Archbishop praises youth workers

The Archbishop of York has praised youth workers for their contribution to society and the development of young people.

He was speaking at the National Christian Youth Work Awards held this week at his official residence, Bishopthorpe Palace.

The awards were hosted by the Archbishop of York Youth Trust, which specialises in enabling young people to make a positive difference to their communities.

Now in their second year, the awards were held in conjunction with the We Love Our Youth Worker initiative and Youthwork magazine.

The award for Christian Youth Worker of the Year 2012 went to Weston Super Mare-based David Wilkie, who takes a holistic approach to youth work and lives amongst the young people he works with on the Bournville estate - in the bottom two per cent of the UK's most deprived areas.

Marcia Haley, from east London, was named the 2012 Volunteer of the Year. She is a vicar's wife who uses her skills as a psychotherapist to encourage young people to reach their potential rather than get involved in gang culture.

The Most Innovative Youth Work Project went to The Feast, a project building faith-sharing friendships between teens with different beliefs in Birmingham.

The Best Youth Work Resource went to Beauty Cocoon, a course building self-esteem among young people across the UK.

Speaking to the audience of award winners and young people, Archbishop John Sentamu thanked youth workers "for going the extra mile" and having "endless patience" with young people.

He said: "Young people are not a treasure to be stored up for our future, they are actually our present hope of changing things for the better right now. So thank you for your commitment to the cause."

The Archbishop said youth work was an "absolutely vital" part of the Church's ministry and must "become an even greater priority".

"The Bible is full of young people who make a difference," he continued.

"Whilst we might work with a marginalised group, throughout the scriptures we see young people at the heart of some of the most exciting stories of hope.

"There is a strong suggestion also that the entire group of Jesus' disciples are young men – perhaps only Peter is over twenty.

"Certainly this changes the way we see the disciples if they are so young – you could almost argue that Jesus was the world's first detached youth worker!

"So as the Bible is full of young people, we must view our work as a holy calling."