Sunday, March 26, 2023

Should there be a difference between a mission and a service?

Churches can do a lot of activities.

Some cater to those outside of the church.

Some cater for those already within the church community.

Healthy churches need both.

In some - even most - cases, ministry activities will combine meeting the needs of those outside and inside the church’s walls.

But, should a church ever just do an act of service?

Should the church ever just do an activity as a gift to the community around them.

No agendas.

No evangelism.

Just an act of service.

Sure, it can be argued that this “only an act of service” is near impossible.

Every interaction between people is a ministry. Conversations will be had. Actions will be seen. Motivations will be weighed.

But… can a church advertise an activity as only an action of service.

They only feed the homeless.

They only support kids who need help with homework.

They only provide a space for a group in need.

Nothing else.

And this is unapologetically seen as such.

Would this be well received by those within the church?

Could this be justified by those who earn a wage from the congregation?

In short, can the church be comfortable - in a small niche - only providing a service?

Monday, March 20, 2023

Does Mardi Gras impact the gay church’s Sunday like NYE?

Last month Sydney hosted Pride Month, punctuated with the annual Mardi Gras.

This is not a post about the festival. Nor homosexuality.

But, as the streets were being cleaned on the Sunday morning, I was reminded of New Years Eve.

A big party.

A celebration.

A late night.

Last year, NYE was on a Saturday and, consequently, quite a few churches modified their Sunday services.

Some cancelled them alltogether.

A lot of them binned their evening service.

Or, at least they toned down their service structure.

In the past, I’ve done all of the options above. Total closure. Limited services. Only hosting a “casual gathering”.

Why is this so?

Why do we cancel services on New Years Day?

Is it to grant minister’s a holiday?

Well, church can still go ahead without an ordained person…

Is it because attendance will be lower?

Well, church services have been ill-attended often without the door preemptively being slammed shut…

Is it because the church expects that their young adults will be - at best - sleepy from a late night or - at worst - nursing a hangover?

Surely. Not. 

This should never be something we expect and definitely not condone, be it in a spoken or unspoken manner.

On the back of Mardi Gras, did churches with predominantly gay congregations change their plans for the following day?

Did they cancel or tweak?

Frankly, I don’t know.

I’m not particularly exposed to gay congregations, especially now that I no longer  work for an affirming denomination.

But, I suspect, those who minister to the gay community ramped UP their ministry, not turned things down.

I suspect, they saw it was an opportunity.

So, should the wider church - the next time NYE falls on a Saturday - seek for ways to use this as a ministry opportunity, not an excuse to slink back further into the shadows?

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Being… that guy… from the past

A few weeks ago I had dinner with a guy who, unbeknown to me at the time, had a loose link to my home church.

Furthermore, a family member of his was directly connected to my first active ministry.

Both of these interactions happened decades ago.

But the conversation started with the question… Do you remember (insert name here)?

I guess that I’m a vague memory for quite a few people and I can only imagine being a part of similar conversations.

Across four churches…

Over hundreds of Sundays…

Dozens of scripture classes…

A decade of kid’s clubs…

Over 15 years of youth groups…

I’d be… that guy.

A distant memory.

A figment who has no name.

A recall that they haven’t delved into since childhood.

A whitewashed memory from half their lifetime ago.

But, nonetheless, I’d still be somewhere in the rabbit-warren of their memories, alongside old teachers and scout leaders.

For hundreds of people. Maybe thousands.

I think this is a legacy that isn’t stressed enough for those whom serve in youth ministry.

You will leave an imprint.

Even if your name gets forgotten…

And every point you ever taught has evaporated…

You’re trapped in their past.

So… How do you want to be remembered?

What impression of Jesus, Christianity and the church do you want to leave?

Because, for many, being… that guy… is the faith imprint that they will be able to turn back to.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The humility that must come with wrinkles

Given enough time, as a Christian, you’ll read a lot of bible.

And attend a lot of bible studies.

And listen to many, many, sermons.

I’ve been attending churches for almost three decades.

I’m already a little bit jaded and bitter about some segments of the bible.

It’s not that they aren’t valuable to individuals or congregations…

Or that they don’t contain the life-changing gospel. 

But, I don’t want to hear or study the book of James… for a long time.

Nor study spiritual gifts.

I’m… just a bit over them.

I can’t imagine how it will be in another three decades.

Another sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount? Ugh.

Hope. Joy. Love. Peace. Another Lent series…

The longer I’m in the church, the more I realise the humility that those within the pews require.

The humility to listen… again.

The humility to follow… again.

The humility to serve… again.

The older members, for the benefit of the wider congregation - particularly the younger members - often put their preferences aside in humility.

Even if it means listening to another sermon on Taming the Tongue…

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

What would the local church look like without the nearby mega-church?

