Category Archives: YiA Vision

Stuff about YiA (Youth in Asia) and what it’s all about.

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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Longevity: the most important factor in effective TCK work

The vision for Youth in Asia is “resourcing and support youth work in Asia”. My personal slice of the vision is to see “career” youth workers planted on the field across Asia to serve TCKs, and to keep them there long term.

I’m coming to the end of my 6th school year working with TCKs in Beijing. I’ve connected with TCKs from around China through youth camps and conferences in Beijing, and with TCKs in Cambodia (and most recently, Thailand and Vietnam) through short term work in south east Asia. TCK work is not a hobby or side project for me; it is what I do – my career, if you will.

I’m becoming somewhat of an expert on the lives and needs of TCKs living in Asia, and it is my goal to serve them and minister to their needs. When I plan events or trips to visit youth groups, I do it with this goal in mind. I have come to the conclusion, however, that the best way I can do that is work toward placing and keeping TCK workers on the field across Asia.

Longevity is an effective factor in any ministry (or any job, for that matter). We all know that. The longer you do something, the more you learn about it, and so on. I would argue that in TCK work longevity is vitally important.

When it comes to TCKs, I would take a young and inexperienced youth worker who will stay 5 years over an experienced youth worker who will stay 2 years. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the 2 year guy as well! I’m just saying that I think that longevity will provide for a deeper impact on kids than almost anything else.

Why? Trust

Most TCKs take a long time to open up to new people. In most cases, I’d say it takes 18 months of consistency to get a platform to speak to long-term TCKs. If you stay 2 years, you only get 6 months where you can really speak into their lives. If during those 6 months they know you’re about to leave, chances are you lose a lot of that impact, too.

Not all TCKs are the same, obviously, but there is definitely a huge barrier to trust when they are accustomed to seeing people come and go constantly – why bother investing deeply in a relationship when the person isn’t going to stay? Why put yourself in a vulnerable position and come to rely on someone who will leave you?

I believe it’s possible to learn a lot from someone you know a short time, and to really benefit from a mentoring relationship that lasts only a month or two, but that’s from a mature perspective. For a TCK who is in the midst of a million losses, that’s a difficult conclusion to come to emotionally.

There are two exceptions I would make to this: ATCKs and teachers. A youth worker who grew up overseas themselves will be accepted in much more quickly – they have a platform to speak from because they “get it”. A teacher who teaches TCKs in school and then works with a youth group outside school will get more space to speak into kids’ lives than someone else because they have far more face time with the kids.

My story

I had been a youth worker in Australia for years before moving to China. In fact, I started mentoring teenagers when I was still a teenager myself. When I moved to China I had no intention of continuing in youth work; I was transitioning to “real life” – finishing university so I could start climbing the corporate ladder.

When I visited the youth group ReGen for the first time in 2005, I felt like I was home. By the second week, I was hooked. Within months it was clear that THIS was the reason I was in China. I loved (still love) those kids! But I could feel this…resistance. There was a barrier between me and them that didn’t match up to my previous youth work experiences. I started to listen to their stories, trying to understand their lives and what made them different to kids at home.

I began to see how transient life can be for them – how many people leave. I realised that unless they believed I was around for the long haul, there was little reason for them to trust me or let me in. I took two weeks to pray and think so that I could come up with a date – so I could say I will be here until x.

I chose a date a little over three years in the future, based on when a certain group of kids would finish high school. Then I started telling them. I was clear that I had no certain plans, but that I would be around at least until the summer of 2009 because that’s when you graduate. I thought it was important to be clear that I was staying for THEM, not for a job.

I was amazed at how quickly that made a difference. I wasn’t instantly bosom buddies with everyone, but I didn’t sense that same resistance all the time.

As I’ve discussed this idea with TCKs I know, I’ve heard a range of timelines – how long before they’ll trust a youth leader. Those timelines have ranged up to 3 years. That seems so long, but then I think back – how many kids did I engage with weekly for 2-3 years before they first opened up about real and significant hurts they were carrying? It took that long for them to trust that I was staying, that I was going to keep being there for them. How many kids did I think I knew, only to discover there was so so so much more going on beneath the surface where so few adults were ever allowed?

Therefore, regardless of how harsh it may make me sound, I will keep saying this: I believe longevity is the most vital factor in TCK work. It might not be comfortable for youth leaders to hear, but I believe it is the heart cry of many, many TCKs all over the world.

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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in TCKs, YiA Vision


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Welcome to the YiA blog!


While the idea for this blog started nearly a year ago (and there are some old posts around from back then) this is the *official launch* of the Youth in Asia blog. Yay!

It’s an appropriate moment for it. Right now four of us are sitting in an icecream parlour in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Christina is from the USA but lives in Phnom Penh where she is the Director of a city-wide expat youth ministry sponsored by two international churches. Tanya is from Australia, but is a youth worker with an international church in Beijing, China. Hannah is a youth worker from New Zealand, living in Cambodia for a year. Nathaniel is a youth worker from Sydney, Australia, spending his summer break in Cambodia.

The four of us met at Christina’s high school youth camp at Sihanoukville. The conversations that have followed in the ten days since we met line up perfectly with the heart of the Youth in Asia vision. We are youth workers first, with (different) passions for Asia, and we have all been encouraged by our time of connection.

Our hope for this blog is that is fostered just this sort of interaction – the sort of fellowship that builds and encourages, making us more effective and sustainable in our ministries.

So, welcome!

And, of course, we can’t end without a hearty shout out to some AWESOME youth groups! We love you guys :)

Cross Culture (Phnom Penh)
Solar (Phnom Penh)
KirkYouth (Sydney)
SYC Kahu Kura (Christchurch)
Rev (Beijing)
Bongos (Beijing)
ReGen (Beijing)
Crossroads (Beijing)
OneWay (Beijing)


Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Leading Youth, YiA Vision


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So what is this anyway?

This is the start of something.
This is a place to share.
This is resources and ideas.
This is where “Youthnasia” starts.

This blog is a combination of the thoughts of several youth workers across Asia with a focus on TCKs. The longterm goal is to support youth workers already in the field (to help them stay in the field, bearing good fruit) and to find and develop new youth workers.

More broadly, this blog will hopefully become a point of contact for anyone interested in youth work anywhere in Asia. The vision of Youthnasia (or Youth-in-Asia, YiA, and whatever else you may want to call it) is to build youth work across Asia. That includes work with local communities and developing local leadership, as well as work with TCKs, and supporting the people who work with them.

The vision is HUGE and I’m sure will always be several steps ahead of where we are on the ground, but that’s okay. It means we’ll keep running, dreaming, and growing.


Posted by on February 26, 2010 in YiA Vision


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