The Letter

The letter was one page and hand written. It was filled with Encouragement. Hopes. Dreams. Goals. Direction. Questions.

As I read this letter the penmanship was familiar but I could not place it at first. It was a very personal letter as it asked very detailed questions that obviously had intimate knowledge of my life.

It was an encouraging letter in my work with Toronto Youth for Christ, my leadership, vision and direction moving forward into a new year. Was my staff feeling encouraged and valued in not only their work but in their lives.

It then moved into asking me how my commitment to my wife as her husband and best friend or even how I am setting an example to my son as a man, husband and father.

The challenge came when it asked me about specific books that I had just read and they knew the books on my "too read" shelf. Had I been challenged, provoked to action or action from what I read?

At this point I knew who had authored this letter.

This was a letter that I had written to myself 5-months earlier.

This was a fun exercise and allowed me to refocus, remember, challenge and encourage myself based on intimate knowledge of my life.

Even if you actively journal throughout your year, to receive a letter from yourself is like having the image in the mirror talk back to you about your life.

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Come Aboard the Bandwagon

This is a slightly-modified version of a post I did for Canadian Catholic earlier this year.

This Sunday's FIFA World Cup final features two soccer powerhouses:  Argentina and Germany.  The Catholic social media world has been all over the fact that its our current Pope Francis' country (Argentina) vs. his predecessor Pope Benedict's Germany.

The heavy interest in this Sunday's match reminds me of the hoopla surrounding another sporting spectacle:  the Super Bowl.  On February 2 the Seattle Seahawks trounced the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48. The highly-anticipated match-up between the NFL’s best defense (Seattle) against the league’s best offense (Denver) started off poorly for the Broncos and went downhill from there.

As part of the pre-game hype, I took a break from making Vancouver Canucks music videos to do a song for the Seattle Seahawks, cheering our southern west coast neighbours on (it has 160,000 hits on YouTube).

Here in Vancouver - given our proximity to Seattle – there was a lot of chatter about Vancouver adopting the Seahawks as their NFL team.  As well, there was a lot of back-and-forth between the loyal Seahawks fans and the newer fans leading up to the big game.  The “diehard fans” drew their line in the sand and warned the “bandwagon fans” to stay on their own side.

It didn’t make sense to me.

I’ve been a diehard and loyal Vancouver Canucks fan for practically all 40 years of my life.  I have
fond memories of listening to the games on the radio with my father and my brother.  With the small number of games being televised back in the day, we were forced to use our imagination in visioning what the play on the ice looked like.

In recent years, and especially during the Canucks’ Stanley Cup run of 2011, I heard a lot of backlash against the bandwagon fans.

“I’ve been following this team through thick and thin for 30 years!” was a common mantra for the diehards.  “Where were you when the team was struggling?”

The short-sightedness of these comments was quite amusing to me. Many bandwagon fans are our future diehards.

I’ve always argued that bandwagon fans don’t cause any harm, and that diehard fans should actually encourage them, embrace them, and welcome them. Who am I – as a diehard fan – to judge the level of fandom in a person?  Is it based on how many trivial facts and stats you know?  Or maybe how long you’ve been following the team?  Is it how many games you’ve been to?  Or perhaps how loud you scream at the TV or how many beers you consume while watching?

It got me thinking:  how do we get people on the bandwagon for Christ?

I’m currently investing in my next-door neighbour Mike. He’s my “evangelization project”.  His mother is a CEO Catholic (i.e. attends Mass at Christmas, Easter, and occasionally) and he had a pretty rough childhood as he lost his father when he was a teen.

We hit if off immediately upon meeting as we are both avid sports fans.  Whether we are coming home from work at the same time or taking out the garbage on Sunday night, we always make time for neighbourhood sports talk.  I understand him and he understands me – namely my love for my family and my faith (along with my love of sports).

In 2013 I challenged myself to invite Mike to Mass with me, and thankfully he accepted. He recognized a lot of my friends from hockey parties and other social gatherings and they were all happy to see him there. During Mass, I took the time to explain certain things to him – especially why we kept switching postures from standing to sitting to kneeling. Like sharing the intricacies of a sport, I communicated the meaning behind what happens, while trying not to come across as a know-it-all.

Mike was curious, inquisitive, and respectful.

This is at the core of the evangelization. Are we inviting fallen-away or potential new Catholics to experience the life of our church and faith? Are we doing everything we can to answer their questions?

I want people to see how passionate I am about my faith that they ask me about it. I want to exude joy and have them want to experience it too.

Back to Mike. Since December, he’s asked a couple of questions about what happened, and I’ve tried to answer them the best I can. I plan to bring him to Mass with me again in the near future. I know that my role is to walk with him and be there for him, much like Jesus on the Road to Emmaus.

Let’s go beyond accepting bandwagon fans; let’s be intentional about filling the bandwagons with our friends and acquaintances. After all, the victory parade we’re anticipating is way beyond anything you’ve ever seen, bigger than the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup put together.

So tell your friends to climb aboard, Christ has plenty of room on his bandwagon.

Clayton Imoo is husband to Gail and father to sons Sean Isaiah and Jacob Isaac and daughter Kayla Marie.  He has served as the Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver for the past ten years, helping parishes develop their own youth and young adult ministries.  When not doing ministry, Clay enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, playing sports, playing naptime, and writing blogs on topics such as family, faith, and the Vancouver Canucks.  Learn more about him at http://www.claytonimoo.com or follow him @claytonimoo
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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Graeme Watt

Join us this week as Graeme shares his story about serving, youth ministry, Canada and his organization Loveworks.


