Last week we asked you some questions for the Thursday 3x3 - a way to take the temperature of the youth ministry community during the Coronavirus pandemic. Every Thursday at 3pm we ask three questions which will take you no more than three minutes to answer. We had 34 responses (ah, bank holiday weekend) and this is not a representative group, so we can’t generalise from these answers to all Christian youth workers in the UK. This week we asked about creativity, half-term plans and your message to other youth workers.
1. Lockdown creativity: Treehouses, knitting and TikTok
Wherever you turn you will hear accounts of people making. For many people, lockdown has created the conditions to take up new hobbies or uncover buried creativity. So, we asked whether young people you know been engaging in any creative activities to keep themselves occupied during lockdown.
Three quarters said ‘Yes’, and 24 provided examples including: baking, painting, construction, journaling, making music, mindful colouring, writing, designing, knitting, gardening, making YouTube videos, learning musical instruments, mini artworks, stop-motion, woodwork, photography and coding. Someone told us about a young person they know who has created a tree house in their back garden, and another wrote “Minecraft challenges, baking, TikTok dances (does that count? haha)”.
Yes. TikTok definitely counts!
2. Half-term breaks?
At Easter time we asked you if you expected to slow downfor the break and it was a really mixed bag. So, with another break upon us* we asked, “Are you stopping youth work activities over half term?” The majority (64.7%) aren’t stopping, although 14.7% of these are doing something a bit different. Just under a quarter are taking a break because that’s what they would normally do while 8.8% wouldn’t usually stop but sense the need for a break.
Of those who are stopping, many told us they are feeling tired. Some people pushed on through Easter but are stopping now, and some told us that they felt young people needed a break too. One person, who has so far been working through school holidays, is taking a break in anticipation of new work pressures when schools re-open.
“We usually have a break because we need it and we most definitely need one now and feel it’s important to model taking a break and time to rest.”
“We would usually do day trips, beach visits, theme parks etc. But not this year. So rather than do something less good online, I’m taking the week off and encouraging young people to do the same.”
Some of those who are carrying on told us that young people and their parents still valued ‘meeting up’, and though they would usually stop they feel the need to “continue with our new normal”. One person reflected that “It seems like an opportunity missed if we stop for half term.” Balancing your own needs with those of young people and volunteers can be tricky, as the comment below captures so well.
“I can't decide -- I would usually, but maybe the young people would benefit from continuing, it's only 2 hours a week. But also, I'm exhausted, have a sermon and 2 essays to write.”
I can’t speak for anyone else, but it sounds to me like it might be a good week to take those two hours off…
*Thanks to our NI friends for humouring us when it’s not half-term for you…
3. Words of encouragement from one youth worker to another
Finally, as we enter week 10 of lockdown, it felt like a good moment to ask you, in one sentence, what other Christian youth workers might need to hear this week. We had a lovely message in there from a church leader who said “Take a day or two off. We love you and appreciate what you are still doing. Thanks for learning new skills and using them before you were probably ready.” I’ve summarised the key messages that were shared, with an example under each heading. Thank you so much for your contributions – I hope they encourage and affirm you!
What you are doing is important - “You are providing something stable and certain to young people when there seems very little certainty and everything keeps changing for them. Don’t underestimate the value of this.”
Just stay connected to young people - “Simply maintaining connection to the young people is the key thing at the moment; deeper conversations, teaching and spiritual formation may have to wait for now - and that's okay.”
Don’t judge yourself - “Don't make judgements on your calling or how good a youth worker you are. You're doing your best, this is not a fair time of evaluation for you or the young people.”
You’re not alone - “Feel unproductive, guilty about not doing enough but still being fully paid. You're not alone.”
You have limits, you will need to rest - “A youth worker’s job is never done. Log off and go outside…”
And when you reach the edge of what you can do, God is present, powerful and at work - “If you are finding it tough to engage young people over technology, you are not alone. And it doesn’t mean God has stopped working with them.”
Look up – what is God doing? - “Resist the urge to go back to normal. What is the new landscape God is helping you see?”
Don’t give up - “Keep going! It's tough I get it, but God is at work and doing so much more than you can see.”
God is with you - “Oh, God is just rejoicing over you. He loves you so much.”