If it is Christian, can it be youth work? : an examination of the relationship between Christianity and youth work, from the mid 19th century to 2014

  • Allan Robertson Clyne

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The association between Christianity and youth work is evident to anyone who looks for it. Indeed, since the 1960s practitioners can be found arguing over whether it ought to have a place or not. Regardless of this, Christianity’s relationship with youth work has remained under researched and until now has lacked a comprehensive study. Similarly, no study into youth work has utilised the analytical method of Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutical arc, along with the social philosophy of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre’s work on language and translation to provide a deeper interpretation of the development of youth work. Through data gathered from texts and literature written by youth workers to inform youth work, from semi-structured interviews and from additional social and history studies, this thesis provides an événementille, a narrative of Christianity’s relationship with youth work as it developed over time and an account of its conjonctures, the often unseen evolution and changes within that relationship. It also situates Christian faith-based practice within the current youth work environment. By providing an événementille of Christianity’s relationship with youth work, this thesis addresses a gap within its existing literature and reveals the extent of Christianity’s formative stimulus and continuing presence within youth work up until the 1960s. The conjonctures of this relationship are revealed through the use of Taylor’s concept of providential deism and MacIntyre’s ideas on language and translation. This exposed the way in which youth work expanded from being Christian endeavour into Judaism and providential deism, from Christian-as-faith to Christian-as-ethic, and finally being translated into a secular language. It also made visible the older, theistic language of youth work and suggests that the ideals of modern, post-1960s youth work – voluntary participation, democracy, equality – are present because of their Christian inheritance. Taylor’s interpretation of the post-1960s period as the Age of Authenticity enables this thesis to situate Christian faith-based practice within a wider interpretation of youth work. In doing so it encourages youth workers to ask new questions of generally accepted interpretations. The Ricoeurian-based methodology also provides a gateway for other research into the conjonctures of youth work: gender, class, models of practice, the masculine nature of youth work’s practice and literature, and the influence of changing economic and political environments.
    Date of Award27 Apr 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University Of Strathclyde
    SupervisorBernard Harris (Supervisor) & Daniela Sime (Supervisor)

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