Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Best Day in Ministry: Shae Pepper

The final guest post in our series is yet another with international flavor.  Shae Pepper is a Professional Youth Worker and has been for the last seven years.  She was also a Volunteer Youth Worker for seven years. She has a Master’s in Youth Work and Community Development from DeMontfort University in Leicester, England. Shae has provided training for youth workers in England, the USA and Rwanda. She has worked with young people aged 8-21 in England, Rwanda, the USA and Thailand.  She, and her husband, recently started Youth Workin’ It, a consultancy service and blog designed to equip and support youth workers and youth organizations around the world. This supports her personal and professional goals to provide better services and programs for young people worldwide.

“My best day in youth ministry.” I have been ruminating over this one for over a week now.  Talking about it with my husband, thinking about it while driving, while eating, while working out…my conclusion: is it possible to pick just one?!  I LOVE working with young people.  It is one of the main reasons I get up each day and one of the main things I enjoy most about my life.  It is exciting, funny, serious, crazy, weird and wonderful all in the same session

Although I’m not a parent, often I feel what I think most parent’s feel- joy and satisfaction when a young person learns something new, makes their best choices, follows their dreams and shows appreciation.  As someone without kids, I feel like this is how I’m fulfilling the whole ‘go forth and multiply’ part of the Bible.  When people ask if I have any kids first I say, ‘no’ then I say ‘actually, yeah, hundreds’ and then go on to tell about my various young people who I’ve seen grow and change during the time I worked with them. 

I’m sorry Carl, I tried so hard to get it down to just one day that was my best in youth work.  But I couldn’t.  There are just too many good stories (you did the right thing by making this blog to share all of yours), too many positive changes, too many games, scavenger hunts, fundraisers, smiles, tears and one-to-one chats to just pick one day.  And so, here are my top five days or moments in youth work and ministry:

5.  Youth Participation in Action- In that first youth group that my husband and I worked in together in the UK, we empowered the youth to do their own youth service.  They were excited, planned it all, did talks, special dance, planned and led the worship… everything!  In the end, the 8 of them got 80 (!!!!!) of their friends together for a youth service.  I love that they were motivated to take the lead, and used the experience of supportive adults, to make something happen for their friends that was awesome. 

4.  World Travelers Loving the Lord- My husband and I worked with a group of youth when I first moved to the UK.  He’d been working with them for years and knew them well, I was the outsider.  But over time I got to know them.  Although I still feel like ‘step-youth-worker’ to them, because he was the one who built all the relational capital with them over the years, I love them all just the same and want the very best for them.  Two young ladies from that group have served or are serving in a missionary capacity overseas.  I love that they learned to love Christ through their time in our youth group and took that love to others around the world- not being afraid to go and tell.

3.  Sharing Hotel Rwanda- I showed Hotel Rwanda to a group of youth during a World Awareness session, at which time we discussed global issues and what happened in Rwanda in 1994 (most of the youth in the room were only 1 or 2 when that happened, and it’s not exactly on every school curriculum in the UK or US).  The next week ‘John’ a 15 year old boy, came back to tell me that he’d rented it and watched it with his aunt and told her all about what happened.  I couldn’t believe that a teenage boy would take the time to do all that, based on the session.  He was really touched by the message and internalized it so much he shared it with others.  I love that he shared what he learned with an adult he cared about.

2.  Seeing Salvation & Baptism- One of the young ladies from #4 made a decision to follow Christ during our time with that youth group.  And the other young lady in that story, was instrumental in leading her toward Christ.  Seeing her make such a radical decision and then a few years later seeing her go public with that decision through baptism filled me with such pride.  I love that she is still radically excited about what Christ did for her on the cross and that she shares it so openly with others, at home and abroad.

1.  One-to-one chats- This is more than one day or moment, but really any time I get one-to-one time with young people, or even just 2-3 of them together it makes my day.  I can remember a grocery trip with ‘Amber,’ where the clerk asked if she was my daughter (I replied, ‘not naturally but in my heart, yes’ – we were group home parents at the time for five teenage girls).  Or the time where I took ‘Olivia’ to Chipotle and we talked about family and how boys should treat girls in a relationship.  Helping ‘Sarah’ with a job hunt at a hair salon, walking up and down the high street (which was on a steep hill so it was quite a feat!) collecting and returning applications and then stopping for a muffin and a cocoa.  There was ‘Tim’ who wanted to be a plumber and shared about his desire to open his own plumbing business one day.  And ‘Kevin’ who was a refugee from Zimbabwe, who shared about his experience having to leave his home in just three days.  Or ‘John’ who shared about his experiences in the Rwandan Genocide.  Not to mention last night when I talked about Lebron and Kobe with ‘Wes’ and ‘Tom’ who had nowhere to be but outside on a cold, rainy night in a rough neighborhood.  I love spending time with young people, hearing their stories, their likes, their dislikes, what’s most important to them (even if it’s not what’s most important to me), their dreams and goals and their interesting and often funny way of viewing the world. 

So there it is- my top five.  I probably could sit and write pages and pages of how much I enjoy my vocation and the young people I get to spend my time with.  In my opinion, it’s the best ‘job’ in the whole world.  These memories, probably like the ones you have from your time in youth work, mean more to me than a paycheck, a nice car or new clothes- they overshadow the long hours, the time away from friends and family as well as the mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that sometimes creeps in.  I encourage you to think of your own ‘best days’ and try to make each day with your youth ‘the best day in youth ministry’ ever!

~Shae Pepper

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