I know who I am, I know what God has called me to do and I seek to get on with it – some days it is good to reflect on the years since the call – this blog, developed and added to over the last couple of years, is my ministry story.
I heard “the call” when I was 15. As I remember, it was a call for those who knew God was speaking to them about full time ministry. I stood up. I just knew. What I didn’t know was how long it was going to take to get there and the crazy, joyful, painful and incredible journey it would be . . . So far!
Well, that was 34 years ago. It started out as ‘full time youth ministry’, which I took to mean ‘give your life to it ministry’ (whatever ‘it’ might be).
Three years later when I was 18, I became Sunday School Superintendent at my church – what a bonkers title! For the next decade, whilst I worked for the Ministry of Defence in everything from general admin to procurement to systems analysis . . . I carried on with Sunday School and began a youth group – I realised I was spending more time preparing for youth group and Sunday school than i was spending doing my day job (they were very understanding) – so – packed it in.
I went part – time in 1996 at my church whilst I did a certificate in youth work (that’s all you could get back then).
I could rattle through all that has followed – but, suffice it to say – my sense of call has firmed up (and continually is firmed up) as ‘children’s and youth ministry’. I have been asked two things repeatedly:
When are you going to ‘pick’? – that is one or the other, children’s or youth ministry . . .
What are you going to do next or when are you going to ‘move on’?
Firstly, there is no “picking” possibility as far as I can see. Working with young people does not begin when they hit 11 and it does not end when they reach 18. It is working with people : the most incredible, special and creative and spontaneous and baffling people on the planet. Working with children and young people is life on ‘fast forward’ – it is immense to learn and discover so much in every kids group meeting or youth work setting. I could not pick, I love it all. God is present – right in the midst it feels, in an incredible way – with young people. Jesus had special things to say about them and delighted in them. Jesus placed them in the centre if the disciples – we should place them in the centre of our churches. What we pass on to them through what we model – through what we teach, equip, fail at, laugh and cry at, enjoy or loathe – it all goes in! What a scary privilege. I cannot imagine spending my life doing anything else – certainly not picking between children and young people.
Secondly, there is no ‘moving on’ because there is no better job, and nothing else God has told me to do. Peace is found when we are doing that which we believe we were put on this earth to do. This is my ‘thing’ – the only thing that has developed from it, and I simply see it as an extension of children’s and youth ministry is to equip others to do the same. Everything you could possibly want out of ministry is found in serving children and young people and those who work with them and for them. Equipping others is mainly through the lessons learnt from failure and arrogance – with a huge helping of grace.
So, it has been a long distance so far – we (as a family) are loving the mid week kids club we are leading – called ‘Breakout’. I ran one in Ealing for seven years, we have been running this one for nearly three now. It is amazing. The kids are great, we are seeing an increase and a growing team. God is good! There is something about consistency – showing up – week in week out. Building presence takes time – children’s and youth ministry is most definitely NOT a place to ‘cut your teeth’ or ‘have a go’ – bundling something real and tangible with young lives needs stability, commitment, endurance and stamina. These are REAL relationships, this is REAL ministry – it is not a practice ground. If you are doing children’s and youth work please, please grasp this!
I wrote the above about “Breakout” a few years ago now. Breakout is gone. One of the challenges of being around a long time is you see a lot of stuff happen to people in ministry – burn out, failure, redundancy. Well, the redundancy hit me in 2014 – which is why I began “The Resource”. In the midst of saying farewell to my job and all that had come to mean to me, we had to – at the same time – say farewell to the fresh expression of Church we had been leading. It felt as if everything was being taken away (it literally was!) What has remained is the sense of call and God’s faithfulness.
The longer you are in this ministry – the more amazing it gets. It really does. Seeing young people I have worked with previously heading up youth ministry, seeing young leaders I have worked with go on to ordained ministry (a whole bunch of them!), seeing children grow up in the faith and discover more and more of what God has in store for them – it is truly EPIC stuff.
I guess my focus within this area of work has shifted, I now spend more time equipping others, supporting others, writing resources than doing “face to face” stuff. My ministry highlights are many, not because I am great, but just because I have stuck around – seriously, if you want to see God “work” – stick around. Just a few things I’ve seen, (not done) :
No greater privilege on earth than seeing a young person who discovers for the first time they are loved by God – and watching them grow to believe it.
Nothing like watching young people demand a bible study before they have become Christians.
No joy like the moment you think a young person has walked out of a meeting (like you knew they would) only to realise they have gone forward for prayer.
Nothing like seeing a young person blossom as a worship leader when they thought they would only ever be playing songs in their bedroom by themselves.
Nothing like seeing a young person ‘preach it’ and blow a congregations socks off with what the Holy Spirit has given them to say.
There is nothing on earth like the feeling in youth ministry of getting out of the way so that young people can flourish, give, serve, lead and minister.
Nothing like seeing your old team all continuing to grow in leadership and begin to lead their own churches.
Nothing like bumping in to children’s and youth workers almost 20 years on from them being in your kids group and watching them fly in ministry.
So – I am 31 years in this year to ‘doing this‘ 10 as a volunteer, 2 part time, 19 full time. I cannot imagine doing anything else – I know there are some exciting things ahead AND things I just don’t know about . . . But whatever, here is to the NEXT 31 years of children’s and youth ministry.