I left college, inspired and excited, yesterday. In our last class on Adolescent Development, Ken discussed spiritual development and the importance of creating space for young people where they can discuss spirituality.
In the back of my mind, I had always known this was important but amongst all the organized programmes, it kind of got forgotten about.
The day was then finished off with a visit from a guest lecturer who talked about a similar idea. His thesis was to move away from proclamation and into a place that allowed young people to ask the questions. Where spirituality, not religion, was the main agenda.
From speaking with my other classmates, I realized this was something we had all kind of forgotten about but it excited and challenged me. How can I take this information and begin to work it in to my placement?
Since the start of the new term I have begun to grow tired of some of the programmes within the youth work of the church. As I stand and give another talk at the Tuesday night youth club (p7’s-S1), I ask myself, “Is this really doing anything?” We gave up doing the “God slots” at the Thursday night youth club because of the same reasoning.
I was bored of Christian youth work. But then yesterday happened and now I’m not so sure.
As I sat in the car on the way home I tried to work out where I’d gone wrong. I enjoy the youth clubs because I enjoy talking to the young people. On the Thursday nights we get to offer activities to help the young people grow in confidence, try new things and develop physically, socially and mentally. These are all good things but I’d begun to think, “Surely I can do this in statutory youth work. Why bother working for a church?” What had happened, was although I was trying to develop the young people in this way, I had forgotten, or hadn’t fully realised, that everyone is spiritual (Rankin P, 2005:16) and that young people need to develop in this area just as much as the rest.
Young people who already have a belief in God will listen to talks about Jesus. They find it interesting. The young people who come to the youth clubs don’t believe in God and so don’t find the talks interesting. But what was interesting, were the pictures and answers that some of the young people gave Chris when he asked them “Where is God?” That was something they connected with. Why?
Maybe it was that the agenda was not about making them believe in Jesus. David Elkins says that spirituality has to do with values about self, others, nature, life and what is important to them (Elkins D, 1998:33) Young people can relate to that. It is questions and concepts that they are already thinking about. If young people are not developing spiritually then how will they ever be in a place to really hear about Jesus?
To discuss these issues is much more exciting and relevant to me. But I do not think everyone would agree. And there lies a problem. I am certain that if in my “God talks”, I was to discuss spirituality rather than the Christian faith, people would have concerns and that is understandable. Members of the church are paying me to talk about the Christian faith, about how Jesus is the answer. They might not see, at first, how these other things would relate to that.
The bigger question is how I would even begin to introduce these kinds of concepts into the youth clubs and groups. This is completely new thinking for me and I would have to find relevant ways of doing this. But it gives me hope for my work and that can only be a good thing.
The first action would be to look further into this idea. Talking with Chris at Deep Impact would hopefully be a realistic and beneficial avenue.
In the class, Ken also mentioned a practical guide on introducing spirituality by the National Youth work Agency and it would be good to look at that.
Thirdly, it would be good to speak to other youth workers in Ayrshire, Christian and statutory to see if other people have experience of beginning this work. The contacts I made through my third term placement last year would be helpful in this area. Maybe even looking at how we could partner in order to discuss these issues further.
It is also evident that further study, prayer and reflection are needed. Especially if I was to discuss these concepts with my minister. I would need to be clear on what my aims were and how I felt this would be appropriate. Henri Nouwen believed that it is the job of every minister to create spaces where God can speak (Nouwen H, 2002:140). How can I create these spaces for spiritual development amongst young people? Much thought is required.