How many things can a youth worker squeeze into a year?

This year is shaping up to be pretty full on. The blog will be soon going through a complete overhaul and rebranding process, I’m studying (technically full time) for an MA in pioneering ministry, learning to snowboard, climbing the 3000 challenge again, doing Britain’s largest bungee jump, and still working for Youth For Christ! Oh, and I got my first tattoo. My wife and I have also joined the Banff Film team, and are aiming to open an online t-shirt store too. I’m also working with a publisher on a book! Full. On.

I’ve always been someone who needed a portfolio of activities to keep me motivated, but for the past couple of years I slowed that down thinking it was a sign of immaturity. I listened to the older, wiser voices of reason who perpetually encouraged me to settle down, and so I chose one or two things. I did indeed find myself settling, into deeper patterns of restlessness, boredom and depression.

Some people, I think, are just geared for activity. The pioneering spirit in them needs to keep moving. When I started to embrace this early last year I faked my way into becoming a freelance writer and designer, and had some incredibly wacky experiences. All of which helped me in my youth work! Well, most did. I then took an online course with Oxford University, and started to push out into more academic study.

The result was simply feeling more alive again! My blog won an award and started to get noticed more, the team really started to come together at work, and issues that had been buried, started to surface and be addressed head on. We joined a gym and started committing to people more broadly than we had before.

Who knows how this year will end, or what state I – or my wife – will be in at the end of it! For now, however, this simply serves as a short encouragement to push out if you feel a nudge of God.

I believe many youth workers are multipotentialites, and that we are living in a new Renaissance for creative people – a kick back against the right-leaning fear of the Western establishment. These youth workers need to be nurtured, and shouldn’t quickly be dismissed by the overflowing baby-boomer generations as simply unstable or immature.

Accountability is key, but living life on the edge with God is essential.

Let’s see how this goes!

The Top 8 Reasons Why Youth Workers Burn Out

Youth worker burnout is a very real issue. In the UK youth workers last an average of 2 years in a position, and around 3-5 years in total before throwing in the towel.

I spent some time with a great youth worker yesterday who has put some real energy into properly researching this dilemma, and has made some very helpful observations. He has agreed to write up his findings for us – so watch this space!

Now our appetite is whet, I thought I’d compile a list of what I think are the top reasons Christian youth workers burn out. Enjoy!

1. Expected to be each Biblical office

Is the youth worker an elder, pastor, teacher, apostle, evangelist, prophet, deacon, or overseer? The truth is that this will depend on the unique sensibilities of each role in context, however most youth work positions expect their worker to be most if not all of them!

The problem is that the gifts and personality types of an evangelist are very different to pastor-teacher. The same is true for elder and apostle, prophet and deacon – there is a reason they are distinct roles within the church, and why it’s unhealthy (for ministry and minster) to be all of them at once.

As a pioneer will be frustrated, and likely to cause damage trying to be a pastor-teacher, and an evangelist will not have patience for the polity behind eldership. You’re heading for an emotional car wreck trying to contort yourself into these positions.

2. Mixed or no accountability / management

A common problem youth workers complain about is an unclear line of management. In some cases the management structure can be so arbitrary that everyone in the church tries to fill the void and become ‘the boss.’

Parents, kids, elders, pastors, wardens, caretakers – can all try to hold you accountable to their own standards and particular sets of expectations, whether or not they are in your job description, or conflict with the other 300 people you are trying to please.

In other scenarios you have a line-manager, but in reality they are  really trying to mentor you. Or you have a line manager who is also the Senior Pastor, thus has conflicting aims when you meet.

In *this post* I argue for a threefold structure of manager, pastor and mentor, which – when communicated properly to a church – is surely the healthiest model.

3. Isolation

Youth workers are often mavericks, and can find themselves easily in the role of ‘lone solider.’ Timetables are full, friends are few, and most of the time is spent with people in a completely different stage of life than you.

Youth workers need friends who are totally unrelated to their work – and youth workers need to know other youth workers.

Making the effort to get to network days and training are essential, as is carving out the time for just going out with mates.

