Disclaimer, this was actually recorded a while ago. The mentioned unborn child is now very much born and hopefully, Alan has watched something else since Love Island.
What’s the last book you read?
Finished, or reading?
Tell me both
Currently reading a book on mental health called Darkeness is my Only Companion, and I’m supposed to be reading Jesus The Disinherited but I haven’t got to that yet – it’s for Concrete, for the Theology and Youth Ministry Think Tank. Also currently reading Holly Willoughby’s Baby Book because I’m about to have a baby. That’s taking up a lot of my reading time. The last one I finished, was A Nazareth Manifesto.. a Sam Wells book. OH NO WAIT! The Western Eyes book, another book for the concrete think tank.
What’s the last TV series you watched?
The last thing that we finished was Love Island – I was on holiday with my wife and we watched Love Island, we basically watched the whole series in the 2 weeks that we were on holiday, which was 40 odd episodes. Currently we’re watching the 10 Puppies and Me on BBC, and Masterchef Australia has just started and it is the greatest show in the whole world ever. It’s better than English Masterchef and Bake Off. They do crazy challenges, and the standard is huge. One of the girls who won one of the series got a job at Heston Bleumenthal’s The Fat Duck because he was so impressed.
Brief pause to discuss the quality of Alan’s Cold Brew –
Why is working with young people important?
Working with young people is important because there’s something really life giving about having young people engaged in faith and church. I don’t subscribe to this whole thing about young people being the future of the church because I don’t think they are – they are the church now, and any church that I know that’s doing good things has got young people involved in that in some capacity, because they have an energy and a belief and an ideology and a faith that the rest of us need to learn from. They are less risk aware or adverse – they are happy to take a big risk and jump out and do something a little bit nuts, more so than grown ups can be, and that’s really helpful for doing big things with faith. If you do a google search for teenagers, you’ll not find many references – people pull out that bit from Ecclesiastes about Remember your creator in the days of your youth, and lots of our big bible heroes are teenagers when they do big things. David was a teenager when he killed Goliath, Jeremiah was a teenager when he was called to be a prophet, most of the disciples were more than likely teenagers, mary was definitely a teenager when she gave birth to Jesus – so the woman picked to be Jesus’ mum was a teenage mum. That’s pretty nuts – Daniel and his three mates thrown in the fire in the lions den were teenagers when they were carried off – there are tonnes of stories of teenagers who were really faithful. So I think that teenagers can drive the church to places that it needs to get to.
While it’s true that the church is going to die if we don’t reach young people – we need young people now, to be in church now, and children too – Jesus told us to have faith like little children, therefore you have to have young people around to see what it’s like to have fait like little children by working with them.
Establishing that 5 year olds don’t understand Alan’s irish accent and that’s why he actually prefers working with 15 year olds than 5 year olds –
What are the 2 biggest challenges that you face while working with young people
For me personally, I struggle with new people and new places and small talk. So personally, young people walking in the door and going and chatting to them and making small talk so that you develop a more meaningful relationship is challenging.
If I was more comfortable in the awkwardness that that inherently brings, of yes this is going to be awkward for a while and that’s alright – that would help. The issue that I face in my current job is that my young people are super busy – they are doing things lots of the time with school and after school clubs and sports and games and all these other things – some of the kids are quite high achieving so there’s pressure from parents to continue that trend or go to good universities, so they need to have lots of extra curricular things on their CV and a varied extra curricular programme, and so that makes them quite time poor, so physical time with my young people is quite difficult, and seeing them outside of our Sunday programmes is difficult, so that puts big pressure on that 40 minute slot in the middle of church that you get, which hasn’t been the same in other Youth work jobs that I’ve been in. I’ve seen them at a cell group thing in the week and a fun activity at the end of the week and then also for the half hour on a Sunday, and so that’s a real challenge and I’m looking at how I use social media better to put content in young people’s hands when they’re out and about and on the go during the week, so that we can resource them when we’re not with them. That is a massive challenge for the young people that I currently work with, whereas the church that I left in October, I could have seen lots of the same young people 4 times a week, easily. Minimum 2 or 3 – some of them came to everything that you did – so you’d see them for a 1 to 1, a bible study group, a fun activity, a Friday, and a Sunday – that’s a lot of time to spend with young people, and that time makes a profound difference to how quickly that relationship moves forward and where that gets to. I think we can use social media better than what I’ve seen a lot of youth ministry do, because we use it to advertise programmes and trying to get young people to come to the programmes that we run, but we are still in the situation that if young people can’t come to the programmes then they miss out on the fellowship, fun, teaching, jesus, and all that good stuff – some of that in some ways can happen in their time on demand when they need to by putting it on their Instagram feed, so currently we’re exploring how we can do that better.
If you could bring one change to the lives of the young people you work with, what would it be?
Currently the young people, I’d lift off the academic pressure that’s placed on a lot of them, that worth is intrinsically linked to academic achievement, and to ‘success’. Something that affects lots of my young people is needing to have perfect grades, perfect university record, and be high achieving. For example I have a young person who we were trying to encourage to be part of the worship group – he plays grade 7 Piano but he thinks he’s rubbish, because all the people he’s in school with got their diplomas four years ago, so compared to them he feels rubbish at piano and so didn’t want to play in the worship band because the bar is so ridiculously high, and I think that is partially unhelpful.
When are you happiest?
When I am with my wife in a nice restaurant eating delicious food – it’s tricky to decide what food, some kind of slightly interesting probably gamey meat. One of the best meals I’ve ever had was Vennison at a restaurant called Onyx in Budapest, and it was the best venison that I’ve ever had, cooked so well with a cherry sauce – it was absolutely perfect. Good food, good wine, my wife really loves desert so something involving chocolate in a desert, but probably a dome with salted caramel mousse stuff inside it with a chocolate shell and some crunchy stuff