Human Development varies from a person to person and is a ‘highly complex process'. It develops as a result of the effect of various factors influencing the growth at different stages in a lifetime of an individual. The following essay is divided into two parts. In part one, we will be analysing the work of a professional practitioner and for this I have interviewed the Youth Worker of St Andrew’s church in Charminster. In part two, we will be examining a real life case study which centres on the problem of rebellion and we shall analyse it in detail looking at the various issues surrounding it and the possible solutions.
Charminster is one of the places in Bournemouth which is constantly monitored by the police due to the presence of drug dealers and high crime rates within teenagers. Therefore, especially here the youth worker is an important role in the development of the community. Youth workers promote the personal, educational and social development of young people. Roger Baker, who is the current youth worker of St Andrew’s, says that working in Charminster is a challenging and an interesting place to work. Roger has 10 years of rich Christian youth work experience and prior to that he worked with the council as a youth worker and also as a probationer officer.
His overall objective is to increase the church’s community involvement with the young people, to strengthen the relationships with the local schools, to work in partnership with other organisations to engage with the young people for their welfare and development.
Mainly his role on a yearly basis includes:
- Assessing the needs of young people, running various youth clubs on Friday nights for the youth of the community.
- Multi agency working in line with the informal youth project. Agencies like Bournemouth Youth Services, Youth Offending Team, Connexions and Bournemouth Council. Alsoacting as an advocate for young people’s interests and presenting them to the required agency.
- Taking the Bible studies during the week for different age groups and discipling the young people into a Christ like character.
- Managing & developing the youth and community projects and resources
- Serving the needs of the young people in the community including the delivery of sports programmes, supporting recreational activities, providing advice and counselling.
- Drawing up business plans, writing reports and making formal presentations to funding bodies.
Over and beyond the job description the youth worker does many more informal activities for the church and the community.
Advantages of the role
Since previously Roger worked with the council as a secular youth worker, now he compares his former role to his present role as a Christian youth worker and says that the latter has more advantages and more opportunities.
As a secular youth worker in case of emergency he couldn’t drive in a car alone with a young person. Besides, he said that they worked only during their working hours in a day after which they didn’t think about youth work at all and they worked just because it’s their job and spent less time with the youth. Now, he says that Christian youth work role is more relaxed and comfortable with no set timings to work and therefore he can focus on a particular issue or work giving it the time required in order to resolve or to work on it. According to Bruce Britton, what young people want from their youth workers is not their organisational ability, but willingness to focus and to listen to their views and spend time with them as per their availability. Though this is Roger’s perspective, however I think this is how youth workers actually need be irrespective of whether they are secular or religious feeling comfortable with time and spending meaningful time with the youth.
He said that he had less opportunities for detached youth work whilst working with the council. If a young person had a problem they had to come to the centre, only then they could help them. But now they can operate without the use of a centre and can go to the place where young people are, both geographically and developmentally. He gave an example where one young guy (19 yrs) called him and said that he had an interview and was little nervous and asked him to accompany him to the interview. So Roger did accompany that young person which made the young person feel confident. He said that this wouldn’t have been possible if he had been with the council. According to Erik Erikson’s 8 stages of development youth who are 19-25 yrs wrestle with the Isolation versus Intimacy. This is the stage where they need someone to guide, comfort and build a relationship with them.
Stresses and Strains
In his work there are few stresses and strains which they are trying to work out. He says the main issue is the ever changing staff team with in the youth team. People who come to help as volunteers or those who come on placement stick with the youth club for 6-12 months and then they move to a different place. He says that this is where the whole problem lies with maintaining continued relationships with the youth. Suddenly that person moves out and a new staff member who works with a different approach or method takes more time to build that same relationship with the youth and because of that there is no consistency.
They currently get close to 40-60 kids during a Friday youth club and low staff resourcing is a problem in supervising these kids. Another issue he raised was that of finances. They have enough projects and plans for the local youth, but they lack funds to run these projects. Also he says that since it’s a church setting, for effective discipleship of youngsters the church needs to come and help the youth groups on a random basis supporting the youth worker.
Skills for Practice
Roger is a trained professional in the area of youth work. He did few former roles like youth worker and probationer office with the local council. His role as a youth worker with the church is twofold. The first task according to his priority is working with the unchurched youth of the community contributing to their growth and development and the second aspect being discipling and nurturing the youth of the church.
