On The Streets, Legends & a UK Takeover

I like talking. 

Who am I kidding I LOVE TALKING!

Truth is I would rather talk than write which is why I hardly ever post on here ...

So you can imagine my excitement when Justin Herman challenged me to host a UK takeover of the Controlled Chaos Podcast. The Controlled Chaos podcast is based in the US and aims to encourage, inspire and challenge Christians working alongside 11 – 14yrs olds (junior high school age). Their weekly podcast features interviews, top tips and signposts listeners to some great resources. Calling youth workers to think about why they do what they do. I really enjoy listening to it. Yes the contexts are different to mine, very different, but that is one of the things I love the most, learning, agreeing, disagreeing. All of it gifts me 30 mins a week to reflect on what is important within my context. I think listening makes me a better youth worker, anyway we have digressed ... 

Within the UK takeover episode I got to interview Dr Andrew Root as he shared some thoughts on faith formation in a secular age during his recent visit to the UK. I am a total fan girl of Andy, as he likes to be called. I had begged every friend I know who works at the Salvation Army to try and get a ticket to his learning day with them. Thankfully they took pity on me and let me in, cheers friends! Sitting with Andy was a very surreal experience for me, he is someone I have looked up to, felt challenged by and amen'ed to for YEARS. Truly spending 15 mins one on one with him was a gift. FYI he is a really lovely human, he's funny, generous and humble and a bundle of sunshine. If you can, go hang out with him.  

In the interview Andy reflects on many things including the messy wrestling of those of us who walk alongside young people outworking the values of authenticity, integrity and accountability in their own lives as we seek to practice what we preach. I know only too well the challenges this can curate. He speaks passionately about the importance of narrating experiences, sharing story and testimony as an aspect of activism, something that many of my fellow FYT movement members will have experienced in their settings and something we have seen the benefits from within the LGBTQ section of the church. 

Towards the end of the interview though Andy shares what excites him about UK youth ministry. I had no idea where this question was going but his response was perfect for me. Perhaps he is so divine he can read my heart, or maybe we are just wired a smidge similar.
Anyhow, Andy reflects that in the UK, the people of God, have a missional heart for young people who are outside of the walls of the institutional church. And he gets excited by this. I get excited by this! 

At FYT we are home to oddles of youth minister/workers/facilitators/humans who are all seeking to connect with young people outside of the walls of the church. Not that the young people within the walls don't need connection but the truth is, that for us in the UK, there are more outside than inside. It is simple maths. 

Whilst the picture of ministering alongside young people in the US is somewhat different to our UK context this does not mean that they will not be facing some of the challenges we have seen in the days ahead. We often look to the US for answers but in many aspects we are ahead of the world trends. As I say in the interview; we are not winning. 

Andy’s excitement for the UK’s pioneering and prophetic spirit lends perfectly to the second half of the podcast. From the moment I was asked to record it I knew I wanted to be able to champion great youth work practice. So off the back of Andy's reflection I interviewed two amazing practitioners from within the FYT movement. Both are based in London, although in different parts and both are great role models to the rest of us, encouraging all of us to take a risk and to go meet young people where they are at. For me they offer us a snap shot of what walking the way of Jesus today looks like:

  • Tadz – is part of Courtyard supporting Catholic parishes to engage and accompany young people, to respond to their needs and aspirations. Volunteers meet young people 'where they're at' in the community: streets, parks or schools; and encourage them, when appropriate, to come to a 'Courtyard space' in the parish. 
  • Helen – is part of Worth Unlimited’s Waltham Forest branch  taking a mobile youth venue to young people living on housing estates. The bus hosts exciting activities is space to play and enjoy life but they also place a high emphasis on the team coming alongside young people to journey with them within positive intergenerational relationships.
Thing is I am and will always be a fan girl of those who are seeking to connect others to the divine rhythm. It is why I love youth work conferences, it is not so much about the seminars or talks but it is all about who you'll meet in the seat next to you. Recognising that we all have experience and practice to contribute to the bigger story. 

You can listen to the UK take over episode of the podcast HERE or head over to both the Courtyard and Worth Unlimited websites to find out more about them and what they are doing. At FYT we want to continue to build a home for pioneer youth workers, supporting and encouraging them to take risks and advocating to others the great practice that comes from this, but we can’t do this alone. Will you join us in this adventure?   

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