David: Welcome along to Live On Air. Today
we have with us Emma Hensman, who’s from Greenlane Christian Centre. I’d like you to tell us
a little bit about yourself please Emma. Emma: Hi there. I’m a youth pastor, so I work
with high school aged youth in our ministry, between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. I’ve
been doing this for two years and before that I was a volunteer leader for about six years.
Before that I was a youth myself. So I actually came along to this youth group because one
of my friends invited me. So it’s cool having seen the youth ministry from all aspects and
all facets. I studied law and arts with a conjoint degree with honours at Auckland University,
and I was always really involved in camps and youth ministries, but never really thought
that it would be a career or vocation. I was going to be a lawyer, and then God quite clearly
called me away from that, and really clearly made me see that this was my home and this
is what I wanted to do. David: That’s fantastic. When you were doing
your conjoint law and arts, what did you study in the arts?
Emma: German and Maori. So, I was really interested in language, and particularly Maori and law,
where they crossed over, looking at that unique range of legal issues.
David: Does that help by way of background with your work as a youth pastor? Do you ever
have young people who come to you and ask for a little bit of advice or counsel about
legal issues? Emma: Yeah, sometimes. I’m not usually much
help because of course I’m not a practicing lawyer, and usually the things they’re asking
me are a bit out of left field, but it definitely helps with communication side of things, and
a lot of people were very surprised when I went from law to ministry. They thought they
were very different paths, but there was a lot of parallel in terms of communication,
pursuit of truth and justice, the ability to read ranging texts and condense them for
someone to read and understand from a different perspective. So there are lots of different
transferrable skills there. David: Wow, I think that’s incredible actually;
the idea of justice that you got from training in a legal profession, and then transferring
it over into the theological component of justice, which I guess it’s a little bit different,
but… Emma: Yeah, definitely.
David: What age are you primarily working with at Greenland Christian Centre?
Emma: So, the high school; 13 years old to 18 years old. Then, my leaders are between
18 and about 26. So, I’m working alongside them – volunteer leaders, and then also alongside
parents and families. So, the nature of family ministries and youth ministries is that everything
connects a lot. So, you have a range of people, and no day looks the same.
David: No day looks that same; that makes life quite exciting, doesn’t it?
Emma: Yeah, it does. David: Tell me a little bit more with that
age range; does it get harder as they get older and move through high school from Year
8 through to 13? Does it sort of look different? Emma: Yeah, hugely. So, one of the things
you see is that when kids are in primary school or intermediate school, they’re very much
connected to their family. So, if your family come to church, they come to church so they
often don’t really question it. They may have big questions, but their questions aren’t
as deep or don’t require the same level of depth to the answers, and they’re a lot easier
to connect with. So, younger kids, as you all know, they open up a lot faster, they’ll
run up to you, they’ll hug you, they’ll be honest and they’ll just tell you what they
think. We see as kids get older, as they start to individuate, they often will push away
their family. They have to find out things for themselves.
They often won’t want to come to church because they’ll perceive it as being lame or uncool,
and they also require a lot more work in relationship, because they want to feel individually known
and loved, and they want to have their questions answered, and they’re starting to really have
big questions as they face loss for the first time, or experiencing bullying or a whole
range of tough situations that come with high school. So it definitely gets harder. It’s
also hard because they older you get, the busier you get, and you start to have kids
who are very pre-occupied with exams and school work and extra-curricular activities and sports.
So you’ve got to somehow fit in the midst of that juggle and teach them how to prioritise
their faith. David: So, it must be a difficult balancing
act for you to know how far you can push an activity or a camp or particular event, and
when to sort of pull back from it. That sounds like a lot of discernment is required.
Emma: Definitely. You’ve got to really be receptive to where your youth are at, because
you can’t just lead from the top down. You can’t just tell them, this is what’s happening
– boom, boom, boom it’s going to happen. There needs to be ownership and buy-in, because
when it comes down to it, the youth group is their youth group. It’s their community.
It’s what they want it to be, and so it’s about enabling them to take those leadership
roles and take steps in a direction and really ideally be self-sufficient. I think any leader
is wanting to do themselves out of a job, so to see the young adults and the adolescents
become leading their own peers, that’s the dream. So you’ve got to really kind of just
discern; one kid might be one place – another kid might be a completely different place,
and so you’ve got to treat them differently and push them differently.
