Laura Haddow on the trials of a Youth Leader...
It’s Friday night and 17 young people, 5 leaders, a bundle of luggage and what could be described as a month’s supply of cake related products, are on their way to a scout hut in the New Forest, in a big white, slightly rusty minibus...
I feel unprepared; even a little bit scared, unready for the mayhem of the next three days. I’m tired, probably not in the best place with God I’ve ever been, distracted; thinking about the million and one jobs I didn’t get done at work before I left the office.
I need to focus…fast.
So, I’ve been a youth leader for many years. However I never seem to silence the voice inside of me that just feels like blurting out at the beginning of these sort of trips ‘aghhh can’t you see I’m completely winging this? I’m really not as responsible as you think I am!’
There’s an expectation after being in youth work for the last eight years that I should be some sort of a pro at this, have the answer to every issue, produce the right words to say at the right time, but to be honest I face every YP holiday pretty much feeling like I’m just playing at being a grown up and wondering where the proper leaders are.
I look round at the other leaders and wonder if they feel the same?
There are many stories that reinforce this suspicion that we are in fact completely unqualified to be given this much responsibility. For example the time one of the leaders got apprehended by the police during a wide game for pretending to be an escaped patient from a local psychiatric hospital, or another where we actually lost, yes lost, our entire group for at least an hour after distributing wrong map directions in an orienteering ‘dumped in the middle of rural Wales’ style game. We were sat in a warm coffee shop eating cake whilst they were trudging through knee-deep mud to a location that didn’t actually exist (that was difficult to explain).
There is also of course the multiple trips we have made to local A&E departments across the country; from dislocated shoulders (from a sand dune jumping incident), through to one of the YPs being completely taken out by a large flashing Frisbee a couple of years ago.
However despite our clear failings as YP leaders, time and time again God uses these times to work out his purposes in the lives of our young people. He takes the days, hours and minutes of these times and does marvellous things that remind us that through His strength all things are possible.
It’s in these times (as I’m sure many of you can also testify) that we see God at work transforming lives, bringing those back to Him who have drifted away, and coming into young people’s lives for the very first time, challenging us, disciplining us, growing us.
So often we are left in awe, speechless at the end of the day at just how amazing God really is.
One of the things I loved the most about last weekend’s trip was that through the wonderful medium of twitter, I realised that there were many others of you were also taking different groups away to different places at the same time. This was strangely reassuring.
It’s good to feel that you’re part of something bigger. Especially at those moments where you are doubting our own abilities, have twigs in your hair, have burnt the toast, or it’s 2am and you know the dorms have emptied and the group are running around outside causing chaos, and you are fast running out of energy.
It’s great to be able to pray for and support one another; be it through a #lovemonday mention on twitter or just an encouraging word that comes through at the right moment, through some other means.
I love hearing of what God is up to across the world of youth ministry, it stops us becoming inwardly focused and helps us realise we are just a small part of a much larger mission to young people in the UK that God is orchestrating.
I’m involved with an event this autumn called the Youthwork Summit bringing youth workers from across a huge spectrum of ministries, backgrounds and denominations together in one place- Manchester on the 22nd October.
The slogan for the event ‘it all comes from here’, remains purposely ambiguous, waiting to be interpreted and personalised by you. You see, it means something different to each one of us in the ministries we are involved in. What’s your work like? Are you working alone or part of a large team? On an inner city council estate, or in a rural parish somewhere? Share your story!
The idea; Print off this sheet
Take a photo of yourself with the sign in a place that sums up something about the ministry you represent. Be as creative as you like* but bear in mind these will end up on the Youthwork Summit Facebook Site for all to see! (*please don’t include recognisable images of under 18s unless you have written parental consent for their unrestricted use.)
Send us the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and scribble a few lines explaining what ‘it all comes from here’ means to you in your ministry with young people.
We’ll post them on the Facebook Summit site from the 29th June. Join the discussion…
Laura Haddow is an advertising exec for Youthwork magazine, a qualified youth worker, self confessed diet coke addict, singer/songwriter and lover of the colour grey. You can follow Laura now @laurahaddow