Rogerian youth ministry: Self-centred or selfless?

Gerard Sowney

The author offers a personal evaluation of the contribution of Carl Rogers? humanistic psychology to Catholic youth work in Northern Ireland. Gerard Sowney is a Belfast-based Catholic youth worker, specializing in inter-church peace-building work with young people.

Northern Irish youth ministry owes a debt of gratitude to Carl Rogers. His 1970?s experiments in resolving inter-community tensions through group facilitation have been ongoing in various forms, and indeed continue today. They are particularly popular with Catholic youth faith development workers. The New Day youth leaders? manual, issued by the Diocese of Down and Connor, is often the primary practical resource for youth ministers in the diocese. This manual, like a lot of Catholic youth ministry training, emphasises that ?the purpose... is not about telling young people how they should behave or think, but instead enabling them to think through their own perspectives, attitudes and beliefs in a safe and supportive environment?.1 It is safe to say that youth faith development work in Northern Ireland has maintained the legacy of Rogerian facilitation.

It is disconcerting, therefore, for the Northern Irish youth minister to discover that Rogerian humanistic philosophy comes under considerable attack from Christian commentators.

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