Posts Tagged ‘Youth ministry’

“I think of one little buckaroo” – Gabby Hayes

The above quote is from Tuttle’s (2019) Exactly as you Are: The Life and Faith of Mister Rogers, and is part of a story of the early days where Rogers’ was a producer on the Gabby Hayes Show in the 1950’s and asking the lead, in they empty studio and with only Rogers’ there when he was talking to the camera what he thought of. It is a quote that opens up a reflection for me, in a life of community building. Where too often we can be side tracked by the numbers game. How many attended? Sadly, in some ministries, how many baptisms? How many confirmations? And completely missing the point of the one little buckaroo. What happened, happened, and who was meant to be in that part of the journey was meant to be in that part of the journey whether it was 100’s, 1000’s or simply, 1.

Which as I read Tuttle’s book, the reflections on my time in children and youth ministry, how the work I did, was counter to the prevailing ideas of the time (and still run counter to many of the prevailing ideas). See it doesn’t worry about serving those part of the established conclave or community, it doesn’t worry about reaching out to the broader community. It focuses on the welcome of the person that has stepped into the space, and being present to ensure belonging and discovery. It is not about flashiness, or about creating emotional highs through the use of images/music, or about events that excite. It truly is about belonging. These concepts tied in with dumping quite a bit of money into the idea of pre-canned curriculum can create a false sense of spiritual growth for the younger members of the faith family, yet a mark is missed at a community level for we are not building disciples, rather we are building consumers.

Which always did not sit well with me. Though I am the first to admit I was not raised in “proper church”. So that piece of indoctrination never took into the DNA. I was a part of a Vacation Bible School, which was focused on discovery of the stories and belonging, and had relatives that lived their faith that has led to a different lens when I first started out. The other piece is I never believed in the gender fallacy of it being weird if men stepped up to teach Sunday School or youth; or that there is a functional best before date when it comes to being a youth pastor (as I was continually past that) or that one would ever be too old to serve, it was up to the ministry to create space for our elders, and in so many ways it happened as 90 year olds in different settings would provide food and teaching or create the story telling space and then have youth aid taking the youngsters through the activities to reinforce the story.

But I digress, see it is about community, belonging and purpose. For other pieces that shaped my understanding was stories and television. As I reflect back there was pieces of Mister Rogers (though he was more my brother’s favourite than mine), but there was also pieces of learning to do things from my favourite show growing up that stuck- Mr. Dressup, who had worked with Fred Rogers’ before landing his own show in Canada.

Both shows took subjects, and spoke to children where they were at, included creativity, and other pieces that re-inforced the learning. They also both communicated clearly that you were already the ideal you and becoming the ideal you as your grew.

Which brings me to some thoughts on creating the courageous safe space for inter-generational discovery and learning with those 0-17 years old in our churches. I have already shared that which I did not buy into, and I can already feel those reading this going with the “yeah but”. The discomfort is okay. A quick aside, if you are using pre-canned curriculum it is not a time saver, you still need to invest time in your volunteer teachers/leaders on how to use the curriculum, roll with resistance, leverage silence, and create the courageous safe space for discovery.

This is the first step when gathering community. Create the Courageous Safe Space. It does not mean topics are avoided for safety, but rather how do we enter into the difficult conversations, how do we wrestle with ideas/concepts, how do we have respectful dialogue. This can be taken and crafted age appropriately, as you explore with the children or youth what it looks like to them, and provide some prodding or own ideas as well. It also gives a reference back as guideposts. I want to touch on the idea that some will just default to “Christian behaviour”; or something similar. This is the discomfort, for it is a subjective catch phrase– What does it mean? Unpack, wrestle with key teaching points (scripture stories) as pillars and what it looks like in action.

In cultivating belonging, a great piece of fun is naming the space. Take time to discover what names mean including members, then have them look at the courageous safe space, if someone was asking what was happening here what ideas/names arise? Move beyond the age groupings to what actually is (and yes this can be revisited each September, another aside, I realize many spaces use the outdated school year rhythm for children/youth, what I encourage and have shown each time, is that having these ministries open year round provide space for different learning activities, and different generations to engage, so yes September as a renewal, but not a re-start/boot).

Now, how do we teach/disciple?

For children, I love the concepts Patricia Bays’ (1997) shared in her Great Adventure. It is this rotational model, where there is 3-4 stations per story, and it takes a month to go through each story. Why do I like it? A superintendent or children’s pastor can spend time with core volunteers/families brain storming the stories. Then break it down into 3-4 teachings (for larger groups they can all be live at the same time, for smaller groups, I would have a station a week). The stations? Simple, share the stories and see what talents (passions/skills) emerge from the faith community to facilitate. This is where the idea of Elders’ chair came from as an elder in a church who had almost 80 years of teaching Sunday School but couldn’t keep up. We created space each month where she would read the story, and bring her ideas for song/activity, and then our youth partnered to ensure it happened (things like puppet theatre). Some may share ideas around age appropriate First Aid teaching (Good Samaritan). But yes, it is about creating belonging through connection of various adults within the child’s life.

