Category Archives: Guest Posts

Top 10 things I like about “Divided”

Today’s guest post is by Tim Carigon. Tim was a youth pastor/senior pastor in Hawai’i for 20 years, before moving to China with his family to work on behalf of Chinese youth. He is now beginning a new position as the Youth Pastor at BICF, the biggest international church in China.

The only thing productive about my vacation so far has been extended time being challenged by God  to prepare me for this upcoming youth ministry journey. I have come out of it frustrated and confused, until last night when it all started to come together.  This all happened while watching the movie “cowboys and aliens”.  I know it would have been more impressive to say my prayer closet but…. I have found God speaks to me in the shower, at movies and in the car more than my prayer closet.  I just realized I don’t have a prayer closet, or MAYBE these places ARE my prayer closet, hummmm.

Anyway, this morning as I woke up with all of this YM stuff on my mind a link to the movie DIVIDED came to me and I watched it in anticipation that it would confirm the things God has been showing me about this upcoming YM journey.  I spent the morning pouring over it.

Well, I am naturally cynical of new things coming down the pike, but the timing was just too curious in relationship to what God has been speaking to me lately about YM.  The first scene was of Marko and I was excited to see someone I knew; I know a little of his background and thought this is going to be good.  I went to get a drink so I could settle into the rest of the DVD.  And then the DVD drove off a cliff, and I was forced to ditch the car doing one of those Clint Eastwood jump and rolls out of the car as it goes over the cliff in slow motion.  I could write a really long post on this DVD, but I thought I would check out what Marko thought (cause now I was doubting his sanity), and was shocked to find out he was highjacked, and his clip was a surprise to him.  He writes an awesome blog on it here.

I will not, in an attempt to sound cool and original, try to out do his blog, (cause it is perfectly said) but I encourage you to read it and then you will get linked to a host of others who write about it as well.  I wish I could say things as well as he does on this topic.

Instead I would like to list the Top 10 things I really like about the DVD.  This is my attempt to be a positive person and overall good guy.  (Please do not read this if you are sarcastically handicapped)

Top 10 things I like about the awesome DVD “Divided”

#10 I like the irony of the title “Divided”
#9 I love the emphasis on families, fathers and scriptural purity.
#8 I like the videography.  The pan and blur things are really good.
#7 I love how the DVD throws the baby out with the bathwater.
#6 I like how the DVD asks all of those well worded leading questions to unsuspecting teens with really cool haircuts and edgy clothing.
#5 I love how seriously they take God’s Word and how they stress living radically different in a dark and perverse generation.
#4 I like the grumpy little kid on the front cover of the DVD who is not even a teenager.
#3 I love the DVD’s criticism of YM in America, and it’s attraction driven, program driven, budget driven, personality driven approach to youth ministry.  (Really I do love that part)

#2 I love the idealism of this DVD, pointing all teens in America toward their spirit filled fathers.  This is truly the God designed first line of discipleship.  I am concerned though because I think we may be a few good fathers short.

and the #1 thing I like about the movie “Divided”….

I like it’s transparency and obvious agendas running throughout the DVD.

I hope this DVD gets people talking about making disciples of the next generation and that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.  I know Paul Washer and the rest of the experts in this video love Jesus.  And I hope this at least raises the topic of youth ministry in our local churches.  I also pray God will grant all of us discernment and wisdom to know how best to reach the teens of America, not to mention the 110 million teens in China.

In Kindred Spirit,

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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Guest Posts, Leading Youth


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Why we should throw kids in the deep end

This is Danny Coyle’s second guest post (click here to see his post from last week on trust). Danny is an ATCK who pastored TCKs and is now raising 2 TCKs of his own.

When I was growing up, my Dad would take me and my brothers on his mission trips.  I never really enjoyed it when he asked because it meant spending time away from my youth group and my friends.  There were times he forced me to go, however, and now I’m so glad he did.

In our youth group, we were constantly involved with ministries to beggars, the lost, the demonized, and the sick.  Our youth pastor was not afraid to put us in uncomfortable situations.

