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top ten (re)discoveries of being in youth work.

I spent the last two days on course at SSTI (Social Service Training Institute), the training arm of NCSS (National Council of Social Service). There were many factors that contributed to my thorough enjoyment. It was conducted at their main office at Ulu Pandan Community Club – yes, a three-minute stroll over 200 metres – even nearer than walking to the bus terminal. It was great to network with people in this line of work; I was glad to meet three full-time staff from NCC and I think we connected well. The trainer was a former senior pastor of a local church and he received his postgraduate education from (my dream institution) Fuller Seminary. It was great to meet people from different demographics with a similar heartbeat for youths.

At the risk of sounding cocky (forgive me), I didn’t really learn anything new for there is nothing new under the sun. Most of the findings could be researched online and most of the principles could be self-deducted with common sense. Unfortunately, (the participants and) I do not have the luxury of time to do either, so I was glad that this course helped to piece together the thoughts that were already in my head; I declare it so arrogantly (forgive me again) because a lot of what was taught can actually be found in the 70+ drafts that I’ve written so far, just phrased slightly differently. The presentation may vary, but the train of thought and cognitive motivations are one and the same.

However, this (“Engaging Youths Through Their Culture”) course did affirm my calling, as well as my decision to enter full-time ministry to work with young people at this point of my life. I think it will benefit anyone who has “work with young people” in their job description. Here are the ten things I’ve (re)discovered about myself at the end of the course:

1. I truly am wired for youth ministry. Again, another immodest statement (forgive me, I’m on a roll!) but it is what I honestly believe; I am acutely aware of my strengths and weaknesses. This course has reinforced the preexisting thoughts and mentalities in my head which I have independently developed over the years. There’s no work I’d rather be doing than this.

2. I truly have the DNA of an evangelist. Within hours, I found myself sharing God’s goodness in my life and my journey to full-time ministry to Christians and non-Christians alike. We overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11) and it was almost instinctive that I did what I did – intentionally share the Gospel through my life, by my speech.

3. I truly enjoy meeting new people and I’m not afraid to air my opinions. In other words, I find it exciting to connect with all kinds of people and I’m outspoken, even in a new or unfamiliar environment. It’s been a while since I’ve mingled with non-church people and today I realised that my personality is quite consistent in every arena of my life. I can only be thankful for that.

4. I truly understood why I was a marketing manager in my previous job before I went into full-time ministry. When the trainer gave us insights into the world of media and marketing, I found myself instantly connected to and comprehended what he was sharing. These topics were my professional competencies and rice bowl; it was what I “specialised” in, sort of.

5. I truly am a senior youth after all. Instinctive compulsions are synonymous with youth. I self-declared to be senior because I no longer act crazy out of impulse, but I self-declared to be a youth because I still have these crazy impulses! (And also because I’m within Singapore’s official 15-30 year old age range!) Nonetheless, I thank God for this all-important suppressing ingredient called maturity.

6. I truly relish communicating and expressing myself through words to a different audience. On a daily basis, I work with Christians, be it my colleagues or my youths. Even the couple of at-risk youths I work with are Christians. I must admit that it’s slightly easier to speak to this group of people because we subject ourselves to a greater authority (in the Bible), and often can use phrases like “I’ll pray for you”, or “Have faith”, or “Trust God” as part of our arsenal of advice. I cherished the opportunity to articulate my thoughts with a deliberate reduction of Christian jargon.

7. I truly am able to speak the language of youth. Be it through the mediums of music, media, colloquial expressions or the virtual world, I realised that I could feel what a young person is trying to tell me in their multi-coded and often pseudo-confused state of mind, evidently manifested in their language – both verbal and non-verbal. Simply put, I think I can readily emphathise with a young person and I thank God for it.

8. I truly see myself doing this kind of work should God lead me out of full-time ministry one day. I always tell people that I take working in Grace/R-AGE a year at a time. I’d love to do it for the long run, but if I ever do something else, with the right credentials, this could be the other dream job I’d want to declare as my occupation – studying youths and talking to youths and people who work with youths about youths – what a combination!

9. I truly love young people. We were shown a surfeit of video clips throughout the course and whether I see something spectacular or sorrowful, I’d spontaneously ask two questions – “How can I rejoice with them?” and “How can I reach out to them?”. It could be the celebration of an achievement, the recovery of a failure or the development and fulfilment of potential. I absolutely yearn to be a part of it – whatever it is!

10. I truly am privileged to work with a kaleidoscope of youths. This is the first time I see my clients playing a significant role in my own training and development as a youth professional (if I could lump all of us into one overarching category). Unlike other youth workers in specialised roles (like social workers or psychologists) who attend mainly to one subset of youths, I have the wonderful benefit of meeting all kinds of youths from all kinds of social backgrounds with all kinds of upbringing and all kinds of aspirations.

All right, this post has certainly evolved into a piece longer than I had expected so I shall conclude it here; at the end of the day, this is how I would consider my job, or better phrased, my current phase of life – that it is my absolute dutiful delight and delightful duty to work with young people. And I praise God daily and nightly for putting me where I am. This truly is a reward that the world could never give.

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(my) desired qualities of leadership.

I don’t read many leadership books because I don’t really believe that leadership can be taught through text. I believe that leadership is a skill best taught through real-life experiences and best learnt through real-life examples.

As I watched the latest (leaked) episode of Naruto Shippuden 169, I couldn’t help but to be drawn to Naruto’s hidden and often-understated leadership and charisma. It may just be anime but it has taught me so much about life and in this case, leadership. (Actually, I wrote an article on the top ten reasons to watch Naruto before.) Naruto has a magnetic personality and he has qualities that just naturally endears you to him – he may be reckless but he’s so charmingly reckless you can’t help but to join him in his recklessness. I think Shikamaru got it right when he said, “That guy, has something no one else does… …When I’m with Naruto, ‘I want to walk alongside him’, is what I think”. I desire to have leadership qualities like that!

