If you are thinking of starting up a youth group/session or new piece of work with kids aged 11+ of whatever kind please do get in touch with Becky firstname.lastname@example.org (Northampton Archdeaconry) or Chad email@example.com (Oakham Archdeaconry). We can come out to meet with you and your team, discuss ideas, help you with your procedures, safeguarding etc, point you towards resources and support you in other ways.
Here are some simple guidelines to help you get off to a good and safe start:
Starting Up a Youth Group
Pray, pray again and keep on praying!!!
The Church is professionalising and catching up with other organisations in making safeguarding a natural part of church life. Whilst there is no desire for Mission to be slowed up or hindered by bureaucracy it is vital that we do all we can to protect the children and other vulnerable people in our care. Importantly we need to be seen to be doing all we can to deter those predators who think Churches are easy targets.
So, as someone who is starting a new project its important its done properly from the start – rather than having to go back and unpick situations later in the day.
So there are a number of things that have to be done and we need to find the simplest, smoothest and quickest ways to do them, so that we can get on with the Youth work!
- Clarify who is appointing volunteers for this work. PCC? Who will be the Leader of the project?
- Have simple job descriptions for the various roles for the club, with an agreement to be signed by the volunteer once they are appointed
- A simple application form with reference request – including an objective person, unconnected to church
- Self-Declaration form
There are model versions of each of these which can be adapted, found here on the Safeguarding page of the Diocese of Peterborough’s website
Safe Running of the Group
Before starting running the group, a couple of things need to be thought of…
Registration, permission slips and medical forms. Each young person needs to be registered at each session and you will need to get information and permission from them as soon as possible, preferably from a parent who drops them off on the first night.
There are various forms that can also be found through the Diocese of Peterborough’s website in Toolkit 5
When you are running the group, the most vital piece of safeguarding advice is Keep everything public. Always be observable by others when you’re with young people/children whether in a youth group or online.
Talking through the ground rules of the club right at the start is a healthy way to begin, and discussing it with the young people and asking them to come up with rules will usually bring up the ones you want. They will then have more ownership of them than if you just read a list of rules to them. Make sure you have clear consequences for the breaking of rules.
Preferably you will need a First Aider at each session and work towards all volunteers being trained in safeguarding and basic first aid. Accident records are required.
What kind of group do you want?
You will always need to be flexible, when you are dealing with young people, depending on the numbers, personalities and interests of your youth group. But having a plan from the start and clear aims for the kind of group you want will ensure much smoother running and it is much harder to change later on.
So, will this group have Christian content, or will it be an Open Club, or a mixture?
Will it be a mingling, chatting, hanging out club or will there be structured games etc – or a mixture?
Will there be food?
What is the venue and is it suitable for the activities planned?
Will it be the same each week, or are you going to plan a programme of events?
Have you got a name for the group or will you let the young people name it?
What are the age limits for the group?
When will the club be running and what happens in the school holidays?
Communication and Advertising
How will the young people and their parents find out about the club and how will you communicate with them once a group has been formed?
Consider using Social Media to advertise and communicate, but follow safe practices if you are communicating directly with young people – eg set up closed groups on Facebook or What’s App, with at least two leaders in the group. No personal messaging or texting between adults and young people. Email groups are also useful.
Posters, fliers and school contacts are still very useful.
The young people will have fun and want to come back if they are greeting with smiles and love. A listening ear and a willingness to accept them for who they are will be appreciated much more than “coolness”. Belonging is vital and often the first step to belief.
Don’t be discouraged if you have small numbers – you can actually do better quality youth work with a smaller group; building stronger relationships with less “crowd control”.
Be ready for ups and downs, the fickleness of teenagers but lots of fun along the way!
In the meantime, here are 10 Top Tips for Starting Up youth work from Pete White, Diocesan Director of Children & Youth
Top 10 Tips for Starting Work with Young People
- You can do youth ministry! – Work with young people is all about relationship and we can all be friends with a young person. Most of us have experience of teenagers from our own families and know how to have a conversation and this is more important than big events or elaborate programmes.
- Start where you are – where are the young people in your congregation or community? What are they already doing and what groups are they in? Think about how you can build on that to include them more in the life of the church – a separate youth programme may not be needed.
- Start small – one-to one mentoring or small groups are more effective than opening the church hall for an open youth club that will require lots of staff and resources.
- Start where they are – Listen first – ‘The first act of love is to listen’: young people need adults who will listen to them without judging and without wanting to change them or tell them what to do. Before you do anything for them, ask what they want and need and then work together to provide it.
- Belonging comes before believing – young people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care: helping your young people to stay involved in the church or in a small group is more important than teaching doctrine – this will come as you spend time together and engage with them.
- Use resources available to you – there are plenty of youth resources, ideas and groups who can help. The web is a vast resource.
- Aim for ‘best practice’ – Make sure you follow your safeguarding policy and are aware of other relevant policies/procedures.
- Know where you are going – what are your aims, objectives – how will you know you are getting there?
- Build a team – involve others as much as possible and use the gifts/talents of those around to support your work. There may be people around who can help behind the scenes with organisation, catering etc. and release others to work directly with young people.
- Understand that being a teenager is harder than ever – try to enter their world, find out what they are watching, listening to, doing in their spare time etc. and seek to understand.
Pete White Jan2013