Thursday, October 8, 2015

The aim of the conference...

Right now I'm at the National Youth Ministry Convention and today I was reminded of the aim of any conference.

The purpose of any conference is not to get a dump-load of information. For, in truth, most people in ministry don't need new info. We read enough articles and we own enough books.

If anything, we know way more than we really need. 

Instead, the success of any conference is the information, no matter how "fresh," "innovative" or "ground-breaking" it is that you're able - and actually do - apply to your ministry.

This is when a conference becomes worth the money invested...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Do we keep parents by the side of the pool?

I'm fairly certain that every father, attached to the child's mother or otherwise, must take their progeny to swimming lessons. I know because I'm one of the horde of men who need to usher their child to the weekly pilgrimage.

And my little girl is advancing, albeit slowly, through the swimming school ranks. 

At first, when they are too young uncoordinated to do... anything vaguely connected with swimming... the parents need to actively get in the pool with their youngsters and splash about.

But, now, I get to sit by the side of the pool and watch the "professional" teach my daughter.

In fact, not only do I no longer need to get wet on a Saturday morning, but I couldn't get involved even if I wanted to.

Which got me thinking about the church... 
Do we set up the same system as my daughter's swimming school?

Do we detach parents, even accidentally, from the spiritual formation of their child once they hit the age when the "professionals" step in and take over?

Are churches set up so that parents no longer need to get "spiritually damp" on a Sunday morning?

As I listen to youth ministry musings, lots of people see the benefit in engaging the family unit, but I wonder if, over the years, we've trained parents to remain poolside and, for a whole generation, the tide will be near irreversible because they've remained disconnected for so long...

Friday, October 2, 2015

Everyone doesn't score an invite... In fact, few would

I haven't got a significant birthday coming up anytime soon and I'm, hopefully, not getting married again.

Thus, I don't have any events on the horizon where I'll need to invite a lot of people I know.

For this, I'm truely thankful.

For I haven't needed to send a wide-ranging invitation to an event of mine since 2006.

Thus, I haven't needed to decide who would make the cut for my special occasions...

The last time my wife and I did it, for our wedding, it was torturous. On that occasion, it was a division surrounding those who were over 18 and those who were still minors.

But now, nearly a decade on, having sojourned to my fourth church and with the "assistance" of social media, I now have 448 "friends" on Facebook.

So, where would I draw the line now?

Who would get a gig to my 40th in 2022?
If I got married again, who would score an invite?

In part, it comes down to the nature of the relationships I have with the various spheres in my life... Family, high school mates, people I've studied with, workmates, those from my current, previous and home churches.

In reality, a lot of folks simply wouldn't make the cut.

Some people, by choice, I've cut contact with...
Others, by circumstance, I've lost contact with...

Because, as you get older, you work out the people you actually WANT to be friends with and are prepared to put in the effort to stay connected with. 

The reality is, this doesn't include everyone.

But a lot of people, while connected to them via church or youth group, were left behind once I moved to a new ministry placement...

For, the longer you're in ministry, you work out the people you actually WANT to be friends with and are prepared to put in the effort to stay connected with. 

Again, the reality is, this doesn't include everyone.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The code of "pushback"

Inevitably, in a world full of ideas, meetings and political correctness, you'll hear someone "pushback."

Whenever someone throws an idea into the ether, another will pop up their hand and ask if they can offer "pushback."

But, is "pushback" just PC for I-think-your-idea-sucks or I-actually-think-your-a-bit-of-dick?

I would like to say that this isn't the case, but when the sugar-coating is removed, is this all that you're left with?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The four options of advice

I just read a really good article about advice on which you can read here.

In part, it noted that there are four primary types of advice... (If the options are A, B or C)

1 - What they should do (Do A).
2 - What they shouldn't do (Don't do B. Anything, but B).
3 - Giving the person more information (Here's everything significant that I could find about A, B and C).
4 - Pointing the person towards someone wiser (I'm not the best person you can talk to, have a chat with x). Opposed to what I wrote earlier, this can be the starting point for advice, even if it shouldn't be the ending.

I find that when people ask for advice, most often, they're actually seeking clarity of thought, not nessesarily an answer regurgitated at them. In fact, there are many occasions when the decision of what to do has already been made in their mind.

What they really want is the later two options, either additional information or someone to run them through a system of checks to confirm that they're going to be heading in the wisest direction.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Treadmill stoppers

Right now I'm on holidays and life is... Relaxed boring.

But, in truth, I needed a break. Last term, by the end, was pretty draining and the rest of the year holds some significant changes and challenges.

But, I needed to be talked into taking, what upon reflection, will be an adequate amount of time off.

For life, especially in ministry, can feel like a continuous treadmill of events, activities, meetings, admin, church services and preparation.

And, there needs to be people who can tell you to jump off the treadmill and stop.

People who you trust...
People who care for you...
People who care about what you're doing...
People who you'll actually listen to.

For, once you've been stuck on the treadmill too long, you can get ground down.