There’s a lot of lonely youth workers out there, lets take it seriously.


4. Unrealistic expectations

I was also told a story yesterday of a youth worker who was expected to double her youth group numbers in six months. Really? Then there are training manuals and courses that leave you with the impression that you should be ‘always on’ for the young people and ‘make every opportunity count.’

A lot of these expectations come out of poor management. Having real goals that genuinely make sense of working hours and are regularly evaluated is key. As is holding the youth worker accountable to their working week, holidays and days off.

Focus, identify clear objectives, work to your resources, build a healthy team, take your time off, have a life and settle in for the long haul.

5. Having no idea what they’re doing

This might be the biggest issue. Youth workers, let’s admit it, we don’t have a clue! We’re expected to understand and relate to the monstrous and mysterious beast known as ‘youth culture,’ develop professional plans to execute sophisticated projects, and hold in tension conflict, personality types and genuine spiritual needs, emotional abuse and organic community.

We are expected to be team managers and recruiters, teachers and trainers, counsellors and mentors, sociologists and missiologists, scholars and facilitators – and expected to look like we’re none of these things so we can ‘fit in’ with the young people. Usually a youth worker has up to 1 year of training to learn all these areas where genuine practitioners have spent half their lives in school to develop.

We don’t know what we’re doing!

This can be helped by defining the role and having realistic expectaitons. It can also be resolved through ongoing training, professional development and support. Mostly however, we just need to hold tight to the expert… which is God.

6. Forgetting who God is

This is, unfortunately, probably the saddest, but most frequent. It can be propagated by all the above, and exacerbated by a lack of genuine spiritual mentoring and accountability, but mostly it just results from being tired all the time.

In my experience youth workers tend to be badly trained in how to use their Bibles. This means a shaky foundation and an especially insecure problem-solving mechanism. Without having a solid understanding of where their role comes from, and what is needed when the rubber hits the road, the proof-texting they have grown up with tires and leaves them wanting.

The worst thing is starting to forget what God’s voice sounds like, so you stop recognising him when he leads, warns and protects you. The security fails, the passion dies up, you start to feel guilty, believe you’re a fraud – and give up.

The most important thing a youth worker should take seriously is their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Before you are a youth worker, you are a child of God. When that turns round – so does everything else.

7. Just getting bored

I sometimes wonder if the reason that youth workers come across as so wildly creative is that they’re just desperately trying to break the monotony.

On the surface, youth work looks like a lot of activity, and it is but I’ve found that for every hour of creative fun, theres two-three hours of planning and then at least an hour of cleanup. Because you’re working with volunteers, this can often be alone and repetitive.

Add to this a lot of written work, planning, management, conflict resolution and reporting, it can start to get to you. Then you need to consider that you are spending your time dialoging with people of a very different maturity and life experience, having the same four of five conversations.

8. Low pay

Ok, this is going to sound weird, ungrateful and materialistic – but it’s still true. Youth workers get paid usually less than entry-level teachers for a similar job, expectation set, and working hours; and we all know teachers don’t get paid enough!

There, of course, is a pastoral humility required for ministry, a lack of material desire, and I’m not sure that the youth worker should be paid more than most of the congregation. However, for such a stressful job, the low pay can put a massive amount of pressure on the youth worker’s family.

This can affect a lot of life choices: Does my spouse also need to work full time? Can we afford to have children? My biggest stresses throughout my youth work career has been a secure place to live (we’ve had to move six times) and maintaining a car (been through seven in five years). We also once went two years without more than a half a tub of hot water a day and no heating. With a very unwell life, this was insane!

I know a lot of youth workers who survive off credit – lease-agreement cars, back-paying bills, and crazy mortgages – just so they can maintain a family alongside their work. I know it’s a difficult economy, but churches should carefully look into how their youth worker is living and consider the church’s responsibility for them.

3 Things A Youth Worker Learned In The Gym

I thought, for this post, that I would share a little bit of my recent story, and maybe pull out some unexpected lessons that I’ve learned.

