• The nature of youth ministry in Northern Ireland through the eyes of local practitioners

      Morris, Wayne; Warnock, Helen Jane (University of Chester, 2020-04-15)
      The purpose of this research was to uncover the nature of youth ministry in Northern Ireland. This inquiry was prompted by noting the confusion that exists with regard to the expressed frameworks and priorities of youth ministry across the academy and practice, alongside the lack of research into youth ministry within the Northern Irish context. These factors created the need to take time to excavate youth ministry practice in Northern Ireland through the perspective of the practitioner. Thus, this thesis aims to clarify what youth ministry is and how it is understood and expressed in the Northern Irish context today. Guided by the motifs of uncovering and honouring, I engaged in a qualitative research process of semi-structured interviewing and an iterative process of data analysis using a hermeneutical phenomenology approach. Twelve youth ministry professionals from across the evangelical Protestant sector created the backbone of this research. Findings revealed the significant influence of the practitioners themselves, alongside the distinctive nature of the Northern Irish context. First, I uncovered two dominant values held by practitioners: a personal and deeply held sense of vocation and a high regard for the Bible. Second, I discovered two significant markers with regard to context: church culture as a significantly embedded social institution in Northern Ireland and emerging social identities, as influenced by the backdrop of recent civil conflict. However, it is the interplay of values, context and ministry that further displays the cohesive nature of youth ministry in Northern Ireland. The values operate as core motivating characteristics, creating a paradigm for practice committed to young people. This subsequently reveals a redemptive quality reflected not just in a ministry message but also through a ministry way, seen in the dynamic nature of youth ministry practitioners as agents of change.