3 September 2020

Si Johns, Joint CEO

Over the past few weeks our YMCA Exeter youth and support workers have been in touch with young people getting their GCSE, BTEC and A-Level results.

Read on to hear our Joint CEO, Si Johns, reflect on his own story from education into employment and discovering God’s calling. 


Being a teenager in 2020 is pretty nerve wracking isn’t it?  

There’s been a mix of feedback from the young people we work with. Some of them were relieved not to be taking their exams, while others were disappointed after working so hard. Either way, each young person needed a safe space to share their individual experiences. 

It’s in unprecedented moments of time like this when anxiety and fear can really take hold and young people need great people around them. 

Our YMCA Exeter Youth Workers are great people – they’ve been working alongside these young people for years – and are able to provide emotional support and be a consistent presence in their lives. 

My story 

Along with my colleague and fellow Joint CEO, Gareth Sorsby, I didn’t go to university. For me, I went from school into college believing that I wanted to be an actor! I took A-Level Theatre Studies but by the end of college I felt God was calling me into youth work instead so I joined Youth for Christ. 

I then ended that year with a wish to reach out to young people in the care system – youth work was great but I really wanted to help young people that weren’t being reached by traditional youth outreach. Yet, as I searched for work, I couldn’t find any employment and it was a pretty scary time. So I ended up on one of those schemes, that were common for people unemployed in the 90s, which involved cold-calling companies to ask for a work experience placement in Business Administration.  

I, of course, complained to God about this and that went something like: 

I don’t want to do Business Admin – I want to do youth and social work. I want to be working in a children’s home and reaching those young people – but all I’m doing is calling all these companies to receive a ‘no thanks’.” 

Then came a revelation when God gently asked me, “Have you called any Children’s Homes to see if they want any Business Administration?” I said “no, of course I haven’t…” Then we both paused, and I said “So I better do that then.” Not long after I got a placement in a children’s home and they subsequently trained and employed me as a social worker.

There are many routes to finding out what God is calling you into and there are many more ways as to how that can come about. College and university is just one route, maybe the most conventional way, but certainly not the only one. 

Looking back now I can see that even my most difficult time – unemployed and on benefits – has been fundamental for shaping me and giving me understanding to support young people at YMCA Exeter, helping them overcome homelessness, get out of debt and thrive in a community again.  

During August Gareth Sorsby and Si Johns, YMCA Exeter Joint CEOs, both spoke on Premier Christian Radio to encourage young people to explore the many career routes open to them and discover what they are passionate about. You can listen to the interviews by following the links below: