From the 17th to the 19th of January, I had the chance to go on retreat in Aviemore to attend Deep Impact, the annual conference for Christian youth workers and children's workers. In previous years I had been curious about this conference as I have been working in children's and youth ministry in Scotland since 2007 in the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Scotland. However, the cost of the conference has always kept me away. This year, I was blessed with a grant from ACTS with the rest of my costs covered by my home church, St Philip's, and I was able to go along to the conference for the first time.
It was an amazing opportunity to step back from ministry work for a weekend and instead be ministered to as we gathered in worship several times throughout the weekend which always included a time of prayer. The main speaker, Danielle Strickland was inspiring and entertaining throughout her talks. She shared her ministry experiences and her personal faith with us along with challenges to us, but always with great humour. Her analogy of ministry work being like surfing was what stayed with me the most from the weekend. She explained that you have a long period of paddling, of working so hard to get to your end goal. Then you must wait and sometimes you wait for a really long time to see how that work has come together in your ministry. Then finally, the wave comes in and you can ride that wave of ministry in action working before you must turn back and start paddling again. The wave is so short and the work is so long and sometimes you feel like you are sitting there waiting for far too long, but for that brief moment of joy when the ministry is working and people are connecting to each other and coming to know God, then it is all worth it.
This to me was such a great reminder as sometimes the tasks to get done to put on youth and children's events or put together all age worship or the day-to day of meetings, emails and paper work can just wear you down. However, we have to keep focused on the end goal, on the wave we are aiming for, of drawing young people closer to Christ and we have to be prepared to put in that work and wait the time needed for the ministry to work. All of this is in God's time, not ours and as youth workers and children's workers we must be prepared to rest in that knowledge while we wait but we also must be prepared to put in the hard work to get there.
Aside from the main talks and worship, there was ample time throughout the weekend to make great contacts with fellow youth and children's ministry people over meals, fringe activities and through having a look around the marketplace. There were also four seminar times where you could spend an hour and 15 minutes going deeper into specific topics. There was a great variety of seminar topics offered with excellent speakers.
Overall, the whole experience was an excellent opportunity to recharge, connect and grow as a ministry worker for children and young people. Thank you very much ACTS for sending me!