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Tips for committed integrated youth work


Working with kids
Working with kids ©:

Take Christian youth work seriously

  • Take your job as a youth leader seriously! Take time to think about how seriously you take your youth work. Where do your limits lie? When would you say „that’s enough – I’ll go this far but no further!“, or „that would be too much to expect – I am over asked there“, or „I can’t be bothered/ I haven’t got any time for that!“.

  • Do youth work for Jesus – give your all!

  • Why do you do youth work?

    • Out of tradition
    • I was pulled into it
    • I was talked into it at some point
    • It’s simply cool
    • Because it is fun
    • I do youth work because...

Have time

  • How much time are you ready to sacrifice? If you are not prepared to sacrifice much time, then leave youth work alone! Someone who wants to build a house cannot give up building in the middle.

  • How much advance preparation are you prepared to invest in group time? How many extra hours are you prepared to invest in organising and taking part in activities and exercises with your group?

  • How much time do you take for discussions and conversations with your group members?

Have love

  • How much time to spend thinking about one or two members of your group? Do you actively look for conversations?

  • How much love to you emit or do you quickly lose patience and are happy when the group time is over?

  • Do you group members feel that you are happy to see them and that you take time for them? Let them know this and let them feel it.

Have goals

  • What are you goals? What do you want to have achieved in 12, 24, or 36 months? Where should the group be at this point? How should it continue after this point?

    • I haven’t thought about it!
    • I don’t have any goals; the main thing is that a few kids turn up.
    • It should be fun for the kids and I should have fun as well.
    • I would like to pass on my experiences with Jesus and wish that my group members will also encounter experiences with Jesus – my most important goal is...
  • Find out your own personal goals.

  • Write them down and put them into order of priority.

  • If you do not have any outstanding goals, you will lead your group without goals and without plans.

  • It might happen that you no longer lead the group, but the group leads you (this means that you give in quickly if the group wants to do something different, can’t be bothered with the program which you have thought up or you leave out any devotions out of fear that the visitors will stay away).

    My experience: The opposite is actually the case. Anyone who avoids using devotions and the contents of belief work renounces the group members too. The more bindingly you build the contents into your group time, the more binding the group members will see the group to be. You will not last long with devotions as an alibi.

  • You will soon lose interest without any goals. Without goals, you will only hang out and sooner or later, the group members will look for another group / club.

  • Every group has a goal: A football teams should become a team, learn football, play together and achieve the best result possible in the league table. If a coach does not follow these goals and prefers to play handball, or gives other activities priority, the group members will also stay away or never have a chance of achieving their goals. This would no longer have much relation to a football team.

See Jesus as your employer

  • Who do you do youth work for?

    • For myself (for my own ego) and because it is fun
    • For the community, it is my duty because I started doing it
    • No idea – I just do youth work
    • For Jesus, because the missionary service and spreading the joyful message is important to me.

      Tip: If you do it for Jesus, then it has something to do with Christian youth work. If you do it because you want to offer the youths something, give them a meeting point, without talking about Christianity, then you have more to so with social work. If you do it because it is fun and you do it more for yourself than for the young people, then leave it.
  • What do you pray for? For whom and for what do you pray for with reference to your group? You can recognise what is important to you and what you would like to take time for. Would Jesus pray for this as well? Are you working for the lord, for yourself or possibly for someone else?

Complete things with committed, integrated youth work

  • Committed recognition of the group leaders, this means without any ifs or buts.

  • Committed, integrated youth work goes somewhat above the simple group time.

If you only want to play the 90 minute show master, entertainer or program organiser or if you only do it because there is no one else, you should forget it. Christian youth work wants more. The youths should feel that we mean it seriously. The more binding you make your youth work, the more binding is God’s offer to all. You will notice – you have a large responsibility and an important contract. You are a pastor, discussion partner, contact person, role model, reliable partner, friend and advisor. If your commitment ends after the 90 minute group time or if you have to hurry home, you will never be able to deal with the youths seriously and take time for them. A member of staff who turns shortly before the starting time and disappears straight away afterwards, does not enough time.

  • If you work with the “when I can be bothered” principle to youth work, you cannot expect that your kids will be bothered with you, will look forward to your program and not to mention, your devotion. You really do you need to wonder and you certainly don’t need to moan.

  • Take time for doing things together with camping, trips or hikes etc

  • Take time to plan and plan activities outside of the normal group time. Camps over a few days and day trips are good opportunities to get to know the kids better. A holiday camp can have a better effect than a whole year of group hours.

Tips and questions on your planned program

  • Put an annual program together and define the highlights

  • Write a list together about everything you want to do

  • Agree on the individual program points with each other

  • Fix the highlights and spread these events out evenly throughout the year

  • Tell the group about the highlights early enough, let the tension build

  • How do you plan your youth work?

