Quality youth work requires that we build and sustain a passion for serving young people. The need for technical training such as mental health basics, trauma informed care, and the like is well documented. But, we rarely talk about the importance of having passion for youth work.
It’s easy to tell when someone really likes their job. Whatever their role or position may be, positive interactions with them leave you with a good feeling and a sense of togetherness.
Young people growing up in environments of toxic stress, trauma, and/or abuse are exceptionally good at spotting passionate youth workers who care for them. Their life circumstances require they quickly distinguish who they can and cannot trust.
That’s why quality youth work must include a passion for service. To be blunt – youth work must be something you love to do. We know that kind of passion when we see it and our young people do too.
Passionate youth workers look like this: When others give up on young people, they believe in them. Where others see failure, they see potential. When others show disdain, they provide love.
There are nine universal traits that point to a youth worker with passion for service.
- They care deeply about young people and continue to help even through some of the toughest situations.
- They want to play a role in young people’s lives. They know this work is an incredible opportunity and want nothing more than to see a young person succeed.
- They get pleasure in others’ successes. Their hearts are happy when young people do well. The outcomes they seek are not for their personal benefit, but for the community they serve.
- They have an inquisitive mindset. It’s the unpredictability of youth that keeps them interested, challenged, and motivated.
- They plant seeds they may never see grow. They don’t seek immediate gratification – they persist because they know quality youth work pays off in the long run.
- They focus on establishing trust with young people. They give of themselves emotionally and physically. It’s taxing and can cause burnout, yet they keep going.
- They have unwavering empathy. They see negative behaviors as simply coping strategies caused by life circumstances.
- They believe that young people are worthy of our guidance, support, and sincere belief in what’s possible for them.
- They don’t turn a blind eye to young people in need.
Even the most exceptional youth workers can’t maintain all nine traits all the time. Perfection is not required – but sustained effort is.
Passion that leads to quality youth work is sometimes innate but can also be developed.
Some youth workers always knew they wanted to work with young people, others followed a crooked path that led them to this work. Regardless of the origin, their passion requires commitment and effort.
Here are some things you can do to fuel and sustain your passion:
- Find a mentor that you can see has a passion for youth work. A mentor can provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling.
- Start an affinity group. Align yourself with others that have a passion for service. You’ll find support and learning through these connections.
- Read motivational books, listen to inspiring podcasts, or join a social media group of passionate youth workers.
Passion drives quality youth work. Pay attention to the quality of your passion because the young people you are working with certainly do.
Paul Meunier is the executive director of YIPA.