Often what I teach still turns my mind towards ministry and the church. 

Alongside history, I also teach geography.

When thinking about migration and the talent drain this has on lesser developed nations, my mind turned to mega-churches.

Across the globe, including Australia, more developed countries have access to the brightest and most promising refugees and migrants. Being a skilled immigrant will open doors across boarders.

But, in doing so, it weakens the home nation.

They lose doctors. 

They lose engineers.

They lose scientists.

A similar thing happens with the local church and it’s mega-church neighbour.

Far too often, drawn in by the attraction of resources, personalities and numbers, the best and brightest within congregations will migrate to a nearby mega-church.

The small church loses musicians.

The small church loses young adults.

The small church loses emerging leaders.

And the large church hoovers up the winnings.

This weakens the local church.

So, my question is… Would the local church be healthier without the mega-church?

What would the local church look like without the talent and skill drain of the regional ecclesiastical metropolis?

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The secret sauce of men’s ministry

Sometimes we complicate ministry.

We give it structure.

We add administration.

We want a funky name and logo.

Effective ministry to men can usually forgo this.

It needs, alongside the logistical needs of a time & place, two requirements.

1. A non threatening environment.

2. Mature male Christians.

If you nail these two… men will more likely come and ministry will naturally occur.

I’m planning to put this to the test.

I’m hoping to do something new.

Time. Place. Food. Chat. No RSVP. No booking. No regular commitment.

Just a location for guys to meet up over dinner.

Somewhere to get to know the guys from church better.

Somewhere non threatening to invite your non Christian mates.

Somewhere to fill your belly and have a chat.

Hopefully, with fewer hoops to jump through, guys will be more likely to take the leap.

Monday, February 20, 2023

What order do you become welcoming?

The following is a ecclesiastical case of the chicken and the egg.

Which one comes first?

Do you see the group you want to especially desire to welcome first? 

Or do you announce that you’re welcoming to a group who, as of yet, have remained absent?

Do you see a bunch of young families intermittently attending your church - but not staying - and subsequently identify the need to be especially “welcoming”?

Or do you never see a young family darken the doors of your church, so you announce that you’re now participating “welcoming” to young families?

Is can happen for almost every demographic…

Divorcees. Widows. Teenagers. LGBTQIA+. Young adults.

Do you see the need or do you announce the desire first?

Monday, February 13, 2023

What do you do in the presence of minor heresy?

My theology is not perfect.

I’m sure that most people, if you trawled this blog deeply enough, would find something they would disagree with. Some may even go so far as to declare that something that I’ve written has ridden the border of heretical.

That being said…

Last weekend I accidentally wandered into a church service where they stated things which I didn’t theologically agree with.

So, what do you do then???

Do you silently accept?

Do you wilfully ignore?

Do you inwardly reject?

Do you vocally object?

In part, it depends on the context.

In a small group setting, you can unleash your contrary opinion. You can openly challenge. You can engage in discussion. That’s the advantage of smaller settings.

But, you may not be able to do this in a larger setting like a church service.

Personally, I usually inwardly reject.

I may follow along with a prayer… but reject the segments where they will invite Mary to intercede on my behalf.

I will celebrate a baptism… but reject if it is insinuated that baptism is required for salvation.

I will reject transubstantiation. 

I will reject tongues as a necessary sign of salvation.

Usually, these are expressed as an inward “NOPE” whenever a troublesome piece of theology raises its head.

But… it will remain silent.


Because, most issues of contrary theology is not a core issue. They are periphery. They are not salvation issues.

To my faithful brothers and sisters in the faith, my silent rejection is far more respectful than a boisterous objection. 

Friday, February 10, 2023

What should I expect from non-Christians during times of extended prayer?

Christians do plenty of things which are weird. Especially at first.

One of the weirdest must be prayer.

To the unbeliever, it must be baffling.

Particularly times of extended prayer.

During church services, times of prayer can be politely endured. You only need to be silent for a few minutes.

But, how does a newbie feel about lengthy prayer in smaller groups?

10 minutes…

20 minutes…

Half an hour…

Within my small group, it’s not unusual for times of shared prayer to eclipse 30 minutes.

So… how would a fresh churchgoer feel about this?




Could they remain civil like I was during multi-faith scripture services in schools?

Whenever I’m exposed to prayers of another faith I’m… unmoved.

I don’t feel any power nor significant presence.

So, should I expect anything different by those outside of the Christian faith?

Friday, February 3, 2023

The new battleground for remaining “above reproach”

Now the overseer is to be above reproach… 1 Timothy 3:2a.

This is the aim.

No suspicions.

No avenues for gossip.

No hints of impropriety.

When I was a youth group leader in the early 2000’s, and we were weighing up how 1 Timothy 3:2 may apply to those in leadership within our ministry with teens, there was a contentious battleground.

