Let me declare this from the onset: I’m not in the business of replacing great leaders of the past, but in the business of raising good leaders in the present, so they can become greater leaders in the future. After all, I believe that youth ministry is about seed-planting, not fruit-plucking.
R-AGE is going through a season of transition and that means over the next half a year, we will see key leaders move on to another season of their lives. I think this is good for them, and honestly, I also think it is good for the ministry. People come and go, but the Lord’s work continues to be done; when the Lord tells me it’s time for me to go, I will leave, knowing that God has been, is, and will always be in control of my beloved youth ministry.
I share the same sentiments as Sir Alex Ferguson – you can never replace (great footballers like) Scholes, Keane, Giggs or Beckham like-for-like, but you can raise other players to take over their responsibilities. But you must also recognise that their roles in the team on and off the field will never again be duplicated; everyone brings something different to the team.
Even though I’m not in the football industry, I see many similarities in the succession-planning principles between a trophy-winning football team (like Manchester United) and a thriving youth ministry (like R-AGE).
I stand true to my principle of leading young people to lead young people. Look at the recently concluded R-AGE Olympics – it was led completely by a team of youth leaders who were leading a team of youths. A total of 145 people turned up and 38 of them were newcomers! What a mammoth effort by Bradley, Tiffany and their team, for a groundbreaking event such as this!
When I joined the pastorate in 2009, I told myself not to meddle in events planning – that’s not what I joined full-time ministry to do. Yes, I will still get involved, but never on the same level as the committee members. I believe in young people wholeheartedly and that includes taking risks with them, to simply let them lead (while I walk alongside them).
I’ve always told my young adult leaders that they can stay in youth ministry for as long as the Lord leads them to (or for as long as they want), but they should never remain at the expense of another youth leader rising up. This sounds a little cruel and makes me out to be a little unsentimental, but my heart beats for the long-term future and sustainability of the ministry, not to mention a certain kind of cultures I want to imbue into the youths.
I’ve repeatedly told many of my youths leaders that as their youth pastor and ministry leader, I don’t really care for their contributions towards this ministry. No, I care more about their growth. If they spend two years with me in shepherding position and yet have not grown, I have failed as their youth pastor in shepherding them.
For the record, I’m not here to grow the ministry. No, I am here to grow the ministers. If the ministers grow, the ministry will naturally grow. Conversely, the reverse can’t be said. There is no ministry without ministers. You may win or lose if you invest in a project or programme, but if you invest in people, you always win.
The youth ministry leaders of old (are different from the leaders today and) have added to the ministry in their unique ways. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the Lord for them and what they have done. But the truth is, we can never do what the yesteryear leaders have done. No, I don’t plan to match their achievements.
I plan to surpass it.
But only if God wills it and gives me the grace for it. My mentor often tells me: Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship.
By God’s grace, I want to lead and pastor a youth ministry that will be remembered for all eternity, and not as one that tried to live up to their inherited expectations. And if you think you belong to yesterday’s group of youth leaders, don’t rest on your laurels and start fading out of the ministry – may God forbid that! Instead, do whatever it takes to help this generation of leaders surpass you and all that you’ve ever accomplished. I pray that you will find great joy in doing behind-the-scenes work as you mature in your faith and ministry.
So come on, dear friends… Regardless of your age or season of life, let our good God blow your mind on the minister He alone can transform you into. And if you’re working with young people, be patient with them… One day they will surprise you with how good they can be.
We can’t replace good leaders, but we can raise better ones.
Redeemed youths redeem youths.
I actually ought to be shot for only posting my reflections on Pierce now – especially when I encouraged all the campers to blog, facebook and tweet about Pierce – and I’m the last to be on the task which I set. Shame on me and thank you all for being merciful (I’m sure you’re more merciful than those who threw the water bombs with such glee!)
When I began the day, I knew that I’d write about Pierce tonight and I’m glad I met up with JH tonight; and as I shared with Him what God had done in Pierce, it helped me to consolidate my thoughts into bite-sized chunks. (I actually wrote a really long reflection on my mobile, but I think I’ll just can that for this instead.)
In no order of importance or significance, more like a what-comes-to-mind-first:
I. The difference between this awesome youth camp and the last awesome youth camp (Dream-makers) in R-AGE was the God-factor; what sets Pierce apart from the other events that I’ve been a part of over the last decade (and trust me, I’ve been part of a lot) is that God visited us in a progressively tangible manner with each passing hour. It is in the presence of God that our lives are changed and the presence of God was so strong in this camp that it was un-mistakable and un-manufacturable.
