeting to meeting, to counselling session, to games, to report writing and at the end of the day you crash only to wake up again and do it over. But when those elusive moments of nothing pop up in our diary we find it boring and hard to stay awake. Here are a few things I do when I have nothing to do:

  1. Read. Keep up to date with the sector through journals, blogs etc. It is really important for us to stay abreast of all the goings on in our sector. Sign up to newsletters and blogs of your industry groups as well. Your inbox will always have something interesting to read.
  2. Network. When you have an empty lunch date then meet with a colleague. I try to have at least one lunch meeting or coffee with a colleaague per week and when I have a spare moment it makes it easy to catch up with a member of my network.
  3. Plan. Whether it is your self care or the next step in a project, use this time to make your goals clear. We all whinge when we don’t get planning time!
  4. Tidy up. Your desk, the games locker, your resources they all need a spruice up.
  5. Take the gravy. Take the moment to relish in the fact that the world has not ended and you have time to just sit. It is not every day you have time to do something out of the box. Perhaps you have a project you have been dying to pitch to your boss… use the time to reflect.
Above all remember that it is not going to last forever and you sometimes need to idle before racing down the track.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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When your policy says nothing: Youth work practice wisdom

I have read more policy documents in the last month than I have read in the last two years. It has really hurt my head! Not because of the ammount of reading, but because of the lack of genuine content in the pages. A lot of the policy documents were very circular and led the readers round in circles. Others were full of legalise and bureaucratic jargon which really said nothing. I wish I could say that this was an unfortunate occurence which only happemned the once… but it is a trend I see every week.
Policy is useless if it is not easily readable and practically based. This is not an issue solely belonging to large government departments, it is an issue which we have seen in small, medium and large organisations from government, not-for-profit and corporate industry. People tend to make their policy very vague!
When a policy is vague the responsibility for action is also vague. You cannot go to you boss every five minutes because the policy is lacking. So what are we to do? Use our practice wisdom.
When the policy is lacking and your boss is vague your practice wisdom should kick in. A strong understanding of your sector and its ethics can guide you where your organisation fails to guide. Some argue that organisations are deliberately vague in policy to limit litigation and to place the focus on individual workers. If you can explain why you did wha you did and that it links with your industry code of ethics this also helps to limit your likelihood of litigation and also provides good practice to your clients.
If your policies are vague bring it up with your boss and human resources department as this will not help you in the long run. But when all is said and done policies cannot cover all aspects of the work we do as youth workers.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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We need to measure everything: youth work is changing and so must we.

Over the past year we have attended a number of conferences and seminars throughout Australia on the awesome practice that is youth work. We have also had the privelege of speaking with a number of our international counterparts about where international practice is at. As we have reflected about these instances as a team we have become aware of a major concern in the sector. We lack good clear data for advocating about the great work we do.
In her address to the Australian Capital Territory Youth Workers Conference, Gabi Rosenstreich, CEO of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, reminded the gathered youth workers that anecdotes and innuendo have little sway with funding bodies, governments and communities. Professor Judith Bessant also stated the need for more research both quantitative and qualitative. This message has been one we have heard throughout this year from people in leadership positions throughout the sector.
Many organisations are gathering some great data in their day to day work, however the resounding discussion in the sector seems to be that we need to get more. To this end we would also state that the data needs to be shared. There is little point in having the data if it sits in your computer or on a shelf… it needs to get into the hands of people who can use it. Send your data to peaks, universities, advocacy groups and just about everyone you can think of.
Recently the publication Youth Studies Australia ceased its run as Australia’s foremost journal on young people and the youth sector after eighteen years in print. If we do not share the knowledge we have and the solid data that has been compiled then it will not just be our journal that goes the way of the dodo but our sector as a whole. We are at a very precarious point in Australia and throughout the world. We need to be able to prove our worth and not rely on the historical altruism which has got us through in the past.
What are you doing to build our research pool?

