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‘Being church’: The Social and Spiritual Purposes and Impacts of Christian Detached Youth Work

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In this paper, we explore the social and spiritual purposes and impacts of Christian detached youth work in the UK through an exploration of relevant literature and through qualitative research with a small sample of youth workers. The article finds, both in the literature and the primary research, that the development of relationships between youth worker and young person is the most significant purpose and impact of Christian detached youth work. These relationships are used to facilitate impacts, both social and spiritual, in detached youth work, but are also seen as an important impact in themselves. The paper argues that social and spiritual purposes and impact are fluid and overlapping within Christian detached youth work, that institutional agendas are given low priority, and that youth workers aim to start their work from the young people’s own starting position rather than an imposed agenda. This equalising of power and negotiation of mutual relationships is largely considered, by both the literature explored and the youth workers in our primary research, to enhance the uniqueness and effectiveness of detached youth work in achieving its particular social and spiritual impacts.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Youth and Community Work, Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, ; 2: Development worker, Frontier Youth Trust, North East, Durham, UK,


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