Before leaping into youth, I do want to pause to discuss the courageous safe space, and what may appear at first blush as accepted safety. Sadly, not always. The concept of police/vulnerable sector checks for those that serve. Yes, these are a necessary step. I know some may balk as they are church members and “we know them” (but honestly how much can you know of someone?) and then some may dive full bore with even more restrictions (this is where gender/age/sexual orientation can be demonized in the equipping phase) as they see a pedophile within every adult. Neither scenario is helpful in creating the courageous safe space. The checks are in place as they weed out the scared/caught predator. Those that are scared of making anything official, or those already caught. It also creates a courageous safe space for conversation/equipping for volunteers (yes this training needs to be ongoing in the church) for adults, and Junior Leaders (more on those later) to understand what healthy boundaries, consent, the mandated adult/child ratio by government and duty to report are (and yes I have facilitated these trainings, and worked with churches in developing healthy policies). By normalizing these conversations, it also creates space for conversations that are open and courageous before and after the ministry with the correct and appropriate vocabulary.

Now with that intermission, we move into the idea of Junior Leaders, these are older youth (possibly Junior High to High School) that want to be involved in the nursery and Children’s ministry. It is designed for those who feel a passion to help, and are willing to work with the adults, learn, and serve. It not only creates a healthy intergenerational approach, but equips the leaders of now. The key is not to turn over running of the younger ministries to the older (for they are still growing as well), but to create healthy partnerships with the volunteers, and see what develops. For Grade 11 or 12 students I also expand Junior Leadership into Youth Group opportunities to officially bring them into leadership and learn/develop a skill set. The boundary conversation here is key, as with all leaders, but especially in pointing out that this step will preclude them from dating members of youth group as they begin to learn and understand authority, power differentials and the law.

Within the scope of Youth Ministry, the creation of Courageous Safe Space, naming of the community are key. Taking time, to ensure what is being learned in that night, and the activity portions tie together to re-enforce and take the message deeper. I have always used a balance of Salvation Army understanding of communion (eating together, even if its snacks); spiritual formation (learning and practicing different ideas/techniques of service, prayer and study); taking time each 1/4 to have the youth take time to brainstorm what books of the Bible they want to learn, and what topics they are curious about in learning how a gospel formed life understands/responds (which may lead to guest speakers); as well simple things of giving as I always loved a spare change jar where each month youth picked a cause to support. This way they learn about the good in their world, and get in the rhythm of giving.

Seeing how, regardless of the form (small community, or larger group with small groups break outs) there is a rhythm given of the call to reach through the thin space between here and the Kingdom of God, and learn to live out the bringing the Kingdom here. It is active discipleship. It is working with those who are called to be leaders, to learn, discover and apply the skills of discipleship and being spiritual guides for the youth. A ripple effect model of servant leadership. It is getting the leaders comfortable with hard topics, and when to pause the guided discussion, and dive deep when a hard topic is thrown out. It is never a simple throw away comment, youth are looking to see if we are living the courageous safe space we profess. Or as one put it to me, “seeing if you actually give a damn about me”.

These are the thoughts that emerge, as I reconnect with stories of others in creating community. As during this time of being a part, technology has been leveraged to keep us together. As we await the next steps, when we can fully be together. What has been heard in the still quiet time? As we emerge out of c-tine, is it about doing the same old same old, or igniting something new, that equips and grows one another?


Aspire to be the best you

Posted: February 22, 2020 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , ,

Image result for fighting with my familyOkay there are many issues one can have with professional wrestling, I have enjoyed and vented about things with the sports entertainment, and probably the last time I watched any full program was around 2009…but it has produced some important lessons for life, and that is what the movie, Fighting with my Family (2019) is. It is a story of learning to belong in your own skin, and vocation. On its surface it is a comedic bio-pic of Norwich, England’s Paige’s rise from a family run promotion across the pond to WWE Diva Champion.

It is the family’s dream after eldest son imploded after not making the WWE, for the other 2 children to ascend to greatness–they are wrestlers, aside from their own promotion they also run a wrestling school for the neighbourhood kids and youth (including one teen who is sight impaired) to give them something besides the hoodlums and gangs to be apart of.

The most telling points of this movie (and if your group is okay with language I would suggest it can be used for junior high age and up as a discussion tool)…is Paige’s journey into discovery of who she is, and not what her family’s dream is for her, but what is her dream for herself?

