Together: a better way

“It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this” is a well-known quote from the classic 1986 Nintendo video game The Legend of Zelda.

Find out why Hannah Woods recalled the phrase as she reflected on a growing schools’ work with which Viva’s partner network Doorsteps is involved.

I’ve done youth work in East Oxford for 12 full years; I’m halfway through my 13th. That’s about 100 in youth work years; posts are often only three to five years. Since September 2017, I’ve seen something new and exciting start to unfold…

In this community and in three of the local secondary schools, we have youth workers from eight different organisations (churches and charities) collaborating to support Christian Unions, a wide variety of pastoral groups and workshops, and an accredited leadership project.

All of these are done in relationship and conversation with the school pastoral staff as we feed back concerns and make a point of catching young people at their best… often the young people we work with are not at their best in a school setting.

It isn’t generally dangerous to go alone into youth work (although from a safeguarding and best practice context it isn’t advised) but it can be disheartening.

Having someone to share the journey with makes all the difference. God is always there, but he has called us to live and serve in community; remember the disciples were sent out in pairs (Luke 10 and throughout Acts).

Recently a colleague from another church and I listened to a Year 7 girl share a glimmer of how desperately sad she was. With a single tear trickling down her face, I was so grateful to have someone in the thick of it with me.

Together, we will show up every week to run the group, we will bring good snacks, we will do all that we can to provide sources of hope and encouragement in her life, and we will be praying for her. Together.

Because, while it may not be dangerous to go alone, it’s certainly a lot harder.

As I write this, I am planning a session for a Year 8 boys’ group called Stick Club. In theory, they will be learning knots that can tie sticks together (I got very grubby collecting sticks on my way into work; it was awesome!).

I am hoping with great faith that my colleague from another church has an amazing capacity for tying knots because I don’t have that skill – and that is the other great strength of collaborative work.

As well as supporting each other and praying together for the young people, we bring a wider pool of skills and strengths and ways we see the world.

‘Completing not competing’ is a beautiful way to work. My weaknesses are covered by my colleague who is amazing at games, by those who have patience when mine runs dry and by my insightful co-worker who notices details about the young people’s growth.

It is a joy to be able to offer my strengths to support other people. It is a rich and positive experience for the young people to see us respect each other and to see genuine, affirmative relationships modelled between the youth workers.

It is such a privilege to work together with so many wonderful youth workers, growing a sense of team and genuine community and friendships. This brings strength and longevity to our youth work.

It may not be dangerous to go alone, but it’s certainly much better to go together.

Hannah Woods is Doorsteps’ Lead Youth Worker, and was previously at Oxford Youth Works.


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