Methods of Intervention
There are two basic ways of working with young people, either as a group or individually. Each way of working can then be broken down into various methods of intervention.
- Group work: team games, classroom, group tasks, cell groups, outings, residentials
- One-to-one work: conversation, advocacy, pastoral meetings, mentoring.
Each way of working requires a different set of skills. Group work will require the worker to encourage participation, keeping an eye on those who want all the limelight as well as those who are on the edges, not interested, or disruptive. One-to-one work will require the worker to engage in active listening; working hard to hear what the young person is actually saying whilst considering the appropriate response in their position as a trusted adult.
Each individual method of intervention within these two ways of working develops these broard skills in a different way. Residentials require a lot of planning, problem solving skills, and an ability to cope with young people expressing the whole range of teenage emotions in one weekend. Team games require energy, passion and focus, as well as an acute understanding of the rules and notions of fair play! Advocacy requires the ability to speak to others on a young persons’ behalf, without taking control of the situation or taking away the young persons’ voice. Pastoral meetings require the worker to hold other people’s pain and offer counsel, while having the strength of character to admit you don’t have all the answers and that you’re only one part of the young person’s support network, and not the most important part.
Because the skills required can vary greatly, we will often navigate towards the method of intervention we are most comfortable with. This can result in our ministry becoming stuck in one way of doing things, irrespective of the needs of the young people or the aim of the work. Thinking through how and when to use different methods can be challenging, but mixing and matching the methods you use, in line with what you are hoping to achieve, will have a big impact on the effectiveness of your work.
Thinking about the Church as a body can help us reflect on how we can utilise the different methods of intervention for the building of God’s kingdom. Often we think of the body metaphor in terms of our place in God’s plans. It is comforting to know God has a plan for us and he has given us a role to play which is as valid as anyone else’s role. It also helps us to think that God has shared out his gifts because he intends for us to work with others. God hasn’t put everything on us. God intends us to work with and alongside others to the Glory of God’s kingdom.
The idea that we build God’s kingdom by working with others can be a challenge to our ego but, if we can overcome this, it can become music to our soul. We have a vital and integral part to play in God’s plans, but we don’t have to pretend to be someone we are not. When you are thinking about the different methods of intervention, don’t be overwhelmed. You don’t have to be an expert in them all. The key task is to be part of a team (Church?) who, between them, and together, support each other to engage with young people in a variety of ways.
Youth ministry is a team effort precisely because this is how God ordained it. This is not an excuse not to participate. There may be many reasons why you don’t want to participate that, paradoxically, participating can help to address, and you may not realise that you have the necessary skills until you try. But it is also true that you don’t need to do everything. Maybe someone else in the team is better at running residentials? Or leading team games? Or mentoring? Working as a team will help to ensure your ministry doesn’t get stuck in one method to the detriment of the young people. Utilising a variety of methods will help to ensure we bring all the gifts God has given us to build God’s Kingdom.
Before you think what method of intervention to use, ask yourself: ‘what is the aim of the work’.
Most types of youth ministry will involve a number of methods. For example discipleship can involve residentials, cell groups, conversation, pastoral meetings, team games etc. However these different methods of intervention do not constitute discipleship on their own. It is the way in which these methods are used to facilitate discipleship that make the work purposeful.
Never undervalue the benefit of engaging with young people in a variety of ways in a variety of locations.
A lesson I learnt very early in my ministry is that different methods of intervention complement each other. Just think how one-to-one work can support group work and vice versa.
Use the team you have, not the one you want.
The flip side of believing in team ministry is wishing you had a different team! Never be so arrogant as to think others don’t have as valuable an insight or part to play as you.
Commit to the long haul, don’t believe the hype
One thing being in ministry a long time tells you is that fads come and go. In fact that is a valuable lesson from the Bible! Don’t panic when you see others doing things differently. Look to see what methods they and of you think they will help build the Kingdom of God in your context, copy them! But never think there is a silver bullet. It has always been, and always will be so, that God requires faithful ministry, not impressive ministry.
REFLECTION & LEARNING
- What method of intervention do you prefer and why?
- What method do you shy away from and why?
- How do you work as a team to mix and match methods?
- How could you employ different methods of intervention to benefit the young people and the work?
- What skills do the young people have and how could they play a part?
- Think through your strengths and weaknesses and how these impact your work with a trusted minister or mentor.
- Visit other youth ministry’s to see how they mix and match methods
- Seminars and conferences will often discuss the best mix of methods to use when engaging with a specific topic or with a particular aim in mind.
- Ask to shadow a more experienced worker to learn from them. People are nearly always very willing to share their expertise.
Sally Nash (editor). Youth Ministry a Multi-Faceted Approach, London: SPCK, 2011
Robin is the Director for Lay Training at Ridley Hall Cambridge which includes a popular youth ministry degree. Robin is passionate about resourcing the church for ministry and mission, evangelism and discipleship. As a youth minster and youth worker of over 20 years experience, Robin has a particular interest in training youth leaders to build God’s church. Robin is married to Sam and enjoys various fitness actives including callisthenics and running.