Friday, March 16, 2018

Communion should have crumbs

Communion comes in many forms.
The minister and church's theology of communion will shape this form.

If you fall into the category that communion is symbolic, then I think you need to explain and use the symbols which the Lord's Supper allows.

One powerful symbol within communion is the physical breaking of the bread.

I get perturbed when communion occurs and the elements are, at least in a sense, representative of what happened to Jesus or a significant identifier to the passion of Jesus, neglected and it seems silly to reject the most visceral enactment of the body being broken.

In short, I think there's significance in seeing and hearing the loaf being wretched apart, especially if it takes a bit of effort to tear it in two.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Giving vs Stewardship

Last week I led a bible study about stewardship and the topic got me thinking about the difference between stewardship and giving.

In short, giving - as the name implies - is about giving away what is yours to someone or something else. Giving is about letting go of what is yours.

Stewardship, meanwhile, is about using what is yours to share with others, not nessesarily giving away your time, talents or possessions, but expanding their reach to include or influence others.

God invites us to be both generous givers and good stewards.
The church needs its members to be both.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

There should be a guarantee to sit in the chair for 18 months

Leadership positions within a church transition.

Senior ministers.
Assistant minister.
Youth ministers.
Children's ministry workers.
Family ministers.
Pastoral care workers.
Head elder/Chair of Church Council.
Cleaner/Propert warden.

For any number of reasons there's a turnover of people. It's unavoidable.

But the timing isn't always unavoidable.

Ideally, for two vital lay-positions, their occupancy should go unchanged 18 months either side of an important change...

The chairperson of the leadership team/church council/elders and the treasurer should be established and committed while a church gets a new senior minister.


Because the new minister will need these two for a variety of information about the (true) state of the church and the culture of the congregation, putting aside any pastoral support these people can provide.

With these two offices assured, the new minister is spared the stress of advertising for a role, and potentially fielding questions, about a role they're somewhat unfamiliar with in that specific context. 

Furthermore, this reduces the workload and stress from a new minister if these offices are unoccupied for a period of time.

If nothing else, this assures any potential minister that a prospective church is adequately prepared for an incoming minister and that the key people in place between ministers will stick around in the immediate future.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How do you deal with the perpetual eager starter?

I've seen the following displayed across all ages, but it's especially true for younger believers...

What do you do with the believer who has big dreams but little follow-through?
What do you do with the young adult who routinely attaches themselves to the start of a project, but drops out when the next thing captures their attention?

If you work with, or do ministry alongside, those predisposed as being early adopters, bandwagon jumpers or dream embraces, then you'll probably know the risk, and pain, of them jumping on, and then quickly disembarking from, things.

Big events.
Areas of study.

Trouble often befalls the dreamer when they hit their natural enemy - monotony.

This is what they want to avoid.
This is what will have them reaching for the eject button.

So, you have two choices...

First, in the back of your mind, you could only pencil in the early adopter for a burst of initial energy and try to harness this until more people jump on.

Or, you can prepare them for when things aren't exciting.

Because this is life.

Ministries have paperwork.
Activities need to be physically set up.
Jobs have routine.
Education requires study.

Again, this is just a part of life.

Monotony and routine exist, even within dreams.

Leaders need to be aware, especially when dealing with young adults, that for some, their "problem" isn't that they don't know what they want to do, but they just aren't thrilled by the boring parts of their grand plans.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

God's graceful repetitiveness

Blog posts.
Bible studies.

Over the last few months, regularly, I've been bumping up against the same bible passage - the interaction Jesus has with the Samaritan woman in John 4.

Seemingly, wherever I turn, something keeps pointing me back to this section of scripture.

Last week I was in a conversation about how God speaks and I mentioned, amongst other things, that repition is a way God uses to get my attention.

Maybe God just thinks that I'm a little slow...
But I suspect that that I'm not alone.

After a lengthy time, I know why God keeps bumping me against this passage.

As believers, we need to be alert to the repetition of God and, if we resist or miss what God might be trying to communicate, the grace in His use of multiple exposures.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The sermon only needs to be a chapter, not the entire book

"You preached two or three really good sermons. It's just a shame you delivered them all at once."

