Shoebox Appeal Alternatives

With more and more people wishing to find an alternative to Samaritan’s Purse* (often thanks to the controversial beliefs and actions of Franklin Graham) we’ve put together a list of alternatives to the Christmas shoebox appeal you could use with your church.

1 – If you still want to put together a shoebox!

Filling a shoebox is a fantastic opportunity that children, young people and families all engage with and so many people still want an opportunity to do the same activity but to support a more ethical cause.

If this is you then you might want to:

  • Check out local charities – Many local charities that operate in other countries still do shoe boxes. I live in Essex and a couple of local charities encourage people to put together shoeboxes for countries like Romania. This local link is brilliant as you can often hear stories of how your gift has made a difference first hand…you could also arrange a mission trip for some young people to join the trip to hand out shoeboxes.
  • One example of the above is Essex based charity Cry in the Dark. Check their appeal out here.
  • Google Search your town and shoebox appeal. For example a quick google search for ‘Southend shoebox appeal’ tells me that there’s a shoebox appeal to help local homeless people.
  • Link to Hope – This Christian charity organises a shoebox appeal – Details here

2 – Other Ideas
If the idea of a shoebox doesn’t bother you then here are a few other ideas for making a difference in the lives of others at Christmas.

  • Salvation Army – Each year the Salvation Army run a Christmas Present Appeal. This let’s you buy a gift for a child or young person which is donated to your local Salvation Army centre and given to a child or young person who may not otherwise get something. This is a brilliant way to make an impact in your local community. Details here.
  • Refuge – Refuge supports women and children who have suffered domestic violence. They run an appeal that lets you raise money to buy a refuge parcel. Details here.
  • Oxfam – Oxfam let you buy gifts that help others. You could raise money to buy a goat, safe water, support a refugee or do all sorts of things. Details here.
  • Pick another charity! – Pick a charity your church, youth or children’s group are passionate about and do a fundraiser to raise money for them this Christmas (or just encourage people to donate on top of their Christmas spending)

*Don’t get us wrong…supporting the shoebox appeal of Samaritan’s Purse still makes a huge difference in the lives of children…but there are other options!

Does God Call Introverts To Be Youth Leaders? – A Response

This year the youth project I head up has a gap-year team member and it’s great! As part of our regular meetings we’ve been looking at an article from Youth Work Magazine and discussing it together. Our gapper chooses the article and all I have to do is read it (9/10 times I do!)…so far we’ve discussed Calais, Transgender young people and this week: introverts.

As we discussed this article on Does God call Introverts to be Youth Leaders?‘ I found myself wanting to write more of a response on this, partly because the article doesn’t really answer that question and partly because I feel like there’s a lot to unpack.

I’ve been involved in youth ministry for over 10 years now and still describe myself as an introvert. I’ve worked with youth workers who bounce around constantly, who will get young people to do crazy dancing (initiated by them) and one who yelled Alan Partridge quotes down the office corridor, much to the confusion of the office assistant who, like Alan Partridge’s assistant was also called Lynn.

Youth Workers are often given the stereotype of being like ‘big kids’ who run around, are a little bit crazy and are generally an all round entertainer and, don’t get me wrong these youth workers do some fantastic work with young people but often youth workers are limited by their own personalities (and this isn’t a bad thing).

Let me give you an example…

I’ve done very little in the way of sports in my time in youth ministry because I’m not sporty…the one time I played football with our youth club I was asked to stop within 5 minutes because I was so bad!

However I’m musical and so have been involved in developing several young worship leaders and youth worship bands, encouraging young people in their God-given gifts for music.

The fact is, God has made each of us differently and has young people in mind who we, as youth workers will best connect with. As a young person a youth worker who bounced around and encouraged crazy dancing at any given moment followed by loud animal noises would have probably caused me to feel constantly uncomfortable yet, the Vicar who led our group was sensitive to the different members of the group, cared for us and ultimately saw something in me that led me to leading sessions and eventually becoming a youth worker.

