Taking youth ministry to the streets

A few months ago, I wrote an article on how the Youth Work WA code of ethics can help create a safe ministry. (You can find that article here). The cross-over between youth ministry and professional youth work is something I am keenly interested in and passionate about.

Traditionally, youth ministries are interested in conversions of young people into a particular religion such as Christianity. From my own experience, these ministries tend to only have the one goal of conversions, and little consideration about the holistic needs of that young person coming into the youth group. Youth Work, on the other hand is usually interested in making the young person the ‘primary client’[1], meaning that the youth service aims to meet the needs of that young person as identified by the young person. Youth Work is typically secular, and youth workers are often cautious about including any religious or spiritual perspectives into their work (however, as I wrote in my last article, spirituality can be very compatible with youth work).

So, one option seems to be only interested in the religious/spiritual to the exclusion of all other things, and the other option seems to be interested in the whole young person to the exclusion of their religious and spiritual needs. I am passionate about showing that there is a possibility for ethical and professional youth work with a religious motivation as well. This here is the crossover between youth work and youth ministry. Recently, I heard about an example of how one group is doing just that.

In an article originally published on Eternity News, an alumnus of Tabor College was featured, describing their work in Streetlight Community. Ben Rowe founded this program as “an outreach for young people in some of the lowest socio-economic areas of Adelaide. Streetlight seeks to build relationships and develop trust with disadvantaged youth to help them achieve their full potential.”

Have a read of the article here.

As a summary, Streetlight breaks the mould of typical youth ministries which are set within the four walls of the church. The program is outreach focused, ‘hanging out’ with young people in skate parks and shopping centres – listening to them and facilitating a number of activities (e.g., games) with them. Streetlight has created a safe and welcoming space for ongoing relationships, which has had the outcome of reducing theft and violence committed by young people in those areas. 

I’m interested in your thoughts on this article. If you are a youth worker, do you think from what you can read in this article, that Ben is engaging in ethical practice? If you are in youth ministry, do you think Ben is authentically presenting a Christian youth ministry?

[1] Cooper, T. (2018). “Defining youth work: Exploring the boundaries, continuity and diversity of youth work practice”. The SAGE Handbook of Youth Work Practice, edited by Pam Alldred, et al., SAGE Publications, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central, 

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