A deeper story though is for the brother, Zak, who didn’t make it…and discovering what he is meant to do? How to use your passion to make your corner of the world a better place. For his inner struggle is so wrapped up in what he believed his calling to be, he could not see the living calling he was already doing within his own community and family to transform the world–even though he was teaching a sight impaired teenager to wrestle…

How often do we lose sight of the impact we are making in our world and living out our calling, because we get wrapped in what ifs, ought tos, and yearning for what another has. The movie creates a fun atmosphere to discuss all these ideas. The core though is to ground yourself, and aspire to be the best you–you can…not the next (insert famous name here).




Those who were involved in my youth ministries know how I loved bringing pop culture in as teaching aids, and connecting with the youth both raised in the church and from the broader communities that would come to find a courageous safe space of belonging. It was the discussions that were raised that mattered, and spending time when things not planned for cropped up in the conversation from the youth whether it was addiction, sex, sexual identity, domestic violence, bullying, racism, sexism, misogyny, or just trying to figure out who the were along the journey.

This past weekend our family continued our use of the public library in bringing in new movies to our home, I thought I would share for anyone who wants to create a discussion space whether spiritual or secular, how you craft the questions will reflect where you are coming from. What I am sharing is why the movie can be used, and should be used.

Image result for men in black internationalFirst up is Men In Black International from SOny pictures, based off a long ago comic book mini-series by Malibu Comics. It’s the fourth entry in the franchise that originated with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the new duo on the international stage you will recognize from Tho Ragnarok.

Why this movie is great? First, it is all ages fun of science fiction, great humour, action, Special FX, and characters. The next though is through the characters of H and M. M has been looking for MIB since she was a kid, and shows the life trajectory of someone who knows they have a calling for a vocation, what that looks like, what winding road it may take, and what happens when you achieve what you think our calling is. H is the world saver after wards, and what happens when that is how your entire identity is shaped. What events shape your identity? Can people in your life see beyond it? Does it aid or hamper you in your personal and communal growth and development? How?

Then the crux of the film, a mole in MIB, what does it mean? How much is vocation built around trust? What does a traitor look like? How do you build a new narrative to protect your unsavory motives? Is this leadership? Can it look like leadership? As you unpack the sub-plot around C and High T.

The next up is a lot more fun that I imagined it would be. We placed it on hold at the library as a lark based on how our kids tortured us with the show growing up: Dora and the Lost City of Gold 

Image result for dora and the lost city of goldWhat happens when an explorer raised by anthropologists in the jungle is sent into the jungle that is urban American high school? This is the begin pre-text of the movie as a now 16 year old Dora, is sent to live with her cousin’s Diego family in the big city. Why this movie matters? A) it’s a bloody fun ride, I admit it if they rebooted Dora as a live action t.v. show with this cast like the Relic Hunter or Hercules from back in the day, I would so subscribe to that streaming service. B) it deep dove through fun into the difference between career and calling (as the Dalai Lama XIV in the Art of Happiness at Work would lay out the 3 levels of work). Career are treasure hunters they are seeking out the ancient world wonders for the riches and glory that come with it, then there’s the explorers seeking out that which was lost to reclaim the beauty, knowledge and wisdom for our world to learn, grow and heal from today.  For groups that like to play lip service to decolonization in the era of TRC, yet still hold to the ideals of independence, and personal professional success tracts, this is an important conversation to have.

The other point that this movie hits hard on is two-fold. The first is the power of positive thinking. Not some constantly only taking in positive and avoiding the negative of life. Rather what Norman Vincent Peale laid out in his seminal work, that is taking what life has to throw at you, and looking for the good in life, the hope, and the light, making those your focus. In other words, the other radical point of the movie for fish out of water Dora at the urban high school that was trying to force her to conform to the rigid social caste system— be who you are meant to be.

How different would our world be if we were empowered to simply do that?

Oh, and there’s always fun cameos like these:

Image result for dora and the lost city of gold

The final movie was not a part of family movie night, and would definitely be a movie to be used with your leaders for a learning opportunity on planning out discussions, or with a young adult group (over 18). That is Midsommer

Image result for MidsommerIt is not a horror movie. It is at most a suspense movie but really is just a 2 1/2 hr thinker. It is not exemplary that keeps you needing to watch scene to scene, nor is it horrible in the turn it off in the first 1/2 hr. There is a curiosity to continue to see how it turns out. There is good discussions around drug use, and the accentuating of cult or spiritual activity with psychotropics, what happens on first contact with a new culture? What is our diligence? What is their diligence in maintaining harmonious understanding? I would say it can also be de-constructed to look at recruiting and grooming rituals of closed communities. Though underneath that is the idea of relationship, what makes healthy relationships? What makes dysfunctional? Why does one end up in one over another? What allows one to perpetuate unhealthy or abusive relationships? What does communal mean? Self-absorption? What creates trust and belonging? There is also a cool allusion that anyone within the disabilities community would get, as on the spiritual side their seers/prophets are from the disabled who are closer to/or within the thin space.

