Transition: Coffee, Study and Books

biblereadingWhat does a staff worker do all day?

Drink Coffee.
Study the bible with students (Christian and those seeking)
And read copious amounts of books…

There is more to it then that, but in a tight nutshell, you could boil the years as a staff worker down to those things and throw in the travel that goes between them.

It has been a privilege to have the time and space to do those things. To spend hours preparing a bible study that will help my students gaze upon Jesus. Looking intently at scripture, opening commentaries and praying for insight as we prep notes and ideas to help students engage with the text. I love the fact that my job is to read the bible…

Now drinking coffee is important. It has to be good coffee. It’s the only way to get through the day, especially the afternoon. Coffee shops became my office and my students knew it! If I asked to meet up with them, they knew it was going to be in a certain coffee shop in town… Welcome to my office. It got to the point where I would walk into the coffee shop and they would know my order before I even asked! Coffee is indeed, a pleasing aroma…

I don’t know how many books I have read over the years, but I have a whole bookcase of books that have been generously given to me and most of them I haven’t read yet! But its been wonderful to have the space to sit and read and get into good theological books, making my brain hurt and fuelling good conversations with friends. Some of my favourite books over the years have been:

  • The Good God – Mike Reeves
  • Serving without Sinking – John Hindley
  • A New Name – Emma Scrivener
  • Popologetics – Ted Turnau
  • Desiring the Kingdom – James K A Smith

Wonderful books that have challenged me, shaped me and it was part of my job to read them! Although none of these things need to stop next year, I just wanted to share my appreciation of having this opportunity and also all the free books. Thanks IVP!

 

Transition: Conferences

NWA1I remember my first real conference. A conference where I was a punter but also part of the team. I was a relay worker and was about to embark on a two-week conference. Lanyards were around our necks, instant coffee was steaming in the corner, nervousness was filling the air. Good times.

Conferences are a strange place. People who look like each other gather together to listen to talks and buy books and drink bad coffee. Sometimes people camp together and it nearly always rains.

I haven’t always enjoyed the conferences I have been to over the years, but the Lord has certainly taught me a lot through them. I have met amazing people and I have heard amazing people speak. I remember listening to Mike Reeves talk about the Trinity for the first time at Forum and I thought my world had collapsed. It was amazing.

I have been a part of the team that serves behind the scenes or in yellow jackets telling herding Christians where to sit and being rather surprised by how angry and rude they are when they can’t sit where they want. The heart spills out, eh? I have also been on a planning committee, working out how a conference should fit together, how best to serve the people, how to problem solve and praying that the Lord would change hearts. I learnt that conferences take a lot of time and effort.

I have been a speaker, opening the bible with people and sharing Jesus, doing group work and seminars. Spending months in prep and prayer. I loved having that opportunity.

nextleadersI have loved conferences where I can meet up with fellow staff workers and chat and pray together, sometimes not seeing each other until the next conference which is months away. I love the randomness, the sharing of rooms and the cake eating.

I love it when students come to Forum or ForumSW and they encounter Jesus. They start to see afresh what the CU is about, they start to catch the vision and then they start planning.

Also conferences are a chance to say goodbye. It is currently Relay 3 as I write this and the relay workers are saying goodbye right now. I remember that and the reality of not staying in touch with people afterwards, but glad of the opportunity to say goodbye. On staff we have final team days next week, a time to say goodbye and thank you. It is good to have time and space for that.

Conferences are a strange bubble. I often find it hard being away and being so close to people that you can’t find any time to just be alone. But conferences have been a huge part of my life over these 6 years and I am glad I have been to them. So thank you for that opportunity.

Transition: Students

coffeemundaneThe best part of my job has been working with students. I think University is certainly a unique time in someones life where they are encapsulated in a bubble. A bubble that is made up of a diverse community where you live, eat and sleep in close proximity to each other.

Life on the other side of this bubble has taught me that you can never replicate your time at Uni, the 4 hours of lectures, the midnight feasts with friends in the same hall, the tesco trips in your PJs. This is where the CU has an outstanding opportunity to really live for Jesus, it is impossible to hide the lamp under the lamp stand because someone will find you out and you will need to explain yourself.

