Helping your child process their test results – Kirsten Witchalls

A short helpful set of thoughts on test results by Careers Adviser, Kirsten Witchalls. Kirsten is also the wife of Alan Witchalls from Video Bible Talks – make sure you check them out!

 

I am at GCSE results day in my role of a Careers Adviser. My role is the difficult one of picking up the pieces when things haven’t gone so well.

Here’s some advice to parents based on my observations today:

  • Whatever people say about changes in grade boundaries, the new GCSE’s are much more rigorous than the old GCSE’s. These young people have been put under huge pressure to succeed, regardless of whether or not you think they have worked hard enough for them.
  • Please put aside your disappointment to focus on supporting your child who will feel the burden of not wanting to disappoint you.
  • Don’t add to their confusion by putting onto your child any prejudices you may have towards alternative qualifications.
  • Please be aware of trying to persuade your child to fulfill your unfulfilled aspirations.
  • Times have changed… apprenticeships and alternative qualifications are well respected by employers and definitely not a last option.
  • PLEASE encourage your child to plan for alternatives so they have options if things don’t go as planned!
  • At the end of the day, exams are not the only measure of success. We will all have our own stories on how we have used disappointment to shape us to be the people we are today. How you deal with this disappointment will also have an impact on your child.
Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

7 Ways to lead people who are older than you – on LeadAnyone

I first wrote this for the excellent blog, leadanyone.com early last year. However, with the new term approaching and lots of youth workers changing and starting new jobs, I thought it might be some timely help to someone. You can read the original here.
“Who on earth does this kid think he is?” This, I am sure, was the overall impression I left on people during my first year as a full-time minister.

Fresh out of seminary and ready to take on the world, I was going to teach these older generations a thing or two – and I made sure they knew it! Needless to say I failed pretty miserably, left a wake of distrust behind me and ensured a consistent undercurrent of defensiveness in my meetings. Bummer.

Learning to manage the older generations in your team is absolutely vital! Not only does it properly respect the formula for united and diverse ministry laid out in 1 Corinthians 12, but it also makes everyone’s life easier and your projects much more effective.

These seven tips for how to lead older team members boil down to three simple principles: value, trust and communication. You must consistently show that you genuinely value everybody’s input. You must cultivate a culture of mutual trust and respect. You must communicate clearly on several levels to make sure everybody is on board. Let’s unpack the tips more thoroughly:

1. Make the right first impression

Experts claim that between thirty seconds and two minutes is all the time people take to form a lasting impression of someone. I’m not sure if this is true, but it’s a pretty scary idea. However long it actually takes, the principal remains the same: we need to start off on the right foot.

You should not come across immediately as ‘the boss.’ Instead be humble, ask lots of questions, show genuine interest and make simple friendly gestures. If you come across from the start as open, friendly, and easy to talk to, it will set the stage for all of your interactions when managing people later.

2. Get to know them personally

It’s important to know team members, and particularly older team members, personally outside of your meetings. It gives you the proper room to talk and share together and it builds trust.

Take them out for coffee, accept their invitations to dinner, join them on rambles and meet their families. Take time to understand their background and history, delve into their experience and allow them to tell you their stories. It will be far more interesting and edifying than you might think!

Also, be open and genuine with them. Allow aspects of your vulnerability to come through, and especially be reasonably honest about your nervousness as a young leader. This is a great opportunity for you to show your trust in them, and to reach out to their wisdom.

3. Metacognate

Isn’t that just a fantastic word? It literally means to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – and doing so for your older members will be an illuminating thought experiment!

Consider that when you’re in your 20s and 30s you are still trying to understand what your life will stand for. When you get to your 40s and 50s, focus switches to your family’s legacies, and your fears surround comparing yourself to your peers. In your 60s and 70s you look back more and ask questions about your value, the impact you left behind and whether you mattered.

Try to imagine what it’s like to live with those different perspectives and fears. Empathise with them and be sympathetic in how you manage.

