More 2019 Article

Around 160 leaders from across the territory gathered at Silverstream for the annual youth and children’s ministries leadership conference. The planning team were in a bit of a pickle when ALL of the speakers they invited said, ‘Yes, we can come!’ This ‘problem’ actually meant that they had a superb lineup—practitioners experienced across a range of ministry areas. It did, however, make choosing which workshops to attend a challenge for some delegates.

MORE conference’s purpose is four-fold: to inspire delegates in their ministry; to give them spiritual refreshment; to create an opportunity for networking; and give them quality training in children’s and youth ministry leadership.

With three keynote speakers, three testimonies, two lectures, sung worship, 17 workshops, a café, marketplace, zorb soccer and mini donuts, there was something for everyone, said organiser Claire Gardner. ‘It’s really a credit to the fantastic team I am part of, to the amazing speakers and facilitators and to all the delegates who were there, that although there’s a lot to take in over the weekend, it still felt friendly and relaxed.’



Gary Grut: Senior Pastor, Glen Eden Baptist

Friday night happened to be the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon (or did they?) and God spoke to Gary during the worship, saying: ‘If 50 years ago man can put a man on the moon, I can change the church’. When Jesus asked his disciples, ‘Who do you say I am?’, Peter replied, ‘You are the Messiah’. Jesus responds and says, ‘ … upon this rock I will build my church … ’ Gary suggested that it’s not Peter, but Peter’s words that form the foundation for the church—that Jesus is the Messiah, son of the living God. ‘If we proclaim the name of Jesus and that he is the Messiah, nothing will stop the church from growing,’ said Gary.

More than 90 years ago The Salvation Army picked Gary’s alcoholic grandmother up off the streets in Auckland, and she came to faith. It was his grandmother who prayed for him, who gave him a Bible at his christening, that became foundational in his faith. He spoke of the legacy that exists within his family today, because of The Salvation Army’s work nearly 100 years ago.

Gary has been involved in youth ministry for 32 years and he knows that it’s not easy work. Fifty percent of youth workers last for less than two years and it’s harder than ever, he said. ‘Twenty years ago young people just turned up … you could play bullrush—it was legal then. We can’t make youth ministry happen externally anymore. It has to be an internal change,’ said Gary.

He spoke of what it takes to go the distance in ministry: a personal relationship with Jesus, and knowing God called you, so staying true to that call.

‘Commit to pursuing Jesus with everything you have … and I’m calling you to commit to the calling he’s placed on your life, to journey with young people—and not give up, not throw in the towel and say “it’s too tough”,’ said Gary.

‘Anyone who gives their lives unselfishly to working with young people gets a black belt in the Kingdom of God. You are amazing! You and God are an unbreakable force.’


Meredith Akuhata-Brown: Gisborne Councillor and Mayoral Candidate

From the moment she took the stage in her bright orange power jacket and bleach-blonde hair, Meredith held the attention of everyone in the room. Born and raised in Gisborne, she was eight years old when the local Salvation Army officer drove up in his red station wagon and offered her a ride to Sunday school.

‘I became part of a family … and at the age of 12, I said, “God this is all I want … I want to marry my first boyfriend”. I don’t even know why that was important at that time … The last thing I said to God [that night] was, “Can I have a family, can I know what a family is?”’ Meredith had no concept of what a family really was.

God said to her, ‘If you honour me, I’ll give you the desires of your heart.’

Meredith replied, ‘Well you saved my life, I will honour you’. She did marry her first boyfriend, Jason, and they have been married for 27 years.

With the perfect blend of humour, truth-telling and vulnerability, Meredith invited everyone to see how their life can be changed when they encounter the love of God. Working through her pain and abuse, with God’s help, Meredith lives a life of freedom, pursuing God’s best for her, her family and her community.

‘Knowing who you are gives you a stronger stance of where you are going, as it did for me.

‘God has positioned you in some of the most amazing spaces … you don’t know who you are impacting, in a moment, the young person who you get to add to their life story—build them up to greatness.’


Neihana Reihana: Oati Trust and Māori Language Teacher

Neihana was reflecting on Gary’s word to press into your relationship with Christ, ‘As I was listening to that, I saw the word “solid”.’ As he asked God about that, Neihana believed God was saying that we are to ‘feast on meat and not on milk’. He hoped any vegetarians in the room would understand the picture. ‘It’s okay because God created that metaphor, not me,’ he laughed. Using the lessons he’s learned as a new dad, he unpacked the imagery with clarity and humour.

His hard-hitting, perfectly-timed word challenged everyone to consider how their life is a temple of the Holy Spirit. What work needs to be done for our lives and faith to be strong?

‘What does the transformation of Te Ope Whakaora look like in Aotearoa? And I’m praying that [God would] reveal words, scriptures, dreams, prophetic words … ’

Recounting Commissioner Andy Westrupp’s call on Friday of The Salvation Army’s need to move forward, Neihana asked, ‘Whose version of moving forward? I hope our version of moving forward is not our bias of our Pākehā way, or our bias of our Māori way, but it would be in unison with what Christ is doing here in Aotearoa, for the tomorrow that is about to happen.

‘If transformation is led by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is a river, I would see you as the dam … a dam has the power to control the speed and flow of the river. What ruins a dam is logs of wood that get jammed … What are the logs in your life, stopping the power of the Holy Spirit moving in your life?

‘Transformation comes at the speed of your obedience.’






Alison Moody: DYS, Southern Division

Lloyd Martin, hearing his experience and heart for young people still after so many years.


Alanah Moody: Youth Worker, Palmerston North Corps

All the speakers. I didn’t know any of them and they gave me a new perspective.


Peter Henare: Youth Leader, Manukau Central Corps

The worship and being able to connect with other young leaders from around the country.


Senimili Tukairanadi: Children and Youth Leader, Baa Corps

I found it really interesting, especially the first workshop with children.


Belinda Bolamatu: Youth Leader, Lautoka

It was all so good. Back at home, I’m always focused on work, work, work; but this was about being able to dig into God’s word and focus on what he’s saying to me.


Hannah Kendrew: Youth Worker, Christchurch City Corps

The speakers have been great—really connected with what I was needing to hear right now. Meredith was really good and I loved the mental health and grief workshops.


Jordon Malcolm: Youth Leader, Christchurch City Corps

I loved the atmosphere—it was super relaxed and there was time to breathe between sessions. The speakers and workshops were awesome.