Thursday, December 13, 2012

Help! I've got a work experience student for a week!

So God created mankind in his own image… Genesis 1:27a

For seven days you have a bright-eyed teen to craft into your own image…
An apprentice who will glean the nuggets of wisdom which flow out of your mouth…
A Padawan to pass on your odd quirks and hear all your bad jokes…

This is the point of having a work experience student with you.
Isn't it???

A fortnight ago I had a year 10 student from the local high school alongside me.

I couldn't recommend it highly enough because it was a great week.

And over the last week I learnt one thing. Having a work experience student with you is not primarily about youth ministry.

It is about helping the young person find their sweet spot (If you’re the kind of Christian who chiefly plays cards, board games or Call of Duty, the sweet spot is a sporting term you can read about at

Having a work experience student with you is, at the core, about helping them discern who God made them to be (know themselves) and what He might be forming them to do (know their call).

Over the last week I tried to achieve this in three ways.

First, I wanted to student to determine his spiritual gifts, discover his personality type, examine his history, identify his natural abilities and work out what gives him energy. Through a series of surveys, reflections and conversations we discerned what things he was good at and where he might be effectively used to build up the body of Christ (in paid ministry or as a volunteer).

Second, we read “What Matters Most” by Doug Fields (you can get it from for under $10), chatting about the book over lunch every day.

Every youth minister should read this book.

And so should every mechanic, nurse, lawyer, single mother and garbage man.

The reason? I believe the book is not just about youth ministry. It is about knowing what is really significant and using these top priorities to shape what you agree to do.

No matter if my work experience student decides to go into youth ministry or another vocation, I wanted to arm him with an ability to discern what is really important.

Third, as tempting as it was to take him water-skiing and utilise my newly acquired golf caddie, he accompanied me everywhere during a “normal” week (as if youth ministry ever has one!). He came to meetings - both fun and pretty dull; he helped me write a talk (a sex talk!), being involved from the start, implementation and in post-event dissection; he did the same scripture lesson three times.

He caught a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes. He saw the preparation which went into scripture lessons, church services and youth group.

He saw that youth ministry was not just eating McDonalds and bouncing between sugar fixes. Just like every job, ministry has parts which are not glamorous, nor altogether enjoyable.

Sometimes, to quote my minister, you need to “eat the dead rat.”

Sure, we did do some unusual, memorable things. We attended worship with the Korean-speaking congregation (which none of us could understand) and climbed the church bell tower (which neither of us had done before).

But, if the aim this week was to shape this young man into my youth-minister-image, then I failed.

Luckily, when you have a work experience student alongside you for a week, this is not the aim…

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