Tag Archives: youth ministry

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.


Tags: , , ,

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.


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


Tags: , ,

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.

Leave a comment

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


Tags: , , , , ,

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,

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Guest Posts, Leading Youth


Tags: , , ,

Takeo Tales: what a service project can look like in TCK land

Today’s post comes to us from TCK Jonathan Macqueen, who lives (currently) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This is his account of a service project he went on with kids from his youth group shortly after he arrived there (originally published on his family’s blog). He is a wonderful storyteller, so sit back and enjoy this tale from Takeo…  

It all began when I went to the ICF youth group. Christina, the youth leader, had this idea to go with some local Khmers into the provinces to preach to the Khmer kids. A week before we set off Mark (a guy in my class who had quite a lot of influence in the project) left on furlough to see his new nephew. However we carried on and soon we met up at HOPE school and got on the big orange “Cellcard” bus.

The people who went are called: Tennyson, Caleb, Jerome (now since gone back to NZ to start uni) Zoe, Samantha, Chukk, Jesse (boy) and a buncha Khmers whose names I really can’t remember. Oh and don’t forget my amazing youth leader Christina. Also on this trip was an Italian called Jeremy who was working with an Italian NGO and had provided a new primary class building to the kampong that we were visiting.

We set off. The going was good, and soon we must of hit 40-50kmh as we got out of Phnom Penh. Now for you to understand the following dilemma you need to understand a few things. Only days before Cambodia had some of the worst floods it has had in years. 5 inches of rain in a matter of hours! This meant that the lower parts of HOPE were flooded and pretty much the whole of Toul Tom Pong (the Russian market area, where we live) was submerged, so much so that tuk-tuks were getting stranded and any Honda Daelims or any other motorbike under 110CC’s was stopped dead in its tracks should they plough into the muddy brown murk. Cambodia, being very much 3rd world in every way and being one of the poorest countries in Asia sat back and waited. The bridges were severely damaged, and vast areas of paddy field became inland lakes. So it won’t surprise you to know that after about 40mins we stopped dead in our tracks. The bus was too big for the bridge.

We had been paired up with the Khmer university students during these first 40mins and just as I was learning how to say hello in Khmer “Soo-a Sa-die” we stopped. We sat there for a while, ate some roadside fried banana and then broke out the guitar and a whole medley of songs. However, soon an alternative was needed, so the Khmers and a few staff set off piled onto 2 tuk-tuks – thus leaving us stranded by a roadside hut looking over a small lake eating some snacks and taking time to get each other’s phone numbers (unfortunately at this time of my life my phone charger had gone walkabouts so now everyone has my Mum’s phone number…). Soon a mini bus had been summoned for us and with a delay of just about over an hour we piled in (all 15 or so of us) the minibus. This meant that I was squishied against the window with Tenno on my left and Zoe and Sam further on. Now if you have never seen Tennyson then you should know that he is the stereotypical Aussie build, 6ft 1 and quite broad. Fortunately I squish quite well and all was fine. We sped along doing 80-90kmh for ooh, maybe half an hour, until we got stuck AGAIN.

This time, however, was more serious. Stuck in a bus with no aircon is not pleasant and with the absence of a breeze we were soon sweltering. We were caught in a massive jam. The bridge ahead of us was being strengthened before the floods and hadn’t been fixed and operational before the tidal wave of rain water completely swamped it. The original bridge had been utterly destroyed and now a raging river separated us from the other side. For another two hours we waited in that bus. However our spirits were still high. Although we knew that the before lunch programme had been absolutely blown out of question, we came up with the novel idea to combine both programmes and cut out some bits whilst keeping our secret weapons – the skits.

At around 11am-12pm (having started at 7 in the morning) we got moving again. We went down a little dirt track following the course of the river and waiting until we got lower downstream to cross the river. It was very stop-start with vehicles trying to squeeze past each other on what was meant to be a one way road.

Then as we got out for a leg stretch, my toe decided to get itself cut on the sharp underside of the chair in front of me. Fortunately nurse Zoe was very enthusiastic to use the first-aid kit and my toe was mummified shortly afterwards.

After about an hour the traffic eased and we were bowling along. By about 1 we had reached the lunch stop and settled down for a game of cards whilst waiting for our beef loc-lac to arrive. The following event was most strange but the long and short of it was: A man, probably drunk or something, came up to our table, took off Caleb’s glasses, asked for the cards and then didn’t let go. Fellow customers soon tried to retrieve the cards by force and broke a chair. The man took off never to be seen again… Fortunately the cards weren’t expensive but it was a very peculiar event.

After a good loc-lac we set off and reached the small kampong that we were going to visit. There were a lot of children waiting for us, by my estimation 100-200, mainly children under 8 or 9.

We took shelter in one of the classrooms and whipped out face masks. We did a skit on the prodigal son and a skit about the lost sheep. We also sung the duck song “Five little ducks went out to play over the hill and far away, mummy duck said ‘quack quack quack’ but only 4 little  ducks came back” After this we sang some khmer songs with actions and sang the English versions as well. After that we played a game to get them all into groups and split up to do hands-on activities. First my group drew around their hand and stuck cotton wool onto it to make a sheep. Then we played a game where a sweet is passed around a circle secretly and the middle child (who is blindfolded) has to guess where the sweet is. If they are correct they get a sweet. This was my favourite activity with the kids as the usage of khmer was limited and a smile and pointing could do just about the same as talking.

A bit worn by now we sang the song “deep deep down” in Khmer and English once more and then created a tunnel of arms which the kids went out of to get a choco pie cake thing. Buoyed by our success we got back on the mini bus and the Khmers set off on the tuk-tuks. The speed of the tuk-tuks was somewhat let down when the Khmers, who had a 20min head start, were caught up within about 5mins.

Going back, we got to the place where the bridge had broken and we were diverted and took a very wiggly windy road through Cambodian countryside to get back to the bus. From there it was a long slow journey back into Phnom Penh gridlock. Finally around 7ish in the evening we got back to Christina’s place and Jeremy made Italian spaghetti which was most appreciated. Whilst waiting for food we came to the decision that the only thing that we could watch was “The Wiggles” and as we came to the song “lil Dingo” Caleb (who had gone into a state of suspended animation) came back to life, singing to his heart’s content. The Wiggles had revived him.

All in all it was a great trip that really got me planted in the youth group and introduced me to Cambodia, mission accomplished!


Tags: , , , , ,

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


Tags: , , , , , ,