I have been involved in youth and children’s ministry for twenty-three years, but I have only recently thought of myself as a reflective practitioner. One of the many challenges in any kind of ministry is to find the time to stop and reflect or ask questions about what you are doing and why. I think it was Albert Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. If this is true, there are a lot of crazy people in ministry! This fantastic book will help anyone who finds this hard, but is also for those who might consider themselves seasoned “reflectors”.
Although the cover of the book suggests there is dense, academic content – do not let that stop you diving in. Sally and Paul, though sharing their journeys of reflection, are eminently practical throughout. Having cracked through the introduction (with an explanation of what “reflection” and “ministry” are) there are absolutely loads of tools and creative ideas to help you reflect in a way you feel comfortable with. One great example is Paul’s “dice game” on page 43, for the salaried among you – use this to liven up a church staff meeting!
Warning, using this book could change everything – although the focus of application for the exercises and tools suggested is often a ministry context, and therefore a particular piece of work or a group, an unnerving thing happens as you start to explore what is going on. You will find that you can’t explore why you are doing certain things in a particular context, or why certain things always happen with the group you are in, without also exploring yourself. This realisation leads to the potential for change, not of practice, but of you the practitioner.
If we truly want the best in life for our young people then a great way of doing that is embodying the very things we long for in their lives. If you use the tools in this book, you will become more the person you are called to be, and therefore, more the kind of youth leader your young people need. We can worry; I think in youth ministry particularly, that we do not match up to what others are being and doing in their youth work. We need to remember that, as someone once said, “Comparison is the root of all inferiority”. What this book also suggests to me, in what can sometimes be the “homogenised” Christian market place, is that we are all uniquely gifted, all on a journey of discovery about ourselves and about God. Use this book to discover that for yourself and it will help you transform your own life and practice, and equip others to do the same.