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Finding Kindred Spirits

Choosing teams on the playground during elementary school recess is essentially a childhood rite of passage. There are two team captains, typically the kids who have the appearance of being natural leaders (i.e. they're bigger and louder) while the rest of the potential players line up and the ritual begins. If I ever found myself in the rare position of being the captain, I typically took a posture well-known by the other kids: I would pick my friends first. It didn't matter if they were good at the game or not; they were my friends. Some captains picked the strategy of choosing the biggest, most athletic kids, regardless of relational equity or quality of character. They just wanted to get the most points. But I found myself drawn to the people I liked, the people I knew I would have fun playing the game with, the people who gave me joy, the people I trusted. Even if we didn't win, we'd have a blast doing it together.

We choose the teammates we love to do games with.

Now as a pastor, I have the task of hiring for three different positions for my church's youth ministries leadership team, including a full-time young adults pastor. It's been an enlightening, exciting, and daunting endeavor as a leader. Choosing a leadership team requires a great deal of discernment, humility, patience, and a knowledge of one's vision and values. Finding the right team chemistry is vital, and I've been blessed to be a part of some incredible church leadership teams where the team dynamic is defined by mutual trust and shared values. I know what I want in a team because I've experienced it before.

A few weeks ago, I attended an evening lecture at Regent College featuring author and pastor Mark Buchanan. He shared that he would choose leaders based on what he called the "Numbers 11 Principle." In Numbers 11, the people of Israel are complaining to Moses so strongly that he eventually pleads with the Lord to kill him at once rather than continue to face the criticism and whininess of the people. Instead of killing Moses, God gives him the following command:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. (Numbers 11:16-17, ESV, emphasis mine)
God takes some of the Spirit on Moses and places it on these trusted leaders. It's interesting that God doesn't just give His Spirit directly; He gives it through Moses, a sharing of His Spirit that mingles with Moses's spirit. This is more than just team chemistry or synergy or alike personalities--these are kindred spirits, shared hearts, what Buchanan called "deep calling to deep." There is something mysterious and beautiful and complex here, a sharing of the Spirit of God to stand together and bear the burden of the people. Buchanan encouraged his listeners to seek out these kindred spirits and do ministry together.

One of my youth ministry friends, Brian Berry, uses the language of locking arms or stacking hands together. I love the image of interlocking limbs as teammates, the intertwining partnership it embodies. And when people on the same team or project aren't kindred spirits, there is an underlying tension behind every decision, a fumbling of locked arms and an awkward de-stacking of hands. It's akin to the feeling of going for a high-five with someone and completely missing; we're not fully with each other in this.

Kindred spirits. Stacked hands. Locked arms. Partners in the Gospel. Whatever the phrasing, these capture something I've experienced in the past decade of ministry: there are certain people you just love doing ministry with. It goes beyond personalities or interests--this is the experience of shared values, shared hearts, shared minds, and a spiritual connection permeating it all. It's the reason I moved to Arizona years ago--I was following the call of a kindred spirit, someone I loved and trusted. It's the reason I came to British Columbia--I found kindred spirits here that I didn't even know existed until the Spirit of God brought us together. It's the reason I married my wife--she is a kindred spirit, a person I eagerly want to do life with, no matter where God leads us together.

We choose the people we love to do (fill in the blank) with.

As I'm hiring for positions and looking to build a team, I'm looking for kindred spirits. I'm looking for people to do ministry with for the long haul. That withness is essential for any team, whether on the playground, together as parents, or a pastoral team.

Who are the kindred spirits in your life? How do you know?

(This post originally appeared at The Mayward Blog here)


B.C. Youth Workers: Open Vancouver is coming to Trinity Western University on September 26-27. Check out the Open manifesto, send a proposal to be a presenter, and contact the organizing team with any questions!


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REVIVE US REFLECT: What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?

Have you been in a discussion or an argument with someone and these words came out of your mouth, “That’s not what I said!” Frustration is usually not far behind those words. It’s a brutal feeling when someone takes what you said out of context or interprets what they heard through their own filter on life. It’s exasperating when you believe you explained something so eloquently and you were careful and intentional with your words, only to have the hearer translate it into something like, ‘You hate me!’ Or ‘You don’t think I’m good enough.’ 
“Aaagh, that’s not what I said!” have you been in that place as well? What about when people make negative assumptions about you, and they don’t even know you or have a relationship with you.

“Your prophets have said so many foolish things, false to the core. They did not save you from exile by pointing out your sins. Instead, they painted false pictures, filling you with false hope. Lamentations 2:14

 As I listen to this passage on my audio bible, I become very aware of how frustrating that must be. Time and time again throughout Jeremiah and Lamentations, God is warning Judah and Israel of what is to come, calling them to repent, or do as he says, and someone from some other place is speaking to the king or the influencers in the community declaring, “God said…” and it was the opposite of what God was communicating. I visualize God with His mouth open screaming, “I didn’t say that!!”

                           Tired of you tellin' the story your way
It's causin' confusion
You think it's okay…
Make Me Wanna Scream.
Michael Jackson - Scream

I took a moment to look inward and I urge you to do the same; Have you ever put words together or prepared messages or themes or spoken to individuals quoting God, but that was not what He wanted to say?

Camp season has begun. Some of you like me will be speaking at camps. Are you speaking what God wants you to speak?  Maybe you are camp chaplain, or the camp director and will be leading devotions for the counselors. Are you speaking what God wants you to speak? There will be junior counselors and senior counselors made up of volunteers, students and camp interns who will have opportunity to speak to campers one on one or in their cabins. Are they speaking what God wants them to say?

