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.

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:

 

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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.

SMAC Camp 2010

I’ll try to keep this post relative to the length of our camp, which somehow seems to be getting shorter every year, or so it seems. Anyway I was at least glad this year I had a camera to take photos with; much better than last year with my pathetic phone camera, which did it’s job relatively well. Our theme for this year’s camp was “The True King of Israel” – though this was not the actual camp title, this one sounds better. We looked at the book of 1 Samuel and our speaker this year was one Benjamin Ho who graduated from Trinity Grammar and previously went to St Paul’s Anglican along with Kenny and Billy.

 

Friday

My personal Friday began with lunch when Jie came and picked up Jacky and me for camp. We went down to Carlingford Village and ate at Hong Kong de Cafe (as per usual). I lose of track of who owes me money now, we always have a problem when it comes to paying the bill; and then in light of the mid-sem break last week I have completely forgotten who owes me money; I’m more certain that I am owed money rather than the other way round.

 

Anyway after lunch we walked around Carlingford Court, bought a bar of dark chocolate from Coles (which we didn’t end up eating by the end of camp which kind of sucks) and then we went to pick up Jess and Marcus because we were asked to take them at the very last second – how troublesome! Anyway their company was much appreciated; we pumped a variety of music while Jie drove, guided by his GPS, music from Backstreet Boys to Girls’ Generation. Jess was partially annoyed at the way we’d sing some English songs with an Asian accent.

 

The car trip took about an hour and a bit. As we got to the camp site, there was a gate blocking our way. We drove up to it. It didn’t open. We tried to give Jess (the co-ordinator) a call but she didn’t pick up – inconvenient. So we drove back to a McDonald’s we saw a couple of minutes back. We took a quick toilet break but didn’t buy anything to eat. Then we finally found out that the gate was automatic, although for some reason it didn’t open when we drove up to it. Regardless, we drove back and saw Ken’s car go past us; everyone was catching up. We got back to the gate and after driving a little closer to it, it actually opened T.T” Bad luck. Ken still mysteriously showed up 10 minutes after us.

 

We mucked around for a while until the sun set.

 

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Skip the food (it wasn’t anything special, but it was prepared by like 2 people which is fairly amazing), we began our night session around 8:15pm, about 45 minutes late. Some of the tech equipment wasn’t set up entirely well stage-wise but that would have to be fixed the next morning. We had our intro and then our first talk. Our speaker, Ben, decided to give the Old Testament Bible readings by depicting them in a video with some actors. He picked UNSW as the stage haha! The New Testament Bible readings were done by Athena, as usual.

 

Oh I missed a bit, we played a game (that we’ve played too much now) which involved getting into groups of people and having a specified number of certain body parts touching the floor; some number of arms, feet, head, etc. I took the chance to grab more photos:

 

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After the night session we finally settled down in our rooms. Luckily there was wireless here so we YouTube-ed a bit until around 12:30am and then we slept.

 

 

The Campsite

Okay now we can move onto the camp site itself. It was disappointingly smaller than our normal camp venue, Point Wolstoncroft; I forget why we’re here this year. The cabins were quite small and cramped which wasn’t all too pleasant. They were cramped in that there was little floor space to put stuff down and actually walk around the room on.

 

Toilets were quite appalling although I will say that they were better than the KCC ones, the showers at least had hot hot water and were fairly large, and weren’t like bug-infested overnight. But this was not the only “controversy”. I am of course talking about the gender inequality in how the cabins were distributed. At the back of the camp there was a block which was obviously newer, it had air conditioning and the toilets were located inside the building. The girls were offered their “luxurious palace” while we were given the tight-spaced cabins with a toilet block that we had to walk out to. The girl’s rooms were significantly more spacious; significantly. Well of course I’m not pleased, it’s quite unfair that half the campers had better treatment than others. It would be awkward to put everyone inside that nicer block, yes, but everyone could have been fit into our cramped cabins; there was easily enough rooms and beds, the guys didn’t even fill up half the camp site. And it would not be awkward to put guys and girls into the same block, because there were four sets of rooms (A to D) which then led to 3-4 more rooms; clearly our dodgy block was sectioned off in a well manner such that there shouldn’t be any guy-girl tension. I’d argue the same way if the situation had been reversed and we had gotten the better dorms. I’m happy to have a less comfortable room if it creates equality. Besides, these physical barriers I’ve suggested are exactly the case with our pervious camp venue.

