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Category Archives: Leadership Development

TCK Workers Retreat next week

Today’s short post is a request for your prayers. Next week in Thailand several TCK workers from China and Cambodia will meet for a thee day retreat. Several people had to pull out so it will be a small group, but with a diverse range of roles, working with youth from 5 different international churches.

The goal of the retreat is to provide a retreat space for ministers, encourage networking among TCK workers, and create a forum for discussing some of the unique needs of TCKs. Please think of the group next week and ask that there would be relaxation, connection, and stimulating conversation.

 

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Getting (and keeping) ministry volunteers

I saw a post on Marathon Youth Ministry called “4 Reasons People Aren’t Getting Involved“. In it Christopher Wesley lists four “don’t” for recruiting volunteers.

  1. Don’t Threaten Them With Guilt. . .Most people don’t want to be guilted into a situation they want to be inspired.  Even if you do recruit a few chances are they are going to only perform the bare minimum and that’s because guilt is not a key to longevity.
  2. Don’t Inundate Them With Information. . .Some of us feel the impulse to talk about every single detail pertaining to our ministry, when all that does is overwhelm them.  What you want to do is give them a clear and simple explanation.  Make it engaging and memorable.  After that let them ask questions.
  3. Don’t Go All Or Nothing: Many people ask how I get most of my ministers to serve week in and week out, the answer is that we paint a clear vision and we give them the ability to take a step back.  Someone who is uncertain about ministry could easily burnout…
  4. Don’t Leave Them Hanging: Always have a next step and always make it tangible. . .The idea is to make the steps clear so that they don’t turn away because they didn’t know what to do next.

So much good stuff there! The “don’t” I would add is “don’t judge”. For a long time I judged those who didn’t jump in as enthusiastically and with as much commitment as I did. God had to gently (but firmly) explain that I was judging their actions by my call – not fair. Youth ministry is my life’s call and so it is my joy to jump in full speed – I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t! Recognising that each volunteer comes to ministry with a different calling, different skills, different experiences, and a different ministry background gives me the freedom to appreciate each of them individually. Rather than be disappointed or frustrated at volunteers who show up now and then, I’ve learned to be joyfully thankful for every person who believes in ministry to youth, regardless of what they have available to give. An attitude of thankfulness and understanding makes you the sort of person volunteers want to work with.

Of course, this isn’t to say that commitment is unimportant. My point, rather, is that we should be thankful for a heart to serve our youth, and then take the time to get to know the person individually – how would they like to contribute? How does that fit with the present structure? Is there something we’re not doing that they could start? See yourself as helping them find a ministry fit, rather than claiming a scalp to fill your ministry needs. Serve potential volunteers – even if you end up helping them find a fit in a different ministry of the Church.

I really like what Wesley says about not leaving people hanging. I’ve seen this happen often; I’ve done it myself. There’s a sense of “ah! we need help!” and the call goes out. People respond, but when they do there isn’t active follow-up. Before asking for help, know exactly what help you need. Have specifics. Then, when someone responds, and you quickly connect them to a practical need or a specific role, don’t just abandon them! Talk to them about how it fits them (see the paragraph above). When they agree to serve, walk with them. Give advice, be available to talk to, check up to see how it’s going.

Ministry leaders are ministering to their volunteer staff as much as to the youth. Without volunteers, the ministry doesn’t happen. We are leaders of leaders, and that is an important role.

 
 

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Developing deeper conversations with teens

I saw this post by Doug Fields last month – such brilliant stuff I wanted to share it here. He gives 7 ideas for deeper conversations with teenagers, and I really connected with a lot of it. For most of us, conversations we are actively involved in is where we take ideas we’ve heard and apply them practically – truly working out our faith. We work out how to apply that principle to this situation, how that truth should affect my behaviour – all that good stuff. Once we as leaders build trust with teens, we have plenty of opportunities for conversation. There is an art, however, to shaping conversations that lead to change.

So here are Doug’s tips and my own thoughts on them!

1. Stay normal: Deep conversations often begin by talking about normal stuff. Don’t jump straight into the deep end and ask them to dress like John the Baptist and memorize the Septuagint. Every conversation doesn’t have to be forced toward depth. Good conversations begin as normal conversations.

Reading that first point made me sigh with relief. I sometimes think that the conversations I have with my kids are not “spiritual enough”. Some of our conversations are just straight up silliness, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the deeper conversations I have with kids are rarely theological in nature. We talk about what’s happening at school, or what media they’re engaging with (what music are you listening to? what TV shows are you watching) which provides a springboard to give a spiritual perspective to “real life”. It’s amazing how often a “normal” conversation about nothing veers sharply off to a deeply spiritual conversation when a kid throws out a question they’ve been thinking about.

2. Draw them closer to Jesus: Avoid the temptation to become “the wise leader” who subtlety promotes loyalty to oneself rather than Jesus.