You can only speak what He is saying, if you have a relationship with Him and you take time to hear what He is saying. God told Jeremiah exactly what to say, and then he spoke it.

I had already written most of today’s blog earlier, but once I got down on my knees and asked for clarity, Holy Spirit shared with me what He actually wanted said and it was different from what I originally had. As I listened, I gently heard Him speak to my heart saying, “They are telling students what I have to say when they have no relationship with me.”

I Didn't Say That.

Youth worker. Is this you? Have you been caught up in the duties of life but have not personally heard from God for yourself in a long time? STOP! Stop speaking. START. Start listening. Holy Spirit cares about you. He’s got your youth, He’ll take care of your family, He wants you! You’ve been so far away from Him and you know it in your heart. You’ve got this whole itinerary this summer that you set up. He wants you to stop going, slow down and sit for a while. God cares about you too much to lose you. He can help you get back on track, but it starts with Him. Please it’s time for self-care. As a fellow youth worker, we all are a team. And when one is down and out of the game we feel it. I watched Costa Rica and Greece play in the world cup. One player on Costa Rica received a red card and was out of the game. These teams went into overtime and Costa Rica was exhausted. The goalie was hurt in so many places, yet they couldn’t sub him out because they used all of their substitutes. I felt for them. Look if you need to sit on the bench for a while to rest up so you’ve got legs again, then please do it because we want to keep you in the game! When you get a red card, the team is down a person, but when you have a sub, someone else comes out in your place. Do you need a break?  God will provide a substitution for you. I know you can’t see who it will be, but someone will come. Take a break and spend time with Him. 

If you are working with a team this summer, and you see that a student or counselor doesn’t have a relationship with God, please pastor them and have them take a time out for self-care which starts with God. Be watching for them so that there are no young counselors or parents that are creating confusion speaking a message that is contrary to the one God is giving.

Stop talking. Start Listening. Let Him speak to you. Allow time to resurrect your relationship with Him. Students need to hear what God is saying to them. As ministers of His word, we need to be clear so that our hearers can walk in clarity.

I’m praying for you. To whom this concerns.

Youth Speaker & Founder of the Young Woman of Power (YWOP), Alison hosts conferences and develops programs that are designed to build the confidence of youth such as the YWOP PivotFWD workshop which she delivers in Calgary’s Youth Judicial System and the citywide Young Women of Power Conference. She considers herself to be a pastor to those who don’t want one or don’t know they need one. For more info or to book Alison as a speaker visit www.ywop.ca 

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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Jason Ballard

Jason Ballard works with Alpha Canada. He's in love with his wife Rachel, their son Hudson and Jesus. Jason spends his time creating resources and helping local youth workers learn to use Alpha to create spiritual conversations in their ministry setting. Watch our interview as we talk about all things Canadian and all things youth ministry.


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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Brett Ullman

Canadian author and speaker Brett Ullman joins us this week to chat about all things Canadian, youth ministry, his personal journey and so much more. Share it, like it, comment on it. We'd love to hear from you!


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REVIVE US SERIES No. 3: The Youth Church For The Poor

The views and concerns addressed in this blog series are bigger than our youth. It is a reflection of how Christians young and old view the church and what we feel we need to do to make Jesus look cool.  To expose how we got here, each blog in this series will describe a church concept that students came up with, followed by a personal challenge from myself or one of the other panel members in hope of a personal revival in God’s people.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelations 2:7)
Revive Us O Lord.
For a Quick Recap on the Series Click Here
James 1:26-27
26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

There were six students in this group from a completely different background; Dutch Reformed, Alliance, Pentecostal and a couple of students who didn’t know what their church was. For their class project they created ‘The Church of Hope’ with a primary focus on ministering to the poor. Their church was located right in the downtown core of the city where the poor could easily access it. On staff they had a pastor and associate two counselors and a social worker. One of the ministries they provided was a residence to the homeless. For those who didn’t have a place to stay, housing would be provided along with a place of worship that had a soup kitchen attached to it.
With this group of students the physical needs of the poor would be met but after hearing their presentation I had to ask, is that all that Jesus and the church has to offer the poor?  

One of the members of the panel was a gentleman who worked for the Salvation Army. He inquired, “So how will you sustain, the counselors, social workers and full time pastor with a church that is ministering to the poor? Where will you get your money from?” A male student slouched over with dark brown hair and answered with an apathetic voice. “That was not a part of the assignment. We were not asked to figure that out. Money was not an issue.”
A teacher from the school was also sitting on the panel and asked the students, “Why do you want to do this? What was your motivation?” She was having a hard time getting a clear answer from them. So she asked another way,  “What are the beliefs of your church?” The same student responded, “We’re not suppose to have denominations.”
I helped rephrase the question, “What is your church philosophy what do you want to see happen with the poor?  What do you want them to believe?” Silence. Then the boy with the monotone voice replied, “We weren’t told to do that.”

As frustrating as these responses were, I realized that the students’ views are a refection of what we as Christians and youth workers have instilled in our students. They are our disciples, following us. But something has gone wrong in the discipleship process. What I heard from these students doesn’t reflect my heart for the poor, or does it? The students have the actions down pat, but the motivation, the heart behind why they do what they do is lacking. Their attitude towards the poor is...We do what we are supposed to do.