Over the last decade my health took quite a knock. Tension headaches and migraines, lots of spontaneous fatigue and a very erratic sleeping patten. A couple of doctors told me it was just work related stress, which, as it made sense for a youth worker, I didn’t question. Even with treatment and a change of circumstances, however it wasn’t getting any better. In fact, it got worse.

I started getting dizzy with strange sudden feelings of vertigo, then I randomly would black out. Not so good! I bit the bullet and went back to the doctors. It turned out that the root cause is much simpler than stress – I have very low blood pressure due to being underweight.

I’m, in fact, very underweight. My bmi is around 18, rather than 20-22 where it should be. This puts me in a very close bracket to conditions such as anorexia. My body just doesn’t break down or store fats very effectively. This means I don’t retain any energy reserves, which – when linked to low blood pressure – just wipes me out.

The treatment for this began a year ago with big changes to my diet, the most significant of which was trying to consume 8000 calories a day. This was ridiculous! I can manage about 3500 on a good day, but any more than that and I’m risking other issues – and I just can’t do my job with constant nausea! Step two, therefore, was to get seriously stuck into the gym – which is where my little bit of hell began.

Enter The Gym

In the gym, I’m on a workout routine that blends exercises from both anorexia recovery programs, and super-human muscle mass gain workouts. No cardio, very little warmup, and big hit ‘heavy’ weights three times a week. I’m now on my fifth week and doing relatively well. I’ve not gained any weight, but I’m sticking at my higher average, which is a good sign, and I’m not randomly falling asleep in the middle of the day.

The gym doesn’t really sit with me as a ‘happy place’ though. It’s smelly, sweaty, inconvenient and incredibility good at poking all of my insecurities. I’m the only guy in the weight section that’s not already built like a tank!

After the first couple of sessions, however, the routine and the sense of personal challenge kicked in, and now it’s starting to make some measure of sense to me. Here are three (and a bit) unexpected lessons that I have learned so far.

1. Mobile Phone Bliss

I made a very early decision that the gym would be a mobile phone free zone for me. It’s just too tempting to do business or panic about something if I have it. For the 5 minute walk from my house and back, and for the 45 minutes I’m there, I am mobile phone pure.

These three weekly hours represent the single longest times in my week without my phone. That’s no access to calls, messages or emails. No evernote and no calendar. For the first few sessions, this was horrible. Like kicking an addiction, my hand kept reaching for my pocket, but the phone wasn’t there. No constant undercover bubbling of panic or quick relief when I checked my notifications.

The gym has given me real time not connected to anybody. No one can get me, unless they pay to get in to see me! This has been a wonderful habit kicker, and has helped me prioritise my ‘check in’ times online much more sensibly the rest of the week.

2. Focus, Focus, Focus

I am a natural mental multi-tasker. I’m always thinking of some new idea – or panicking about some unfinished project or unfulfilled suggestion. If my mind wanders at the gym though, I get hurt!

It’s very hard to think ‘did I send that email’ or ‘I wonder if I used the right tone of voice when I spoke to x’ when you’re trying to lift weights that desire to kill you. If you take your mind off the suckers, they will tear your muscles to shreds!

The gym, has taught me in 5 weeks, what years of trying to contemplate Jesuit and Ignatiun mindfulness techniques couldn’t – to shut my mind off and just focus on the moment.

This has also transposed over into my life as I have recent and consistent mental-muscle memory of what single focus feels like.

3. Non-Work Related Commitment Is Really Healthy

I’m committed to my wife, and I’m committed to my job. Beyond that, I’m a bit woolly. I have hobbies – things that I like to do like painting and playing the guitar. Mostly, however, real person-development-based commitments only focused on what I get paid for or to whom I’m married. Sometimes it’s even hard to include God in that list, as my relationship with him is often so tied up with my ministry job.

Fifteen trips to the gym, however, and I’m finding a new commitment that has nothing (directly at least) to do with either my job or my wife. This has created a real sense of balance to the flavour of my life. A commitment that just focuses on health and personal growth has been fantastic – it’s reminded me that I’m valuable before I’m a husband or a youth worker. It’s made me more thankful and a little bit more receptive to my Dad in Heaven.