And, it's at these times when your treadmill-stopper needs to step in and remind you that hitting the off switch is ok.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gnosticism and sexting

I wrote about Gnosticism and how it can be seen in modern times here.

But the other day I stumbled over this article about sexting, and while I might not leap as far as the author does, it makes a connection I didn't identify earlier.

In short, sexting is another modern extension once you stumble into the quagmire of Gnostic thought.


Because they both see a false separation from the physical.

In historical Gnostic thought, the division is between the spiritual from the corporeal.

Nowadays, far too many people fool themselves into thinking that there's a false division between the digital and the physical.

This is most evident when it comes to social media and sexting. You don't need to look far to find examples of people spewing bemoan which they would never dare do in person. Furthermore, far too many young people, predominatly female, send pictures digitally which they don't envisage could have a very connection to their physical life.

And, if these posts or pictures are dug up, ill-used or "hacked," then their very "real" consequences can see the light of day.

And here an old heresy can claim another victim.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


The poor.
The needy.
The homeless.
The abandoned.
The depressed.
The losers.
The hurting.
The outsider.
The refugee.
The widow.

These are the people, especially, whom the church exists for and, frankly, the people whom give the church its greatest opportunity to make a massive difference and show that the gospel can change lives.

It's a tragedy when those with the church don't see the human need which crosses their path.

And, if meeting the needs of those-whom-the-church-is-for causes discomfort or inconvenience, then that's more than ok and, I believe, is a cost that Jesus would want us to pay.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Supporters with little skin in the game

Those in ministry need support. Lots of it. Professional. Pastoral. Laity.

Over the weekend I hear a retiring minister thank a lot of people.

Somewhat surprisingly, someone he was grateful towards was a person who supported his family, but was relatively unconnected to much of the ministry he provided.

And, ideally, everyone in ministry needs someone who is willing to support then with minimal skin in the game.

They're on no committees...
They're on no rosters...
They aren't a gatekeeper of the church...

To most, they just appear as someone who faithfully fills a pew every Sunday.

Due to their distance, they're able to provide a relatively clean slate and removed perspective with thef minimal possibility of an agenda.

And this is their greatest strength.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The next step of helping

This is who you can call...
This book might be good to check out...
This professional would be helpful to chat with...
This person has gone through a similar thing, ask them for advice...

The above is, often, not the start of an offer to help.

Far and away, the best response to a request for help, is a listening ear. Even Job's mates knew that.

But, in time, the offer of help should, ideally, be accompanied with some useful knowledge, or at least the offer to journey with person while, together, you try to unearth the next useful step.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Announcements need a large percentage

Yesterday, after church, we had a really good breakfast for all the dads for Father's Day.

But, in the weeks leading up to the event, it never got announced from the front of the church.

Sure, there were posters advertising the event and I sent around emails to the church families, but nothing spoken during the announcements segment of church.


Because the event didn't hit enough people sitting in the pews.

Honestly, a Father's Day breakfast only immediately affects a few dozen people.

So, why would I use valuable time at the start of a church service to speak about something that didn't connect with the majority of people listening?

Unless an activity effects almost everyone, or you would like it to reach the vast majority, why would you choc up time in the church service with miss-aimed information?

In reality, when it comes to most events, there are far better ways to advertise, starting with a personal conversation.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Verse forgetting

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9.

When asked a question, this was the verse I was desperately trying to remember during the week.

But I couldn't do it.

Armed with just my memory and a physical bible, I couldn't track it down.

And I felt like a complete failure and a total idiot.

If I lived a few decades ago, I would have had to wade through the bible, which is what I would've been prepared to do, in order to unearth my verse.

But now, when I was within a biblical search function, I was able to find my verse (and another dozen verses that were arguably applicable) in short time.

The whole episode, firstly, makes me extremely thankful that I live in a time when I can have such information at my fingertips, secondly, it reminds me of the importance of biblical memorisation (like of these verses that I mentioned here) and, thirdly, it humbles me once I consider the ability of previous generations to recall the bible without the ability to punch in a key word or topic into a search box.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Who should I be caught by if I had an AM account?

This weekend, churches across the world are about to have a leadership bomb explode in light of the account details of the Ashley Madison hack becoming public. 

In the North America, it's estimated that 400 church leaders will be standing down. I don't know how many ministers, church staff, deacons and elders will be caught up in Australia, but with a million users, some churches will  inevitably be affected.

I wonder, how many churches had awkward moments in a staff meeting where they wondered...?

Better yet, how many asked the question?

So far, I haven't been asked (don't by the way...).
And I didn't pose the question to our Minister of the Word.

Is it something we should have asked?

I wonder, when it comes to the leaders of denominations, if they thought about calling every church worker under their care and openly asking them if they had an AM account.

We're they, in light of the damaging (and inevitable) exposure, obligated to pose the question?

Furthermore, as the details become easier to find and navigate through, how many congregation members will search for their minister?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Paying to shun a hymn for a year???

The other day I saw a picture on Facebook of, what could be argued, is the most brilliant money-raising scheme ever devised.