James 2:14-25 talks about a Faith with no action or deeds. James uses the example of seeing a brother or sister in need and offering them nothing. He says that kind of faith is useless. This message is so clear in my head, faith without works is dead. I believe it is a passage that guides so many of us Gen X’ers and older Millennial’s because of what we have seen the past generation model.
We organize mission trips, we collect offerings to support work overseas, we hand out sandwiches, collect school supplies, we have food or clothes drives and we have a sponsor a child to make sure we do not forget the poor.
This is all great but what are our students picking up? What kind of disciples are we making? Have we swung so far to the works side that we’ve neglected the faith element when it comes to ministering to the poor?

Isaiah 61
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God. ,
to comfort all who mourn,and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

In Luke 4 Jesus reads this passage of scripture and says it is being fulfilled. Jesus was empowered to preach, to heal, to comfort, to set prisoners free.
Luke 7:22 John’s disciples asked Jesus are you the Messiah, the one we’ve been waiting for. Then Jesus tells John’s disciples, Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, thedeaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” NLT

When we set up mission trips what is our purpose?  Do we build houses to demonstrate Jesus nice-ness?  Why do we have students share their testimony? To give them ministering opportunities? Is that all Jesus can offer the poor?
Our students are mimicking what we do and from our example they have learned that it is good to give to the poor. But Jesus offers so much more. Fellow youth worker, do you believe that the word of God brings Good News to the poor?  What is that Good News?
He is Jehovah Jirah. The provider. I remember my first miracle at the age of 5 when God miraculously provided $100 for my family after I cheerfully gave a dollar. As a single woman starting my speaking business with nothing, Jesus walked with me through extreme low places but I’m not in that place anymore! Jesus is hope. For the person on disability who is just scraping by but can never get ahead, Jesus can heal them. For the parent struggling with mental health, Jesus can bring comfort to their heart, the street kids in your town or city that are regularly in trouble with the law and are on probation, Jesus can set that kid free! Do your students know that the gospel of Jesus Christ can help bring the poor out of their poverty? Do WE know that?!

Do WE believe that God can break the cycles of poverty in our society? God is a champion for the poor He can bring change to social structures that keep the poor poor. He can remove corrupt leaders, break a pattern of addiction in a family line, God is in the business of salvation for us all and that salvation creates transformation and restoration in our lives and in the world, that is the Good News we have to offer the poor.
Youth worker, my prayer is for revival in our hearts, that you would seek and catch God’s vision for the poor in your sphere of influence. What does Holy Spirit want to do? How can it be brought about?  Once you’ve caught it, live it out and share the vision with those that you are discipling so that the next generation of Christians are not apathetic monotone doers but are people of faith and deeds.

To Follow the Revive Us Series  
Houston We Have A Problem: The School Project
Disciples of the "Buddy" Church
Youth Speaker & Founder of the Young Woman of Power (YWOP), Alison hosts conferences and develops programs that are designed to build the confidence of youth such as the YWOP PivotFWD workshop which she delivers in Calgary’s Youth Judicial System and the citywide Young Women of Power Conference. She considers herself to be a pastor to those who don’t want one or don’t know they need one. For more info or to book Alison as a speaker visit www.ywop.ca 


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Leadership Posture and Tone

Photo Credit: texasgurl (Creative Commons)

If you have a piano, take a minute and pick out two keys, one black and one white directly adjacent to each other. Pound on those keys as loudly and quickly as possible. You'll probably give yourself a headache from the painful sound emitting from the keyboard. You've just created auditory tension

Now, keep one finger placed on a white key, then shift the other to the key exactly one octave higher. The harmonious sound will ring true in your ears (as long as the piano is in tune!). This has been a basic lesson in tone and harmony, and there's a ministry leadership lesson to be learned in this:

How I speak matters as much as what I speak. McLuhan put it this way: the medium is the message

Colossians 4 puts it another way: 
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone
My communication should be wise, patient, and full of grace and empathy. 2 Timothy 4 speaks of correcting, rebuking, and encouraging with great patience and careful instruction. (Key phrase: with great patience.) James 1 tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

If what I am saying to you is 100% true and beneficial for you, but my tone and posture are ones of judgment, condemnation, or self-centered frustration, then I am adding the static of arrogance to my message. I come across as quick to speak and anger, while forgetting the patience required for listening and being present. On the other hand, if my posture and tone are gracious and gentle, yet I cannot speak without conviction or truth, then perhaps my message isn't worth hearing in the first place.

Think about how you're communicating with fellow leaders in your church / ministry / team. Tone matters. If the medium is the message, then how we approach a fellow leader in our communication is just as important as the information we're sharing. A sarcastic, whiny, or passive-aggressive vocal tone is creating unnecessary relational withdrawals. Leaders of organizations don't need whiners; they need people who can communicate the truth in a humble-yet-confident manner. Communicate verbally with a tone of grace and clarity, finding a healthy balance between boldness and subtlety.

Healthy communication also includes physical presence. Slouching in staff meetings, walking brusquely by offices without greeting, or avoiding eye contact all send a negative message. If I'm chatting with someone and they've positioned their body away from me, looking like they want to leave at any moment, I'm less apt to share with them. Shift your emotional state by shifting your physical state. Being physically and mentally present with fellow leaders fosters trust and healthier communication.

Ask yourself: what messages am I sending through my tone and posture? Even if the content of your message is filled with grace and love, your tone and posture might be communicating something entirely different.


B.C. Youth Workers: Open Vancouver is coming to Trinity Western University on September 26-27. Check out the Open manifesto, send a proposal to be a presenter, and contact the organizing team with any questions!

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Anatomy of Effectively Planning Ahead

Planing ahead at the end of June is always hard. Who wants to start thinking or even planning strategically about September through June for next school year when the summer this year has only just begun?

