Author Archives: Christina

About Christina

I've been working with expatriate youth in Asia since 2004. After three years as a teacher and volunteer youth worker in Beijing, China, I moved to Cambodia in 2007. I am employed by two international fellowships in Phnom Penh to run a city-wide youth ministry. I am also studying in a post-grad urban youth work program at Fuller Youth Institute.

Christmas Already??? (some favorite youth group resources)

Less than a month to go until Christmas! As we head into the Christmas season I wanted to share some of my favorite online Christmas resources.

Season’s Beatings: Live from Downtown
This is a great youth group skit, as characters are one stage one at time, students can play more than one role. My students have heaps of fun doing this one!

“Jingle All the Way”
This a children’s moment that has the same theme as the play. I couldn’t afford to buy bells for all the children, so I printed a bell on a coloring sheet, and encouraged the kids to “ring” their paper bells at the right times. Some of the parents commented they liked this even better! ;) I also had several real bells to use as examples.

Easter Jesus vs Christmas Jesus
The skit combines the imagery and prophecy of Christmas and Easter in a creative way.

The point the Easter vs Christmas drama is what it looks like when we focus only one image of Jesus. While it might not be a Christmas skit, I wanted to share a humorous illustration from Talladega Nights. The version I’ve linked is actually edited slightly, making it more youth group appropriate.

Christmas Caper – Did Grandma get run over by a Reindeer?
This provided a fun base for our Christmas party. We set up stations around the school we met at, although going to other people’s homes would have been fun too. I was afraid my youth wouldn’t catch the American references but all did well. It was a memorable night!

To top off the night, I splurged and bought chocolate covered blueberries (imported for Christmas from the international supermarket) and gave all the youth a gift of Reindeer poop! There are a couple “recipes” (poems to go with the candy) floating around online. I used this one.

Merry Christmas! =D  Enjoy

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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Youth Resources


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The importance of networking for expat youth workers

I recently listened to an interview with Chris Brooks on the power of networking in the lives of youth leaders.

Networking has been an important part of my experience as a youth leader. Out of this experience has grown Youth In Asia. As a youth leader in Beijing, I was blessed to be part of an informal network of volunteer and paid youth workers. This type of support is unusual for international youth workers, who are often isolated whether they are paid or volunteer. As we recognized that this network and the support it provided was unique and valuable, we began to dream about  how to share this kind of community, and what it might look like if it spread across Asia.

Brooks addresses what could potentially be obstacles in networking. I can relate to both the obstacles named: lack of time, and not making networking a priority even if we do have time. Another challenge can be the transience that accompanies international work. Networking can become challenging after several years abroad. For those of us who are full time youth international youth ministers, we are often the only paid staff in the area, which can be incredibly isolating.

Part of this stress can be dealt with by connecting with others in international schools or churches who are passionate about creating a positive experience for international youth. I also believe YIA can provide a valuable space to support and resource one another especially in regards to issues unique to youth ministry.

Brooks also talks about a benefit of networking being that it can provide a sense of the big picture of youth ministry. Networking has an important role in supporting youth leaders so that they can remain on the field. One of the sentiments I hear when describing what I do to others is “that’s so important to keeping missionaries on the field”. While I agree that what I do does keep missionary families on the field (and I’m excited about the far reaching impact what I do has on my host country) I also remind people that what I do has value because God cares about the youth I minister to as much as locals. By coming together as people passionate about ministering to expatriate youth, we can encourage one another in this ministry.

A third question that was raised was about the role of technology in networking. The interviewer asked about the supposed conflict between technology and relationships, and asked if  Brooks  saw a conflict in networking that was relational in nature and technology which sometimes has the reputation to harm relationships  Brooks was quick to respond that those of us on the ground know the power of technology not to diminish the value of relationships, but rather to facilitate them. I see the role of the YIA blog as a great example of how we as youth workers spread across Asia can be connected because of the advances of technology.

I am feel so privileged to work with the youth that I do, to have been part of such an amazing community and network in Beijing and am looking forward to all that God has in store and His role of YIA in expanding his kingdom across Asia! Welcome to the network! =D


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Mentoring Leaders – a challenge for youth workers

I recently read “Mentoring Leaders” by Carson Pue as part of my post-grad studies in urban youth ministry. I’d like to share some insights with you and hear what you have to say on the topic.