He often keeps himself updated with some of the books written by youth and community workers. He said that the book ‘Joined Up: An Introduction to Youth Work and Ministry' with itsfour core values of youth work: voluntary participation, empowerment, equality of opportunity and informal education were very helpful and gave a great insight in understanding the youth work within the church and outside the church.
He used to draw his skill for his youth work from the national occupational standards of the National Youth Agency when he started working with the youth. However now he draws his expertise from various available sources. He subscribes to the major youth work magazines and draws the latest news and developments from them. Sometimes he does take the Sunday Bible studies for the youth from the Youth Work magazine and basically he goes by the current trend of the youth compared to the prescribed theory within the youth work.
Theory to Practice
The challenging part of the youth work is executing the theory into practice. When I asked him for a live example he shared with me the story of a young person whose name is Allan and he was aged 13. Allan was attending behavioural school and was in trouble with the police for couple of times. His mother is in recovery from drugs and his father lives somewhere else. There were complaints from his neighbours and went through isolation in the school. The whole idea in working with this young person was to gain his trust and to give him responsibility and contact with other young people to develop social skills with his peers. Josh McDowell, says that teens that are vulnerable to rejection and peer persecution come from homes of broken families and it’s is not important to minimize their pain but to give them a chance to express themselves without reproach in a loving relationship. Since they need a chance to express themselves in a loving relationship, Allan was asked to help in tuck shop and rewarded him with a voucher to spend. He also helped as a leader during juniors youth club. Roger did school visits with Allan and his mum to look around the school and to meet the staff and pupils. With a bit of regular counselling there is a change in Allan today.
In his practice he says that reflection plays a vital role and he often reflects on this practise and develops his youth work as the situation demands. He also made an important comment saying that theory doesn’t work always. We need to go out of the box especially when working with the teenagers. In his words ‘Theory is nothing but suggested practice, but suggested practice is not always the right one. So always go according to the situation and create the theory’.
Case Study – Rebellion
In my youth group I have this guy whose name I’ll keep it anonymous and for the purpose of this essay we shall call him Joe. Joe comes to the youth Bible study that I lead every Thursday. He comes to that group not because he likes it, but only because his best mate comes to this group and partly also because he gets a tuck of crisps and a drink. The main issue as I categorize it with Joe was ‘Rebellion’. Especially with teenagers the word rebellion sounds synonymous with them. We will be looking at this in more depth with the PARC steps of Theory-Practice model.
Joe, who is 14 years old lives with his both parents and has an elder sister who is four years older than him. Both his parents are Christian and are actively involved in the church activities. His sister sometimes comes to the various youth groups and often helps the staff team in supervising the groups. Joe is an average student at school and is brilliant at sports, especially football and cricket. He plays for his school and also in some different leagues. If I organise any cricket match within the church, he is my key player of my team. Joe’s mum loves him very much and wants him to be a good Christian but Joe thinks that his mom is asking something impossible from him. I have heard Joe couple of times saying, ‘I’m not a Christian, just because of my mum I come to church’, ‘I don’t believe in God, He doesn’t talk anyways’, ‘My dad never keeps his promises, last night he said that he would watch a football match with me and he didn’t turn up’, ‘My sister is in her own world’. There is a lot of confusion and agitation going inside of Joe, which is ultimately resulting in his rebellion against his family. Key point to be noted here is that his rebellion is mainly seen on his spiritual side though it has its effects on his physical and social aspects.
From his background we can clearly see that his problem is mainly coming through his own family. Joe is in his key transitioning period of moving from dependency to independence. He is going through a lot of changes like biological, cognitive, psychological and spiritual and all of these changes in one way or the other are contributing to his discomfort and rebellion. Childhood experiences, environmental stresses and hazards can also influence his problem during this stage, but in my view these don’t explicitly affect him. In his situation we can the main causes of rebellion are due to:
- Poor relationship with his family: I agree with Josh McDowell where he says ‘when parents try to lay down rules without first establishing a real relationship with their kids, they sow seeds of rebellion’. In Joe’s situation that was the exact problem. Though he doesn’t show an outward rebellion directly he is growing an inward rebellion which is very unhealthy for his personal development. His poor relationship with his sister adds to his predicament.