Effectively Planning Ahead can be broken down by using a simple template. I've used this template for years and each year I tweak it a little bit more or a little bit less based on the upcoming year. Get you calendar out for 2014-15 and lets get going.

My planning template consists of six components.

  1. Non-negotiable: weekly programs and seasonal events that always happen every year go right into your calendar without any hesitation (e.g. winter retreat, mission trip car wash fundraiser in May, fall kick off event, Friday night you or Sunday school). Make sure you have the church calendar for the next year so you don't double book stuff on missions weekend etc...
  2. Curriculum: you need to be praying about this and writing notes down about where God what you to go with curriculum and then evaluate the curriculums to get the right one. This can be done by yourself or in a group setting with your leadership team.
  3. Journalling: through out your past year, you must be taking notes about everything. Key questions parents have asked, how can we prevent someone from breaking their arm in our pillow fight night, what worked well at your Christmas banquet, what failed when kids got on the roof and the a neighbour called the cops. These are then applied or thoughtfully consider for the next year. 
  4. Next Steps: what are those next steps that you need to provide for your students or volunteer leaders to challenge them to go to that next level? Do you need to start a student leadership team or recruit more volunteers? Do you need to focus on Spiritual gifts this year or plan an overseas mission trip?
  5. Share the Plan: after you have everything planned out you need to go through several beta tests (3-4) with three groups of people; 2-3 key volunteers and students from your leadership team, church staff, 2-3 key parents.
  6. Publish: send out a basic 2014-15 calendar that only marks out key dates ad has no details. You don't need to list your Friday night theme from September through June but you should have you Friday nights in the calendar.
Two key things you should have on every basic calendar is this: 1) youth ministry schedule subject to change without notice. 2) Friday night youth will not be on these four dates: ____, ____, ____, _____.


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Time for Some Prayer Games ...

Do remember that Christmas song about Rudolph?  You know, it's the one with the lyrics about 'all of the reindeer' bullying a poor red-nosed under-dog by calling him names and not allowing him to join them in their reindeer games.  Sounds like they may have been middle school reindeer!

Although I actually have no idea what the 'Reindeer Games' actually are, I have spent time playing 'Prayer Games' with students over the years and if Rudolph would have been around, I'd have invited him to join in too.

Seriously though, if the teens you get to serve and minister to are anything like the youth where I live, they love the concept of prayer and may even enjoy practising it in private, but when it comes to approaching the Lord with words in a corporate setting with their peers, the walls go up and the eyes immediately look down at the floor.  This is especially true for new believers or students who are pre-Christian.

So how do you get teens to get better at coming before their heavenly Father?  I've found that the best way to learn to pray is by praying.  Here are some 'games' that might kick-start this essential spiritual discipline in your ministry.  If you have others, please leave your ideas in the comment area below.

Prayer Game #1: International (Korean) Prayer

What is it?
My friend Denise spent a year in Korea and mentioned that now that she is back home, she has her small group often spend time praying like the ethnic Koreans at the international church she attended. Basically, she has her group huddle together, pick a topic, and pray out-loud all at once.

Note: at this point many of my charismatic friends are going, "Um, that's not very original Dan", but the truth is, many churches would see this as totally new and out of their comfort zone. 

How to do it?
Get your small group, youth group, etc. into a huddle ... give them a topic as well as some basic information on how they might pray for it (this helps those who aren't very good at prayer).  Then, announce that you'll be giving them ___ seconds to pray out-loud about it (*I generally start with a 15 second time period and will increase it from there.)

Let students know that, if they run out of things to say, they can listen to those around them for a moment and steal lines from others as they overhear them.

This 'game' gets people comfortable hearing their own voice praying out-loud, and the benefit is that it doesn't embarrass teens by putting them on the spot with all their friends focussing on them.  Plus,  the time limits mean that it's a short enough period that people generally don't run out of things to pray. Finally, because 'everyone is doing it', teens who are not Christians don't feel "outed"!

Prayer Games #2: Divide and Conquer

What is it?
I remember speaking at a retreat once that was targeted at college students and focused on the topic of prayer.  The weekend involved 20-somethings from different churches and I wanted to do an "icebreaker" so that they could meet each other and move into some prayer time right away.  What I came up with was this fun little game that worked really well and is easily transferred to youth groups.

How to do it?
Handout pens and paper to everyone (we did this when they walked in the door) and have teens write their name on it and either a statement about how they are expecting to grow in their faith during the retreat / coming semester / evening event / etc.  As another option, students could write down a question they would like to ask God to speak to them about during the retreat / coming semester / evening event / etc.

Divide the youth into two groups (just call them group 'A' and 'B'). Collect group B's papers and hang onto them for a minute. Collect group A's papers and re-distribute them to group B.

Group B people must find the person from group A named on their paper, introduce themselves, and then pray for the item listed on the paper.

When completed, handout group B's paper to group A and repeat the exercise.

Dan King is a Pastor to Youth and Young Adults in Parksville, on Vancouver Island.  He's a 20+ year veteran of youth ministry and has worked in large and small churches across Western Canada.  He is a husband and father of two teenagers, loves skim boarding, collects Nike sneakers, and enjoys practicing the spiritual discipline that calls him to 'be still and know'.  Read the online "Leadership and Youth Ministry" magazine he edits and contributes to or follow him @danKing_live


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Transitioning in your job? Finish what you came to do.

