What does a Church-based youth worker do? With Jonny Price

Welcome to our new series: the variety of youth workers. We’re going to be looking at six types of Christian youth worker including; The Consultant, The Freelance, The Parachurch, The Church-based, The Secular, and The National Role. Each will be written by a known practitioner in that field.

Last week Liz Edge told us about being a Freelance worker, and the week before Ali Campbell explained his role as a consultant. This week, Jonny Price, Youth and Children’s Ministry Leader in York, returns to tell us about being a Church-based youth worker.

 

What does an average week look like?

There is a strange mix of regular, set in stone, activities; those things that need doing week-by-week, and then some less regular things which come around monthly, annually, or are just a one off. The few things that I know will be in the diary each week are:

  • Staff meeting
  • Wednesday Youth Cafe
  • Friday Drop In
  • Sunday morning
  • Younger JAM, our Discipleship group for 11-14s
  • Older JAM, our Discipleship group for 14-18s

Around those I generally have prep time, admin time, supervisions, and meetings. Meeting up with young people, meeting with volunteers, meeting with other youth workers from around the city… just generally a lot of meetings!

Each week I try and make sure I have one solid office day. This is so I can really get my head down and power through my to-do list, as well as take a slightly wider look at what is going on across the ministries I oversee. Alongside that I have half a day reading time each week as well, although often that is the first thing to get squeezed out when things get hectic.

Finally, there are the things that come up within the calendar. At the moment, for instance, we are looking ahead to our Good Friday sleepover, and putting together all the practical things for prayer stations, food, films, popcorn, and all the rest of it.

What are your top priorities?

There are three really that carry across everything we do in Clifton Parish. They are:

Make sure that my volunteers are equipped and feel able to fulfil their roles to the best of their abilities.
Give all the young people and children we come into contact with the opportunity to explore their spirituality, and to introduce them to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Make sure that – across everything we do – we are allowing our young people and children to take the next step in their faith, and to take their faith wherever they go in the world.

I feel that I need to explain why my volunteers are at the top of my list of priorities. Without them, nothing else can happen. If my volunteers are well equipped and trained, if they feel called to what they do, and if they feel confident in what they do, then everything else will follow. If they aren’t, then priorities 2 and 3 are a bit pointless.

What are the hardest things about being in church based youth work?

There are a couple that really stand out to me. The first is that often you are treated as a young person because you work with young people. I have lost count of the number of meetings I have been in with clergy who have felt the need to explain to me how I should be doing my job, as if it is not something I have spent a significant amount of time and energy thinking, praying, and reflecting on.

The second is the weight that you can carry for other people. Because of the part we can play in young people’s lives they will unload their burdens to us, open up to us about things they haven’t told anyone else, and they can lean on us heavily. The challenge in creating boundaries so that we can serve them safely, look after ourselves, and not create a culture of dependancy, which can be really hard.

What are the best things?

Because you are investing in a community and (hopefully) spending a significant amount of time there, you see young people grow up. I spent nearly seven years in my last job, and seeing the young people grow from young teenagers to adults was one of the greatest privileges.

As well as that, I love seeing people step out in faith and try things for the first time. I have a number of people on my teams who have stepped out of their comfort zone to get involved in youth or children’s ministry, and it has helped them understand what gifts God has given them, and has had a wider impact on their lives.

How do you think Church based youth work is different to other kinds of youth work?
Being Church based means that we can be more holistic in our approach to young people than many other organisations. We can offer them the chance to become part of an multi-generational movement through which we can transform local communities.

Many organisations can do the individual bits which make up church based youth work, but having the church as the basis for the work that we do is what gives us the opportunity to have long-term, significant, and hope-giving impact on communities which otherwise struggle to find any hope in the world.

What would you say to someone considering becoming a church based youth worker?

‘Great, are you sure?’

It is a fantastic role and I would not have spend the last 9 years doing anything else, but you need to be ready for it.

Talk to people who have been doing it for a while, find out what to expect, make sure they are telling you about the ugly bits of it, and then pray. If God wants you in this, you won’t be able to stay away.

And before you jump in, make sure that you have people there to support you when things get tough.

