Youthwork magazine turns 25 - an achievement not to be underestimated
A prophet has no honour in his own land. It’s what Jesus said in Mark 6 v 4, and it’s the lived experience of any preacher who has found wider fame and then returned to preach in their home church. Or in other words, we tend to take the things that are right in front of us for granted, because we don’t have an objective perspective on them.
It’s not just true of prophetic people, but also of prophetic institutions and instruments too. In the UK we take a lot of our amazing Christian institutions for granted, hardly aware of how extraordinarily well-resourced we are. Instead of seeing them as outsiders might and continually celebrating them, we tend to pick faults with them and their output. We’re just too used to having an embarrassment of riches. And in a rich land, the home-grown prophets don’t stand a chance of getting proper recognition, let alone honour.
All of which is a long lead-in to talk about Youthwork Magazine, which turns 25 this month. Yes, I’m horribly biased (I worked for them for over a decade and still contribute regularly, including to this month’s issue), but it’s an objective fact that the magazine has been an extraordinarily helpful resource during the 'professionalisation years’ of British Christian youth work. From fairly humble beginnings as a bi-monthly insert in one of the previous incarnations of Christianity magazine, the magazine has grown into a monthly, full-colour resource featuring contributions from some of the world’s sharpest youth ministry thinkers.
Not only that, it has also frequently been at the forefront of taking innovative new thinking to the mainstream church, and played a hugely important role in gathering youth workers from across the theological and practice divides together for dialogue, training and inspiration. Much of that has happened on the page, but the magazine has also been a driving force in most of the significant national youth ministry events of the last quarter-century, including Brainstormers, Youthwork the Conference and the Youth Work Summit.
It’s also long-forgotten that the style of ready-to-use curriculum resources now produced by a range of para-church organisations and used by groups across the country, originated within the pages of the magazine back in the early 1990s. The magazine also helped to take a range of other ideas to a mainstream audience, from Frontier Youth Trust’s compelling detached youth work models, to the focus on cultural relevance which was groundbreaking in 1991 (and still seems to be for some in 2016!).
It’s easy to overlook the contribution Youthwork has made, not only to the church, but also to the wider youth work sector. In fact, these days it’s far too natural for us to miss a landmark anniversary in the daily sea of new information and marketing. But let’s not miss it; let’s take a moment to properly recognise and celebrate a national treasure - at least as far as we youth workers are concerned. Founding editor John Buckeridge dreamed of creating a magazine which equipped youth ministry with "ideas, resources and guidance" that really helped; I am certain that he succeeded. Congratulations to him and to the rest of the team – it’s still a vital, prophetic voice for Christian youth work, and perhaps one we should honour a little more often.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy CEO.