Pue’s model of how leaders are mentored:

  1.  Self Awareness – the process of becoming more aware of self and of God. In this stage we become not only more aware of our gift mix, but also of our shortcomings. The process of admitting our faults, fears, and insecurities leads to a greater awareness of God’s grace, and security as his children. (This also relates closely to John’s recent series on Self Assessment).
  2. Freeing Up – the process of becoming the leaders God wants us to be. In this stage needs are named and individuals begin to consider where they are looking to get needs met; many of us look somewhere other than God to meet our needs.
  3. Visioneering – the process of defining our vision for life. This is an individual process, but it is important for mentors to come along side as the leader waits and seeks God for a life vision and for Him to bring it about.
  4. Implementing – the process of walking alongside leaders as they begin strategically moving towards vision.
  5. Sustaining- the process of walking alongside leaders as they continue walking.

As my volunteer base turns over quite often (every 6 months), it is not often I have the opportunity to walk alongside a new leader for a significant amount of time. My mentoring role focuses more on middle and high school students.

I have been blessed this past year to be part of a year-long leadership network, called Refocusing. It meets together for 4 retreats throughout the year, and includes teaching and consistent year-long small groups. These small groups provide a safe place to discuss leadership difficulties. The purpose of the year-long program is to clarify values and vision. This program has brought several women leaders into my life who have walked with me and challenged me this past year.

I feel that Refocusing has provided a good base for helping me think through my vision for youth ministry to TCKs  both in my current ministry context of Phnom Penh, and also as we consider what it looks like to impact South East Asia through Youth in Asia ministry.

I think that the busy, hectic lives we lead prevent us from being the best mentors we can be. Busy-ness, and the exhaustion it often leads to, limits our effectiveness. We also often live life in such a way that we don’t have transparent relationships. My experience of walking with Tanya in both a deep, transparent friendship, and ministry context provides me a framework for what leadership accountability looks like and the role of deep, transparent, accountable friendships look like.

Being mentored significantly increases our effectiveness as mentors ourselves. Having mentors in our lives helps us see from the mentee perspective, which is invaluable to helping us understand the perspective of those we come alongside and try to help.

For me, carving out the time and space to spend alone time with God, and living life at a pace where that alone time is beneficial, will take concentrated effort. A mentor would be helpful in that process to help me set goals and track progress and challenges. Unfortunately, the mentors who came into my life this year are leaving Phnom Penh this year, and the process of finding new mentors will begin again.

In “Mentoring Leaders” there is a section on functioning from your core as a child. Pue describes ways that we can live from an orphaned point of view or, instead, from the Child of God point of view. It is important to be are aware that our security and identity as God’s children is a growing, vibrant process; it does not become static, nor do we ever arrive. I’m back in the US at the moment, and during a recent conversation with my father I realised how very quickly and easily I start feeling once again like an insecure 14 year old girl, looking to hold his attention.

Although I’ve heard it said before, and probably even said it myself, it is only spending time alone with God where we can gain his perspective on us, his acceptance of us based on what Jesus has done. Only once I am secure in this can I face the insecurity that comes out of my lacking relationship with my parents.

Questions to think about: 

What keeps us from maximizing our leadership effectiveness as a mentor?

What helps us increase our leadership effectiveness as a mentor?

How is God nudging you to grow as a mentor and leader? 

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Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Leadership Development



The place of Christian Coaching in youth ministry

I recently attended a 3 day workshop on coaching. Christian coaching is a process of mentoring that consists mostly of asking questions and allowing the coachee to come up with their own discoveries and goals. There are two things I really love about coaching:

  1. The emphasis on trusting the Holy Spirit to to be the one at work transforming.
  2. Coaching is a process that empowers the coachee to set their own growth goals – a great reminder that I don’t have to have all the answers.

Coaching is a great tool to add to our tool belts. The seminar was focused mostly on peer-to-peer coaching and how to use these skills in informal settings.  The big questions now in my head revolve more the application of these skills to my own ministry context – working with youth. How can we use the principles of coaching, and the art of powerful questions, in youth ministry? What is the role of formal coaching in our work mentoring youth?