3-and-a-bit. Health Is Apparently Important!

I’ve been through clinical treatment for stress and counselling based therapy. You really do have to look after yourself to thrive at God’s plan. Your body is a temple that needs to be respected, and proper diet, sleep and exercise have such a huge impact on the chemical balances of your body and the acuteness of your mental processes.

Thus – you will be more receptive to God and a better youth worker if you look after yourself.

That said – working out sucks! 😛

Youth Work and Mental Health Pt. 1 – A Gentle Poke

When I was 14, one of my best friends was Daniel. I didn’t know Daniel was clinically depressed or that his random outbursts were actually early signs of bipolar disorder. I didn’t understand that it wasn’t normal that Daniel’s room only contained a mattress, a guitar and a pile of black hoodies. All I knew was he was fun and unique to be around, and that he had an unusually broad talent for music.

We drifted apart over the years, which meant it came as a bigger shock when he was found in a flat, dead at age 23, after swallowing a mix of alcohol and methadone.

Daniel was a disruption to the classroom environment. He was always in trouble and – as far as I knew – had no-one working with him to identify or work with his root causes. To me though, Daniel was just a mate who I’ll never see again.

I’d like to think that I’m a passionate advocate for the mental health world. At least I believe that we neither spend enough or research enough to develop treatment for those who really struggle. Classrooms are simply not geared for it, and the health service doesn’t really step into that gap. Self medicating is all too often the only option that seems available.

I also truly believe that the Church is supposed to define and lead culture – that we should be setting the trends, making the calls and leading the charges. Can we then, as youth workers and as Church develop programs that specifically work with young people during the early signs of mental health issues? Can we cultivate a culture in our programs that leaves room to observe, identify and even treat young people who are going through these struggles?

Daniel was my mate, but there was at the time no language to discuss these problems, or develop an awareness that this could be happening to someone I knew. The language is more available today, but I’m not sure if we’re any closer to implementing real, culture-saturating change.

Bill Hybels said “the local church is the hope of the world.” Can we be this hope that the world is so desperately craving? Daniel’s mum said, “I hate to think another young life could be wasted as tragically as Daniel’s has been.” Can we be the answer to her prayers?

Please, talk to your young people regularly and clearly about mental health. Talk to your team about how to organically identify and respond to needs. Finally, lets keep talking to God – crying out to him for healing and restoration; for the redemption of a culture that lifts up the broken and downtrodden, and helps all people live a life to the full as Jesus taught (John 10:10).

Writing, Research & Study – What’s Going On?

Summer is always a quiet time for the blog – too much going on with everybody! This year has been even more inordinately so, which leaves me – once again – grovelling with apologies and explanations of where I’ve been!

First off, I’ve had a booklet agreed with a publisher on a Biblical Model for Youth Work. This is exciting, but the first draft is due early October, and I’ve only just really started serious work on it in the last fortnight. Watch this space though, because if they like what I’ve produced, we could be moving along for a publication date next year.

Secondly, I’ve been accepted as a member of the International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry (IASYM), which is cool – but opens up a whole new wing to my portfolio and time-constraints.

Finally – I finished a part-time philosophy course at Oxford, and decided I wanted to keep studying. I’ve enrolled on a distance learning MA at Cliff College on Mission, Pioneering Ministries and Fresh Expressions.

Mix this with the September launch of my own projects, and a lot of movement in my team, it has left YouthWorkHacks sadly wanting!

More will come though! Please don’t loose touch 🙂


I Kissed Dating Goodbye – a personal response

Joshua Harris has bravely asked for feedback and stories to aid his understanding of the difficulty some have had with his first book ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ which was a best seller when he was 21 years old. You can add to this yourself here.

Here is the story / feedback I left:

I’d first like to say that I’m humbled and impressed by the bravery, teachability and vulnerability expressed here. Thank you. I’ve been a youthworker for over ten years, and I’ve always wanted to sit down with 18 year-old Joshua Harris in my youth group. I’ve wanted to talk with him about dating and the beauty of grace that I feel was sadly missing from his worldview.