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Passion needs to be tempered for effective youth work.

I was recently speaking to an organisation who were going to fire a youth worker. They had a list of grievances a mile long  from inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues to inability to take constructive criticism. When I spoke to them about the behaviours it became clear that the behaviours were coming from an overly zealous youth work employee.
 
The employee had seen a number of issues in their place of employment and wanted them all fixed at once. He saw traumatic events being forgotten by other staff in their day to day work with highly traumatised young people. He pushed to forcefully for management to change procedures. He flaunted his knowledge in the faces of more experienced practitioners.
 
 
 
Sometimes when we see injustices, particularly if we are new to the sector, we forget that our passion can come across as arrogance. We get colleagues and service providers off side by our actions our effectiveness takes a massive hit. Most changes to entire sectors do not happen from the little guy in the field but by managers and policy makers at the top of the pile.
 
Passion is good, for the most part. It reminds us why we got into the work we do. Passion needs to be tempered by common sense. Otherwise we burn our bridges before they even get built.
 

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Good self care in youth work

Self care is an ethical requirement

I have heard, over the past year or so, more excuses as to why youth workers can’t commit to self care than I care to recall. These excuses ranged from a lack of time and money to not knowing where to start and lack of support from management. Many of these excuses are baseless and push focus away from the workers who should have been more involved in their own care. However there are a number which have a base in dodgy policy and even worse practice.
First amongst my pet peeves is the youth worker who believes that they can trod through their work without supervision, professional development and support and still provide exceptional support to their clients. YOU CAN’T! It is one thing that it is not given to you as a youth worker, it is completely incompetent to not actively seek it out in your own time on your own dime. It is an ethical requirement that youth workers perform at their best, Which means youth workers need to have training and support to deal with the load that we carry. It is an ethical requirement for ultimate youth workers.
Self care is an ethical requirement
The second and even more repulsive is when managers put ticking boxes above the health and wellbeing of their staff. Over the years I have worked in a number of different organisations and have seen great managers and woeful ones. The ones who put the funding agreements above their staff have revolving doors which spit those staff out when they are all used up. They rarely send staff to professional development that is worth going to and don’t know how to supervise their staff apart from the administrative graces of checking their case load is up to scratch. These managers vehemently defend the ethical need to reach targets and quash those who speak of self care being just as ethically required.
Good self care is an ethical requirement not something that can be forgotten. Exceptional youth workers need great support and training. There is no excuse for lacking self care.

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Local government youth work: Placation or proliferation?

In my illustrious career I had the privilege of being a coordinator of a small local government youth service for the lengthy duration of seven months. As I was transitioning to this role I was warned by a number of colleagues that this would be a difficult role for me to hold due to my own philosophical and professional beliefs in youth work. I wish I had have listened to my advisers then. Whilst I made some amazing friends and worked wit some extremely dedicated staff the constriction on youth service provision made the role untenable.
 
I have spoken to a number of my youth work colleagues who have worked for councils and have had a mixed response to my feelings. Many of my colleagues stated that council youth work provided them with the best possible framework for strengthening young people and providing opportunities for growth and development. That advocacy and participation are held as core duties and that programs work fills a gap in service provision.
 
I have also spoken to a number of youth workers who see council youth work as no more than placating residents and disenfranchised young people. They see the idea of program work and generalist work as proliferating disenfranchisement in young people. That at best council youth services provide a way of keeping young people off the streets and at worst provide an oppressive program keeping young people out of public life.

From my own experience I would say that the later is probably a bit far fetched, however many councillors and senior managers in local government have little understanding of the importance of young people in their municipalities. Local government youth workers need to be less constrained than they are at the moment so that they can provide locally focused responses to local issues. Youth workers in local government are often reminded that their client isn’t their community it is their councillors. This does place a clear line in the sand that youth workers must grapple with… especially when our profession believes that young people are our primary client.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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