Influence….you just never know…

We may never know the influence that we really have, we may never know what impact the words we have uttered will bring into the lives of other individuals. There is something extraordinary in the way we can bring influence to bear, even better when that influence is for good.
A few years back, I was privileged to hear the story of a young man who had grown in wisdom and stature with his home church. Now a leader, he sought me out to share a few things about his life and the direction that he was now pursuing. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. At the end of a bible study programme, he had spoken with me and apparently the words I said, long since forgotten by me (but not him), challenged him to action and a course that would enable his creativity to live. I had no idea….
This week, I spoke with a former work colleague. He shared that I had been influential in his life and that he had considered me to be a mentor during his time in the organisation. I had no idea….
The life you live, the words that you say, the influence you may have may be powerful beyond your lifetime. You just never know the influence that you may be having on the people around you, the changes people are making because you are present….your life, your ways….they are influential, you need to start believing it and acting on it. Make your words a tool for the good, a positive force for others and as you do so, change the world!
Influence…you just never know…

Joel Manby Quotes

I have been attempting to prepare for organisational change and so have been reading a variety of materials over the last little while. It is always difficult to get the balance right as you do not want to preempt the work of others but in my reading I have come across a plethora of quotes that have worked for me in a host of ways. Some quotes from Joel Manby that have resonated with me.

“A leader may decide something, but the whole organization needs to execute it”

“Don’t confuse disagreement with conflict”

“The unfortunate news is that the more senior you are in your organization, the more difficult it is to get the truth about how you’re performing”

“organisations talk about values, but few truly integrate those values into how leaders are evaluated and chosen and how organisational results are measured.”

What is going on?

split screen by thehutch
split screen, a photo by thehutch on Flickr.

Do you ever get a day where all sorts of things are happening around you but none of it makes sense? It can be quite off putting, especially when you have a personal clarity and everything else that others throw in seems to be ‘skewed’ to you but so clever to them.
Life can be like that, there is unlikely to be a seismic shift that changes the landscape, you just have to knuckle down and accept it, hard though that seems, or get out and do something different.
It may appear wise to think outside the box but the box still exists, where possible you have to enlarge the box so that the bigger world you dream of is attained or remain content and do nothing. That is organisations and the life they espouse. Don’t waste time fighting, if necessary spend time changing, even when the journey seems long and hard, even when you feel that you do not fit, even when you feel alone. In time, it will be worth it, stick with it, be patient and, in the meantime, fight for what is right and what is just. Seriously, it will be worth it.

The world is different now

split screen by thehutch
split screen, a photo by thehutch on Flickr.

Have you ever experienced one of those moments when everything changes? There is no going back, things will never be the same, life will be different now.
Life is full of moments like this but some of them are easier to take in our stride than others. Do not mourn the past, enjoy it and build upon it. The past is the foundation for today whilst today is the building blocks for tomorrow.

Youthwork: Something has to change

This is an article that I wrote for “Changing London” published February 2013

Something has to change!

There has rarely been a better time to engage with young people in the city than today. It is a time of opportunity, a time to hope, and a time to engage in the lives of the young, in order that we may make a difference, spiritually and socially, one life at a time. Yet, there seems to be hesitancy, even within the church, regarding people engaging with young people. You may disagree, for the number of youth workers employed by churches is impressive – yet I suspect this may be a part of the problem. Have we abdicated our responsibilities to the ‘professional’ few? And for those church members that are engaging with young people, are we doing so beyond our own walls or do we cater just for our own? There are plenty of church members who have uttered the phrase, ‘I was involved in the youth work once…’ If that is you, is it time to engage again?

In working with young people, as we all know, it would be wrong to say that there are no difficulties; our media paints a less than hopeful story of the nation’s youth, often focussing on headline stories that relate to negative behaviour; and the current time of austerity means that many statutory services which support young people are disappearing. These difficulties should not overwhelm us, however, but should spur the church into action.

Youth work essentially encompasses three things; good and trusting relationships between youth and adults, a positive peer group, and provision of opportunity. The nature of youth work, perhaps especially in an urban mission context, is not glamorous, demands much time and effort, and may feel fruitless on occasions. However, with perseverance and the willingness to be present in the lives of young people we will see that we can be effective.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that ‘every attempt to impose the gospel by force, to run after people and proselytise them, to use our own resources to arrange the salvation of other people, is both futile and dangerous.’ These words also ring true in youth work: we see that the most effective strategies demand great patience and sensitivity as we wait for the opportunities of sharing life and faith. The secret of good youth work and ministry is to have a meaningful presence, where we choose to grapple with the issues young people face (with the young people, rather than for them), over the long term. The issues will vary from borough to borough, estate to estate and even street to street, yet one thing is forever consistent: the need for sustained, positive relationships.