All these topics come forward within this tale of a 9 day festival of solstice in Sweden, and the anthropology students that attend their roommates home festivities.

And the simple randomness of Bear in a Cage (click here.)

All these movies can be shared communally, and discussed. The art of discussion though has been lost. So we do not create havoc with helicopter-lawnmower parents or have others or our own echo chamber ideologies challenged, I have noted the default to sticking to question scripts and the drive to get through them all. What is lost is that especially mentoring-coaching youth and young adults, is they are testing the waters to see if it is safe to explore, question and learn. It is the grey unscripted territory, though when you are willing to spend time there unpacking and helping the journey through a healthier adult emerges.

It is the investment that matters and creating the space to be explorers. For those that work with our youth, are you up to the challenge?

Are you willing to step into the unknown and be with them as they grow and become?


Why is it so hard to bring community youth into the church? It’s not like there’s a stigma–there is no more razzing for attending church than doing anything else in your teens. So what is it about the church that scares young people away? In my years of youth ministry I’ve discovered the church can be its own worst enemy when it comes to taking the Gospel to the street.
Recently, I went to a local Starbucks to do some reading and ended up chatting with different teens I’ve seen around the ‘hood. Some were former youth of mine and some were street kids. I asked why they won’t come into church. The resounding  answer was that they were unwanted. These kids immediately felt unwelcome when they entered different churches.
As a teenager, I remember showing up to a youth group with friends one night and being informed I was going to hell. I was told never to come back. At another church, my friend was advised not to bother bringing an outsider like me to the meetings. The churches by our high school, it seemed, spent more time chasing us off than talking to us. Even as a youth pastor, I’ve fought to keep a teen in youth group when the church wanted him out because he lived in a group home.

I was shocked by the response of one girl I talked to: “I can’t afford church.” Her local church charges for youth group. It’s an often overlooked problem: church is overpriced for some teens. These kids wanted to go to church but, as they explained, they felt they didn’t belong. “I smoke,” they said. “I drink and do drugs.
“I’m promiscuous.” “I live on the street.” “I might be gay.” “I stole once.” “I don’t know  how to read the Bible.” “I’m a prostitute .” “I can’t pray.” “I don’t know when it is.” “I’m too poor.” “They think I’m bad.” “I have piercings.” “I have tats [tattoos].” “The door was locked when I went.”
The door was locked when I went? That comment struck me deeply. Churches, literally locked up tight, live in fear of property vandalism. But those dead bolts aren’t the only thing acting as locks on the Kingdom of God. All of those reasons kids gave for not attending church are barring the doors. Because you are pierced/gay/tattooed/illiterate, you aren’t allowed inside. You won’t be accepted.
Every night I pray for an opportunity to reach out to the community. I know, in theory, that God wants that to happen. And it’s a great theory until you add real human beings to the mix. Then the theory doesn’t always hold.
I am optimistic every once in a while. When I wonder if my church will go outwards, I look at my city–my neighbourhood alone has close to thirty churches. When my friends talk about the violence around us and question why God doesn’t do anything, I feel He is doing something. We’re here–the generation that turned away from the church in our own youth and then turned back. Now the question is: are we willing to help these kids or are we just going to keep the doors locked?
As I said, I’m hopeful. One day, I will see churches brimming  with youth that would normally be on the streets–hurting, running and trying to find whatever they can to fill the void. One day, there will no longer be doubts about acceptance in church. One day, the doors will be unlocked.
Ty Ragan is the youth minister at Centennial Presbyterian Church, Calgary. He was a lay minister at a hub parish for the R.C.’s World Youth Day and has been involved for five years in street ministry @ Calgary’s Mustard Seed mustard seed
kingdom of Heaven thus likened; for phenomenal development. [N.T.: Matthew 13:31–32]
See : Growth .
COPYRIGHT 2004 Presbyterian Record No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Ty Ragan p.1-3

My personal rule talks of my being a voice for the


voiceless. It is a simple line to attempt to describe a


life long call God has placed on my heart throughout


my journeys: from a high school student standing


up against hatred in my community, to a writer who


battled governments to protect the arts, to a simple


letter writer for Amnesty International to a street pastor


petitioning the provincial government of Alberta not to


close a desperately needed homeless shelter that was


seeing God’s miracles pour out.


It was these actions that led to this line being written in


my rule, and to my becoming more active within my


country of birth, speaking out to protect the social programs


church leaders helped to build (social services,


disability, public health care). It culminated on January


23, 2006 when Canada held a Federal Election, after


eight weeks of an offi cial campaign that I participated


in as a candidate.


