Youth Ministry and Creating Change
Lawrence Shulman, a prominent voice in social work defines the purpose of individual work as the mediation of the individual with the self as well as society and social systems. Alan Keith-Lucas adds Biblical insight into the social work process, saying the strength of reality therapy is presenting non-glozed over truth while being aware of pain and empathy in making the worker available to the client.
Keith-Lucas likens that this theory of helping with the triune nature of the Godhead.Reality therapy serves as the Father, Jesus understanding the suffering of others is Empathy and Support is the role of the Holy Spirit as Paraclete. These three round out the theological aspects of the presence of the social worker to the person being helped. Both authors agree that the role of helping others is found in addressing ambivalence in the helpee as they move from considering change to maintaining a new lifestyle.
The Trans-Theoretical Model, (Stages of Change Model ) can easily be taken and implemented in youth ministry contexts. Understanding where the individual is in making life-changing choices, then helping them move towards the next step on the cycle will bring about and sustain change. Contrarily, demanding and individual sustain behavior change (maintenance) while they are only contemplating change will take a non-committed individual and force an action they possibly will fail to follow through with. This model takes into account the fact that with many life-changing choices relapse is a definite possibility and allows for relapse. Also, it allows for people to maintain and succeed in creating new, stable behavior patterns. Much of the Trans-Theoretical Model and any other work where the social worker attempts to help an individual, a group, an organization or a community relies on contracting skills.
Contracting involves several skills and it enables the worker and client to come to a healthy understanding of mutual expectations and the overall flow of the work to be done. Contracts may be in writing, but often times these are done verbally on a meeting-to-meeting basis. Primarily, contracting defines the worker’s responsibility to the individual or group; meaning that the worker gains an understanding of what the work to be done is and it helps the client and worker get onto the same page. Secondly, the contract involves the client making their needs known to the worker. This work normally involves the client clarifying the goals of the work to be accomplished. Thirdly, the worker helps the contracting process by breaking down the larger goals into concrete, manageable steps. This compartmentalization, prioritization and ordering of concerns helps overwhelming problems become more manageable and can begin to instill hope for change in the client. The fourth area of contracting is reaching into taboo areas. Taboos are topics that are often too “touchy” or not normal to discuss in conversation. In this section of contracting, the worker addresses areas specifically that the client may be beating around the bush about (In youth ministry, this may involve cutting, sexual abuse, masturbation, etc.) The final section of contracting deals with issues of authority. The goals of this section include clarifying mutual expectations, addressing authority and power of the worker (or youth pastor) and how that dynamic will work in that particular relationship. In youth ministry contracting often involves the youth worker letting the youth know what will and will not be told to parents or authorities such as to follow mandated reporting laws. Youth workers would be wise to integrate this into their practice, as it will help them and their team more apt to recognize, define and manage purposes and goals for different aspects of ministry and make progress in
accomplishing those goals.