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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas! =D  Enjoy

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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Youth Resources


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Camp themes: some of my favourites and why they rock!

Most youth camps I’ve been involved in have had a specific “theme” for the event. A theme can be simple or complex, can apply just to the messages/games, or be integrated across all parts of the event.

There are many advantages to a theme:

A good theme can lead you to new and fun ideas you wouldn’t have thought on of otherwise. Maybe it started as a theme for the sessions/messages, but then naturally lead you to some great games or a fantastic t-shirt design. Maybe it just sounded like a fun idea for the kids to enjoy, but then you were able to pin a series of great messages to it. However you get started, having a firm theme idea can help guide leaders’ discussions and give you new ideas.

Learning Aide
A good theme can be used to help kids hang onto the messages presented. Themes give kids a picture to “hang” the content on. If you present three messages over a weekend and all three points can be tied in some way to the camp theme, kids will find it easier to remember the three points and refer back to them later on.

Memory Aide
A memorable theme will help kids (and leaders) latch onto memories of the event. If you hold annual events at the same location, having a clear theme for each year helps the experiences stand out, rather than running together into one big camp memory. Themes differentiate one camp from another – one learning experience from another.

It’s just fun!
And you know what? That’s a great thing! It’s wonderful to get together with a bunch of kids and have a blast. Themes can make an already fun weekend even more fun! New in-jokes are created, bonds are created and strengthened – and a theme to connect it all to makes it all the more fun.

When I think back to all the camps I’ve done, I don’t think “Spring of 2006” – although I can work out the timing if I choose. What characterises each camp for me is its theme. So here’s a few great themes we’ve used in Beijing in the past 6 years:


Tanya at Mythbusters Camp in Beijing

About to get twenty pies to the face at the middle school Mythbusters camp.

This was planned around the idea of having an outreach camp. We encouraged kids to invite non-Christian friends to camp, knowing that while there would be worship times etc., the messages would be “seeker-friendly”. Kids had a chance to ask anonymous questions about the Christian faith and we planned teaching on apologetics. Clement, a student who designed (or worked with friends to design) all our camp shirts for several years, came up with a great design. The Mythbusters t-shirt said “God does not exist” which then had a “BUSTED” stamp over it. We also planned a big “mythbuster” event for the last day of camp – dropping mentos candy into coke to see if it would fizz/explode. We turned several big bottles of coke into fountains – a fun sight kids still remember!

While the theme of the camp’s content was “identity” the concept we wrapped it around was facebook and avatars. Each team had an “avatar” (a person-sized animal costume – bunny, lion, tiger, elephant, etc) and the team scores were shown as facebook pages with a number of “friends” instead of a number of points.

Uncharted Waters
We talked about life as new territory to explore, and there being no map explaining how our unique lives will play out – but God can guide us. Although our custom at the time was to keep camp themes a secret until the first session, we previewed this theme by showing a clip from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and invited kids to dress up as pirates for the first night of camp. We gave away prizes like eye-patches and plastic hand-hooks during the first session games, and the big outdoor game involved searching for and actually digging up buried treasure. We even kept a big “treasure chest” on the stage throughout the retreat.

This was my first camp in Beijing. As I said above, our custom was to keep the theme a secret til the first session of camp, at which point there’d be a big hype up and reveal – painting a vision for the weekend. At the “nothing” camp, we finished worship during the first session and the two youth pastors came up to the front to do the intro message. They hyped the kids up “do you want to know what the theme is??” for a minute or so, then said “Okay! The theme for this year’s camp IS…” – then stood there in silence for a minute or so. In the end they explained – we studied three “nothings” of faith, for example, nothing is impossible with God. The camp logo was just a circle with a line through it (like a street sign).

This was the theme of the first Beijing Youth Conference. The whole weekend was styled as a “flight”. As kids arrived and lined up for registration, several leaders used metal-detector style wands to “frisk” them, occasionally making certain kids do silly things before letting them through. Kids got water bottles we’d put our own “Go” labels on them, and stickers. During the first session the youth pastors got up and apologised that the flight had been delayed, but that we had some entertainment planned. When the session finished, they explained that the flight was delayed until tomorrow, so the “airline” had reserved places for them to stay (before bussing kids to host homes for the night). We provided leaders with DVDs which contained video devos and some other fun things – including a track of camp “rules”, set up like an airline safety video – complete with voiceover and a lovely “hostess” (youth leader) showing the “passenger” (another youth leader) what NOT to do. Another highlight was the “Deep Vein Thrombosis” video included for the morning – it was a crazy video with three guys in suits/ties doing insane exercises. It became a youth group cult classic! Kids were doing the DVT dance all day and it was an in-joke that kept up for over a year.