Most long term youth workers have spent time considering what makes a “good question” during group teaching times. It’s a big topic – probably best to spend a whole blog post talking about that alone. In the context of coaching, we talked about asking “powerful questions” and the risk of asking open-ended questions. We have probably all experienced the crazy tangents that can happen in small groups – and even large groups – when an interesting question derails the whole discussion.

If we really believe that personal discovery is more powerful than being told the right answer, it seems to follow that we should strive to set our kids up for personal discovery. Instead of teaching them the right answers,we should be learning to ask powerful questions that lead them to think their own way through to those answers.

Parents and Coaching

The principles of coaching might provide some valuble tools for parents, especially as they work through changing relationships with their kids. Coaching speaks to kids the message I have confidence in you. It makes lots of space for positive feedback and recognition. Although parents may never formally coach their kids, the techniques can be used to  help their children think through their decisions, the consequences and, and setting their own goals.

Formal Coaching in Youth Ministry

I think one of the most vauble roles of formal coaching in international youth ministry would be as a transitions coach for students who have graduated and are moving back to their passport countries.  Think about all the changes that happen January to January – preparing to leave the host country, graduations and farewells, a summer break, and then moving into  uni and settling into  a new life…  How valuable would it be if we intentionally coached our students through this process? Not just being intentional about checking in but also giving them a dedicated hour of our time – to listen to them, and give our assurance that they have within them the resources needed to set and meet goals. Coaching actually works well over skype, and many professional coaches actually prefer to use skype.  For students in transition, this means that the coaching can remain a constant during the months leading up, during, and after the move.

One of the factors that Fuller Youth Institute has identified as helping highschool students make a success transition to college or university is continued contact with their highschool youth leader*. How much more valuble would  this be for international youth like the ones we work with? They are not only facing the challenges of the transition from high school to college but also the extra pressures of an international move, and entering a “home” country they may not feel at all at home in.

What about you?

What experiences have you had either formally or informally coaching teens? Either as a youth leader or parent?

*A note: I am currently studying at Fuller Theological Seminary. The Urban Youth Ministry program I am doing was created by Fuller Youth Institute. A concept they have spent a lot of time looking at is “sticky faith” – helping students build a faith that lasts beyond high school. More resources here.

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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs, Youth Resources


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Violence among youth – how does it affect TCK ministry?

I took a course on trends in violence as part of my post-grad course on urban youth ministry (through Fuller). In order to research the trends in violence among expatriate youth in Phnom Penh, I interviewed two administrators of international schools in Phnom Penh.

Both schools serve international populations of largely middle to upper class families. In both these discussions the issue of violence was treated in a general sense, including neglect and self harm. One school reported concerns about self-harm among younger girls (13-14 years old). The trends they reported were similar. Overall violent occurrences are rare. While they admitted there are occasional issues, these tend to be isolated and short term.

Some thoughts that came out of these discussions:

  • Most violence arises among the boys, often related to aggression that comes up during sporting events. It is therefore important to have men model healthy ways of handling aggression on the sports field.
  • Cyber bullying is a larger issue than face-to-face bullying. It’s important to be aware of cyber bullying and teaching media awareness (and the importance of integrity). This includes teaching responses for teens to use if a friend is being cyber bullied.
  • Important to be aware of cultural differences – some Asian families would consider “acceptable” what some Western families would consider “neglect”.
  • Helping parents network – where discussing challenges would be possible (this may apply more to schools than a youth ministry setting)
One of the schools is a Christian school. We discussed what violence could look in a Christian setting. Isolation can make it easier for a family to disguise domestic abuse issues. There is an assumption of health among Christian families (particularly among missionaries) which make this sort of disguise easier to maintain.

I also attempted to gain a better understanding of issues of violence in Khmer families. I spoke to someone familiar with cultural trends contributing to violence within families. Khmer cultural attitudes to be aware of include that boys are expected to get into trouble, while girls should be kept at home. Often in incidents of rape, the woman is held accountable and brings shame on her family. Women have an attitude of “deserving” violence. Better understanding the cultural attitudes towards rape and violence helps me better anticipate some of the identity issues raised in or adopted from Khmer families may deal with.