Over my time as a student worker I have come across some extraordinary students. 18-21 year olds who really love Jesus and really want to introduce Him to their friends even though they are so overwhelmingly scared and unsure how to do that, but yet still they want to give it a go. It is crazy to think how much responsibility they have been given – to lead a mission team on campus, to organise events, to turn up to those events and invite people. Sometimes it is messy and they make mistakes, but mostly its a wonderful thing to see.

My highlights are the individuals that I have met up with over the last 6 years, the ones where I have sat with every week opening scripture, praying together, chatting through problems and seeing them wonderfully grow in their love for Jesus.

I have seen a shy student coming to their first small group meeting unsure why they were there and if they were cut out for it, to then going on to being president of the CU a year later.

I have seen a president grasp the idea of what CU is and decided they didn’t want it to be a social club and started a Food for Thought event and invited their friends to hear about Jesus.

The next president decided she wanted a carol service which has never been done by the CU before. I have also seen her grasp who Jesus really is and enjoy reading the bible even more.

I have enjoyed seeing this journey. A journey of faith and growth. A journey of weakness and seeking help.

That’s what I love about student work most of all – investing time with students on a 121 bases. Chatting about Jesus over coffee. Opening the bible. Planning and dreaming together. Watching them grow. Getting to know them and having a laugh.

Wonderful.

Transition: Where it all Began

It all began 10 years ago.

Stepping onto campus as a fresher, stuffing all my things in my room, putting the pot plants on the side knowing they will die in a few days. Bringing hundreds of pots and pans for cooking like everyone else and trying to work out how it was all going to fit in the kitchen.

Freshers week was a mixture of working out what kind of person I was going to be and how I was going to use this fresh new start.

I had heard of the CU but only through a little leaflet that came in my freshers pack advertising their events. I missed most of their meetings that week. It wasn’t until someone in our halls invited me to the CU meeting on a Thursday night that I actually went along and worked out whether I wanted to be a part of this strange group.

I didn’t know that 10 years later I would have invested my life into campus student ministry. It is crazy to think that. I came to Uni wanting to do a computing degree and get a good job and earn money, but the Lord had other plans.

As I look back on those 10 years its hard to imagine what it would have been like if I never went to that CU meeting – I imagine that life would be very different for me.

It makes me so thankful for my time as a student in CU. Thankful for opportunities to serve on committee, to organise a mission week that gave me a flavour and ideas for reaching the campus.

I am thankful for my staff worker willing to meet up with me and answer all of my questions. I am thankful for the friends I made in CU and on my course. Thankful for those years of forming my theology as a young Christian and placing in my heart a high priority to reach the lost.

I am thankful to my church who loved CU and supported me through my time at Uni. I am thankful for the relay workers who spent time serving us and guiding us. I am thankful for the training I got through UCCF and thankful for the people I met.

I am thankful that my staff worker put me in touch with a geeky guy from Reading who was on committee at the same time as me, which resulted in the geeky guy becoming my husband.

Those 4 years of serving in CU, where it all began, where so formative for me. I made so many mistakes, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and yet I was allowed to have a go and develop skills and convictions and passions.

It was near the end of my degree that I realised I wanted to serve in CU for longer and that led me on to the journey as a relay worker in the UK and then in Peru and then as staff worker in the UK.

I really treasure my time as a student in CU and I know it wasn’t perfect, but the Lord used it to change me and form me and I am thankful for all those that invested in me, helped me, corrected me and walked with me on this journey.

Transition

flowersI am about to enter a huge transition phase of my life. Things for me are changing, two of which are fairly huge – leaving my job and moving house.

Last year a friend of mine did several transition posts which helped her reflect on her time as a UCCF Staff Worker and also process what is happening next. I thought I would do the same. I am going to look at it all in three areas: past, present and future while thinking through some of the highlights and challenges that I have been through and some that I will face in the future.

What Ali wrote in her post was really helpful and I will use that as a template:

Things past….(think back on your time)
What have you done? Who have you met? What are you thankful for? Do you have any regrets? What have you learned? How have you grown and changed personally and spiritually? What have you loved? What have you struggled with?

 Things present…(think about the months left )
What people, places, situations do you need to say goodbye to? Who will you keep in touch with and how? What do you need to hold on to? What do you need to let go of? What will you miss? How are you feeling about leaving?

Things yet to come…(think about life after)
What are the next steps? What do you need to do before then? What things will be different? What will be the same? What are the uncertainties? What are your fears? Hopes?