Cars parked in front of houses overnight.

Especially that of the person you are dating.


Because, if someone recognises the car of your significant other, and the vehicle in question remains stationary from dusk to dawn… what do you think the conclusion is going to be?

You had a sleepover.

And we all know what that leads to…

S. E. X.

Especially of the premarital variety.

Of course, this isn’t a guarantee.

You can share a bed and not have intercourse.

You could be sleeping in separate rooms.

You could have gone to another location and responsibly carpooled.

You could… just not be having sex. Anything else, but sex. Scrabble for example.

But, you will leave yourself open to the accusation or assumption.

Now, I believe there is a new battleground for remaining “above reproach.”

Social media.

The imprint you leave can open the door to suspicion.

You’re both on holidays together… posting your pictures online.

You’re both geolocated together in the early hours of the mourning.

You’re both tagged together all weekend, clearly too far away to be staying back in your own beds.

It’s then very easy to connect the dots.

It’s easy to raise eyebrows.

It’s easy to wonder… what’s exactly going on with the sleeping arrangements.

And… you leave yourself open to the accusation and assumption.

But I suspect that this doesn’t slip into the thinking of many young youth group leaders.

Just as it didn’t trigger curb side alarm bells two decades ago.

In a context where sex should be spoken about and integrity matters - youth group - maybe this new 1 Timothy 3:2 battleground should be weighed up and discussed far more openly.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

We don’t need another inferior imitation

Some churches do things exceptionally well.

Music. Youth ministry. Preaching. Online presence. Ministry with families. Outreach to the poor. Social justice. 

Against a sole marker of quality, in general, large churches do most things very well.

They have crisp production. They have a plethora of skilled volunteers. They are led by the premium ministry agents. They have an abundant budget.

But, smaller churches also contain admirable strengths.

What Christendom doesn’t need are small church poorly imitating their larger cousins.

Far too often, neighbourhood churches will struggle to reproduce what is effective down the road, on Twitter or in the “glory days.” Of course, the results can resemble a struggle to launch and a battle - both of human and physical resources - to keep the ministry viable and functional.

There must be a better way.

Of course, God can and does work in smaller churches.

He can bless and grow ministries of churches of all sizes.

This includes any ministry which may imitate something done elsewhere.

But, again, there can be a better way.

Do. Something. Different.

Use your own strengths.

Leverage what your church is known for.

Still, reach the same people.

Still, seek to impact your community.

Still, strive to grow the Kingdom of God.

But, avoid doing it the way someone else does.

Trust me, they’ve got that “market” covered.

You don’t need to be their direct “opposition.”

Instead, use your size as an excuse to experiment.

Use your size as an excuse to be different.

Who knows, if you do something that doesn’t look and feel like what everyone is doing, you may be able to tap into a group who doesn’t connect with the traditional forms of ministry.’

Thursday, January 26, 2023

How to set expectations without alienating your leaders

I’ve previously written that you need to set the bar for those volunteering in ministry positions. 

Frankly, it’s only fair that those who are stepping into a ministry role understand what is expected from them.

But, the process in determining what these expectations are, can be tricky.

You could just impose a blanket set of rules. No negotiation. Only agreed by those on the church payroll.

Or, you could utilise a more collaborative approach.

This is what I did.

The process was fairly simple…

With all your leaders present, you begin with a list of any and all potential expectations for those in leadership. In order to generate this, I just Googled various youth ministry leaders expectations/contracts and consolidated them onto one single PowerPoint slide.

This list included such things as the use of drugs, church attendance, spiritual disciplines, relational guidelines, legal guidelines and many, many, more.

From here, each leader sorted each point on the list into one of four categories - Essential, Important, Debatable, Rejected.

From here, everyone goes around the room and shares their list. No interjections.

Hopefully, the majority of the Essential and Rejected items will be fairly quickly agreed upon. But, any item which doesn’t have complete consensus will regress to one of the adjacent categories (eg any item that everyone doesn’t agree is essential, shifts to important or rejected, becomes debatable).

From here, the debates begin.

You then discuss everything else.

Why the item may be included.

How the item may be applied.

Why the item may ultimately become rejected.

With this process, the list of expectations becomes both contextually appropriate and owned by the group, not a list of demands from the ecclesiastical ivory tower.

Monday, January 23, 2023

What you need to launch a new ministry

No church should do everything.

Many churches shouldn’t do most things.

They simply cannot.

So, how do you decide what you do, and importantly, if you should launch into something new?

To start, there has to be a needThe ministry must have someone to serve or a need to meet. Without these then you’re just opening your doors and keeping busy for no one.

Second, the ministry must have a desire. This is both internal and external. There must be a yearning to have this ministry exist. This will give it energy. Both those within the church and outside of the ecclesiastical walls need to see that this ministry will be beneficial. Without desire, the ministry will quickly become a burden.