In my family and my youth group, I got plenty of practice living out my faith.  By the time I went to college, God had proven himself so many ways by using me.  Not someone else.  It was my hands, my mouth.  This made the reality of God undeniable.  How could I discredit the people that asked Jesus into their hearts because I said they needed him, or the demons that I helped cast out?  I had seen the truth in action, and there was no way I could walk away from it.

When I pastored youth, we stayed in our youth group room.  I was too conservative.  I didn’t have time to plan outreaches, and I was too insecure to throw the kids into the deep end – like my parents and youth pastor did for me.  I can’t speak from the place of “This worked for me.”  I’m speaking from the place of “If there was one thing I wish I could have done differently…..”

I wish that I had done more to put kids in situations which required them to totally depend on God.  Places where they had to prove him.  I thought my teachings would be enough – but they weren’t.  Teaching alone never can be.

Youth are supposed to be sent out.  They are supposed to be sent out way before they go to college.  We need to be sending them into their schools, into the streets, to be the ministers that God has already made them to be.  Why? Because that’s where they prove Him for themselves.

Of course, there are many people who have turned away from God after he used them in incredible ways.  This is not a magic formula to keep kids walking with Jesus.  But I think it is the best thing we’ve got.

Throw your youth into the deep end and I’m sure you’ll find the pool filled with grace.

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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Guest Posts, Leading Youth


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The TCK challenge in one word: Trust

We are delighted to share with you this guest post by Danny Coyle. Danny is an American ATCK who pastored TCKs in China and is raising 2 TCKs of his own.

I moved to Hong Kong when I was 9yrs old.  I grew up as a TCK, in a youth group and school full of TCKs.  When I left university, I became a youth pastor of TCKs for 3 years.  Now, as a father of 2 kids growing up in Beijing, I’m raising 2 TCKs.  I would say this gives me a unique perspective on TCKs.

If I could boil the TCK experience down into one word, it would be trust.  What is trustworthy? In the storms of change, where is the foundation?

For a TCK, nothing is predictable.  Relationships change, schools change.  It seems like every year there is a major upheaval, and you aren’t sure if things are going to work out favorably next time around.  In fact, they rarely do.

We develop mechanisms to insulate ourselves from the insecurity and pain.  None of the mechanisms I developed for myself were healthy.  They were all based in pride, selfishness, fear and shame.  I still deal with the repercussions of those decisions in my own life to this day.  But that’s all I knew how to do then.

Now that I’m older, I can look back on growing up as a TCK. I can look into the lives of the kids I pastored, and now my own children. It’s easy to see the message that I want all of them to hold onto for life, for dear life.

This is what I want my kids to live out loud:  I will trust Jesus with everything I am – even though I may not agree, don’t understand, no one else is doing it, and all my inner urges point in a totally different direction.

For a TCK, trusting Jesus in this way is impossible – without a savior.  Our TCKs need to know that they were not designed to endure such unpredictable circumstances.  It’s actually impossible to survive them with hearts intact.  They must trust Jesus in every way, always; he is their only hope.

In my mind, there isn’t any higher theme or higher goal in life.

If we are going to tell this to our TCKs, however, we first need to model it in our own lives.  Our TCKs are bright enough to know when we are preaching something that we aren’t living.  This message will stink like a sewer if you aren’t living it first.

And the first step to living this life of trust is recognizing that you can’t do it without a savior, either.

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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Guest Posts, Leading Youth, TCKs


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5 Things That Mess With A TCK’s Brain: A guide to helping you relate to TCK youth

This guest post is written by Joyce Teo, a TCK from Singapore, now working with TCKs in Beijing.

A BrainMashed Joyce

A BrainMashed Joyce

5 Things That Mess With A TCK’s Brain
A guide to helping you relate to TCK youth
by an ex TCK-youth

I’d consider myself a TCK thrice removed – born in Singapore, left for Hong Kong at age six, moved back to Singapore for two years, then uprooted again and replanted in Beijing for the next seven years, then back to Singapore for three long years in university, and now back in Beijing for the past year and counting. (You think that sounds confusing, wait till you meet my friend who has lived in 9 different countries over 12 years).

Over the years I have found myself transitioning from TCK youth to TCK youth leader, currently dealing with a group of wacky high schoolers out in my old suburban home of Shunyi, Beijing. As one who has moved into, out of, and back into the TC community, I’ve come to both observe and experience the 5 main things that really mess with a TCK’s brain – or Brain-Mashers, as I like to call them. Now before I continue, let me first clarify that this list is drawn from my knowledge of living in China, and may or may not apply to TCKs elsewhere. Yet regardless of where your ministry is, understanding the phases and challenges your TCK youth go through is extremely important before any sort of real communication and rapport can occur.

1. Answering the question, “So where are you from?”

While this seems like a no-brainer to most people, throw this question at any TCK and watch his/her face go blank as his/her brain scrambles to come up with the most reasonable-sounding answer. “Well uh… I was born in Hong Kong, but I have a Canadian passport and lived there when I was three, and then I moved to China in second grade and then moved to Singapore for Middle School and then back to China for High School so uh… I guess I’m Canadian?” Now the person who asked the question draws a blank, and the TCK moves on to Brain-Masher 2.

2. Figuring out just exactly where you are from.

This probably tops the list of things that TCKs struggle with. Though many TCKs pride themselves on being skilled at adapting to any new environment or situation thrown their way, juggling multiple cultures at once – especially as a growing adolescent – inevitably leads to a case of identity crisis. This uncertainty shadows a TCK like a serial stalker, intensified with each new city or yet another year away. Where do I belong? As I start identifying with my host culture, what happens to my “home” culture?

This is particularly true when a TCK returns to his/her parent country, and realizes he/she has little to nothing in common with the culture there. Just like the culture shock experienced when they first moved into a new country, reverse culture shock kicks in upon returning home after several years away. Realizing that you’re a foreigner in your own so-called “home” country proves to be a daunting reality for many TCKs.

There are a million things one could build their identity on, but these things eventually change – best friends move, parents relocate, teachers’ contracts expire, mentors leave… What happens when all the things you’ve framed your identity and purpose around suddenly disappear? A ginormous Brain-Masher that may result in you backpacking to Tibet to “find yourself” (true story). That is why I strongly believe that a primary life lesson TCK youth should learn is to base their identity on the One that never changes.

3. Having to explain that China is, in fact, not in Japan.

For people who have grown up in one place their entire lives, the perceptions (or rather, misperceptions) of other countries can range from Pretty-Close to You-Really-Need-To-Get-Out-More. TCKs often have to deal with stereotypes and misguided conceptions of their host countries when explaining “So where are you from?” (see Brain-Masher 1) to non-TCKs. “No, I do not ride a panda to school.” “Yes, we do have toilet paper in China.” “No, it’s not mandatory to learn kung fu.” “Yes, my English is indeed, ‘very good’.”

Growing up in multicultural communities endow TCKs with a broad worldview, and frustrations often arise when it comes to explaining their differences to others who may not share the same open-mindedness. This again leads to communication barriers and a sense of isolation, especially when TCKs leave and trade their TCK bubble for a community in which the majority shares a single hegemonic culture.

4. Having to explain that yes, we have a driver and three ayis, but that’s only because we live in China.

Many are quick to label international-schooled TCKs as spoiled, rich brats with personal butlers who never worked a day job because their parents spoon-fed them their whole lives. But if you ever plan to work with these TCKs, you’re going to have to understand that even among TCKs within one country, there will be TCK subcultures and sub-subcultures (e.g. international-schooled TCKs vs home-schooled TCKs vs MK TCKs etc). Granted there will be some TCKs born and bred to become expat pricks, but that does not mean that being in a big obnoxious international school will invariably churn out a big obnoxious TCK.

