This is a joy

It’s been a while since I properly blogged, apologies!

 

There has been BIG NEW NEWS since my last post and that is that I am now the official Youth Worker at Haywards Heath Baptist Church – of which I am employed 14 hours per week. This is incredibly exciting, a massive answer to prayer and a new journey I am beginning.

 

I begun my new role on October 1st, and it’s been a great start. Many of you know that HHBC has always been my ‘home’ church. I came to faith through the youth work there, and so it’s always been close to my heart. To be able to give something back to the church by working with the children and young people at the Church, is just a massive privilege and blessing to me, I am so grateful to God for this opportunity.

My prayer for this new season is simply that I will give my all to God, and that through this there will be breakthrough with the children and young people I work with. For them, things may change as I seek His will, and I hope that keeping it God-centered will be an example for them all.

 

Sometimes I just want to jump up and down with joy because of what Jesus has called me to do, firstly working with young people and where He currently has called me to at HHBC. This is a joy.

 

Just wanted to keep you updated on what I’m doing, and I will hopefully be blogging more regularly as I get settled into my new routine.

If you are a prayer please pray for me, the young people and children, HHBC and as I look for another part time job to go along side this one.

 

“Leaving Well”

When I first heard the phrase “leaving well” I had no idea what it meant.

Did it mean that the removal van turned up at the right time and there were no issues with my ‘stuff?’

Did it mean that I just snuck away, so I, or anyone else wouldn’t get sad by my departure?

Everyone was saying it, it was in all the articles I read about leaving. You must “leave well.” I begun to understood what it meant, and I begun to hope that I was preparing to do just that.

3 years is a long time, a long season, it means a lot of invested in relationships, which I knew meant a lot of difficult goodbyes. My leaving had been no secret, it had been discussed from the day I joined the church, due to the nature of it being my placement which was contracted for the length of my degree. The time had done a mixture of going really quickly, but me also feeling that I had been there a lot longer, in a good way! A couple of months before I was due to leave, in July, I begun dropping it into more conversations, talking about what’s next and mentioning to a lot of the regular young people I was working with. What I hadn’t recognised is that so many people would have missed all these ‘mention’s.’ The pastor announced my leaving picnic details around 2 weeks before and 10 minutes later when I took the young people upstairs for their session I had 4 or 5 young people gathering round me asking “Why are you leaving?”

Oops.

This is not “leaving well.”

I was quick to explain to them why and where I was going, which I had to do a number of times after the church service that day. It all seemed to feel a lot more real at the point, and being asked so many times was not the best idea for my emotions! Seeing as I didn’t have a job to go on to, this question was made a lot harder, many of the adults kept asking whether I knew what was next, which is a natural thing to ask, but particularly for the young people made my explaining why I was leaving a lot harder. For a good number of people the question they were asking in their heads was “If she has nothing to go on to, why is she leaving, why doesn’t she stay?” There were many moments I would ask myself the same questions, especially when I felt like everyone around me was thinking the same thing (only a few voicing it.) But I knew, deep down, I needed to go. It was the end of a season. A brilliant one, where I learnt a lot, and grew a lot, but it was time for it to end. I had a clear calling from God to work with the young people at my home church, and this is what I was holding onto, and this is the message I needed to tell the world!

From that moment on, I would, as I explained that I was leaving and why, add this onto the end. “I’m sad that I’m leaving, it’s tough, it’s not going to be easy, but I’m clear I am meant to be working with the young people back at my home church. I’m unsure of what exactly things will look like, I’m still looking for a job. But I want to be someone who when God says ‘Go’ I listen and obey.” I knew that it was right when 2 of my young people said along the lines of, “Wow, I love that you are just following what you think God says, we’ll miss you though.” What a response, and from the mouths of the 2 of girls I had been working with and investing in for 2 of the 3 years. I thank God so much for this clarification.

My “leaving well” plans were improving.

My last weeks were so difficult, I had a number of goodbyes to say, I had lot’s of “lasts” and it did NOT get easier. But again my comfort was found in that God knew what He was doing, even if I didn’t. In each group I worked with we had a send off, some combined with end of term outings or activities. 3 of my young people took me out to dinner to say thank you, and these moments will be forever treasured. 2 of the girls I had mentored cried at our last mentoring session together. Many people from my church family gathered to share a picnic together on my last Sunday, and it was so beautiful just being ‘family’ together. My final church service was tough. It was beautiful and tough, all at the same time. I received gifts, and I was prayed for, and I had kind words of encouragement and affirmation spoken over me, and a book made for me full of goodness and tear-jerker’s. I gave gifts, and I made the church a photo montage of the 3 years. (Which can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clVW64rOCbI&feature=autoshare) There were tears, a lot of laughter and a giant church selfie (my favourite moment) but what I loved the most was the time that was being put in to say goodbye to me, and to encourage me, to love me and show me support. I am so grateful for each moment, during the time I was leaving, but also each moment over the last 3 years. I left less than a month ago, so even writing this has been tough. I’m still sad I had to leave, and I still miss all the friends and young people I spent time with but God showed me more of his goodness, grace, mercy, forgiveness and supportive nature to me this season. I learnt so much. So much that I’ve got to get out there and share!

