|Some of the youth with me, with my massive nose, and Erica at the front.|
Why teenagers? Aren't they all horrible and grotty?
No. I much prefer working with teens than adults. Teens can be more enthusiastic, joyful, welcoming, loving and caring than most adults. I've been exceptionally lucky. My youth group comprised of the wisest, the most passionate, the most servant-hearted, the most compassionate people I've ever met. Okay, next question before I make myself cry.
Top 3 highlights
- Four of my teens getting baptised. That was such a high. Such a cold and windy day, but it was probably one of the most rewarding days of my life.
- Taking the teens to Soul Survivor.
- My send off party. Once again they made me proud in how they were enthusiastic and how they offered to help out.
- When no-one showed up. There have been multiple sessions, especially during the summer months, when everyone is doing something else. It's hard not to take it personally.
- When one teen showed up. Especially when it was a girl. This was not only awkward but a child protection issue. However, it did lead to a great conversation and a lot of faith issues were dealt with that evening.
- When it feels like no one cares. It's a Friday evening, at 10:30. You've been working all day. You're tired and your desk is a mess, the lounge is a mess. You just want to go home but everyone is gone and it's just you to sort it out. It's moments like those that I really have to remind myself of the privilege it is to serve the living God.
Loads. I got balloons, a teapot, a Spiderman lunchbox, little Doctor Who figurines, a whoopee cushion, some massive inflatable boxing gloves, DC Comic top trumps... One of my teens made a memory board which was brilliant. I really appreciated the thought and effort that went into that and all my presents.
Who has been instrumental in making the last three years so good?
There have been so many people who welcomed me when I first joined this church and who have been willing to bless and support me. God has been so gracious in placing me in a community of people I really love and love me in return. Particular shout outs go to:
- Peter, my pastor. He's been ace and I've grown so much because of his support. He's a kind, encouraging boss that isn't afraid to challenge me.
- James, who has been a brother, mentor, friend, counsellor, rebuker and role model.
- Marie, she's helped me lead the teens over the last two years. She's an amazing force of nature.
- Erica, who has helped me throughout my last three years. She has such a huge heart for people and is so helpful.
- Duncan. Simply for being an amazing friend.
- and, of course, the teens. I have been exceptionally lucky. It has just been ridiculous.
Hannah (who should blog more) asks "Would you say that working for a church has changed your attitude towards church? Has it had a positive or negative impact on your own personal faith?"
Definitely positive, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It can be really tough, dispiriting, demeaning, painful and frustrating. You'll make mistakes, people will annoy you or hurt you. You'll be exhausted and stretched too thin. It is also, for the most part, a real blessing. One major thing was that I got to know what was happening elsewhere in the church. This was awesome, as you definitely saw God at work in various places. I think I'll miss this the most.
My attitude toward church has changed a lot, especially as Exilio is a very strange church. But I love it and it is like my family. It definitely has had a positive impact on my faith. I'm bolder in proclaiming the lordship of Christ in both word and deed. It's allowed me to practise the gifts that God has given me. It has also given me truly amazing friends that I absolutely love.
If you feel called by God to work in a church or for a Christian ministry, it'd be wrong not to do it. It's going to be tough, but it's definitely worth it.
Karen asked "If you were to tell a new youth worker one "do", "don't" and "I've always wanted to try this" what would they be?"
This is a really hard question. I have about 6 for each so picking one is tricky.
Do give it a shot. If you've got an idea, go for it. It might not work out but you can say you gave it a go. It also teaches the teens not to be scared of failure, no one is perfect (even youth workers) and that we live in a world that is under grace.
Don't make promises you can't keep. There are so many ideas I had that I suggested to the teens and for one reason or another they didn't work out. I expect, actually, it should be a "do delegate". That way you'd probably see most of your ideas realised rather than failing under your own steam.
I wanted to try loads, from volunteering projects to going camping with them, to getting the teens to lead and come up with a term's material.
Bethan asked "What have you most enjoyed teaching your youth...?"
About Jesus. Okay that is the clichéd youth worker question, but it's hard to say anything else.
The people of the Old Testament series was really good and something I was pretty proud of. If you head towards the "Resources" page (tab on the top bar) you can have a look, and use it if you want.
I also really enjoyed the mentoring aspect of my role. So, that's not a topic more of a methodology. But mentoring is an awesome way to disciple people, especially teens. Especially male teens. Role models are really important for young guys.
"...and learning from your youth?"
I've learnt about joy, passion, and gained their contagious love for life.
I have absolutely loved being a youth-worker. I can't believe it's over.
What should my blog's new name be? Suggestions include:
- Tales of a trainee teacher
- Tales from Thomas
Or have you got better ideas? I'm reluctant to make it a teacher training blog as it has been more thoughts about my faith (that could be a title).
Any other questions?