I first read IKDG when I was in my first year of Bible College. I was young and very impressionable, and as such was impacted by its message and found easy applications in its method. It effectively gave me a way of approaching dating that didn’t require the mess or organic growth. I could skip those steps. In their place it gave me measurable checks and balances. Just what a lonely, hormonal and legalistically-bent young theology student needed!

The book also gave me license to be ‘in control’ of my godliness, in a way that totally disregarded the responsibilities and mutual partnerships of those around me, especially women. It also subtly  took my dependence away from the mercies of God and placed purity back into my hands: The worst possible play for it.

As a result of reading this book (in two short sittings), and immediately after reading the sequel ‘Boy Meets Girl’ and the now renamed ‘Not Even A Hint’, I split up with my long time girlfriend. This was a bad breakup. Unexpected, and incredibly hurtful for her – while feeling uncomfortably victorious and proud for me.

These books made me feel – in equal measure – hopeful about a magical and yet strangely attainable wife; and dirty and sinful in a way that could not be saved by grace, but would need to be tamed by hard work and determination.

In the year following my breakup (which wasn’t handled well), I effectively withdrew from all my female friendships. I wouldn’t talk to girls on the phone, email them individually, add them as Facebook friends, or spend any time alone with them anywhere. As someone who naturally gets on better with girls, I became increasingly dis-balanced as a person and isolated. I was moody and lonely.

At the end of the year I watched a movie with a female exchange student and went on a walk with her. Nothing romantic, but really friendly. That was the last evening before she – and her classmates – would get on a plane and leave. I remember the piercing feeling of lament at how stupid I had been and the painful sense of what I had lost that year.

Re-reading the book again years later it was easier for me to notice the simple theological errors which leave the reader with legalism. It was also easier for me to see the power of suggestion sewn into it’s stories.

IKDG is not necessarily a legalistic book. Not intentionally. It’s a story book written as teaching material from someone who did not have the experience or responsible burden of a teacher. It subtly suggests legalism in the fallacious and simplistic ways it compares the dating and non-dating worldviews. Neither of which are properly explored, or put into clear Biblically relevant context.

It’s so close to the truth! So close. It made me long to be like Jesus – but it did not make me long for Jesus.

I recognise young Joshua Harris’ heart in those pages, however. A beautiful and stunning longing for purity from a wise young lad. But it unfortunately clutches at simplicity rather than relational grace. With some guidance and mentoring, it could have been stunning! It could have been a story of life and triumph – rather than a pseudo self-help book that left me seeking some form of Christ-likeness rather than seeking Jesus.

And therein lies its fatal flaw.

I remember a few years later listening to a Joshua Harris talk on good deeds as the assurance of salvation – which was unpacked in a very Jonathan Edwards like way. Brilliant and well communicated, but with the same misdirected theology. Just like Edwards, Harris had misunderstood the purpose of good works, and was using them as demonstrations of salvation almost to the point of creating it. This theology litters the pages of IKDG.

I would not recommend the book IKDG to any of my students or young people. However, I would commend the purity and passion of Joshua’s heart and wisdom to everybody.

In love.

Tim Gough


Persevering and Pushing Through In Youth work

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 09.28.50Guest post by Bex Baillie. A Youth Specialist at Trinity Network and Theology student at Bristol Bible College. Full bio below and check out her blog here.


Perseverance plays a big role in every generation of faith. If we stretch our minds back, we can see how our Youth Workers committed endless hours to supporting us, pushing through the tough times with little response in return. The art of persistence is a beautiful thing. It’s exercise for our hearts, and it helps to stretch our imaginations into new ways of thinking. Most of all, it’s a massive test of our faith.

‘Find out what God’s doing and join in.’

I love this motto! It’s a good saying to keep you grounded. Who says it has to be our original thought or creative new way of connecting with the young people? God is already there, doing great things in their lives. As the world’s greatest Youth Worker, He is their constant supporter and encourager, pushing them to think about what they believe and why.

