A clear purpose in youth work or school chaplaincy helps gives you a vision. It clarifies what’s important in your work with young people.
When I was a school chaplain I sort of lost my way in the second year and struggled to know what I should be doing. Other people seemed to be running great programs. They had teams of volunteers and were the cornerstone of the culture in their school.
I just seemed lost.
This has been an issue that’s visited me at different times in my work life. I think it comes from not having a clear purpose. If you’re not turning up to work with a focus, it’s hard to stay motivated on the hard days.
So if you can’t answer the question, “What’s your purpose here?” then read on to work it all out.
The difference between a vision and a purpose
Some people would say these are the same thing. But I wouldn’t. A purpose is a reason for doing something. A vision is a description of what that something actually looks like.
If you’re about to start work as a school chaplain, I’ve actually put a workbook together that takes you through working out your purpose. Step by step. It’s part of my 10 week program, called The Chappy Lab.
For those of you already in the midst of your career or working in other settings, here’s the basics.
Finding your purpose
There are some universal purposes to youth work:
- To help young people learn about themselves, other people and life in general
- To enable young people to deal with the challenges they face
- To give young people a voice on issues that matter to them
- To equip young people to deal with their own issues
- To protect the rights of young people
The trick to understanding your purpose is to draw together lots of different threads.
What does your job description say? That’s the biggest thread. What do the people in your community feel your purpose is? What skills and talents or life experience do you bring to the job that shape that too?
If you’re a person of faith, has God spoken to you about this? Do you have a calling? Take some time to clarify your purpose, and if it’s not clear, stick to your job description first.
If you spend enough time on this, key themes will rise to the surface, helping to shape your purpose.
Many school chaplains would say their purpose is to give emotional and spiritual support to young people. That’s a great purpose to be working on.
After I hit that low as a chaplain, I spent some time reading back over my journals. I felt that I had a job to do in helping the poor, the broken-hearted and those in despair (Isaiah 61).
My purpose became to reach out to students, staff and families, to respond to their needs with care and to relate to them in encouraging ways. It all boiled down to REACH RESPOND RELATE.
Painting a vision
To identify your vision, think about what success would look like if you fulfilled your purpose.
What would the lives of young people look like? What would your school or community look like? Describe the picture, and that’s the vision you’re working towards.
Why a purpose and vision is so important
A purpose and vision gets you through the hard days. As I explained in my article on self-care, it’s important to look back at what you’ve done and how you’ve done those things. It’s difficult to evaluate your work if you don’t have a clear reason for doing things.
A purpose and a vision give you a target to aim for; clarity around what to put your time into. If what you’re doing isn’t helping to create that vision, it’s not something you should be doing long term.
A purpose and vision give you a basis for purposeful practice. It takes a lot of the guess work out of what you should be doing on a day-to-day basis when you know where you’re headed. If you want to know more about purposeful practice, check out my article on that topic.
So regardless of where you’re at in your youth work career, clarifying your purpose and vision will help you have more worthwhile days. It will also help you to know where you’ve gone off track when thing get difficult.
I know having a clear vision made it easier for me to make decisions. It enabled me to deal with my fear of not contributing anything of value to my community. And in the end helped me decide that the time was right for me to move on.
What do you think? Do you operate without a clear purpose? How’s that working out for you?