5 Wrong Motivations for Serving in Youth Ministry

Here are 5 wrong motivations for serving in youth ministry:

1. To make new friends.  You are bound to make new friends and forge new relationships with those who serve with you.  But these should be a by-product of your ministry and not a main motivation.  If you focus too much on friendship with your co-leaders, then you're not focusing enough on the young people.

2. To feel affirmed or appreciated.  Teens can be high-maintenance people.  They are often needy and they don't often thank you or pray for you.  You need to be confident that what you are doing is having an impact and making a difference, whether you're told or not.

3. Because the ministry "needs" you.  It might be tough for you to hear, but you're not irreplaceable.  Serving because we think the ministry needs you is only inflating your ego.  And speaking of which, is your EGO one of Edging God Out or do you Exalt God Only?

4. To beef up your résumé.  Yes, serving as a youth ministry leader looks good on a resume...especially for those wanting to work with young people as a career.  But if you're heart's not in youth ministry for the right reasons, it will be very evident.

5. To be more popular or more cool.  This one should be obvious.  I mean, come on...does anyone think that youth ministry leaders are cool?  :p

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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An Evening with David Jeremiah comes to Toronto!

On Thursday October 16, Dr. David Jeremiah will be at the Air Canada Centre for a special evening of worship and inspiration. Known to Canadians through Turning Point radio and television broadcasts, Dr. Jeremiah will host this rally to bring a God Loves You message.

Doors open at 5:30 pm and the event begins at 7:00 pm. Seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis and seats may be saved up to 6:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to bring friends, family, and neighbours. Get your free tickets today at www.davidjeremiah.org.

The evening will feature a time of dynamic music led by singer-songwriter Marshall Hall with special guests The Martins. Come experience the power of worship with thousands of other believers. Encounter God’s perspective on your life as David Jeremiah teaches from the Word of God.

In addition to various resources that will be available at the rally, Dr. Jeremiah is launching his new book, “Agents of the Apocalypse" this fall. Browse for items that will inspire you and your friends, long after the rally.

Turning Point, Dr. David Jeremiah’s broadcast ministry, is coming to Ontario as part of their North American tour. A multimedia network featuring radio, television, and online programming — Turning Point reaches tens of millions of people with their Bible Strong teaching program and the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

For tickets and more information, visit: www.davidjeremiah.org/site/rallies4.aspx


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The Pharisaical Syndrome - Leaders & Opponents

Jesus and the Pharisees...sounds like an indie-rock band, doesn't it?

I was having lunch with a ministry friend of mine and listening to him share about what God was saying to him regarding the future direction of his role and his church; he began to describe the hope that he had for this new and bright future, but also the nervousness that he felt for potential opposition to this future that he believes he is needing to create. This is a description of a leadership tension that is familiar to anyone who has had to lead people in a direction that wasn't a natural expression of where they wanted to go.

Jesus too faced this sort of tension...from the guys who could have backed up him, but instead were intent on killing him. These guys, referred to as Pharisees & other names, suffered from a human condition known as the Pharisaical Syndrome. This syndrome describes people who can be hypocritical, self-righteous & judgemental. While we all are capable of this type of behaviour, opponents to any form of leadership often exemplify these unbecoming characteristics. And the truth about leadership is that we will always have opponents to what we do or to who we are. Leaders learn to navigate through these tensions, trusting that the God they serve is larger than the perceived opposition they may face.

So how do you know when you are facing an opponent in the form of a Pharisee, or if the opposition you face is actually an invitation to refine your vision for the present or the future?

Here are four signs that you may be dealing with an opponent who suffers from the Pharisaical Syndrome.

1. Murder
Instead of supporting Jesus, the Pharisees engineered his death. Sometimes the opponents we face want to kill something inside of us as leaders. Maybe it's hope, maybe it's confidence, maybe it's something else. The goal of a Pharisee is to get rid of a potential problem or threat. The frustrating part of this reality is that sometimes Pharisees believe their intentions are God-honouring and helpful to the broader community. But the goal of this activity is ultimately to harm, and not to help...that's how you know the difference between someone who has succumb to the Pharisaical syndrome and someone who is speaking truth in love.