My nomination was secured with Canada’s New


Democratic Party on May 5, 2005, and my campaign


began minutes after. Some would ask:


why would I take this step as a youth


pastor, and a member of the Third Order,


Society of St. Francis? There were


other ways. For me it was a unique


way to reach out to the community I


live in and get down past the surface


issues to raise awareness across a city


about the amazing agencies, organizations


and people that are trying to stop


the bleeding of the pain of poverty and


devastation we are wreaking on our




As a candidate door knocking I found


that what was needed was a listening


ear, and someone willing to help direct

people to the parts of government they could talk to, in

some cases someone to act as advocate to those government

or non-profi t agencies on behalf of the person.

The most shocking thing that I found after listening

to individuals that said “having a strong faith would

hamper you in public life” is how many people were

comforted when I said I would pray for them. After

speaking those words as well, many people asked for

me to simply pray with them there on their doorstep,

or after a debate, or at a bus stop.

Campaigning for a political party is hard for someone

with strong beliefs and principles because it is not simply

yourself being put forward, you have to support a

platform. I look at the core values of the institution and

decide if they fi t within the context of my rule of ministry.

I have found, at least in the Canadian Parliamentary

system, that specifi c policy points become harder

to impose even if your party achieves power because

you are always succeeding a previous government, and

there are always economic limitations. I found it easier

to be able to step away from the platform and open up

a dialogue with the people of my community; I took a

pastoral outlook and realized winning was irrelevant.

This unique calling for this season (eight months) had

given me the opportunity to reach out to those that

were hurting and in pain, those that may never darken

the doorways of a church or know where to go for help.

There was also the winter election conundrum, because

traditionally during an election the candidate do

massive fundraising for their campaign to be able to

purchase signs (which are once used and then disposed

of to landfi lls never to decompose) and brochures, and

go around in thousand dollar suits making promises

they cannot keep.

My message was simple: I will listen and try to make

things better, for I have hope that a better world is possible

for us all. My attire was simpler—blue jeans and

a hoody, as a youth pastor, not a politician. I did not

feel comfortable in the trappings of the offi ce. Finally

when it came to fundraising I looked out at the hurting

and those in need, saw and toured many organizations

that helped children with developmental disabilities,

abused seniors, and the homeless, and I knew I could

not ask for

money for

a campaign.

Rather I

took the


of disseminating




people to

direct the


they would

have sent

to me

to these


non-profi ts


were producing miracles for God’s children.

When it was all over, and the votes were tallied I was

third of fi ve on the ballot and just felt a peace. Why

you ask? Some would say I failed my calling by losing.

I felt a peace because I was proud of the hard work of

my volunteers. I was amazed at how even with donor

burnout we managed to get agencies monies they

otherwise would not have received this season and

that I had always spoken from my heart and held to

my beliefs. The best and most humbling part was the

Wednesday night after election day being able to face

the youth I minister to and let them know that when

I say one person called by God can make a positive

impact no matter where they are called, it is true


I sit and write this with the approach of the Feast Day of my religious order, an order built on living out our faith and helping to equip others to do so. A new year will soon begin for the citywide ministries for our children and youth.


As you know, our city is booming, driving prices up, and creating long shifts and incredible hours for individuals and families needing to work to make ends meet. In the chaos of the weekly storm, we gather as a faith family on Sunday mornings to be serviced as Godʼs saints. Part of our Sundays is the spiritual formation of the younger generation of the church.


We are blessed that you have chosen our church, and thank you for allowing us to be apart of the Faith Formation of your children and youth. We acknowledge the busyness of life simply to make ends meet and the need for a Sabbath to commune with God.


Yet we also acknowledge the importance in these days of high rates of violence, suicide and pregnancy in our young, of the need for them to have connections with good adult role models who they can come to and trust. This is part of Sunday mornings and youth nights as we grow our faith family in inter-generational ways.


To continue our blessed year round children and youth ministry we need your help. We have year round ministries of Sunday mornings, youth nights, day camps, summer camps and groups like Teens Encounter Christ that need you to simply walk with the younger members of the faith family in Christ.


I am writing to request that you help to continue Godʼs blessings here in our city. We are seeking simple commitments to equipping the next generation of leaders in the Gospel Life.


Thank you again for your help.



Tyler Ragan n/TSSF


A humble Franciscan with a Dream.

Tyler Ragan is in

youth and childrenʼs ministry at

St. Georgeʼs Anglican Church,

( p.8)



Building a Youth Ministry (Or is that a Mystery?) ( p.12)

This article responds to questions about how St. George’s built a youth outreach community.

by Ty Ragan

For nine years, I have been serving the Lord in children and youth ministry, in the church and on the streets of Canada.

Why? I was the guy in the back row of Foothills United Church my second week back in structured Christianity. When they requested a teacher for the Junior High Sunday School class, I raised my hand.

It has been a roller coaster ride ever since.

