Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Make a Living Raising Financial Support

I have a dream that the youth of my city would have the means to live a healthy life, physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually.  To do this we intersect in the day to day lives of young people, invest in their lives, intercede between our young friends and the rest of society, incubate an environment for growth and development of ourselves and young people, and to inspire teens to take on the challenges of the world.  It is an amazing God given dream and exciting things have happened as a result of my team and I being faithful to this calling.  However, it takes a huge amount of time to work on these things.  So much so that I don't have the ability to get a job to fund it.  I do work for an organization that helps crazy people like me with a method of raising our own support to do fulfill our dream.

As great of an opportunity this is, it can be very difficult and discouraging to raise funds year after year.  In chatting with my twitter friend Jeff Goins, we were discussing many of the emotions and obstacles that people encounter while they try to "make a living" through support raising.  I asked him if he would be willing to post his thoughts on this topic.  Jeff is an amazingly talented writer and is well loved in the online universe of writers.  I think that you will enjoy what he has to say.

I've worked as a missionary for six years for two different organizations. During this time, I've either had to raise all of or part of my salary.

This is not fun, nor easy.

At first, I really resented having to raise support.

Then, for a season of temporary insanity, I really loved it.

Now, you could say that I have a healthy respect for the process.

Raising support is like having a second job -- in addition to your mission work, ministry, or whatever it is that you do. Like I said, not always fun. But definitely worth the cost.

In my time of raising support and working with others who do the same, I've noticed that people really like to complain about this part of their jobs, which really annoys me. Not only that, I've seen people go about raising support in all the wrong ways.

So, I thought a brief list of rules for "best support-raising practices" might help. Here they are:

Rule #1: Never apologize for your passion.

If you are called to something, don't feel like you need to apologize (in a newsletter, over the phone, or in person) for doing what God has called you to do. It sounds ridiculous, but people do it.

Rule #2: Never diminish your calling.
This is similar to #1, but don't think for a moment (and definitely don't communicate to someone else) that the fact that you have to raise support somehow makes what you do less important than receiving a traditional salary. It doesn't. In fact, it means that you are working harder. Be proud of it.

Rule #3: Never make a weak ask.

The bottom line: Don't begin an "ask" of a potential support by saying "no" for him or her. Don't say things like, "No pressure" or "you don't have to…" Of course, they know this already. And if you communicate a lack of confidence in your work, do you think that inspires them to want to invest in your ministry?

Rule #4: Never judge the other person's motives.
If you walk away from a conversation or meeting in which the person has told you "no," don't assume that you know why. Don't judge -- as tempting as it might be -- because you never know why someone can't or won't financially support a ministry endeavor.

As someone who has been down this road before, I've broken all these rules:

-I've said sorry for asking for support

-I've made it seem like what I was called to do wasn't a big deal

-I've often made apologetic (and pathetic) "asks" for support of my ministry, assuming people wouldn't want to be involved.

-I've often judged people who don't support my ministry or assumed that someone who wasn't wealthy wouldn't be able to give (finding out that the opposite is often true.)

It all comes down to believing in your work and trusting that God will be faithful to provide.

It's not easy, but it's not supposed to be, is it?

And yes, it's worth it.

Bio: Jeff Goins is a writer, missionary, and mobilizer. You can follow his blog ( or connect with him on Twitter ( and Facebook (

Monday, June 20, 2011

Meet Austin Walker, A ProYouthWorker from Arkansas

One of the greatest things you can do as a youth worker is to network with others in the field.  However, many of us are too busy with the day to day demands of the job to really make many meaningful bonds.  The internet can be a great place to begin to make some connections with youth workers in our community and globally as well.  That is why it excites me to introduce a new feature to Youth Worker Interviews.  I want to thank my first participant: Austin Walker for taking the time to share some of his story with us.  He is fresh in a new youth pastor position in Cabot, Arkansas and is looking for ideas on how to get things moving in his first year.  I love talking with guys like this, it reminds me of the passion I had when I started and it renews my resolve not to give up on the hard days.  Without Further ado, our interview:

What is your name? 