2. Pride
Pharisees didn't like Jesus because he threatened their spiritual control of the community. Opponents sometimes lash out because they too feel threatened in some way. Maybe covered up lies will be exposed or a long celebrate program initiative will be dismantled. If your opponent is attempting to protect themselves or something they've created in some way, you may be facing someone who's pride has been hurt.

3. Selfishness
The Pharisees had a different agenda than Jesus. All of us are motivated by something, and there are times when our motivation is distorted towards self rather than towards others. We may take "pride" in being the voice for the voiceless, but have we ever asked ourselves if someone ever invited us to play that role on their behalf? There are times when we need to speak up for justice, and there are times when our perceived pursuit of justice is simply a veiled form of selfishness. What's your opponent truly motivated by: self or others? In Jesus' case, his actions were motivated by his love for people, while the Pharisees were motivated by love of self.

4. Complexity
Taking something simple and making it more complex - the reality of the erosion of the Covenant first made by God and humankind by those who struggled with the Pharisaical Syndrome. Moses was given 10 commandments to give to the people of Israel...commandments that pointed to God's desire to be loved and to see his created beings love each other. When Jesus walked the earth, these 10 simple commands had evolved into a complex oppressive reality for the people of Israel. Opponents to your leadership may seek to create complexity or demand you conform to pre-existing complexity in some way. It's important to remember Jesus words "unless you change to become like little children" (Matt. 18:3) when we face the opposition of complexity. Simplicity is the currency of hope that the Kingdom of Heaven trades in. If something is more complex than it needs to be it's time to be reminded that living is simple.

Every leader faces opposition. See it. Process it. Respond appropriately. Sometimes our opponents are just like Pharisees.


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I was sitting across the table having a one on one conversation with one of my students. He was stuck. He didn't know what to do and he had just told me another version of so many stories I've heard before. I knew I needed to say something as he looked at me with awkward glances.

During our conversation I was listening, taking mental notes, but most importantly I was asking Jesus to give me the words to say to this young man. I think I was begging with Jesus for the right words to say because my initial thought was to say, "suck it up buttercup."

As I took a deep breath about to impart my amazing words of wisdom to this young man he broke the silence by saying, "I'm sorry to bore you with this but I just don't know what to do." I quickly responded with the first word that came to my mind, "Wow!" I thought to myself, "did I say that out loud?" This young man had just poured his heart out to me for the past 15 minutes, asking for my advice and I started my response with 'Wow'. What was I thinking?

Yet, what I didn't realize was that one word would be the hinge that opened the door to our conversation. We continued our conversation for 90 minutes and it sparked other conversations down the road and our interactions went deeper then I could have ever imagined.

This conversation reminded me of some of things I love about youth ministry:
Shepherding students is messy: when I enter the lives of students I must allow them to enter my life. The pain, hurt discomfort and unsettling frustration that they have going on in their lives is when I share with them my stories of pain, hurt, discomfort and unsettling frustration. if teenagers rooms are messy, so are their lives. the one thing that I have to remind myself is that my life is also messy.

Process with students: life is full of things we like and don't like. when you and your students experience one of those things, process with them, but don't allow your emotions to dictate your response with your students. if something was challenging, process with them on how they can learn from it, wether you liked it or not. the big thing about processing with students is that it is a long journey. You cannot expect things to be wrapped up like a teaching session or telling them to read this passage or to just pray about it.

Resource your students: have follow-up resources on file and ready to help your students process through circumstances. if you don't have the answers, don't pretend you do. get resources from other youth workers or experts in specific fields. this is a really pretty way of delegating. you can say to your students, "you know I'm not really sure about that but I know someone who does. let me get you some information about that and after you've checked it out, let's talk some more." students understand it when adults tell them that they don't know something. what they don't understand is when adults claims they know everything. if you have resource file, keep adding to it. if you dot have one, start to put one together.

These are three things that I've found that help me as a youth worker. What would you add to this list?

Here are four resources to add to your resource list or to help you start your first one:

X3Watch: online accountability and integrity. FREE
CovenantEyes: online filter and accountability software.
Pam Stenzel: speaker and resources on biblical sex and sexuality
Dr. Karyn Gordon: canadian, family and relationship expert, her products are excellent.


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Know Your Role

On our Alaskan cruise last month, we went to get family portraits done in the ship’s photography studio.  The 30-minute shoot went very quickly, and at its conclusion we booked an appointment to go back later in the week to look at the pictures (and perhaps buy some).