And so it got me thinking about the kind of leader I aspire to be as well as who and what I’m inspired by. I see some of these qualities in the leaders, mentors and role models that I look up to. In my primitive perspective, an outstanding leader should have or be:

  1. A forward-thinking visionary.
  2. Depth in character and understanding of self.
  3. Knowledge and expertise (a.k.a. IQ).
  4. Charisma and people skills (a.k.a. EQ).
  5. Determination and fighting spirit.
  6. Courage and a willingness to take risks and try new things.
  7. Wisdom, patience and maturity.
  8. Authentic and unafraid to exhibit flaws and shortcomings.
  9. An unquenchable desire to learn from mistakes, improve and improvise.
  10. Humility to acknowledge defeat and apologise whenever necessary.
  11. Confidence and an acute awareness of his strengths and weaknesses.
  12. Situational awareness and appreciation.
  13. A keen sense of strategy and shrewdness.
  14. Excellence and thoroughness.
  15. Commitment to follow-through with the plan and vision.
  16. Versatility and an all-rounded capability.
  17. Sensitivity and compassion to reach out to the underdogs.
  18. Spirit-controlled and a master of his temperaments.
  19. Consistency and a reputation that has been proven over time.
  20. Always one step away from fulfilling his glass-ceiling potential.

But most of all, I think, a leader must have followers. Otherwise, it is absolutely useless to possess all the above-mentioned qualities if you have no one to lead! If people aren’t willing and wanting to “walk alongside you”, then as a leader, you will simply be rendered ineffective and redundant. I think that’s the harsh but honest truth.

Frankly, it didn’t take me very long to list these 20 qualities and I could easily (and seriously) go for another 20 more (and I’m sure you could too), since I’ve merely shared my opinion of an ideal leader. However, the more I think about it, the more I think that Jesus is our perfect role model of a leader – I can’t think of a better example who has all these qualities and one whom I’d want to emulate than my Saviour.

I think I will expand on each of these qualities another time. For now, I just wanted to extract these thoughts out of my head. I need a good physical rest tonight!

understanding your personality temperament.

Whenever I meet other Christian leaders for the first time, I always like to ask if they know their character temperaments because it gives me a opportunity to instantly square them up. While it’s not always good to do this, it does give me a certain head start in knowing how to engage them. I believe that a leader should be versatile and conversational skills are always a helpful for a leader.

There are four personality temperaments – Sanguine (I), Choleric (D), Melancholic (C), Phlegmatic (S). Some may be more familiar with D-I-S-C. I’ll describe each personality very briefly, according to my understanding:

Sanguine – Extroverted and people-oriented, this ball of energy is popular with people and is often inspiring and persuasive. However, he is usually an insecure person, struggles with being alone and is a scatterbrain.

Choleric – This task-oriented, natural-born leader operates with authority and is a high-achiever who is often outspoken and domineering. However, he also bossy, insensitive to other people’s feelings and struggles with submission.

Melancholic – A perfectionist to a T, this idealistic artist passionately pursues details and is often a peace-maker and a people-pleaser. However, his fragility is exhibited in being overly emotional, indecisive and hard to please.

Phlegmatic – No one brings stability, consistency and loyalty to the table as he easily as he does, as his steadfastness breeds people’s trust. However, his inability to overcome inertia often births laziness and results in him watching life sail him by.

I first took the personality test when I was 16 and I discovered that I was a Choleric-Sanguine (my score was something like S8 C14 M3 P0). Three years later I took the test again and discovered that I was Sanguine-Choleric (score of S16 C8 M6 P-3). Today, seven years later, I think I’m still predominantly a Sanguine. I guess my secondary trait would always be a Choleric but as I often mention, I think I’m a secret Melancholic, especially when I work and plan. I’ve intentionally efforted (what an irony!) to pick up Phlegmatic traits, but it still remains an elusive element. I’m thankful though, that 27 years later, with the Spirit’s help, I’ve learnt to be a lot more Spirit-controlled than uncontrollably Sanguine.

While understanding your personality temperaments allows you to perhaps relate a little better with others as well as to gain a better mastery of yourself, I’ve learnt to aspire to be like Jesus, who incidentally is the most balanced individual, I think. He wasn’t 25% SCMP, no, that would make Him inept and limited. I’d like to think that Jesus was 100% SCMP, making Him 400%. We see in His Sanguine in how He loved and fed people, as well as to heal and talk to them; His Choleric was demonstrated in how He was focussed on His mission and that caused Him to move from place to place to do ministry; Jesus demonstrated His Melancholic through His detailed and organised preaching of the comprehensive Sermon on the Mount; and His Phlegmatic was experienced in how meek and gentle He was with people, to offer peace to them.

I’ve read and repeated this cute analogy many times, and its self-mockery never fails to make people laugh:

Whenever there’s a problem;
The Choleric tries to solve the problem;
The Melancholic dwells in the problem;
The Phlegmatic doesn’t realise there’s a problem;
And the Sanguine IS the problem!

Our approach to life is always going to be different and with it comes a kaleidoscope of obstacles and challenges. Regardless of our personality temperaments, we’ll have our own sets of strengths and weaknesses to bear. I believe that confidence is an acute awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses. And while we could do well to work on our weaknesses and operate in our strengths, I think that problems are one of the sure things in life, but – and here’s what the Holy Spirit just inspired me to pen down – “Whenever there’s a problem, Jesus is the ONLY solution!” Remember that!

And if you are keen to discover where you are Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic or Phlegmatic, you can click here to take the personality temperament test. Be sure to leave a comment to let me know what temperament you are!

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