Anything else you’d like to add?

This is the best role in the world. We have the opportunity and privilege to connect a generation to the church, and through doing that to transform both. We can see young people discover who God made them to be, see them step free of damaging patterns of behaviour, and watch them have a positive impact on the world around them.

And if we occasionally have to explain why we don’t want to be vicars, then I think I can live with that.

 

 

Jonny Price is the Youth and Children’s Ministry Leader for a Clifton Parish Churches in the North of beautiful York, where he lives with his wife, Carly, and son, Ethan.

When time allows he can be found cycling, either road or mountain, cooking or reading.

He holds a BA (Hons) in Mission and Ministry with a specialism in Youth from Cliff College, and is currently studying for an MA.

He loves Jesus and the Church, and wants to see the Church work to help young people live transformed lives by experiencing the redeeming love of Jesus.

 

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Why study at Nazarene Theological College? By Alia Pike

Alia Pike shares with youthworkhacks why you should consider studying at Nazarene Theological College. This is the second in our series on Youth Work Training. See the first, by Sally Nash here.

 

Hello, my name is Alia Pike and I am the Youth and Community Course Coordinator at Nazarene Theological College (NTC). This course is actually delivered at both NTC in Manchester and at the Scottish School of Christian Mission in Glasgow, which means it has joint professional validation with the National Youth Agency (NYA) and the CLD Council for Scotland. This is one of the only courses to offer this… plus I get frequent trips to Glasgow to stock up on Scottish Tablet for a yummy sweet treat! 

Reflective Practice

My role at NTC includes teaching and my favourite class is what’s called the ‘Placement Seminar’. This is where students talk about their placements and we reflect together as a group. This space is an essential part of our degree course as it gives students the opportunity to link theory to practice, drawing on their knowledge of theology, experience of Youth and Community Work, and understanding social policies, theory, and professional standards.

Reflective Practice is so important when working with people as it allows an individual time to think through the decisions they made and the action that they took. It is also about looking at yourself as the Youth Worker reflecting on your personal values and how you are developing and changing as a person.

Since I’ve been working at NTC I have reflected on my experience of training to be a Youth Worker and how much both I and my Youth Work practice changed during those years. Even now I am constantly reflecting and challenging myself to develop as a practitioner. I guess that is why I am so passionate about professional Youth Work degrees and continuous training; because I know the difference it can make to have a solid grounding in theory and theology. 

The Theological and Professional Core of NTC

It is theology that comes first at NTC, embedded in Wesleyan Holiness, as students who study with us leave with a BA(hons) Theology and specialism in their chosen pathway of either Practical Theology or Youth and Community.

The Youth and Community pathway provides students with the added bonus of gaining a professional qualification which is important as Youth Workers are being asked to work in a range of settings including hospitals, schools, and prisons, as well as the traditional youth clubs and detached projects.  Knowing that they have a University of Manchester degree with accreditation from the NYA and CLD gives our students confidence and validity when speaking with Social Workers, Teachers, and other professionals.

Youth Work has often been seen as the poorer relation to Social Work as the role doesn’t come with the power or legal framework of Social Work. The tide is turning, however, and as public services are being cut, it is Youth Workers who are stepping in to fill the gaps. This really excites me as I see our graduates becoming part of a work force which is diverse, professional, creative, and able to work where the greatest needs are. Last year’s graduates are working across the UK and abroad in roles that include youth drop-ins, women’s aid work, as well as the traditional church Youth Worker.

We work hard at NTC to ensure our students graduate with an excellent degree and employability skills, so they are work ready.  

Graduation and Study Patterns at NTC

Graduation is truly a special time at NTC as it brings together the whole NTC community and we are able to celebrate the success of our students. The ceremony takes place at Whitworth Hall at University of Manchester where students can bring as many guests as they like to clap and celebrate with them. We then all come back to the NTC campus for an afternoon tea party and lots of photos.

Before I sign off I’ll just explain the pattern of study at NTC for a Youth and Community student as the course is a blend of both Placement and Classroom based learning. Students spend 15 hours a week on Placement and this can be in a community project or a church, where they are supported by a Line Manager and working with young people aged 11 – 25. Placement is usually between a Thursday and Sunday and NTC classes take place Monday to Wednesday.  Our students also complete an Alternative Placement which gives them the opportunity to experience a different Placement and increase their knowledge and skills. 