David: So, you must be very involved with the use of social media – Facebook and all
the variants. What about with families? Is there a sort of distinction you have to make
in order to organise and structure all of these activities?
Emma: Yeah. We use a lot of Facebook. So, our youth group; we have a Facebook group,
and that’s an online community for them to find out what’s happening, to share links,
to ask questions. It’s really useful and really practical to get information, but also to
get feedback. So, if we want to have a panel, or we need questions of, what do you want
teaching on, or what sort of events do you want to do; it’s very easy to connect with
the masses that way. With parents, we use emails more. Some are on Facebook, but most
aren’t. The other thing is that as the kids get older, the parents are less involved.
So they don’t need to get every sort of detail of everything; they kind of trust that their
16 year old can make those decisions, and they’re just kept in the general loop, which
is quite nice, whereas if you look at the younger ministries, you’re going to parents,
and then the parents are talking to their kids. So we’re kind of talking to both.
David: Right. Do you have to be involved with other forms of social media as well?
Emma: We don’t have to. We have Instagram as well. Instagram is just so commonly used
that it makes sense. A lot of kids might not be on Facebook so much, but they are on Instagram.
For us, that’s kind of enough. Otherwise, you start having five things to keep up. So,
just Facebook and Instagram is enough for now for me.
David: Yeah. I was looking at – doing some background research into Greenlane Christian
Centre, and they have an excellent ministry with their video; videoing the sermons and
putting them onto the main church website. This is something that I haven’t really thought
about before, but do you have many of your youth group involved in making and crafting
videos for themselves? Emma: Yeah, actually it’s a really good question.
So, something that we’ve definitely seen is how [8:12] technologically capable [8:14]
and so it’s such a blessing because we don’t need to be getting professionals to do a lot
of things, because our youth have the ability. So, we have several boys and girls who are
about 16/17 years old who make incredible videos. In fact, we as a youth group have
videos for all our camps that are made by the kids, and they are professional level.
So, one of those boys is being paid kind of fulltime to do videography work by different
companies, and that’s going to be his career. So, it’s a cool opportunity not only to benefit
as a youth group, but also to provide a space for kids to develop those skills, and they
get their hands-on, and they get opportunities they usually wouldn’t have, because we have
the equipment we can lend them. Same with music; we have kids who are musical, and in
a church context there’s such a path for them to grow, because they can connect with older
musicians, they can access recording instruments, and so you see just the investment is so huge,
and then we see such a – I guess a return from it. We have so many of our current music
leaders and worship leaders – they were youth who were encouraged when they were young.
David: I think that’s one of the really great things about a vibrant congregation; people
are learning skills that may go on in other areas of their – as they grow through teenage
to young adult et cetera, things like music – things involved in media, and so on. It’s
never really acknowledged so much by the church is it, that in some ways the church is teaching
a kind of Christian work ethic, if I can put it in those – I’m sure the young people wouldn’t
like to hear it described that way, but it is; it’s teaching a whole lot of habits that
make for an easier path through life. Emma: That’s the thing with youth that’s different
from pastoring adults, for example; we’re not only teaching them who God is, but we’re
teaching them things like how to drive and how to apply for jobs or how to sit exams.
There’s so much that’s new in their life experience, that they’re experiencing in our community
for the first time. So, they have leaders who will be stepping in and helping them,
and I’m often giving them advice, and I’m their reference when they’re applying for
their first job. It’s cool that that’s the holistic approach
to community; it’s not God separate from life. It’s God in life, and God and life. So, in
the same way God cares about us reading our Bibles, he also cares about how we learn how
to study and how we look after our bodies and how we manage stress, and all these really
practical and psychological skills. So one of my passions is to bring that into the youth
group and into the curriculum, because that’s I think where the Gospel is most needed.
David: I think that’s a fantastic answer. That’s hugely encouraging. The fact that not
only you’re doing it, but the fact that the whole of that church community supports this.