4. Listen actively and communicate clearly

Active listening is intentional. When it comes to the older generations you need to ask lots of questions, listen carefully to their responses, and remember the stories they tell you. Just smiling and nodding doesn’t work if you can’t recall the information and apply it later. This means you should observe carefully and watch before you make any major changes or start any revolutions. You want to bring people with you, and that requires responding to who they really are.

Listening shows that you are willing to be a learner and are obviously teachable. Teachable leaders are always the best team managers as they are able to incorporate people’s differing perspectives while helping them feel valued at the same time. One of the best ways you can do this is to ask for their feedback specifically and consistently.

In meetings, you should give lots of room for expression and clearly acknowledge the points made. However if you want to push a change or new project though, then it is vital that you first meet with members individually. This prepares them for change and also allows you to get their feedback and hear their thoughts before you bring it to a public meeting.

Finally make sure you communicate on many levels. It’s not enough to simply say “well I copied you into that email” or “I tweeted with the hashtag I told you to follow.” Everything you want others to know should be communicated through at least three different mediums. You’ll know you’ve done it right if you get feedback.

5. Embrace their perspectives

One of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever learned is that I’m not actually right all the time. Annoyingly. When it comes to running a successful project, you need to embrace a whole range of different perspectives on learning styles, and these will not all come from you. Shock-horror.

We need to respect tradition and blend old and new approaches when working with Church projects. You’ll find that having a blend of age perspectives will cover a much broader spectrum that includes learning styles and personality types as well.

Be adaptable therefore, and see older team members as part of the solution and not a roadblock to progress. Recognise their wisdom and abilities genuinely and seek ways to apply them specifically. On a side note; do this without grovelling insincerely – they’re old enough to see through you!

Finally, consider a mentoring program where the main intention is to actively encourage older team members to mentor and coach younger members. This will expose everyone to more perspectives while increasing the value you show to older generations.

6. Cultivate the right environment

The meetings and interactions that you have with your team should consistently cultivate a safe, secure, friendly, open and compassionate environment. Don’t hide from conflict and don’t engage in gossip – however vulnerable you might feel.

Recognise the different needs and working styles that older generations might have, responding with specific assurances and opportunities. Try to provide training, especially on things like technology, so that everyone is on equal footing no matter their background.

7. Be a leader

With all the listening, assurances, and vulnerability you could be forgiven for thinking that you shouldn’t actually lead. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Everyone in your team – including older generations – are expecting you to be solid, making decisions, resolving conflict, and setting tone and direction. Don’t feel embarrassed or inappropriately unworthy about the position God has called you to. Seek consistent respect rather than constant approval. Paul’s advice to young leader Timothy on how to lead older teams is simply this, ‘don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, rather set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.’

You should not, however, come across as autocratic or overly authoritarian. It’s possible to make your expectations clear without lording it over people – any episode of The Apprentice can tell you that!

So stand firm and resist intimidation – but do so respectfully.

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

What has Star Wars got to do with youth and children’s work? – On YCW Blog

First published on Premier Youth and Children’s Work Blog here.

As a classically trained Anglican, it’s very hard for me to hear “may the Force be with you” without then mumbling back in dulcet tones, “and also with you.” During chapel services it is even harder to refrain from humming the ‘Imperial March’ theme as the morning’s robed service leaders processed into the room. Its Star Wars though – how can we resist?

The ceiling of my car has been refinished with a Star Wars duvet, I go to work with a tin Jabba the Hutt lunchbox, and sat next to my bed is a full size BB8 replica. Safe to sayI love Star Wars! To celebrate six years working for Youth for Christ in 2017 my trustees even bought me tickets to The Last Jedi premiere.

Everything is a wookie!

As much as I hate to admit it though, I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan in our office. My administrator can quote the comics verbatim, one of my volunteers is rarely seen outside her favourite Star Wars t-shirts and one of our project leaders does an impeccable Chewbacca impression.

When I say this impression is perfect – I mean it. He gets the growly lead-in, a precise wookie pop and an almost cute-if-not-freakish exit. It comes with vocabulary, and always matches the emotional temperature of room. It’s impressive. Or it was impressive until I recently discovered just how many things sound like a wookie!

