Discussing 13 Reasons Why and How to Respond – by Cassandra Smith

13 Reasons Why has been a hugely challenging and uncomfortable television series that explores teen suicide. Cassandra Smith navigates the waters and suggest ways our youth ministries can engage.

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original series based the book by Jay Asher. The drama is centered around high school aged characters whose narratives include abuse, bullying, sexual assault, self-harm, and suicide. Despite its TV-MA rating, teens are binge watching content that highlights intense issues in graphically dramatized, highly emotional narratives.

This leaves us with key questions:

  1. Do we, as concerned adults, watch the show or not? Is that helpful or harmful?
  2. With so many of our students watching—what is our best response?
  3. How do we, as ministers of the Gospel, tackle hard issues in relevant ways?

To Watch or Not to Watch

If we choose to watch 13 Reasons Why for entertainment value—I believe it could be harmful. If we watch for sake of education—there is a potential to learn a great deal on situations young people face. That being said—even with the right intentions the episodes could prove triggering for adults as well. The show does not shy away from brutally graphic portrayals of sexual assault, pornography, sexuality, and completed suicide.

Though I do not condone the show—I did watch it. Why? Because I wanted to be able to provide tools for others who might feel unsure of how to tackle such heavy material. Even with that—I could not stomach several scenes. For those of you who are uncertain about episode content, I have made a full Discussion Guide available, complete with content warnings.

Make sure you make the right decision for you—as how it affects you matters too.

What is our Best Response?

Netflix should not be the ones leading conversations about difficult topics—the church should. Over and over, my students told me they felt understood by the characters in 13 Reasons Why. The relatability piece gave them a sense of belonging. They had a script with which to attach their confusions, emotions and hurt. But I never want a streaming TV service to be the source my teens to find the language for what they feel.

Knowing that content like 13 Reasons Why is out there should push us towards leaning in to student’s stories in appropriate avenues. This may mean initiating one on one meetings with students we know are struggling, forming small groups in which it’s safe to ask messy questions or housing forums for “tough stuff” nights. Anytime we can communicate to students, “Your confusion is welcome here, let me help you find the language and tools to work through it in a healthy way” we form the sense of belonging they crave.

Tackling Tough Stuff

 Though students identify with the characters or content of 13 Reasons Why, they are also set up for disappointment once the season concludes. To stir up emotions to that magnitude and not have a pathway of hope is a real problem. Directing students towards hope is one thing a streaming media service does not have—but we do.

We have a reason for our hope. As believers, we carry a message of hope for those who are hurting. How do move that message of hope forward? Often if comes with leaning in to listen, earning trust, providing wise counsel and sharing the Gospel in the right way, at the right time, when a hurting heart is open to receiving it. It is a delicate balance—but through appropriate, intentional pursuit we have the ability to model the hope of Jesus to those looking for it.

A Pathway of Hope for Those Who Watched 13 Reasons Why

Knowing 13 Reasons Why would surface the struggles may young people face—I didn’t want them to be alone. Additionally, I didn’t want Youth Workers, Pastors and parents to feel alone.

It is why I created a Season Two Processing Guide for viewers, parents and youth workers. Students need help understanding the complex nature of issues like abuse, addiction, bullying, depression, hardship at home, image, self-harm and suicide. As we give them room to talk freely about their thoughts on these matters—we teach them how to handle them in a manner that lines up with the Gospel.

You are not alone in seeking to point young people towards the hope and help they desire. May you be given strength and encouragement as you walk with students in difficult places.

 

About Cassandra

Through fifteen years as a youth worker, crisis counseling, non-profit work, mentorship and training of millennial’s, Cassandra Smith seeks to direct teens and young adults towards a pathway of hope. Her Processing Guide for 13 Reasons Why is now available at www.BeyondTheReasons.com

Follow her at www.ChangeYourNarrative.org and on Instagram and Facebook

Living with Cancer as a Youth Worker

This brave and honest post has been written by youth work volunteer Megan Dyer, who recently was given the all clear after treatment for cancer. We hope this will be an encouragement to anyone walking through similar challenges.

Cancer, My Youth Group & Me.

Cancer:

In August 2016 I was diagnosed with a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which is a type of blood cancer. It meant that I had to have lots of different treatments and medications and trips to the hospital and in turn meant that my life became very isolated, quiet, and slowed down quickly.

It was an extremely tough time full of experiences and situations that I never expected to happen to me, and I pray will never happen to anyone ever again. It wasn’t a fun time. God, however, is absolutely amazing and has a pretty awesome way of restoring hope, love and joy; and bringing the right people around you!

‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.’ [Psalm 28:7]

My Youth Group:

I volunteer at a youth group called Redefine on Sunday nights. It’s an amazing team with fantastic young people, and it is very very special to me – for multiple reasons. How they all reacted and supported me through my cancer and recovery just astounded me and made me so very very thankful!

The Sunday after I was diagnosed I talked to the team first, and then the young people. I said that I had cancer, and that I would be going on a series of treatments and medications. This would mean that I wouldn’t be able to volunteer as much as I would like for a period of time, but that when I was better that I would come back. They were all so amazing about it – and I was fully aware that they were all praying for me. This was a huge comfort!

