Archives Christian youth work and youth ministry Index Informal and non-formal education Latest

Larry Parsons: Youth Work and Divine Sparking

grabbed the archives

In this chapter, Larry Parsons displays the philosophy of his youth work – and the elemental importance of his divine spark that he believes is in all. (First release as a mutual fund / YMCA George Williams School publication)

Contents: Foreword • Introduction • Human Nature • Youth Work • Conclusion • Christian Youth Work at House


I knew once I first met Larry Parsons that this was very special individual. I met him within the mid-1980s and his startling blue eyes instantly grasped his eyes on the nose edge. His eyes seemed to the touch my spirit and soul. If the guts of Rank Charities' policies is in care and compassion, Larry was in the midst of it. My friendship and my love in the direction of him grew shortly, as well as another encouraging professional partnerships, which I have loved in my profession.

Larry speaks and protects the "fanning of flames." He speaks of "inspiring leadership in a peer group as an indispensable part of rejuvenating society". He speaks of "helping unemployed, apathetic and drifting young people, dreams of forgetting, finding out their sparks and getting out of the country, and in turn inspiring others to show that they have the power to live a life." All that is on the heart of youth and group work and schooling. "Training has all the time been on the coronary heart of my career. It is such a strong device. Larry is a instructor. He challenges concepts, he sees change management as essential for the longer term and leaves the dialogue awakening, which helps to create real attention to others. He commands respect

The booklet is predicated on Peter Cutts' interviews, which speaks for itself, and youth staff touch on life and can promote real and natural relationships. Friendship and skilled affiliation and partnership have been an actual privilege.

Charlie Harris
Director of Youth Tasks in England and Wales
Funding Fund


You’ve gotten requested me about my youth work philosophy. To answer that I have to return to my Christian roots. I hope that what I say doesn’t sound like a theological lecture, but if you wish to know the place I come from, what I’ve to say.

I consider that each one individuals, regardless of their background, no matter era they are, are all born to the picture and similarity of God. Subsequently, each of us has a divine spark. If you consider it, all artistic artists, either music or portray or sculpture or structure, depart something of their own character. For example, an individual concerned with classical music can instantly tell the distinction between Beethoven's symphony from one Elgar; interested by portray can tell the distinction between Van Gogh and Turner painting; architects can distinguish one another's work. I consider that is equally true of God. For me, he is the creator of all existence. We have now one thing about Him.

So what is in us what is the fingerprint of a particular God? I feel God made his creation of affection, and love is probably the most powerful of all dynamics. Love requires an answer. In case you have ever fallen in love with somebody who did not return your love that made it clear that he was not keen on you, you’ll keep in mind the horrible experience. However, when you love somebody who reacts positively to your love, life becomes a sort of dwelling ecstasy. So God created us for love, however he needed us to return to like for love.

For like to be real, one have to be free. You possibly can't get love from a computer; You possibly can't program individuals to love you. I’m all the time unhappy when individuals's marriages break aside and there are children that one mum or dad typically tries to buy their youngsters's love by giving them costlier presents and delicacies than others. It doesn’t work. God made us free, but when you give someone their freedom, you’re taking the danger. They could use it improper. I consider we’re free, but on the similar time we will abuse freedom, because most of the world's problems in the present day are far too clear.

Human Nature

God's unique plan was a paradise on earth, however because he gave us freedom, down occasions issues have gone fallacious. I feel this is illustrated in the Genesis e-book. I don't assume many individuals at present actually take Adam and Eve's story, nevertheless it helps us perceive how things started. Nevertheless, long ago, individuals appeared on Earth (and paleontologists and archaeologists disagreed on the date) once they rebelled towards God. It revealed an error in human nature. This error consists of our natural tendency to be egocentric. It is selfishness, which may destroy the goodness and peace of the individual all of us need. Typically, because we’re selfish, as an alternative of loving God, we abandon him: and we often reject him as a result of we don't just like the restrictions his instructions have on us. Typically, as an alternative of loving our neighbors, we need to management them. In different phrases, our selfishness makes us higher. We would like our own means. Should you notice a gaggle of three or four years previous, it won’t final lengthy earlier than you discover this dynamics at work. Perhaps making an attempt to catch a toy that one has acquired, and so on. That is the nature of man in the raw material. There is something in us that makes us selfish and have to be restrained if peace prevails.

