Fears of a Youth Group Leader #4

Going to change themes again; this one looks pretty nice.

I didn’t realize I had not titled the other posts with the main subject that each one deals with, but this 4th (and probably final) post will center around “Turnover”. As most of you may know, and just a quick recap for those of you who aren’t aware of my situation for this year, I am no longer serving as a youth group leader at church, and in the foreseeable future I probably will not return to youth ministry (this semester is an exception which I will get to in a moment). Long story short, I have “stepped down” (or you could say “taken off”) from being a youth leader because I was not able to make any of the church leaders’ meetings last semester due to clashes with university classes. Without good communication with the rest of the leaders I was serving with, it would not be wise to keep me on the team; although at the same time it was not wise to take me off the team either, but we needed to choose one, and so we decided to go with the option that hopefully has more long term benefit.

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Fears of a Youth Group Leader #3

Trying to keep myself sane by blogging, amidst all the things that are happening these holidays. Today’s post deals with the concept of “follow up”. To put things into context, “follow up” is the action of contacting someone in regards to a previous event that has occurred. In a general Christian context, this is when we contact non-Christians who have recently attended church (for the first time) or another evangelistic event, and we want to see if they were interested in coming again, or having someone keep in contact with them. The goal of “follow up” varies from context to context.

In a youth group setting, I suppose its where the youth group leaders contact a new kid who came to see what they thought about youth group, and whether there is anything we can help in for the future; for example, giving them a lift to church, getting them a Bible, or answering any questions that they have. While it’s clear that the goals are pretty much identical to those of the general Christian context, the main factor which changes the whole situation is age.

Youth are youth, they are not adults, and sometimes nowhere near adulthood. As such, getting into contact with them isn’t as straightforward as it is when compared to way it’s done in the work environment. To contact someone, one must first obtain their contact details. But how exactly are we to do that in today’s society, where we all try to be cautious with our personal information? Particularly for youth, they surely aren’t the ones who would freely throw away their personal information in public (except on Facebook).

The main issue isn’t really with obtaining a youth’s contact information; it’s quite easy to stalk people down on Facebook these days and most people are comfortable with giving an e-mail address, and also maybe a mobile number. With that information in hand, it now seems that “follow up” can easily be conducted with someone new who came to youth group. With all these avenues of communication – Facebook, e-mail, MSN, phone, text – shouldn’t it just come down to a preference thing?

Unfortunately, it’s an undeniable fact that the most effective form of communication is in person, closely followed by a phone call, where at least you can hear each other’s voices. So out of the short list from above, “follow up” is best conducted through the phone/mobile. And clearly that’s the observation we make of people who follow up on us; they give us a call to ask about work, or about an assignment, etc.

But considering the age that youth are at, my fear is that it’s a bit awkward to talk to them on the phone. There are many conflicting issues in my head that stop me from following up on a youth via phone:

1. Don’t really know them (since it would be their first time coming).
2. If mobile number was not obtained in a direct way, a phone call would constitute as “stalking”. And it makes sense for the reason that it’s not easy to ask a new person for their number when you’ve only just met them.
3. There are other forms of communication that kids these days prefer, with Facebook being the clear number one.
4. General fear of saying something weird that will freak them out.
5. At face value, it is an adult/young adult calling up a kid, creating slight annotations of paedophilia.

Given the youth group context, there is a dire need to speak directly to youth when following them up. Leaders want to show that they care about the youth (in a godly way) by conversing and connecting with them in a caring way; showing them that extra bit of care above just normally contacting them through msn. Secondly, you really want to make a good impression on the newcomer, although of course this should’ve been achieved when they first came to church; but you still want to encourage them to come a second time and to make sure that you’re prepared better for them next time round, eg: not playing physical games if they aren’t the athletic type.

