Steph McMaster is a youth leader with Crown Jesus Ministries whose passion is to spread the gospel and help further God’s Kingdom in Ireland. We found out more about her life and work in Belfast.
Tell us a little something about your background?
I never really knew what I wanted to do growing up. I pursued a career in drama and my family kept saying they could see me in youth work ministry, to which I would say ‘absolutely not!’ After uni I decided to take a year out with Crown Jesus Ministries working with kids and young people and, you guessed it, I fell absolutely in love with it.
Crown Jesus Ministries has a heart and vision to see the whole of Ireland know Jesus and my role involves working with young people aged 11-18 through schools and youth groups. I am a home bird and love our wee country. Belfast is my home and I have felt called to stay and work here.
What does a typical day as a youth worker look like?
Our team always start each day with prayer but then we split into our different departments. Every day is different; our busiest days have seen us visit five different schools. We might lead an assembly in the morning, then help with various RE classes, and run a Scripture Union class at lunchtime or after school for all ages.
What kind of activities do you do with the young people?
Several times a year we put on an event that involves the whole school: teachers and pupils. To build up to it we film various fun videos like a carpool karaoke or a prank video with teachers. For the last one we dressed up in fancy dress, ran around the school and burst into classrooms challenging the teacher at the front with a task. We are trying to break down perceptions of Christianity – show that it can be fun and exciting. These events give us the opportunity to share the gospel with the whole school through testimonies with special guests that are brought in. Running a large event and the build up creates a lot of intrigue and we have had moments where we have seen God transform a school. One school in particular had about 8-9 pupils attending their Scripture Union club, and after the event we arrived at the club to a room full of 90 young people – it was a real ‘wow’ moment.
What motivates you to do this?
Sometimes we only get to visit a school once and I will have a brief encounter conversation with one of the young people. I was a Christian from the age of 12, but I really struggled with who I was, I felt lonely and didn’t really have anyone to turn to. I want to be able to listen to young people and remind them how much they are loved by God. I want to be a small part of pointing them in the direction of the one who will shape their purpose and identity.
What bible verses inspire you?
At the moment this one speaks to me: ‘Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ (Nehemiah 8:10). Everything that we have been through in this last year has been really hard. I don’t think anyone can say they haven’t struggled in some way. This verse reminds me that when we turn to God, the joy we receive can never be taken away from us.
What are some of your challenges?
The biggest challenge is remaining relevant. What young people are into and interested in changes so rapidly. The influence of social media is a powerful force in young people’s lives. Five years ago it was just a thing, but now it’s everything! We have to compete with it, use it, and create material for short attention spans. The pressures from social media are enormous on young people, but it’s also a good place: young people use it as a platform for what they stand for, their opinions, campaigns and what they believe in. So it can definitely be a positive platform for sharing the Good News.
Why are you so passionate about your job?
It’s a cliché, but young people are the next generation and they are at an age when everything matters, their identity is being shaped, their purpose is being discovered and they are exposed to so many opinions and voices. We need to be there to help guide them and discover their identity and purpose with God. I am in a privileged position to be able to share my belief in God. I can be completely transparent, saying this is what God wants you to know, how he can shape you, guide you in the choices you make and how you lead your life. So many young people struggle with mental health issues and loneliness, and through my role I come across many on different journeys with faith, but I want them to know that they matter: to their friends, their families and most importantly to God.
You can give to Crown Jesus Ministries here.