This is the reality of what Christianity in action is all about. So that’s a tremendously
encouraging message. You used the world counsel; you would give wise counsel I guess along
the way, but you’d also have specialist areas. You would refer on when someone had deeper
kind of issues or problems? Emma: Yeah, definitely. We have a team of
counsellors that we refer to if we need to. So if somebody in part of our church community
and they’re a practicing psychiatrist or psychologist or counsellors, and then there’s others who
are not necessarily part of our church community but we’ve worked closely with them for a long
time and then we also have awareness and access to Auckland DHB services. So we just know
what the paths are and at what point we refer on, because yes we’re not registered psychologists
ourselves. So we just walk alongside them as they take that journey.
David: Of course, it’s really part of the function of the body of Christ to be looking
out for and looking after the various members. So again, that’s a tremendous vocation and
Christian enterprise that you’re involved with.
Emma: Yeah, definitely. David: Emma, I’m going to ask two questions.
I’m going to ask about the pit falls of being a youth minister and the joys of being a youth
minister. I’d like to start with the problem areas; what are the pit falls of being a youth
minister? Emma: Well, I think they’re similar to the
pit falls of working in any ministry in that you’re working with people, and people can
be quite difficult. The nature of the youth is that everything is on steroids, so they
highs are higher – the lows are lower. We see a lot of change. So you have kids who
are growing tremendously, but then kids who they’ll be on the right track or they’ll seem
like they’re fine and then they’ll really quickly nose-dive or go off in a very different
direction. That can be really discouraging, especially when you’ve seen them have so much
potential and promise. So, there definitely is a point you really have to trust God with
their futures and their decision-making. There’s also a real struggle these days to not have
youth ministry be seen as a resource or a product to consume. I think there can be that
challenge where it’s just another thing competing for kids’ time and it’s about having the best
lights or the best technology or the most fun.
It’s easy for it to become wrapped up in that sort of shallow approach, whereas actually
it has to be deeper and we’re not going to be able to compete with the world in terms
of entertainment. So, trying to make sure the kids understand what the heart of church
is, and that a relationship with God should be a priority, and it doesn’t come sort of
second or third or fourth after their grades or their sports or other achievements.
We see just such a busy generation who just don’t have time and won’t – because of that
they’re so over-saturated, they’re almost incapable of committing so they won’t commit
to anything, which is really hard, because actually you have to; you have to commit to
faith and to that journey and you have to take ownership of it yourself. So, yeah those
are some of the pit falls, as well as just all the normal things; when you see a kid
hurting, when you see a kid who’s being bullied, or who is going through depression and they’re
just seeming so lost – that can be a real sad part of the job, but it’s also a really
beautiful part, to be able to be let into that and to be able to shine God’s light into
that, even if it takes a really long time to see any fruit.
David: I guess that leads to that kind of – the joys of ministry, and in particular
youth ministry; you must have had some real highs working with such a diverse range of
young people. Emma: Yeah, definitely. Having that access
to their lives – so having them just be their selves and to let you in and to tell you about
what’s going on is such a joy. So, having kids come up to me and be like, oh I was reading
my Bible and this verse jumped out at me, and I was praying and God answered my prayer,
or having many kids come up and ask me to baptise them; that is such a joy and it’s
something I’ll never get sick of. Seeing them become who God made them to be;
because I’ve been in this church for almost a decade now, I know some of these kids and
I’ve seen them grow up from being sort of 10 year olds and to see them become these
really strong [16:21] leaders who are excelling in everything they put their hearts towards
and who are doing it for the Lord, and who are loving their neighbours – that is such
a joy to see the active fruit of faith. As well as that, there’s also the silly fun that
comes from being on a camp or being in a car and doing sing-a-longs or pranking people,
and throwing water bombs at people. There’s a lot of light-hearted joy that comes in ministry
as well. David: Yeah, and I guess it’s just in the
nature of wanting to have fun. Emma: Yeah, exactly.
David: The last area that I’d just like to get some brief comments on please, Emma is;
we’re an elderly congregation – we do have a splattering of young people through the
grand-children of grand-parents in the congregation – we’ve also got a couple of younger guys
in the 25/26 age group. What opportunities might you say might exist for us to contemplate
putting in a part-time youth pastor? Let me be very specific; should we be aiming to try
and replicate all that large scale ministry that’s going on in Greenlane Christian Centre,
or should we be really focussing on what we’ve got? What do you feel?
