Ellen Griffiths Weir
The Church of Scotland's ‘Talking Ministry' series shares personal stories from those serving in Christian ministry, along with resources filled with questions, prayers and reflections to help encourage reflection on how God might be calling you at this time.
For February, Ellen Griffiths Weir speaks about her role as a children and youth worker and we explore the theme: Why am I here?
My ministry: Ellen Griffiths Weir, children and youth worker in Shetland
Ellen Griffiths Weir has been the children and youth worker in Shetland since 2018. She was appointed to the role as part of radical changes which have seen Shetland transition from being a presbytery to a single parish. Originally from Glasgow, Ellen is part of a team comprising three ministers and three ministries development staff. She holds a diploma in children and youth ministry and is married to Alastair, a Baptist pastor.
What's your role in the Church of Scotland?
My role has been to support the local congregations which make up the parish in their engagement with children, young people and families in their local communities. It also involves bringing people together from across Shetland to pray, learn and collaborate. I'm a point of contact for other organisations and denominations for anything to do with children, families and youth work too. More widely, I contribute to the work of the whole parish team.
How did you get the role?
Like a lot of people, I guess it has been a little bit circuitous! After studying maths and music at university, I taught maths in a secondary school in London for two years. I then left teaching and moved into business consultancy doing training. It was while I was doing that I realised I missed working with children and young people, which has been bit of a thread all through my life. Even at school I did peer mentoring and worked in kids' holiday clubs.
Through the church I was going to while in London I ended up doing an internship which was one day a week. I had the chance to try a few different things there, including a bit of sung worship leading, but it was the youth work that I came back to and I realised this is what I really love. I went to Oasis College in London to do a part-time graduate diploma in youth work and ministry and at the same time worked for a youth work charity and volunteered at my church.
When I moved home to Glasgow in 2013, my local church was looking for a youth worker part-time and eventually I increased my hours. We came to Shetland because my husband is a Baptist pastor and he'd been looking at different ministry options. The church in Shetland really stood out for both of us – my mother is from here and I'd spent a lot of time in Shetland as a child. Initially my role didn't exist and I got a job working for the local council doing admin. Around six months later, when this Church of Scotland job came up, I was selected for it and started in the summer of 2018. I was the first of the MDS staff put in place as part of a team when Shetland became one parish and formed a new presbytery with Aberdeen.
Is there anything people would find surprising about your route into your role?
It's not what I had planned at all! I loved London – there was so much going on and now here I am in Shetland, somewhere it had never crossed my mind I would end up living. In London the whole world is there – you don't have to go far to meet people from all over the globe. It's always on the go but it can be quite tiring. Shetland suits me – I love it. From my window I can see the sea and the cliffs, I can go and see the puffins, see the orcas, and the seals. The sense of community here is great – people look out for each other. I'm delighted this is where I've ended up.
Any advice for someone wanting to follow a calling?
When I was living in Glasgow doing youth ministry I felt, ‘this is definitely what I'm called to do'. But when I first moved up here and worked for the council I went through a period of doubt – I could see how a 9-5 job had its advantages! I had to go back to the drawing board with God and hold my sense of calling with an open hand. Not that I was turning my back on my sense of vocation, but I had to say ‘look God, wherever I end up, I trust that you'll use me and who you've made me to be in that context'. My advice is to explore your sense of call with an open mind.
I think my biggest thing with ministry is that people shouldn't doubt that God can use them. It's too easy for folk in the church to have a fixed idea of what leadership and ministry are, and trying to convince them that they too are called to lead in their own way – that's what I'd love people to hear. Don't doubt that God can use who you are; you don't have to fit into someone else's mould. Be attentive to how God is forming you and trust that He can use you. I'm all for trying to encourage people to not doubt themselves – we need people and their gifts.
What inspires you to keep going when there are challenges in your work?
It's a combination of how I've found God in different ways and how He continues to grow me – that's the adventure and I'm energised by that. He's never going to stop forming and shaping me, even if it can be difficult. I relish the challenges, even if they're a bit overwhelming. I love being part of God's mission in this way and trust that God will bring good things out of the journey even if it's difficult in the middle of it. Of course, I also gain inspiration, help and encouragement from the people I work with and the people I meet.
What have been your highlights from the last few years?
I absolutely love this job. It's hard, I think because it's a brand-new job and there's no template, but I'm energised by the challenge of that. I have hugely appreciated how the people in Shetland have navigated the changes going on within the church here. I know I won't have a complete picture of how difficult it has been for people; there has been a lot of grief involved in the process and I don't want to minimise that, but there is also a lot of hope and they have really embraced the opportunities presented by the transition. It's such a radical shift and it's an honour to be on part of that journey with people so far.
If you would like to consider how God might be calling you to serve at this time, you may want to discuss further with your minister or be in touch with your Presbytery to explore local opportunities.
If you are interested in exploring a call to the recognised ministries of the Church, you can find more information on our vocations page and can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a Discernment Conversation with one of the Recruitment Team.