With an amazing double-cabin of girls at the GO09 conference in Beijing.

With an amazing double-cabin of girls at the GO09 conference in Beijing.

That’s just 5 examples from MANY camp themes.

What was the best themed event you’ve participated in?


Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Leading Youth, Youth Resources


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10 things to consider when running games

Today’s post is a guest post by Tim Carigon. Tim was a youth pastor/sr. pastor in Hawai’i for 20 years before moving to China with his family to work on behalf of Chinese youth. He also provided us with his “master list” of youth group games, so stay tuned for some of those in coming weeks!

10 things to consider when running youth group games….

#10 Leave them wanting more
Don’t run games into the ground.  Get it flowing and then just when the energy is peaking, wait a couple minutes and move to the next. 

#9 Have a games closet
If you are serious about gaming keep a closet full of implements, resources and stuff. In that closet keep the resources you used most often in games. Any time you play a game that calls for something new, add it to the closet. My must-have list includes duck tape, hula hoops, balls of all sizes, costumes, big markers, poster board, cardboard, playing cards, clothes pins, bullhorn, portable sound, game music, big dice and a whole lot more.

#8 Everything is spiritual
Games are tools to break down walls and bring kids to the center of the community.  They prepare teens to hear, listen and accept.  They are spiritual if you see them as part of the whole experience, and the broader strategy for impacting teens’ lives. Only use games to the degree to which they accomplish your goals.

#7 Safety First
Or at least 2nd!  ;o)  The best games are the ones that are on the edge, but not over it.  The games kids remember are the ones with a little perceived danger. Push the envelope, but be willing shut down games that head over the edge.

#6 Adopt & Adapt
I like to use the word adopt instead of steal, it just sounds more spiritual.  The best way to learn games is to see them – not just read about them.  Adopting someone’s games is really stealing and in youth ministry stealing is permitted. Adapting is what you do to all good games to make them better.  Many outdoor games are adaptations of the good ol’ “Capture the Flag”.  Adapting allows you to adjust games to fit your needs, create variety and make an old game better.  Adaptation usually involves changing one or more of the following: Time, implements, space, rules, object, or players.

#5 Transitions & Connections
The key to a good game session is your transitions and connections.  When planning your games try to lump them together by kinds.  Example: If you do one circle game, do many circle games linked together.  This saves transition time, and allows you to link games together much easier.  Transitions should be filled with music and direction.  Transitions allow for momentum.  The key to transitions is to have all needed implements pre-selected and right next to you.  It also helps to have an assistant that can be prepping the next game.

#4 Keep the plates spinning, but know when to bail
Once you get things rolling keep building momentum.  Momentum is what you are after; that is why you do not wait for a game to tail off. By switching games just when you have built momentum you take that momentum into the next game.  If a game is not adding to the momentum know when to bail and move on.

#3 The more points the better
When it comes down to it the score does not matter, but it sure makes it more fun.  It is not a track and field meet, so don’t score it 5,3,2,1.  The same game is more fun if the winner gets 10,000 points.  And if you are not sure of the score, just make it up!  The more points you give out the harder it is for them to know if the score is right.  ;o)

#2 Find your funny bone
The game master needs to be an emcee/cheerleader/heckler/score keeper/referee/coach and most of all comedian.   The emcee needs to be actively engaging the kids as they play.  When everyone is laughing the game is not taken too seriously and everyone can laugh at themselves.

#1 Variety is the spice of life
All games are not created equally.  Games can be mixers, team builders, upfront games, crowd games, big field games, stunts/gags, messy/gross games, sports and relays.  Use them all for different effect.

Good gaming,

Tim Carigon

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Introducing our favourite games….

One of the main goals of this site is to resource and support youth workers, especially those working with groups of TCKs in Asia. One of the problems you can run into with setting up youth group games is that most resources currently available are USA-centric. Sometimes the “basic” equipment or settings used don’t work for us in our less conventional locations. We’re planning a few different series of our best games – ones that are flexible, for use in different places and with different props, or with no props at all.

Here are some categories we’ll be writing on:

Often a group doesn’t have time or space for an involved game, or not enough resources to set them up. But don’t worry! There are a lot of short and simple games you can play to get things started.

