Youth work: using homes or community spaces?

When the bible says, “Open your homes to each other…” (1 Peter 4:9) does it include youthwork? Social worker, Liz Peppiatt, shares safeguarding good practice around youthwork on our estates.

 

Books Safeguarding Youthwork
An image of Liz Liz Peppiatt
6th June 2024 4 minute read
Two teenagers sat on a sofa together smiling

Felt tips & banana club 

As part of the second Eden team, we moved into our estate in 1999.   Understandably, residents were concerned about this move of several young adults into the community. Especially as others were leaving. In our first year myself and my then housemate got to know some of the children who lived around us and whilst we were building up relationships, we did everything outside – pavement chalks became a firm favourite! 

Sometime later, after prayer and discussions with the Eden leadership, we visited the parents of these children prior to starting a regular club in our home. One parent said that she was very glad that we had visited and wouldn’t let her child come into our house until she had met us in case we were ‘kid snatchers’ – a wise Mum indeed.  We then started this weekly group where we provided crafts and fruit and a welcome into our home, which continued until it naturally fizzled out. 

Hospitality of Jesus 

This welcome into our home including food was a sign of the welcome and hospitality of Jesus.  Hebrews 13:2 reminds us to ‘Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it’.  To show this hospitality and model community life, in 2004 our church started with a meal together every Sunday. We continue to this day, demonstrating ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34:8). 

When Jesus said ‘Come, follow Me’ (Matthew 4:19), He isn’t asking us to join a club or follow a programme, it’s a whole life discipleship calling.  When we’re working with children and young people, we want to show them this welcome and hospitality of Jesus. We also want to keep them safe.   

Fast forward to a couple of years ago and we were prayerfully considering the location of a recently started youth group. Having listened to the voice of our young people, we also considered advice from the UK’s leading independent faith safeguarding organisation Thirty one:eight as well as the National Youth Agency, the national body for youth work in England (NYA). 

Wisdom from youth and safeguarding organisations 

The NYA advises that youth work and youth sector activity delivered in private dwellings (i.e. homes) is ‘fundamentally unsafe and should not take place’ (NYA 2024).  Thirty one:eight state that youth work should ‘ideally take place in a neutral/public space or venue as far as possible as the safeguarding risks are heightened if you use a home or private garden’.  Using a home should be considered only as an exception as opposed to a rule, recommend Thirty one:eight. 

There are also lessons to be learnt from the Independent Inquiry into Childhood Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and specifically in relation to ‘Religious organisations and settings’, as well as lessons being learnt from safeguarding concerns that have arisen in churches with a national profile.   

Youth work in community spaces 

Some of the reasons for having youth work in community spaces and not in homes are: 

  • It helps maintain boundaries between the workers and the young people (the identity can focus more on the group and less on the workers) 
  • It helps prevent allegations being made about workers (this is especially true if the workers in the home are in some way related to each other) 
  • It helps protect the organisation’s reputation. 
  • It helps with adherence to relevant Health and Safety requirements including space and ratios. 
  • It helps prevent issues with toilet facilities and accessing spaces out of bounds. 
  • It prevents there being an issue between those living in the home who are not part of the group and the young people attending the group. 
  • It helps with insurance cover. 
  • Community spaces are often bigger and can facilitate growth of youth work more easily. 

Whilst we might need to be more creative in our hospitality when using community spaces rather than homes, we cannot ignore the shared wisdom when working with young people in our communities in ensuring that both the workers and the young people are safeguarded. 

Prayer

Thank you, Father, for all the young people that live in our communities and that we have the privilege to work alongside.

Help us to make wise decisions as we work with our young peopleand we pray for Your protection in keeping the young people, ourselves and our churches and organisations safe. 

In the Mighty Name of Jesus,

Amen. 

*PLEASE NOTE 

  • The views above are of my own, unless otherwise stated, and are not the views of my employer. 
  • The views above are intended to provoke discussion and are not intended to replace your organisation’s safeguarding policy. 

For further reading about Langworthy Community Church pick up a copy of Ordinary Miracles by Chris Lane.

Written by

Liz Peppiatt

Liz is part of Langworthy Community Church in Salford and serves as part of the leadership team as well as a Safeguarding Lead. Liz also has a Masters in Social Work, and has worked for over 15 years as a social worker both in local government in England as well as overseas.

An image of Liz
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