We decided that 4 of us would go:  Gail, my brother Jason, my mom Joyce, and me.  We felt that this particular combination of people would give us the best chance of making a good decision without paying too much.

We all had our particular roles too.

I was the “Schmoozer” (surprise surprise) and my job was to break the ice and create a comfortable atmosphere before we talked big bucks.

My brother Jason was our “Quality Control Expert” as he by far has the most expertise with respect to photography and editing.

My lovely wife Gail was the “Negotiator/Closer”.  She knows how to drive a hard bargain and is not afraid to be tough if she needs to.

Lastly, my mom Joyce was the “Benefactor/Banker”.  The buck stopped with her as she was the one ultimately paying for the pictures.

We decided on these roles to take advantage of our respective strengths.  For example, Gail had no interest in making small talk with the photographer; she left that to me and my gift of gab.  And I didn’t dare try to bargain as I am a complete push-over.  In fact, the other three kicked me out of the room when it was time to move closer towards a purchasing decision.  We worked well as a team and ended up happy with the pictures we purchased.

When it comes to youth ministry leadership, it’s extremely crucial that you know your role and understand how your own strengths and weaknesses as an individual help contribute to the bigger picture. 

Here are 4 important things to keep in mind with respect to knowing your role in youth ministry:

1.  Know what you’re good at

At 40 years old (and 21 years in youth ministry), I have a pretty good sense of what I’m good at.  I enjoy speaking, facilitating, and teaching.  I have good relational ministry skills and strong communication skills.  When I’m able to combine these skills effectively, I feel confident in my ministry.  Thus, I’m always looking for opportunities to utilize these skills both at the archdiocesan and parish levels.

Likewise, you may have certain gifts and talents that make you a better youth ministry leader.  It’s important that you continue to hone your craft and sharpen your skills.  I would encourage you to try and become an “expert” or at least a resource in one or two areas of ministry.  It will help you with your confidence and inspire others around you to do the same.

2.  Know what you’re not good at

By contrast, I have a long list of things that I’m not good at.  Dancing.  Art.  Memorizing scripture.  Dressing nicely.  Cooking.   In youth ministry, I don’t think it’s worth wasting time working on your weaknesses.  I am convinced it’s more important to develop and refine your strengths and then lead from them.  Thus, you’ll never see me trying to choreograph a dance routine or offer to bake snacks for the next youth gathering.

It’s important to acknowledge your deficiencies, especially within the confines of a leadership team.  But that’s the beauty of having a team of people – if you’re not good at something chances are someone else on the team is!  Now I’m not saying that you should never strive to improve or that you shouldn’t learn new skills.  But there is a time and place to do these things and you’ll need to exercise good judgement in picking your spots.

3.  It’s not about you

I learned this the hard way early on in my youth ministry career.  Back when I first started, I wanted to be “The Man”.  I wanted to be in every skit, deliver every talk, lead every prayer, and coordinate every ice-breaker.  I don’t think it was a lack of trust in my fellow leaders; rather it was my ego running rampant in my attempt to be the best youth ministry leader I could be.

I found that I was starting to push other leaders away with my self-centered approach.  Thankfully, I was able to change my ways as I matured.  We must remember that our primary goal in youth ministry is to lead young people closer to Christ, and not to ourselves.  We are to always be looking for opportunities to help young people encounter Jesus.  We need to be a conduit – not an obstacle – to making that happen.

4.  Be genuine

It’s my favourite youth ministry mantra:  young people won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.  In our work with young people, we must earn the right to be heard.  When possible, we need to build genuine relationships with young people before we attempt to evangelize or catechize them.

A big part of this is being genuine with young people. That means being honest with our strengths and weaknesses and admitting when we don’t know the answer to a question or if we’re unsure about something.  Teens are very smart and extremely perceptive – they’ll know if we’re faking it.  So it’s important that you don’t strive to be the most popular leader or pretend to be something that you’re not.  Be humble and trusting enough to depend on other members of your team.

So forget your ego, your popularity, and your weaknesses.  Be a genuine witness of Christ’s love and mercy and do everything you can to help young people experience this love.

That’s our role as youth ministry leaders.

