At the Youthworker Movement a founding principle is that we are each other’s best resource. Nobody understands your context or my context exactly but the person most likely to be helpful in listening is another Youthworker going through similar struggles and mountain top experiences. A frequent conversation I find myself in with Youthworkers is this need for true community. So, here are 7 Ways you could start to find this connection:
1) Call the Youthworker at the nearest Church to yours and offer to buy them lunch/dinner/coffee. This might seem like a no-brainer but it is actually rarely done. Even if that Church is another denomination your Youth will have some common overlap.
2) Call your Conference or Regional Office and find out when the next area Youthworker meeting is going to happen. In the UMC (my context) most Annual Conferences have some way for Youthworkers to connect on a monthly basis. Sometimes this means the AC buys lunch to “help” people want to come. Sometimes a training module is involved. Sometimes worship and/or Bible study. Sometimes it is simply sharing the journey together.
3) If you have a smaller regional gathering, a district or city affinity group, one of your fellow Youthworkers should know about it. Check with the National Network of Youth Ministers or post a question on The Youthworker Movement Fan Page on Facebook.
4) Organize the fun people you met working at summer camp! Maybe they all live too far away to meet monthly but plan an overnight retreat once a semester. Plan in time to play as well as to share stories. Pool your resources to bring in a Spiritual Director for the retreat and go deep. There are many directions you can go and if it is meaningful, even more Youthworkers will want to join you for the next one you plan.
5) If there are enough Youthworkers close by, form a weekly lunch group, or Bible Study, or bowling team. While it is good to have folks outside of Youthwork to do these things with as well, it can empower your ministry to build a group like this and you are creating the space and time and trust to really know who to call when you are having a bad day or a terrible week.
6) Volunteer to lead one of our knew Skype based Affinity Groups for some simple 4 week sessions. (E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you want in on the start up.) Geography won’t hold these groups back because it will all be Internet based until you maybe plan to meet up at a Youth Specialties Convention. Here is the basic idea: you will have 2 things in common 1) you are a Youthworker, 2) you like ________________________ . Fill in the blank: Russian literature, adolescent development issues, scrapbooking, foodies, Bible Study, theology, biking, hiking, gardening, vampires, you get the idea….. Then you use these affinities to build connections and develop the ability to have a Youthworker you can truly connect with, even if it is only on-line.
7) Lastly, for those who can only do 1 thing a year: get involved in an annual event like Perkins School of Youth Ministry or Duke Youth Academy and plan to be there every year and make connections and encourage the friends you make to keep coming back each year also. This can be such a rewarding connection over time.
I am in my 3rd decade of Youthwork. Truly without these types of connections I would not have made it past year 2 or 3. This connection for you is more important than any class you can take or any resource you can download on the Internet.
Maybe you have even better ideas than these 7. Please share them here in the comments section so that we can ALL gain from your experience. And know this, at The Youthworker Movement, somebody is praying for YOU everyday. That is really the Ultimate and greatest connection, that we are One in Christ Jesus. Blessings to you on your journey!
Peace and Grace,
Charles W. Harrison