There are several people who contribute in a lot of ways to CONCRETE’s Think Tank’s and online content. We want to give everyone the opportunity to get to know them better – over the coming months we will be asking them questions relating to their youth work as well as some more light hearted questions. This is the second interview, you can find the first one here.
- Why do you think work with young people is important?Recently I was having a conversion with the CYM student based in our project about how christian our charity is. She was coming to the issue from the point of view that every time we ran a program we should be having a ‘God’ slot. She also felt that we should be ensuring that we are purposely bringing Jesus into more of our conversations. Over the next hour I tried with much difficulty to explain and convince her that the work we did was christian; in caring for the young people in the way that we do we were including Jesus. Our project, unlike many in Northern Ireland, takes a different approach in how we outreach to the community around us.Sharing the story of who Christ is has an important place in our work. Our focus is always on the long-term approach which favours the building of strong relationships. I tried to explain to her that by listening when no one else will, by providing opportunities when others won’t and by remembering when others choose to forget, we bring hope into the young people’s lives, which has the power to change their prospects and ultimately their future.
Although it may seem for some too far a stretch, I believe that it’s the church’s responsibility to share the hope that they have with the communities that surround them. More importantly, I believe that if we want to truly impact and change our communities for the better, we must work harder to help young people to reach their full potential and to see that there are people rooting for them when others aren’t. While recently completing my masters, I came across a term ‘Cure of souls’ in relation to the role of a parish Priest. The term simply refers to the priest’s commitment to care for everyone within their parish no matter what they believe.
In the busyness of today’s society, I feel that the needs of young people and children are being increasingly forgotten. This means more than ever that those of us who practice youth ministry must remember our responsibility of being people who ‘cure of souls’ in the areas where we work, because if we don’t we can’t expect anyone else to!
- What are 2 challenges you face working with young people?
For the past number of years I have been trying to develop a missional approach to the work that I do within our youth setting. This has brought numerous challenges because the local churches think we have sold out, and the statutory youth work think that we are trying to steal their work. For me the first challenge is loneliness. In developing new work, at times it has felt like a lonely journey. On numerous occasions people have thought I must have lost my faith, or that i’m just trying to cause trouble because I’m prepared to ask the questions. The only thing that saved me through this time was the community I was able to join whilst studying for my Masters with CMS. This space and support gave me the focus to keep going and to push the project on in what it was trying to become.
The second challenge we face in our project is hearing the difficult stories of the lives we work with. Each week as part of our work we deliver thirty sessions of one to one mentoring with both male and females. I personally work with about seventeen young males who share with me their stresses and worries. Although this is a great privilege by the end of the week it’s difficult to leave the stories behind and to not carry them with me into home life.It took me a long time to develop ways to cope with the pressures, which I do by cycling the twenty miles to work and back. In other people I have seen the work control them to the point that it eats them up. My only hope is that as I grow older and wiser to the triggers that I can start to help others realise their way of coping.
- What is the last book you read?
Over the past three years I have read lots of sections of books for my Masters but since completing that last month I’ve been reading,’Generous Orthodoxy’ by Brian McClaren.
A wise lecturer told my CYM class once, ‘try and read 20 minutes a day’. I thought she was crazy and unrealistic. However, I wish I had tried it earlier as it has been amazing. Each day even with the craziness of three small children I have found the time that allows the words and ideas so soak in!
- What is the last TV series you watched?
This has to be the most difficult question of the whole lot!!! Although I have a Tivo box full of Suits and designated survivor to catch up on, now that I have finished my Masters my wife is reminding me of all the DIY I had put off!
- When are you happiest?
I love switching off my email and my phone, getting on a plane and going on holiday with my family to somewhere warmer than Belfast.
- If you could bring one change to the young people’s lives that you work with what would it be?
I wish I could let them see their big issues from another perspective. For example don’t throw away your school years because a teacher doesn’t get their quirkiness, or how if they could just tell someone how they are feeling it would help them overcome the low self esteem they feel.There are so many things really but ultimately I would change the way adults treat young people. If they could only take the time to try and understand the pressures and strains that this generation are under then possibly space can be created for hope to creep in!