My hope is that it will help me process and celebrate this transition and it will also give you an insight into the life of a UCCF staff worker as well as help you process things, incase you are also going through a time of change as well.

So over the next few months I will putting these posts up in and around other posts I will be writing. I very much welcome comments as I write these posts. Thank you!

Word Alive: 10 Highlights

crazypeopleThis week my husband and I went to Word Alive to serve on the International Track. Here is a snapshot of our time there:

1. Being on the International Student Team and working with a group of people that are very talented and have a heart for the nations.

2. Sunshine and the feeling that spring has arrived

3. Sharing with Josh and Jo – like-minded crazy people who love coffee!

4. Being on the logistics team and doing behind the scenes work so that everything works together.

5. 3 Year Wedding Anniversary

6. Romans 8 and seeing small groups in many different languages getting to grips with God’s Word

7. Coffee catch ups with Kristi Mair

8. Helping to cook Thai Curry for 80 international students

9. Seeing old friends

10. Having non-Christian International groups doing a bible study and asking questions about how they can know God.

It was a really fun week and the last time I will go as a staff worker. But if we were to go back, then serving on the International Team is where our heart is!

Thanks Word Alive for a Great Week!

10 Challenges for a Student Worker

lindsay-brownLast week I was at our UCCF Staff Conference and one my favourite speakers; Lindsay Brown came to speak to us. He has many years of experience in the field of student work and he spoke about the top 10 challenges he has as a student worker, which really impacted me and I would like to share with you.

Here are 10 challenges or pitfalls of a student worker. This is also a list for a missionary or a minister or a student on committee:

1. Lack of clear focus Your vision needs to be clear. What do you want to achieve this year? How are you going to do that? What are you aiming for? Without a clear focus or vision you will just bumble through and probably feel like you haven’t achieved anything.

2. Pride Doing student work is a privilege. All the gifts given to you and me are from God and there is no space for us to be proud. This is an easy one to fall into. With pride comes comparing and competing in an unhealthy way. We think the strength and numbers of the student work is down to us and we will get puffed up in pride.

3. NeglectYou are not a superhero. You can’t do everything. You have to rest, take days off and say no to things. If you neglect your emotional, physical and spiritual needs then you will either have a breakdown half way through or you will finish your time in ministry really hating it.

4. Dryness Keep up your reading. It is easy in ministry to just get on with it. To be productive and write bible studies and talks and meet students. But if you are not daily in the word and prayer and if you are not feeding yourself with reading good books then you will become dry. Everyday tell yourself the Gospel.

5. JealousyLearn to rejoice in Gods work in what others are doing. It is easy to look over at someones patch or ministry and feel jealous that they are doing so well while you struggle over here. We need to learn to rejoice in the ministry that others are doing because again the ministry isn’t about you or even the other person – it is about Jesus.

6. BitternessLearn to develop a bottomless capacity for handling disappointment. In ministry you will get disappointed. Things wont go as you hoped, people will let you down, things will crumble… and that is ok. Grace is the fountain from which all joyful service flows. When things don’t turn out as you expected you either become bitter or better. Choose Better.

7. Short-termismLeave a legacy. Don’t just think about tomorrow or this term. Think about long-term – the next 3 to 5 years. What is your vision for them? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? What are you aiming for? Build for life. What do you want to invest in now so that it builds foundations for the future?

8. Isolation It’s a team game. Student work can feel very isolating. I know I have felt that at times. However we were never made to be on our own. Ministry is a team game. So gather people to journey with you, to pray and support you, to mentor you and guide you and to do ministry together. You can’t do this on your own.

9.Desire for StatusThere is a cost for all Christian Service. It is easy to like and love the status that comes with being a staff worker or minister. You get an identity that makes you feel important. But that will soon come crashing down. If you desire status you will be disappointed and will soon run out of joy.

10. Danger of giving up because of discouragementFinish Well. Don’t give up when things aren’t going well. Don’t give up when the CU is diminishing in number, your 121s don’t turn up, the SU wont let you use rooms, when people don’t understand and critique your ministry, when you see no one come to Christ for years… don’t give up. Persevere. Keep Going. It is the Lord that does the work, we just scatter the seeds. Turn to him in your discouragement and lean upon him for strength.

All those 10 things I have come across myself and hearing them from Lindsay was a real challenge. I hope for all of us in what ever ministry we are doing are able to be encouraged and challenged by these things.