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 youth work and youth ministry

youth work and youth ministry

the contemporary face of Christian youth work and youth ministry
history and development menu


There were fundamental shifts in UK Christian youthwork (youth work) and youth ministry in the last quarter of the twentieth century. These included the rise of the full-time worker; a general loss of faith in club and associational work; and a growth in detached youth work and project work. The growth in evangelicalism led to important attempts to the work more firmly in terms of mission, conversion, scripture and the example of Jesus Christ. More recently, we have witnessed a growth in Britain (influenced, to some extent, by developments in the United States) of youth ministry.

rediscovering youth work essentials

Detached youth work and project work. Detached youth work has been around for more than a century. How did it begin, and how has it developed? What is the current state of detached and project work?

Youth work in schools. Youth work has been wrapped up with schooling since its early days. We explore practice over the years. See, also, informal education in schools and colleges - some issues and possibilities.

Youth cafés. There has been a very significant growth in the numbers of youth cafés. But what actually are they? How do they differ from other forms of youth provision?

Young people, informal education and association - reclaiming the club. In this paper, compiled for the Young People and Informal Education Conference held at the University of Strathclyde in September 2001, Mark K. Smith argues for the recovery of association as a central theme in work with young people, and the need to re-embrace the notion of the club.

the new evangelicalism and youth work

Articles in the process of being commissioned.

Christian youth work: evangelism or social action? Carole Pugh raises questions about evangelical approaches to youth work and argues for informal education practice.

youth ministry

Re-creating America: youth ministry and social change, 1930-1999. cover: Pahl's Youth Ministry in Modern AmericaJon Pahl explores the youth ministries of Walther Leaguers, Young Christian Workers, Youth for Christ members, and the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore and finds a nuanced history with complex interactions across American culture.

A number of pieces are currently being commissioned.

further reading

For an overview of the Christian youth work literature go to our guide to reading. There is also a guide to reading for general youth work history.

Brierley, D. (2003) Joined Up. An introduction to youthwork and ministry, London: Pasternoster Publishing. 201 + xiii pages. Part one of the book looks to the foundations of youth work and youth ministry (and includes two chapters surveying the development of the work); part two turns to what Danny Brierley argues are the values of youth work and ministry ( voluntary participation, informal education, empowerment, equality of opportunity and incarnation); and lastly part three looks to practice. This section has chapters on fellowship, worship and mission. The book provides a good starting point for the exploration of current work in the UK.

Davies, B. (1999) From Voluntaryism to Welfare State. A history of the Youth Service in England. Volume 1: 1939 - 1979, and From Thatcherism to New Labour. A history of the Youth Service in England. Volume 2: 1979 - 1999: Leicester: Youth Work Press. A useful review and analysis of the development (and decline) of the youth service with a focus on central organizational change and policy shifts. Good on the national reports etc. and policy shifts but does not bring out the changing shape of practice and the movements at the local level.

Dean, K. C., Clark, C. and Rahn, D. (eds.) (2001) Starting Right. Thinking theologically about youth ministry, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing. 398 pages. This well designed student text is accessible, entertaining and informative. A must-read for anyone training for youth ministry this book has to be the starting point for any serious exploration of the phenomena.

Dean, K. C. and Foster, R. (1998) The Godbearing Life. The art of soul tending for youth ministry, Nashville, Tennessee: Upper Room Books. 221 pages. An influential exploration of youth ministry that argues against ministry as something we 'do' to someone else. Instead, it is approached as 'a holy way of living toward God and toward one another' (1998: 9). The writers argue for a shift from a focus on program to relational ministry: 'contact ministry, showing up, hanging out, earning the right to be heard' (ibid.: 26) and then on to incarnational ministry. 

Ward, P. (1996) Growing Up Evangelical: youthwork and the making of a subculture, London: SPCK. 242 + x pages. Part one provides a partial history of youth work within the Christian church in Britain - with a special emphasis on the impact of evangelism upon the development of practice. Part two explores youth work and worship. Part three, 'safety and subculture' examines a 'subcultural approach to youthwork' and brings out some of the tensions within evangelical youthwork. Pete Ward bravely examines the tendency for evangelical youthwork to build an alternative subculture - and the possibility of fostering closed rather than open perspectives. He asks 'is evangelism essentially adolescent?' This book is important because of the way in which historical material is drawn together, and because of the questions raised for evangelical youthwork.

Ward, P. (1997)Youthwork and the Mission of God, London: SPCK. 160 pages. This was a very significant book in that it discussed different disciplines of youth ministry and explored an incarnational approach to youthwork. Ward discusses the theology of youth ministry, popular culture, and the nature of youth church.


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