Youth work learnings

4 things I’ve learnt about youth work?

Hi everyone, I’m Molly and in September I moved to London to begin a gap year with XLP. I grew up in Hitchin and have experienced the work of Phase whilst I was at school and they inspired me to begin my own journey of youth work. XLP is a youth work charity working with young people struggling with a range of issues in deprived inner city estates in London. They aim to create positive futures for the young people and work with them in a variety of projects. I’ve been a student with XLP for a couple of months and here are just a few of the many thing I have learnt so far.

boy wearing gray vest and pink dress shirt holding book
Photo by Ben White / Unsplash
1. We can learn so much from young people
Young people can teach us as adults so much about life and faith.
The honesty that young people demonstrate is so powerful. There are so many young people that have no-one in their life asking them “how are you?” or “how’s your day been”, when you step out and ask those questions you will so often get a very honest answer.

Young people are not afraid to ask the big questions and not only does this challenge us to think about the answers and develop understanding ourselves, but it also prompts us keep asking these questions as we get older.

Finally an important lesson that young people have shown me in the few months is to appreciate the small things. On multiple occasions things I have done have uplifted a young person and shown them that they have a purpose and are valuable, whether that’s remembering their name or listening to their opinions and ideas. I have a mentee who is just beyond grateful that I would take 20 minutes out of my day and invest that time in meeting with her. But this is not just a one-way process, young people can equally inspire me in the things they do, when they remember your name, when they make you a bracelet or by simply saying thank you at the end of a session. I’ve learnt that these things can build such important relationships between youth workers and young people….. which leads to my next lesson.
black, brown, and white bird standing on person right hand
Photo by Bonnie Kittle / Unsplash
2. Relationship is crucial
So many young people and their families are experiencing poverty up and down the country. Working in London estates I see these challenges right on my doorstep. But an equally damaging issue is relational poverty. Relational poverty occurs when people don’t have strong and meaningful relationships with people in their lives and it has huge implications on achieving in life. How we deal with this is with a relational response which is why mentoring is such a precious tool. It can simply be through developing trust, showing love and investing time. Giving a young person a consistent relationship can help them thrive beyond belief. Youthwork is all about relationship, that’s the aim of the job!

landscape photography of person's hand in front of sun
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin / Unsplash
3. God brings a hopeful light
Many young people feel swallowed up by the darkness around them. I believe that God can breathe light into these situations. XLP sees how God works and continues to move in their work enabling youth workers to be sources of light. In the last few weeks the headlines surrounding young people have been heart breaking and tough to hear; with countless stabbings and shootings across London. I believe that God can and will be in this darkness and will protect and comfort everyone we work with. Prayer is a massive part of what we do; God hears us and we know the power he has to bring hope.
person jumping with skateboard
Photo by Devin Avery / Unsplash
4. We need more youth workers
Reflecting on the recent news and the work I have been involved in at Phase and also at XLP I have gained incredible admiration for those who work with young people in whatever context. Youth workers are absolutely incredible and they do so much more than what their job outline describes! From the support I received from Phase I know some of the positive effects youth work can have from first hand experience. Everyone who I have met through Phase and XLP are not only awesome people but are awesome at their jobs and it is a privilege to learn from them. We need more youth workers! It is such a crucial role in a young person’s life; to share experiences, advise them, guide them, support them and their families, educate formally and informally, encourage them to make healthy choices, have fun, pray for them (and with them) and bring consistency and hope into their lives! The work they do is vital, and we should be celebrating and encouraging youth workers as they shape positive lives for so many young people.