Austin Walker: Student Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church's satellite campus in Cabot, AR
What trait are you known for? 

I'm a fairly high energy guy!  I'm told that I do very well with the "wall flower" students bringing them out of their shell and getting them to open up!  However, I also feel like I'm a solid communicator that can take a passage of Scripture and help students know what to actually do with it when they leave.
Number of years in the field:

I've been doing youth ministry for years, but in different roles.  I started as a behind the scenes guy at our community's college worship experience named "Refuge."  I also served at churches in Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi.  After that, I came on staff at Fellowship Bible Church as a junior high intern.  When the internship ended asked if I could stay on in a continuing role.  It worked out!  God is good.  I continued to serve as doing all things from buying hundreds of ice cream sandwiches to organizing big parts of some of the summer mission trips.  In early 2011, I got a call from one of our teaching pastors asking if I'd be interested in a full time position as a Student Pastor at one of our satellite campuses.  ALL OF THAT TO SAY, I've been "in the field" for about 4 years, but full time, paid, vocational staff as of May 1, 2011.

What made you choose to pursue youth work as a career?

When I was in high school, one of my youth pastors in Southaven, Mississippi was super influential in my life.  John took me in and really cared for me as a person, not just as a number in a youth group.  He was the reason I first started looking at it.  As I moved on into a different season of life, I started wrestling with what I wanted to do.  I knew I wanted to be in full time ministry, but I didn't know what that was supposed to look like, and I didn't know if I was supposed to be vocationally outside of ministry, and a super involved volunteer.  After I graduated high school in January of 2007, I went to South Africa for the semester.  I had prayed leading up to the trip, and all during the trip, that God would really open the doors and give me some wisdom in how to prepare for my life while I was in college.  On that trip, he made it abundantly clear that he had full time ministry, and full time youth ministry, for me!  I was psyched!  I truly believe that students are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today, capable of radically changing their families, schools, teams, and communities.
 What does a typical week look like for you?
At this point, I don't know that I really have a "typical week" because I've just been working during the summer.  As of now, I spend Monday mornings getting emails sent, catching up on phone calls and any administrative work, then have Bible study that day.  At some point during the week, we have a "hang out" event as well.  Thursdays I spend the day studying for Bible Study and prepping for any weekend work I have.  That's one thing that's been kind of "off" so far, is not having a set groove.  But for now, I just take it as it comes!

If you wrote a book based on your experience in youth work what would it be called?
 If I had to write one about my life in general, it'd probably be something along the lines of "This Is Real Life."  I tend to attract situations that are...sitcomish?  Last week, I booked a hotel room in a hotel that no longer exists, and managed to walk into a bank when the bank was closed, and potentially set off the alarm.  The doors were unlocked though, so I just turned around, left, and got in touch with the bank manager!
 Favorite memory with a teen(s):
One of the things that sticks out to me was a few years ago.  I spoke on Mephibosheth during one of our student ministry events.  The sermon bombed.  I didn't prepare nearly well enough, I forgot my notes on the way to service, and a couple of the creative elements I really wanted to incorporate ended up completely wrong.  I walked off the stage with that feeling of "well...some kids are probably never coming back to church because of what I just did.  They're probably laughing at how awful that was on the inside.  Oh, look, there's a kid smiling, he's about to be laughing at how awful that was on the outside!"   About five or six weeks later, Mephibosheth was mentioned in "big church" by one of the teaching pastors (random...not really a character you talk about on a continuing basis).  After service, a couple of the junior high students came up to me super pumped saying, "My parents, they didn't know who Mephibosheth was or what he meant or anything, and after service we were able to tell them.  Remember that one time you talked about him? That was soooo cool.  And then today I got to tell my parents who he was and what the story meant and everything!  IT WAS SO AWESOME!"  It was an awesome moment, but at the same time, an incredibly humbling moment.  It was very obvious through it that God was saying, "Austin. Moron.  I work through you, and you never know how I'm going to use to change a student's life.  You just do what I've called you to, and do it well next time, and let me handle the changing of lives. Not you."
 What are you most passionate about in youth work?
 I want to see students that leave the youth ministry with a sustainable passion.  It's nothing new to have seen countless students leave a youth ministry and fizzle out.  My goal is that FSM would not be a youth ministry that cares about how many atomic fireballs an 8th grader can fit in his mouth in 60 seconds, but that FSM would be a youth ministry known for unleashing passionate leaders who have a knowledge of God's Word and a passion for His Kingdom.  One of the first things my mentor ever taught me about youth ministry was to stress that high school ends, the Kingdom of God lasts forever.
 What is the best idea you have ever come up with for youth?
  Again, I'm really green in youth ministry.  BUT, the first thing we did to kick off this summer was got a trailer grill and went out to a city park for the first annual FSM Family Picnic.  It was an awesome time to see families come out and just hang out for the evening.  We had some music over a speaker, everybody brought a side or dessert, and we had a couple frisbees and balls.  We finished the night by having a students vs. adults "Semi-Fair" game of kickball.  Naturally, the adults won...thanks to some rule bending, some might say.