What youth ministry is not. It is not a ministry that is games driven – although they are a piece of the puzzle. It is not just amazing worship – although it can be a wonderful part. It is not food although with teens that is necessary. It is not building converts. Christ is in all our hearts, and it is he who converts the open heart. It is not pushing through when problems hit although these are amazing times for reconciliation and healing of a community. It is not a huge list of Sin Donʼts and Saints do. It is as simple as building self-respect, community respect and showing them the safety and care for them in the Heart of God. It is not bringing hundreds together although if you have good adult volunteers with the spark, this is possible. But we need to ensure the roots of faith go deep.

You are not a super Christian. You are a human being, and it is okay to show that to your youth- scars, tats, piercings and all. You are not a youthʼs best friend. We are mentors along the path helping to guide a youth to make positive choices. You are not the youthʼs parent. They have parents regardless if they are good or bad at parenting. You are not their social worker but we can help direct them to resources. Nor are you their long term counselor. You may be called upon for short term or brief counselling, but we are to equip our youth with resources and tools for their healing.

So what is youth ministry? It is disciple making. It is exploring the faith both corporately and individually through images, music, prayer, Bible, stories, projects, actions and yes games. Anyone who wants to see youth develop games based on faith, contact me.

It is guiding youth on a journey, accepting that all who come have Christ in their hearts. And if you are living an authentic Christian life, foibles and all- something will be seen and wanted.

In a simple statement, youth ministry is spiritual formation to equip the youth for life in a world that is not always fair.

What is a youth pastor-leader-director? That is simple: you are a human being who needs help. A person who equips and ministers not only to the youth, but also to volunteers so no youth is left behind.

You are a person who needs to be honest, in the celebrations of the joys of life, and the despairs, and showing the God is steadfast and there for them. There is humbleness, when you screw up, admit it and apologize.

Your life will say more about being a Christian, and impact the youth far more than any number of youth talks. You are their mentor. As a youth pastor-leader-type person, you are your youthʼs spiritual director helping them wrestle through their world and faith and experience the Glory of God.

This is a unique system, and I welcome anyone wanting to talk about it further. All I know is that when I was called to the parish, I looked up to God and said, “This is not my comfort zone, why am I here?” God answered. God challenged me, as the community came to Soul Revolution, and while never talking of evangelism, my youth experienced God in our times of quiet, in our times of action, in our times of fun and laughter, in our times of tears. They met God and they bring their friends to meet God.

That is the true heart of a youth ministry- a place where Youth can experience God.

Tyler Ragan is in youth ministry at St. Georgeʼs Anglican Church in northeast Calgary.

Youth at St. George’s, Calgary spent time during a 30 Hour Famine doing a sidewalk chalk mural outside the church.

By Tyler Ragan

My personal rule talks of me

being a voice for the voiceless. It

is a simple line to attempt to

describe a life long call God has

placed on my heart throughout

my journeys.

I’ve been a high school student

standing up against hatred in my

community. I’ve lobbied governments

to protect the arts. I’ve

written letters for Amnesty International.

And as a street pastor, I

petitioned the provincial government

of Alberta not to close a

desperately needed homeless

shelter that was seeing God’s miracles

pour out.

It was these actions that led to

this line being written in my rule.

I have been speaking out to

protect the social programs

church leaders helped to build

(social services, disability, public

health care).

It culminated on January 23,

2006 when Canada held a federal

election, and I participated as

a candidate for the New Democratic

Party in Calgary Northeast.

I was nominated May 5, last

year and my campaign began

minutes after. Some might wonder

why I take this step as a youth

pastor, and a member of the

Third Order, Society of St.


For me it was a unique way to

reach out to the community I live

in and get down past the surface

issues and to raise awareness

across a city about the agencies,

organizations and people that are

trying to stop the bleeding and

pain of poverty and devastation

we are wreaking on our environment.

As a candidate, I found while

door knocking what was needed

was a listening ear, and someone

willing to help direct people to

the parts of government they

could talk to. In some cases, an

advocate was needed to government

or non-profit agencies.

The most shocking thing is

that while conventional wisdom

says having a strong faith will

hamper you in public life, many

people were comforted when I

said I would pray for them.

After speaking those words as

well, how many people asked for

me to simply pray with them

there on their doorstep, or after

a debate, or at a bus stop.

Campaigning for a political

party as one with strong beliefs

and principles is hard, because

you have to support a platform.

I found it easier to be able to

step away from the platform and

open up a dialogue with the people

of my community. I took a

pastoral outlook and realized

winning was not the important

thing. This unique eight-month

calling had given me the opportunity

to reach out to those

that were hurting and in pain,

those that may never darken the

doorways of a church or know

where to go for help.

My message was simple: I will

listen and try to make things

better, for I have hope that a

better world is possible for us all.

My attire was simpler, blue

jeans and a hoody, as a youth pastor,

not a politician; I did not feel

comfortable in the trappings of

the office.

Finally, when it came to

fundraising – I looked out at the

hurting and those in need. saw

and toured many organizations

that helped children with developmental

disabilities, abused

seniors, and the homeless – I

knew I could not ask for money

for a campaign. I took the initiative

of asking people to direct

the donations they would have

sent to my campaign to these

agencies that were producing

miracles for God’s children.

When it was all over, and the

votes were tallied, I was third of

five on the ballot and felt at


Why, you might ask? Some

would say I failed my calling by


But I was proud of the hard

work of my volunteers; I had

always spoken from my heart and

held to my beliefs. The best and

most humbling part was the

Wednesday night after Election

Day being able to face the youth

I minister to and let them know

that one person can make a

positive impact.

Why did I run? To give a voice

to the voiceless and inspire a new

generation to take up the reigns

of care for creation and community

leadership, winning or losing

was irrelevant in this special calling

from God.

Tyler Ragan is a part-time

youth pastor at

St. George’s Anglican

Church, political activist and

secular Franciscan (on pg.9)

Funny little quote, will “You can’t go home again” which has many sources, the one we are most familiar with in the west is the novel by Tom Wolfe. The just is that once you have left home, you cannot go back and have it be home.

But is this true?

I was told by my first Presbytery supervisor in the United Church of Canada (Calgary) as a youth pastor, that he would not re-place youth pastors in churches where they had once served, or let us stay on as faith family members after we stepped down for it created to weird of a situation for the new person coming in. As for the former comment, it was basically this concept that we could not rebuild what had been ended.

Yet I believe this is going a step too far in the Christianities. If we are truly to believe that our gatherings are faith families, then like family yes we grow, we change, we move out, move back, it is more fluid than solid.

I have gone back and served several time in former calls, and experienced warm welcomes, and witnessed God‘s reign grow in the hearts through the ministries and causes She called me to.

I have achieved closure through some services (I remember reflecting on my personal faith pilgrimage that took me back through churches of my familial and personal history to learn and grow as God wanted me to).

Yet there was always some empty shadows in my heart of wonderment of two little churches that I had felt I left too early, using this adage I was taught at the beginning of my pastoral formation: Do not return.

One my family has spent some time this summer worshipping at, we feel welcome, and love the diversity of the faith community found there (yes we use our summers to travel and explore other churches)…and through this one have found a vacation bible school for free that our children can attend finally (it was VBS‘ that shaped my understanding of God as a child as we did not attend traditional church, so this has been an important piece I wanted my children to be apart of).

The second church I have returned to once or twice as pulpit supply. It is a small Presbyterian church in Pineridge, and it was the church where I attended VBS as a child. I returned there as a young adult, and became their youth pastor, planting a youth group. But in the turmoil of misunderstanding/coming to an understanding of what is a successful ministry and the (Non)importance of titles, I left to pursue ordination in a church family that was not a family. Yet it always left a feeling in my heart as to whether or not this little church could have been long term home. Does it share all my theological beliefs? No, but then which church will. It was a welcoming environment, trying to be what their community needed.

So part of this summer pilgrimage will be some time at this little congregation as well to answer the question for my self, can you go home again? But more importantly for my family at this time at the crossroads whether it is this one, or the former one mentioned or the one we were attending before the summer:

Where will we call home? Where does the Spirit lead us to be accepted, to love and be loved, to offer our gifts in ministry?

For that is what family is truly about. What home is about. A place you belong. Grow. Share. Laugh. Love. Together. Labels need not apply.


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I know when one sees the church in the media it is easy to believe that the division and leading cause of congregational closures (deaths) is due to theological issues ala scriptural interpretation, marriage doctrine, et al… this would be a fallacy from my experience.  I have been traveling with renewed vigor within the church for the past 15 years in both quote/unquote Liberal & Conservative churches, what have I discovered?

That the sins of Sodom & Gamorrah which was not homosexuality as so many have espoused but rather a failure on the cities to care for the stranger, the traveller (inhospitallity is never clearer than desiring to gang rape to travellers let me tell you)…this is coupled then in the Gospels when Jesus sends out his followers 2 x 2 and tells them that towns that won’t welcome them in (being hospitable) and the theme is once more picked up again within the letters of John.

So where does this leave us? Simple, the love of neighbour that God commands us too, is shown through our hospitality so, I guess truly it is a theological argument, because to love God we must love our neighbours as ourselves…

What does this mean? Well I have been well travelled in life, and served/been discipled in many different church traditions to name a few:

Youth Pastor within the United Church of Canada in Calgary (Specifically: Foothills, Symons Valley, Campbell-Stone, helped out with Central).