Our gap-year worker (and I’m sure she won’t mind me typing this) may be more introvert than extrovert but actually this is perfect for the group of girls she’s beginning to work this and God knew that when He called her to do a gap year with us.

So, ‘Does God call introverts to be youth leaders?‘ – Yes! He calls introverts to be youth leaders as well as extroverts. He calls sporty people to be youth leaders as well as musical people. He calls film buffs, book worms, people who know everything about the TV Show ‘Lost’ and everyone in between because God has created young people who are all of the above and beyond and needs leaders who can best love and nurture each of those young people. There is no ‘one size fits all’ model of youth leader.

Do you keep a timesheet?

Whilst studying for my youth work degree we were made to keep a timessheet which we’d submit weekly to our tutor and placement line manager. The aim was essentially to check we were doing the required number of hours.

When I started my full time youth worker job just over 3 years ago I stopped keeping a timesheet for that first year and a bit but started again about 2 years ago now and would advise every youth worker to do so…let me explain why.

In the year that I didn’t keep a timesheet I spent lots of my time filling time for the sake of it. My job is partly based around schools work and so during the holidays I felt the need to almost ‘create’ work even though during other weeks I’d done some crazy term time hours (or at least by body told me I hadn’t stopped working).

Since starting a timesheet I’ve found 2 things.

Firstly I do too many hours

Secondly I can comfortably take time off – My timesheet adds up hours I’ve over-done and carries them forward to the next week which means during school holidays or less busy weeks I work less and don’t feel guilty about it because I know that I work hard enough the rest of the time.

If you don’t keep a timesheet the new year is a good time to start…

It doesn’t take long – I probably spend about 2 minutes a day filling mine in.

You can explain how you use your time – If your line-manager, management committee or others ask what you actually do with your time you actually have a point of reference.

You can enhance the quality of your work – When we work too much the quality of what we do suffers. Keeping a timesheet can allow you to monitor what you do and know when it’s right to take on new projects.

Guilt-free time off! It’s important that as youth workers we take a break. Keeping a timesheet allows you to comfortably take back time. It also lets you monitor when you’ve missed days off!

But I don’t have set hours!

This isn’t unusual. Sadly lots of church-based youth work positions don’t give you set hours. I’m in a position where mine does (and also specifies 2 days off a week). My advice is that you have a chat to your line manager and agree a sensible amount of hours to work towards and get it wrote into your contract. The average secular job is about 37.5 hours a week so that’s a good place to aim for.

So what’s your new year’s resolution? – I’d suggest you make it to keep a timesheet…whether it’s a fancy excel one (like the one on our useful forms page) or just in your paper diary.

Youth Work Summit

On Saturday 18th May 2013 the ‘Youth Work Summit’ event returns again. This time it is taking place in the Midlands and tickets went on sale yesterday at the discount rate of £25 (for 2 weeks only).

I went to the youth work summit for the 1st time 2 years ago when it was held in Manchester and it was the best Youthwork event I have ever been to.

I get lots of invites to different events and usually half of the talks/seminars are things that interest me and about the same amount of those are actually engaging but the youthwork summit is completely different.

The format gives each speaker up to 15 minutes to share their idea/vision which means you get a concise, engaging talk that puts across the same points that would probably have been put across in an hour! The talks all focus around different things and by the end of the day your head is about ready to explode!

If you haven’t been before I recommend you check out the website, look at some previous talks and get yourself a ticket. The Youthwork Summit is one event not to be missed!

Book – Handmade By God – Heidi Shirra

A while back Heidi, a friend of mine asked me to read some extracts from her book ‘Handmade by God’ and write something to appear on the back cover.

The book came out at the beginning of June and earlier this month I attended the book launch too.

Handmade by God is perhaps more of a booklet in size but that doesn’t make it any less of a worthwhile resource (just shorter). Handmade by God is really in 2 parts.