- Discipline method: On the Sunday morning Joe’s mum asks him if he is coming to the Church and his usual reply is NO and then carries on sleeping. I think Joe’s parents are too lenient on their methods of discipline with Joe. Proverbs 22:6 says that parents should train a child in the way he should go. I am not saying that they have to be threatening or smacking him and make him come to church but the lack of strict discipline from his childhood and being lenient on him is one of the causes.
- Anger and Frustration: Olson tells that rebellious behaviour is caused by aggressive impulses that are turned inward. In Joe we see that he is frustrated with God and at times is angry with his mum and dad. This Anger is being suppressed and hence leading to a rebellious nature in Joe.
When we look at this rebellious nature in Joe, the main person who is being affected is his mother. Every time I ask her about Joe, she looks very concerned and worried. Whenever she talks about him, her eyes are filled with tears and sometimes have sleepless nights. I don’t know about Joe, but his mother looks like she is going through depression and there is this anxiety and fear in her about her child. Comparatively his mother is getting affected by his rebellion than himself.
Olson cautions that counselling rebellious and delinquent youth is a very difficult, slow and often frustrating task and success might be marginal at best. From a biblical perspective Bible is very straight forward to kids who are rebellious. Deuteronomy 27:16 says that cursed is the man who dishonours his father or mother. God gives a lot of importance in honouring one’s parents. The fifth commandment is to honour one’s parents. Proverbs 10:1 says a wise son brings joy to his father,but a foolish son grief to his mother. There is a very harsh Old Testament law which talks about a rebellious son. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says, ‘If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him,then all the men of his town shall stone him to death.
Joe’s situation is not as bad as the above passage therefore a clear biblical and psychological counselling is sufficient to solve his problem. I am currently working on Joe’s case. I lead the Junior Pathfinders group on Thursday evenings. I asked the group to come up with all kinds of questions that they face regularly at school or in the community so that I can prepare Bible studies exclusively addressing those questions. Joe came up with few questions like, ‘Why should I be a Christian in the first place?’, ‘Can I really feel God?’, These are tough and genuine questions for a young person and I thought it was right to address these first and we looked at one question each week, looking at its consequences and how to deal with them both biblically and in practice.
On a psychological level, Josh McDowell gives a good pattern to deal with this problem and that is in the form of an acrostic LEADER. It goes in this order:
- Listen: Rebellious teenagers often expect criticisms or Bible verses. Listen with the eyes as well as with the ears and understand where they are coming from.
- Empathize: Reflecting and trying to see the things through the eyes of the young person.
- Affirm: Affirming the honesty to come and talk with you and the goodness within that teen.
- Direct: Here we outline a structure of direction working towards a negotiated agreement and long term plans in dealing with their rebellious nature.
- Enlist: The teenager must be convinced that rebellion is not the best way to respond by which he slowly eliminates that character. This is cognitive strategy.
- Refer: In extreme cases where it cannot be handled, then he has to be referred to the respective more qualified counsellor with their parents consent.
Overall his parents also need counselling. The two essential dimensions of parenting are relationship (support) and empowerment (guidance). Their relationship with Joe needs to be first set right before going on to the empowerment. They need to start fulfilling their promises and need to make a full effort not to disappoint him in the future with their promises.
There are many things that could have been done. In this case Joe’s sister can come into picture and can be a lot of emotional help and someone with whom he can identify with in his family. Since his mates at the youth group are his main interest in coming to the group, his friends can help him to overcome this rebellion with encouragement and support. Once happened can always potentially take place again, so in case of a future similar rebellious behaviour we need to quickly assess the root of the rebellion and start working from there till the problem is resolved.
Developmental psychology is an endless fascinating topic especially because teens of similar ages develop at different rates according to their cognitive capabilities and social status. Anyone who decides to work on any developmental issues one has to clearly understand the underlying cause and effects according to the age of the person. Methodology and techniques are consonant with the work of the Spirit and therefore it’s very imperative that as Christians we need to depend on the Spirit as much as we depend on our methods in counselling.
Background: Low attendance at school. Biological father with drink problems. Step dad smoking cannabis. Mum holding down three part time jobs. Robbie in bottom sets in all of his classes. Bullied by others living on the same housing estate. Once having to go to A and E because of injuries sustained. Grandparents supportive and positive influence. Spending long periods of time at home in fear of going out alone.
Priorities: To build up Robbie’s confidence and self esteem. No exams being taken in year 11. Need to find alternative qualifications. Get him involved in a hobby or sport. Support mum with time management with multiple jobs and siblings. Obtain and pass information to step dad with regards to the effects of smoking cannabis and the legal implications.