What is the best idea that turned into the worst event?

We used to do redneck games.  I’ll leave it at that.

What is one thing that would make your job easier?
 Right now, we're in a time of transition.  The previous guy was there for five years, so naturally, especially with the older students, there are some reservations.  Some of them, I feel like, are standing back and saying, "Let's see what this dude is about, and what happens."  So really, buy in from older students and from parents would be huge.  I have no desire to be seen as that guy who rocks the boat for boat rocking's sake.  We'll see once the school year ramps up what happens!

What is one thing you wish you didn’t have to do?  

In you are interested in being featured on send me an email and we can set up an interview by clicking here

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vancouver Youth Reactions To The Riots

 I talked with a lot of young people today about their reaction and opinion of what happened in Vancouver after the Canucks failed to take the Stanley Cup.  Considering some of these kids used to be the type that would have thrived on this sort of thing I was encouraged by the answers and you should be to.  There is hope and potential for the future as well as the current Canadian youth culture Here are a few of the text message reactions I had from young adults and teens in the Vancouver area:

"I think it was embarrassing.  It wasn’t even the fans that did it.  People just wanted to cause trouble.  The fans are proud of how far the Canucks made it.  People went down town just to riot.  It is even more embarrassing that they destroyed stores and pushed a guy off an overpass"

"Utterly disgraceful.  I’ve watched some YouTube videos and the overwhelming majority make me sick.  Interesting though that in one a single man stands up to a group of people smashing a smart car and the crowd instantly turns with him."

"It looked like post apocalypse, complete disaster temper tantrum on the fans part.  They couldn’t have done anything to prevent it but police should have gotten a bit more forceful.  They were a little bit too laid back about it.  And then kept the sky train calmer so ppl could leave, so many ppl got stranded b/c busses were closed and the sky train station was apparently a disaster and super dangerous."

"Ugh, not sure, the canucks had no excuse.  Ppl rioting went too far but I knew it was gonna happen"

"I think it’s ridiculous.  I’m more upset than anyone that we lost but I’m not gonna torch cars over it.  Those ppl went with the intention of rioting.  It makes actual canuck fans look like morons and it reflects badly on the team and the city.  I’m pretty sure the players are horrified to be associate with it. Ppl deal with disappointment in various ways. Some ppl riot while others mope around in their pjs till like 3pm.  When you first asked for my opinion I was tempted to say I was down there setting things on fire but mostly I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry"

"Pathetic. Honestly I think people are stupid and have no common sense.  I get that people pent 1000’s of dollars on a ticket, but yeah, stupid people."

"I think it is ridiculous, suppose to be one of the greatest cities on earth and we riot over a sports game. Sadder thing is, that it was expected of us to do so.  And people brought masks and stuff for after the game. Gives Vancouver a bad rep after we hosted the world, we cry about a hockey game"

"I think it was to be expected, the majority was against the riots or not a part of them.  I also think we should trade Lu"

"It’s horrible."