Sometimes, maybe it’s best for us to take a step back, shadow what God is doing and then simply join in. While this might sound a bit vague at first, let’s look at our own lives for a moment. Have a think about the times we may have plowed ahead with our own great ideas – without watching out for God – and then finally given up after hitting a dead end. By tuning into God’s work, we can stay on the right track and follow the Master.

An Attitude For Perseverance

In all that we do, I don’t doubt that we have the intention to see young people grow in their faith and stick at church, but sometimes I wonder if our actions say otherwise.

If we want to produce healthy fruit that will last, it needs to grow from a well-rooted tree. While we may be well-rooted in our faith – and in many other ways – sometimes our attitude toward our work begins to lag. If we express flakiness towards our jobs or the young people, we shouldn’t expect it not to affect them. Even our attitudes teach young people. Part of perseverance is sticking at it and being committed to your plans. This means that the young people will be your priority when they need to be. When you are the best example of dedication, the young people will see it and adopt it as their own way of living.

Don’t feel like it is all up to you though, we are just one cog in a very big operation. We might be able to plant a seed in the young people’s lives; we can talk about God, tell stories and testimonies, provide pizza and give chunks of thoughtful advice here and there. Ultimately however, it will be God who will see that seed grow.

Don’t feel the pressure to complete His job and have each of your young people ‘fixed’. You have the wonderful role of Youth Worker, but you’re not God.

Perseverance For Long Lasting Ministry

Persistence. Staying Power. Tenacity. It’s not the art of proving your point, or finishing the ‘job’ for the sake of it. We want something that is long lasting, a ministry that will stand the test. Colossians 1:11 leads us to pray for “…not the grim strength of gritting your teeth, but the glory-strength God gives.” If we live by this sort of perseverance, our energy will be long-lasting and enjoyable!

In all the many ways that we attempt to strengthen our projects or clubs, we must remember that there is no quick-fix trick to success. As youth workers, we are all trialing different approaches all the time. Sometimes our ideas will take off and – BAM! – we’ve got it. Other times, we will have to ditch a plan and start again. Remember to stay on track with God, following His trail as you work with young people. Stick with it, and be glad that one day your fruit tree will blossom.

Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit.”


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 09.28.50Bex is a Youth Specialist working for Trinity Network Churches in North Bristol. Alongside her job, she is studying for a Degree in Theology, Ministry and Mission at Bristol Baptist Bible College.

Bex’s heart is in mentoring and inspiring young people. The favourite part of her job is meeting with young people over a Costa and tackling life’s big questions. In fact, the most likely place to find Bex is in Costa, with a Latte and slice of cake, scribbling down bits of wisdom from books, or typing out the next blog.

With a real sweet tooth, Bex loves to bake and trial new recipes. To burn off those extra calories, she loves to do park runs and go walking in the Peak District

Check out Bex’s blog here.




A Youth Work Sabbatical on the Blog

11285432175_6e540a3ddd_oSome of you have noticed that I disappeared for a while. I haven’t had a terrible accident, I’m not training to be a ninja and I’ve not discovered the joys of being a hermit.

I have been taking a blogging sabbatical.

This might just be a clever sounding way of saying ‘I’ve not been online for a wee bit,’ but it has been a healthy, albeit spontaneous online choice.



I’ve been blogging for about 10 years in various forms, but it was only in the last two that it started to make any traction. I was getting hits, subscribers and discussions going on social media, as well as having posts feature on bigger blogs around the world.

With all that extra attention came an unease with the shape and direction of my heart.

Time off from this allowed me to take perspective on who’s glory, who’s wisdom and who’s heart needs to be most clearly seen online.

Jesus tells Peter in Matthew 16:18 that HE will build His church. He would use Peter and even build on Peter, but Jesus is the master builder – not Peter.

I needed to make sure that my vision for the blog was to build his kingdom and not my empire.

I believe that coming back into my blog now – with the time behind me to take on that inventory – will allow Him to send me the readers that He wants whoever and how many that might be.

What Did I Do While ‘AFK’?


