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It seems like I spend a lot of time completing risk assessments. Hours are spent working out hazards and all the possible ways to avoid them or actions to take and people to contact if they do happen. All with the intention of minimizing the risks for the young people and yet many young people live in worlds full of risk. They are surrounded by risks on a daily basis, from traveling to and from school, risks in relationships, food, drugs, alcohol, sex, failure and even sports. So why are we so risk adverse in our youth work practice?

I am not advocating for reckless practice (Church leaders need not panic) but rather I am encouraging us all, myself included, to increase the risks we take. Not simply for the sake of it but because the life of Jesus and the disciples around him appear to promote elements of risk, particularly linked to applied theology.

The sending out of the 12 in Matthew 10 gifts to us a picture of a deliberately incomplete risk assessment. The disciples are not given a road map, they are ordered not to take resources with them, and they are given permission to both minister and to move on if they need to. Alongside the parable of the Good Samaritan which is a staple go to resource to remind our
students to get involved in the lives of those others would walk on by.

But how can we start to encourage risks that won’t freak out our leadership team or have parents withdrawing young people from the activities. A few months ago, a group of youth workers from across the UK got together and in sharing their individual experiences drew up a list of 101 risks to experiment with, breaking them down into 4 key areas:

  • Risks to take in meeting young people
  • Risks to take when developing relationships with young people
  • Risks to take when developing spirituality with young people
  • Risks to take as a project/group or starting a new project/group

Yep, I did just say EXPERIEMENT with, part of taking risks is being able as leaders to hold
things lightly, to try something new or different without being held captive by the ‘but what if
it doesn’t work?’ that can plague us all.

My risk this week has been to pass over the leading our middle school small group to a high
schooler. She has been part of the group as an assistant for the last 4 months and is thriving in
a call to ministry. So, I have tagged her as the leader, and I have taken the assistant role.
Watching her on Sunday as she navigated leading the whole session for the first time all
whilst integrating two new young people into the group was quite something and well worth
the risk, but of course, next session the experiment continues …

– Gemma Dunning

Discussion Questions:
1. When and what was the last risk you took in youth ministry?
2. What risk could God be calling you to take next?
3. How can you encourage others to take risks?

Check out the 101 risks over at

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