Today Claire made public that she will not return as our youth minister when her maternity leave finishes this summer.
I have every reason to be sad, but I’m not quite although there is much to be sad about for sure …
We have been much blessed by Claire’s ministry, her friendship and her passion for Jesus.
We have been so blessed by her mentoring of so many young people and her leadership of our youth ministry over the past 12 years.
We have many times been propelled in our faith by her encouragement and inspired in our walk by her own.
But I can’t just be sad.
Claire’s decision, that she has wrestled with over these months, is such an inspiration …
It’s inspiring because together with Rich they have been determined to listen to God and then do what he says. That takes courage.
It’s inspiring because they are leaving the known feeling called by God to the less fully known. If you’ve read the Bible you will recognise that’s usually the way great things of God start!
It’s inspiring because they have embraced the journey we have been on as a church and are seeking to give their lives to it as fully as possible. This is not a step out of ministry but a step on in ministry. That’s exciting. The irony of God calling Claire out of ‘ministry’ in order to serve him in the next season should not be lost on us. What God is doing is about all of us wherever he has placed us. Claire and Rich are leading the way.
It’s inspiring because I can see how God has been preparing both Claire and Rich for this new season.
Finally it’s inspiring because the next season will not just be about what they do but more about who they are. That’s always a sweet spot.
I’m excited about watching the onward journey unfold and looking forward to sharing in it.
Claire put it like this
It was 12 years ago that I arrived here in Ipswich. Fresh out of Bible college, unable to cook an egg and with nothing but enthusiasm and the ambition to change the world. Soon I was the proud owner of a new bed, an oven of sorts and a cookbook. I also soon felt welcomed into Burlington life especially by my now wonderful friends Ceri and Simon. They took me into their family and taught me everything I needed to know about ministry living. Ceri taught me how to cook and care, Simon helped me discover how to lead and pastor. Life soon felt like it was right, like I was exactly where God wanted me to be, doing exactly what he wanted me to do.
And so this continued and I loved it. God did fab stuff in the lives of the young people I was working with and I loved being involved with them. I remember ‘happy girls’ shopping trips to London with young people where we spent as long in Top Shop as we did talking about Jesus. There were the camps and the team, the Emerge groups and the socials. Most significantly there were the conversions and the baptisms… (well over a 100 to date and, believe me, that makes me smile)
Time moved on, as did my life. Getting married to Rich saw my ministry change, and Burlington has changed beyond all recognition. The people have changed, the young people have grown up and new ones have come through. The church that once had a song, a prayer and a preach has become a place of worship of God’s Spirit being allowed to reign, and where the kingdom of God really is coming to earth. I love this church even more than I did when I arrived all those years ago.
So where am I now? I am not intending on returning to my job as youth minister this September. This is a huge thing for me. There were times when I said I wanted to be a youth worker until I die and, I guess, there is a part of me that always will be. But God has asked me to look around and see the reality of the now and start opening my eyes to the dreams He has for our future.
Let me explain…
I am an evangelist at heart. Nothing makes my heart sing more than seeing someone come to Christ. This drives me. Helpfully, I am also a people person, my days are filled with people, coffee dates, and the girl who hardly cooked has become the girl who loves to feed people. These two things have led me to do what is natural to me, share my time and my faith with those God has called to my table. Some of them are interested in God, some aren’t but all of them need friends and all of them are a pleasure to share life with.
Secondly, having children has changed me more than I ever imagined. As a new mum to Lucy 4 years ago I felt like all the goal posts of my life had been moved and it took me a while to rediscover them.
I returned to youth work but always felt torn between what I was doing with them and what I should be doing with my family. The more I grew as a mummy, the more I realised the responsibility I had to raise Lucy knowing who God is. Lucy is often the most spiritual person in our house. She hears from God and loves nothing more than to dance around our lounge worshipping Him. I needed to be there to help her and now Sam experience this amazing Father God and learn to trust Him. Even more than that, my friend’s kids need to experience God too.
I am increasingly aware that there is no one else who will tell these kids about Jesus. Most of them would never set foot in a church and why should they…? But they do set foot in our house and they do hang out with us, and some of these kids are really interested in who God is.
So, where does that leave me? Well, it leaves me with a new job which begins with me asking some serious questions of myself. How can I help Lucy and Sam live by faith in God? What kind of Church do I want them to experience? What is God asking me to do for my friends kids so that they will find him? And what about my friends, those God has placed around me?
This new job for me is also a supportive role. I long to see other parents take seriously what it means to be a family on mission and what it means to be living freely in Christ.
Rich and I have loved supporting couples in marriage courses and look to do more of this, as well as parenting support stuff too. We are almost certain of birthing a missional community in us at the moment so watch this space on that one. I plan on doing some more speaking too which negated a bit of gifting.
Whilst I know this is right, I know saying goodbye to my official role at Burlington is really hard. I have loved being part of the ministry team and count these guys as family. I have loved hanging out with the young people and would like to thank those both past and present for allowing me to be part of their life. I have loved leading services and being able to preach both here and all over the country, and I have loved being allowed to lead a church that is so willing to go where God asks. I have so many happy memories and a tonne of regrets but I know God has used me and I am so thankful to Him for allowing me to be part of His story in the lives of so many. We remain 100% committed to Burlington and we know we have a part to play here.
God always told me He would only ask me to leave when He was calling me into something new. I know He is and therefore, it is time to sign off as youth minister and say ‘hello’ to the new thing God is birthing in us as a family.
From the archives
Here is Claire introducing one of our teaching series that she was leading on in 2010, The Global Gospel.