John 17 is Jesus' prayer just before his betrayal and arrest. In verse 4, he prays "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you sent me to do". Jesus hadn't gone to the cross yet, so what was it the he came to do? - - The rest of the chapter gives us a clue.

When you are called to work in a church, or an organization, or even volunteer, God has set you apart with a job to do. How do you know when it is time to go? How 'bout - when you are finished what he called you to do?

Last year I built a great two level deck with cool retaining wall and now we are moving... I don't even get you use it! Ever finish something for God and not get to experience the fruit of the labour? I moved to a new city for the sole purpose of ministry... why else am I there? Finish the work and leave when you are done.

Here are my ramblings for this week. Time for transition... here we go.

When you have completed what he sent you to do, you'll know - or He will release your heart - or your boss will 'inform' you.... either way, finish well.

Dave Brotherton was a youth pastor from 1984-2006 and now teaches youth ministry at Ambrose University College in Calgary. Dave is also the National Youth Guy for the Alliance churches in Canada, the director of Legacy Youth Conference, and a junior high volunteer in his church. Dave is married to Lisa and they share 2 of the greatest kids in the world. Fishing, camping, and cheering on the Leafs are some of his favorite things. 
This summer, Dave is transitioning to lead the ministry of Sauble Christian Fellowship, Sauble Beach, ON. 
twitter: @oldbrotherdave 

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Swinging for the Fences

With pro baseball player Vernon Wells.
Last week, I was blessed to spend a week in Fort Worth, Texas for the second consecutive year.  I served as a trainer for YouthLeader and had the opportunity to help high school youth (and their youth ministers) develop their leadership skills (in a Christian context) through a week of sessions, prayers, games, socials, and more.  I was inspired by the enthusiasm and desire of the young people I met. 

When YouthLeader ended on Friday, I spent 24 hours with my good friends Marie and Mike and their 5 wonderful children.  On Friday night, we went to watch Andrew (the oldest child) play baseball.  It was a really fun night as we were treated to some decent hardball (especially for 9 and 10 year olds) and I got to meet and take a picture with ex-Toronto Blue Jay – and 3 time MLB All-Star – Vernon Wells.  He’s one of the coaches of Andrew’s team.

The game came down to the last inning and Andrew’s team was up to bat down 6-4 with 2 out and the bases loaded.  One of Andrew’s teammates walked up to the plate, and I just so happened to be standing next to the batter’s dad.

Pitch 1 was a ball.

Pitch 2 was a strike (the boy didn’t swing).

Pitch 3 was a ball.

Pitch 4 was a strike (once again, the boy watched the ball cross the plate).

Pitch 5 was a ball.

Now we had a full count of 3 balls and 2 strikes.  With 2 out.  And the bases loaded.  This had all the makings for a hero moment.

“Come on...you need to swing the bat!” the father implored his son.

Pitch 6 was a strike right down the middle. The bat never left the boy’s shoulder.  Game over.

“If you want to hit, you need to swing the bat,” the father mumbled to himself as we applauded the efforts of both teams.

Was the young boy intimidated by the pitcher?  Maybe.  Not prepared enough?  Perhaps.  Feeling the pressure?  Likely.

Often in youth ministry, we may feel intimidated, unprepared, or pressured.  We may withhold or withdraw because we don’t want to make a mistake. Or we’re afraid or failing.

But fear is not of the Lord!  In 2 Timothy 1:7 we hear “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”


Here are 4 ways we can swing for the fences in youth ministry:

1.  Make the extra effort.  Youth ministry can be draining.  It can be disheartening when you put so much work into a night and only a handful of teens show up.  Teens can be high-maintenance, and they don’t always say thank you and they may not pray for the leaders.  But despite all of this, they will notice when you put in the extra effort.  It might be spending a bit more time making decorations for the next event, seeking out a costume for an upcoming skit, or devoting a few extra minutes to respond to emails, Facebook messages, and tweets.  The answer to the question of “Is this worth it?” is almost always an unequivocal yes.  Doing that little bit extra might make the difference between a young person coming back to your youth ministry gatherings or staying home.

2.  Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.  Now I’m not talking about careless and care-free mistakes here.  But I am talking about practical risk-taking.  Sometimes, we need to just let our imaginations fly!   Our volunteers should not feel bogged down by bureaucracy.  Without some freedom, volunteers will lose their enthusiasm quickly.  So if you’re used to delivering a talk or teaching from a script, next time use cue cards or memorize the whole thing.  Or maybe you could try some new and crazy icebreakers for the very first time.  Trust that the other volunteers and leadership will have your back and bail you out if necessary.  We all need to take risks, even at the expense of failing.  After all, the only person who never makes a mistake is the one who never tries anything.

3.  Aim high.  There’s is nothing inspiring or satisfying about reaching a goal that you set too low.  Thus, I’d encourage you to ask yourself questions like “What will success look like?” or “What’s something we haven’t tried before?” as opposed to “How can we get by?” or “What’s the safest route?”  When we aim high, we stretch out of our comfort zones and we often surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish.  When young people see us aiming high and not being complacent, they will want to do the same.  Our goals should be challenging, yet realistic and practical.  But as long as we aim high, we won’t get stagnant, and we – and our ministry – will continue to grow.

4.  Be confident.  If we are genuine in our intent, then we can be confident that God will work in us and through us.  After all, we are ordinary people in the hands of an extraordinary God.  If we are called to serve in youth ministry, then we must have confidence that we are making an impact in the lives of the young people we are ministering to and with.  It’s through our witness, our conversations, and our relationships.  We are their affirmers, their cheerleaders, and their advocates.  We must believe that if God leads us to it, then He’ll lead us through it.  Sometimes we may feel tired, lazy, and unworthy to serve.  But God asks us to look beyond our so-called “inadequacies” or “deficiencies” and trust in Him; that His grace will be sufficient for us.