Find out more

If you or someone you know would like to find out more about studying at NTC come along to one of our regular Open Events as advertised on our website. And, if you’re in Manchester any weekday at 10.45am, feel free to visit our campus and join us for coffee.

Thanks for reading, pop along and say ‘Hi’ to me on our NTC exhibition stand at Spring Harvest Harrogate, Big Church Day Out North, and Soul Survivor week A in Stafford.

 

Alia is the Youth and Community Course Coordinator at Nazarene Theological College (NTC)

Email: apike@nazarene.ac.uk

Twitter: AliaPikeNTC

Website: www.nazarene.ac.uk

 

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

What Does A Freelance Youth Worker Do? With Liz Edge

Welcome to our new series: the variety of youth workers. We’re going to be looking at six types of Christian youth worker including; The Consultant, The Freelance, The Parachurch, The Church-based, The Secular, and The National Role. Each will be written by a known practitioner in that field.

Last week Ali Campbell started us off looking at what Youth Work Consultant does; this week Liz Edge has returned to tell us all about her role as a Freelance Youth Worker. Liz is a quality professional freelance youth worker with a passion for emotional health. Check out her new book at www.liz-edge.co.uk

A ‘freelance Youth Work Practitioner’ sounds like a dream job, right? From writing youth work articles in my pyjamas and drinking coffee at networking meetings – many fellow youth workers would kill for this freedom. So, what do I actually ‘do’?

Like many of us, most of my working days begin with a substantial caffeine hit and a commute to the office. The spare bedroom in my apartment is my ‘office’ – comprising of a desk, white board and spare dining room chair. It takes about 30 seconds to get to which means even on snow days, I can make it to the office. I open up my emails, check my to do list and crack on with whatever project I’m currently working on.

Freelancing means I’m my own boss. I choose the hours I work, the projects I take on and the work expenses I can claim. I have no allegiance to one particular company, charity or church denomination. There are no geographical limits. I’m able to work locally, regionally and nationally – heck, even internationally if I wanted to. I have no job description as such that I have to fulfil, but rather tailor my work to a specific project that I choose to work in. I try to fully embrace the freedom in freelance – yet it’s not without its challenges.

Freelance is not for the faint hearted. It takes courage to ‘sell’ yourself – putting your skill set and expertise ‘out there’ without any backing from a company. Being a youth worker for a church or a charity means you have a safety net – you’re advocating for their work and living by their ethos. For me, there’s nowhere to hide. I’m on the frontline being the sales rep, accountant and the youth worker delivering the project – there’s no comfort from an institution. It’s incredibly vulnerable. I’ve had to create my own ethos and boundaries; learning to trust myself so I stick to them – even if it means declining work.

There’s no average week for me. No Monday morning team meetings or Wednesday afternoon supervisions. My to do list can be anything from writing a training session on depression to chasing up unpaid invoices. Days can be full of networking meetings or phone calls to writing thousands of words alone on the sofa.

Freelance means I can tailor make my work to suit the needs of the organisation. The different ‘hats’ I wear are anything from trainer to author, consultant to mentor. In the past this has looked like:

– Regularly contributing articles for magazines, websites and blogs.

– Volunteering at the Friday night youth club of my local church.

– Creating a series of cell group outlines on spiritual disciplines.

– Training youth workers, school staff and chaplains on mental health topics.

– Lecturing undergraduate students on young people and self-harm.

– Running therapeutic group work in schools.

– Mentoring a student on a Christian gap year programme.

– Publishing a resource for youth leaders on emotional health and young people.

– Speaking at one-off youth clubs.

I recognise that I’m a bit of a rare breed. Freelancing in youth work isn’t the norm and isn’t what I thought I’d be doing once I graduated with a degree in Youth Work and Ministry. I knew I didn’t want to become a youth pastor of a church or pastoral worker in a school. What I did know was I wanted to make a positive difference to the lives of young people; focusing on their mental health and exploring how a Christian faith fits into it all.

