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The ULTIMATE Youth Work Car

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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!

7 Ways To Keep Enjoying Your Youth Work Job

I’m sat in Nero with a caramel hot chocolate working though my calendar and emails, thinking to myself “I have a great job!”

Two weeks ago however, I was sat at this same computer, at this same table feeling tired, bored, demotivated and bitter about this very same job.

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The circumstances in both instances were very much the same but my attitude and perspective make a universe of difference! There are of course many reasons to love a youthwork job – not least growing young people into holistic disciples of Jesus – but I know just how hard the job part of it can be!

Here’s a few very simple perspective lessons that I’ve picked up that have made an enormous difference to me in my job as a youth worker.


1. I enjoy my job more when I actually do my job.

No brainer right? Well no. Sometimes I get into places where I do the minimal amount needed to get through my work load and run my projects. I don’t boundary out my time, I don’t create breathing spaces for prep and I don’t approach a work hour as a problem solver. I spend those hours between activities ‘resting and recuperating’ thinking that’s what I need. I’m actually just cultivating demotivation.

The mission is not to make yourself ‘busy’ but to plan time and space to prepare, be creative and be ahead of the game. The view is so much better when you’re not throwing down the tracks in front of you.


2. I enjoy my job more when I take my time off.

Another apparent no brainier. Well seven years into full time youth work and I still don’t consistently leave my emails closed and work phone silent on my day off. If my days are planned then my days off are not covered in the shadow of the to-do list.It’s the same with holidays. Plan them ahead, enjoy the planning and take them off! It’s amazing how much a week every three months and a day a week can genuinely refresh your energy and your character as well!

“There are of course many reasons to love a youthwork job – not least growing young people into holistic disciples of Jesus”

3. I enjoy my job more when I’m clean & healthy.
Having a morning hour ritual of up, pray, read news, eat, exercise, shower brush teeth and choose clothes makes me feel a foot taller, more at peace, more full of confidence and much more able to tackle spontaneous problems. Having a good meal in the day and developing good sleep pattens too are well worth the effort!

4. I enjoy my job more when I enjoy my wife more.
Steady now… If my God-Family-Home-Job priority train is on track and I’m giving good time to date nights, random chats, food together and family problem solving then my life priorities and perspectives simply feel more together.

5. I enjoy my job more when I cultivate gratitude.
The most important thing I’ve ever learned about prayer is to ‘be thankful in all circumstances’ (Col. 3:17). Thankfulness simply breeds good perspective. It’s the yeast that makes the prayer dough rise. The more I thank God the more I become thankful – which is an absolute game-changer in my attitude towards life and work.

6. I enjoy my job more when I serve more.
There’s usually (not always) a strong correlation between grumpiness in my job and a strong inward focus. Finding small ways to serve and improve the lot of others redirects that focus and gives me a much clearer perspective on my own condition. Serving with a thankful heart cultivates joy – period.

7. I enjoy more job more when I enjoy God more.
Last, but obviously not least. The more I come into contact with the living God through meditation, worship, fellowship and reflection the more my holistic delight as a person grows and covers everything. ‘Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart’ (Psalm 37:4).

Depression, Stress & Discouragement in Youth Work

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It’s been some emotional roller-coaster this whole youth ministry thing. I’ve been in both the deep end, and the shallow kiddy-pool of my heart-spine.

I’ve struggled with mild discouragement, bouts of depression, and prolonged stress at different stages of my career so far. It can sometimes be very difficult to distinguish whats actually affecting me, what set of emotions are in play, and how they need to be dealt with (i.e. pain killers, peace n’ quiet, counseling, a holiday, a good knock to the head, a grin-n-bear it week etc.)

In Doug Fields book Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry he dedicates a whole chapter to dealing with discouragement. On p.47, Steve Geralli gives a helpful reminder in a little aside box saying,

“Be aware that depression can mask itself as discouragement. Some signs of depression include irritability, sadness, exhaustion, low self-image, destructive self-criticism, shame, guilt, and loss of pleasure and fulfillment. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms for more than a couple of months, consult a professional therapist.”

Steve’s comments are really useful. Depression can easily be mistaken for discouragement, and sometimes vice versa too. In fact in my last year of my previous job I was diagnosed me with stress, but until I saw my GP I was treating it as simply discouragement – these things can easily get muddled together.

So just some preliminary thoughts:

– Don’t be surprised by depression, discouragement, or stress. Youth Ministry is about 80% less about fun n’ games than we thought it was!

– Don’t worry at other people’s surprise. Youth Ministry is 100% less about fun n’ games than they think it is!

– Keep a positive check on your ministry / life / spirituality balance.

– Don’t be afraid to talk to a GP for clarity’s sake. Especially when experiencing things like fatigue, lack of motivation/enthusiasm, difficult sleep patterns, sudden weight loss/gain, increased irritability etc.

– Try to keep in context the cross we carry, the sacrificial life of a minister, and what it means to share Christ’s sufferings.

– Memorize some fighter verses.

– Read daft books & watch daft films (harry potter & the simpsons have gotten me through a lot).

– Take your holidays. Spend fun time planning them (book early).

– Take your days off & sometimes take them away from your work areas/towns/city/planet.

– Laugh for no reason.

– Wake up at 1am just to go and buy cake from the supermarket.

– Keep letters that have encouraged you in a journal. Delete the stupid emails.

– Don’t be afraid to call some emails and conversations you’ve had stupid.

– Make to do lists an hour before you sleep. Include conversations you need to have, emails you’ve got to send, people you need to beat up (kidding). Just get it outa your head!

– Tidy a room or two. Wash some dishes. Take a shower.

 

 

Depression, Stress & Discouragement in Youth Work