 

Other than the the camp site was quite small, nobody else was there so we sort of had the entire area to ourselves. There was like children’s play equipment which we all mucked around on (see the swings in the photo above) but that may be because it was more of a venue for primary school camps, rather than teen-adult camps T.T” There was a main hall where we had our talks and games and such, fitted with a table tennis table, and a pool table, which was quite a nice addition to things we could do for fun. Naturally everyone made good use of these facilities.

 

 

Saturday

To be continued…

Early Game Plan

Ah haven’t blogged for ages but yes I don’t feel like working so rather than procrastinate, I’ll vent my energy doing something slightly more productive. Please read the post title as “Early-Game Plan” rather than the other way around. Anyway I’ve tried fairly hard to make my transition into university as swift as possible. And the first and foremost issue that needed to be addressed was time management. It was about finding a time balance between uni and, the next most prominent activity, church. Being “employed” in church has really taken a toll on my spare time and even the time I should spend for uni-related stuff so I guess I really do have to make a plan for that.

 

As always, I’m trying to employ the same trick I used back for year 11-12;: stay ahead of work and the load will be easier to carry. That was quite true and I found myself feeling less stress than would be if I didn’t like jump ahead in class. The same is still true in this case, and I guess I seem to be much better off than those who are grumbling about being behind already in their studies; fair enough. Actually I do want to see the kind of mark I can achieve in tertiary education. I mean back in high school, aiming for 100% was a fairly easy goal to achieve (or at least get close to 100%). I guess I’m naively assume this is also true for uni. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But surely if it was as hard as my Preliminary Theology Certificate exam then oh dear that’s not good. So if things go well this semester, I might actually sacrifice some of my time for uni, get like a distinction average (75%+) and then relieve myself in other areas.

 

But for now the plan is still to stay ahead in my work; it hasn’t been too hard but I think I still need to work on my study patterns. I sometimes find that I’ll only be productive at certain moments; and when I’m not “in the mood” I end procrastinating and struggling to do my homework, such as now; maybe I’m too tired at the moment to move ahead for accounting, but then that’s because I gave myself a late weekend (ie sleeping late each night). So therefore I shall have this post done before 10pm I swear.

 

Funny though, I think I had a pretty good start in terms of picking my timetable; being as efficient as I could. But even then I still have 5 days of uni a week, 18 hours a week, with about 5 idle hours for lunch/free time. And good thing because I managed to slip in some activities in those breaks so things worked out okay for my timetable in that respect. But I find now that having 9am starts really do take a toll on you; having to sleep early means I have a shorter night to study and stuff but I do have a fair amount of the afternoon. But then by the time it hits the afternoon, I feel like having fun until night and so unless I manage to discipline myself, I end up wasting that time too. But one thing is certain, no more 9am starts for me, ever!

 

Actuarial studies is fairly easy I reckon; it’s just maths day in and day out, no theory, just learn the new stuff and do the exercises, fairly mechanical and similar to high school. The only different is that there’s less time for it during class time and I find I really have to rip a lot of spare time into practising maths; that’s the only you actually learn maths, by practising it. Of course as other people have told me, Actuarial Studies is hard because they simply can’t stand the maths; which is true. Therefore, Actuaries is exclusive because not everyone is suited for it ^^ That’s why I reckon it’s heaps better than doing medicine, it’s so varied and stuff but then that’s so since I’m not suited for medicine.