II. The youths rose to take ownership of the youth group. I smiled the widest during two particular moments; firstly, when I saw cell kids approaching cell mentors at the altar call to take turns to pray for them – forget about hierarchy or maturity, they just wanted to minister to their brothers and sisters! Next, when JN, TT, SY and LW approached me for a five-minute interval to teach the campers an R-AGE cheer which they had created themselves – that to me was “youths leading youths”. To these two items I’d say, “Outstanding and well done, R-AGE, keep it up!”
III. For me, there were two events that really galvanised the ministry. Even though we had already expected the youths to gang up on the committee during the war game, I felt that there was a spiritual significance behind that epic rallying of all the campers – I’d say this carelessly, but I think there’s something prophetic about that act of coming together for the same common purpose (of mercilessly destroying us). The other activity that, hopefully, would stick in the campers’ head for a long time to come would no doubt be the Midnight Workout and how they earned their camp t-shirt – it taught them about sticking together, no matter what, whatever it takes. I’m confident these two programmes brought our unity and togetherness to new heights. May it drive commitment to the youth group into their hearts.
IV. When you are surrounded by an outstanding team of Generals and Knights, you can’t help but to rejoice with them when you see them rise up to take the mantle of leadership and exhibit the qualities of excellence, passion, initiative, dedication and commitment. On paper, I already knew that my committee would make an amazing team and when execution took place, it confirmed their ability to deliver. I deliberately gave them autonomy and they reveled in it. Well done!
V. I had never in my wildest dreams expected Be a Barney to take off like that. When we printed about 400 cards, we thought it’d be just about right, and that we’d actually have a few leftovers for ourselves to bring home as keepsakes. I think it was just after dinner on the second day that EL reported the crisis to me, “Joey! We have no more Barney cards!” I smiled and thanked the Lord for how the campers really caught the Barnabas’ spirit of encouragement! They’re still at it now, I believe!
VI. Here’s some trivia for you – Plug & Play was actually an idea which I had wanted to implement in R-AGE way back in 2005 (I still have the meeting minutes!). It remained dormant for years until I identified the hidden potential in NC to “take over” it and take it forward. She took a good six months to say “Yes” to my invitation and it was my personal delight to see her execute the inaugural Plug & Play on the first evening. I was convinced there and then that there was no one except her who could pull it off in that manner and magnitude. She far exceeded my expectations and everything I had hoped Plug & Play would turn out to be; she basically took it and made it her own, and I’m sure she’d soar with it now.
VII. With every camp or retreat, and yes, I do mean every, there will always be hype at the end of it – there is no exception for Pierce. However, while it’s only been two weeks since Pierce concluded, I’ve already seen noticeable changes in R-AGE @ GII’s culture, both in and out of services and cells. It’s as if the youths finally realised that they could actually have so much fun, actually enjoy worshipping God, actually engage with sermons, actually pray for one another in such a manner and actually relate with one another with such kinship. Pierce somehow became a point of activation for the youths to actualise what they’ve always had. I remember telling JH that it’s not as if we went “higher from being already high”, but that we went from “zero into one”. Something just clicked and we never had that!
VIII. I am seriously considering publishing the evaluation forms for they will be a great source of encouragement for anyone who reads it. What encouraged me most was how a great number of youths indicated their interests to serve in R-AGE – as CMs, emcees, ushers and just about anything – simply because they want to contribute to the ministry and be a part of its growth!
IX. At the close of the first day, I had an opportunity to catch up with DL and she, very excitedly, shared her Dream-makers experience with me – she still kept Angel & Mortal notes from that camp in her Bible and she still remembered all the different activities and lessons, especially the one where we tortured the leaders. There and then, the Spirit reminded me of the potential of Pierce and that its impact and effect would continue to be felt a decade later. It has been my prayer and desire that this camp creates a mark in R-AGE @ GII’s journey to fulfilling God’s destiny. I believe and I confidently declare that, by faith, we will achieve our destiny in God!
X. Last but not least, Pierce seriously affirmed my full-time calling 1) with youths, 2) at Grace Assembly, 3) in R-AGE. I am immensely grateful to God for His faithfulness in my life and it gives me great courage in the coming days!
All right, I know the past few entries have been really long and grandfather-ish, but please bear with me for I already know what I am going to write about tomorrow and for the next couple of days and they sure look like they’ll be lengthy entries too!