I consider that if human nature is left to itself, it could actually go to seed, develop wild. This belief is in conflict with many humanists and atheists. They might say that the world, as we all know, had not created the creature, referred to as him God or whatever you needed, but that the universe was born for purely natural reasons; that human life advanced from extra primitive species by natural choice. It is true that for hundreds of years individuals have developed into more advanced ones; we’ve got acquired more information about our planet we reside in and the universe whose planet is simply a small part. Trendy astronomy has led scientists to evaluate their ideas on the dimensions of the universe. It is wider than probably the most advanced gear. Through the years, individuals have found explanations of what was once thought-about a thriller. We now have discovered to regulate many illnesses that have been previously thought-about incurable; we get more information about the delicate stability of species in the surroundings. Nevertheless, there are still forces which are beyond our control.

For the longer term, the humanist says that for those who give sufficient time, individuals will know every part they know; that we’ve removed not only illnesses but in addition the weaknesses of nature; That there is a good world. It's the other of what I consider. I consider that optimistic philosophy is behind a lot of what occurred in the 1960s and 70s within the so-called “First World”. The accepted knowledge was then that folks's personal lives should not be restricted. Youngsters must have the ability to develop at their very own pace; they need to find info for themselves; Mother and father and academics must be tools as an alternative of academics. Sexual morality was thought-about a private choice – "let it all hang out" because the saying was. Goal requirements are not applied – to each of them. The era of affection and peace had come.

I recommend that for those who take a look at the world at present with an goal eye, the proof suggests the other conclusion. On a micro scale, youngsters who’ve little discipline and construction of their lives are pests. Once they develop up as youngsters, they will turn out to be meaningless villains. For instance, soccer hooliganism has been a life-style for some. At the macro degree, I consider we’re inclined to overlook that through the twentieth century, human lives have been destroyed greater than any earlier century. Through the First World Struggle, six million males died in the West. More than three million individuals died during World Warfare II and do not take into consideration the Holocaust. No one knows precisely how many Stalin killed in the Soviet Union. Lately, in Africa, we now have heard concerning the slaughter of unimaginable proportions between Hutu and Tuts. Mao Tse Tung destroyed hundreds of thousands of his personal individuals in the course of the Cultural Revolution. The extent of the destruction is gigantic. It is partly enabled by the facility of recent weapons, but the cause is identical as it has all the time been – the will for selfishness and energy.

In the 20th century, we destroyed our pure setting greater than ever earlier than the consequences of worldwide warming have been skilled. The destruction of rain has already brought on horrible floods. Nonetheless, there are not any signs that people who control international commerce and business are in a temper to vary the robbery of pure assets

Youth Work

What is this doing with Rank's work? To return to where I started – that everyone has a divine spark in them – I consider that the primary objective of each instructor, faculty, university or university, or extra informally at residence or in the area people, can be to seek out one. In the spark of each of their expenses, look for the skills we all need to some extent. When academics have observed it, the academics should care for it very rigorously till it may possibly finally be unfold to the flame. John Ruskin wrote: “Schooling leads human souls to the most effective and do what’s greatest for them; and these two objects are all the time achievable in one and the identical approach; Coaching that makes men the happiest of themselves makes them probably the most helpful for others. “To realize this requires appreciation and dedication. You need to use gardening analogy: once you sit on seeds and small seedlings seem above the ground, it’s essential to shield them as a result of predators or frosts can easily be destroyed. It’s worthwhile to grow them till they are robust and healthy enough to develop. I consider it is with individuals, however in many instances the remedy is longer. Due to God's spark, we must not ever hand over individuals. Regardless of how the background comes, regardless of how far they could have been deceived, they harm themselves for medicine, alcohol, or no matter, we must not ever hand over. I feel this must be the facility of those who need to help young individuals. In response to my experience, when youth staff search divine spark and encourage young individuals to take duty for his or her activities, nice things can happen