Let this be my motivation God.

Leaving well meant communicating with those I’d been investing it, it meant being real and honest, it meant helping my young people to understand that I am still for them, I still love them and want the best for them and that God is the one who makes things happen, not me, it meant learning to love long (ish) distance friendships, it meant taking time out to thank all those who have been there for me over the last 3 years, it meant taking time out to encourage those young people that I’d been working with and it meant explaining that when we are serving and seeking God, it sometimes means change, it means moving on, it means goodbyes and hellos, it means new seasons, it means emotion, it means love and it means following and obeying.

 

I hope this can be a message that says ‘Yes things change, seasons change. But God is consistent, God is good, and God has an awesome adventure planned for each of us, wherever that may be. “

Deuteronomy 31:8 says “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Lead me, I pray God.

Help me be excited and expectant for this new season God.

 

(And Woodford Baptist Family, if you think you’ve seen the last of me, think again!)

churchselfieleadmeGod

What it’s like back on home turf…

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This week I moved back to my parental home, back in sunny Sussex after finishing my degree and time at Woodford Baptist Church (another blog to come about the topic of leaving.)

I’ve created a new hashtag on Instagram #perksoftheparentalhome and have been challenged to think about what moving ‘home’ means especially when I would also call South Woodford ‘home.’

What ‘home turf’ means to me:
1. It means fresh fruit and vegetables growing in the garden, courgettes and raspberries. Gorgeous.
2. It means 2 very different housemates! My mum and dad, who are not quite as Frozen obsessed as Courtney and not willing to join in with much singing, dancing, film nights, take away’s and zumba.
3. It means being able to walk one minute down the road and be at Lindfield Common, a big green space where I can sit, chill out, and have ‘moments’ with God.
4. It means being able to hang my washing outside!
5. It means the discovery of yummy food in the fridge and my Mum’s yummy cooking.
6. It means I can catch up with friends I haven’t seen for a long time or spent quality time with recently.
7. It means returning to my home church, who are loving and welcoming.
8. It means a beautifully decorated room thanks to my Dad.
9. It means living far away from some of my closest friends.
10. It means living far away from young people I’ve got to know incredibly well and grown to love, and having far less input in their walks with God.
11. It means leaving a church who adopted me, loved me, invested me and supported me.
12. It means (currently) a lack of job, and not knowing what’s next.
13. Which in turn means a lack of money.
14. It means a lot of question marks, a lot of ‘I don’t knows.’

Finally it means that I have listened to God. It means opportunities to work with and invest in the young people here, to show them God’s love, to walk with them on their journeys. To serve those in this local area. To show my family what God’s love looks like. To rekindle friendships. To create new friendships. To encounter God here, as well as there. To bring all I learnt about who I am and who God is and help others understand who He is, and who they are.

And although leaving and moving has been difficult, and will continue to be at times, this final point is what I’ve got to HOLD onto. Firmly, tightly, never letting go of why I have come here, who God is going to use me to bless and think of all the opportunities God is going to give me. I feel like God is calling me to work with the young people here, and that is what moving here means. I am ready, I am ready for God to break my heart for them. I am ready to feel compassion, I am ready to serve God. You said ‘Go’ and I’ve gone. Use me, I pray.

‘Home turf’ has never felt so exciting.

Where I get inspired…

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of attending one of the UK’s main youth work conferences, the Youth Work Summit, which this year was held in Manchester. This, I think, was my 3rd time at the Summit, and year by year I just get more and more inspired, blessed and encouraged. This year was definitely no exception. I would whole heartedly recommend the summit to anyone who works with young people, voluntary or paid, in a church or not, get along to this event, I highly doubt you can come away from the event without your mind racing with thoughts from the day, and your heart breaking in compassion for the young people you know, that you work with. Plus the Summit is fantastic for people with short attention spans, like me, as each speaker has around 10 minutes to speak on a very specialist subject. The variety is incredible! (https://www.youthworksummit.com/inspire

I thought I’d share with you some personal highlights from the whole Summit experience. 

1. Meg Cannon’s ‘Come and find me’ – a spoken word piece about life as a 15 year old girl. This one blew me away. You won’t find any notes in my notebook for this one because Meg just rocked it so much, I won’t forget it! Meg gave us a real lift insight of being a 15 year old girl in 2014, insight gained through her regular work with girls and through her project: koko (http://thekokostory.com/about-koko/) I cannot do this justice but will link the talk in another post later on so you can be inspired too. This was one of the one’s which had my heart in shatters. Spend time with people, get to know them, be there. 

2. The train journey home – This might sound a strange one especially as the train was delayed by 2 hours which mean arrived home at 3am, however I was able to make new friends, catch up with old friends, walk up and down the train and know someone in nearly every carriage, have a dance on the train, play games, chat with Shane Claiborne and some of the other speakers and give prophetic words to some of the ‘new’ friends I’d made (I’ve never given prophetic words on the train before!) The fellowship, friendship and the ability to change stress into fun was what made this a highlight. 

3. Shane Claiborne – I was inspired by the glimpses Shane gave of what love can look like, the fact that the Gospel spreads most by fascination and that we are re-presenting Jesus to people. That we’ve made the Gospel too easy, that our lifestyles NEED to change as we encounter God and continue to encounter him through our walk.

4. Kenda Creasy Dean – Was able to spend the pre-day with a smaller group of youth workers listening to this awesome lady as well as during the main day of the Summit – Kenda was able to bring insight to why young people leave the church, what needs to happen to help them stay and managed to work both Doctor Who and Downton Abbey as representations of the church! ‘God sized visions but the churches canvas is too small’ and this is part of why young people are leaving. 

5. LGBT discussions – I liked the fact this was not just a debate that could have got really heated and dramatic but a look at pastorally how we approach situations with LGBT young people. We were privileged to hear the testimonies of two Christian young adults, one transgender and one who is gay – this made it more real for people – especially for those that have never had this come up in their ministry. I salute the organisers of the Summit for putting in the subjects that can be tricky, that can often be avoided but are SO SO important, and for doing this so well. 

6. Seth Pinnock – I loved Seth’s portrayal of the passage of the 5 loaves and 2 fish; feeding of the 5000, found in John 6: 1 – 13. His main points really encouraged me, and when I shared them with my young people the following day, were a blessing them to them too. The boy was in the crowd; you have to be present to be used by God. The boy gave what he had to Jesus; it wasn’t enough, he didn’t think it was good enough but we need to give what we have. It took an “Andrew” to see what he had encourage him to give that to Jesus; this puts us in prime positions as youth workers, to notice that in our young people and encourage them to give that to Jesus so they can see this multiply and grow and made enough because of Jesus. 

7. Catching up with old friends – It was just a blessing to catch up with old friends over the weekend, one’s I hadn’t seen in a long time, seeing many other friends and as I mentioned before, making new friendships, which I know that weekend will not be the end of.

8. Sarah Percival – Sarah’s talk really challenged me and is definite food for thought. She talked of how for young people rest CAN be found through their phones, through the right ways, and when we are encouraging our young people to rest we need to stop telling them to turn their phones off but instead be encouraging them to find rest through appropriate ways. Technology doesn’t have to stand in the way of rest.

9. Chris Russell – Chris challenged us in whether we are preaching the ‘happiness’ gospel to our young people, but actually that Jesus didn’t come to give us happiness but to give us LIFE. The happiness gospel is one that put ourselves first, not God, it’s all focussed on self-fulfilment and it’s very dangerous if we sell the gospel as daily satisfaction. Chris made me a lot more aware of how I communicating the gospel to the young people I work with.

 

Apologies this was such a long post, I think what you can take from that is that it was a great time from which I gained a lot. Was inspired a lot. Was encouraged a lot. Was challenged a lot. My heart was broken a lot, and my drive to work with young people was rekindled again and again throughout the day. 

 

 

The togetherness of Churches

Last weekend we held a youth service, One, which was the first of hopefully many, the start of a new adventure of a joint church once termly youth service. Three churches youth pastors/ workers joined together to plan this event months ago, and it was kicked off to an incredible start. Other churches joined in on the journey and about 6 churches were represented on the night. We had a round 40 young people, which for the first event is a brilliant number. Matt Summerfield from Urban Saints spoke, and he spoke so well, with 17 young people responding to the message, another Church led worship, another hosted and we each took a different role. There was a lounge which involved a local youth pastor interviewing our guest speaker, we played games and ate pizza, united as a group of young people and youth workers from the local area. The atmosphere and vibe was amazing, we really sensed God’s blessing in what we were doing and in the unity that this event has bought to Churches locally.

When Churches unite together there is a visable declaration of a shared passion; Jesus. And this can speak volumes to those not involved in Church or on the borders of Church to show that Churches can and do work together, and that this can have an impact on the local community, it is also a reminder to those within Churches that we are family, united, ultimatley, because of Jesus. The little differences in the Churches beliefs and traditions do not affect us working together, and there is beautiful moments of togetherness created if we can put these aside. We, the Church, want to express that Jesus saves and loves everyone, and the events like One highlight this common message.

On Saturday there was also a huge kid’s event, with 110 children, which also bought together many of the local Churches, and their children. Although I did not attend, I have heard brilliant things, a really blessed time with unity at the core.

Church is a community, a group of people, and when the local Churches can look past tradition, denomination etc, new communites are formed and an example is set to adults, children and young people alike that we are all family, who love Jesus, and love people. The message version speaks of God being Lord in our community, it says “The word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood.” This is what these events are about, showing our community that the Church is one. That the Church love their neighbourhood.

Since moving to the South Woodford area I have sensed a really good vibe of togetherness between the Churches, especially with the youth workers, but even more so in the last few months, with monthly youth workers breakfasts and events such as One, and a The Big One, as well as joint work in schools, with Christian Unions and mentoring.

This togetherness is something we should be celebrating, as we see God’s blessing on what we are doing.

My challenge to you is what does the Churches unity look like in your town or area? What examples are you setting in your working together? Is there scope for local pastors or youth pastors to meet regularly or run events together?

 

Have a think, and a pray about it. Feedback is very welcome.

God Bless,

Steph x Image