When we make the extra effort, when we’re not afraid to make a mistake, when we aim high, and when we’re confident, then we will inspire and motivate others – young and old alike.  And in turn, they will inspire us right back.  Such was the case with the amazing young people of Texas last week. Their desire to strengthen their relationships with God rubbed off on me and made me want to do the same.

So the next time you’re up to bat in your youth ministry, make sure you swing away!

It’s the only way you’re going to hit a home run.

In what ways do/can you swing for the fences in your youth ministry?

Clayton Imoo is husband to Gail and father to sons Sean Isaiah and Jacob Isaac and daughter Kayla Marie.  He has served as the Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver for the past ten years, helping parishes develop their own youth and young adult ministries.  When not doing ministry, Clay enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, playing sports, playing naptime, and writing blogs on topics such as family, faith, and the Vancouver Canucks.  Learn more about him at http://www.claytonimoo.com or follow him @claytonimoo

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REVIVE US SERIES No. 2: Disciples of the "Buddy" Church

The views and concerns addressed in this blog series are bigger than our youth. It is a reflection of how Christians young and old view the church and what we feel we need to do to make Jesus look cool.  To expose how we got here, each blog in this series will describe a church concept that students came up with, followed by a personal challenge from myself or one of the other panel members in hope of a personal revival in God’s people.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelations 2:7)
Revive Us Oh Lord.


If money was not an issue what type of church would you build? Who would come? What would your church look like? 
This was the final group assignment given to Senior High Students at a Christian school. The panel was comprised of various full time ministers. Our role was to give students feedback on their church planting project along with an opportunity to gain some insight on what the next generation is looking for in a church. Instead our findings were startling as students delivered their presentations on their church plant. I came in looking for a little insight, but instead Holy Spirit gave us youth workers a snap shot of bigger problem, one that we created. These students response to this project is a reflection of various mentalities in the church. I am sounding the alarm with other voices, because "Houston, we have a problem." (Blog 1 in Series)


The first church was located in a new development. This was the Connect Church. Their mission was to serve God and have fun doing it.  The Connect Church has services at 10:30am for the old folks and 12:30pm for the younger generation. I asked the students, “How old is old?” A student responded, “35 and up.”  Grrrr. Punk kids!! I decided not to ask any more questions until they were done.  The pastor of their church was a preacher who was interactive. (That was all that was said about the Pastor) For the offering, if a person desires to give they can do so on their own time rather than a group collection. Each week the offering would go to a different organization except once a month when it would be designated to the local church.  (Oh, the things your church could do with a budget like that! LoL. Cool idea though) For weekly programs they had Worship and Wings. And we are not talking Ezekiel’s wings, but chicken wings. They’d sing some songs, hang out after and go out for wings or cook the wings at the church. Another ministry that the Connect church provided was the Landscaping Outreach. In their church building they have a place where the lawn mowers, trimmers etc. were stored. Those involved in this ministry would go out into their community and help new owners landscape their property. This is how they would minister to their community in a practical way. Brilliant!! They also had a ministry to the poor, where they would have a massive potluck dinner in the foyer of their church that they designed that was big enough to host such social events. (Somehow the poor would find their way out to that end of the city and bring a meal to share with everyone). This church had a youth, women and men’s ministry. And for the seniors, well they didn’t really know what to do with them, “Maybe a craft night?” sheepishly answered a student.
Lastly on their calendar of events was Prayer ministry Thursday nights.

This is a church for the socially lonely. The student’s favourite ideas and concepts were the landscaping outreach and Worship and Wings. When asked about by a fellow panel member who works for Youth Unlimited an organization that focuses on Evangelism to youth, “What is your churches strategy on implementing the Great Commission?” Silence.  Now awkward silence. Then a student broke the silence, “Can you explain that in a different way, we don’t know what that is.”

What will help the church grow? Acts of service to the community and having fun!  
The connect church had great ideas to connect with people, but for what purpose? Relationships. As the students talked about the Worship and Wings ministry, their eyes lite up as they spoke about their churches main event! With a strong emphasis on the Wings they never described what the worship aspect looked like, but they went into details about the gathering after and where they would get their wings from and the relationships that could get started there.

What does this reveal?
One of my colleagues nicknamed this the “Buddy Church”.  Clearly this churches heart was to have fun but their head knew, they needed to have a prayer ministry and a ministry to the poor and something for seniors. But was their heart in it?  How many people from the Buddy church do you think would show up to prayer?  Would any of those students attend?  No, but they would be there for Worship and Wings.
I’m glad our students know the different elements that go into a church but I am challenged by this, have we as youth ministers made church a Worship vs. Wings contest?  Have we put an emphasis on WINGS over worship?  I’ve learned that what are students pick up is a reflection of our own belief.

In your own life, when do your eyes light up? Is it in the eager anticipation of many voices in unity singing one song in complete abandonment and passion to the one you are in love with? Or do the great sounds of praise and cheers come the moment Sunday/Sabbath service or Mass is over and you get to talk to ‘buddy’? Do your eyes light up knowing you get to go home and get something to eat? Mmmm…wings.