Dragging chairs across a tiled floor sounds like a wookie, pulling loo roll out of plastic holders sounds like a wookie, opening drawers sounds like a wookie, flushing an old toilet sounds like a wookie. Everything sounds like a wookie! In my book, this means my team member needs to find a new skill.

The art of imitation

In the youth and children’s work world I think we’re very good at impressions. We know just how to imitate things in young people’s culture. Even down to catchphrases and dress codes, we know how to look like we belong in their world.

We read the right magazines, play the proper games, take the suitable selfies, listen to the appropriate music and binge-watch the requisite boxsets. We even know what’s going to be a thing before its thing – we were all over fidget spinners before they even finished their first rotation!

We do this for the sake of relevancy. We want to know the culture and move in the right circles all for the sake of being ‘relevant’ to those within them.

Relevancy versus authenticity

At this point red spinning sirens should be going off: Danger! Danger! Imitation for the sake of relevancy is by its very nature inauthentic. If it was the real deal, then it wouldn’t be an impression. Milton Jones doesn’t do impressions of Milton Jones, and Andy Serkis doesn’t imitate Gollum like the rest of us (painfully) try to do.

I think there are three problems with trying to imitate youth and children’s culture for the sake of relevancy.

For starters, youth culture changes every ten minutes, so our ministry will have a shelf life and will need to change shape multiple times a year. It’s really hard for something to gain an identity if it is perpetually altering itself to fit cultural whims.

There’s no such thing as youth culture anyway. Young people don’t get together in a room once a year and decide what’s going to be a thing. There is as much variety in ‘their’ world as there is in ‘ours’. So trying to connect with what we think is their de factoculture will inevitably alienate some young people.

Plus it’s just creepy! I’m a 31-year-old man, not a 16-year-old girl. When I try to be the latter, I get odd looks, and I should! It’s just weird if I try to pretend that I’m still in that age-bracket. We’re the Solo’s, Kenobi’s, and even the Yoda’s of this story, not Anakin’s slightly awkward hormonal mates.

An impressive impression doesn’t necessarily make us relevant, and it really doesn’t make us authentic.

Should we give up on relevancy?

Nope!

It’s fine to be aware of what’s going on in their world, and even still enjoy a few things in it. It’s helpful to know what issues they face in their culture, and to speak with references they’ll relate to. But we also have to bear in mind that it’s their world, and not ours.

Instead – let’s reach for authenticity. Let’s be ourselves with young people. Let’s be good listeners, ask lots of questions and let them show us new things. Let’s give them value and responsibility from an adult position. They’ll appreciate that authenticity, and it will be far more relevant than just yelling “wookie” every thirty seconds.

Star Wars Lego – the perfect marriage

Next to my desk is the Lego Millennium Falcon. This thing is amazing! It has 1,392 pieces, a 160-page instruction book, and comes with its own Chewbacca mini-figure. It was also a ridiculous beast of a build. It took eight whole hours to painstakingly assemble, and for seven of those hours, it looked like nothing more than a roundish, grey husk.

However, in the last hour it finally took the form of the legendary vessel that made the Kessel Run in fourteen parsecs.

It’s not always pretty, but most of our work with young people should be laying solid foundations, building a strong identity in God’s Word, and committing to a manageable number of developing relationships. Relevancy will come naturally as a result of that authenticity. Build it right and they’ll come! Be authentic and they will stay.

Surviving Summer Camp!

Summer camps are the cornerstone… or millstone of the youth ministry calendar. Great memories mixed with funny smells, odd conversations, and goo that won’t wash out your hair.

They’re also a minefield of safeguarding pushing, consent trying, first-aid exasperating young people who you get to know a little more than you perhaps wanted to!

As I leave for Soul Survivor Week A tomorrow (get in touch if you’re there and want to meet up!), I thought I’d leave you with these posts on how to survive camp for another year.