Emma: Always start with what you’ve got, and start with where you’re at, because every
cultural climate is so different. So, I’m very blessed to know a lot of other youth
pastors in my area, and to meet with them on a monthly, and everyone does things very
differently because they have different kids, and they have different resources, so there’s
no point ever trying to do what another church is doing. Kids can be quite resistant to that;
sometimes they’re on a track and that’s where they’re at. So, I would say; start with the
one-on-one. So, all ministry and faith comes from personal
relationship, but particularly with youth ministry it’s about empowering the young people
you have and having a relationship with them that will just grow, and then they will invite
their friends and other people will want that, because no matter where a kid is that with
their faith, they want people who care about them and who will be constant in their life
and who will be encouraging them and who they can turn to.
There’s a statistic which social scientists released which said that to navigate adolescence
successfully a young person needs six adult role models or mentors. Many people have their
parents, so that’s two – and no-one else. Some people don’t even have two parents. So,
to be some of that community – to be that village, is what’s really important. So I’d
say, yeah even with just 5-10 hours a week to start off with, a youth pastor or a part-time
youth worker could just be investing in the young people that you already have, and then
connecting them into the wider community and seeing what they’re interested in – just having
fun with them and then seeing where it grows. David: One of the things that has sort of
been on my conscience about this is that I wouldn’t like any church – and I certainly
wouldn’t like hours, to develop a youth ministry in the belief that somehow youth with a salvation
to enable our church to carry on and grow, but to me that’s an utterly false start. Listening
to you I see all the drive is around trying to give youth the positive message and encouragement
that a life in Christ and a life together in the body of Christ can produce extraordinary
results and it’s not about that it has to be in this place with this congregation.
Emma: Yeah, I think, I guess with any investment and pastoral care of people there is a degree
to which we’re not looking for a return on investments, but particularly with the youth
it shouldn’t be with that heart of we’re doing this so that our church will XYZ. You do it
knowing that your church will reap some benefit, and will reap very great benefits. Some of
those young people might be empowered to go lead elsewhere, so I had several of my young
people years ago – they came up to me and they were really apologetic. They’re like,
Emma we’re not going to come to Greenlane Christian Centre anymore. I was like, oh why
is that? They were like, well we feel called to start a youth group in our community – which
was Glendowie, so about 20 minutes away, and that’s where they lived.
I was like, well that’s the heart of Christ – just do it – we don’t need you here – we
love you – you’re part of our family, but that church doesn’t have a youth ministry
and if that’s what God’s got in your heart, that is the coolest thing. So I still have
that relationship with those girls, but they aren’t in our congregation as such. Then,
at the same time, some of our current leaders – actually, most of our current leaders were
young people who were fed in our youth ministry at some point. So, having a vibrant youth
ministry or having a growing youth ministry will just trickle up the effects.
It also empowers a lot of the older people because what’s good for part of the body is
good for the whole, and it’s good for older people to see younger people and to be encouraged
by them or to catch their enthusiasm, and then also enables a lot of them to kind of
be more active maybe in their faith and in their church, because all of a sudden they’re
mentoring young people, and they’re having to answer those questions. So it shakes everything
up a bit, and it’s good for everything, but there’s definitely no guarantees, but that’s
not why we do it. David: I think that’s a wonderful answer,
and I like the idea that we should get all shook up about some things sometimes, and
young people can do that at the drop of a hat. Emma, we’re just at the end of the interview
time, so is there any one really important thing you would like to say, both to your
own community at Greenlane, or to our community or to any of the YouTube audience?
Emma: I’d say; listen to God’s Spirit, because He has plans and provisions for every different
part of His body. So He’ll work differently in one church than He will in another church,
and often it’s unconventional or it’s not the same as the neighbouring church, but that
doesn’t mean it’s wrong. The most exciting thing is to be where God wants you to be,
and to be listening to His voice. So, I would just encourage you guys to do that, and that’s
what we’re doing in our church, and that’s what we should all be doing in our individual
walks with God as well. It’s so exciting to see God moving through that, and to encourage
the younger generation to learn how to listen to God’s voice as well.
David: Well, I think that’s wonderful answer to end on, and I’d just like to say to our
YouTube viewers, please remember to like, share and particularly subscribe to the channel.
We hope to have Emma back on in six months time, and we’ll talk about progress that we’ve
been making over here at Trinity at Waiaki. Thank you very much indeed, Emma.
Emma: Awesome. Thank you. Youth Ministry Alive Now kiwiconnexion practical