It has been increasingly clear that Christian youth workers are not always provided with the tools and support to tackle issues of relationships and sex in their work.
acet UK has a long history of supporting youth workers, teachers, and other educators in talking in a school context about relationships and sex, but we wanted to also turn our attention to helping youth practitioners talk about these same topics in a Christian youth work context.
Our Fullness course is all about meeting this need.
Young people are the same in whatever context we work with them in. Their needs, questions, ideas or anxieties don’t change because they are in a Christian youth work environment. But the context is different and adults facilitating conversation in these spaces face different challenges and opportunities.
For example, when it comes down to methods, all youth workers know that the unplanned conversation you have with a young person over a hot chocolate might be more impactful than the carefully planned youth session on a Sunday morning.
Christian youth workers are often asked to work in both planned ways and spontaneous situations. The Fullness course helps to prepare you for both.
Equally important is recognising that within Christianity, there is a lot of discussion, debate, and even arguments about sexuality, identity, and relationships. At the same time, it seems young people are more reluctant to talk about these topics with Christian youth workers.
We are reflecting on the impact of how we have talked about sex in the past, with Christian authors asking important questions about what impact this has had. Rachel Gardner reports how her 2021 survey found that 57% of Christian youth workers believe that their churches approach to teaching about sex has had a negative impact on young people (1).
For example, one young Christian adult talked about the impact like this:
“my relationship with my body crystallized – as it does for so many Christian teenagers – into one based on the fear and expectation of betrayal. She – ‘it’ – was the domain of temptation, even satanic deception – to be prayed against, suppressed, and ignored.” (2)
It is clear Christianity at large has a lot to think about and discuss. The Fullness course is not about teaching Christian youth workers to think along the lines of one particular theology or to create conformity. The Fullness course is designed to give participants time to reflect on what has gone before and consider what might be coming ahead.
It is about growing confidence to have these discussions as adults, before discussing them with authenticity with young people. We hope Christian youth workers from a variety of backgrounds will attend the course and gain from the opportunity to learn.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers but we hope this course is one practical way Christian youth workers can grow in confidence to talk about the topic with fresh tools and confidence that they have a part to play in helping young people navigate these crucial issues.
If young people are not talking about the topic with us, that doesn’t mean they are not thinking about the topics themselves. It is not young people’s responsibility to start the conversation with us adults, it is our responsibility to create an environment where young people know it is safe to talk about these things.
1 Rachel Gardner (2021) The Sex Thing
2 Boot (2022) When did I start calling my body ‘it’? In Young Woke and Christian