"Well I don’t really feel like talking about much else to be honest and with everything else going on I didn’t really pay much attention to the riots"

"It’s disgusting.  Did you hear about the boston fan?  I heard they threw a boston fan over the overpass in van, and he’s in critical condition in the hospital.  It’s so sad.  I felt sick last night.  it’s just a hockey game.  Now Vancouver fans look like idiots"

"Absolutely awful.  The game and the riots.  Stupid and pointless.  The cops should have been much more involved and called in reinforcements sooner.  Or instead of police, have the army do security.  The looting was way over the top"

"It’s pathetic. It’s sad to see people acting that way.  If you want to be upset okay fine but you don’t act like that.  Why destroy our city? Like what does that accomplish!"

"It was a big disgrace to all canucks fans.  They all acted like babies"
As I said in my last post, I will say again: Take this as an opportunity to learn a bit more about what makes Canada great, to give them credit for great hockey.  Also realize that there is a lot of work to be done, both in the short term with clean up, and long term as our team works with teens and young adults.  If you would like to help support the ongoing work in the Vancouver area please support my work: Click here to donate. Be sure to make a note that it is to support youth work of Danny Ferguso. Thanks so much for getting on board in changing the future.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vancouver Riots From A Vancouver Youth Worker Perspective

It is not very often that the sport of Hockey gets so much attention around the world.  Last night, however, when the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins the normally peace loving city broke into all out mayhem.  Normally it is difficult to get Canadian people riled up unless you don't properly recycle your coffee cups.  However, to many Canadians, Hockey is more than a sport, it is a national identity.  When people found out that I was American during the 2010 Winter Olympics they would berate me with hockey smack talk when I'm not even a hockey fan.  At the time I mentioned that I was cheering for Canada in the Gold Medal Game because the American would lose and change the channel to see what else was on, Canadian experiencing a loss may commit suicide. Living so close to the United States there are many reasons why Canadian's feel this way toward Americans.  There are many great things that differentiate these two great countries, but many times Canada can seemingly disappear from view.

When it comes to hockey they have found something in which they can display their obvious superiority.  The majority of NHL players are Canadian born (as a matter of fact there were more Canadians on the Boston team than the Vancouver team).  Having lived in the Vancouver area for almost 9 years now I have not found anything that will get Canadians as riled up as the "good old hockey game."  I know that the police were preparing for the possibility of riots, yet this news was a major shock to people in the region. If Canadians will riot about anything it would be hockey. But to many of us that love Canada, this occasion is a bit like being cussed out and slapped by the sweetest old grandma in the world.

There is a tremendous local reaction against these riots. A friend of mine, Jordan Bateman said it well this way, "It broke my heart to see Kesler's [a Vancouver Super Star] teary face during his interviews, then flip channels and see idiots wearing his name committing crimes." There are many many report of accusing the rioters as not even being true hockey fans.  While you can see the true nature of the Canadian spirit with the massive amounts of volunteers heading into the city to help with the clean up, what happened cannot be ignored.  As a youth worker I see that this reaction by so many young people in the city as a confirmation that the work I do is needed in the area. My team and I have the dream that the youth of the region would have the means to live a healthy life: physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually.  What we see here is a severe emotional and social illness.  This instance can and will be a teaching moment as my team and I intersect with young people over the next year. On twitter @mistyvanpopta sent a message to a local politician that stated this fact: "[The rioters are] young people who'll regret actions. Everyone looks to blame auth, but maybe its bad parenting." It could be, but it is our society's responsibility now.

Take this as an opportunity to learn a bit more about what makes Canada great, to give them credit for great hockey.  Also realize that there is a lot of work to be done, both in the short term with clean up, and long term as our team works with teens and young adults.  If you would like to help support the ongoing work in the Vancouver area please support my work: Click here to donate. Be sure to make a note that it is to support youth work of Danny Ferguson

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Teens Tell Me All Their Thoughts On God

The other night we had some young people over and I set out a few objects around the house for people to reflect on over the course of the meal time and hang out.  One of these papers merely said the word "God?" and I instructed kids just to write their first impressions.  I told them to try to let go of biases, or what other people thought, or even what they expected me to hear. The are not church attending teens so I wasn't sure what to expect.  Moat of these young people I have been working with over the past four or five years and I can garantee that the answers I would have received to this question back then would have been very angry.  Well here are the answers that were shared.





