Youth work can be interesting sometimes because we can often think that ‘surely if we put out some games and snacks, young people will almost certainly attend and join in with the activities we put on’, but this doesn’t happen as much as we’d hope it would.
I remember being a teenager, and every week I and my youth group would go to the local park, hand out hot chocolates and play football with the other teenagers there. A few of those young people then asked questions about what we were doing and why we were doing it, and one or two of them came to our church youth group after a while, but a lot of them didn’t. I think a lot of them found security in being outside, in an open space, that was free and accessible to everyone. Sometimes walking into a closed space, which isn’t as open to the public as a park is, can feel intimidating or awkward.
At Energize we recognise this, and so around the school holidays we will sometimes do some detached work, which means we go to local parks, and hangout places where young people tend to gather, get to know them and speak to them about what we do and how we would love to see them at our activities. As we go into their spaces, we take the reins and responsibility of potentially feeling like the vulnerable ones. But in doing so, we have often started new connections with young people or strengthened old ones, whilst playing football or riding in the skatepark.
Studies and statistics from across the country including youth groups and local councils have found that detached youth work is one of the most effective ways to reach young people where they are at. The Centre for Youth Impact, based in London, conducted a study in their study of eight youth work settings around England (though both detached work and youth clubs). They found that young people started to really value youth workers, as they felt they were understanding, non-judgemental and safe people to speak to who weren’t parents or teachers.
We have planned to include detached youth work in all of our holiday schemes throughout the year, as we recognise that young people need people who will reach out to them, wherever they are; whilst also be invited to a place where they know will be safe, where they can have fun, and where they can meet new people their age, and positive role models.
If you would like to or know a young person who would like to sign up for our Easter Holiday Scheme Programme, please use the links below: