Lessons on happiness from Sam Berns

Sam Berns

Sam Berns

Sam Berns, a teenager from Boston, recently passed away at the young age of 17, after suffering from the very rare disease of progeria .  But the thing is you’ll never think that Sam was 17.  Not because of the progeria symptoms, but rather because of all the wisdom that occupied his young mind.  Despite being afflicted with this terrible sickness that only affects “about 350 kids”, Sam managed to focus on the positive things in life – the things that brought him joy and gave purpose and meaning to his journey.


Rethinking the concept of “church”

Every year I get the opportunity to ask the group of grade 11’s that I work with the following question: “What is church?”  As you can imagine, the answers vary significantly.  The one thing that they do agree on is that church is not about a building.  “So what is it then?”  At this point the room always fills with a deathly silence.  Recently I’ve been thinking and rethinking this question a lot.  Especially, after reading some of Donald Miller’s posts about his own journey with the concept of “church” and the fact that he doesn’t attend that much.  In this post, I want to answer my own question and rethink the concept of “church”.

The Grade 11's had to "build" a church, using natural elements, during a camp in 2013

The Grade 11′s had to “build” a church, using natural elements, during a camp in 2013


It’s more than a job: the vocation of the ultimate youth worker (Guest post)

This guest post forms part of the series “The role of ‘vocation’ in the life and work of a youth leader” and was written by Aaron Garth.

Google Images, "Work with passion"

Google Images, “Work with passion”

Youth work is one of the most fun, highly challenging and inspirational jobs I have ever had. But is it more than a job? Throughout the world there is a push to remove the idea of vocation from youth work in favour of the professional tag. But don’t we all have a sense that youth work is the job we are meant to be in? Are we not in the job because we feel a sense that we make a difference? Whats wrong with vocation anyway?


Thinking about mental health and identity

"Mental health", Google Images

“Mental health”, Google Images

I’m a big fan of the TED conferences, especially those that feature people who share some part of their personal journey, as they embark on bigger and better things in life.  One specific TED talk that captured my attention was the one given by Andrew Solomon with the title “Depression, the secret we share”.  Solomon delivered a deeply personal talk about his own journey, but also shared the tales of others he has encountered along the way.  He used a multitude of images and metaphors that deeply resonated with me, the most significant being Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I felt a funeral in my brain”.


Pay it forward: the youth leader edition (Part 2)

LiebsterAwardAs I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been awarded the ‘Liebster award’ by the wonderful people over at Ultimate Youth Worker.  In part 1, I mentioned all the blogs and people who I think deserve this award.  Now in part 2, as part of being an award recipient, I have to answer some questions posed to me by the staff of Ultimate Youth Worker.


Pay it forward: the youth leader edition (Part 1)

LiebsterAwardI am in the privileged position of having been awarded the ‘Liebster award’ by the amazing staff of Ultimate Youth Worker.  I say privileged because it means a lot to me that someone will take time out of their busy schedules to read what I feel inclined to write about youth work, youth ministry and youth leadership.  It’s also a privilege because I have so much admiration for the work that Aaron Garth and co are doing at Ultimate Youth Worker.  To say that I’ve learned a lot from them would be a massive understatement.


The Basics of Youth Ministry (A survey)

basic570The legendary NFL coach, Vince Lombardi, once said that “When you have strayed away from the basics, you have gone a long way toward defeat.”  For me personally, getting the basics right is fundamental for everything that I do – getting the simple things right.  However, a conceptualization of ‘the basics’ differ from person to person, and youth worker to youth worker.  So in mid-2013 I set out, by way of a very basic online survey, to gain insight into how youth workers from around the globe view and understand the “basics of youth work”. The full post is published on ‘Youth Ministry Ideas‘ and can be read here.


A youth minister’s thoughts on “A year without God”

"Agape", Google Images

“Agape”, Google Images

By now many of you, have had some time to read, re-read, think and digest former pastor Ryan Bell’s thoughts as he embarks on a journey to explore atheism for a year.  In turn he also plans to refrain from certain Christian practices such as going to church, prayer, reading the Bible etc.  In my own personal way I am somewhat sympathetic to his cause.  Growing up as a minister’s son, and later on working for a church myself, I’ve witnessed the atrocious acts that churches (and some of it’s members) are sometimes prone to commit.  But whether you agree with this process or not, I’ll leave for you to figure out on your own…


Always be willing to listen and learn

Google Images, "Willing to listen"

“Willing to listen”, Google Images

I’m a sucker for certain reality television shows, and in this regard especially those with famed (and often-times controversial) chef, Gordon Ramsay.  I recently watched an episode of “Gordon’s kitchen nightmares”, and I was left astonished by what I witnessed.  To give a very brief overview – the owners scream and swear at customers and employees alike, and are unwilling to listen to any criticism or negative feedback.  Chef Ramsay eventually walks away without being able to make any changes or improvements to the restaurant.

So what’s the moral for our youth ministry story?  Always be willing to listen and learn.  Be teachable, as they say.  The Deutero-Canonical book of Sirach formulates it very consciously – “If you love to listen you will gain knowledge, and if you pay attention you will become wise.”  (Sirach 6:33 NRSV)


Showing Christ’s mercy, love and forgiveness (Guest post)

This guest post forms part of the series “The role of ‘vocation’ in the life and work of a youth leader” and was written by Shae Pepper.


Google Images, “Christ’s mercy and grace”

I can distinctly remember going to a church service when I was 16, I was on a mission trip in a foreign country and I knew I wanted to help people, particularly teens all over the world- forever. It was what I was made to do. There was an invitation to come forward if you felt called to full time ministry. I went up.  I was ready to commit to being a missionary full-time once I got the right training.  Africa. I knew it would be Africa.  I was prayed for and left feeling ready and purposeful.