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Tag Archives: leading youth

Being a safe place

This post from two weeks ago included some thoughts on asking good questions and listening well, thoughts that were continued in the comments section. Asking good questions and listening well are two really important skills to develop for all who work with youth – whether you’re a youth pastor, volunteer leader, mentor, bible study leader, teacher, or parent.

But no matter how good we become at asking good questions and listening well, kids won’t talk to us about anything meaningful unless they trust us. Several years ago I encountered a situation with a youth I met with that I felt was over my head – too messy for me to handle alone. One of the first people I went to for counsel was my father. I am incredibly blessed to have parents who are a great sounding board for my decision making, and they have helped me process situations throughout my entire ministry career.

During that conversation, my Dad said something that has stuck with me ever since, and helped shaped one of my biggest priorities as a youth worker. He said that he believed, as a parent, that what this girl needed most from me was to be someone she could trust.

I believe that one of the most important roles I have is to be a safe place for students. I want to show trustworthiness – that I am interested in my kids, accept them, do not judge them, and will not gossip about them. My hope is that when something goes wrong in their life, they will feel safe to turn to me to talk about it. One of the most dangerous situations our youth get in is when they feel isolated – that there is no one they can talk to.

One of the biggest compliments I got as a youth leader was when a kid I was mentoring referred a friend to me. She told her friend she didn’t know how to help her, but that she should talk to me. That told me I was hitting the mark – I was seen as safe.

Part of being safe is not preaching at kids. This is part of listening well, really. Sometimes what a kid needs is not the answer, but someone to listen to and empathise with how they are feeling. It’s also better to help them think through a situation and come up with a way forward on their own than to give them the “right answer”. Teaching them to think through a situation to a wise conclusion is far more valuable than telling them what to do.

Being a safe place does not mean watering down truth. What it means is developing a relationship to the point that such counsel will be accepted and listened to. Building safe and trusting relationships with youth is like preparing the soil of their hearts to be receptive to the seeds that are sown in their lives. Unless there are people they trust, no truth told to them will take root and grow.

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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Leading Youth

 

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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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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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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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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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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.

SHOUTOUT TO KIRKYOUTH!!!!

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

 

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