Recently I’ve been doing my best to encourage anyone I know to come to Youthwork Summit 2012. Email, conversations, printing ‘45 reasons‘ and posting them up around the office & leaving programmes conspicuously on peoples desks.
Whilst doing that I have been reflecting on why I loved last years summit so much.
Last year I was in a place where I knew I needed to get back into ‘christian’ youth work of some kind – having worked in a secular setting for previous 2 years. Whilst looking for jobs I felt I needed something to help prepare me. I read a lot about #YWS11 amongst the various youth workers I follow on Twitter and decided to travel up to Manchester.
One of the things I have always found about youth work is how isolated I’ve felt. I think its partly the nature of our work and partly the nature of where I live – there just aren’t many other youth workers around. But at Youthwork Summit I found a huge sense of solidarity and oneness. A sense that I was with a group of people that understood what I did, that understood the struggles and the joys. There was teaching that engaged with the things I get excited about. Worship that enabled me to actually worship wholeheartedly in a way I had not for ages. In a sense it felt like church, or rather how church should be.
Since the summit and back on Twitter I’ve now found even more youth workers to follow, and in doing so the same sense of solidarity. I’ve no idea whether all the other youth workers on Twitter know each other offline, but in some of these conversations online that I’ve had, and I’ve overread of others, there is a sense of community amongst like minded individuals and support for each other.
One of the many things I took away from the summit was a challenge about online identity reflecting your real self (I can’t do the talk justice here so watch the video if you were not there [Youtube]). But what I have realised is that in many ways Youthwork Summit was a reflection of the community on Twitter. Or the people I met and sense of solidarity I felt at YWS11 is closely reflected by the conversations that continue online.
Maybe last years summit just came at the right time for me having been made redundant and in a church that felt like it was in meltdown I needed people but I also needed to get away. A few months on, I’m in a much better place than I was, and perhaps YWS12 won’t mean quite as much. But I don’t think so. At the beginning of the term we had a team quiet day, and it was great to be given permission to stop, to pray, to reflect and to read. And I can’t wait for 18/19th for another chance to stop, to hear teaching relevant to me, to worship and pray, to reflect and talk. And to do that with my brothers and sisters.