My final issue of Youthwork magazine

Martin Saunders bows out as editor of Youthwork magazine.

After seven years in charge of this magazine, I’m handing over the reins to my brilliant, longsuffering deputy, Sarah Wynter...

Physically, I’m not really going anywhere – in footballing terms I’m ‘moving upstairs’ to take on a new role with the Premier Media Group, which owns Youthwork. From next month, I’ll still serve the magazine in a managerial role, but I will no longer edit on a day-to-day basis, and this is my final editorial column.

 With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look back over the previous 80-or-so editorials, and see if I could pick out any common themes. You know when you tune in excitedly to an episode of Friends only to discover it’s one of those disappointing clip compilation shows? Yes, this is going to be a bit like that.

 Here’s the first thing I’ve said a number of times, and I want to say once more: you are brilliant. If you’re reading this magazine, you are either in a very odd doctor’s waiting room, or you’re involved in ministry with young people. Assuming it’s the latter, then you are responding to the most exciting, challenging and rewarding call in the world. You almost certainly pour far more of your time and your self into serving young people than you ever signed up for. You are bringers of hope; extenders of the Kingdom, and since I’ve met thousands of you over the last seven years, I can say with confidence: as a group of people you are utterly marvellous.

 The second thing to repeat is this: stay close to God. Yes, it’s just about the most no-brainer piece of advice since ‘don’t eat yellow snow’, but I’ve lost count of the number of honest conversations I’ve had with other youth workers in which one or other of us have admitted we’re on spiritual autopilot. It is so easy when your life is about the discipleship of others to fall into the trap of neglecting your own discipleship. But, to steal a marketing slogan, it all comes from here. Take the spiritual disciplines seriously in your own life, and you’ll find yourself a much more effective vessel for the ministry of God. Avoid burnout by investing in retreat; grow in integrity by living simply; excite young people about prayer, worship and the Bible by first being excited by these things yourself.

 The final recurring theme from this column is the one that I’ve written on more often than any other: stay close to each other. Not just in terms of your own teams and organisations, but crucially, in unity with other Christians in your area with whom you share a passion for Jesus and young people. As individual churches and organisations, dotted around this country, we’re not even going to make a dent on this generation. If we could only truly come together in unity, we’d have an army. When you reject an opportunity for partnership on the grounds that another youth worker quite liked Love Wins, you put your hand on the throat of the Kingdom. Don’t do that. Work at working together, because the world will take note when you do.

 That’s it. That’s the sum total of my wisdom. From next month, I’ll be Premier Media Group’s Director of Youth, Children’s and Family Ministry, investing more time in our Youthwork Summit event (the next one’s in London this coming May), developing multimedia content for children and young people and their leaders, and perhaps most excitingly, working on a brand new resource for children’s workers (with which I’ll be needing your help). Plus if you enjoy inane banter, I’ll continue to host The Youthwork Podcast, which is available on iTunes.

 So now, it’s my profound privilege to introduce your new editor. Sarah Wynter joined the magazine in 2006 as an intern, and has served the magazine faithfully ever since. She’s a brilliant writer; she’s passionate about serving young people and their leaders, and she’s bursting with vision and creativity. I mean this genuinely: it was about time I got out of the way.

 For your readership and support over the last few years – thank you. As this exciting new chapter begins, Sarah and I share the same prayer: that Youthwork will continue to support you in your tireless, prophetic, worldaltering work among young people. Big ideas; dynamic resources; vital guidance. It’s what we’ve always been about; it’s what we’ll always seek to bring. God bless you.

Martin Saunders is the former editor of Youthwork magazine. You can follow Martin now @martinsaunders