Who We Are

Canterbury Youth Services is a Christian based, Strengths focused organisation that has been set up to train and resource leaders in youth work and youth ministry in and around the Canterbury region.

The way we do this is through training leaders involved in five categories of youth work…

  • Paid youth leaders and youth pastors
  • Unpaid youth leaders and youth workers
  • Volunteers that help those leading the above 2 groups
  • Emerging leaders
  • Paid youth workers in schools or organisations

    Throughout the year we run two major events, Easter Camp and Amped, which are designed to grow local youth communities through a lot of fun, relational time together. Throughout the year we hold two focused leadership development events and have assembled a network of youth workers around Canterbury.

    Some of the services we offer include running training events for other organisations, running performance reviews, consulting on Human Resource decisions and leadership training.

    CYS has been a key proponent bringing the Gallup Strengthsfinder to New Zealand shores and the Strengths assessment and coaching has become a key tool in developing youth ministries, leaders, staff teams and how they work all together.

    We also have a growing amount of resources for purchase and hire so if you are after some new ideas then check out our online shop and hire equipment.


    The origin of CYS rests with Baptist Youth Ministries, an organisation that was set up in 1980 to resource and develop youth ministries of Baptist churches throughout New Zealand. BYM expanded as the need and demand for youth work related training and support grew, and in 1995 it became apparent that there was huge demand for similar services across denominations. Under the leadership of Mike Dodge the concept of an organisation serving all local youth ministries was given legs to stand on. So in 1999 Canterbury Youth Services was birthed to serve all youth ministries in the Canterbury Region and has been constantly expanding ever since. Those in the know fondly describe CYS as being like “Baptist Youth Ministries on steroids, for everyone”.

    Since its inception, CYS has grown to include running two major events and two focused leadership-training events throughout the year. Combining that with the constant resourcing of local youth leaders, and involvement in youth ministry nationwide this has meant we never have time to watch daytime television. (Which we are so thankful about)

    In 1996 Easter Camp was launched with 360 campers, this event has now grown to become the flagship event of CYS. In 2005 Easter Camp numbers surpassed 3000 for the first time and in 2009 registrations exceeded 4000, compiled from the 110 youth ministries from around the South Island. As this has grown and continues to grow so does the impact that CYS has on youth ministry within New Zealand.

    CYS pioneered the Strengths Based revolution in 2007 as the first batch of CYS Strengths Coaches were trained by Gallup. Since then demand for Strengths Finder assessment and coaching has gone ballistic and currently we have two full time coaches that frantically try to keep up with demand.

    2009 saw the inception of the younger sibling to Easter Camp – an intermediate focused weekend named Amped that we are excited to see grow and develop.

    So where to from here? Well the growth of the camps is a snapshot of the health of the groups we are serving and the strength of their relational connections, so our aim is always to be pioneering new ways to foster that growth and health within youth communities. With that in mind there are some exciting things on the horizon… but for the moment you will just have to wait and see.

    Meet the Team

    Name: Mike Dodge

    Top Five Strengths: Achiever, Arranger, Adaptability, Assurance and Woo

    Mike copy.JPG

    What do you do at CYS? I have the privilege of leading the CYS team; I spend lots of my time coaching and cheerleading leaders at many levels of leadership to do their roles really well.

    What is on your Santa’s wish list? That my voice would break and that I would have enough facial hair to grow a Mo for Movember!

    What exotic places would you most like to visit? Definitely Prague because all the books I have read makes it sound so beautiful and romantic (well ok not the war books and movies... but the rest do!) And also any Pacific white beached Islands


    Name: Tessa Dodge

    Top Five Strengths: Individualisation, Maximizer, Connectedness, Strategic, Adaptability.

    What do you do at CYS? I love going to work to hang out with the others. Most of the day is spent dreaming about new ways to introduce Strengths in NZ and Australia and then trying to pull it off. I love the opportunity of meeting the most incredible people and hearing their unique stories and discovering their strengths.

    If you could have three wishes granted, what would they be? To click my fingers and be where ever I need or want to be, instantly. To be an amazing artist, and to have 100% control of the weather.

    What is your favourite thing to do after a manic week at work? Arrive home to a perfect house, (thanks to a cleaner) a gourmet meal to share with family and friends, (thanks to a chef.) Wonderful conversations and a quiet massage to finish the evening… (Dreams are free!)

