more reflections on the job…

The past few weekends of youth group/youth programmes have highlighted for me the pain involved with this line of work. A month or so ago, reflecting on Eastercamp, I told of how the beauty of youth work is that you get to experience life with young people. When they discover Christ, we see him with them.

But then…
…the pain of youth work is that you get to experience life with young people.

Yes, I did just say the same thing.

I’ve spent the last year and a half journeying with a young person who has more rough edges than anyone we could ever know. They have a thick rock solid shell that seemingly protects them from re-experiencing pain. On the surface, this young person is just your average bad-ass. They swear, drink, stay out all night, and at 14 one might be worried. But I see more than just a ‘bad-ass’. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in this job.

The other night, we ran a disco and while I was there, I had a chat with their younger sibling. Young sibling was absolutely the most beautiful kid anyone could ever meet (I say that about a lot of kids I know). They were friendly, talkative, and just a pleasure to converse with. They expressed that they never wanted to turn out like older siblings, always in trouble with the law and always so broken.

Life handed this crew of siblings a hard deal. Mum walked out leaving dad to raise the kids. Whenever I talk to them, I think to myself, “how could anyone do that to you?” “How could someone not love you?”
I just don’t understand.

You know, sometimes when people ask what the hardest part of my job is, I want to say it’s the long hours and the hardcore commitment it requires, but it’s so much more. Commitment is so much more. The pain is in experiencing their pain. You don’t just get to celebrate the joys of a young person but you have to deal with the pain they experience, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll shed your fair share of tears.
As you watch the tennis matches that parents play, serving their kids from one house to another, you cry. And your tears are just a drop in the ocean of tears that the kids themselves have already cried, both inwardly and outwardly.

I won’t attempt to paint a glamorous picture that portrays youth work as all fun and games, because it most certainly isn’t. It’s painful. It takes a huge degree of commitment because if you walk out, you’re just another one on a list of many. Friends and family keep trying to lure me out of Christchurch with this idea that I’d be doing the same thing in another place, but I won’t have the same kids. I don’t want to be part of the list of people who walk out. I’ve done that before to a group of young people and I’ve never felt worse.


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