Innovation in Youth Work : Spiritual Development and Youth Work

innovation inyw

I have found Maxine Green’s piece, ‘Spiritual Development and Youth Work’ difficult to get my head around. To begin with I have something of a blockage around the very notion of spirituality. For example I would never describe myself as a spiritual person, And my quandary has not been eased as Maxine doesn’t define spirituality here, other than to talk of a deeper and more meaningful  level of contact and connection between worker and young person. However, by good luck, I have discovered Maxine’s chapter, ‘Using Your Spiritual Self as a Youth Work Tool, in the newly published, ‘Youth Work and Faith’, where she explores her argument in greater detail and depth. It’s given me much food for thought. If I can get my act together I’ll try to explore my misgivings about spirituality as a guiding idea. Meanwhile people, who are supportive [or indeed critical] of the notion should read both this piece and Maxine’s longer, powerful and passionately argued chapter in the book.

She proposes:

Organisations such as the YMCA talk about the development and integration of body, mind and spirit. Therefore, there is arguably a historical and theoretical legitimacy to addressing spiritual development in youth work. If one accepts this, a number of questions arise, such as; where does spiritual development feature in secular youth work, and; if youth workers want to help the spiritual development of young people in their work, how do they do so? 

She closes:

Developing yourself as an effective spiritual practitioner • Clear out the baggage in your life that is burdening the way that you see and operate in the world; • Learn to ‘still your soul’ so that you have ready access to inner peace and security; • Learn to distract your ego by concentrating on the task or the person you are ‘leading’; • Take time to reflect, withdraw and study spiritually; • Work with other people who may be unconsciously unskilled spiritually to develop their knowledge so that they can support your approach; • Be aware that your own life, values and approach may be used as a model by those you work with; • Be part of a community which is consciously and unconsciously skilled about spiritual work and learn and share within this community; • Be as reflective a practitioner in your spiritual work as you are in other aspects of your work.

[Her] hope is that youth workers can reflect on these and begin to share their own experiences of what helps develop the spiritual aspect of our work. As such, we can move towards building a community of spiritually reflective practitioners.

To read in full, hover your cursor on This is Youth Work : The Book  in the brown header at the top of this page and click on Innovation in Youth Work : Thinking in Practice. This will take you to a designated page, where the full pdf of the book can be viewed. The chapter is contained within pages 30 -33. As ever responses welcomed.

PS I’m trying to track down how you can procure a copy of ‘Youth Work and Faith : Debates, desires and dilemmas’ edited by Mark Smith, Naomi Stanton and Tom Wylie. I got mine at the Youth and Policy conference. More info to follow.

One comment

  1. Hi there Tony,

    I shared your blog in my Youth Workers Network on Facebook call “Yes, Another Youth Work Network.

    Here are my thoughts…

    I think using a Human Rights framework, everyone has the right to their own beliefs and unless we are aware of the range of different religions we risk operating in ways where our services are not accessible or culturally appropriate. I understand that faith (regardless of which faith) serves as a protective factor for young people and it can also be a risk factor!

    However, I feel frustrated when youth work is used to benefit a single religious belief. For example, Chaplains in schools and Christians, who call themselves Youth Workers without Youth Work training. I fear there may be some confusion between Christian Youth Work and Professional Youth Work. It’s not Youth Workers role to tell young people what to believe.

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