 

Well church-wise I didn’t quite plan, from last year, that I’d end up being a youth group leader with a now much easier to manage team than compared to Soul Purpose (you know what I’m talking about). I’m glad that at least I can carry less of the weight because I can see my fellow leaders Nat, Jess and Eva (and also the spaz Jess) are all fairly reliable; otherwise I think church would be taking more of a toll on me than it is. But yeah I guess I’m more comfortable working together with them as a team and I guess it’s really helped us grow closer as brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

My duties now at church are much more different than with Soul Purpose, and somehow those tow years of experience I had don’t seem to aid me much here. Firstly, leading my Bible study group is different. Of course by Kenny’s wishes I was assigned the guys, yet all of them are like year 7-9 so basically I have a group of junior guys; which suffice to say is harder to work with than say the senior girls. But I think the largest difference is that leading them is a whole new game for me. Thinking back to Soul Purpose, the group I lead varied each time so I never knew them, and they never knew me. I would lead them for one time and then perhaps never get to chat with them again; kind of like a “DotA  match”. But now, I’ll see the same guys every week and soI really have to act on the basis that they’ll be growth over time…much like any “RPG game”. So by using these two metaphors, my leadership role has suddenly changed and well I guess it’s simply different and also takes time to get used to.

 

But that’s okay; I think I’ve won more respect from the kids I was once a fellow youth group attendee with. I guess my coordination roles at church have been reduced, and probably all for the better. I never really had any intentions of making an impact for church; just with the youth group so I’m glad my weight has been lifted there. And then finally RICE; very excited about being the church representative for that. Next Monday (not tomorrow) will be the first official leader’s meeting; I’ll have to like rush from uni and get there, grab diner on the way as well T.T” But they’re gonna give us free shirts! YES! And somehow I sense that I’ll chance a meeting with someone very familiar from Livingstone…just somehow.

 

Oh but on that matter, I’ve met up with some people that I haven’t seen for ages, like Ernest and Cindy, both from my Chinese school. Actually I couldn’t recognize Cindy when I saw her next to Nat; she was in perfect height ratio with Eric funnily enough. I always suspected that the two of them had something between them since they saw each other heaps during high school, like at Epping station. But now I realise that she’s too different from Eric…you can tell from just looking at all her makeup haha! It’s nice that she’s in my accounting tutorial. And then there was Ernest; I remember him so clearly as does Eric. If anyone paid attention, the last time I mentioned an Ernest was at the next gen camp; same guy. Well I’m glad that we’re both at the same uni now; he’s doing Computing and stuff but we still see each other at CBS. I never got the chance to find out how he became such a strong Christian …well he seems strong since he went to next gen (it’s not a camp for noobs and Hillsong hilly-billys I’ll tell you).

 

And now on to the rest of my life, things are better now in light of my conflict with my parents. I somehow suspect it will come to an end soon but for now I’ll see how long I can keep the good vibes flowing; surely it is the Devil who’s had some sort of ploy in everything of the past. But yeah apart from them, the empty feeling inside me is still there. I think I can finally step back and openly say I feel lonely, without making myself seem small on the outside because I simply won’t look like I’m lonely haha! But even in spite of that, it’s not weighing me down too badly. Yeah, it’ll feel bad at times but I can usually sleep it off and I’ll be re-invigorated once again.

 

Hmm…maybe it’s because I’ve grown to become paranoid; it’s expected considering the things I’ve faced; it just sucks that I find a way to hold back from someone even though all logical evidence tells me I can trust them; and so maybe feeling lonely simply comes from my paranoia towards the people around me. Of course there are people I can strongly say I trust with even my own life. It probably doesn’t mean much but to earn my trust the way I am I reckon is fairly hard because it can be broken so easily because I read bad things in a paranoid and pessimistic way. Sometimes I’m right, but mostly I’m wrong. So for those who have earned even just half of my trust, it’s quite far I reckon. But then it still doesn’t change the fact I “feel” lonely…shame for me to be caught up in a psychological trap as this…