While there is this desire to show them God’s love in this particular way, I can see how people get the wrong message from godly love because of today’s society and the amount of deceit and paranoia that exists. Much harm can be done with people’s personal information and trust is much harder to develop. There is my dilemma, but I’m sure it’s frequent in other churches and other settings as well. I suppose my current attitude towards this is to respect the other person’s privacy, even if this means not being able to contact them in the most direct way possible. It does no good starting off on the wrong foot with someone, even if the there is a small chance for a “high payoff” – that is, being able to bond with that person. It’s probably safer to keep that distance from the new person and take what you can get through other methods of communication.

Fears of a Youth Group Leader #2

This post deals a bit more with pastoral issues rather than “social issues” – I guess that’s what the previous post falls under. This one is not so much a fear as it is a worry. It’s not that big of a worry either, but it has come onto my mind several times over the course of this the last few years and so I thought perhaps I should try to figure this one out too.

 

Today’s worry deals with, I suppose, the “requirements” of a youth group leader, or someone with a leader role at church. At next gen (check the links at the right) at the beginning of this year, I remember we had a seminar on how to grow youth groups and we started off by discussing what qualities a good youth group leader should have. We were given a few things to rank in order of importance and at the top, the majority decided that a key trait for any leader at church is “willingness” – or I guess you can say “a heart to serve”. Simply put, if you want to pick someone to hold a leader role at church, they should first be willing to do it.

 

That sounds fair. You wouldn’t really want to pick someone to be a leader if they didn’t really want to do it. A person unwilling to serve would not do their job well. Note the word “job” here; I’ll expand on that a bit later. What I put down as the most important trait needed for a leader is “competence” – that is, someone who has the necessary skills. And though of course at the end of the day, you don’t pick your leaders based on ONE trait but on many traits, I still felt that “skills” was more significant than “heart”.

 

The difference between serving in ministry – so being a church minister or pastor – and doing a normal job is indeed the heart. Because I discussed before that Christianity is based on relationships (with God and each other), the heart is an essential tool for the work of ministry. For everything else, you don’t really need to like your job to be successful at it, or to bring some form of economic benefit for your employer. Money can be a factor that outweighs your willingness to do your job – sometimes you’re motivated to work because of the money. But with ministry, you don’t get paid (much) at all; in my situation at least, youth group leaders don’t get paid anything for planning things on Sunday, and also to be there at church on Sundays. Our “reward” isn’t something especially tangible either. At the same time, you cannot call our ministry as volunteer work; that is, sharing the good news of Jesus is not something you do “just because you feel like it”. All Christians have a duty to share the Word of God with people around them. For us young adults, we do this through our youth groups.

 

Having said that, not every Christian has to feel extremely positive about sharing the gospel, in order to do so. We have an obligation to Christ, our Saviour, but at the same time we also see the goodness and benefits from sharing the good news of Jesus with others. I think I dealt with the joys of being a youth leader elsewhere once, even if only briefly, so I’ll leave this small topic aside.

 

My question is this: “Can we just pick leaders at our church based on the one trait we deem as most important?” Because implicitly from this we ask two more questions:

 

1. If someone wants to serve, do we automatically let them be a leader?
2. If someone has a lot of potential, do we automatically make them a leader?

 

There are clearly problems with the second one. A person with a lot of talent and skill will indeed be really useful at church, provided they actually want to use those gifts to serve God. If they aren’t willing then they may be bitter about what they do and as such will not create good relationships due to their attitude. And of course bad relationships makes it hard for Christians to grow and spur one another on.

 

At the same time I believe the answer to the first question is also a “no”. A person who may be really motivated to serve God will definitely be a person who can foster really positive relationships, and that’s a good thing. But if they don’t have any skills, how tangible will their motivation be when they try to forge relationships? Picking just one random example that’s not based on anyone, you could have someone who was really passionate about serving God through music. But if that person doesn’t have any musical talent then they won’t be able to lead the congregation in song such that the congregation feels the vibe from the music. No matter how passionate that person is, they wouldn’t be able to play any better and make the congregation feel any more passionate about worshiping God.

