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- Stepping Out... a week of volunteering with Harry Pearson
“Why on earth did I volunteer for this?”, was the
thought repeating in my head as I made my way to St. Mary’s church in Boston
Spa on a July evening this year. I was on my way to attend an introductory
meeting for volunteers about the forthcoming children’s holiday club week,
which was being run at the end of July.
“Working with children is NOT your thing”, I told
myself as I pulled into the church car park, feeling rather sorry for myself.
“It’s not too late – you could just go home and give it up
as a bad idea,...” came the voice of temptation, “...after all,
children’s work is best left to those who know what they are doing, to those
with a ‘calling’ in that area.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like children, I
do, it’s just that I’ve always felt I don’t relate to them very well, and I
don’t have the ‘knack’ of communicating effectively with them – or so I
thought. As a result I’ve tended to avoid children’s work throughout my
‘church’ life, and although I have been involved in many summer youth camps
over the years, my involvement has usually been on the practical, logistical
side of things, e.g. in the kitchen or driving a minibus etc.
So why on earth was I now about to step well outside of my comfort zone by volunteering for 5 days of holiday club? Part of my motivation was a sense of obligation. My two grandsons who live in the village have been regular attenders at the holiday club over the past few years, so I felt it was right to ‘give something back’ in that regard. Another reason is that I fully support the aims and purpose behind it, to teach children something about God in an interesting and enjoyable environment – all the more important in the current climate with so many families having no or little church connection. However, the third and most important factor in my decision to get involved was a challenge issued to everyone in my church to get out of their ‘comfort zone’ in God’s service. Throughout this year our ‘Stepping Out’ theme has encouraged all of us to do something different, to take a ‘step of faith’ (Matthew 14:28-33) by engaging in areas beyond our normal routine, so when the call went out for holiday club helpers I found myself volunteering in the most involuntary manner!
I have to say the introductory meeting went some way to assuaging my fears. I was welcomed by Kate and Phil who jointly organise the event, and I was reassured by seeing some familiar faces, as well as meeting some lovely new people. Kate explained everything about the week in a very thorough and informative presentation, and there was an opportunity to chat afterwards and ask any further questions. I felt the meeting gave me a great deal of confidence regarding planning and organisation of the holiday club, although I was still nursing a few doubts about my own capability in terms of relating to the kids.
So I was still feeling a bit apprehensive when I rocked up a few weeks later for the fateful day – the opening Monday of the club. I was very pleased to be part of a team of three looking after our group, with Judith (a veteran of many holiday clubs), and Juliet (an experienced Sunday school teacher), so I immediately felt more at ease. We had about 10 or so children in our group of primary school age. We also had a couple of young teenagers acting as assistants, so there was plenty of support to call on. Both Kate and Phil were on hand if any advice or guidance was needed, so I felt very re-assured.
Everything was carefully planned, with every resource and all materials available to hand. The theme for the week was one of travel, with the kids ‘visiting’ a different country every week as we made our way across Europe. There were games, activities, quizzes, singing, bible study, and more games! My two experienced colleagues were very supportive, and I soon found myself relaxing and getting fully involved, and before I knew it the first day was over – and I had survived!
The next day was even better, and I found I was getting to know the kids better and engaging with them in a relaxed and easy manner, and to my great surprise I discovered I was actually having fun! I was enjoying it! I can truthfully say that it just got better day by day, and I was genuinely disappointed when it came to an end on Friday.
It was a great five days. It was so good to see children having fun and learning about Jesus. I learned a great deal about myself, not least that I CAN relate well to children and engage with them. I learned that it is a good thing to ‘step out’ and stretch oneself beyond our comfortable norms, and that doing so can bring great rewards. Above all I think, I discovered what a blessing it is to work with Christians from different traditions, in what was a demonstration of true Christian unity. I think Jesus would approve – does approve!