In addition to encouragement and safety, there’s additionally something referred to as self-discipline – not a well-liked idea at present, but I understand that it’s mandatory for my part. If each instrument within the orchestra performs a unique tuning, the end result can be a horrible cacophony. Applicable self-discipline is important for both individual actors and the group as an entire. So as to achieve the required normal, every instrumentalist has had to crush himself for a long time.

There are numerous athletes everywhere in the world who are getting ready for the subsequent Olympics. They implement long-term disciplined coaching packages. We are speaking here for weeks or months, however for years when men and ladies are so excited that they provide up many hours every single day to train their bodies and minds to realize worldwide requirements. In natural improvement, we usually assume that schooling just isn’t essential; that folks by some means develop their skills and develop into good residents if they stay in their own units. In the animal world, horses must break before they are often helpful; the animals have to be domesticated; crops ought to be thought-about as a man. In the event you depart the animals, they may keep in nature. We’re part of the animals, so whether it is true that the animals need training, then we.

Then we go to step. We should plan the objectives of the younger individuals which might be achievable. There isn’t any use when you have fantastic visions and detailed plans, if they’re very little. What’s attainable varies by groups: some are more gifted than others. At the similar time, there’s a have to develop an organized surroundings where training may be organized. It is needed to offer enough help and construction. If you’d like younger individuals to work with a youth challenge, the construction have to be noticeable: they need to understand its causes so that they will grow to be their very own. At the similar time, the structure have to be versatile sufficient to take initiatives. Nevertheless, the initiative just isn’t the same because the license. Younger people who find themselves traveling around the gangs bent on legal activity are taking initiatives, a few of their assaults are planned with army precision, but it’s a wild initiative. It has turned to a license.

What do we’d like next? We’d like good position fashions. When youth groups have been successful, it has all the time been as a result of there have been position fashions that young individuals might take and respond to. It might have been an grownup or one among itself. This reveals the nature of one other individual. All of us have some herd instincts. Peer strain is large. Some aged individuals appear to assume that only younger individuals are peer strain, but that isn’t true. My gender is simply as exposed to this type of strain and prejudice, though different things. Because this function is rooted in us, a successful youth group needs somebody who is robust enough to inspire and lead it.

For my part, one of many the reason why youth work in inside cities shouldn’t be all the time profitable is that the arrest of younger individuals from felony exercise is because of the fact that many grownup youth staff don’t reside the place young individuals do. They are commuters who’ve their houses in 'higher' areas. So as to be a reputable position model that others can be a part of, it’s necessary to share the circumstances through which the members of the group stay. Certainly, understanding an individual, giving them hope, if there was no hope up to now, it is essential to point out in their very own lives that the problems they oppose might be solved; that good may be saved from evil; that overcoming seemingly unattainable obstacles is achievable. It might be an fascinating research if somebody had the time and money to figure out how many youth staff there are who reside in the identical locality as the younger individuals they cope with! I assume that the share can be surprisingly small.