 

You could say that the above scenario is a mis-match in roles. If you took a passionate person and put them in a role that they’re more suited for then we wouldn’t have as much of a problem. The thing I’ve noticed many times over the last few years is that people were being chosen to hold some sort of leader role when it feels like they weren’t suited for it. You had people who were inarticulate, who didn’t know much about the Bible, and who had never been to RICE (to lead RICE) holding the same roles which the rest of us have had to gradually become experienced and trained in over time.

 

I’m not saying these people can’t serve alongside us, but that they simply show themselves to be more competent, reliable and able before we give them more responsibility. The fear in letting inexperienced people do certain jobs (at church) is that they won’t be able to build effective relationships, and in some situations I reckon they can even cause damage to a relationship or simply make it awkward for the people they are leading. Furthermore, it can also mean that the other leaders have to pick up the slack for the task that the inexperienced person did not complete satisfactorily. I’m trying to not make this sound like a legalistic issue, but it can be annoying when you delegate a task to someone and they can’t do it right, forcing the other group members to use more of their energy to get that extra task done.

 

At the end of the day, even if the situation in Sydney is that we desperately need more leaders and more ministers to evangelise the people and youth of Sydney, I don’t think we can just let the incompetent people fill these roles just because they have some willingness to do so. And by incompetent I mean below some sort of standard that church leaders would regard as a bare minimum for the role.

 

I really feel privileged at the training and teaching we receive at church and at uni, and how it really does help us make a change at church for the benefit of others. But at the same time there is this worry that there are many others who don’t have enough training and teaching, who try to teach, but end up teaching something wrong or unhelpful because they themselves haven’t been taught enough.

Fears of a Youth Group Leader #1

Well I promised I would blog straight away once exams are done, so no more excuses, here I come. Going to jump straight into some serious topics; and this is something that has been on  my mind just recently, so it’s still fresh in my head.

Having been in “ministry” for a good 4 years now, I can say that I hold several fears in my position as a youth group leader. No, they’re not fears that will cause me to drift away from God, but they are fears which will make me hesitant to act in the best way for the kids I’m serving. (Note that Christian leading involves service to others).

When it comes to reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, you really can’t just “sell” Jesus as a product by simply “advertising” Christianity with its benefits and rewards. Like how many people describe it on Facebook, Christianity is rather more of a relationship with a god, than a religion. As such, to describe a relationship, you need to show a relationship; that is, sharing the gospel with others involves getting to know the other person as a friend.

So without going into too much detail, the basic summary of leading other Christians, is to develop a relationship with them. Relationships take time, and because we have a limited amount of time each day, there is a limit to the number of relationships we can handle.

My first (but perhaps not the greatest) fear of being a youth leader is that I won’t have enough time to deal with all the relationships I have with the year 9-10 boys that I lead. With all the people around me from all sorts of places, I really do wonder if I have enough time to keep them around me – primary school friends, high school friends, uni friends, church friends, youth group kids.

I realize that I have neglected a lot of people in my life this year, partly due to the strenuous amount of work I have each work, all my duties and responsibilities with uni, church and work. And at the end of such a long year, I really do want to get back into contact with all those people I’ve somewhat forgotten over the year. At the same time I want to be able to further those relationships that I have with the people I’ve been in frequent contact with. And at the same time as a youth group leader, I really do need to get to know the boys better so that I may help them grow as Christians.

As such, “priorities” is a thing that comes into play for decision-making – who do I spend my time on? Should it be my high school and uni friends because I’ve known them for so long as such? Or is it the kids at youth group because it’s our responsibility to see them grow for the Kingdom of God? A possible answer is “both”, but by choosing both, by choosing all your relationships, it’s really hard to make any of them grow because you have to divide your time and energy so thinly among them. And at the end of the day, you’d rather have one thing grow, than to try and make everything grow but not really succeed.

I’m inclined to spend more time getting to know my group better, because I really do want them to know God better; but at the same time I also want to help my other friends, particularly those of my age group, to know God better too. Doing both at the same time doesn’t really seem like it’s paying off and so here’s my dilemma on what to do.

