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To the overwhelmed youth worker, you are not alone…

Gemma Milligan

17 Apr, 2020

 

From one youth worker to another - here are three encouragements for you.

 

It would be an understatement to say that life is a little unusual at the moment. The world as we know it has been completely disrupted by the Coronavirus, and I’m sure many of us are still coming to terms with the impact this is having. Unforeseen anxiety about our health and potentially the security of our jobs. The inability to find what we need at the supermarket. Not being able to meet up with friends and family. Working from home, where many of us don’t have an office space. Home educating our children. Only being able to connect with others via technology. Being restricted to the four walls we live in for the majority of the day. These are overwhelming circumstances, and it can sometimes be really difficult to know how to cope. And when we add into the mix the new challenge of trying to find creative ways to continue to connect with and support young people during this time, this can feel like a very big ask.

I totally understand. We want to do great youth work, but we’re reeling ourselves from the changes that we’ve had to make to our lives in a very short amount of time. Maybe you spent so much time doing face-to-face youth work that now your diary seems terrifyingly empty. Maybe you’re already juggling working from home, looking after your family, educating your kids, and getting all your housework done, and even the idea of doing youth work on top of that is overwhelming. Maybe you’re a schools worker, and the fact that you can’t go into school at the moment leaves you feeling lost and unsure. Maybe you’re not particularly tech-savvy and so even though you’d like to set up online youth work, you have no idea where to even start.

Coping with any of these feelings is incredibly challenging. But isn’t it always the case that in times like these God is able to completely transform our perspectives, and even help us to see the opportunities available and the things to be thankful for within the struggles? As I have spent time with Him over the past week or so, he has reminded me of a few things that I hope will be helpful and encouraging for you too:

 

1. It isn't your responsibility to do everything

One of the reasons we can feel so overwhelmed is because we put unnecessary pressure upon ourselves. Now I’m not saying that we should abandon young people at this time and make no effort to re-imagine what our youth work should look like (there are some great ideas for how to do this here), but sometimes we need to give ourselves a break. If you are a volunteer youth worker and are juggling work and family too, then the reality is that you probably cannot do as much youth work at this time as you may want to (or feel you should be). Be honest with yourself about what you can do, and put necessary boundaries in place so you stick to that. Remember, you are not Jesus and you’re not young peoples’ saviour at this time, so don’t try to be.

“Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.” (Psalm 55:22)

 

2. You need to look after yourself

As youth workers, we want to support and care for young people, and rightly so, but we also need to make sure we take care of ourselves, and that is particularly true during this time. It is important we work out what we need to be able to cope well with the changes that have and are taking place around us. That may mean ensuring you have time to yourself at different points of the manic family-filled day to spend with God. It may mean consciously scheduling in breaks from the computer screen. It may mean organising a regular phone call with your best friend. It may mean soaking in a hot bubble bath. Whatever it may be, it is important that we take the time for it as we cannot support young people and others well if we are running on empty ourselves.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile’.” (Mark 6:31)

 

3. You are praying to a God who is constantly at work

In situations like this where there is so much uncertainty, it can be easy to forget that God hears us when we speak to Him and ask things of Him. He hears our fears, our questions, our petitions for young people’s wellbeing and salvation, our complaints when we’re at the end of ourselves. Not only that, but He is more than able to answer those prayers. We may not always get the answers we want, or even see an immediate response; but we can trust that the God who created the universe has a plan to build His Kingdom here on earth, and no virus, or anything else for that matter, is going to stop Him.

I have often been surprised lately at how much closer I feel to God due to some of the distractions of life being stripped away, how at peace I feel because the circumstances have prompted me to pray more, how loved and valued I feel because of the extra effort people are making to connect, and how much more passionate I feel about people coming to know Him because I have been reminded again of the fragility of life. This is a time when God can do so much amongst the struggles if we will only let Him. Let’s aim to have this perspective, and look forward with anticipation to what He will do!

“How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!” (Psalm 147:5)

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