Projects and programmes may need ‘professionals’ to sustain them, but the need for ongoing and positive relationship is far easier to fulfil – and it is easy to begin. Who are the young people in your life? Do you listen to them? How do you engage with them? Give them some time, listen to them and journey with them.

The results may surprise you. You may discover that youth work is not work, rather an extension of your life. And you may then discover that God provides greater opportunity to work with young people. In a wider context, the Christian community is almost certainly the best placed to meet the current needs and requirements of providing good youth provision that transforms lives and communities. The opportunities are endless, the church has the resources, but to be effective… something has to change!

Thinking strategically is not enough!

In leadership circles, it is regular to hear people talk about ‘thinking strategically’ but thinking strategically is not enough, you need to act strategically too! You can have the greatest ideas, the best plans and vision oozing out of every pore in your body but unless it leads to action, it will be as meaningless as a chocolate fire guard. When there is a good marriage between the thinking and the acting there is another significant action that is required, sacrifice. There are very few, if any, leaders that have achieved anything without sacrifice. When the three things come together, you have a very powerful foundation to bring productive change and, as we know, change is always with us and needs to be managed effectively, after all, thats why we need leaders!

excuse culture

It is all too common to hear excuses, unfortunately many without basis or need, that are used to hide blame or ignore problems.  Far better to be in an environment that accepts responsibility than using excuses for why things are not as anticipated.

“That was before my time here”

“I was not consulted on this”

“I did not know enough detail”

“there is always a significant lead-in time that we had not anticipated”

There are many more, but these are an example of an excuse culture – once in a while they may be valid, often they are not.

what next… lent is over

So many people gave things up for Lent…..just over 40 days where they abstained, removed or altered their lifestyle.  Easter Sunday saw many of them eat chocolate, stop the workouts, engage on social networks again and more.

The question that I now have, if you go back to the way you were before, why bother at all?  If it changes things, if you are different, if reflection has led to change then, and only then, it becomes worthwhile.  If not, it is possible that it was a pointless exercise.

So, now that Lent is over, what’s next?

redundancy – time for change

Seems as if news of redundancy is everywhere at the moment, both known and those about to hit – taking various forms and done in different ways – yet the result remains the same, pain, hurt, mixed emotions, hope, promise and change.  In the world of youthwork and ministry we are seeing significant losses as a result of finance, restructuring and new circumstances.  We should not be surprised as there are limits to the financial pots that remain, cuts have to be made somewhere and although we care passionately and will shout for our friends there are often the forgotten people….the friends and colleagues who remain.  They also have emotions to deal with and have to develop new ways of working, new systems and strategies – let’s not forget them.

However, there is another thing on my mind…..change.  In my 20 years in youth related activity, the ones who usually shout the loudest for change have been the youth bods, they deal with it everyday and have to respond quickly and efficiently.  Yet, our responses to the redundancies, and proposed redundancies, seek to maintain the status quo.  Why is that?  What if we looked at the changes thrown at us in a different light?  What if the changes being thrown at many in the youthwork world were the beginnings of a new way of working?  What if the redundancies, that we are becoming aware of, are just the start of something stronger, something more able to accommodate the needs, aspirations and dreams of young people?  We have ridden a wave these last years, maybe the bubble has burst, just maybe something better is around the corner.  I may just be dreaming but there has to be hope, there has to be something we can cling to.  Surely?  Please?

Don’t get me wrong, I am hurting for those who have received letters and meetings.  I have been on both sides of this fence in these last 12 months and the pain is very real but I am beginning to question whether the systems/models we have created in youthwork and ministry are the appropriate ones.  If the current financial meltdown is anything to go by, we have created a way of working that is not altogether sustainable in financial terms for the cycles of boom and bust or, at the very least, a model that the financiers are not seeing as priority when credit is at a premium.  I think we need to face some changes in the way we operate and the way we finance youth work and ministry in the coming years – there has to be a better way and in my belief there are no better people than youthworkers to begin to make those changes.

So what is a/the solution?  That is something that I am thinking through.  We are seeing networks beginning to develop into partnerships more than has happened before, just maybe this is the firstfruits of something special.  I hope so.


youth specialties changes

change is an interesting thing but today was shocked to read about the latest round of change in Youth Specialties.  The statement on their website gives little clarity but I have to hope that these changes are for the best, yet somehow the news has given me a heavy heart.  Hope those in the middle of it all, especially Marko, find hope and new direction on their journey.  Big hugs to everyone of the heroes at YS.