In short, it's a form where you nominate a hymn/song your church sings and an amount you'd be willing to pay in order for it to be "retired" for the next twelve months.

Of course, the beauty of the fundraiser is that you can then pay an excessive amount to "save" a tune if it's one of your favourites and nominate an alternative.

As a cash-raising activity, I think it's borderline genius. Super-villain diabolical...

But as a church-unity initiative, the idea screams red-flag. I can imagine blinding arguments breaking out if someone tried to nominate a cherished song from someone else's childhood or the final song at grandma's funeral.

Furthermore, this idea can be theologically impeding. What if somebody, instead of being musically offended by a tune, really wants a hymn cast out because it contains theology which, although throughly accurate, grates at them due to sin or closed-mindedness? Are you allowing them to pay in order to keep their conscience seared?

As good as a fundraiser as this may be, I'm just not sure that the cost could be worth it...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How far from perfection do you really need to aim for?

Yesterday I stumbled over the post titled 30 Tips for Church Stage Designs on with the following one particularly jumping out at me.

It only has to look good from 20 feet away. (Or your first row of seats.) Don’t spend hours making it look perfect from up close—no one is looking at it from there.

I wonder, in any ministry - not just stage design - how much time do we spend making improvements which no one else will notice?

How long to we tinker with the PowerPoint slides...
How long to we nudge around a picture on the flier...
How long do we stress over the details of a scripture lesson...
How long do we agonise over wording in the youth group talk...
When, from the view "the audience" will have, it will be near inconsequential detailing?

If we took the time to look at what we're "producing" from the standpoint of the congregation, would we strive for less minute perfection and more 5-meters-away-quality?

Monday, August 24, 2015

The mindset that appreciates the less-than-perfect

The other drummer misses a beat...
The alternate singer doesn't quite hit that note...
That youth minister down the road stumbles during the joint Christmas service address...
Someone else at church has problems with their microphone...

None of the above scenarios are a disaster.  Far from it. In fact, most are barely glitches when looking at the big picture.

But I wonder if some in attendance, who could also fill the role, get a sinister, internal, joy when they see someone else falter? 

If so, how is this best dealt with?

Surely you can't apologise to the person. This would bring to light that you not only noticed their misstep but come across as either judgemental or self righteous.

Of course, you should bring that attitude to God in repentance.

Ideally, it's a change of heart which is required, desiring the best for those around you and viewing the efforts of theirs in the absolute best light.

Then, even if everything doesn't run flawlessly, you're in a far better place to, not only overlook the problem, but be able to see, appreciate, and genuinely communicate the positive things which were ministered to you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Calling once the phone is silent

When a crisis hits, and someone enters a difficult season of life, everyone works the phones to offer support, condolences or help.

But, all too quickly, the phone stops ringing.

And the silence can be deafening.

This is when the second most important wave of calls needs to be made.

A week later...
A fortnight on...
One month after the funeral...
On significant anniversaries...

Whilst the conversation doesn't need to be long, it does need to remind the person that they are not forgotten and that the offer of prayer, support and help are still ongoing.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Know who pays the bill

A lot of things in life come with a cost...

A lot of things in ministry cost...

But the cost isn't always horded. Sometimes it's shared...
With your spouse.
With your family.
With your work mate.
With your church.

At times, when you're going to bear the cost of a decision alone, the choice is upon your shoulders alone because you're the one who'll solely pick up the tab. 

But, when the ramifications of a decision spread beyond you alone, then the choice must be weighed up by those who'll need to foot the bill.

The challenge is determining who are going to be the ones who'll need to pay for your choices

Monday, August 10, 2015

Count by the month, not week

Undeniably, church attendance in the West has dropped. And it's still dropping.

I wonder if one contributing factor, although certainly not the main one, is the way we track church attendance.

As I mentioned here, the realistic expectation for families to attend church each week is near unreasonable.

Sure, a few blessed families will attend 50 weeks a year, but the realism of families being at church 25 weeks per annum must be faced.

So, when it comes to counting bumbs-on-seats, should we calculate by the month instead of by the week?

If we want an accurate representation of our congregations numbers, and those whom are regularly connected with our church, then I think this method will be far closer in reflecting the true number (or at least those who would consider a church "theirs")...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Setting the equation

When it comes to high school scripture, increasingly, there are some topics (mostly revolving around sexuality) which schools want you to avoid directly speaking on.

One way around directly answering the common queries about sexuality, which will inevitably arise with teens, is to set the equation, but leave the answer blank.

What do I mean?

Say, for example, you're asked about to hot-button issue of gay marriage...

Now, instead of launching into a diatribe of mainline Christian thought sprinkled with your own opinion, instead, you can simply pose a series of questions which need to be thought through...

What is equality?
What is marriage?
Is marriage a human right?
Can the definition of marriage be changed?
Do we still need marriage?
Who should be able to say what marriage is?
What is the place of the church and government in deciding what people can or cannot do?

If the students can engage with such questions, it will not only clarify what they think about a contentious topic, but the teens are then in a far better place to wrestle with what the bible and church have to contribute.