"It gave me a massive boost in my confidence and a whole load of life skills I never had before"
How Far Will Your Gap Year Take You?
Find out how your Gap Year could be just the beginning of an incredible life-changing journey that equips you way beyond your one or two years training to be an instructor with Rock UK.
Interview with Jimmy Dale
Recently I met up with the Church of England’s first national Youth Evangelism Officer, Jimmy Dale, to find out how his time at Rock UK set him up for a career in youth work.
Hi Jimmy, so why did you join Rock UK?
I am the son of a pastor and like others in the same position, I rebelled against God in my teenage years. After leaving school at 18 I just wanted to get a job. I knew that I loved climbing and so started training for my SPA (Single Pitch Award). I saw a magazine advertisement for a position at Rock UK as an instructor and jumped at the chance to be paid for doing the very thing I loved. So I applied and got an interview. Away from my parents I started to desire God in my life again. In fact, when I turned up at Carroty Wood for my interview I got talking to the team and gave my life to God there and then. Fortunately I got offered the job and after a year I joined the instructor training programme at Whithaugh Park in the Scottish Borders.
So what are you doing now, 10 years after leaving Rock UK?
I’m now the Church of England’s Youth Evangelism Officer, which basically means that I am responsible for looking at how we equip young people for evangelism, how churches can be more effective at outreach and how we can support churches at a local level. It’s an exciting new role with lots to do.
How did you go from being a Rock UK trainee instructor to where you are now?
That’s a good question! After two years at Rock UK I asked God where he wanted me next. I took up a job in Carlisle in a bar and joined a church where I began doing youth work. I had a passion to see young people saved and wanted to do something about it. I wrote to Delirious, the popular Christian band of the time, and asked them to come to Carlisle to play at an outreach event. Surprisingly they said yes and 1,500 young people turned up. After that I was asked to head up youth work at St Mark’s church in Forest Gate, London. After working at St Mark’s I set up a local YFC Centre in Newham, helping local churches run sustainable and effective youth ministry. Whilst there I studied at CYM, which became the Institute for Children, Youth and Mission. It was after 5 years in that role that I was head hunted for my current role and then last year I was offered this new role at the Church of England.
How did your two years at Rock UK prepare you for your future career?
It gave me a massive boost in my confidence. When you are running so many activity sessions with young people you learn very quickly how to control a group of kids, communicate effectively and impart your knowledge to them. Not only did my confidence grow, so did my relationship with God. Having people close to me on that journey was great. I also learnt a whole load of life skills I never had before including; how to boil and egg, wash my clothes and live away from home.
Was the move from outdoor instructing to youth work difficult?
Not at all as the experience I gained at Rock UK dealing with young people was the perfect training ground to go on to become an effective youth leader.
What advice would you give someone thinking of joining the Instructor Training Programme?
I think that there is a lot of social pressure on young people these days to decide what they are going to do with their career very early on. At 17 or 18 it’s not easy to know if you should go to university or what you should study as you don’t really know who you are and have little life experience. Going on a gap year gives you that time to figure out what you are good at, what you are passionate about and what makes you you. I did not end up being an outdoor activity instructor but the skills it equipped me with have enabled me to do the jobs I have done since and be in the position I am in today. Employers look for life skills as well as qualifications. I see too many young people who have gone through university only to realise that they no longer want to do what they thought they did when they were 18 and have to retrain. Going on a Christian gap year, like the Rock UK Instructor Training Programme can set you up for life with increased confidence, valuable life skills and the time you need to discover what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Thank you Jimmy for that really sound advice. We will be praying for you in your new role.
Find out more about our Instructor Training Programme here.