The flexibility of being self-employed means I’m able to manage my own poor mental health and still pursue my own chosen career. Having depression and anxiety means I’m less likely to find a job that can suit my needs. This could be anything from waking up exhausted after a nightmare induced sleep to managing the side effects of a change in antidepressants. I’m breaking the mould of a traditional youth work job – using my personal experiences and academic ability to enhance the lives of young people, both inside and outside the Church.

So, let’s not forget that there is value in all of our work. No matter what tile your role may have or whom you work for, there is value in all of our ministries. There is no mould for a youth worker to fit in to. Join me, as someone who regularly feels overwhelmed, under-qualified and under paid, in remembering this quote: Do what you can, with whatever you’ve got, from wherever you are.

 

Liz Edge is a professionally qualified Youth Work Practitioner holding a First-Class BA (Hons) Degree in Youth Work & Ministry. She is the author of Exploring Emotional Health and has contributed to the work of local and national organisations; these include Romance Academy, selfharmUK and Premier Youth and Children’s Work.

As a freelancer, Liz is able to offer a wide range of youth work through education, training and intervention. Her practice is made authentic by drawing from her own life’s adversities, including living with depression and anxiety for over a decade.

In all her pioneering work, Liz’s ethos is to provide holistic support to adolescents in their relationships and to promote positive wellbeing; with themselves, with others and with the wider world.

You can find out more about Liz at Liz-Edge.co.uk and can follow her on Twitter @LizEdge_ and Facebook /LizEdgeYouthWorker – she’d love for you to say Hi!

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

What does a youth work consultant do? With Ali Campbell

Welcome to our new series: the variety of youth workers. We’re going to be looking at six types of Christian youth worker including; The Consultant, The Freelance, The Parachurch, The Church-based, The Secular, and The National Role. Each will be written by a known practitioner in that field.

Kicking us we’re fortunate to have Ali Campbell; youth work consultant and founder of The Resource. Ali has been involved with youth work at the local and national level for decades, and is a solid wealth of information. This is a long post, but it’s worth it – enjoy!

What does a youth work consultant do?

Yeah, that is a good question!  As I work for myself, as a sole trader, it is not something I have been appointed to – so, in some ways, I get to define what it looks like for me.

I set up The Resource in order to be that, a resource for the local church and faith based organisations working with children, young people and families.

So that is the first thing, I aim to be a “resource” through sharing ideas, material, thoughts and articles about ministry and signposting those I engage with to the resources, ideas and material of others – a key thing for me is adding value, so I try and make a point of knowing what is “out there” and, if I can’t help directly – I try and make sure I know who can!

Secondly, I work for people in a number of ways – it could be writing resources and material, it could be doing a piece of research around children, young people and the home (which I’m particularly interested in from a faith perspective), it could be visiting churches and helping them think through their strategy and vision, it could be advising organisations on employing youth and children’s workers – looking at job descriptions and contracts, stuff like that, it could be training sessions delivered for a diocese or group of churches or a theological college.

What does an ‘average week’ look like for you?

Ha! There is no average week – but here is a snapshot.  Most mornings I start early, about 7am, to get emails replied to and maybe line up a few scheduled posts for my Facebook Page and, if I’m feeling inspired, cracking out a blog post on ministry.  I then look through my “up coming” deadlines and try and prioritise what I need to work at – so, right now I’m planning for a lecture that I’m delivering this weekend coming (as I type) on Reflective Practice at a residential retreat for those preparing for ordination. I’m on a retainer with a small charity, so a portion of most days is spent doing work for them – involving funding applications, tinkering with their website and promotion of their activity.

As my time is flexible, I also generally do school drop off and pick up for my youngest daughter.  I then have this sign in front of my face that, from 9am, I try and keep at the forefront of my mind – it just says, “do what is in front of you.”

Working for myself, I could spend my days chasing work (if I don’t do work for people, I don’t get paid so that is a motivator for getting myself out there!), however, I’ve found my days are more productive if I focus on the work I already have – not might have one day.  Working through my work generally means writing, preparing presentations, researching and hanging out with my Mac and a coffee 🙂

How is it different to other types of youth ministry you’ve been involved with?

