Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Challenge

So, "The Challenge" part one is complete. What a whirlwind it was, but what an adventure, a huge learning curve and a fantastic opportunity. (Have a look here if you missed the last description- I worked on the Team Challenge 4 times).

It was interesting repeating the same program 4 times with 4 different staff groups and 4 different teams of young people. So often on residential trips, the people and individual events are what make a program what it is, but in this case the program became detached from the people. It means that we as residential mentors were able to learn from the mistakes of others and pass them on to subsequent leaders, and equally learn that there are many ways of approaching the same problem.

Each week I worked with a team of young people and a Senior Mentor (who had spent the previous week doing outdoor pursuits with the team) on the Enterprise program. I saw a lot of different leadership styles, from very hands-on to very detached, and I saw the benefits of each. I hope that I began to learn where guidance is needed and where it can be withheld. I saw problem-solving techniques and ways to address motivation within a team, and learned the value of admitting and apologising for mistakes. I learned new behaviour management skills. I broke up my first fights. I enforced discipline rules. I learned that you don't have to be "cool" to relate to the cool kids. You just have to care.

I also found fellowship in surprising places. I haven't "been to church" in two months as a result of various work commitments but I have found that the church is all around me. A number of the staff that I worked with across the different waves were Christians (and a number of them would shudder to hear that word describing them but that's a story for another time), which was odd because I've never really encountered Christians outside of a Christian setting before. My first senior mentor fed me worship music on the minibus on the way to our workshops, and had me singing Matt Redman songs whilst the team were planning debates in an activity one day. One of the teens in another group said grace and prayed for the entire team when we had a meal out in a restaurant on their last night. I shared a room one week and we stayed up late talking about our experience of church and finding what we really believe for ourselves. My challenge is to become as comfortable talking about God in these situations as we are talking about church. But that will come.

I don't really know what else to say! There's so much inside of me and so many thoughts and experiences but I can't quite get them into words. I guess I was a little bit surprised that I succeeded. I live under no false pretences- I know I'm not cool and not particularly streetwise and my life experiences are a million miles from any of those kids, from private or state schools. But I can be there for them and care for them. I can also learn to do those things that I find difficult: be the loud, bouncy, motivating person; enforce discipline where it is needed; direct big groups of people. I can make friends quickly and learn 50 names every week for a month. Sure, there's lots of things to improve on and I have huge lists of that too but I aint too bad at all!

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