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Tag Archives: youth leaders

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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I live overseas so I understand what life is like for a TCK. Right?

Last week I discussed some of the different labels for people with international experiences – TCKs, ATCKs, and TCAs.

In international youth work, we see a range of international experiences among the youth leaders. Some are ATCKs now living in a new country. Some are new international-ers, on a short term contract or studying abroad. Some are true TCAs, having lived overseas so long they don’t really fit in at home anymore.

Most people who haven’t lived abroad long are quickly able to realise that they don’t understand what it is like to be a TCK. They can see the differences in the teens’ experiences to their own. The best youth leaders in this situation set about listening and asking questions and learning about the experiences of the teens they work with. The ones who will do this, acknowledging what they don’t know and willing to learn, often become great youth leaders much appreciated by their teens.

When I first started working with TCKs, this was me. I had lived overseas for 18 months. I had an open-ended plan regarding China – no plans to leave, but I didn’t intend to stay forever. I loved the youth group as soon as I first visited. I soon realised that while there were certainly similarities to working with kids at home in Australia, there were differences as well, and I began to learn how to adjust to a different sort of teen – what did they need from a youth leader? What could I do to best help them?

That was 6 years ago. I’ve now lived in China for 7.5 years. I’m settled here. I shipped my things from Australia. I still have no plans to leave, but I gave up the “one day I’ll go home and be normal” plan I’d assumed for my life. I am a TCA – I am not Chinese, can not become Chinese, but while I am definitely Australian, I don’t really fit in there anymore. I feel like a visitor when I go there – which I am. If I were to go back to live in Australia at some point in the future, it would be an international move to a new place, rather than returning home.

As I’ve come to this point, I’ve seen a temptation to identify more with TCKs than I did in the beginning. I start to think that I understand their experience. I can swap old China stories with the kids who’ve lived here *forever*. I can join in conversations about which are the best/worst airports in Asia and why. I know what it is to be far away from friends/family, to go “home” to a place that is both familiar and uncomfortable, to get back to Beijing with a sigh of relief.

While there are overlaps between my TCA experience and the TCK experiences of the kids I work with, I have recently realised that I must be careful not to go too far with this.

As a TCA, I have chosen to live overseas, away from friends and family in Australia. A TCK has not chosen their life – it was chosen for them.

My childhood was entirely Australian. While I may be able to understand some of the international experiences of the teens I work with, I will never know what it is to spend my childhood abroad.

As a TCA I have an emotional resonance with my home country developed before I came to China. An Australian TCK’s connection to Australia will be very different to my own – they don’t share the pop culture references. They experience Australia through visits to grandparents and Cadbury chocolates.

Not all TCKs live in the one place – many move from place to place. While I moved several times as a child/teen (6 schools in 2 countries/3 cities from K-12) I will never understand what it is to grow up in a country-hopping family.

My international experiences are an asset as a TCK worker. I want to be careful, however, not to lose what I had as a new youth worker here – that sense of not knowing, not understanding, and desiring to learn from and about the teens I work with.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs

 

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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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