I’ve been involved in six different kinds of roles within youth work, each is different, with it’s own challenges and joys – these were:

Volunteer youth worker.  Where I started at 18, did this for a decade.

Student worker. Two years study with Oasis before there were degrees, getting a certificate in youth ministry.

Full-time youth worker.  Worked for a local church for 7 years.

Diocesan adviser.  Worked for a Church of England Diocese for 9 years.

Children’s and youth event host / leader.  Led children’s and youth stuff at a national family conference for 14 years (this isn’t concurrent, I’m not that old!)

Youth conference organiser.  Led a team organising a couple of national conferences plus worked with a team of people to plan and run the now sadly finished “Youthwork The Conference”.

I don’t count what I do now as a seventh, it is more an amalgamation of all of the above.  The main difference is not being responsible for a bunch of young people – although I have gone full circle, and volunteer in my own church.  I guess this means I can be pretty objective as I go out and about to encourage and support others.  It also means I have to find ways of keeping my hand in, as there is nothing worse in ministry than teaching, lecturing or speaking to people about what you “used to do”.

What are the pros and cons of being a consultant?  /  What do you find easier, and what’s harder?

I think I’ve learnt from a lot of mistakes that I’ve made in the past about how I manage my time, plan work, invest in my own live with God. I wouldn’t say that it’s any easier(!), but I think that just comes from age, being nearly 50.

Big pros are working for myself and – in a work context – being asked to do a piece of work because people want me to do it. That might sound odd, but I don’t sit around wondering if I’m doing what I am supposed to be doing when it doesn’t match up to my job description.  Generally, the work I’m asked to do is pretty focused, and if people come to me with a very vague proposal, I try and help them drill down to what they actually want me to do and when they want it by.  I also love the variety and pushing myself in to new skill areas. When I started The Resource in September 2014, for example, I had to get to grips with creating my website, how I was going to communicate what I was doing, becoming a sole trader and thinking about tax, invoicing and all that admin stuff.

What is hard is not, at this moment, mentoring or discipling a group of young people myself.  Although, that isn’t strictly true as I have a 10 and almost 13-year-old in my own house.  It is also hard, at times, not being part of a wider organisation – that sometimes creates “Credibility” all by itself – “hey, I work for such and such.” I have to demonstrate to people I know what I am doing and share a bit of my story about why I’m working for myself.  However, what I love, love, LOVE is not being involved in politics and hierarchy stuff. I sometimes feel that I don’t have the influence I could have, but then I am reminded that I can (within reason) say what I like if there is injustice, young people are not being listened to or valued, or I think the national church needs to sort its priorities out and – because I work for myself – nobody can “fire me!”

What do you miss from before you were a consultant?

A team.  And growing a team. I miss having my own team to be part of – throw ideas around, encourage each other, iron sharpens youth ministry iron etc.  I’ve had two very different teams.  One, when I was a full-time youth worker at a church, were all at least a decade younger than me – encouraging, equipping and releasing them in to ministry stuff was a joy.  Secondly, I had a team of experienced people at the diocese, I had to determine best how to focus their many talents, so we could be of most benefit to the churches we served.

I’d love a team again.  Right now, don’t see how that happens, I think being a sole trader and just being / doing “The Resource” is the fit for me, but – I’m open to what God says about that!

What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a youth work consultant?

It is wonderful.  It is hard work.  It is flippin’ scary starting out.  You have to have a combo of confidence in the Lord and confidence in what He has called you to.

There are knocks, work you think you should have had you don’t get; Challenges around your identity and worth, depending how you get going with being a consultant. I haven’t mentioned it, but – although it feels absolutely right for me, I had to go through a redundancy to get here. If you can choose to make a start with this, rather than react to circumstances – I’d take that route.