"Why does God love us when people are broken?"

"...thank you..."

"a mystery"


"woot woot!!!!"

"sun, waterfall and flowers"

"a mystery"


"I love you"

"God is the lover and savior of all man kind.  He loves all of his creations and changed my life many times.  God has turned me into who I am today and I am forever greatful toward him.  He has changed the life of many of my friends and has brought them into the light.  God is amazing and is working with his amazing angels to take away all the evil that is in the world.  His love has affeted everyone even if they don't know it or cant see it in him.  He is amazing for his ability to love those who do not love him in return or which not to see his amazing grace.  I hope for the day when everyone will have the ability to see your grace love and beauty in the amazing world that surrounds them, your angels and your love will change the world person by person until everyone has come into your gracel  You are my love and you hold my heart and life in the palm of your hands."
So my question is:  What would your answer be?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Is Success in Youth Work About Motivation?

Looking for somewhat of a different training experience from the norm my team and I attended the “Get Motivated” seminar in Seattle.  We traveled down the night before so that we could arrive on time to the event without having to fight traffic.  As we were getting ready for bed a Simpon’s episode came on in which they made light of the tone of many self-help books that proclaim the power of positive thinking.  If you like the Simpson’s or not, the show is often a good barometer of cultural views and in this case it really showed our obsession with success.  The next morning we took our seats and were presented with several videos and speeches that mirrored the exact things that we had seen mocked on the Simpson’s episode the night before. This lead to some good laughs, but also helped us maintain perspective throughout the day as many of the presenters offered secrets of success.  Aside from some of the sales pitches there was quite a lineup of highly acclaimed speakers including Laura Bush, Colin Powell, Rudolf Giuliani and Bill Cosby.   Here were some of the notes I took throughout the day, perhaps you will appreciate some of them.

I am not a politician, in fact the only thing that I know about politics is that “poli” means “many” and “tics” are blood sucking creatures.  – Krish Dhanam

How often should you tell your wife you love her?  Before someone else does. – Krish Dhanam

I don’t want [my people] merely motivated.  I want them inspired.  If they are inspired they will motivate themselves and I won’t have to motivate them every day. – Colin Powell

Remember these 10 magic words: if it is to be it is up to me – Dan Rather

If you want your husband to tell you he loves you more send yourself flowers with no card every week for the next 3 months.  You will see a change in him real fast. – James Smith

You can achieve anything if you believe you can achieve anything – Dan Rather

It is pitiful for you to sit here and listen to us to tell you to get up and do something. – Bill Cosby

If you want to be motivated realize that there must be someone on this earth dumber than you. Try and take advantage of them. – Bill Cosby

It is not about being the inventor but about using the invention better than anyone else – Steve Forbes

Those who do not have goals are forever enslaved by those who do. – Brian Tracey

I am painting a very rough picture of the day.  I did really enjoy hearing from some of the retired leaders from years past and getting perspective on their humanity and not just their position.  I think I could invite the Bush family over for a BBQ without it feeling awkward.  It is a good thing to realize that these people really are just that.

On the way home my team shared a great conversation about what it means to be successful especially as a follower of Jesus.  Many of these speakers talked about the “American Dream” and one went so far as quoting the bible as saying it wanted you to be healthy, wealthy and wise.  However as we look to Jesus’ words he is very clear that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  His kingdom is uncomfortable because it doesn’t allow us to remain in our comforts.  His really is a third way.  We ask not for poverty, nor for riches, but for his faithfulness in providing exactly what we need (even if what we need s not what we want).  In return he asks not for greatness in stature nor even a great name.  After all what do we really have to offer to him.  No, instead he merely asks us to be faithful.  Not patriotic, not successful merely – faithful.