    What do you love about working at CYS? I really believe in the vision of the organisation, and love getting to be part of making that happen.


    Name: Laura Hughes

    Top Five Strengths: Woo, Positivity, Adaptability, Empathy, Connectedness

    What do you do at CYS? Lead the Eastercamp team and work alongside Mike managing the 33k Network.

    What type of music are you loving lately? I wouldn't say loving, but music I "can't go without" - The Wiggles and some sweet ocean wave noises. My daughters LOVE them, and admittedly I know all the words...

    What is your favourite thing to do after a manic week at work? Clean my house! It sounds crazy, but once it's clean I can legitimately "switch off" and enjoy the weekend knowing the jobs are done and nothing can distract me. I swear my alter ego is Monica Galler. 

    What is a secret talent or super power you have? The Viking Gene, it’s the ability to know how to get places and navigate your way to anywhere without a map, apparently only boys have it, but I’m the exception! ....and to somehow ensure my husband always has to deal with the nappies full of number twos, that my friend is a super power! 


    Name: Dallas Harema

     Top Five Strengths: Input, Connectedness, Harmony, Consistency, Communication

    What do you do at CYS?: Events Coordinator and Relationship Manager is my official title but I know right you’re like ‘what does that even mean?’…Basically, I’m part of an amazing events team making sure Easter Camp, Southern Youth Leaders Training, Xtend and Amped are going to be epic! Plus I help to oversee and coordinate the 15K Intermediate Network which involves supporting and fostering ongoing relationships with childrens’ and youth pastors and leaders in and around Otautahi/Waitaha.

    Tell us something random about yourself? I lived in a bomb shelter in Israel for half a year once…Why? I’ll tell you in person….

    What is your favourite thing to do after a manic week at work? Rest and do NOTHING mostly although that only lasts so long so I also like to exercise/play sport, eat, hang out with my wife and family and friends (actually we need some more friends FYI)….kinda everything I do during a manic week as well?! I’m having pepi (baby) #1 soon so we’ll see how this list changes….

    What do you love about working at CYS? Well, I’ve only just started this year (Jan, 2016) but I already LOOVE it! Such a healthy, vibrant, encouraging, gracious, innovative, kind, creative and fun bunch of peeps so combine all of those characteristics into a collective heart and vision to serve and see the kingdom of God come to earth….I’m sold!!!


    Name: Rachel Sangster

    Top Five Strengths: Harmony. Empathy, Developer, Communication, Relator

    What do you do at CYS? Accounts Administration. 

    What do you love about working at CYS? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It's people, people, people!

    Tell us something random about yourself? I am a Children's Pastor but I think Youth are awesome!! I love hanging out with them, developing, mentoring and intentionally walking alongside them.

    What is your specialty meal that you cook to impress? I don't cook to impress, I cook to feed my hungry teenagers! I fill them with homemade bread, slow cooked beef casserole or curry, apple and berry crumble


    Name: Laura Mortimer

    Top Five Strengths: Restorative, Belief, Communication, Developer, Connectedness

    What do you do at CYS?: A little bit of everything! Mainly Administration/Events and supporting the teams where possible.

    What do you love about working at CYS? The team! If you don’t already know them, you should….you are missing out. Also seeing the fruits of our hard work - it is crazy cool what we get to be apart of! 

     What did you want to be growing up? A Builder! But it didn’t happen.... (So I married one instead) 

    What is your favourite thing to do after a manic week at work? I am an extrovert so love spending some quality time with friends! Or doing something creative like pottery (I am learning at the moment it is super fun!) fixing up furniture or making dreamy pinterest boards.  


    Name: Kim Hunter

    Top Five Strengths: Context, Responsibility, Maximiser, Consistency, Conectedness


    What do you do at CYS?: Operations Coordinator for StrengthsNetwork South Pacific. I help Tessa to arrange coach training around NZ and look after our network of Strengths Coaches.

     What do you love about working at CYS? Being able to spend my working day doing what I love alongside a team of creative, enthusiastic and highly motivated people!

    What is your favourite thing to do after a manic week at work? I love nothing better than to curl up on the couch with a good book or a movie.  Bliss!

    What is your specialty meal that you cook to impress? Not so flash on meals, but am able to whip up a pretty respectable chocolate brownie.