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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Fear or Love - Two Ways to Engage Culture

Photo Credit: dryhead (Creative Commons)

I was hiding. The coffee shop in Fort Langley was supposed to be a sanctuary of sorts, a place where I could quietly study, my headphones and americano protecting me from distraction and sleepiness. I was finishing the final chapter of Richard Mouw's When the Kings Come Marching In, a brief theological study of the vision of the heavenly city in Isaiah 60. Mouw identifies this city with the same heavenly vision from Revelation 21 and 22, examining the city's description and the implications for our present cultural engagement. Mouw contends that the kingdom city will be filled with redeemed culture--art, commerce, technology, politics, race relations, all redeemed by the salvific power of Jesus.

This is when I noticed her talking to me. The woman at the adjacent table was looking at me, her mouth silently moving in the rhythm of speech, drowned out by my in-ear headphones and the latest album from The War on Drugs (a fantastic record, and one worth purchasing). I removed my headphones and apologized. "Sorry, I couldn't hear you." 

Apology quickly accepted, she began her speech again, sharing about the article she was reading about the pending economic crisis. Interest rates would spike, houses would be foreclosed, food would be in scarce supply, and no one sees it coming. She introduced herself as Mary, and asked me what I was reading. I shared that it was a theology book, and she wondered aloud if I was a Christian. I said I was a pastor, and she shared her own brief testimony of faith, how she had been connected with a local church, but currently was searching.

At first, I quietly considered her words with a calm understanding and propriety, though I honestly was looking for an opportunity to place my headphones back in and continue my studies. Then the conversation took a strange turn as she moved from the economic crisis and her faith to the need to hoard food and supplies, buy stock in gold, sell our homes, and move to the north of British Columbia to escape the impending tragedy. She spoke of concentration camps being built in California intended to round up the majority of the population; how electric hydro meters were instruments installed by "them" in higher government agencies to cause cancer; how she met a former Pentagon agent in South America who confirmed all her suspicions, that the conspiracy goes "right to the top." She had "connected the dots" and passionately implored me to tell the church so we could take care of our own. Would I tell my church? Would I help save the Christians from the impending disaster?

My articulate response: "Uh....."

While she shared her paranoia and fear with increasing fervor, I silently prayed, "Jesus, what do I say to her? How can I respond with grace and truth?" Her mindset was such a contrast from the book I had before me. While Mouw was speaking about the beauty of the heavenly city, with its rich heritage of art, language, and commerce, Mary was frightened by the very powers of the city and technology (ironic, as she was reading her articles on a MacBook in a coffee shop). She stared at me with frantic eyes, searching mine for a sense of fraternity, hoping for a kindred spirit in her fear.

Then the answer came to mind, a passage from 1 John:
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I looked into Mary's eyes and said, "I hear a lot of fear from where you're coming from. And I don't think Jesus calls us to be afraid. Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. So, I'm convinced nothing can separate us from this love. And I hope you'll experience the love and peace God gives us in Jesus. I think if we're seeking the kingdom of Jesus and entrusting Him with our lives, deep down we have nothing to fear."

She silently nodded, then sighed with a sense of defeat--I clearly hadn't been convinced. I packed my things and turned to go. She thanked me for listening, then turned back to her articles of fear.

I want to be more like Mouw and less like Mary

I believe we're called as Christians to engage and redeem our culture, not condemn or flee from it. I want to be a part of what N.T. Wright calls "building for the kingdom." This requires recognizing that we'll never full bring the kingdom of God to Earth, but that doesn't mean we're to be passive or paranoid about culture. Instead, with grace and humility, we work hard to create and promote justice, beauty, and truth in our world as signposts for the kingdom of heaven. This means moving past the fear, recognizing it's still present, and choosing to allow the love of Christ to be our primary motivation behind all we do. 

We don't avoid the fear; we redeem it as we step out in love. Let's live by love, not fear.

What is your primary motivation--love or fear?

(This post appeared at The Mayward Blog)


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Making Presumptions

My much-anticipated catch-up session with a youth minister got off to an auspicious start.  Upon entering my favourite Japanese restaurant, I told the owner that I would need a table for two.  As one of the waiters led me to a table, a woman who I didn’t know entered the restaurant immediately after me.  Somehow, the waiter thought that the woman was with me (my wife wouldn’t have been too happy) and somehow the woman remarkably didn’t see me sit in the booth first.  Once she sat down she finally looked at me across the table.  Slightly embarrassed, she gasped “Oh sorry...I thought that he was seating ME.”  She quickly made her way to another table as I tried to stifle my laughter.