No Props Needed
Don’t you hate when you come across a great game, only to discover it needs you to use things that are unavailable (or only available as expensive purchases in an import store)? Maybe it’s index cards, or pudding… whatever it is, it turns a simple game into one requiring time and money to prepare. Never fear! We are going to share a bunch of games that don’t require ANY props but still get kids excited and engaged.

Bestest Messiest Games
We all know it’s true – games that create a big mess create big memories, too. Plus, it never gets old watching someone ELSE get covered in goop. We have a bunch of great messy games that your youth group aren’t going to forget in a hurry!

Great Glowstick Games
I had never heard of “night games” til I started doing youth work in China. For the uninitiated, let me elaborate. Night games are what they sound like: big group games played at night – most notably at “big” events like camp, when you likely have several hours of darkness with your kids! A great way to make night games extra memorable and fun is the use of glowsticks. We have a whole range of creative ways to use glowsticks, and to work your big group game into your camp theme.

If you have your own great games to share, or you’ve been looking for something in particular, let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

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Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Games, Youth Resources


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Just Don’t Eat The Meat

I read Romans recently. I really enjoyed it – found it less of a plod-through-theology than I remember from previous readings. One thing that I associate with the book of Romans is the theme of not judging others. In my late teens I wrote the beginning of chapter 2 on post it notes and stuck them to my bedroom mirror. I wanted to see it every day and remember that I was just as bad as all the people around me. It’s always so easy to judge others for not being just like me – assuming that the way I’m doing things is “best”. Or at least better than the way they’re doing it.

Chapter 14 is a great section dealing with another aspect of judging others, in the context of church unity. The specific issue Paul is using is the eating of meat sacrificed to idols – some believers were against the practice and other believers thought it was fine. The issue of eating this meat is itself not the point; rather, Paul is using this one issue to paint a much larger picture.

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)

Paul says that every person has to evaluate his decisions in grey areas (where God’s will is not explicit) and act according to his own conscience. Paul’s bottom line is this: if I am not sure whether something is okay, I shouldn’t do it.

“…Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5)

Paul is perfectly okay with different people having different convictions on the same issue. He accepts as normal that some people are fine eating the idol-meat and others believe it to be sin. He shares his own conviction (he thinks it’s fine) and the basis for his conviction but there is no sense that he is arguing with believers who don’t agree with him, trying to persuade them. He merely states his thoughts and moves on.

Imagine this in practice in a mainstream conservative Christian church. Since meat sacrificed to idols and whether or not to eat is isn’t a hot topic in most places, let’s take drinking alcohol as an example. There are a wide range of opinions within modern Christendom regarding the consumption of alcohol. Some are utterly convinced that drinking alcohol is a sin. Others are utterly convinced that there is no problem whatsoever with consuming alcohol. Add the difference between drinking and getting drunk and opinions diverge even more.

According to Paul, if I am not sure whether drinking alcohol could be sinful, I shouldn’t drink. I shouldn’t drink unless I am convinced, with a clean conscience before God, that I’m not doing anything wrong. That might not fit in some of our church cultures, but that’s just the launching point. Now things get really interesting.

“If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love…” (Romans 14:15)

Paul is more concerned with how their choices affect each other than what those choices are. Let me repeat that in case you missed it. His concern is NOT what stance the believers take on the issue. His concern is what happens AFTER each individual reaches his own personal conviction on what they should do.

Back to our modern context, and what I hear in my head is a pastor on the platform saying “I know some of you think drinking alcohol is wrong, and some of you have no problem with drinking. Whatever your conviction is, that’s fine. You all need to work that out with God as individuals. When you are together, however, don’t let this issue be something that divides you. Instead, whatever you do, do it out of love for each other. If you are with people you know believe drinking alcohol is sinful, don’t drink in front of them. You might offend them. Worse, you might cause them to choose to drink when they are still doubtful about whether or not it is okay. You don’t want to tempt them into sin! Do whatever it takes to stay united as a church. Our unity and mutual love is far more important than a glass of wine.”

Paul is more concerned that their choices do not disturb church unity. Paul does NOT list reasons why one side is right and the other wrong. Instead he calls the Romans to love. He calls them to love each other in their weaknesses. He says that although he thinks it’s fine to eat the idol-meat, it’s better to NOT eat it (even though it’s fine to do so) if eating it will upset another believer. If they are at a place in their own faith at which eating idol-meat is dubious, then eating it around them will not build them up. Paul says that in such a case he just won’t eat the meat. He doesn’t say he’ll lecture the person, argue about it, try to strengthen their faith through quoting Scripture as to why he’s right. No. He says just don’t eat it. Much simpler, really.

