Generating strong youth ministry relationships

The re:Gen youth ministry training day in March saw many denominations in Otago and Southland come together to learn, worship and connect.

The training day took place at Calvin Community Church in Gore and aimed to help volunteer and paid youth workers in the region feel equipped to share their youth ministry in 2015 and to encourage them in their work with young people.

Brad Kelderman, Synod of Otago and Southland Youth Co-ordinator, was one of the event organisers. “After having no regional training day for two years we decided we needed to get it going again. Previously the training was mainly just for Presbyterian youth leaders. But this time we decided it would be better for youth work in the region, and a better model of doing youth ministry training, if the regional youth ministry co-ordinators from each of the denominations came together and organised the training day as a team.”

Organising the event in this way allowed input from different types of churches and meant the churches could pool their resources. “There were attendees from the Anglican and Baptist churches, the Salvation Army and Scripture Union, to name a few,” says Brad. “Each denomination has its own annual national youth ministry training event. But for many youth leaders in Otago and Southland the financial cost and time required to travel to these events often limits the number of people who can attend. So it’s really important to offer good quality and easily accessible youth ministry training at a regional level.”

Another important aspect of re:Gen was the chance for different denominations to build relationships. “By doing our annual training across denominations we’ve made a positive step towards working together more in our region,” Brad says. “Most of us in Otago and Southland are from smaller towns. So it makes sense to connect different youth groups and get them to mingle.”

A key benefit of combining forces was that all denominations could call on their national youth leaders and this enhanced the quality of the content. Presbyterian Youth Ministry national Director Matt Chamberlin and Manager Gordon Fitch both attended and spoke at the event. Anglican national Youth Advisor Phil Trotter, Baptist Youth Ministries national Team Leader Gary Grut, Scripture Union national Youth Ministry Leader Neville Bartley, and Ian Wright, pastor at the Invercargill Christian Centre, also made presentations.

The special guest speakers were Mike Dodge and Dion Fasi. Mike runs Canterbury Youth Services in Christchurch, a trust that works across the churches and provides training events for youth leaders and young people. He’s a veteran in youth ministry with more than 30 years of experience. He spoke of his passion for coaching and developing youth leaders.

Dion has worked as a youth pastor in West Auckland for over a decade as well as working regionally for Anglican Youth Ministries, training leaders, writing resources and preaching.

The day also included worship, fellowship, workshop sessions, table topics and group discussions. “I’ve had lots of feedback and it’s all been very positive,” says Brad. “People loved it. They said there was good content and connectedness. We definitely plan to run the event again next year. We’re all excited to build on the success of re:Gen and the momentum it’s created.”

Participants shared some thoughts on re:Gen. Lizzie Menlove, youth pastor, Riversdale Presbyterian Church considered re:Gen to be,

“A blessing for me and the youth team. It was inspiring to see so many people come together from all around Otago and Southland and from so many different denominations for a single purpose. It was a time of refreshment and refilling. Bring on re:Gen 2016!”

For Karo Wilson, youth pastor, Calvin Community Church, Gore, the event was a great experience. “The speakers and the workshops were encouraging and helpful and it was great to meet and chat with different youth workers. It was also refreshing to have a time of worship and prayer with other like-minded people. I left feeling renewed and empowered by God to carry on doing God’s calling.”

Paul Botting, youth leader, Weston Presbyterian Church, Oamaru says,

“It was great that everyone was encouraged to participate. Everything was really well run. I took some useful tips away to use in my work, such as making sure to always Facebook pamphlets to the team. I wouldn’t hesitate to attend again next year.”

Kate Davidson (Article first published in SPANZ)