An honest mistake to be sure.  And in retrospect I don’t blame her for wanting to sit with me.  Kidding.  Sort of.

But her innocent presumption got me thinking of the many times we make presumptions in youth ministry.  And as in this case, they often turn out wrong.

1.  Presuming what youth will like.  How often do we think that we know what the youth need?  I’ve been part of teams and planning processes where we jumped right into scheduling topics, nights and themes without even doing a proper needs assessment (formal or informal).  It’s important to balance what you might think the teens need with what they tell you they’d like to see.  Usually, the final result will fall somewhere in between the two.   

2.  Presuming what youth will be like.  We’ve all learned to not to judge a book by its cover.  But it’s amazing how often we still do that in youth ministry.  In our fast-paced world, a first impression may become the only impression.  Thus, it takes discipline not to form a bias or opinion of a young person solely on how he looks, how he talks, or how he shakes your hand.  It’s simply unfair if we do.  We need to take the proper time to forge a healthy relationship with teens.  Which leads me to my next point. 

3.  Presuming you’ve earned the right to be heard.  I’ve written before about the importance ofearning the right to be heard.  When possible, we need to build genuine relationships with young people before we attempt to evangelize or catechize them.  Because they won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

4.  Presuming that if it worked before it will work again.  When we repeat and recycle processes we can get complacent.  Thus, an “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it” mentality can become very dangerous in ministry.  While it might mean that things are comfortable for you, in reality it can lead you to grow complacent.  Eventually, this attitude will stifle creativity, discourage risk-taking, and prohibit growth.

5.  Presuming that your pastor knows what you are doing.  This is not at all a comment on your pastor’s intelligence; rather a comment on your communication with him.  Do you give him and parish leadership regular updates?  Does he know the wonderful things you are doing?  Does he know where you need support?  And do you know his expectations of you and the youth ministry?  If you can’t answer “Yes” to all of these questions, then you need to rethink your communication strategy with him.

6.  Presuming that the parents know what you are doing.  Ensure that your youth ministry is more than a glorified babysitting service.  For the most part, parents are grateful for what we are doing as youth ministers and therefore don’t necessarily need to know every detail of every gathering.  However, regular correspondence with the parents will go a long way towards earning their trust.  It could be in the form of face-to-face meetings, emails, phone calls, newsletters, or a regular place in the church bulletin.  The parents will be more apt to support us and our ministry if they are kept in the loop.

So what presumptions do you make in your youth ministry?

Asking yourself this tough question will give you a decent indication of how well you are doing.  We certainly don’t want to get caught making too many presumptions.  Or for that matter...any assumptions either.

Because we all know what happens when you assume.

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 Parents Take Note

This week we highlight something amazing and fresh here at Canadian Youth Worker. It's a conversation for parents & families facilitated by a good friend of ours, Dr. Kelly Schwartz, about the concept of Family Assets.

There is so much information about what families are doing wrong here in Canada. Dr. Schwartz reminds us of the many things that families are doing well.

This is the first of many planned parent and family targeted resources from Canadian Youth Worker. Share it, like it, dislike it, view it. This conversation is yours Canada. Where you take it is up to you!!


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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Danny MacKay

Danny is a youth worker associated with www.iamsecond.com. Listen as he shares stories about mission, Canada, youth workers and also takes part in our Great Canadian Youth worker Quiz.



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Not very often we hear about precision in our business. For a surgeon, yes. For a diamond cutter, yes. For a tree feller... A tree feller?
Discipleship does not happen by accident. Too many ministries keep busy and have lots of fun, but aren't very intentional or precise when it comes to the real Christian maturity process.

Dave Brotherton now lives in Sauble Beach, Ontario and Pastors Sauble Christian Fellowship. Dave was a youth pastor for 20+ years, taught youth ministry at Ambrose University in Calgary for 8 years, and was the National Youth Director for the Alliance Churches in Canada since 1999. Now Dave leads a church and speaks into youth ministry from the Senior Pastor's perspective.

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Canadian Youth Worker Interview with Geoff Stewart

Geoff Stewart stops by to share about all things Canadian, BC, youth ministry & so much more. Listen to his story, have fun and enjoy some creative interaction on CanadianYouthWorker.com


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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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