Here are a couple of things that I would say to you if you want to make work:

  1. You have to put yourself out there. It is you that you are selling, and you represent yourself not an organisation. So, work out what you have to offer that is distinctive, create stuff for free that shows people what you can do, add value to the work of others, and bless other ministries doing similar things to you.
  2. Network like crazy. Be at things that matter in your field of work. Whether that’s conferences, gatherings, training.  Look for gaps – what isn’t being spoken about or done? What training isn’t being offered but should be?
  3. Find support and accountability. Get a bunch of people around you who will pray for you, encourage you and back you – but who will also call you out for heresy, when you are working too hard, or losing perspective and balance. You might need to sacrifice things to make this work, but don’t let those things be friends or family.

I love it and, right now, wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

 

You can get in touch we and or follow via:

Twitter: @AliCampbell_68

Facebook : www.facebook.com/alitheresource

Web: www.theresource.org.uk

Call: 07921 472589

Email: ali@theresource.org.uk

 

When musical tastes become the preconditions for worship

The time of musical worship can be a nightmare to crack! With so many tastes and values in the room it’s amazing that we ever get through it without broken teeth, flying drumsticks, or choral tantrums.

Part of the issue is we’re just so darn picky!

I, for instance, am really cynical about 90s-00s contemporary worship music. I find it simplistic, boring, messy, boring, poorly written, boring, rubbish to play, boring, and theologically… quirky. Is this a fair assessment of all worship music from that era? Probably not. Does it summarise all of that era’s worship? Definitely not! Does it tell me something about my heart? Very yes!

And here’s the problem: The straight line we draw from ‘does this please me’ to ‘does it please God’ is logically absurd! Worship was never primarily designed for me.

Our worship should reach in three directions:

  1. Upward. We’re to love and honour God.
  2. Outwards. We’re to serve and uplift each other.
  3. Inwards. We’re to encourage our silly hearts and tired minds to respond.

The problem is we tend to add a fourth step; something like, ‘we’re to like the music’. This totally reverses the process which ends up looking a little like this:

  1. Double Inwards. Am I properly entertained by, and comfortable with the music provided?
  2. Inwards. Do I feel that I can now respond to God?
  3. Outwards. Do I feel that I can encourage others to get stuck in?
  4. Upwards. Do I feel that God likes what I’m doing?

The problem here is that every one of these steps is now governed by ‘do I feel…?’, which makes worship self-serving rather than God-serving. This is a huge problem when you consider that worship in the Bible always included sacrifice and making ourselves lower than Him.

If our ability to worship is governed by our acceptance of the music provided, then everything stops working.

Put another way: if worship must first meet our conditions, then we won’t fully be worshipping when they do.

If the music fits us so perfectly that we ‘switch on’ our worship mode, then it’s likely that is it isn’t always worship that we’re doing. It’s not that we can’t worship to our music preference (of course we can), the problem is making our worship and adoration of God conditional on our music preferences.

Our love for God shouldn’t be conditional upon anything but His love for us.

How many times have you heard (or thought!) something like:

  • I can’t worship to an organ
  • The music is too loud to worship
  • I can’t focus on God because the singer was off-key
  • God can’t get through to me though a guitar solo

For me – I always lose it if a drummer goes out of time!

Now some of this is simple human distraction – worked on with time and patience. However, these things can be heart issues. It’s a heart issue when we won’t try to worship if our preferences aren’t met. This then ends up being subliminal and habitual. The symptoms are things like:

  • Constantly grumbling about the music wherever you go
  • Easily snapping in and out of worship
  • Connecting better at conferences than your home church
  • Not connecting with God musically when at home alone

I want to nuance this slightly as there’s other reasons that the above can exist, and God takes whatever worship we give Him, even if it’s conditional or a bit self-centered. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we’re never worshipping in music when we’re conditional, but I would challenge all of us that if we are conditional, then our worship will quickly hit a maturity plateau. And when our worship plateaus, so does our faith.

We need to love God so dearly, and long to worship Him so fully that the music style will not stop us from doing so! We should all strive for a place where if all we have is a set of lungs and some rattling paint cans, that will be enough.

My encouragement here (and my challenge to myself) is to worship God regardless, and not to make our adoration of God dependent, or conditional on our tastes. We’re not a vending machine that only pays out with the right coins; God shouldn’t have to tease it out of us. Let’s overflow to Him, however off-key, out-of-time, or poorly written the music is. God is always worth it!.