Rongopai Editor Sophia Sinclair caught up with Nina and Josh Paget, youth group coordinators at Clark Road Chapel in Whangarei. Nina and Josh are voluntary workers who have been leading the group for 10 years and bring much-needed insight into how our churches can encourage and support unpaid volunteers.
How long have you guys been at Clark Road and what keeps you busy during the week?
Nina has family at Clark Road Chapel (CRC) and has been coming along ever since her youth group leader challenged her to come back to God and the CRC family: praise the Lord for youth group leaders who tell it like it is! Before CRC, Josh was at Fenton Park Bible Church where he was involved in the youth group there. We've been fellowshipping at CRC for more than 10 years now as a married couple.
We met in 2005 while on a mission trip to the Philippines with Word of Life. We didn’t do the "take a break from ministry" thing when we got married, we just loved what we were doing and knew God had equipped us to carry on.
Over our time as youth leaders Josh has changed careers from being a builder to a policeman and volunteered for multiple youth work programs when he could. Nina has always been involved in youth work, both in paid and voluntary capacities. Whether teaching sexual health in high schools, working with young offenders, or working as a foster carer.
These days we have a little toddler, Beau, who keeps us busy during the day. During the evenings we love to fill our tanks with fellowship and ministry. We both love to be with people, but we know our limits. Nina learnt the hard way with a confronting and very hard journey through burnout, and Josh particularly needs alone time. So, learning about each other’s personalities early on was vital to realising what we could and couldn’t do as a couple in ministry.
What prompted you both to start working with young people at Clark Road? How did it all come about?
We have followed in the footsteps of a team of people who have seen the need and filled the gaps. Young people are in such a turbulent time at that stage of life and they need adults (in cohesion with their parents) to come alongside them.
We’ve gone through years of very minimal team members, to years with interns and large numbers within the leadership team. But there has been an amazing heritage at CRC of faithful, committed leaders who have been prioritising the Bible study aspect for a long time. We have been extremely blessed to carry on some of those key, non-negotiable ideas of digging into the Word first and foremost.
How have you see God at work in your youth?
We’ve had mixed feelings. It’s hard not to be discouraged by those not walking with the Lord anymore, but we are reminded that God is good and his timing is perfect. We don’t always know the full picture. The longer you stick in youth ministry, the more cyclical you realise it is.
One of the highlights has been the shift in thinking amongst youth who now see gap years or Christian vocation opportunities such as Headspace, Word of Life internships, or Pathways as viable options after finishing high school. This is encouraging as we see their worldview shift.
There was also a time where Whangarei experienced a huge, devastating trend in copycat teen suicides. CRCYOUTH had an extreme increase in numbers during this time and we were so encouraged by the way our church members rallied together.
Are there unique challenges to volunteering in this role? What about positives?
It’s hard not to look around and think “if only we had their resources, their time, their …” But we know that type of thinking is a trap. Each church has different challenges, whether roles are paid or not.
This season of volunteering has taught us so much. Yes, the challenges have been balancing our time, energy and priorities. But volunteering has taught us much more about giving, personal capacity, self-sacrifice, God’s empowerment and doing what you do out of the love you have for the Lord.
As a volunteer, there is often a sense of isolation, lack of support and differing expectations if you're not "on staff". There are no meetings or team collaboration, no work computers/desks and sometimes a lack of professional development. If this isolated feeling is paired with negative thoughts it can be a slippery slope. It’s so important to combat this and actively redirect yourself.
We try to constantly remind ourselves to serve the Lord out of love, fear and reverence because it’s a command of our growing faith, not because we want a “role”. Matthew reminds us to seek God’s kingdom first. Romans urges us to keep our zealous spirit, to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Whether a volunteer or in paid work, those remain the same.
In what ways can churches support people working in unpaid ministry roles?
CRC is a fantastic congregation of people who value youth work. That is represented in the way the church prioritises the youth group in the annual budget, the constant inclusion of youth in different church ministries, the support shown during fundraising times and the adults who get involved in what the youth group does.
We’ve been blessed with a variety of support from people who jump on board camps/trips, those who bake for supper or events, and several people who pray specifically for individual young people in our group. That’s huge!
As coordinators we’ve really valued simple things such as a card with encouragement, or a coffee and prayer time. Training and networking opportunities are re-fuelling as well, but those can be tricky to attend when you’re a volunteer who can’t take time off during the week.
It’s also really encouraging to have an elder come alongside you regularly to outwork the need for supervision, prayer and to hear what’s happening in the ministry. A lot can change in a ministry month to month, so meeting regularly is important.
Any words of encouragement for people who might see a need in their own churches but feel hesitant about responding?
Your church needs you.
If everybody volunteered just an hour of their time weekly to a ministry in their local church, things would look extremely different. Everyone is part of the body of Christ and has something to offer.
1 Peter 4 tells us to use our gifts to serve one another and to be faithful stewards of God’s grace. Galatians calls us to use our God-given freedom to serve.
Can you write cards of encouragement? Fold newsletters? Vacuum? Run a website? Bake bickies? Pray for a group of teens? Teach a Bible lesson to under 5s? Pour tea for the seniors? Everyone has something to offer.
Sometimes it also requires us to humbly put aside our views and goals and get amongst something that is already functioning but needs more support. Don’t be afraid to talk to your elders and find out the needs and where you can help. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.