    • Spontaneously, however it comes
    • A bit of planning cannot hurt, but I don’t want to commit myself
    • Every evening is well considered and prepared
    • Depending on the time available, I plan with more or less engagement and just as much as I can be bothered
    • A fixed program, always devotion, lots of time for conversations and everyone is treated and loved equally. I have clear priorities.
  • I have a fixed program (interestingly organised program / advertisement / committed program)

    • This shows commitment (they can count on it happening and they can count on the youth leader).
    • Only youths who are prepared to take part come to the group, disturbers of the peace and saboteurs stay away
    • If a program which seems to be “boring and unexciting” turns into an event, the young people keep coming back.
    • A printed and interestingly organised program can also be used as a advertisement and offers the possibility to invite friends and classmates
    • A printed program is also information for the parents what will be done (the parents are also interested in what you are planning with their offspring)
    • Suitable clothing can be worn because outdoor terrain games do not work very well in “Sunday best”.
  • Not having a program is bad:

    • There is no pressure on you to prepare something
    • It comes across as disorganisation
    • Participants are surprised and even want to go against the suggested program point because they cannot be bothered.

Tips and questions for your group time

  • Planning

    • Plan your group sessions carefully and set them up according to other group evenings (playing football every time would be the end of the group – a football team can do that better).
    • Imagine and think through your group session in your mind beforehand, note down detailed plans
    • Take a register of attendance. This way you will know who comes regularly to the session and who stays away for a long time.
    • Plan an emergency program for bad weather.
    • Plan your program so that you can also integrate new members if you have any.
    • Think about the worst case scenario for a group session. What could go wrong? How can you stop this happening?
    • Prepare and find your materials before the session.
  • Commitments

    • Be punctual: You cannot expect punctuality if you are not punctual yourself.
    • Always arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of the group. The first members are usually already there.
    • Only fix rules which you have a reason for and ones which you can check. Always check if everyone is sticking to the rules.
    • Show fairness: You towards the group, the group towards you and the group amongst each other.
    • Encourage commitment: Encourage the taking part in all program points possible; someone who always chooses the good things will leave the group sooner or later, or the group will “develop away” from the member.

Tips and questions regarding your group members and their parents

Take the youths seriously

  • Accept the youths as important: Those who see the youths as children or the “little ones” will not build a trusting relationship to the youths.

  • Tip: Test: Who do prefer to talk to/talk to more within the group sessions? With the group members or with the other members of staff? With which children/youths do you particularly enjoy conversing with? Who do you tend to stay away from?

  • If you do not talk to your group members in exactly the same way as with your friends/colleagues, the group members will not look for a conversation wit you.

  • Take time for conversations and look for a discussion: young people have a very good instinct for recognising who has time for them, who takes them seriously and who doesn’t.

  • Learn to walk the fine line between being a friend and group leader: The youths should regard you as a friend and pal but should also see you as a responsible youth leader. If you decide on a familiar leadership style, you might lose your authority and trusted position.

  • Analyse the relationships between the group members. Which relationships last? Which members of the group determine the relationships? Which characters are present? Only by analysing in this way, is it possible to understand one or two of the kids and make decisions about integration of the “secret” group leader/opinion/mood influencer.

Fulfil the parent’s expectations

  • The parents expect that their children are in good hands with you. With the duties which are given to you (responsibility and welfare laws) you are not allowed to disappoint them. For this reason, you should always deal responsibly.

  • Always be punctual and arrive approx. 15-20 minutes before the start of the group and stay until the last child has been collected or has gone home.

Keep an address list and register of attendance

  • There will be x number of children in your group in the 2-3 years, that it is impossible to keep track of the names and addresses. If you are planning an event or camp or if you want to re-invite everyone to your group, it would be helpful to have all of the names and addresses of children who come/came to the group.

  • An address list together with a register of attendance gives you an overview of who comes regularly to the group, who comes every now and again or who has been missing for a while. These group visitors can be invited once again. Maybe there is a reason why he does not come anymore. If every visitor is important to you, keep an overview.

  • You can go through a register or attendance and address list every now and again. You will not forget the participants as easily and you can plan and invite with aims. Nobody is forgotten and the invitees will notice that they have not been struck off.

Tips and questions for your special events and camps

  • Make sure to plan common events and camps outside of the normal group time

  • Plan them early – the earlier the better – and inform the parents early enough

  • Keep an eye on the price of the camp – the price plays a deciding role for many parents. Instead of a hotel, maybe a simple camp site would be acceptable. Instead of a 5 course menu, you can offer a homemade vegetable stew. Sometimes the simplicity is the attraction and makes a change from a holiday with the parents in a comfortable hotel with all of the creature comforts. The kids still will talk about a night outside in the rain under the stars for the next 10 years – but probably not about the hotel.

  • Live and share things with the young people on a camp and be a role model.

  • See the camp as a chance for your group to grow together and as a step towards your group’s goal.

In conclusion – another couple of things which are sure to break up your group

  • You take too little time for the kids

  • You never plan things and react spontaneously

  • There is no fixed program

  • No preparation, at the most (and that would be a lot), just likely played through your mind.

  • No time (you come just before the start of the group and leave the group straight after the time, like a bid for escape).

  • Let your kids feel that you sometimes find them and annoying and disturbing.

  • A few derogative remarks about the “little darlings”.

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