So I was asked to write a short article for a youth work magazine recently, about why I chose to start postgraduate study and what my experience has been so far…
And as I’ve been writing it on and off all day, you lovely people can have a sneak preview of where I’m up to!!
‘So, why are you studying for a Masters anyway?’
‘Aren’t you busy enough working full-time?’
‘Is it just because you’re a bit of a geek?’
If I had a penny for how many times I’ve been asked these kinds of questions in the last year, I would be an extravagantly rich lady. And truthfully, my principally true yet ambiguously shrouded answer of ‘I feel God asked me to do it and I’m just trying to be obedient’ has got me a few strange looks over this same time period.
Because my story is a little bit backwards.
I studied for my Informal and Community Education degree whilst working full-time at an Elim church, and then began a Theology Masters when working for Barnardo’s.
And telling people that God is any kind of motivation for postgraduate study gets you a few strange looks when you work for a secular charity.
And definitely when you want to study through a Bible College.
But for me, the journey to begin further study was the response to my honest answers to three questions.
Question 1: Did I really want to go back to a life of fitting deadlines, essay writing, and extensive reading around a full time job?
Honest answer: Yes. Mad as it may seem, I had to admit that I really loved learning. I’m a youth worker at heart, promoted into a management role, who also dabbles in a bit of lecturing. And the longer I work in this field, the more I realise that I don’t have all the answers, nor am I immune from the pressures of the external or internal world that vie for my time and my head-space and influence my motivations and my work. Further study gives me the space to think, to write, to be challenged, and to keep growing.
Question 2: If I was really going to do this, what in the world would I want to study?
Honest answer: I not-so-secretly always wanted to study Theology, but was also enthused to explore the issues of youth work and community education that were confronting me on a daily basis. An MTh (Community Learning and Development) felt like it was literally made for me to combine these two passions.
Question 3: Would it even be useful?
Honest answer: Yes. Ok, I’m going to cheat a bit with this one, as I didn’t actually know the answer to it a year ago. But I had my hopes, and now I’m a year in, I can honestly say that what I have been writing, and reflecting upon and thinking through has been directly useful to and influential upon my practice. It’s helped me to remain fresh in my outlook and focussed on my values. It’s given me the space to look at current issues without ignoring the centrality of my faith. And I really believe that as a Christian practitioner, it’s important to allow God to motivate us, and equip us in this field, and to be at the forefront of developing and creating ways of engaging young people and communities that are truly holistic. Long-term my heart is in cross-cultural work and missions, so these issues of community engagement only become more pressing as I look to the future.
So, working full-time, studying part-time, balancing the multiple pressures of deadlines, funding bids, and having a life, with the challenges of thinking through issues of faith, in a secular workplace, with young people and staff thrown into the mix … Is it busy? Of course? Is it tough sometimes? Most definitely. Is it worth it? Yes. I think it really is.
And just for the laugh, this was me at my first graduation… 🙂