For many international school TCKs, their “luxuries” stem from company expatriate packages which aim to compensate for respective inconveniences the families have to face as part of living overseas (e.g. living in a third-world country, being away from family, security etc.). For them, the lifestyles they’ve grown accustomed to in their host countries vary significantly from that of their parent country. Sure, every other family may have an ayi (domestic helper) or a masseuse who comes to your house twice a week, but that’s only because you’re living in China where labor costs are next to nothing. For my family at least, we would never be able to afford this same expat lifestyle back in Singapore (see Brain-Masher 5).

Understanding your TCK youths’ backgrounds (why they moved, parents’ jobs, previous places they’ve lived etc.) lends a better understanding of the various issues they face and, hopefully, eliminates some of the pre-conceived negative biases of TCKs.

5. Adjusting to life outside of the TCK world.

No one stays a TCK forever. When a TCK hits that imminent age of 18, all bets are off. That great expat family package? No longer covers your medical insurance (though your younger siblings still count). Your flamboyant en suite bedroom with a Jacuzzi and heated floors? Shrunk to a dorm room you now share with your eccentric college roommate. Goodbye ayi and private driver, hello public transport.

I dub this the Shunyi Bubble Effect – a phenomenon many of my own friends are all too familiar with (Shunyi is the name for an area north of Beijing dominated by the expat package set). Lifestyles aside, TCKs who leave are faced with yet another enigma – social support. Sure, high school kids leave home for college all the time, but most of them do so with an entourage of the same high school friends who may very well end up in the same college. Transitioning to the next chapter of your life isn’t so bad when you have familiar faces for support right? Not so much for a TCK. A third of your social group ends up in the US. Your best friend is now in London. Your other best friend is now in Australia. Another friend has decided to take a gap year and help breed baby turtles in Indonesia.

Just like Brain-Masher 2, the drastic changes that accompany a TCK’s transition out of the TCK bubble can have significant impact on TCK youth. And scrambling to get back in or recreate the bubble may not be as straightforward either. Like trying to join a Chinese society only to be reminded that, despite living 9 years in China, you are in fact not Chinese (as did one Sri Lankan friend). Or to “show up for International Students Orientation but get barred from entering because you have a US passport”, as did another friend.

Working with mashed brains

Culture shock, reverse culture shock, identity crises, confronting misconceptions, and dealing with ever-changing environments are just a few of many things that mess with a TCK’s brain. The thing is, most TCK youth probably won’t admit that these are the things that bug them till they’ve been away for long enough and come back as ex-TCKs. Or they aren’t aware that these are the things that WILL bug them once they leave the TCK bubble, be it as a high school senior or a college freshman or a returning TCK.

This is where TCK youth workers come in, to better equip these TCK youth for a life away from the comfort of a world so unique to the TCK community. Hopefully this article helps you better understand the areas in which your youth are struggling. Better yet, talk to them and ask them what their Brain-Mashers are!


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An unexpected culture shock (returning home overseas)


Elizabeth is a US citizen who grew up in China. She spent a gap year between the US, Nepal and China, and just completed her first year of college in the US.

As a TCK, I had always heard of culture shock, but had never truly experienced it. I attribute this lack of experience to the fact that I have been switching cultures since I was less than a year old, so I’ve never had time to learn what culture shock felt like. I knew culture shock was common and difficult, but I had never truly experienced the impact of it. Because China was “home”, I figured that the most culture shock I would ever experience would come in the States or other new countries.

Then I returned to China after almost a year in the States. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I felt different this time back. Suddenly the large crowds were overwhelming, the polluted air was hard to breathe in, the food wasn’t settling well, and the language barriers were exasperating. After a day or so, I realized these troubles came from the fact that I was re-adjusting to China life. Suddenly I was seeing Beijing almost as any average foreigner would have. I realized I was experiencing real culture shock. But in my own country? My culture shock was intensified because I hadn’t expected to experience any readjustment; I expected to blend back into Beijing life like I always had in the past.

So what was making the difference this time around? Why was I having a hard time blending back into the familiar mix of a Chinese and Expat culture? I’ve come up with several theories to explain this
new experience.

