Dear new Reacher,
It’s twelve months now since I was in your shoes. Nervously waiting for the start of the internship. I can remember how I trawled the internet trying to find out as much as I could, not knowing quite what to expect. You are at the start of what can be a fantastic year of learning and development, that could impact your life long after the year is over. I can’t pretend to be an expert on Reach, but I thought I’d share with you a few hints and tips that I’ve picked up along the way, to hopefully help you to make the most of the year.
Firstly, it’s important to start with an open mind. You probably have some expectations for the year and a fair few preconceived ideas for how it will be. But it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s going to be different from how you imagine, most things are. If you go into it with an open mind you’ll be best placed to make the most of the opportunities that arise even if they are different from what you expected.
Secondly, be yourself from the start. It’s easy to put up a front when you start in a new place, to keep people at arms length. But if you’re not careful this could be a barrier that gets in the way of forming friendships. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. You are on Reach because you are good enough to be there and they think you are a good fit for CAP. It’s okay if you feel like you don’t fit in at first. The first few weeks can be a bit overwhelming and I remember feeling like the odd one out, not extrovert enough or ticking enough boxes. However, as the weeks go on you’ll see that there are lots of different people at CAP, with different character types, from different denominations and walks of life. There is a place for you here.
Think carefully about what kind of church you want to join. Working for a Christian charity there are a few added complications to think about, like how many people from work you want to go to church with. Make sure church is somewhere you can go when you’ve had a tough week on Reach. You are going to need friends outside of CAP, and church can be a great place to find them. Try and find a church where you can get stuck in and contribute, even though you’re only here a year. Don’t overlook the local churches around you, they are often in desperate need of people your age (if you’re in Barmouth check out St Augustine’s up the hill, not that I’m biased or anything!). The only way to find a church that suits you is to try different churches out, there are many great churches to choose from. Chat to people at Head Office to see what’s around, but don’t take too long making a decision, the time will fly by before you know it.
Reach is going to test your boundaries. To get the most out of the year you’re going to need to throw yourself in at the deep end and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. You will get out of the year what you put into it. However, you can’t say ‘yes’ to everything. You have to find a good balance in your life, especially when you throw the fundraising into the equation. Make sure you still make time to socialise, rest and unwind. There’s a critical difference between stepping out of you comfort zone and burning out, be on your guard.
In the same vein, make the most of your time as a Reach group. I know this can be easier said than done, especially when you’re an introvert in the first few weeks of a new and demanding job. The first few months are key for building friendships and cementing relationships in the group, so try to get involved even if socialising in large groups isn’t your thing. It’s likely that the Reach group you start with on your first day won’t look the same as the group you finish with. Some people will leave along the way, and you’re going to miss then when they do, so enjoy these times together.
You may well be surprised by just how many differences there will be between a group of twenty or so Christian interns. You’re going to have vastly different opinions on lots of issues, and that’s okay. Embrace and celebrate these differences and don’t let them spoil your friendships. There will probably also be people in the group who you don’t get on with, Reach throws a wide range of people together, and it’s not always going to be happy families. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but how you handle these challenging relationships and conflicts could be vital to the rest of your Reach year. Reach can be quite an intense environment, especially when you’re living and working together. Even if you don’t like someone maintaining working relationships is key, as is handling conflict maturely. If you have a disagreement with someone, try not to drag other interns into it, even if it’s easy to do. It’s all too easy for a personality clash or argument to turn into a group divide. Don’t let it. Be peacemakers and it’ll be worth it in the end.
At the same time try to make friends outside of Reach. Get to know your team and other people at CAP. You will be surrounded by so many wonderful and inspiring people, it’s worth stepping out of the Reach bubble to get to know some of them. These friendships can also be a Refuge for the more challenging weeks on the internship. You can listen to their wisdom, they will have seen it all before.
If you’re anything like me then the fundraising target is looking pretty intimidating at the moment. You’re going to get differing opinions on this depending on which ex-Reacher you ask, but personally I think it’s achievable. It’s a question of chipping away at it a bit at a time, every pound counts. From what I’ve seen, CAP is more interested in the effort you put in, than the actual money raised. Use the skills and talents you already have to fundraise in a way that suits you. Remember to celebrate other Reacher’s successes when they do well. Be encouragers, cheering each other. And when it all feels too much, take it to God. Ultimately He is our provider.
With the best will in the world you are going to make mistakes along the way, on Reach or in your departments. That is only human and not something to fear. Don’t be afraid to put your hands up and admit the mistake and then move on. Remember your managers and team are there to help, ask them as many questions as you need to. If you don’t know something then ask someone, don’t try to bluff it.
There may also be times when CAP makes mistakes. Perfect organisations don’t exist. As great as CAP is they won’t always get it right, and it might be that you get hurt in the process. But on those days you’re going to need to dust it off and extend the same grace to CAP as is extended to you when you get things wrong. Keep smiling and move forward positively, it will be a great test of character if nothing else.
This year will be what you make of it. There will be challenges along the way. But Reach can also be a great year of growth, of learning and friendship. It’s a good opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself beyond what you thought you could achieve. Be prepared for God to use you in unexpected ways and teach you lessons you weren’t anticipating. Be honest if you’re finding things difficult, you are not on your own. Remember that your best is good enough and get stuck in. You can trust that God will use this year for your good and His glory.
We’re praying for you all and looking forward to meeting you!