First and foremost, thank you for all your submissions! I didn’t receive as many as I had hoped for, but it was certainly more than I had expected! I’m happy either way. Of course, I lay the blame of the not-so-hot response on the laid-back Asian mentality and the aiya-don’t-want-lah-so-paiseh attitude. It’s never my own undoing, right? :P
Anyway, I have looked through and enjoyed reading all the submissions! I have already selected the winner and will announce the result in the coming days, together with the winning entry! Keep your eyes peeled on this blog because for the first time in my blogging history (do allow me to self-hype), I will publish someone else’s writing in its entirety! Nonetheless, since it’s my competition, I will bend my rules and declare that I still accept entries until 20th May, but the bar has been raised and any subsequent entries would have to better the existing ones by a mile!
On a more serious note, I humbly request that you keep a few of us in prayer, as the Spirit leads you, over the next few days. ET, SW, TT, NL, LS and KJ, together with KK and I, will be at a camp called iJourney, from Monday to Wednesday. This annual programme is conducted for the Secondary 1 Normal Technical students and selected Secondary 3 student leaders from Dunearn Secondary School. It’s a great opportunity for us to plant seeds in these young lives, as well as to be demonstrate Christ-like testimonies for them.
I have already written in advance and have scheduled daily posts to (still) be published at the stroke of every midnight. So if you keep reading and commenting, I will surely keep writing. I told LK that writing daily has become such a habit that this catharsis is turning into an obsession. And I think it’s a good one.
For now, I think it’s time to kill the monotony of words and to colour the blog. I took this picture of the magnificent birds’ eye view of the Seogwipo World Cup Stadium in Jeju, South Korea, when I was atop the hot-air balloon. I remember telling myself that this would be the closest that I’d ever get to any World Cup. This is the breathtaking scenery 150-metres above ground! Enjoy!
Tonight I watched the Mayday DNA concert at the National Stadium; this was my fifth time watching them, but the first time that the tickets were free, thanks to TT’s involvement with Youth Olympic Games. The last time I saw them was last Spring in Shanghai, about a year ago, and I paid S$150 for a seat 30 rows from the stage. This might just be the final time I’ll watch them… Unless I receive complimentary tickets again.
I declare this to be the final time because I know just about every single showmanship trick, stage line and musical arrangement that they have up their sleeves. I wasn’t impressed anymore – I didn’t clap or wave my hands or dance and I didn’t get high anymore. I was entertained, but that was it. Yeah, there were new elements – a huge robot, a children’s choir, an impressive mini orchestra as well as a new song. But I told HY that I wouldn’t have gone tonight if it wasn’t because a free show. She concurred.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a excellent concert; anyone attending it for the first time would have left the stadium impressed (although for the ideal experience, you’d have to sit at the more expensive seats directly in front of the stage). Mayday still remains one of my all-time favourite bands and I will continue to hum their music and be inspired by Ashin’s song-writing prowess, but there’s nothing new about them under the sun anymore. It was a great concert yet I was bored.
On my way back after sending TT, NY and HY home, I thought about what I was going to write about today and I was reminded of Mark 6:4 (NLT).
Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.”
I haven’t done my homework on this verse yet but I offer my quick thoughts anyway. I’m no longer impressed with Mayday because I could predict my concert experience. This got me thinking about why people decide to leave church or change services for somewhere or someone better, not because the new place or preacher is actually good (or better), but because they probably could predict all the antics of their regular service and sermon. Whenever Grace Retreat approaches, there’s an air of anticipation for the fresh word in season that the speaker would bring; I don’t deny that anticipation, but I think that our regular preachers are just as solid – the only difference is that we are familiar with them, too familiar sometimes.
I remember telling myself to attempt to treat every service like it’s the first time I’m attending it, or as if it’s a special retreat or conference service, or as if it’s the first time I’m hearing the preacher – all this to keep the experience fresh and to keep it new. I get a better understanding of why Jesus said the above-mentioned after tonight’s concert. The Mayday concert was spectacular, no doubt, but it was also boring because I was already used to it. The miracles Jesus performed were still miracles (there’s nothing unspectacular about healing illnesses!), but He wasn’t as effective in His hometown because I’m guessing the locals already knew what was coming up next in the list of Jesus’ to-do’s.
Tonight, as I remind myself to keep my own service experience fresh, I remind you to do likewise. You’ll be surprised at how much more receptive and expectant you might just be at your next service.