I didn’t really do anything different to what I normally would do. I carried on in my youth work job, developing my charity, training the team, ministering to and disciplining young people and seeking God generally.

I spent time with my wife, I ate good food, I went to events, spoke a at a few and I moved house. I also had three months of counseling – but that’s for another post!

What I didn’t do however was contribute to online discussion on matters of theology or youth ministry. I stayed off my blog. I occasionally came on to clear the spam and respond to messages, but that’s it.

How Did It Feel?


There were times when I was freaked out. The lack of spam filter meant that I became a coat rack for every single knock off Oakley’s glasses, Ugg boots and Justin Bieber supported product.

There were times reading other blogs and wanting to comment, wanting to add my own thoughts to the discussion. There were big things happening in the Christian world and the UK election but I was gagging to share on.

However generally it was an absolute head reboot. My thinking cleared, my time grew, and my space became a little bit more compartmentalised in the right ways. I was able to bring myself before God and take stock on who my identity is and how that matches up with my online identity.

That has been priceless.

So what now?


Well I’m back! I’m going to blog and write articles and continue where I left off. I might not publish three-five times a week (which was my pattern), but I will shoot for at least two. I will pray over every post I write, and seek God’s Holy Spirit to speak though me and to me in my approach the online arena. A few ideologies I will try to develop are:

– Writing more theologically, which is where my background, training and experience lies.
– Creating more resources that free and downloadable.
– Seeking more guest bloggers to write and be interviewed to broaden the net of experience and keep the conversation going.
– Transcribing training seminars and events that I’ve given over the last ten years to be in post format.

– Seeking more topics that encourage inclusivity, unity and networking.

What I’d like from you


Please keep me accountable! I want my heart to be God’s heart and build his kingdom rather than my empire. Please comment on posts, send messages, suggest topics and ask to be a guest blogger. I’d love for this blog experience to become less about me more about people with a heart for young people.

Thanks for taking the ride with me!


Dear Youth Leader: Stop Trying To Be Hot!


I understand that most of the people who you hang out with on any given day are young people. I understand that it’s important to be relevant and accessible. But please be an adult and don’t take your fashion cues from youth culture.

Far be it from me to be the fashion police (I look like my Granddad!) but clothing does speak volumes about culture, and how you dress sends clear signals.

“When you wear skin-tights, low-cuts, short-shorts, slips-with-slits and see-thrus, you’re setting the standard.”

I’ve been at a bunch of youth work conferences this year and I have been continually shocked by some of the things that male and female youth leaders are wearing – and the apparent obliviousness that led them there.

When you wear skin-tights, low-cuts, short-shorts, slips-with-slits and see-thrus, you’re setting the standard and communicating availability. This goes for lads and lasses.

One of my first youth leaders was a 21 year old girl on a gap year. She rocked up one day with a skin tight shirt with a picture of two watermelons and the tagline, ‘hands off my melons.’ I remember her being pretty put out when the Youth Pastor told her that wasn’t appropriate. As a 14 year old though, I was on her side; I remember the ‘shirt’ vividly.

A couple of months back we hired a mission group and one of the lads in the troop wore skinny jeans about a mile below the waistline and a v-neck pajama top that was so low you could almost see belly button. You didn’t know where to look! He was oblivious to every girl in the room that was making eyes at him.

I don’t want to go an a Victorian dress rampage. It’s important to take pride in how you look and enjoy creatively looking your best. Go for it – enjoy it.

Please remember though that you set the standards for what’s appropriate and modest.

If you are older, in a leadership position and confident then you have immediate attraction value to a young person. Wrap that in revealing clothes and you’re just begging for trouble.

Dear Youth Leader: Stop Trying To Be Hot! Be a grown up. Dress like one!

Here endeth another rant.

The ULTIMATE Youth Work Car


Over the last two years I have demolished and devoured four whole cars, but with number five clocking up about 8000 miles in 6 months under the mistress of youthwork, I may have just found a keeper!

The ideal youthwork car is Bumblebee the Transformer – failing this though, finding something that is affordable, flexible, reliable and still cool is a nightmare.

