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3 Things I’ve Learnt

Posted on: March 27, 2016

After 6 and a half years working for one organisation & church this is my last week before I move onto a new post. A week ago I met with my mentor and he asked me what 3 things I’ve learnt in particular over the last 6 and a half years and I thought I’d share those here.

1 – Try New Things
When I started my post part of it (as with many youth work posts) was a blank canvas. It’s given me scope to be creative and to try new things and is one of the things I’ve loved about the role.

As youth worker’s we’re often creative, innovative individuals and so it’s important that we try new things even if there’s a risk that they won’t work (Please also keep points 2 & 3 of this post in mind when starting new things!)

It is however important not to start too many new things at once and to try not to do new things simply for the sake of doing new things. Any new project or group should be thought out,  you should have aims in mind and ideally run it by trusted colleagues and friends. This will help in shaping and developing the idea…if you can include young people in this process then even better!

Projects I’ve started in the last 6 years have evolved from their initial concept through discussing them with people and hammering out the details. One school project took on a completely different shape when the deputy head of the school at the time suggested we made it ‘more Christian’ (Our jaws dropped at this suggestion!)

2 – Diplomacy
The second thing I’ve learnt is diplomacy. I remember reading Bill Hybels’ ‘Courageous Leadership’ a few years back and in it he talks about how important it is to carry people with you when it comes to vision…this often comes with needing to learn to be sensitive and diplomatic.

Let me give you an example…

5 years ago after some consultation with young people we decided as a youth team that an open youth club would be a great new thing to start in our village. We took it to our PCC and left incredibly disappointed when the PCC didn’t share our enthusiasm…they hard concerns about storage of equipment, funding and whether the young people would trash the place.

Instead of myself, the youth team and Vicar forcing it through we went away and explored their questions. One of our church wardens and I went along to the church hall committee meeting and answered their questions (no matter how trivial) and after 7 months it was approved.

We could have easily decided we were going to do it regardless and trod on people’s toes but being diplomatic in this situation meant that 3 years on when we wanted to expand the group even those who had been uneasy with it to start with voted in favour.

There is a time and place to go forward with things without everyone’s agreement but this should be a last resort, bringing people onboard with your vision and journeying with them will gain you respect, create a united church and will probably give you people committed to praying for your youth ministry.

3 – Involve Young People
Finally it’s really important you involve young people in your youth ministry. You might do this through finding opportunities for young people to develop and use their gifts in church, you might do this by listening to new ideas that young people have or even working with young people to start new projects.

Whilst it’s great to get young people involved in helping with kid’s clubs and playing in the worship group I think it’s even more essential that they’re involved in reviewing and developing what you do.

For example: I’ve been involved in a monthly youth service over the last 6 years. It started off running every 1st Saturday and touring the 4 funding churches for the project.

Here are the changes we made as we listened to and regularly reviewed the service with young people:
– We stopped touring around because young people struggled to keep track of venues
– We changed the day to Sunday because young people didn’t find Saturday a good evening to meet
– We started singing less songs and got young people to come up with the repertoire.
– We made the talks more interactive and included small group discussion

Did this increase the event by numbers? I’m not really sure however it did create a core group of young people who helped create something that gave them a space to grow in their faith in a way that was relevant to them.

To summarise what has become a very long post I hope that these 3 key things will be helpful to you in your youth ministry. I haven’t got it sorted…I don’t always listen to involve young people, I find it easy to stick with routine and there are times when I’m not diplomatic however I think these are good starting points.

What top tips do you have? What have you learnt in youth ministry? – Do comment…I’d love to read them.