Willesden Apprentices: meet Steven Payne
Throughout the Easter Season and in the run-up to Pentecost, we have been featuring the Willesden Apprentices, who run youth and children’s work in west London. We have shared their experiences and thoughts on how to develop this essential form of ministry to build the future of the church in the capital.
Interviews with Samuel Benjamin from St Hugh’s Church in Northolt and Nikkita Robert from Southall Parishes have shown how they are combining study with a Level 3 diploma in Christian work with Young people and Communities, with their day-to-day work and how they are facing the challenges of building the next generation who follow Christ.
In the third interview, we meet Steven Payne, 23, who lived locally and is now a youth worker at St Catherine’s Neasden.
You’ve been an apprentice for a few months now, how have you settled into your new role?
I have settled in well and it’s a dream for me as I have always wanted to go into youth work. Since starting here at St Catherine’s Neasden, I have received so much love and support from my family and friends.
What have been the high points so far?
I have formed a wonderful bond with my fellow apprentices who are so kind to me. I have met other youth and children’s workers too, who shared many wonderful ideas and inspiration.
Currently, I am helping a PE Teacher at my former Primary School with a Football club and also, I work in a different school helping children with Guided Reading, which is great. In November, I organised a cinema visit, which many of the young people enjoyed. Then on Christmas Eve, my Vicar, Rob Harrison and I put on our very first Children’s Carol Service which was a huge success, as many came who had never been inside our church before. On Christmas Day, the children and I decorated Christingles together and at the end of the service, all the children stood at the front and lit the candles. I would say from all of this, God has been truly good to me.
What has been the biggest challenge?
I would sum up my biggest challenge into two words – being patient. I have faced many challenges in my apprenticeship, for example getting my bearings in a school setting when I am so used to working in churches. I have had to adapt fairly quickly and to prepare for the unexpected. All of this has come through learning patience, and through this, I have learnt many valuable things.
Why do you like working with young people?
I like working with young people because it is a reminder of what Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Children have such eagerness to learn and know about life. They ask, seek and they find with full creativity. I believe, for all to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must ask and keep asking and keep seeking, just like a child does.
What are you reading at the moment?
Apart from the Bible and theological reflection, I am reading a book that the YMCA gave me called “Journeying Together” by Alan Rogers and Mark K Smith. It’s about growing in youth work and your local community. It really helps me along with all the study material I receive from the YMCA College. I find the book has helped me to be an open person and has taught me the essential values of youth work – like empathy and dedication to those under my care.
Has anything about being an apprentice surprised you?
The most surprising thing I have seen, so far, since I started, is all the wonderful things other churches do for their young people. The ideas are creative and endless. An example comes from St Mary’s Islington, where the youth worker said children engage not just with the craftwork, but with their own personal Bible verse. This was truly inspiring.
How do you balance your work commitments with the Level 3 course?
I always plan my week ahead and balance my regular commitments to fit in with my diploma study. I study on the days when I am in the office and do push myself when I have important events in the coming weeks.
What are you looking forward to?
I am really looking forward to a lot of fun stuff with the children and young people of my parish, which celebrates its centenary in March. In a sense, we are not just celebrating the past, but the future, in which I pray, will be bright for the generations to come. I have many creative ideas like an art competition and an all age-workshop, which will make this year a lot of fun.
Have you learnt something new about yourself?
When I first started my role, I had many anxieties. But I have grown to love working with children and young people because their enthusiasm gives me strength and encouragement. I realise I can do things that I thought I never could, and I understand in my reflections that everything I do with God on my journey, is a learning experience. God guides me and shows me the way through all the challenges.
How do you think we can help more children and young people to connect and engage with the church?
I strongly believe the church must hear the voice of children and young people and keep asking “What about the children and teenagers?” If churches do not encourage them and help them to engage with the teachings of Jesus, in ways they will understand, the church will die. Also, children and young people bring life to a church because their happiness brings such warm affection to congregations, and it is a very encouraging sight to see. The future of the church is dependent on whether it gives a future to our children and young people.
Next week, we will hear from the fourth and final apprentice this year, Richard Samuel, who is a youth and children’s worker at St James’ Alperton.
To find out about becoming an apprentice, please contact Rachel Walker, Apprenticeship Project Coordinator.