I kept them updated throughout my treatment and was hugely comforted and held-up by their messages back.

Me:

I am 100% fine and healthy now, and I’m back at Redefine and I love it!

One of my favourite teaching series that we did a while back was called ‘what makes us tick’ where each volunteer was given a session to speak about anything they were passionate about.

Part of my talk in this series was telling the whole group how their prayer and my prayer was answered at a pretty critical part of my treatment, and how ridiculously grateful I was for all their love and support! Their prayer meant that I only had to do four months of chemotherapy instead of six, which was amazing!

What I’ve learned

Life is an adventure. Which means it can be both wondrous and fun and exciting as well as bleak and tough and exhausting. What’s amazing though is that we don’t have to do it alone. We have God but we also have people. If you’re a leader going through a tough time, then trust the people around you. Let them help. If you’re a team with a leader going through a tough time, be there for them. Encourage them and support them. Check in on them. It often means the world that people care enough to remember and send a message to just say ‘hi, hope you’re ok, we’re here and we’re praying’.

 

I work as a volunteer for YFC at Redefine youth group with Tim and some other awesome people. I’ve been a part of the Redefine team for almost three years now and I adore it! I have two jobs! You’ll either find me building websites or laughing with customers in the retail shop I work in. And at home you’ll find me watching murder mysteries, reading for hours on end, or out and about, walking.

 

 

 

 

Photo by Logan Nolin on Unsplash

Dr. Andrew Root’s response to my critique

Earlier this week I posted a critique of Dr. Andrew Root’s work, particularly on relational or ‘incarnational’ youth ministry. My hope was to encourage a little more critical reading of his works considering his slightly unorthodox theology.

I’m a great admirer of Root and wanted to give him the opportunity to read and respond to that post before I published it. He graciously did so, and his reply is below in full. I incorporated some of his suggestions and clarifications, and I agreed that my lack of engagement with his later books puts me at a disadvantage. However, as he agrees, many of my issues still remain.

My drive behind this dialogue is not to make anyone simply agree with me, or even with Dr. Root, but to engage in a public exercise that encourages more critical reading of the resources we adopt.

With that in mind, here is – with his permission – Dr. Root’s reply:

 

Tim,

Thanks for this email and thanks for engaging the work.  I think this is fine and mostly fair, but there are parts I’m not sure about.

First, the reduction of evangelicalism is a fair critique but this must be read next to my support, affirmation, and commitment to an evangelical perspective in Christopraxis.  As a matter of fact, to truly understand what I’m up to, you’d have to look there.  The other works, as you mention, are trying to balance idea construction with the practice of ministry.
Second, no doubt, I’m bound to Bonhoeffer as a theological dialogue partner, and seem to understand the atonement different than you.  But to understand this all you’d have to engage the conceptions of Luther and the passivity of human action.  My point is that your critique is not so much with Bonhoeffer as it is with Luther.  Looking at work from Christopraxis on will show a deeper engagement with orthodox and Pauline conceptions, which don’t show up in your review.  You mainly just stick with 2007, 2009, and 2011 work.  I hope I’ve developed since then.  So putting your critiques in dialogue with Christopraxis, Faith Formation, and Exploding Stars would be important, I think.  I’d imagine some of your concerns will remain.

Third, the burnout thing is most troubling.  I’ve mentioned in multiple places that you can only be a place-sharer to about 5 young people.  The push of the perspective is to change the youth worker’s conception from being the one doing all the relational ministry to ordaining other adults into ministry, to take responsibility for their young people.  I’ve also discussed a lot about open/closedness and claimed that place-sharing provides starker boundaries than other forms of ministry.  And this is based in a certain anthropology.  You may rightly disagree, but it isn’t right to assume that my perspective doesn’t see or deal with boundaries.  Also, you mention Blair and Christy’s review, but don’t offer how I responded to their critiques.  You’re welcome to critique my responses to them and call it inadequate…but I did have responses to their critiques you don’t mention.

Finally, and this is probably where we differ, my whole project revolves around conceptions of revelation.  I’m simply trying to explore where and how we encounter the living presence of God.  I think a legitimate critique is found in contrasting my views of revelation with those of others.  The first question really is, “Do you see ministry as centrally about revelation, or something else?”  So critiquing my conception that ministry bears the weight of revelation is fair, as is offering an opposing view of revelation.  At the end, stellvertretung (place-sharing) really isn’t the center of my thought (I mean, it’s close to the center) but the real core is ministry as the constituting reality of God’s act and being.  So yes, sin, salvation, etc. must be seen through the biblical narrative of God’s act to minister to Israel, to be a God who is found in historical acts.  Again, wrestling with Christopraxis will more clearly show this.

These are simply my reactions, since you kindly asked.  But again, thanks for writing something up.
Blessings to you,
Andy

 

Dr. Andrew Root (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is the Associate Professor and Carrie Olson Baalson Chair of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, Minnesota. He is the author of fifteen books on ministry and theology, and an experienced youth worker.

