Our roving reporter asked North Lancs high school worker Jonny Bayes to talk us through a typical day in the life of a NISCU schools worker. This is what he said:
An astronaut goes through years of rigorous training, gaining all sorts of knowledge regarding scientific study, space travel, engineering, fitness, psychological questioning, mathematical calculations that would make Einstein’s brain hurt, and much more besides. Finally they reach the launch pad and are blasted into space, probably the most dangerous place a human could put themselves. Once there they live out a strict routine, planned in advance, of research, exploration, maintenance and general fooling around in zero-gravity. I say all this like I know what I’m talking about, but sadly I am not an astronaut, nor am I likely to become one. However, I think there are some key similarities between their jobs and mine. (Okay, I know there are some fairly astronomical differences too, but if you disagree with my comparison, please don’t tell me; I’m still enjoying this feeling).
Before joining NISCU I had done a wide variety of youth work and rigorous schools training. I could go through each of those pre-launch exercises I mentioned above and link them to my previous years, but suffice it to say that my brain has definitely hurt at times. Equally I think there is a certain amount of planning, research, exploration, maintenance and general fooling around in my job too, albeit sadly not in zero-gravity.
So, I will give you some idea of what the day in the life of a NISCU schools worker looks like, although I must clarify that there is no such thing as a standard day with NISCU; every day is different!
The day begins on the night before it starts, with a quick email check to ensure time and space haven’t combined with the wonders of the internet and made me miss the fact that tomorrow morning I’m expected to be in three different schools at once. A large amount of planning and scheduling goes into our diaries as we try to find time for all the schools we’d like to connect with. Much of our exploration comes through the form of email as we seek to discover new people with whom we can share the love of God, and once they’ve discovered we’re not weird they generally invite us back. Ultimately we seek to go where no Christian has gone before (or not for a long time), revealing the mysteries of our faith, which is to most young people completely alien.
Anyway, back to the day in progress. All being well the day will start with prayer, sometimes short, sometimes long, but always there to ensure I’m not racing on in my own strength but journeying with God all the time. Maintaining my own relationship with God is key to being able to share who he is with the children I meet. To that end personal study and team times are valuable moments in the day to keep my faith strong and prevent us as a group or as individuals from becoming burnt out. (I’ll let you draw your own analogies for what happens if a booster stops working on a rocket).
Having researched and planned each assembly, lesson, club or whatever else a school might have asked me to provide, there comes the moment when I stand before a group of young people, say another prayer and begin, after which there’s no knowing what might happen. A question could be asked that can change the direction of a lesson and lead into a whole host of discussions I never intended to bring up. A group of passionate Christians can begin praying in a club for their friends and their school to know more about Jesus. Or, just on the rare occasion, silence can descend, not to be broken until the bell rings, no matter how hard I try.
I return to the office in search of a new idea. I grab a book of games off the shelf and look up the word ‘ecumenicalism’ on google before I have to go and explain it to some 15 year-olds. Sometimes, even after years of study, you can have no idea what someone’s talking about. It’s usually at these points that the general fooling about comes in to play: it helps to keep everyone sane.
At the end of the day I go home and like all schools workers fight the urge throughout the evening to just put some more ideas together for a lesson on salvation or a club exploring our identity in Christ. Sometimes I lose the fight. After that I pray again, thanking God for the privilege of being able to tell so many young people about his amazing love and show them what it means to live in relationship with the Creator of the universe!