I've received this feedback after I've preached. Usually, it's occurred when I've edited poorly and none of my "great points" could be trimmed or I've gone off script and rambled/vented unexpectantly.

The danger for those giving sermons is the hidden book lying within them.

When they begin to aquire a batch of information about a topic, the sermoniser can flirt with delivering the whole book, instead of giving only a chapter.

The reason is simple.

In general, people can't absorb an entire book, with the plethora of points and accompanying details in one sitting.

When an entire book's worth of input is given in one sermon then you quickly wander into theological diminishing returns, where your flood of information overwhelms the listeners and any good points made are drowned out by the torrent which follow.

What every minister needs is the discipline to ruthlessly edit and remain aware that, in a pastoral setting, this won't be the last or only time they'll be able to speak on a topic. Thus, they shouldn't feel compelled to download everything they know in one sitting.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Would you be part of a heaven-free Christianity?

Sometimes I like to ask loud questions which you're not meant to ask.

A few days ago I asked if the group I was with, all believers, would keep following Jesus if heaven didn't exist.

In short, I was enquired if they would remain firm in their belief if there was no garunteesguaranteed of future reward.

Of course, this scenario doesn't exist and cannot be accurately envisaged, but the question prods at the heart of faith.

Are we in it for the rewards?
Or, would we follow Jesus if there was no eternal silver lining?

The question matter because it not only investigates the relationship of faith has with blessing/rewards but also begins to expose the other things we value, like the companionship, guidance, obedience or preservance aspects of faith which we hold intrinsically dear.

Fortunately, if the bible is trustworthy, then heaven exists and will await those who have trusted in Jesus, but we need to remember that our faith encompasses more than that and, these qualities, will be the things which help you get through the times when faith and the associated blessings seem absent.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What's the message of your bible reading?

Depending on your traditions and theology, the placement and execution of the bible reading will send a message.

Is it only done by men? Or one of the elders? Or the minister?
Do you nonchalantly ask for volunteers?
Are the passages, generally, long or short?
Would you have a child read the bible? Or a ESL speaker? 
Would you be bothered if the reader was intellectually slow or had difficult with the reading?

The answers to these questions matter.

They matter because they communicate the importance/reverence you place on the bible.
They matter because they communicate how and to whom the bible is available to.
They matter because they communicate who is included.
They matter because they communicate who is deemed "worthy" of being "up front."
They matter because, potentially, being a bible reader could be the first step someone takes to being involved in the ministry life of a church.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The intimidating butts in the pews

Your parents.
Your siblings.
Your spouse.
Your kids.
The partner of one of your children.
Your theology lecturer. 
Your first or most influential minister.
Your ministry hero.
Your oldest friends.
Your non-Christian mate.

For a variety of reasons, each of the above people would be intimidating to be in attendance while you preach.

Maybe they've known you a long time.
Perhaps they know all your darkest secrets.
They may be someone you hold in high esteeme.
You may fear looking like a hypocrite.
You may be concerned if they'll agree or how their thinking of you may change.

But, I wonder, would you rather know they were in attendance or be completely unaware?
Would it make a difference?

From the above list, I've preached before quite a few of them - for better or worse.

And, I'd like to say that nothing was changed due to their attendance.

That would be a lie.

I would be mindful if someone of personal significance would be listening.

It's only natural.

But, in every sermon, there's intimidating people.

Someone who is giving church a chance after years away.
Someone who has had a near faith-wrecking week.
Someone who was the former leader of your denomination.
Someone who has preached on this passage previously.
Someone who holds a doctorate in theology.

You just aren't aware.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Non-ministry prayers

In ministry, prayer is fairly easy.
Well, about as easy as it can get.

You have other people to pray for.
You have activities to pray about.
You have events just gone and things upcoming.

Out of ministry, your prayers change.
Other people's needs still exist and church activities are still a concern, but now you're less invested.

So, you enter the season of non-ministry prayers.

Now, prayer is far more personal.
Now, prayer is more localised.
Now, prayer is non-ministry dependant.

And this shift of mindset is... Jarring.

Outside of ministry, ecclesiastical life is far less stressful.
It's dramaticly less busy.
It's nowhere near as nerve wracking.