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13)

I definitely think there is a place for healthy discussion about our personal convictions. The measuring stick needs to be love, however. If your words and actions don’t come from a place of love for your brother/sister, then even if you’re “right” you’re still doing the wrong thing. Being right isn’t what is important. Building up the body in love is much more important than winning an argument.

“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God…” (Romans 14:22)

I feel like Paul is saying “Seriously guys, this stuff doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.” He calls them to work out their own choices through prayer and then act with a clean conscience, making sure that whatever their conviction is, their actions don’t disturb others – that they act out of love toward others. Arguing about who’s right doesn’t build church unity – it destroys it. These divisions also destroy the witness of the church; we who are supposed to be known by outsiders because of our love for each other are instead known for controversies.

I find I am asking myself some sticky questions…
“What am I willing to forego in order to make a fellow believer more comfortable?”
“I don’t have a problem with this, but would it upset someone I spend time with?”
“Would I give that up in order to preserve/promote peace?”

I find the theory fascinating – and the application troubling! Which is probably a good sign :)

That’s my thoughts on Romans 14. I’d encourage you to read it for yourself and see what you find in Paul’s message to the Romans…


Posted by on March 5, 2010 in Bible Resources


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What does “TCK” mean?

“TCK” is a phrase that will be used a lot in this blog. If you don’t have a clue what that means, this post is for you!

The term “Third Culture Kid” (abbreviated to TCK) is attributed to Ruth Hill Useem, a sociologist who lived in India with her husband and three children in the 1950s. TCKs are people who are raised in more than one culture. They are different to immigrants (and their children) in that a TCK does not have an expectation of permanently settling in the host country. The term “third culture” refers to a blend of a child’s home culture (passport country) and of their host culture – a blend that creates a “third” culture”. Another popular term is “Global Nomads”.

These kids do not fully belong in either their passport country OR their host country. TCKs from two different passport countries living in two different host countries will often have more in common with each other than they will with kids from their home cultures. TCKs experience a lot of change and a lot of loss. Even kids who live in the host culture for a long time will experience loss as friends move away.

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

TCKs sometimes struggle to answer questions like “Where are you from?” or “Where is your home?”. While some will have a standard answer they give to people, it probably doesn’t fully represent their experience of growing up. Many TCKs simply don’t have a single place that gives them a true feeling of home. They probably have a “home town” in their passport country, but may have little emotional resonance with it since many of their formative years were spent elsewhere. Home could just be wherever they live currently, or perhaps where their parents or other family members live. Or it might be a nostalgic idea of a place they spent much of their childhood, but which they have few current connections to.

TCKs often live rich and rewarding lives, but they also have struggles and challenges. Their joys and struggles are often very different in nature to those of peers in their host country or their passport country, making it difficult to connect. Re-entry is very painful for many TCKs.

“[TCKs] typically will find that they do not fit into the cultural mainstream of the society that they have been raised to consider their own. They often find themselves to be ‘hidden immigrants’ and experience themselves as ‘terminally unique.'” Barbara F. Schaetti and Sheila J. Ramsey

Many TCKs come from high performing families (most have at least one parent with an advanced degree) and with their overseas experiences can contribute a lot to the global community. Unfortunately, resources for TCKs tend to be somewhat fractured. The parent’s sending organisation may provide support, and there may be some form of community available on re-entry (some universities have programs and organisations specifically aimed at returned TCKs), but all too few receive ongoing support targeted to the unique challenges of the TCK life, especially while in their host culture.

“The great challenge for maturing Third Culture Kids is to forge a sense of personal and cultural identity from the various environments to which they been exposed.” Ruth E. Van Reken

If you want to learn more about TCKs, there are plenty of resources available. Here are some good places to start:

  • The wikipedia entry on TCKs.
  • At Home Abroad” is a great article from the New York Times written by a TCK.
  • An article from 1999, “The Global Nomad Experience: Living in Liminality” by Barbara F. Schaetti and Sheila J. Ramsey, can be found on the Transition Dynamics website, along with other good resources.
  • A short (117 page) book by Kay Branaman Eakin tilted “According To My Passport I’m Coming Home” (1998). It focuses mostly on the children of those employed in American foreign service, but is still full of good information and interesting quotes.
  • If you buy one book on TCKs, this is the one to get: “Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds” by David Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. The updated edition came out in September 2009 but the original has been around for over a decade.

Posted by on March 1, 2010 in TCKs


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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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