What’s it like to be a young street pastor?
Contributed by Chris Doney
I became a street pastor at the age of 29.
There are advantages and disadvantages to being a younger street pastor. I am closer to the age of many of the people that I’m likely to see out in the pubs in the village. I am more likely to be close to the culture, trends and what is popular at the time. I’m young enough to known what a meme is, have probably seen the latest viral video and I’m an avid user of social media. I suppose that is quite a benefit in some areas.
There are disadvantages also. I have two young children and as I am usually up very early every morning – there is no chance for a rest the morning after a late patrol. I suppose the other disadvantages can be that due to my age I have to be careful approaching a group of young people – often a slightly older pastor will be able to walk straight in and talk to them as they have an air of gentle authority and there is often respect for the older generation. If I was to tell someone not to do something in case they hurt themselves, it may cause anger or pride to well up.
We do not have many older street pastors in our group but a number of the people I patrol with have older children (teenagers) and this can often be good when talking to people as they can relate more to them on that level. Recently one of the pastors I patrol with was having a good conversation with someone about how to bring up a daughter and how they can protect them from teenage boys. I think the best thing you can have is a good mix of ages.
It is interesting to gauge what my work colleagues think about my Street Pastors role. Usually on a Friday we talk about what we are doing at the weekend and when I mention that I am going out on a Street Pastors patrol there has been a mixed response. Some people don’t really say anything and are uninterested, some ask what it is and what is involved, and that often leads to a good conversation. A number of the girls at work have mentioned that they have seen street pastors around in Brighton or Worthing and have been given flip-flops.
I once explained what was involved in a Street Pastors patrol to one colleague and he remarked that I was going to go out and do exactly what he avoids doing when he goes out on a Friday night – “bothering drunk people”. He said that he’s careful to avoid drunk-looking people as the risk of getting into a fight is high … I did have to agree that he had a point. Without the uniform, prayer support and other pastors around me I would be the same. He now asks if me I am going out “poking drunk people” each Friday.
I think I’ve always been a good listener and many of my work friends and colleagues like to talk to me about their lives, the troubles they face, their challenges and fears along with aspirations and goals. I really enjoy listening to them and discerning what they are saying. I often give gentle advice about issues that I have experienced myself and talk of the effect Jesus has in my life. I generally have a skill of finding common ground with all people and am able to talk to just about anyone.
Chris Doney is a street pastor in Billingshurst, West Sussex. He is married to Natasha and father to Finley and Florence. He works for AutoTrader, overseeing their defleet video services, and also works freelance in video production and design.
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