I have been in my job - student youth worker of a Baptist Church - for one year today. What a joy. What a celebration.
If you’ve read my blog post, 'settled', or know me outside of the internet, you’ll know that I found the beginnings really difficult. Back in September when I’d remove myself from the office to have a private-cry in the bathroom because I just didn’t know if I could do it anymore, the idea of writing this ‘first anniversary’ blog post seemed impossible. However, I had some really good ‘cheerleaders’ around me, and a deep knowledge that this is where I’m meant to be, so this is where I’ll stay, and I’m very glad that I did.
I’ve been reflecting on the highlights and the lowlights of the past year; a difficult blog post to write because the highlights are so specific to an individual I’ve worked with, and it doesn’t feel right to use that special moment with a young person as content, and the lowlights are still slowly but surely working themselves out, and are not yet ready to be written out into something for more than just ‘the nearest and dearest’ to see. Regardless, here are the highlights of my first year, albeit sometimes a little vague.
Growing in confidence
The area I most wanted to grow in over this year was confidence. I knew I was capable of leading from the stage, and meeting new young people, but I was just too scared to do it. I worried about getting it wrong so I avoided it. I think, and I hope, now when I’m doing All Age Talks from the front of Church, and I’m going into schools, I not only feel so much more confident than I did last year, but I look confident too. The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given in the youth-work-world is ‘fake it until you make it’. I’ve learnt that this doesn’t include when you feel mentally exhausted and like you’ve got to put on a happy mask, but in situations you don't feel confident, and you’re put into a new situation, fake it until you make it. Stride into it as if you know what you’re doing, and as if you’ve done it a billion times before, and eventually even you’ll start to believe it.
Youth House Group
In September I launched a Youth House Group, and I think it’s my favourite group out of the four that I’m involved in. It feels like something I’ve 'birthed', so I suppose there’s an ownership about it, but I also really have a heart for discipleship. I’m all about seeing young people experience God. To go from just a 1 in faith, to a 2, or maybe a 7 to an 8. I’m also really passionate about talking about the awkward conversations church sometimes likes to shy away from, as well as the everyday-teenager issues. I feel that Youth House Group really does this. I’m very relational and conversational in my youth work, which is the essence of Youth House Group. There are quite a few highlights of the year that comes inside Youth House Group; doing Youth Alpha, getting to know the young people better, using my creativity and passion of writing as I make the sessions.
A couple of months ago, one Sunday morning, we were looking at Psalm 25 with the young people and we asked them to rewrite it in a modern-day version inspired by something that means a lot to them, or something that protects them. Although arguably blasphemous (blame the resource book, not me) it brought tears to my eyes and has to be one of the highlights of this year. There's been lots of times throughout this year where I've felt really encouraged, loved and affirmed. The alternative Psalm 25 below sums up the love I've felt over the last year.
“The Lord is my Becca, I shall not have hot chocolate deprivation. He lets me rest on sofas, he leads me through youth house group, he gives me warmth inside. He leads me through Alpha for the good of his name. Even if I get stuck in the toilet [I don’t know either, honestly], I can always hear the laughter. Your smelly sticks [she means incense sticks] and fireplace comfort me. You prepare hot chocolate for me in front of my friends. You give me my mug and fill it to overflowing. Surely your goodness and welcoming will be with me all my life, I will live in the prayer room [where we have Youth] forever."
A funny one to be on the list, since children’s work isn’t in my job title and it’s not at all my calling. I’ve learnt so much from the toddlers, from their parents, and the other volunteers. Even though the time I spend at Toddler Group each week count towards my weekly hours, it feels like a break. I come to toddler group and sit with a three year old, squeezing and rolling play-dough, and having a conversation about sequin dinosaurs.
The church I work in holds a ‘prayer space’ on the first Wednesday evening of every month, and over the last year I’ve facilitated a couple. My favourite one was based around a pilgrimage in which, around the room, we went over mountains, past a stream, through a forest and finished at a village. I was pleased with how it looked, and I was pleased that it achieved what it was meant to; enable people to reflect, rest and journey.
Girls Support Girls
As I said before, I’m passionate about the awkward conversations churches often shy away from. Awkward conversations with young people don’t phase me, and I think it’s because I wasn’t taught a lot of sex/relationship/menstruation/what-the-heck-is-happening-education, drugs, alcohol, at school or at youth groups. So, around September, I decided to make an addition to the women’s toilets, pictured below. It’s a strange highlight, but it’s something I’m proud of doing because I’m so ready to end period-poverty, and end the taboo around periods. It feels like something so massively outside of my job role, yet also something so integral to it. It’s also really funny when twelve year olds come up to me at Youth Cafe saying “guess what we’ve just found in the toilets?!” And giggly hand me a tampon, for me to say “ah you found them! Yeah I put them there!”
Mental health wobbles made worse by not using the people around me that love me and care for me, not letting people in, overloading myself.... although, it's through these lowlights that lessons have been learnt and I've felt so incredibly wrapped up in people's love, and felt the abundance of God's grace.
I was ill for a week in February, and being a person that rarely gets ill, it sucked. To be fair, I journaled through the week and it makes quite a comical read in hindsight.
Long story short, I drove 60 miles to uni, was almost sick in a lecture, ran out, had a lie-down on a sofa in the common room at uni whilst I decided if I was okay enough to stay, cried down the phone to a friend/work-colleauge, saying I don’t want to let anyone down and that I felt so ill. Drove 60 miles home, stopping for mints and malt loaf at a service station as it was the only thing I could stomach, slept the rest of the day. Wednesday I mainly slept, watched a bit of Netflix, and when I realised I had run out of medicine and food, I cried as I put clothes over my pyjamas. Thursday, for some reason, I thought I was well enough to go back to work. I did toddler group, cried because I felt like I had let people down and was having a bit of a crisis that Church wouldn’t have hired me if they knew my struggles. Slept all of Friday.
Wait, what am I doing here?
This question usually hits me on a random Sunday morning service. It’s just a niggle in my brain that I need to learn to switch off. I notice that I have come alone, and that I’m sat alone, and that in an hour or so I’ll go home alone. I notice that I’m tired, and then a couple more lies creep in, just for good measure.
The highlights of the year far outweigh the lowlights. I feel like I've been Youth Worker far longer than just 1 year, in the most wonderful and positive way.
here's to many more highlights over the upcoming years