 

A funny thing happened on the way to the tomb…

Great video to share with your youth groups with Easter Sunday. From SpeakLife.

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

 

Why study with the Institute for Children Youth and Mission (CYM)? – By Sally Nash

This is the first in a new youthworkhacks series called ‘why study…’ Inspired by this – each post will be written by an experienced youth ministry trainer who will us you their thoughts while sharing about their particular institution.

Rev Dr Sally Nash is the director of Midlands Institute for Children Youth and Mission (CYM), the director for Undergraduate Studies Institute for CYM and Chaplaincy Centre Researcher for Paediatric Spiritual Care.

 

Watch this – learning to be me by Ria Taylor a CYM student

Ria Taylor – Learning to be me…

My first response to this question which Tim asked me is to say talk to our students! That is why there is a five-minute video to watch, a piece of spoken word from Ria one of our students.  It was part of her final assessment at the end of a three-year full time undergraduate degree in Youth and Community Work and Practical Theology with a nationally recognized JNC professional youth work qualification.

CYM – a partnership organization

I was one of a team of people who helped to set up CYM back in the 1990s and the word team is important. We have always been a partnership organization wanting to show how youth work and academic organizations can work together to deliver good training rooted in great practice.  I was working for Youth for Christ at the time and joined with colleagues from Frontier Youth Trust and Oxford Youth Works, national denominational leaders and others to create a new sort of opportunity for people with a passion for ministry who wanted to become even better in their role.  CYM offers training at Further Education levels 1, 2 and 3 across England and at undergraduate level in Nottingham and Belfast and postgraduate level study blocks are in Nottingham and Belfast.  We can also deliver specialist continuing professional development training validated at levels 4 or 7 in a wide variety of topics which come with a University Certificate of Credit.

Why train?

I believe that training is vital for everyone who works with young people. I can think of no other field where people would be allowed to do this without the appropriate training first. As Ria says in the film, she has a qualification which gives her equal status to other people who work with young people – social workers, teachers etc. She doesn’t have to go into an encounter in an apologetic way, she is there by right of having a professional role in a young person’s life.

One of the key decisions you need to make in terms of training to work with young people is if you want this JNC professional qualification as part of it. It gives you a wider range of options post-graduation as it is recognized by people like the NHS as an appropriate qualification for work in a hospital, for example. You still get to study theology and include theological reflection in all your academic work but you also get the opportunity to do a significant alternative placement in a secular context as well as a community focused one alongside your main placement. You get to explore and test out vocational choices as you go along.

What’s involved?

On the undergraduate course with CYM in England you live in the area your placement is and travel fortnightly to St John’s College Nottingham for a two-day teaching block in term time (In Ireland you travel weekly to Belfast).  You do 14 hours a week in your placement and the rest of the time is for study.  If you want to do our postgraduate JNC option you would travel to two 3-4 day study blocks and some optional study days.  If you are looking at a career change then the postgraduate option could be for you and you can study that part time if you are doing at least 2 sessions a week of youth work so you can train alongside a job.

We have a wide range of students studying with us, our undergraduates range from 18 to 50 something and are from all sorts of different backgrounds and church traditions.  Some may have 3 good A levels, others will not have studied formally for 20 or more years.  For everyone that joins us we are committed to helping you fulfil your potential.  Every student has a personal tutor they relate to and become part of a supportive community who learn, worship and have fun together!

Both our undergraduate and postgraduate courses are eligible for student loans (undergraduate fees are £6000 a year and postgraduate £6000 for the whole Masters degree) and some placements will offer financial support too.

We also specialize in running chaplaincy courses and you can join us for anything between a week and a three-year undergraduate or postgraduate degree!  We recently published a Grove Youth Series booklet on Chaplaincy with Children and Young People and have set up a Centre to support work in that area – see www. Stjohns-nottm.ac.uk for more details.

If you want a more ministry focused degree then we offer a BA in contextual ministry where you can choose placements that support you learning in that context.  We also offer a very flexible postgraduate course where we work with you 1-1 to help you put together options which enhance your professional development as well as some core modules.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out more check out our website www.cym.ac.uk or book in for an open day.

If you are interested in reading something on our approach to youth work and youth ministry read Christian Youth Work in Theory and Practice edited by Sally Nash and Jo Whitehead published by SCM (You can order one from mcym@stjohns-nottm.ac.uk for £15 including postage quoting youthworkhacks to get this price – cheaper than Amazon!).  We also established the Grove Youth Series at MCYM and can recommend those for an accessible introduction to a wide range of topics!  https://grovebooks.co.uk/collections/youth

 

Rev Dr Sally Nash

Director, Midlands Institute for Children Youth and Mission

Director for Undergraduate Studies Institute for Children, Youth and Mission

Researcher in Chaplaincy Centre for Paediatric Spiritual Care

Facebook:

Midlands CYM

CYM – Institute for Children Youth and Mission

Twitter:

@mcymnews

@cymnews

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash