10 things to do to start the term
The summer is over, the last of the mud is off your flip-flops and September has once again jumped into view out of nowhere. So here at Youthwork HQ we want to guide you through this first week. We know you’ll have rotas and an annual plan already filed, printed in triplicate and circulated, but often in the busyness we miss out some start-of-year essentials. So here are 10 of our suggestions to make the rest of your year at least 7% better.
1. Write/re-write your mission statement. We often tell our young people that ‘without vision the people perish’ (another one to file under dubious Bible translations), but how often do we sit down and look where we are going? Perhaps you cast a vision for your ministry years ago, or maybe it’s something you’ve never got round to. So sit down, either on your own or with your team and ask God to guide you as you seek to jump on his bandwagon, rather than expecting him to jump on yours.
2. Organise a volunteers’ night out/in. At the start of a year it is incredibly important to remind ourselves that our volunteers are human beings, real people whose dedication to youth ministry often outdoes employees of a church. So take some time to connect with them on a human level, with no agenda other than enjoying each other’s company, over a curry, a competitive game of Mario Kart or whatever takes your fancy.
3. Get Tweeting. You may have resisted it until now, but getting a Twitter account isn't a fatuous waste of time and energy - it's a brilliant way of connecting with hundreds and thousands of other youth workers online. It's free, takes about three minutes to set up, and connects you to like-minded people who share your passion for Jesus and for young people, and who'll become a support to you through those long winter months... Start by following @youthworkmag, and the rest should become clear! In fact, everything after that can be read-up in our handy guide to twitter here.
4. Get two books. We are hereby giving you permission to get off Facebook and leave Twitter alone for a moment (Point 3 will still be there when you return). Take yourself off to a bookshop and peruse the shelves, looking out for two books to take back home with you. (Okay, Amazon will do just fine if you really can’t leave the screen). Look for one book that will challenge or enhance your youth ministry. Maybe it’s NOT specifically about youth work. What will stretch or inform how you do things? Then pick something completely different. What’s going to build you up, encourage you, or give you some food for thought? And if it’s been that long since you were actually in a physical bookshop, remember that you need to pay for those before you leave…
5. Book into an event. This Autumn there are two great, contrasting and complimentary youth ministry events in the UK. The Youthwork Summit is one-day event in Manchester in October; November's Youthwork the Conference is a weekend convention in Eastbourne. Both have early-day options available. Choose one - book both if you can - and in every case, try to persuade someone else to foot the bill...
6. Create an opportunity for the church/school/community to find out what you are doing. Don’t throw yourself into your autumn programme without getting the rest of your community running alongside you. Make opportunities to share your vision for the coming term, bring everyone up to speed on summer happenings and allow people to own the vision (see point nine for more). Maybe it’s time to enlist a few older helpers on to your team if your volunteers lean towards the younger side of adulthood (and vice versa). There’s much wisdom to be gleaned from those who’ve gone before us, and those who travel behind us.
7. Put in a call to young people going to university. You might not have seen these new-found students for ages or they may be close to collapse at the mere thought of being in a different postcode to you. Either way, the knowledge that your support and prayers exist even when they leave the confines of home can be a vital foundation in changing times.
8. Compile a list and contact young people you haven’t seen in a while. Think back long ago to the days before the summer holidays began and your routine began to lag. Which young people were you seeing regularly that you’ve not seen since? Which young people made a small appearance in your programme but have not kept in touch? Why not take some of these young people out for a coffee, find out how their summer’s been and chat about the coming term?
9. Book in a retreat. Time is precious and in short supply - within a few weeks your whole term will be full of important dates and things to do. Before the calendar gets flooded, carve out AT LEAST ONE DAY to slow down, pray, read, reflect, and be silent with God. We lead out of who we are; we disciple out of our own discipleship journey. Book some time in that calendar NOW to ensure your own spiritual tank isn't running on fumes by Christmas.
10. Remind yourself why you’re doing it. There’s a glorious Biblical precedent for creating altars to remind God’s people of where they have been and what God has done in and through them. This was never about them living in the past (or at least it shouldn’t have been), but instead about reminding them of the saving power of their God and their purpose on this journey. At the beginning of another year in youth ministry it is great to remind ourselves of why we do what we do, what God has done and how excited we are about what is to come.
And most importantly of all, if you haven’t already, get yourself a subscription to Youthwork magazine