Friday, January 21, 2011

Guest Post: Stoked. My Youth Work Journey

Me and the 17-Year-Old Version of J.J.
As I have worked with teens throughout the years there are a few that told me that they want to be a youth worker like me.  I find it very honoring that they would consider such a career as it means that I have made some sort of impact in their life, however few of these students have followed through on the thought.  Today I have the honor of introducing J.J. Johnson who not only has committed himself to youth work, but took over a job I had directing the youth ministry at a church when he was just 17.  He now is coming toward the end of a degree in Child and Youth Care at Douglas College.  I asked him to share a bit of his journey. I hope you enjoy it.

    I really fell into this whole ‘youth work’ thing. Wasn’t looking for it but I think it found me and it just won’t let go. The last two-and-a-bit years have taught me the most about my call to be with youth. It has brought many changes – from being on staff and leading a youth group in a church, to working frontline with youth in a city youth centre.

    Now, I don’t recommend that has to be the same pattern for everyone but for me, it was the wake-up call I needed. Instead of my love being in people, it had ended up in all the “other” stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I loved serving in the church, I loved helping but somewhere along the line, my true heart got lost in the mix. The outside looked healthy but the inside was sick. It was time for a break.

    Things are different now. I am a student in Child and Youth Care, learning to hone my skills, challenge my mind and to apply my heart in new ways as I work with youth. Here’s what I took away during my break:

    I have learned that secular and sacred are pretty artificial divisions. People are people; youth are youth (well, youth are people, too). We all struggle with the ups and downs, the hurts and the joys of this life. What a privilege and honour to come along side youth and listen to their stories. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

    I have learned that no matter where I am, I have a part to play in God’s awesome story. Though I don’t have the opportunity to openly ‘preach it’, God has forced me to find fresh ways to live out my faith that are radical and exciting. My identity before was based solely on my position instead of focusing on who I am and bringing my true self to the work.

    Now more than ever, I appreciate the role that I get to play in the life of a young person. Whether it’s making (and eating) pancakes, watching them to do some skateboard tricks (I can’t skateboard... but I’ve played Tony Hawk on Xbox), or just going on a walk around town, it’s all about creating connections and building relationship. It’s sometimes hard, but mostly fun. They are the reason I do what I do.

    Stay stoked and enjoy the journey.
If you would like to get to know J.J. Better you can follow him on twitter by clicking here
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