Tips For Newbie Youth Workers
I put up a question on my social media platforms for people to answer what advice they will give to someone new to Youth work.
Here are some of the answers I have received. I did not take anything out as I wanted to include everyone’s comments. enjoy…
Creating space in a safe environment
Ask the cohort you will be working with exactly what they want/need from youth club sessions?
Depends on what you define as a successful session, or even depends on what your evening club looks like, is it drop-in? Or is it programme specific?
But …if you manage to create a space where young people feel safe, welcome and valued and where workers spend time getting to know them and building positive relationships with them then everything else should follow from that, so programme ideas, ideas for trips etc will come from those conversations and relationships,
Have a deck of cards up your sleeves
Breathe! Involve the young people in as much of the session plan as possible and make sure that sessions are real – not contrived – and that if mistakes happen- that’s ok.
I always have a deck of cards & some chalk in my pocket – always handy to settle a group and to play a few games and a game of Pictionary is a great way to raise a few laughs and get a group working together
Get to know your young people
Involve the young people
I’d say ask the young people what they would like.
Take time to get to know the young people. (Tea + Toast! Play some games like Dobble or! Play your cards right)
Look out for the group dynamics.
Are they already a group?
Do they know each other already?
Do they know you?
What is the ethos of the club?
Know yourself, what you are trying to achieve! Don’t compromise your standards or principles and be clear about what is acceptable and what is not!
Building blocks – lay the foundations for developing sound trusting, respectful relationships, engaging with the membership, informal chat and banter with an agenda to ” hear them” and work with the young people to meet identified needs – together!
Purposeful activity is developed by taking the time to understand the needs, rights, responsibilities and aspirations of those young people engaging in your project/club.
Develop an interest group/forum and have young people develop the interests that are meaningful and identified by them.
This can only happen over time, so be willing to be in it for the long term and not just short-term goals, that are usually adult orientated. Active participation by young people has the ability to become all empowering for young people.
Whereby the life of your club/project can have longevity and success.
Ask the youth and get their buy-in and ownership. Communicate and collaborate from the start and be willing to evaluate, adjust and learn from what works and what doesn’t. It will be a work in progress.
For me, it was always about the intention. What are you hoping to achieve? If you just have an evening of fun and games then that might seem good but have you actually made a difference?
So is there a spiritual element, maybe a theme or a short talk [some people ran their Friday night youth like a church service which is fine but for us, it was about creating a space people would feel comfortable who wouldn’t necessarily come to church]…
So we used to do ice-breaker and then the main event for the evening whatever that would be and then finish with a short talk/challenge and create space for people to ask questions or be prayed for or with usually with coffee happening in the background…
Also depends on your numbers what you can do – can sometimes be a lot more creative with a smaller group cos they are easier to get around and cos you don’t need as many resources…
But what i can say whoever the people, whatever the group size, it is ALWAYS about the relationship, and if you love them well it likely won’t matter too much what you do with them after that – they will come back because they feel loved and seen and heard…
Ja, don’t try to be cool. Try to be authentic and real.
Consult with the young people about would benefit them and put your ideas forward too.
Always involving them works to get engagement- that in my experience is the key to success. Good luck and enjoy.
Think about what is already in the area, is it really needed or could you tag onto existing projects?
Consult with young people about what they want, where they want it and what time. Ask if they would like to be part of the planning and spreading the word.
Make sure you have everything in place before the sessions start, how are you going to fund it etc?
Find out what your employers will see is success…get them to think through what they are looking for.
Make sure that’s communicated to others involved.
Then, listen to the YP about what they’d like to see happen, then try to make a plan that fits in with what success looks like and what yp would like to see happen.
Use the YP to help steer towards goals. Give them a role and purpose.
Get the advice of the young people and try and meet their needs.
Listen to the young people and deliver what they ask for… Served me well for 20 years
Make sure you listen to them, they sometimes have problems at home and at school.
Young people want to make friends and have fun as well, don’t make it like school but still have your rules in place, such as no bullying, no swearing, no smoking, etc.
Make the session enjoyable so that they always want to come back next week.
Be prepared for the unexpected. Show the young people you want to be there, let them feel welcome.
Let them know it is a safe place for them by actions and words.
If you are fake they can smell it from miles. Be genuine, they appreciate honesty.
Be friendly, but don’t promise you are their friend – they need to know that though you ha e their back you will also be prepared to take the right step to safeguard them and manage the risk.
Respect and trust is a two-way process. Learning is also a two-way process.
Most of all enjoy – young people are full of potential.
Listen to them, involve them in decision making, if they have a vested interest they will be much more interested to come back.
Put up a whiteboard or paper for attendees to add suggestions and run a focus group for the same
Have a plan, set your intent, pack a toolkit then relax & enjoy.
Being a youth worker is just about being human & having a good time, by leading with confidence & integrity the young people will respond to your state.
You don’t have to be anything else other than you & the rest just happens
The first session is for engaging with the young people. Be nice and relaxed, start building those professional relationships. Find out what they want from you and most importantly have some fun!🙂
Greet every attendee with a handshake on your first evening,
What advice would you give?