This year marks my 10th anniversary at Animate Youth Ministries, a milestone I didn't expect to reach all those years ago. Back in September 2009, I began my final year of university expecting to apply for a PGCE course and go into teaching like my mum and sister. But the closer it got to the PGCE deadline date, the more unsure I was about applying. Could I plan a lesson? Could I deliver that lesson to a classroom of teenagers? Could I keep control of a class and engage them in the subject?
I remember having a 'God-incidence' in one of my moments of doubt as the then Animate team leader, Woody, called me to talk about the youth group I was helping out with that week. Clearly he could tell something was wrong and wasn't going to let me hang up until I told him everything that was bothering me. And that's when he came up with the obvious solution – take a gap year at Animate!
Why obvious? Well, here at Animate we work with over 10,000 young people a year in lots of different ways. One way is in small class-sized groups on day retreat. Throughout the day we deliver a range of activities to explore a particular theme that the school wants us to focus on, thus giving me the opportunity to lead young people in various tasks, keeping their attention focused. Mission weeks, where we work with entire year groups at a time, offer a different challenge of standing on stage in front of over 150 young people leading them in song and prayer.
It's safe to say I took Woody up on the chance of a gap year and that gap year led to the opportunity to join the leadership team, which allows me to plan and work with the team to deliver day retreats and mission days for young people to explore their faith. It also allows me to work with the gap year team, helping ensure that they get the most out of their year here.
A year at Animate isn't just about the work. Community is important too. As part of our community life, we go out together, whether it's bowling, bingo or just to the pub. We take it in turns to cook for each other as well as spending time together in prayer and leading one another in prayer.
Each community is different with each member bringing something different to the team; a rendition of Lord of the Dance or Penny Arcade on the karaoke, a great pub quiz team, or a not-so-great pub quiz team (it's the taking part that counts!). Each year has its fond memories and experiences which have shaped me into who I am today.
So what can a year at Animate offer you? An opportunity to share your faith with other young people. A chance to develop your skills working with young people. An opportunity to network with primary schools, high schools and universities in the Archdiocese of Liverpool. A chance to live in community, deepen your own faith, and much more.
If you're 18-25 and would like to know more about joining Animate, take a look at our website at http://www.animateyouth.org/join-our-team/.
Dates for the diary
25 February: Alpha – Join us at Lowe House in St Helen’s for Alpha from 6-8pm. Year 9+
29 February: Confirmation preparation day at Lowe House for Year 8 pupils in non-Catholic schools who want to be confirmed this year. Find out more at: http://www.animateyouth.org/called-by-name/called-to-serve/
1 March: Youth Alive Mass, starting at 6.30pm (venue to be confirmed)