Non-ministry prayers, generally, feel less desperate.

This makes sense since, to a degree, your employment depends upon results.
Ministry prayers are caught up in the whirlwind of pastoral concerns, events and activities.

Non-ministry prayers are spared of these burdens.

To an extent, it's freeing to praying outside of the ministry bubble.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Why making a video would have been stupid for me


They are cool.
They make notices far more palatable.
They provide excellent hype.

And, in all my years of ministry, I never made a single one.

Doing so would be a big fat waste of time.

At least for me.

In order to create a video, going for only two minutes, would have taken hours of time and a huge chunk of my headspace.

For what?

A video that would, in all likelihood, be fairly forgettable and contain scarse eternal significance.


Because I didn't know how to make videos and doing so would be an incredible misuse of my time.

And, that's ok.

Other people create videos.
People in my congregation.
People on the Internet.
Websites, both paid and unpaid.

Videos in far less time. 
To a far greater quality.

In all jobs, including ministry, there will be peripheral tasks which, frankly, don't provide the bang for the effort you'd need to put in.

Doing these tasks would be stupid.

That would have been me, slaving away at learning software and creating a,  fairly ordinary, video.

Put simply, the energy:output equation never even got close to making sense.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Would the need to poop ever be a sermon stopper?

I mentioned in my pre-sermon checklist the importance to poop before you preach. No one wants to be, at worst, uncomfortable while speaking.

But, I wonder what would happen if you were preaching, or leading a church service, and the urge to poop struck?

Sure, I'd hope you'd be able to tough it out (I was going to say suck it up, but that didn't sound quite right). But, what if you couldn't...

What if the feeling was beyond an urge?

Would you stop what you were doing?

Ideally, if you were leading a service then you could just get someone, between service elements, to sub in for you and take over off the cuff.

But, this is far more difficult mid-sermon.

If you're on the verge of a poo explosion ten minutes in?

As a sign of authenticity and genuineness you could just announce your need and duck out for a few minutes.

Alternatively, you could try to grant yourself a communal or spiritual window by asking the congregation to share with the person next to them or prayerfully consider a point for a few moments.

Of course, with these options you run the risk of your absence being noticed and needing to be stealthy in your departure.

From a congregational standpoint, how would you feel if your preacher took a poop break?

Would it be funny?
Would it be awkward?
Would you feel more empathy for the preacher?
Alternatively, would you feel disgusted, offended or removed from a "spiritual" moment?

No matter, one course of action couldn't be for the preacher to poop themselves in the pulpit. 


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Praying for the new academic year

This morning at church the service leader did something I can't recall happening during a service I've attended and something I'm unsure ever occurred for me to do while in ministry.

They prayed for the children entering a new school year while they were in the service.

As a parent of a child going into another school year, it was really nice.

It reinforced for us as a family, but also for the children themselves, that we are a significant part of the community.

I liked how the church went out of their way to pray for the children, schools (even individually named) and the staff at the schools.

Usually, this kind of courtesy may be extended to the schools where a church teaches scripture, but this seemed to come purely from the place of wanting to bless the children and schools.

It was a really nice part of the service and reminded me that small gestures like this can have significant value for community building.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Giving a leg-up in open prayer

Awkward silences.

These can happen during church services.

Some are due to the moving of the Spirit when convicting people of their personal or communal sin. These are positive awkward silences.

Then there are the awkward silences which happen at the start of "open prayer."

The worst kind of these have little to do with the Spirit, or hesitant courtesy birthed from the desire to let others go first, instead it comes from a poor explanation of what is about to happen.

Maybe the leader just assumes that everyone knows how open prayer works and are comfortable with it...
Perhaps they just expect that there will be enough extroverts to get the prayer-ball rolling...

But, sometimes people need help.

Or, at least, a clear explanation.

Open prayer, ideally, should have someone recognised who will start and conclude the prayer. 

Better yet, a few launching points to get them comfortable would be grand.

I don't know why we toss open the doors of prayer, but all too often, don't give people enough structure or assistance in order to make what can, and should be, a meaningful experience run smoothly.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The departure video shouldn't be a eulogy.

Due to life stage and vocation transitions I've farewelled a number of churches. 
Over the last few decades I've seen a lot of others leave churches.