Theory 1: Length of time away

It had been a longer amount of time since I had left China last. It had also been a longer time since I had been in any country besides the United States. I had been gone from China for up to 8 months before, but during that time I had visited another Asian country. This time it had been over 10 months since I had been anywhere outside of the States. I have to wonder if the length of time away contributed to my shock in re-entry.

Theory 2: Deeper affinity with my passport country

Since starting college in the States I’ve become more accustomed to the life and culture there. Maybe I’ve even become what TCKs shudder at – “more American.” I know I’ve seen this phenomenon happen in other TCKs. After spending more time in our passport country, some of us begin to identify more with that country. This definitely doesn’t happen for everyone; actually, from what I’ve seen, it probably applies to no more than half of the TCK population. Yet I would say it’s more common for TCKs when they return to their passport country for university. In my opinion, it’s a natural part of growing up and figuring out how your experience as a TCK will or won’t affect your identity. Because of my opinion, I’m fine with becoming “more American” in some areas of my life. I’m never going neglect or forget my TCK-ness, but I don’t want that to be my only identity. But back to my theories on my unexpected culture shock. The fact that I’m “more American” now may be contributing to the culture shock of re-entering China.

Reverse culture shock happens when one returns to one’s home country. Is the culture shock that a TCK experiences when returning to his/her “foreign” country reverse-reverse culture shock? (One of my friends cleverly called it “culture shock squared.”) Or is it merely reverse culture shock, because TCK’s often consider foreign countries their true home? I haven’t decided which one fits best. Yet I know that when I return to China next time, I won’t be as shocked by my own culture shock.

Have you experienced “culture shock squared”? How did you respond?

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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Expat Life, Guest Posts, TCKs


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TCK Summers: Katie

Hi :):) I’m Katie, a 16 year old Aussie/Kiwi. I lived in New Zealand, where I was born, for nine years, in Belgium for five years, and I’ve now been in Beijing, China, for almost two years.

What does a normal summer look like?
There’s no typical summer plan for my family. My parents and I end up in completely different places doing completely different things. For example, last summer I first participated in a service project in Brussels, then went Wales and France, back to Belgium, then finally back to Beijing. My parents stayed in Beijing for most of the summer, then came to Brussels and afterwards went to a wedding in Ghana. And this changes every year…

The last time I spent the whole summer with my family was in 2007, if I remember correctly. We went back to New Zealand and Australia for 5 weeks. The next year, I went to the States to visit friends; in 2009 I went back to NZ alone to visit relatives; last summer I went to Europe and spent only a week of that time with part of my family.

What would my perfect summer be?
I’m torn between the idea of returning to my original home in New Zealand where I have family, and returning to Belgium which was my home for more than 5 years. I never felt torn between them until I left Belgium. When I was living in Belgium, I was quite happy to take any opportunity to go back to NZ. However, now that I’m in Beijing, I feel more torn between the countries. Just the other day my father asked me where I would like to spend next Christmas. While I have family in NZ that I would love to see, I also would like to go to Belgium where my immediate family will probably spend Christmas, and where I have good friends and many memories. I don’t know in which country my ideal summer would be as I’m deeply attached to both NZ and Belgium.

What am I doing this summer?
At the beginning of the summer, I will be attending a 12 day program in the States, in D.C. and New York, then coming back to Beijing for the rest of the summer, trying to get ahead in my school work for next year, and possibly doing a summer job.

What is my favourite summer memory?
My favourite summer memory would probably be spending time with my relatives in New Zealand, where I can also escape the summer heat as that is New Zealand wintertime. It’s nice to spend a decent amount of time back in the place that I’m tempted to call home, to reconnect with people and remember where I’m from.

The country I call home definitely depends on my mood and whom I’m talking to. When talking to Australians I can feel right at home — until they make fun of New Zealanders, at which point I jump to the Kiwis’ defense, and realize that I am more of a Kiwi than an Australian after all. To add to that confusion, after living in Belgium for 5 years, I had become quite attached to their culture, and I spoke French better than I did English. Then I really did not know where to call home.