Before I unveil my sneaky little diamond in the rough though, what of the other four?

The first, a cute little Seat Ibiza was a re-buy of my first ever car. It was a gorgeous little golf wannabe that I had cannibalized by ripping out the back seats and replacing them with a flatbed, railed wooden floor which effectively gave me a micro-minivan with a shed-load of space. A few carefully chosen decals and some homemade metallic green interior and it was ready to go! And go it did – right off a bendy wet country lane and down the side of a thirty foot ditch into an angry Gloucestershire farmer’s cow field. Good bye Seat.

The next was a bargain bin special. A 98 Ford Escort bought from Auction for £175.00 in cool grey with eight layers of seat covers included in the price. This lasted me two wonderful weeks, until the engine ceremoniously blew up with a whistle, fizz and bang in the middle of nowhere en route to Valentines Day lunch with my lucky wife. One flat tow and scrap collection later I was down seventy five quid.

Then there was my trusted super-mini, the Japanese Daihatsu Sirion. Other than being possibly the ugliest car on the road in the whole of North Wales, there wasn’t a lot to complain about. Granted, there wasn’t a lot to it in any sense; it weighed less than a pair of shoes and cornered with roughly the same amount of accuracy. However at 1.3 liters, the SL (that’s ‘sports, luxury’ to you) really could shift off the mark – all the way to 80 mph before it screamed in agony and lost compression. This wasn’t helped by the massive oil leak that ended it’s poor little life.

Finally we have the top spec, 2000 Nissan Primera SE+ with heated leather seats and a wooden steering wheel. It felt like a mini limousine, made more so by the enormous size of it’s turning circle. I went to a back-road wheeler dealer in Birmingham for this, who it turns out put an illegal MOT on it. We discovered this when – after hearing the unnerving knocks from the back – we discovered that the entire bottom sub-frame was rotten and the suspension arms we’re effectively held on by witchcraft. Another treasure for the scrapyard.

So Why Do Youthworker’s Need To Think About Their Car So Much?

Well if you don’t, stuff happens. Bad stuff. Bad stuff like the stuff above! Bad stuff that costs you money, time, stress, embarrassment and angry phone-calls with Gloucestershire farmers. My experience as a youthworker tells me that money and time are in short supply, whereas embarrassment, stress and angry phone-calls are ten-a-dozen.

“It’s just one of those things that needs to work!”

One of the biggest extra stresses I’ve had to deal with in all the years I’ve worked with young people is my car. It’s just one of those things – like your home – that needs to work! There are a few key bits it needs to do:

  • It needs to be cheep to run! Mpg is king. Diesels preferred… but y’know, good ones. Tax and particularly insurance need to be low – especially because as a youthworker you should be fully comp.
  • It needs to be cheep to buy – I’m guessing less than £1500 is ideal for most youthworkers.
  • It needs to be reliable. This can mean good service history, a newer model, a good make or common enough to find parts and garages easily.
  • It needs to be spacious and practical – without being a tank. Smaller estates or at least good sized hatchbacks are a must to get all that camp gear in. Big boot opening and back doors to make packing work is also a must… as are rear folding seats which means more space or more passengers.
  • It needs to look some kind of cool because… Well it does.

This doesn’t leave you a whole load of options. But some great options that are usually available at this price and with these equipment options are:

  • VW Golf estates
  • VW Passats
  • Rover 200s
  • Vauxhall Astras (vectras are too wide!)
  • Honda Accords
  • Mazda 6s

Or….. what I’m now driving an Audi A4 estate. This thing is awesome. 2ltdi (red i) estate, metallic blue, big enough to sleep in (which I’ve done for about 30 nights so far with a good futon mattress in the back), roof rails and it’s averaging 55 mpg.

It’s bomb proof, well looked after, and it’s good for probably another 100000 miles. It keeps up on the Motorway, is small enough to nip around town, has a great turning circle and a cracking sound system!

There’s space in the boot to pack enough tents and weapons to run a small war, and comfort enough in the front to drive for hours.

Do you have an ULTIMATE Youth Work car? Leave a comment!