1.YFAN (youth-for-all-nations) counselors. Our youth ministry was particularly blessed from the good mix of both Asian and white students and counselors. The cross-cultural mix in different ways invigorated and challenged everyone to think and act in creative ways, as a great preparation for life, with all its complexities related to backgrounds and culture. To top it off, into all this mix of serious youth training and fun, especially from the interaction with our major “partner-church,” we even had a cross-cultural, inter-church marriage, which as of this writing had just birthed a new baby, icing on the YFAN cake. Even their own courtship had been activated on a Thai YFAN mission trip!
- 万国青年辅导员YFAN (Youth-For-All-Nations)。
But in the beginning of our church, we did not have this contribution by many “white, non-Asian” counselors. We had a much smaller youth group then, and each year or two, some young adult would volunteer as youth director, before he or she moved on to other locations. These were nearly all Asians from Thailand, the Caribbean, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and North America. They created an interesting sequence of leaders from “all nations” for our church and youth, although they were usually not together in Cincinnati at the same time. The best part is they were all impressive role models whom, I’m sure, inspired many of our youth.
When I tracked down what happened to these multi-cultured youth directors, I was excited to know that, as far as I knew, every one of them continued to serve the Lord, in many countries around the world, just an amazing testament to their commitment, and the grace of the Lord in blessing them, and us. As I’m writing this, I can even imagine in my mind each one of them, so precious are they in God’s eyes! Asian YFAN themselves.
当我追溯这些多元文化青年导师之后的发展时, 我很兴奋地知道（根据我所了解的情况）, 他们每一个人继续在世界各地的许多国家事奉主。这是一个了不起的委身侍奉的见证, 有主的恩典祝福他们,也祝福着我们。当我写这篇文章的时候，我甚至可以在我的脑海中想象出他们每一个人，他们在上帝的眼中是如此珍贵!亚洲YFAN本身。
Every one of our youth directors or counselors, as role models, was key to the development of our strong youth program. The “pastor definitely cannot do it alone,” especially applies to youth ministry. It is practically essential that there are enough counselors to be the mentors of the youth, commonly needing I think at least one effective counselor for 10 youth.
I am gratified that each generation of youth seems to be better fortified for college and life, as I see them increasingly join college ministries much more than in the past, serving in leadership positions, including Asian campus ministries! Several of them have even become involved in top leadership positions, affecting the work of the nation. And, as anticipated, some are in overseas missions, serving especially in Asia and China. Youth for All Nations indeed.
- Shawn, the white kid. The story of Shawn, a “white kid,” is a great reminder of God’s grace. At his first visit as a young man to our church, he was supposed to meet his buddy Stephen, one of the first “white kids” who had started coming to our ethnic church. Stephen that day was supposed to be taking care of a Sunday school class of younger teens. But for some reason he did not show up at that session on time. However, the topic for that session was on Buddhism, and Shawn had just taken a class on the subject. So, in providential fashion, he stepped up to the plate, and taught the lesson in place of Stephen. That was his introduction to our youth group!
I had been forewarned by youth minister Ben from our neighboring church that Shawn was a good potential “recruit” for our church youth ministry. For some reason, I thought he meant Sean, another very fine product of Ben’s youth group, and I was looking forward to seeing Sean. So, I was very surprised when Shawn walked into the Panera restaurant, and introduced himself. But no problem, we hit it off fabulously, and soon Shawn was youth counselor, and later youth minister, a wonderful addition to our ministerial team.
3.Cross-cultural adjustments. Some of these interactions between “white” and “Chinese” leaders, needed some adjusting on our part, or both parts. When we were planning to invite Ben, the dynamic youth minister, to speak at our church, I suddenly remembered that he sported tattoos and ear rings, presumably partly to encourage better connection with his charges. I approached the elder-ministers group first about this, to “pre-empt” any misunderstandings.
Together, we checked out the Biblical bases for his body ornaments culture, even including biblical references at the time of Moses (men wore earrings back then, did you know that?). I wanted to make sure we did not shock our more conservative church unnecessarily. I think we were able to adequately forewarn the parents of the youth, of this cultural adjustment. Both sides seemed to take the transition well, preparing the way for many years of great cooperation and true fellowship! Meaningful inter-church cooperation, especially a cross-cultural one, needs healthy investments of time, patience and love. And maybe some fore-warnings about cultural peculiarities.
- Space issues. The good Lord even blessed us with lots of space, something very helpful to grow a strong youth program. I have always felt strongly about the need for lots of classrooms and some kind of gym, which allow good interactions in the youth group. A gym was thus soon built after our first church construction, and was always put to good use by young and old. After we had a major expansion of the youth group, we soon found also a Baptist church just across the street from our northern branch church. The church was very gracious to allow us to use their facilities on Friday night, when, in any case, they did not have activities. This was just perfect, since this church had an adequate chapel, lots of classrooms, 2 basketball courts, and even a fellowship area just right for Friday night snacks (including Chinese snack food!), something which the youth really appreciated. This worked out for years, and was minimally expensive, again a great gift from God.
5.Bicutural elder. I have always felt that a bilingual and bicultural elder kind of person could significantly help the interaction of the youth minister or counselors, especially if they are non-Asian, in relating to the predominantly ethnic Chinese parents and church leadership, particularly in the initial development of the youth program. In my case, I thought my role included playing “defense” and “interference” when necessary, a useful buffer in case of cross-cultural tension.
Indeed, over time, we received active parental help, mostly moral support, such as helping with transportation, providing snacks, and even as backup counselors as necessary. In general, we preferred that the primary youth counselors were younger where possible, since youth are in such a state of flux themselves, and needed all kinds of role models. Godly Christians who were closer in age to them provided a significant perspective that they might not have at home. So, in general, the youth group program became a mix of Asian predominant youth, predominantly “white” youth counselors, and Asian parents, all working together in a fascinating way!
6.YFAN impact. The whole effort was to me such a lot of fun, with many trials and challenges, but immensely meaningful. Especially when we saw the kids grow up and move away into “real life,” into all nations, many with serious commitments to serve God. I always trust that the messages in their hearts will never be forgotten, since the word of God never returns void! Especially, I believe, when Godly messages are received in the critical formative years of youth.