Sacred space
: an exploration into the distinctiveness of faith-based youth work from a Christian perspective in Northern Ireland

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Christian, faith-based youth work in Northern Ireland is a vastly under-researched area which, is stark considering the religious heritage of youth work in the UK and Ireland. Furthermore, within the NI context, empirical research has yet to be conducted in this field. Therefore, this study offers a unique insight into the experiences of young people and youth workers currently engaged in Christian, faith-based youth work in NI. This qualitative research study comprised two phases; phase one conducted individual interviews with thirty-four young people currently involved in Christian, faith-based youth work settings. Phase two conducted five focus groups with twenty-three professionally qualified youth workers currently employed in an FBO. The approach seeks to understand lived experience of Christian, faith-based youth work, to help develop a greater understanding of the purpose and distinctiveness of Christian, faith-based youth work from a Christian perspective in NI. This study employed a systematic review of literature to identify the highest quality, published research and found there to be eight studies relevant to the research question. This has resulted in a methodology for searching for literature concerning Christian, faith-based youth work.

The data collected was analysed using reflective thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2019) and found that Christian, faith-based youth work is best understood as a specialism within the field of youth work. This study presents a typology for Christian, faith-based youth work which reflects the nuance that exists within Christian, faith-based youth work and consists of youth ministry, faith-centred and faith-motivated youth work. Whilst these are distinctive constituents of Christian, faith-based youth work, they are underpinned by how Christian youth workers show love toward young people. Furthermore, this study argues that conceptualising Christian, faith-based youth work as a Community of Practice (Lave and Wenger, 1998) provides a language and framework to aid an understanding of the practices, processes, and purpose of Christian, faith-based youth work. This study presents several implications that challenge the current practice, policy, and training context in NI.
Date of AwardJul 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMark Hammond (Supervisor), Campbell Killick (Supervisor) & Jennifer Hamilton (Supervisor)


  • Bibliographic databases
  • Christian faith
  • Faith-based youth work
  • Systematic literature review
  • Youth ministry
  • Youth studies
  • Youth work

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