Some have been ministers or other staff members.
Some have been longtime members.
Some have been moving away or going on a mission assignment.

I don't think I've ever had a farewell video/PowerPoint presentation made about me. 
But I've seen a few.

It reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a close friend from bible college.

He was in the process of making a video package for a couple who had got married and we're moving on to a new church.

Ultimately, he had to stop what he was doing and start again.


Because he realised that it looked like they had died.

Just like me, working for a church, he had seen his fair share of eulogising videos from funerals and it occurred to him that his video looked identical.

This is the danger of departures for those organising the farewells - they become too much like funerals.

Admittedly, they can/should be tinged with sadness. But, it should be measured appropriately.

No matter how long someone has been a member of the community, especially now that they can be kept in contact with/stalked via social media/networks, they aren't dying.

We should remember that, since we don't want to replicate a funeral.

And, if we falsely ratchet up the sorrow for a departure then we leave less appropriate mourning for permanent departures.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

How I failed my scriputre classes

My eldest finished her first year of schooling sat year.
With that being the case, she also finished her first year of scripture.

For the most part, she really enjoyed it.

And it made me feel like I missed a massive opportunity.

Even deep into the summer school holidays, I'll still overhear my daughter singing songs she learnt in scripture.

I robbed my scripture kids of that chance.

Admittedly, I didn't teach many kindergarten classes over my decade-plus of scripture teaching, but, no matter which years I fronted, I avoided the musical components of the lesson like the plague.

I'd like to say that it only had to do with my lack of musical prowess. But the real reason is far darker.


I didn't like the songs.
I didn't want to sing them.
I didn't want to be heard singing them.

I was wrong.

I should have sucked it up.
Someone should have told me that it's an important part of the lesson.
I should have put the needs of the students above my own.
Just like I'd be prepared to do with teens, I should have left my dignity at the door.

But I didn't.

And, the more I hear my daughter sing songs from her scripture classes, the more I realise that my needs weren't the ones which should have been at the forefront of my mind and I denied them one of the most powerful ways young children learn about God.

Monday, January 15, 2018

When you DIY then you can adequately judge others work

Over the last month I've been knocking off another subject of my education degree, this time on the utilisation of technology in the classroom.

While looking at designing lessons, there was a strong suggestion that the best way to learn how to create an effective lesson and be throughly comfortable with the intergration of of the technology you use, is to create as much of it yourself as you can.

With the plethora of prepackaged lessons this could, quite easily, be a step you choose to omit.

Because lesson creation is time consuming.
And what you create might bomb.

Any ministry worker faces the exact same challenges.

Sermons take time... And you can just download a transcript.
Youth group curriculums take time... And you can just purchase a term program.
Kids talks, with a great hook and an exciting craft, take time... And you can search the web for a million ideas.

But, what you find won't be yours and it won't be as good a fit for your context.

So, while you'll save time, you might not do as effective ministry.

Now, I get it, everyone gets busy and seasons sometimes demand that you use your time in other places than preparation-from-scratch. But, if you want to be truely proficient at preaching/teaching and good at identifying great resources, then this talent and eye is best developed with hands on, creating, experience.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Best of...

2017 has, numerically, been my least productive year of blogging, but there have been a few highlights.

My most viewed posts were Is Your Ministries' Spouse Your Future Killer? (which is a little disturbing if people are genuinely Googling whether they might be murdered by the spouse of a minister) and The Divorce Post (which is more understandable since it explains a great deal about what's been going on in my life over the last few years).

Over the last twelve months, I did do a series based off the same-sex marriage plebiscite held in Australia and it's implications (my post the night before and the repercussions for society and the church.

Aside from that, my other favourite posts were... 

Avoiding Church Nepotism (my third most viewed post)

Are Periods or Mental Illness too Offensive for Facebook?

Do we Consider the Believer's Drain Caused by Religious Schools? 

The Church Without Old People is Weak

Could we now Describe a Fearful Hell?

The Message of "Dear Graeme..."

Why Wanky Questions Don't Work

Anything But a Christian

The Freedom of only having One Service

How Does Our Sex Talk Sound to the Outsider?

