I never thought I’d be a youthworker. I was looking forward to being a teacher when I had a surprising ‘call’ into youthwork, I just knew what God wanted me to do with my life. As this call came completely out of the blue I didn’t have much knowledge of youthwork when I started, but my philosophy of youthwork was shaped in that first week and it’s never changed.
A girl approached me after an assembly with a challenge. ‘The trouble with youthworkers,’ she said, ‘is that they’re mostly interested in the difficult kids. The trouble with teachers’, she continued, ‘is that they’re mostly interested in the clever kids. What about the other kids; who is interested in us?’ I determined there and then to spend my career in youthwork being interested in the ‘other kids’ – the ones who think that no one has noticed them.
That is why I embrace the listening side of youthwork. I believe that every young person has an incredibly complicated inner life which they want help making sense of. I‘ve found that as I’ve embraced further training in understanding emotional health that this has augmented my approach. But often it’s not complicated at all. I’m still a person who believes that the best youthwork there is, is also the simplest.
My favourite way of doing youthwork is just asking young people how they are and making time to properly listen to their answer. A parent whose daughter I helped, described me as crazy enough to grab young people’s attention and calm enough to keep it.
Alongside the listening, I love focused small group work, where young people can properly explore their lives together in a supportive environment. Some of my favourite groups to run are the Transform groups, Peer Mentoring groups and the Social Anxiety groups.
A student recently commented to me that he always feels scared at school except when I was in. It’s the many small encouragements like this which make this job so fulfilling. But ultimately I know that only the transforming power of God can help these young people to know true peace.
Watching a young person that I’ve known and helped for a few years respond to the Gospel at Elevate is the point of it all, and this has happened a few times recently. Each time it does it’s a magical moment and is the reason I’m so glad that God called me to youthwork.
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