Christian Faith-Based Youth Work: Systematic Narrative Review

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Christian faith-based youth work is a valuable complement to school-based religious formation. This paper provides a review of research on Christian faith-based youth work. For the purposes of this review, Christian faith-based youth work refers to the provision of youth work services by a Christian organisation, where individuals and groups are given space to reflect on their lives and world in a Christian context. Such youth workers typically support the personal, social, emotional and spiritual development of young people outside a school context and where ‘youth work is underpinned by a tradition of informal education and the ‘voluntary principle’, which foregrounds young people’s choice of whether, how much, and for how long to get involved’ De St Croix (2018: 417).

Five bibliographic databases were searched using terms to express the concepts (youth work) AND (Christian faith). The eight studies meeting the inclusion criteria were synthesised by four major themes in the papers. (1) The purpose of Christian faith-based youth work could be viewed as existing on a continuum between social purpose (supporting reflecting on issues of identity and life purpose) and evangelism. (2) In terms of processes and practices, holding spaces of meaning for young people was important, including giving young people roles of responsibility. (3) Amidst declining engagement with formal religion, the focus was more on involvement of young people in recognising need and addressing contemporary concerns. (4) Purpose, agenda, bias and professionalisation were highlighted as issues in relation to faith-based youth work. Creating places of meaning where young people feel valued and listened to in relation to spiritual issues was regarded as valuable within the social pedagogy of youth work. This synthesis of research provides a reference point for those engaged in practice, teaching or scholarship in Christian faith-based youth work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Beliefs & Values
Early online date7 Oct 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Oct 2021


  • Christian belief
  • youth work
  • youth ministry
  • youth studies
  • literature review


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