Don’t Skip the Study Stage
So, you have been asked to take on the responsibility for initiating a new YCW group? It is an exciting challenge and the temptation is to get active immediately. Experience tells that success is more likely, however, if you begin by doing the preparation work well. So, give yourself space to think, to plan and also to make decisions about recruiting a team to assist you in the work.
To start a new YCW group is an important work that could have big effects on the lives of many people. It is also a work that will involve and commit you over a six months period. So, it is important that the work be successful. Success, of course, depends on many things and not all of these are controllable. There are three important aims to be achieved in this preparation or study stage.
Recruiting a team
The first thing to do is to recruit a small team to work together in starting the YCW. For example, if the group is to be set up in a parish, the team could consist of a YCW leader, a priest of the parish and a couple of young workers from the parish. If we want to start a group in a factory, the team might consist of one or two YCW leaders and one or two workers from the factory.
There are many people involved in achieving most worthwhile projects. A sporting team, for example, needs selectors, coaches, administrators, and supporters as well as players. All have their part to play. It is important that all are recognised and given scope to be involved. It is important that all work together as a team.
When it comes to initiating a new YCW group, it is helpful to spend some time with pencil and paper thinking about what you are planning to do and reflecting quietly on how to achieve it. If you decide to work with a team you will need to clarify a number of questions.
What do you mean by a ‘team’?
What are the advantages of working with a team?
Who do you want to have in the team?
What do you expect them to do?
How will you ensure that all work together?
What sort of team should we have to start a YCW group?
The team should be a small group of people who are willing to be responsible for the new group. This means that they should support one another, work together, and accept the successes and failures that come. It does not mean that they will all do the same work or even all take equal responsibility.
For example, as a YCW leader you know that there is a lot of work to be done in contacting young workers, and that there is a real skill in being able to communicate with them about the YCW. You would hope therefore to have some other good YCW leader to help you with the work and to support you in the hard times.
To be successful the new group will also need support and assistance of the parish, a place to meet, and the aid of local knowledge. That is why it is important that the parish priest or parish workers be represented on the team. Most parish priests, parish workers, and parish councils are concerned with the problems facing young workers in the parish. Most will enthusiastically support and encourage initiatives to support them. Naturally they like to be consulted and informed, and in some way to be a part of what is happening.
The advantages of working in a team
When a group works together as a team, they each bring different ideas and talents. A good leader is one who can recognise the special talents of others and find a way for those talents and gifts to be shared. You will discover that the joys of success are increased, not lessened, by being shared within a team. And if your team is successful then all members will also gain great experience and formation in how to start a group.
If you have ever tried to light a campfire or a barbecue you will know that it is almost impossible to light a fire with only one stick. Fire blazes up only in places where two or more sticks touch. So also, if you pull one fiercely burning stick out of the fire and hold it up as a torch, very quickly the flame dies. Why is this? It is because fire is a communal thing, it is a group action.
There is something very important here for all of us to learn. The YCW has a saying, “A good leader never acts alone.” We do our best to teach this to the new members of every group. We should also show it to them by the way that we organise the initiation of their group. It is a great advantage when the new YCW group can get started with the support and understanding of many in the community.
What are the difficulties of this team approach?
This idea of starting YCW groups by recruiting a team is not always successful. I recall one YCW leader who spent a lot of time organising her team. She reported that there were many difficulties in finding a time when all could meet, and when they did meet there was a lot of talking but little action. For this leader the team approach was one big headache.
Another leader made big efforts to get the parish priest on the team but faced many difficulties because of this. The priest had little understanding of the YCW but had his own ideas of what he wanted the youth of the parish to do. He wanted them to discuss the Bible not their life. He wanted them to take action in the parish not in their workplace.
It is good to reflect on these difficulties before you start so that you can plan a way to overcome them. Perhaps the best method is to set clear goals before you begin the work.
Setting clear goals
When you get your team together, the first thing to do will be to discuss and agree on the goals you wish to achieve. This may not be an easy task. So, before you get the team together it is important that you sit down with pencil and paper to reflect and plan.
Who should set the goals?
As initiator and leader, it is natural that you should have some firm ideas about what sort of group you want. There will be some things that you will regard as essential for a YCW group. You must be clear on what these are.
On the other hand, it is essential that you respect every member of your team. They have ideas and talents, and they will want to express them. Probably compromises will have to be made.
Why is it so important to fix clear goals?
If you can begin with a clear understanding and agreement about the goals of the YCW it will solve many problems. Sometimes a parish feels the need to organise ‘something for youth’ and only agrees to having the YCW because it is a means. They have not made any study of what is specific and essential to the YCW.
What is specific and essential for a YCW group?
It is not easy to answer this because the YCW should always adapt and be based on the needs of the members. From my own experience I believe that the following are important considerations.
The YCW is a movement of young workers
It has a special commitment to workers based on a belief in the dignity of work and the worker. It is not aimed at supporting secondary students or even tertiary students.
This means that it is young workers who are working or unemployed that we will invite to join.
This is not, of course, an inflexible rule. There are many students who are part-time workers. Work pressure forces many to spend extra years at school in order to acquire a job. Some students have joined YCW while still at school and have found in the YCW a good foundation for future working life.
The YCW is a worker movement
Its centre of interest is the lay life of its members, in the workplace and in the society. It aims to organise and form workers to initiate action in their own life situations. This means that the YCW must be run and organised by young workers themselves. It means that their action will be worker action in their daily life.
Again, this is not an inflexible rule. YCW groups have always found time to support parish activities as a group and also to organise activities to support other groups.
They should not, however, be continually pressured to undertake this sort of work at the expense of their primary responsibility.