In any given community there will be people that you could designate as youth workers. There are city youth workers that are primarily tasked with running community recreation programs. There are government funded youth workers that work in tandem to a social worker in providing resources and informal education to young people. There are church based youth workers that oversee programs and events for the youth within a congregational membership. Lastly there are community based youth workers that are tasked by their organization in outreach programs and initiative that are generally motivated by a passionate cause (i.e. faith based, sexual abuse support, family mediation, political involvement, etc). Therefore it can be difficult to simply define what a youth worker is.
A youth worker is different than most of the typical adult influences in the life of a young person.
- They are not a peer, but can be considered a friend.
- They are not an authority figure, but can speak with authority in teen's lives
- They are not a teacher, but they are constantly trying to teach
- They are not social workers, but they are concerned and can provide help with the welfare of the lives of youth
- They are not parents, but can as times discipline, correct and encourage
- They are not coaches, (well some might be) but they are mentors for life change
- They are not priests, but can be emissaries between teens and God
Every once in a while a young person will me you in the eye and thank me for walking with them. They may end up forgetting all about me and my help for them as the next crisis arises, but I don't do this job to be successful and show off all the polished kids. I do this job to be faithful to the passion from God in my heart to walk with those that have no one. I know from my own life that it takes a life time to change and youth workers are in the picture for a very short window of time. Maybe in 50 years I'll be watching TV seeing one of the "kids I used to know" changing the world in powerful ways. In that moment no one will be thanking me for my years as a youth worker, but I'll be thanking God I had the chance to be one.
How would you describe what a Youth Worker is?