YouthWorkHacks has been nominated for two awards!

Last year it was an amazing privilege to be nominated for the Premier Digital Awards, Most Inspiring Leadership Blog – and then an enormous surprise to win it among so many fantastic blogs. This year I’m blown away to be nominated for two awards:

This, again, is amazing! Big thanks to everybody who nominated the blog – you guys n’ gals are awesome.

In the meantime, check out the fantastic talent that has been nominated alongside me:

Multi-Author Blog of the Year:

Clarity Magazine

yesHEis

Girl Got Faith

More Precious

Most Inspiring Leadership Blog:

Apples of Gold

Martin Salters Blog

Speak Life

The Additional Needs Blogfather

 

Again – these are awesome blogs, and it’s fab just to be seen on the same page as them.

Watch this space everybody! 😀

 

Please everyone? Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.

It’s really hard in youth work to juggle everyone’s expectations, hurt feelings, and mixed theologies. I totally try though, and I think it’s really worth learning how to get on peacefully with everybody. Some things are worth the passion, and the pain, and the fury – and some things are just not; and it’s those things we get stuck on. The little upsets that I think we spend a lot of our energies on. It’s also usually those things we can’t change.

This evening (yesterday now… as I’ll be publishing this tomorrow – which is now today! Hey!) I dropped one of my team members off home. It was about 8.50pm, and we stayed outside her house for about five or six minutes chatting about the day (it’s her birthday!). I noticed an elderly lady poking her head around the curtain, so I thought I must be bothering her with my headlights, so I turned them off.

After that she came outside, leaned on her face and stared at us. I said to my friend that she looked like she was going to start yelling at us so we should probably call it a night. We said good bye and I started to drive away.

On leaving, this tiny little elderly lady said something obscene and gave me the ‘up yours’ sign.

Perturbed, I reversed back, pulled my window down and asked if everything was ok. I asked a couple of times and she just ignored me – so I drove on home.

I was so upset!

Angry, confused, miffed, and totally weirded out.

I was sad and I wanted to go back and talk to her. Find out what went wrong and help change her mind about it. Tell her I’m a nice guy – a Christian youth worker just trying to get a female colleague home safely. Then I prayed. I told God how I felt and I prayed for this little old lady. Then I started to let it go, and arrived home.

Sometimes you just can’t please people. You can’t change how they feel or reverse how they think. Sometimes you’re just giving yourself away by trying. Hand these times and these people over to God; continue to be faithful to His calling on your character and push through to the positive:

You are a child of God, saved by grace alone, divinely adored and yet living in a hostile world. And that’s ok.

Grace goes a long way afterall.

Tomorrow, I’m going to sneakily leave some flowers on her doorstep and a note that says, “I’m sorry I parked outside your house last night when dropping a friend off home. I didn’t mean to upset you so. I wish you all they best!” I hope that little act of peace-making brings some measure of joy to an obviously hurt, vulnerable, and frightened woman.

It’s the best I can hope for – and whether or not she likes or accepts the gesture, it will have no bearing on, or power over me any more. I am a child of God, saved by grace…

…and I can’t please everyone.

Dear Youth Worker, keep hold of yourself

I think one of the hardest battles that I’ve had to consistently struggle through in youth ministry is keeping hold of myself.

From the day you interview, through to meeting the kids for the first time, sitting in Eldership meetings, and talking with concerned parents, you are constantly working with varied and changing expectations. You listen actively, you discern the needs, and you respond with the subtitles required to pacify, subdue or waylay the particular ethics on the table. This can often mean keeping yourself in a constant state of pliability.

After years of this, I wonder how many youth workers today feel like their identity is spiritual putty – or in consistent flux. Foundationally wobbly, this youth worker becomes an increasingly good actor, increasingly desperate for internal stability, and increasingly fearful of being ‘found out.’ At it’s worst, this becomes a hollowed out shell with Nike labels and an iPhone.

The sense of this is hauntingly familiar in Johnny Cash’s rendition of the song ‘hurt.’

Very very rarely a strange things happens in music: A song actually changes ownership from the original writer to a new cover artist. I can think of two, maybe three times that this has happened. Hurt was written by Nine Inch Nails, but was redone as a stripped-back acoustic cover by Cash just a year before he died. The last lines wobbled out in his aged, baritone voice as,

‘If I could start again,
a million miles away,
I would keep myself,
I would find a way.’

Hidden in these notes is a strong sense of personal history. A fear of wasted time, and loosing touch with who he could or should have been. You feel these words testimonially deep – you know he means them.

Sometimes I feel a whisper of that same fear in me: Do I really know who I am. Have I kept a clear hold of myself? Have I spent so long trying to navigate the many expectations that I forgot somewhere who I am?

The answer this this – and any identity crisis – is not to look inward. That’s the humanist, or enlightenment (or dare I say millennial) approch. The answer is to look to Jesus Christ. Our identity is discovered and shaped by our proximity to Him. Our nearness to Jesus sculpts us like marble.

Dear youth worker: Keep a hold of yourself… by keeping a hold on to Him.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

YouthWorkHacks in America

Hey! Where have you been YWHs?

Sorry folks – I’ve been in America for the last few weeks. I’m now sat in a motel room on the edge of Sacramento, California, on a quintessential motel duvet, after having a shower from what looked suspiciously like the one from Psycho.

Before arriving here we had spent a week in a tent in Yosemite National Park hiking, and then we were in the Santa Cruz Mountains before that hanging out with the In-Laws – which included a couple of cats, seven miniature horses, and two incredibly fractious chihuahuas.

So, sorry I’ve not posted for a while! We’ll be remedying that soon. However, I thought I’d leave you with a brief encouragement.

While visiting my wife’s old church I came across two young people that I’d spoken to on a camp here in California about eleven years ago. Both are still part of the church, and both still going strong following Jesus. I had a good long chat with each of them and realized that I had – in a small way – been part of God’s work in their lives.

This is now the second time that I’ve had a significant encounter with a young person years after my ministry influence in their lives. I had no idea at the time of ministry just how God was using me and how it would form a piece of their Christian lives for the long haul.

Being able to have these moment where God shared just a little with me about how I was involved is precious. It reminds me to treasure the time I have with my young people now – and to not underestimate what God can do with these passing ministry moments.

Anyway – I’m off to a Wedding now in Nevada City. See you all soon!