This conversation brought home to me the importance of understanding trends of violence among youth and differing cultural attitudes towards violence. This knowledge enables me to better serve the teens I work with – it gives me an idea of what they may be struggling with, helping me read between the lines of their stories and predict possible future issues (that I can then help the youth deal with).

All of this shows the importance of fostering relationships with teens where there is safe space for youth to share difficulties.


Posted by on March 14, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs


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A Memorable TCK Quote…

At the beginning of December a friend left Cambodia and, as is customary here, a bunch of us headed to the airport to say farewell and wish him the best as he left. I posted something in regards to this on my status, about a good semester and a trip to the airport. It was a bit cryptic, but anyone here who knew us would have clearly understood the reference.

A couple weeks later, my sister mentioned that friends in the US were asking her if I was home for Christmas, because they “saw something on facebook about a trip to the airport”. An understandable mistake, especially since I was home last year for Christmas.

So today, in the middle of chatting via skype with two of my youth now back in the states, I mentioned this brief misunderstanding, and like me, they were both amused. One replied:

“Where we’re from, going to the airport means many things, sometimes its to say goodbye, sometimes to say hello, sometimes it just means you just want Dairy Queen. . . And occasionally it means you get to go somewhere!”

Her simple comment was very memorable in that it spoke of something at the very heart of international culture in general, and life in Phnom Penh in particular. The airport is indeed an intricate part of my Phnom Penh experience. Many hellos and goodbyes have been said there. The Dairy Queen provides the back drop for this, and provides some sugary relief when it gets particularly hard; it also give a distraction for the real reason we are there.

Her comment, poetic style, and light hearted understanding of international culture spoke to my heart and soemthing that has been so essencial to my Phnon Penh experience.


Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs


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Helping youth deal with the loss of leaving

“Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.” David Pollock

Anyone who has lived in an expat community knows that transition, change, and leaving are constants – sometimes the only constants. Whether you are the one leaving, or the one left, it can be painful.

Two guest speakers came to the youth groups in Phnom Penh in early December last year. They spoke about the changes and transitions faced by both the “leavers” and the “stayers.” They spoke on the RAFT model and how that process is an important one to think and act through whether you are a leaver, or a stayed who needs to farewell someone leaving.

They did an excellent job at leading the youth through some guided reflection, but it stirred up in me another thought – mostly that you can say good bye well – but then you are still left to live with the loss.

I think part of what becomes so wearisome is that these changes are constant – a constant stream of hellos to new people and a constant stream of goodbyes to old friends. And as blessed as we to have facebook and skype, nothing can take the place of a hug, a cup of coffee, a late night talk, a shared glance that speaks an entire conversation, the little everyday exchanges that are so important.

I LOVE the movie UP; it shows this so well. The characters are living with loss and grief. The old man has lost his wife and throughout the movie we see him missing her, the sense that “she was supposed to be here.” Russell has also lost his Dad and he mourns the loss of the little everyday things – “I might sound boring, but I miss the boring stuff the most.”

Russell’s new friend learns to see past his own hurt, his own sense of direction, and is willing to have a new adventure with Russell. And at the very end of the movie when he returns home, he joins Russel in watching the cars go by.

When Kris Rocke spoke on pain and loss, he said that it is only by facing our own pain that we are free to enter the pain of others. So I suspect my role as a spiritual caregiver is twofold, (and not only as a spiritual caregiver, but also as a child of God).

  1. Help youth acknowledge their own loss – not only the loss of a friend, but the loss of that friend’s house as a safe place to go, the loss of a group of friends. Sometimes this loss is cumulative; even familiar places can become hard to visit, as it brings with it the reminder of times when others were around. Grief is a process – one that takes time and energy. Unfortunately, at the end of the school year when so many people are leaving,  both time and energy seem to be in short supply. In the midst of exams and end of the year celebrations and goodbye parties, TCKs need to somehow find time to grieve in their own way. As adults, we can model this and be open about our own grief processes.
  2. Help youth move into a place of entering others’ pain – becoming compassionate, caring individuals and remembering that others’ losses are significant. We, and they, can learn to come along side others and give of ourselves. Like the old man in UP how we can move from focusing on our own situation into helping another person in need.

Posted by on January 24, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs


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