 

Staying healthy on camp

 

Surviving camp with a fully charged mobile phone

 

Dear free hugs guy… please stop

 

 

Running a Soul Survivor trip pack

 

 

And if you’re feeling a bit more theoretical, here are two posts I’ve written on Soul Survivor specifically over the last few years…

The Christology of Soul Survivor

‘What Soul Survivor Got Wrong’… a missed opportunity

 

 

 

Photo by Maxime Bhm on Unsplash

The difference between ‘millennials’ and ‘GenZ’. Part 2 by Jonny Price

Jonny returns to his discussion of the differences between ‘millennials’ and today’s young people (‘GenZ’) here in part 2; focusing on the differences needed in approach. If you missed part 1, you can check it out here.

 

Recently I wrote about 5 Differences between today’s young people and Millennials. In this blog I want to lay out some potential ways that we as youth workers might start to engage with some of these ideas.

1. Emphasise what we stand FOR, rather than what we are against

For decades the church has been known by those on the outside by what it is against. It is anti-science, anti-LGBTQ, anti-women and anti many other things too. Within the church this has been seen as a sign of the church being counter-cultural, or of the church standing against the tide of society for the sake of the Gospel.

Outside the church though, this has been seen as the church persecuting those who don’t conform, and, far from being counter-cultural, it has been seen as the church promoting the established culture. GenZ are intrinsically egalitarian, they are shocked at the existence of racism, sexism, or any other ism. Combine this with their lack of knowledge of the Christian faith, then they don’t know why the church is standing against those things.

But what about what we stand for? We are for redemption, for equality, for renewal, for the least and the lost. I am certainly not arguing that we should give up our markers in the sand, or that we should keep quiet about what we are against, but maybe we need to re-think or re-emphasise. Are we promoting personal holiness through individual action, or are we promoting systematic cultural change?

2. Emphasise the everyday-ness of spirituality

For a long time the idea of ‘spiritual but not religious’ has been a catch-all group for those who believe but don’t belong. While many writers argue that GenZ are neither spiritual or religious, I’m not sure that is the case. It seems that many members of GenZ are intrigued by the spiritual world, but they don’t use the code words we in the church look for to signal that they are spiritual.

Combine this with the way we have made Christian spirituality about a special time and place (Sunday morning, summer camp etc.), then why should young people expect to see God in the world around them?

We can help our young people to see God at work in the world through the people around them and through the amazing things that happen each day. We have a huge help in this from the advertising industry, which has trained this generation to be discerning and skeptical. If we can help our young people to use their incredible skills of discernment, then we can help them to see God at work in the everyday world, and help them to see how they are a part of God’s work in this world.

3. Peter, not Paul, should be our example for conversion and faith

We love dramatic conversion stories. We love to see people’s lives changed suddenly, so that they are redeemed and renewed, and we should. These stories are fantastic and inspiring. These stories stand out, however, because they are unusual. It’s much more difficult to see the hard won, life-long search for truth and the struggle to live out that truth.

Which is why I think Peter is such a good example for us to hold to when we are thinking about conversion and faith development. It is not that he is holier, or superior, but that maybe his example is more timely for us today. How many times did he mess up? How many times did he not get it? How many times did he fail? And yet, he was never abandoned, never rejected, always called back.

By emphasising dramatic conversion, epitomised by Paul on the road to Damascus (which wasn’t as sudden or dramatic as we think, but that’s for another time), we set our young people up for disappointment when they don’t experience this sudden transformation in their own lives.

Emphasising Peter over Paul allows us to tap into GenZ’s understanding of change as incremental and slow, and will help us to develop lifelong disciples, rather than summer converts.

In Conclusion

There is no radical rethink here, no reforming of the Christian faith into something new. Instead we need to look at our contemporary culture and, as faithful Christians have done for centuries, see where the contact points between that culture and our faith is and emphasise those.

It can be uncomfortable, but if we can do this well, we can show the rest of the church how it is done and, more importantly, help a generation of young people see that there is a God who loves them, and offers them redemption not just to a new way of life today, but to an eternal life tomorrow.

 

 

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 Ben Duchac on Unsplash