There are precedents arising from the difficulties which will arise from sharing difficulties. Mother Theresa and the ladies who adopted her are examples. Mom Theresa was the top of the varsity for the woman of Calcutta's son, but left her monastery and went to reside in slums and shared their pursuits. One of many explanation why the Salvation Army did a lot good through the Victorian occasions, and continues at the moment, is because their officers reside in the working class and in poor areas of the poor and lonely. Because of the altering circumstances within the West, lots of youth work has turn out to be professional. It has grown out of its roots. Visits to outside resorts may be helpful, but they can’t exchange the on-going youth work from home. I feel this is one cause why there’s a rising gap between the rich and the poor between era and next. The very best example is in fact the life of Christ. He didn’t go on earth as a heavenly neighbor, but took the character of man and lived among us. He additionally chose a lower profession as an artist, and when he began his mission, he lived in the lifetime of a wandering rabbi with no head. The poor, the lost, the despised, the sick and the lonely rally with him in hundreds. The Church of England served us brilliantly, forbidding Wesleys from its churches because, in consequence, they took their providers to the countryside and to the mining areas; they traveled and lived among the many individuals they needed to evangelize. I’m afraid this can be a part that’s lacking from a few of right now's youth work.

This leads us to leadership. The potential danger in in the present day's world is the facility of the media. It is so highly effective that it may well make individuals star and position models virtually overnight. It could actually remove them as shortly as attainable. The media barons can create a style they assume they’ll get a worthwhile reply. Once we take a look at the present stage of youth within the round, we’d like to concentrate on the various forces that younger individuals face. These points have to be taken under consideration when designing youth packages. Leadership means with the ability to put the state of affairs right and with the ability to detect reasonable ways to answer those who comply with. This in turn means choosing appropriate individuals as youth managers.

All of this has been stated to be from each single young individual. It is well-known that an alcohol addict by no means can ever overcome this habit until they acknowledge that they have an issue. Solely then will their beginning start. It's the identical with medicine and sexual habit. Since then, outdoors individuals may also help and regularly make things better. I imply by the divine spark. It exists, however it could possibly stay in sleep or dip and by no means burst into flame. This can be a tragedy because it’s a divine spark that provides individuals the motivation to dream their goals and then struggle to satisfy their potential.

Nevertheless, this should not undermine the needs of governments, local authorities, church buildings and volunteers. organizations to offer sensible help to younger individuals. Idleness is for instance a character. It offers a seedbed for all types of evil and evil. Idleness is a corrupt descendant of unemployment. It leads to lack of objective and lack of hope, and hope is important for human life. Nor should we forestall us from blocking our problems. As a result of the media is current in all places and we know what is occurring around the globe, typically individuals get the impression that the task is just too massive to seek out an sufficient answer. However this street results in despair. Massive oaks spring from small acorns. Virtually each youth motion and each spiritual movement is initiated by one individual or typically by a small group. Very often, the founder has been a visionary, a dreamer who, considering of present problems, thinks they are seeing the best way forward. Typically, but not all the time, that individual can also be a practitioner. Typically, nevertheless, these talents are usually not found in the same individual. If the visionary vision is to be realized, it has to implement somebody who could be very practical and whose imaginative and prescient evokes. I feel these are all things that we should always take a look at once we think about how we develop youth work.

Each era must produce its personal solutions. The world is altering quicker than ever earlier than. That's why the setting, the issues, the individuals's hopes and considerations over the twenty years are very totally different from what they’re now, as they have been 20 years ago. Youth staff who have an effect on young individuals should not permit themselves to accumulate a specific construction or strategy that they don’t notice concerning the modifications which might be happening round them. This will likely embrace rejecting and replacing helpful traditions with a extra applicable one. Regardless of how issues can change, there have to be a central and strategic objective. I feel this is among the lasting advantages of Christianity. The inspirations and life situations that Christ left us are as essential at the moment as two thousand years in the past. I feel this may also be true for youth work. It should have a permanent, wholesome philosophical and religious core.


Lastly I come back to the place I started. To me, despite the fact that I do not perceive all, the teachings of Christ given to us within the Gospels are probably the most reliable information to creating a greater world. I’m nicely conscious of the truth that institutional religion has been responsible for a lot of dangerous things over the centuries. I am additionally conscious that there are loads of fantastic good individuals who should not have any religion. I can only say that I consider there is a divine spark in all of us, and if there isn’t any religious factor in what we try to do, it won’t flourish. Whether or not in our work in outside facilities, in inner clubs, in faculties, in the workplace, we should always not apply pragmatism at the expense of religious values. Each are essential.