That one stings. It’s so easy to go there, and so dangerous! I want to teach my kids to go to Jesus as the source of wisdom and comfort, but oh, how my fleshly nature wants them to want ME…

3. Allow the journey to be a journey: A common tendency in discipleship is to assume others will grow quickly. . .Slow, incremental progress is expected. Show them grace on the journey.

If you’ve ever been to a Chinese tourist attraction (or anywhere else in the world lots of Chinese tour groups go) you will have seen the ubiquitous Chinese tour group guide. They have flags and megaphones and whip their group into shape – you go where you are told, when you are told, for how long you are told. Shortly after I arrived in China I went to Henan with a group of foreigners on a weekend trip. There was a constant tension between the Chinese tour guide (who expected respect and obedience as she was the one with the schedule) and the western tourists (who felt that “the customer is always right” and wanted to decide how much time they spent doing various things).

As youth leaders there’s a temptation to be like the Chinese tour guide – we have the information and they need to move according to our schedule. But our teens are not going to grow on schedule. Growth is mysterious and everyone is different. Grace for the journey is so, so important.

4. Ask questions: The power of a question is that it puts the ball in the teenager’s court and allows him/her space to reflect. Don’t answer their questions too quickly, sometimes the best answer can be another question. Strong, definitive answers often mute the stirring in one’s heart.

Throughout the gospels Jesus regularly answered questions with questions. Much of the time, our kids don’t need an answer as much as they need space to wrestle with a question. Sharing our opinion can be helpful, but it won’t develop faith in them. Asking questions stokes the fire of their curiosity, leading them toward a posture of seeking God, rather than completing a question-answer list. An answer you haven’t wrestled with personally will almost always feel trite and hollow; if a teen’s entire faith is built on these answers, it will shatter easily once outside a protected environment.

5. Listen, listen, listen: It’s a gift of affirmation to a teenager when you pay full attention to them rather than preparing an answer and pretending to listen.

6. Let them finish: Bridle your passion and express a little self-control and you’ll see growth.

To me, these two go together, under the heading “shut up already”! While talking has been an effective ministry tool for me (hmm there’s something I should write about in future), listening is VITAL. My kids have worthwhile things to say, they have feelings and questions that are valid, and given enough processing time they will often work out the answers they need for themselves (far more valuable than me just telling them). Stopping to truly listen shows I believe in them – their worth, value, and abilities.

7. Plant seeds: Sometimes the best conversations happen the week following a good initial conversation. Text the student during the week and write something like, “Been thinking about our conversation. I’m excited about what God is doing in your life. Looking forward to more conversation next week.” We’re in this for the long-haul…what’s another week?

Ah, the ministry of text messages (and facebook wall posts). Where would we be without it? Giving kids space to think between conversations is fantastically helpful, especially we do some gardening in between…

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Leadership Development, Leading Youth

 

Student leadership: not always time efficient, but always valuable

I wrote a post earlier about why we must promote student leadership. There’s a second side to this – why should we put the time and effort into training a teen to do something we could do more easily ourselves?

Let’s be honest – training up a teen leader, walking alongside them, is time (and energy) consuming. Teen leaders is that they are NEW to this whole serving/leading thing. They need more support as they work it out. They need extra encouragement, and trust, even when they make mistakes – which they will. They need someone to walk alongside them, explaining things, interpreting situations. Done well, training student leaders is a high maintenance role; if we tell them “here’s a job, it’s all yours!” and then go hands-off, we aren’t helping them at all.

Have you heard of this pattern for training leaders? Step 1: I do, you watch; Step 2: we do it together; Step 3: you do, I watch; Step 4: you do, I’m outta here. Okay, so that’s the Tanya Paraphrase, but you get the idea. The theory behind this is that we invest in training someone (which uses more time and energy) because once trained we can delegate to them and we get that time and energy back – to spend on something else. It’s about efficiency as a leader, learning to train others to do your work so you can work on something new.

The problem with this method in youth ministry (and especially in TCK ministry) is that we rarely get enough time to go through all the steps. The teens we invest in often leave before they become confident/mature enough to truly delegate to. We spend a few years training them to that point, investing more time and energy than we’d need to if we just did it ourselves, but we never get to the handover point. So why bother? Why not just do it ourselves?

Well, what is the point of our ministry to youth? Is it to run the best programs? Have the best worship? Run the best events? Or is it to disciple students?

I would rather have a lower standard of excellence in our worship times, but have them lead by students – students who are demonstrating worship to their peers, students who are being challenged to go deeper in their faith, students who are given the opportunity to discover and develop their gifts, students who are honing skills they can take wherever they go. I know my kids aren’t the most experienced leaders we have access to, but man, I would rather worship under their leadership any day. They inspire me!