Some of the reasoning that goes through my head is:

1. I should spend more time with my high school and uni friends because I got to know them first and as such I should dedicate more of myself to who I’ve known the longest.

2. I should spend more time with the youth group kids because we find joy and satisfaction seeing them grow up to be more like Christ.

The problem with point 2 is that there always seems to be some correlation with the words “duty” and “obligation” – sometimes it does feel like serving at youth group is a “job” and as such we have some sort of “contract” or “agreement” to see the kids grow up in a godly way. Such thoughts really don’t help in me wanting to “choose” to serve the kids that I’ve gotten to know over the last two years.

It really gets on my mind to think along these lines: If I want to make a relationship grow (for some purpose) then I need to somewhat neglect other relationships, in which then that first relationship will be the only relationship I’ll have. Does this mean then that those devout in serving God at church as a youth leader have to sacrifice their social lives and have no other friends other than the kids at youth group? This is indeed a very farfetched thought but I do believe there is some conflict in working out whether this thought is completely wrong or right.

As such, if I had to answer to this question, it wouldn’t really be my fear anymore.

Holidays Are Over (Part 2)

Holidays are definitely still over and there definitely isn’t a chance to bring them back this time round haha! Apologies for the bad layout of these last few posts.

 

Monday

I had originally planned to watch a movie on Monday of the second week of the holidays but I had forgotten that we had a youth group social that afternoon. Nonetheless, having watched Toy Story 3 on Sunday, it was satisfactory enough. I didn’t really get time to organise anything for this social so I pretty much rocked up and let William and Ken do all the organising.

 

This was our first super long holiday program which went from 3pm till 10pm at night. A 7 hour program is extremely tiring. We had the church set up with a projector and some sound equipment. William had the leaders help set up games, all of which were interesting in a sense. We had a game where we had to balance coat hangers on one another, there was another game where we had to transfer cotton balls using whipped cream on our noses as an adhesive. Then there were other strange games like trying to flip metal spoons into cups. I forget the games that we played but the youth were all very into it. A handful of photos:

 

SAM_1191 (960x540)    SAM_1208 (960x540)

SAM_1252 (960x540)    SAM_1287 (960x540)

The last photo was for a game where pretty much you slide coins over the table and try and get it as close to the King as possible. My note here was that all the coins were Galaxy World tokens. William had a whole bag full of them…strange.

 

And to sum the rest of the program, we mucked around afterwards and the youth just played whatever games they wanted to with each other. Some of us looked at past church photos and all. For dinner we made pizzas using Coles ingredients and some flat bread or something like that. It took quite a while because the kitchen wasn’t big and we had quite a large group, more than 30 or so youth in total. After dinner we made the youth watch “Up!” and after that we called it a night. So I suppose the last couple of hours weren’t too bad but we still had to keep watch over everyone; it was sort of like a daycare thing once the youth started getting a bit more wild.

 

 

Friday

Despite the fact that it’s a four day gap, Tuesday I went out grocery shopping with parents and then had a youth group leaders’ meeting at night. So that was a full day too. Wednesday and Thursday were my days off to relax and do some stuff that I otherwise couldn’t have done because of going out everyday. Friday I finally took care of some university stuff. Went down to university with Jacky and Brandon to get textbooks and so transfer my swimming pass to Brandon since I honestly don’t have any time to use it, last semester and this coming semester. It was more my mistake of buying it prematurely without having planed things properly.

 

Haven’t figured out all my textbooks either, but for now I’ve managed to ascertain that I need at least 1 book and 1 course pack. There were a couple of other textbooks, some prescribed, some recommended but I honestly am trying not to buy too many of them, particularly for maths. I bought a Calculus textbook last semester that nearly doubled up on the one I used last year AND I didn’t even use it last semester. Goes to show just how “unnecessary” prescribed textbooks are.