My very own studying curve obtained an enormous shot once I joined Rank. After getting into the TV, you’ll be able to sit at house and watch great sporting events. Cameras are probably to offer more accurate info, for instance, about soccer matches than should you have been sitting in a excessive stand, but there isn’t a place so that you can be there. Enjoying the environment, watching the response of the individuals around you, not being there, can’t even proceed with probably the most superior gear. So, in my expertise, the circumstances during which lots of my compatriots need to reside. I had learn concerning the insufficient elements of internal cities; I had read social history; I have seen news broadcasts and documentaries, in addition to poverty and deprivation in this country and overseas. Nothing was prepared for me in the actual state of affairs once I began to visit some of my internal cities through the Rank Foundation's work

The 1980s was a period of commercial unrest when robust trade unions came collectively. Thatcher's authorities's monetarist policies. Once I moved between public faculties and inside cities, I was increasingly involved concerning the gap between wealthy and poorer British society members. I've studied the historical past of youth actions over the previous 150 years. I discovered that each one the surviving groups (Boys' Brigades, Scouts, Guides, YMCA, YWCA, Boys Clubs and other lesser recognized) based individuals who have been impressed in several ways by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. They belong to totally different churches and not all agreed on sure features of theology, nevertheless it was the Bible that shaped the core of the philosophies they followed of their youth work. Once I seemed overseas, I observed that there was a religious factor in youth work. Even Hitler's youth had a religious component, although a perverse fascist philosophy of utmost nationalism manipulated by evil males. So as to get and hold the attention and enthusiasm of young individuals, you should have more to supply than entertainment. We needed to help get rid of the hole between administration and store, between comfortably absent and poorly paid and unemployed individuals, that we began the Gap system. Young volunteers with young individuals in communities with shortages and poverty participated in this.

I criticized a sure type of youth, which is only secular and has little to offer except entertainment and knowledge. I need to emphasize that I’ve met many fantastic and devoted youth staff, for whom wage, promotions, and long working hours have been by no means a precedence. I used to be privileged to know the lads and ladies who had owned 20, 30, even 40 years of unselfish remedy for young individuals, typically in very troublesome circumstances. Some have been employed professionals, some volunteers. Nevertheless, I firmly consider that volunteers have to be in every youth employee. Although professionalism has come to an end if it does not tolerate voluntary dedication and selflessness, paperwork can develop into a lifeless hand that stifles the initiative and kills personal contact. All of us respond to the individuals we all know are caring about us: the instructions given by some bureaucratic models by officers we might never see or converse are not any substitute.

The concept individuals can, by their very own efforts, create an ideal society and flip a fallen world into a secular paradise is, for my part, a false and merciless misleading optimism. However, I firmly consider that all of us get the prospect to do good every so often, and if we with God assist us grab the moment that we will depart somewhat world patch slightly higher than earlier than we went by way of it. So, regardless of all the issues, of which we are conscious of, and deficiencies referring to the nature of man, which I discussed earlier, I’m still optimistic. Every era of young individuals has the identical opportunities as their predecessors. There are lots of nice adults who’re making an attempt to develop the longer term well-being of society, however the flashlight have to be handed over. If I did anything through the Rank Foundation, I found Charlie Harris and Chris Dunning, current leaders in youth tasks. Additionally they have a vision; they have a number of first-hand expertise of youth work. I used to be very happy to go away the torch in hand, and what an exquisite job they do, but in time their flip will move the torch to the subsequent era. As I stated elsewhere, the name of the game is flexibility. "New wine needs new vines."

© Larry Parsons 2002

  Print Friendly, PDF and Email