Youth Pastor with the Presbyterian Church in Canada (specifically: Centennial (also attended their Vacation Bible School as a young lad)).

Director of Youth & Children Ministries with the Anglican Church in Canada (Specifically: St. George’s—also I was the first baby baptized there).

Pulpit supply with Centennial Presbyterian, Campbell-Stone United Church,

Adult Bible Study Instructor at King of Glory Lutheran Brethren Church

Lay Professional Leader at Prince of Faith Lutheran Church (was also on the board).

Also served as a board member with Foothills United Church, and a Warden at St. George’s Anglican Church.

Was a Lay Minister of Praise and outreach volunteer at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

Was a Young Adult group leader at Rockyview Alliance Church

Aided with the youth at Calgary Church of Christ

Week of Service with Rosscarrock Church of Christ

Taken Spiritual Directions Training, Global Faith through Emmanuel & St. Chad in Saskatoon Theological Union

Also part of conferences at St. Andrew’s at STU

Earned my B.A. from Alberta Bible College

My M.A. from Canadian Theological Seminary

and I have been a visitor/preacher in several small churches across Southern Alberta.

So this has been my experience of the bad (I will let you reader connect the dots on where you think this has happened):

  • Children dancing and playing in church compared to the den of thieves that the Pharisees had turned the temple into (mass spam e-mailed out to the whole church).
  • Elder members stating “Children do not belong at Good Friday service”
  • Priest apologizing for children being at Good Friday to appease
  • Spam e-mail to church members about the evil of their youth pastor teaching youth to live their faith, love God, read their bible, pray, and ask questions…labelling youth pastor with term “messiah complex”
  • Church board ordering the youth pastor to ask community youth to leave the youth group as they were an “untoward influence upon the other youth”
  • Seniors in the church adopting community youth at the 8 a.m. formal BCP service and sharing worship together
  • Baby Boomers telling youth to leave church service as they did not fit in.
  • Accessible ramps built outside the church so those who are differently abled, and not phased if they cannot join into after church activities
  • A Priest standing up during offering and stating “I served this week overnight at Inn from the Cold with our guests. It is not right that these hard working families have to bathe in sinks, so I ask you to give from the heart as there is a plumber downstairs right now putting in showers for us, and well we need to pay him”
  • We can’t have addicts in here, they just make the place trashy, and smell of smoke
  • We have a member in a wheel chair that can’t join us for potlucks, so we have put in an elevator, today’s offering is to pay for it.
  • A spam e-mail about what was learned in church as a written attack that children are out of control, parents are disrespectful, and there is no Godliness in the younger generations
  • A youth pastor who renewed the sunday school, and planted the youth group, told when the position became paid that he would have to apply as the church council was not sure that he was qualified for the job.
  • Families, and church members opening their homes to host youth events, bible studies and youth retreats as the church does not have a building.
  • A board stating that a ramp was not needed as the end of the parking lot sloped downwards for those who had mobility issues.
  • A church having a few members with walkers putting in a lift between floors so the entire church family can be together
  • Offering their building space to new canadians to grow their community together.
  • Long term members walking out on sermons and meditations
  • After leaving the church to go to another church to aid a family member, having the former church use myself as a scapegoat for all that went wrong with the church.
  • Professor equipping new pastors by clearly pointing out which denominations are cults, and which ones should cease to exist or die.
  • Church splits and arguments where pastors are publicly lynched, fired.
  • Members stating that children should not be in church
  • Maintaining a church’s youth and sunday school, offering to continue as unpaid staff if the money is used to invest in curriculum materials and the offer being rescinded because at 31 and 12 years of building ministries, working outreach was “unqualified”.
  • A strong differently abled young adult population that was active in the youth group still, the church education council deeming that they no longer could attend (killing the youth ministry) and leaving 3 members wondering why the church hated them.
  • Leaders of churches debating on what made a valid baptism, and stating this or that made the believer invalid

Each and all of these things happened in the myriad of different churches and circumstances, yet there was a core ethos the name on the building did not matter, it was if the believers in the pews and their leaders were living into and out of the love that is God the fruit was healthy, for the harmful fruit it was congregations and leaders that paid a lot of lip service to the idea of family, community, and trusting God (i.e. more impetus on the money coming (or not coming) in, rather than what the church is called to be…the soul of the community.

Further thoughts:

  1. Is your building a useful tool of ministry and outreach? A gift to the community? or an albatross that has become a money pit?
  2. Are your council members people who are called or just the ones that make eye contact and you take them to keep charitable status?
  3. Would church members give money even without the tax credit because they believe in the ministry of your church locally, nationally and internationally?
  4. Is your pastor spiritually healthy? Living a well balanced life? or burning out? Do you know the difference?

More to come on this journey through recovery as I continue to look at what the idea of hospitality means, later though…