Im writing this with lots of emotions, feelings and thoughts running around my head. Part of me feels sadness and loss, for part of me theres a sense of having tried and put alot of effort into something and it just not happen, that theres an abrupt change of pace, part of me tries to put on a brave face, part of me is even slightly relieved, that an probable impossibility has come to an end.
Less that 3 hours ago the decision was approved by my trustees to start the process of closing down the charity that i work for. Even though this was the decision this evening, the writing has been on the wall a while, so its not a shock today, more an inevitable stage along whats been an ongoing process since the beginning of the year.
Its not new, I’m guess that most youth workers have been made redundant. Many youthworkers have lost jobs, moved on from them. Many have faced horrific cuts, changed roles and shifts due to funding streams and council priorities.
However, what the last few months, and few hours has brought the fore, is that the three words; Closure, Failure and Redundancy seem difficult to have conversations about. It would be odd to put ‘today I failed in my youth work practice’ as a facebook post – or ‘our church is making the vicar redundant’ on the diocese website – for example. Yet the reality is that these things happen. But they’re the things that go underground. And because they’re not talked about so much- how can we prepare others for them as almost an inevitability? The alternative is not to bother and hope that a person manages to do so – usually alone.
Even writing this feels weird, raw, vulnerable. But isnt that what life is now and then, a bit raw, weird and vulnerable – especially but not exclusively in youth work, in faith settings, its gets emotional now and then, and difficult. Maybe we live in a culture where we aim low and get low and are happy, try and do something challenging and fail… well best stay away. But that’s not real, real is to try and keep trying, to give and try and make something happen, to invest and fight and strive – and then hope and dream and have faith. Its about a trying and taking risks because good things might happen – not just because it’ll be well paid or that it’ll work, but because its good.
So, as of this evening, redundancy is heading my way, and its ok. Im not belittling it or trivialising it, but it is happening, it isn’t great, but its not the end, its not a statement on me for not trying and taking a risk, and for most youthworkers thats the same, we fight, give, invest in young people – but usually things out of control take over – but its not that we failed, failure isn’t a gift we need to embrace, accept or take, and I am not either. Failure is for those who don’t try. Feeling like i’ve failed isn’t what i’m feeling right now, more that it could be how others might perceive something ending.
Closure is another word, but no one promises that things will last forever. Not even the building of the church will ultimately, Durham cathedral will pass away. But closure and endings are hard, for a while, and then people get used to it not being there. Like Woolworths or BHS (shops in the UK) or something else that’s been turned into a poundshop or a coffee bar. Why do we not like things to close- because change is difficult – and as creatures of habit we like the status quo. We feel attached to the group, club or ministry, or organisation, sometimes too attached, sometimes obsessively so, Closure is tough.
Youth work and Ministry is not for the fainthearted. The Christian life is not for the joy riders. Its a tough place where risks are needed to be taken, where emotions can be on the line and discipleship is an ongoing call and response. No one said that call and response was to avoid the tough muddy paths, the quick sand or the storms. Closure, Failure and Redundancy, they’re difficult words. But they’re a reality in most of ministry – or at least the fear of them can be.
There is no at the moment redemptive happy ending at the end of this article. No reference to Jeremiah 29:11 to wrap it all up and give it the hopeful dream of a better future, or certainty of something else – because i know of too many others for whom that hasn’t been the reality. So right now, am in the midst of the myriad of thoughts, and trying to work through these three difficult words, and talk about them and get them out in the open for discussion. So, youth workers, we need to talk about Closure and Endings, Failure and how not to embrace it, and Redundancy – and realise we have value beyond what people pay us to do. I think.