I would rather spend time and effort training teens to do the various tasks required to run a big event, and mentor them through doing themselves, than run the whole show myself. When I teach teens and give them areas of responsibility, there will always be problems I have to solve (that wouldn’t have happened if I did it all myself) but that doesn’t mean it’s not better. Watching a team of 30 youth run a large retreat – seeing them get their friends involved, actively engaged in the administration, excited about finding new ways to process information, gaining a sense of ownership of the event – was far more rewarding than spending that time and effort doing it myself. My role changed from being a do-er to being a guide and problem solver.

In the long run, training these youth is not just developing them personally, but also contributing to the Church as a whole. The fellowship I attend may not receive the benefits of the training and opportunities given to these teens, but another fellowship somewhere else in the world will.

I admit, the temptation is still strong to do things myself. I truly believe, however, that letting go of something I can do in order to give that opportunity to a student is far, far more valuable. If we can walk alongside student leaders for a time, they will go out confident in their gifts and abilities, ready to serve and contribute to the Body.

 
 

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Why we MUST promote student leadership

(I was inspired to write this out after reading this post by Doug Franklin).

I am passionate about promoting student leadership. I was engaged in ministry from a young age and it had a profound effect on my faith, my personal growth, and my commitment to the Church. I believe that getting teenagers involved in doing and running ministry is one of the best things we can do for their faith journeys – for several reasons.

1) Leading makes teens active participants rather than passive observers.

A teenager can easily come to youth group, to youth service, to church, even to small group or bible study, and basically just watch. They can give an answer without going deep, they can watch what others say – and look involved. There is a big difference, however, when that teenager starts leading a small group of younger teens, or planning an event for the group, or mentoring someone, or serving on a big-church ministry team.

2) Putting a teen in a leadership role demonstrates confidence in them.

Giving teens a role shows them that we believe in them. Too often I believe that a kid is awesome without doing something practical to show them that I believe that. When I take my hands off and say “this is yours” – then walk with them through the mistakes, rather than telling them what to do – I demonstrate practically a trust in their gifts and heart.

3) Learning to lead while still young gives teens a safe place to make mistakes.

We all make mistakes. As leaders, we make bigger mistakes, at times. So many teens (especially TCKs) struggle with a fear of failure. Some kids get tied up in knots, unable to move, for fear of making the wrong choice. Giving teens leadership opportunities guarantees that they will make some mistakes, or feel they’re in over their heads. When this happens in a youth minsitry context, when youth workers are there to walk them through the situation, to help interpret it for them, they are able to learn from mistakes without being paralysed by them.

4) Serving in the Church teaches teens how to be part of the Body.

I have seen so many teens who had a solid faith in high school drift away from church in college. These were not cases of kids who never connected with faith, or kids who found the world and got rebellious, or kids who lost their self-control when they were out on their own. It’s much simpler than that. These are kids who didn’t get connected to a solid fellowship when they left home. There are many reasons that happens, but something we can do to help prevent it is to get kids involved. If a teen is serving on the worship team/sound team/projection team/greeting team/teaching Sunday school in their home church, when they leave home they know they have something to offer a church they join on their own. Keeping teens in youth-only situations where they are ministered to without being engaged in doing ministry does them a disservice when it comes time to join a church on their own – in this scenario they never learn how to be part of the Body.

It is important for teens to interact with adults on a “peer” level – as fellow servants in the ministry of the Church. I lovelovelove when I see my teens engaged in ministry teams where they are not “the youth kid” but simply part of the team, where adults in the church who aren’t their youth leaders or parents’ friends know them by name and interact with them as an equal – treating them as an adult. When these teens leave home, they will feel comfortable interacting as an independent adult in their new fellowship.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Leadership Development, Leading Youth

 

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YiA Retreat for TCK Workers – Register Now!

The TCK Workers’ retreat will be held at Dolphin Bay in Thailand on October 3-6. We will be staying/meeting/eating at the Juniper Tree, a Christian guesthouse by the beach near Huahin.

The retreat is aimed at anyone who sees their primary calling (whether longterm or “right now”) as working with TCK youth, especially those living and working in Asia. This includes paid and volunteer church staff, bible study leaders, and teachers with a heart for ministering to their students.

The retreat has four main aims:
  1. Retreat – space for Christian TCK workers to relax
  2. Networking/Fellowship – meet and connect with other TCK workers
  3. Targeted training – discussion about issues specific to TCK work
  4. Spiritual uplifting – devotions, sharing, corporate prayer and worship

The main program is happening on the 4th and 5th (Tuesday and Wednesday). The assumption is that some people won’t be able to come early, and others won’t be able to stay late, so feel free to make arrangements based on your own time constraints.

3 nights’ accommodation (two people per room with laundry included) and meals will be provided. There are limited funded places available, but please pass this information along to anyone you believe would be interested.

If we run out of space, or you’d like to stay somewhere fancier, there are other guesthouses/resorts just up the road. YiA won’t be able to cover accommodation costs for these places but the option is there.

For more information, or to express interest in attending, comment on this post or fill out this form:

 

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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

 

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