Bishop of Leicester calls for increase in trained youth workers

19 September 2019

One third of church youth workers do not have a relevant qualification, new survey shows

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ONE THIRD of youth and children’s workers in the UK — mostly in the Church of England — do not have a relevant qualification, a new survey has found.

It was commissioned by the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, who is calling on the Church’s newly formed Lay Ministries Advisory Group to increase the number of youth workers being trained, and support them better in their vocation.

The report Terms and Conditions of Salaried Workers Survey was published on Thursday in advance of Youth Work Sunday. It states: “CPD [Continuing Professional Development training] is offered, piecemeal, depending on the diocese a youth worker might be in — unless they seek their own development, and pay for it themselves, few are afforded the kind of training they might value and that would enhance their ministry work.”

More than 630 people took part in the survey. It was conducted earlier this year by a youth and children’s ministry consultant, Ali Campbell, who is a former diocesan youth adviser.

Line managers of youth and children’s workers, often clergy, were “poorly equipped” to manage their staff, the report states. Three-quarters of respondents said that their line managers had received no training in managing and supervising staff. Two-thirds (63 per cent) of salaried workers did not have a mentor or external supervision. Where they did, 66 per cent had arranged this themselves.

The report also points to “a huge discrepancy in pay between roles of similar hours, in some cases individuals are earning as much as twice as others in similar roles”. The lowest annual salary earned by people working 16 hours per week was £16,000. The highest was £30,000.

Four per cent of salaried workers received “stipend-style” benefits, for example, being paid about £23,000 with tied accommodation, water rates, and council tax. Again, the lowest full-time wage without these benefits was £16,000; the highest was £37,000. Separately, 13 full-time workers were given a housing allowance.

Most participants in the survey were C of E (67 per cent) and full-time (55 per cent); the rest were part-time (from four to 30-plus hours per a week). Other denominations surveyed included the Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, and United Reformed Churches, and the Church of Scotland.

Almost three-quarters of survey respondents (70 per cent) in the C of E said that their work had not been formally recognised by the diocese.

Bishop Snow said: “Many of us have known for some time that there is a recruitment crisis for children- and youth-worker roles in the C of E. This survey makes it clear that we need to work harder and find ways to recognise and value those undertaking this ministry which is so vital to the future of the Church.”

A quarter of participants had been in salaried ministry for less than two years, half for fewer than five years, and a quarter for more than a decade, the report states. About half the salaried youth and children’s workers had been in their current post for fewer than three years, despite three-quarters (74 per cent) seeing youth work as a vocation. More than one third (34 per cent) had been in post for fewer than two years, eight per cent for ten years or more.

The high turnover partly reflected the number of youth workers who went on to ordination training, however, the survey suggests.

Mr Campbell explained: “Most of those surveyed said they would stay in the role until retirement if they could, despite the lack of stability. . . These salaried workers have a huge commitment to children and young people, a love for the work and a desire to stay in ministry for the long haul.”

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