In my own life I have spent a lot of intentional time trying to connect with students, whether it’s through my message, in a school or at my girls group. I’ve always looked for the invisible one’s to bring them into the fold. Clearly, that’s not wrong. However, somewhere down the road this has turned into a habit, something that I do to build relationships and try and learn student’s names as quickly as possible. Disciples of Alison Springer would build a buddy church. A connect church. I didn’t see it before, but at some point the do became work, and the reason why I was compelled to learn names and build relationships was lost. I’m not sure when it happened but now I serve God by serving people reaching out to the community in practical ways. I do this for the sake of people, not the sake of Jesus. Do I have a plan to live out the great commission?  Silence. Awkward silence. What do my students see me doing?  Reaching out to the community in practical ways, but how is my desire to see people come to know Christ expressed in my actions? I don’t spend time praying for my girls group by name, have I pursed them and stayed in contact with them after they graduated from my course or attend the conference? No! Because that’s more work and there is only so much I can do!! My cry is for more helpers!!

Do you find yourself in a similar place?  Since these presentations Holy Spirit has been convicting me and showing me all the areas in my life that I do for people and not for Jesus. I’m weary and don’t have the same excitement or jump for going to church and attending Tuesday night prayer services because like Samson, I’ve been doing my own thing, not realizing I no longer have divine supernatural strength. Now when I teach in the world, I’m getting beat up, and I leave exhausted not seeing much fruit.
My love for Jesus is why I originally got involved in everything that I’m involved in. But my eyes were fixed on the doing that I forgot all about the being, being in love, being full of joy.  Every morning waking up wondering what Jesus & God had in store for me that day. The last three weeks, I started going to prayer meetings Tuesday night not because I felt obligated to, because that pull hasn’t worked for a long while now. I go because I want to; I’m looking for something that I know can only be found in prayer, a deeper relationship with Christ. When I’m tired, in the rain on my bike, whether there are other things I can do, or people who want to connect with me, I will go because I want to connect with Jesus. This past week as I pursue my desire to fall in love with him, I’m meeting my neighbours, and people in my community.  We stop and talk and I’m remembering their names better. I’m having more God encounters with students that I teach at my course as I bump into them outside of my program. What?  The connections are all happening naturally because I’m seeking Him first and desiring to be in right standing with Him. All these things/connections that I’ve wanted are being added or given to me. (Matt. 6:33) Jesus said, through the cross He will draw all people unto Himself. (John 12:32) As I fix my eyes on Him, Holy Spirit taps me on the shoulder and I notice the people are coming.

Is the Connection “Buddy” Church the type of church your students/disciples would plant? 
Are you actively involved in your community planting seeds of love, but people are not introduced to Jesus?  Please, I’m not endorsing you to develop relationships with an agenda to convert people, far from it. But do you remember why you got involved in what you are currently doing in the first place?  Remember the love and excitement of learning more about Jesus, and consecrating your life to Him?  Do you remember the zeal?  It’s that love that draws. That first love, Jesus is calling you back to that place. Where your eyes are on him and not the next event. Where the emphasis is on the Worship, adoration and admiration of Him verses the activities, the creative play and talks.
Are you weary from doing good?  Fall in love again and be in love.

Youth Speaker & Founder of the Young Woman of Power (YWOP), Alison hosts conferences and develops programs that are designed to build the confidence of youth such as the YWOP PivotFWD workshop which she delivers in Calgary’s Youth Judicial System and the citywide Young Women of Power Conference. She considers herself to be a pastor to those who don’t want one or don’t know they need one. For more info or to book Alison as a speaker visit www.ywop.ca 


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An Invitation to Speak at Open Vancouver

At most training events I’ve attended, the speakers are the outside experts. They’re flown in and paid the big bucks to share their expertise about a given subject, then fly off to another. They're often from a totally different context than my own. That’s okay–we’ve all gained and learned a great deal from this training model, both as listeners and as speakers. I’ve been both the learner and the presenter, and there’s wisdom to gain and share from this model. But I've wondered if we can do things differently.
Open Vancouver is different. We want to be...well...open.
So, here is my formal invitation to you:
You’re cordially invited to be a speaker at Open Vancouver.
The Open Vancouver organizing team (Matt Wilks, Clay Imoo, and myself, plus the guys from The Youth Cartel) would love to see a diverse and unique blend of local voices share about what they’re seeing, experiencing, and learning in youth ministry in the Vancouver, BC area. We’re looking less for a 90-minute lecture/workshop and more like a 20-30 minute TED-talk or focused training presentation, following by a session of Q&A. Open is all about conversation and dialogue. So if you have a story to tell, a rant to scream, a new concept or experiment you’ve wanted to try, an observation about culture, or a theological insight into the world of young people, you’re invited to step up to the microphone. (Even if you're not from BC, you're still invited to Open Vancvouer. Matt is from Calgary, and he's showing up.)
We’re just asking potential speakers to fill out a short form outlining what they’d like to share. We’re trying to gather as many speakers as possible by July 1, so get your proposal in!
I know, I know–it feels weird to propose yourself to speak at an event. That’s okay. Sign up anyway. Remember, I just invited you! Depending on the amount of proposals our team receives, you may not speak at this Open event this year. We’d still just love to hear from you. You have a voice. Use it. (Maybe sign up your awesome youth ministry friend who would never sign up themselves. Okay, not really. But…maybe.)
So would you please do two things?
First, prayerfully consider making a proposal to be a speakerWhat idea / story / concept / experiment / rant / wisdom would you like to share?
Second, invite your youth ministry friends to Open Vancouver on Saturday, September 27. Seriously, tell everyone you know. We don’t exactly have a marketing budget for this sort of thing; we’re relying on word of mouth and the power of the Internets. Registration will open soon, we’d love to see you there!

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