 

There was also a $20 transfer fee for my swimming pass which was quite annoying, the university gym is such a rip off I probably will never use any of their resources ever considering the fact that they don’t give refunds on anything even if you try to return it straight away.

 

Walked around in the city with Jacky afterwards. Had Pepper Lunch and then walked around a couple of Morning Glorys. Saw David Loon in one of them and we both we’re awkwardly like: “So…what are you doing here?” Kind of funny really to see him there of all places.

 

 

Sunday

The last day of my “holidays”was by far the most extreme day of them all, since it sort of extended over 3 days in a sense. Woke up early on Sunday morning to catch the 3rd place play off match; wasn’t a complete waste of time like the finals. But anyway, after getting about another 3 or so hours of sleep, had to wake up and deliver my camp luggage to Rebecca’s house who was going to camp early today and we needed to offload some luggage early for the other cars that were going to pick us up the next day. This meant I had to speed my packing up to last night; frantically figuring out what I needed to bring to camp. At the least I would bring my mahjong set, regardless of the circumstances haha!

 

After church, went off to lunch with church people. Most of that time was spent chatting with some of the youth. We reached some point in the conversation which led to playing those weird puzzle logic games (eg: Black Magic) that have those weird stupid tricks that some people just can’t figure out because they over think about the trick involved with those games. I showed them Aaron’s game from last year’s MYC with the counting fingers; won’t get into the details of that one. But the thing is that the youth had such difficulty in figuring it out. In fact they were torn between not playing the game and desperately wanting to figure out the answer. I was going to leave early to pick up some stuff from home so that I could head down to the city early to get a present for Chris’ party later that night. The youth continually bugged me to stay so they could continue figuring out Aaron’s puzzle and consequently I missed the train.

 

The strange thing about it all was that I caught the next train to find that Jono Wang was also on it, quite a coincidence. We chatted during our train ride; he was heading out a bit early to the city too to get some poster paint for his brother, from some hobby shop in QVB. I was meant to meet up with Tim, Sophia and Eric on the previous train that I had missed. The extraordinary thing that happened was that me and Jono came across those three in that hobby store Jono was going to. So we just merged groups and continued looking for a present for Chris together. We couldn’t really decide on that to get but we ended up deciding on getting a cheap PS3 game and a Gundam model thingy, for a total price of $110. Jono had to call up Chris multiple times so we could work out which Gundam model Chris didn’t have haha! So much for the surprise. We also went to Woolworths to get a $2 card for Chris. I never knew the Town Hall Woolworths had like 3 levels, such a strange layout for a supermarket.

 

Chris took us to Choga in Haymarket for $10 Korean buffet. Sadly there wasn’t much variety of food there, but that’s okay. Chris’ party reached about the mid 20s in numbers. We “got to” (or forced to?) sit in this elevated section of the small restaurant by the window that had some really low barriers; it almost made that section of the restaurant look like a zoo area or something, and we were going to be the main attractions haha.

 

Chris made us play a few interesting games which I do intend to steal for our youth group haha! He gave everyone a label with a commonly used word on it, such as “this”, “that”, “I”, “a”, etc. And the objective was to not say that particular; doing so would result in forfeiting the label to the other person who catches you. Player at the end of the night with the most labels wins. Chris had several cash prizes for his games, so it potentially was possible to win back the $10 for the buffet haha! Other games include some trivia challenge and a final challenge where the contestants had to eat a hot chilli, read through a list of colours writing in a different colour to the word being depicted; eg writing “Red” in blue; then finally strapping on a pedometer and shaking their hips to rack “steps” on it. Julian won it since he was able to continuously shake his “hips” without stopping for the minute or so.

 

After the party I quickly rushed home to get some rest to wake up for the FIFA finals. I was going to have had 8 hours of sleep over two days, not a good start to a 5-day camp especially.

 

And that’s my holidays over. After this comes 5 days of MYC which I know is going to be awesome, but somehow being tired from having so much on in the holidays really lowers the hype from what potentially could be the best five days of this year.