How do you Handle Small Group Mutes?

My Gay-and-in-ministry Questions

Church White-guy Privilege 

"Second Chances" Staring Graham

Prayers of the People Hacks

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why you should put a bunch of faces with a church notice

Church notices are a nessesarily nuisance in churches. Hopefully, they are kept relevant and punchy in order no minimise the disruption of a church service.

The best notices, aside from being applicable to an important chunk of the congregation and encompassing a short timeframe, also include faces.

For, notices shouldn't happen in a vacuum.


Because ministry doesn't happen in isolation.
Ministry involves people.

So, notices should, ideally, have an invitation for all those who are involved in the ministry activity, if comfortable to do so, to make themselves known.

The reasons are simple.

It gives any enquirer more people to speak with. This is advantageous if the up-front speaker is occupied or, for whatever reason, someone doesn't feel comfortable to speak with.

Furthermore, if the participants of a ministry reveal themselves then it further displays what the activity is like. You instantly get an idea of what age group or life stage, if applicable, who attend/help out.

Finally, from a purely self conscious perspective, lifting the veil of annonomous attendees dissipates the fear that being included would be unpopular. After all, who wants to be involved if you're the only one you know?

When it comes to church notices, relationships are golden. 

The best way to open conversations about a ministry is to nudge those involved out of the shadows.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The divorce post

Yesterday, after more than a year of separation, six months counselling, thrashing out a parenting agreement and letting lots of water go under the proverbial bridge, I got divorced. 


That might, if you don’t know me personally, come as a surprise.

But, when everything hit the fan and this started adversely affecting my eldest, it was the best move to make.

Of course, there’s more to the story, but for the most part, my ex and I are amicable, ended up filing for divorce jointly and are both now in new relationships.

So, what does this mean?

Does it trash everything I’ve every thought about marriage or discredit everything I’ve ever written about marriage? I don’t think so. Most of my thoughts on the significance of marriage weren’t based on the success of my own. The majority of it, I hope, was grounded in the bible and, if anything, based on marriages around me, healthy or otherwise.

So, what were the results of this whole messy process?

While my separation started after I left my last ministry position, from the moment it became fairly clear that we would be heading towards the direction of divorce I stepped away from ministry completely, including the intermittent preaching I was doing.

Honestly, that was hard. It still is. I miss a lot of things about vocational ministry.

I’ve lead one bible study over the last year. Nothing else.

Which brings me to church...

Currently, I attend two churches. One with my daughters, another in the evenings when I'm not with my girls.

Speaking of which... What does this mean for my family?

While not living with my daughters 24/7, I'm with them as much, if not more, than when I was in ministry - dropping them off to school twice a week, picking them up two or three days alongside staying over and having complete care every second weekend.

While not ideal, we're making parenting work as best as we can.

What does this mean for my faith? 

Unsurprisingly, it's been tough, but God and I are doing ok.

I've needed to be reminded that, even in my brokenness, God has and does not change. He is still faithful. He is still true. 

Just as much as a decade ago. Or two years ago.

My worth does not depend on what I do, or try to be a part of, for God.

Will I be stepping back into ministry?

Probably not. At least not professionally. Or at least not for a long, long time. Stepping away from ministry has, in many ways, been refreshing.

Training to become a teacher part time, while juggling everything else, has been a welcome change.

Finally, what does this mean for this blog?

In short, from my perspective, not a lot.

I'll still write my Ramblings since, in part, they are for me. They help me process. They help me declutter. They, ever so slightly, keep my mind for God sharp.

Will you continue to read, now knowing that I'm divorced? I don't know. That's your call.

But, one lesson that's been unravelling, and still has a long way to go, has been my change of standing in the church.

I was sitting on a golden ticket.
In ministry.

I'm a problem.
I'm someone you need to wonder about.
I'm a marker of your values of "welcoming" and "inclusiveness."
I'm a person where your preaching of grace is on display.

Frankly, being officially divorced for a grand total of one day, I don't know what that means going forward, but I'm as sure now, as ever, that God loves broken people, He remains beside failures, He can and does still use those who are difficult or messy.

For years, I told others this.
For years, I wanted churches and ministries to reflect this.

Now... This includes me too.