After much contemplation, I decided to give NZ that title (most of the time) because I have the family that I’m closest to there, old friends, and it is what I describe as a “fall back country”. A fall back country is like a safety net, it’s the place where I can go back to and feel comfortable and at home with family around me, if I should ever need that at any point during my life. For me, that place is New Zealand.

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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Guest Posts, TCK Summers


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How does working with TCKs apply to youth work “at home”?

Nathaniel is a youth worker from  Australia. In this guest post he compares working with TCKs in Cambodia with the work he does with 1st/2nd generation immigrant youth in Sydney.

A bit about me

I am an Australian-Born Chinese (ABC) living in Sydney, Australia. My parents migrated from Hong Kong, to England, then to Australia shortly before I was born.

A bit about my Youth Group

Two years ago, our youth group consisted of around 3 youth. Over the past two years, we have grown to a consistent 25-30. It is multi-ethnic, and a mix of Christian and non-christian (30-40%). The youth are a mix of migrant, first-generation and second-generation Australian youth. Our youth group is located in Sydney’s south, which is heavily dominated by immigrant families. The youth group is made up of youth from year 6-12, and they all get on extremely well – not often seen at many youth groups. They are an absolute joy to serve, lots of fun to hang out with, and I love them heaps and thank God for the amazing depth and rate of change in so many of their lives.

Cambodia vs Australia

I had the opportunity to spend two months in Cambodia doing a variety of work, which included working with the expat youth groups, Cross Culture and Solar. Tanya and Christina introduced me to the term “TCK”, and the awareness of their characteristics and needs has helped immensely due the cultural diversity present in my own youth group in Sydney.

Some differences I noticed between the two groups:

TCKs in Cambodia

  • Engaged much more readily i.e. were quite comfortable speaking to people older and in a different life stage to them.
  • Much more aware of cultural differences and how that made them different (whereas youth in Sydney would be aware of cultural differences, but less aware of how that affected how they interacted with the world around them)
  • Switch from acting very mature -> immature, extremely quickly
  • Friendships tend to develop much, much quicker
  • Quirkiness if accepted more readily, if not encouraged. Often helps groups to bond.
  • Greater appreciation and commitment to friendships

There was significant overlaps between the similarities. However, they were often more pronounced and noticeable in the TCKs in Cambodia, which made it helpful for me to identify and realise how important they were.

Similarities with Sydney youth:

  • Will open up to a leader if they know that leader cares and wants to invest in their lives
  • Looking for a place and people to belong to
  • Want someone who will accept them for who they are, but at the same time still encourage growth and development

Since coming back from Cambodia, I’ve really tried to be intentional about:

  • Spending as much informal time with the youth as you can. i.e. time where you both don’t have to be there, but choose to be. This can be the time before or after youth group/church, informal gatherings, optional events, lunch together, etc. Some of the most valuable conversations happen not during events such as talks etc, but the time before and after when they are processing ideas and issues.
  • Asking lots of questions – Find out about their friends, family, culture, country, what questions they have about anything at all. Connect them to places where they can start to address those concerns.
  • Investing in a few – The greater the diversity of the youth group, the more time and effort will be needed in getting to know individuals and how to help them grow. But the great thing is, that if you start to do that, then they start to invest in other youth as well.
  • Cultivating creativity and talents – Not just so they can go “serve” (though they might). Not just so they can play in church (even though that’s a great thing). But because God has made them in His Image and made them with interests, passions and talents and helping them to develop them because those things are good things in and of themselves and are ways for them to express themselves in a very positive way.

After meeting TCKs and TCK workers in Cambodia, it really became apparent to me that the TCK ministry is going to be increasingly important in the future due to the rapid pace of globalisation. So I’d like to say thankyou to all TCKs, people who work with TCKs, and networks such as YiA – it’s a tremendous resource and look into how the Church will continue to serve and reach global cities in the future with the good news of Jesus Christ.


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Posted by on June 17, 2011 in Guest Posts, Leading Youth, TCKs


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