Action: Get Robbie involved in setting up and helping at youth club. Sign him for local football team and to attend training one night a week. Offer to the school an extended work experience placement. Complete an Asdan award scheme. Attend a youth world cup competition in Sweden, 1500 teams from all over the world. Raise money for trip by sponsored walk and car washing. Secure some private coaching from ex professional goal keeper to increase Robbie’s ability and confidence. Support application for training courses – later to support application to join the Army. Currently after sustaining an injury waiting to re- apply in June 2010.
Background: Mum and dad living together but for previous 15 years lots of arguments and living apart for periods of time. Police involved and accusations made by mum towards Elliot and dad but never proven. Mum using two names at different times with different people. At least twice Elliot coming home from school and finding her after she had taken overdoses of tablets and being submitted to hospital. Moved home several times sometimes with dad and sometimes with mum. Elliot was kicked out of home several times whilst living with mum. Attending school outside of the area travelling daily to attend a distance of about thirty miles.
Priorities: To stabilize some of Elliot’s circumstances giving some consistency. Speak with mum and dad to rationalize long term issues. Get him involved with youth club. Help with anger management. Find group to support mums behavior. Build father son relationship.
Action: Encourage mum to attend overcomers outreach a twelve step recovery group meeting. Get father and son to attend and help at youth club. Work alongside Elliot to discuss how he feels in certain situations that then turns to anger and methods to deal with that anger. Support Elliot during the times when mum and dad are not together more recently to support an application for Elliot to obtain a place in the YMCA having been kicked out of home December 2009 after an argument with dad and his new girlfriend. Currently no contact with mum. April 2010 help Elliot to move from the YMCA to Fortuna house supported lodgings for around twelve young residents. Support Elliot to secure a place on a full time training course prior to finding a job.
- Balswick, Judy., and Balswick, Jack., Piper, Boni., Piper, Don, Relationship-Empowerment Parenting, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003.
- Boyd, Denise., & Bee, Helen, Lifespan Development, 5th (ed.), Pearson, 2009.
- Britton, Bruce., Youth Workers as Social Workers, in Jeffs, Tony and Smith, Mark, (ed.), Youth Work, London: Macmillan Press, 1987.
- Brierley, Danny, Joined Up: Introduction to Youth work and ministry, Authentic Media, 2003.
- Brierley, Peter, Reaching and Keeping Tweenagers, London: Christian Research, 2002.
- Flannagan, Andy, Distinctive Worship: How a new generation connects with God, Authentic Media, 2004.
- Geldard, Kathryn., and Geldard, David, Counselling Adolescents, 2nd (ed.), London: SAGE Publications, 2004.
- Greene, Roberta., and Kropf, Nancy, Human Behavior Theory: A Diversity Framework, 2nd (ed.), AldineTransaction, 2009.
- McDowell, Josh., and Hostetler, Bob, Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counselling Youth, Word Publishing, 1996.
- Olson, Keith, Counselling Teenagers, Loveland: Group Books, 1984.
- Denise Boyd & Helen Bee, Lifespan Development, 5th (ed.), Pearson, 2009, 3.
- Bruce Britton, Youth Workers as Social Workers, in Tony Jeffs and Mark Smith, (ed.), Youth Work, London: Macmillan Press, 1987, 25.
- Roberta Greene, Nancy Kropf, Human Behavior Theory: A Diversity Framework, 2nd (ed.), AldineTransaction, 2009, 84.
- Danny Brierley, Joined Up: An Introduction to Youth Work and Ministry, Authentic Media, 2002.
- The name of the young person is changed due to disclosure and privacy reasons.
- Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counselling Youth, Word Publishing, 1996, 162-163.
- During my interview Roger shared couple of more examples. Listing those examples are not under the scope of this essay. Please see appendix 1 for a detailed description.
- Kathryn and David Geldard, Counselling Adolescents, 2nd (ed.), London: SAGE Publications, 2004, 16.
- McDowell and Hostetler, Youth, 235.
- Keith Olson, Counselling Teenagers, Loveland: Group Books, 1984, 476.
- Keith Olson, Counselling Teenagers, Loveland: Group Books, 1984, 480.
- McDowell and Hostetler, Youth, 239-241.
- Judy & Jack Balswick and Boni & Don Piper, Relationship-Empowerment Parenting, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003, 18.
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