The first part tells Heidi’s story of being a fairly typical (Christian) young person, growing up in a Christian family, attending youth groups, finishing sixth form and heading off to university but during that first year Heidi became more and more obsessed with weight loss and began eating less and less until it emerged she had developed anorexia and a distorted view of her own body image.

In that time following her diagnoses and having to work hard at putting back on weight and getting out of bad eating habits Heidi read bible passages that helped her and made notes of them which is where part 2 comes in!

The second part of the book consists of 52 short bible passages and a brief thought on them directed at how we view ourselves followed by a space to write your own thoughts, feelings and prayers associated with these verses.

As a youth worker I think this book has huge potential to be used in youth group settings with the older end of young people (14+) but also on an individual basis for people of all ages (perhaps more so females than males). The verses could help put together a session on self esteem or you could use one of the two self esteem sessions I’ve previous written over on (Links: Session 1Session 2).

If you’re interested here’s what I actually said about the book on the back cover…

 “Heidi’s story isn’t dissimilar from the increasing number of young people who are developing eating disorders in order to conform to the unrealistic expectations that society presents to them.

In this book Heidi shares her own story and a selection of bible passages that teach us some essential truths about how God feels about us and how we often need to face up to the lies society tells us and come back to our loving Father who accepts us, welcomes and calls us just as we are.

I hope that people reading this book will realise that ultimate satisfaction in who we are comes from accepting that God, our creator, has made us who we are and that our self-esteem and self-worth need to be rooted in Him.”

Purchase Links: Amazon Physical Book | Amazon Kindle | Gilead Books | Eden

Everything Will Change – Heading Off To University

This is a guest blog by Pippa Winterburn who is the Student Linkup Developer for Fusion

It’s not that often you can look back a year and realise that everything has changed since then.  That will be where your school leavers will be at a year from now.

Everything will change.  Between now and then, dinner time, where they live, who they live with, their friends, their eating habits, their passions will be different.  They will be different.  The question is, when everything turns on its head, where will they be with God?

Those school leavers’ faith will change.  Whatever happens, God will not look the same to them this time next year as he does now.  Does that inspire excitement or fear in you?

It sounds amazing to me.  Our faith isn’t static, it’s alive, it’s affected, inspired, challenged, refined by what’s going on in our lives.  Going to uni is a massive opportunity for all of these, and that’s a good thing.  This year, the best thing you can do for your young people is to help them stand on their own two feet.  It’s time for them to take a step into independence, responsibility and intentional pursuit of God.  Borrowed faith and apathetic attendance won’t wash when the world turns upside down.  However, confident reliance on God, an understanding of his endlessness and a hope for more to come will set them up for an exciting shift into maturity.

So what can we do, as youth workers who want to see our young people’s faith change for the better?  Prepare them!  73% of Christian students don’t connect with church at uni.  That’s a shocking statistic.  We send missionaries into an astonishing mission field every year with very little preparation and then we’re surprised when they fall away.  It is essential that we create a space for them to look ahead, encourage them to decide what they will pursue once there, and then help them connect to churches once they arrive.  For more info on how to do those things, check out

Everything will change, and I’m praying that for your young people that will include their faith.  Let’s pray for bigger hope, bigger ownership and bigger expectations for all that God has planned.  Let’s work now to see those young people ready to step into that reality and fly!

You can also check out the new ‘University Preparation Page’ here on Youth Work Resource!

Fairtrade Fortnight & A Fairtrade Session

It’s currently Fairtrade fortnight and here at Youth Work Resource we LOVE fairtrade. We think it’s a fantastic movement that gives us great products that look after those who work hard to produce them for us.

To help equip you for Fairtrade fortnight we have written a new session on Fairtrade aimed for youth groups to use during Fairtrade fortnight 2012.

You can check out that new session here

Also the Fairtrade Foundation have a whole load of resources for schools, churches and individuals online here

You can order the postcards and resources we talk about in the session online here