Finally, the ministry must have an ability. You need to logistically be able to pull off the event or activity. You need a space. You need people. You need training. You need time. Without these, then the ministry is a dream for the future, but not today.

Of course, this post doesn’t have to be a ministry vision killer.

In fact, it can be a catalyst for something grander than just a solo church launching something on their lonesome.

In partnership with other churches, a need, desire and ability can be channeled and utilised. They can share the ministry, pooling resources and enthusiasm.

But, without the trilogy of a solid need, desire and ability, then any perspective ministry will quickly find itself in troubled waters.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The short-term holiday workload for the long-term payoff

Year 10 History.

Year 9 History Elective.

Year 9 mainstream History.

Year 8 History.

Year 8 Geography.

Year 7 History.

Year 7 Geography.

Day 1: 

Complete an overview of the subject based upon the syllabus and the way the subject has been previously taught.

Review the assessment tasks.

Stalk the Google Classrooms from the previous year for my classes and those of my colleagues.

Day 2:

Make notes on a topic from the course from a textbook.


Find resources and teaching material from the various acquired magazines, books and resource Facebook groups that link in with the subject overviews.

This has been the nightly activities during the school holidays.

In theory, I could forego the depth of this prep for the upcoming school year.

Without doubt, in a few years time this preparation will be significantly condensed.

But not yet.

Not for a few more years.

Currently, I’m still earning my teaching stripes.

I’m still paying my dues.

Frankly, I’m too new and green to be complacent.

And, the more prep I do now, the more it will pay off in the future.

In the confidence I’ll have in week one of term.

In the preparation I’ll have in a few months from now.

In the groundwork I’ll have laid for a few years from now.

So, while I’ve got a bunch of work ahead of me for the rest of the month, the payoff makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The trinity who shape the theology of your church

Of course, your theology should be shaped by the bible, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Now we’ve gotten that necessary caveat out of the way…

Practically, three people shape the theology of a congregation.

The senior minister.

The children’s worker.

The worship leader.

Really, the people should be called…

The one who gives the sermon.

The one who gives the kid’s address in church.

The one who selects the music.

They don’t need to be in vocational ministry or hold any specific title, but in these hands is where theology is caught by most people sitting in the pews.

The preacher gives it depth.

The talk to the children gives it simplicity.

The songs make it memorable.

The imprint of any Sunday will be shaped by all three and leave a lasting impression over time.

With this responsibility, each leg of the theology stool must be aligned or the understanding of the flock, particularly those newer to the faith, will be confused.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 Best Of…

This year’s Ramblings have had a different flavour.
In the most part, it’s because I’m in a different stage of life than before.

I’m not a youth minister… and I haven’t been vocationally since 2016.
I’m no longer a University student… I graduated last year.
I’m now a full time high school teacher, working my first year in a school teaching history and geography.

But, this is still a place for my musings on life, church, faith, ministry to youngsters and, now, teaching.

So, the prime Ramblings from 2022 were…

Ministries of awareness and availability (what I think is the most important thing I’ve written in… years)

Monday, December 12, 2022

The profession your minister morphs into as your church grows


A constant.

A respected voice.

Something reliable in uncertain times.

Someone who shares the weighty stories of the community.

Someone you can somewhat get to know, but who will never personally know you.

Which profession am I referring to?

A newsreader.

But I could easily be referring to a long-term minister at a large church.

They have all the hallmarks of a beloved newsreader.

They are a familiar face.

They are a trusted voice.

They are someone who has been in the background of all the significant events.

But… they are in the background.

They are a voice… which doesn’t know your name.

They are one who shares select stories… but didn’t know yours.

And herein lies the weakness of supersized Christianity.

The flock is too large for the shepherd.

For example, today I graduated from University.

In all likelihood, my current minister will have no idea.

He won’t know to ask me about it on Sunday.

There’s a decent chance that he won’t even get around to speaking with me on Sunday.

And… this isn’t his fault. I attend a church large enough that the senior minister cannot possibly be in personal contact with everyone weekly.

The downside is that your minister becomes more like a beloved newsreader and less like a shepherd who intimately knows each individual sheep.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Why it’s time for the offering bags to return

At most churches everything appears pre-COVID.

All ministries have reactivated.

Attendance is back to normal.

Christmas will be business-as-usual.

Of course, the signs of COVID still linger.

COVID safety plans are still in effect - some social distancing, stay away if you’re sick, online services are still an option to tune in to.

But, one thing has remained absent - the offering bag.

These velvet pouches or wooden plates have remained in mothballs.

But, it’s time they returned.


Because we need to get back into the habit of giving.

We need to be reminded that giving is a communal activity.

We need to remember that giving is a physical discipline.

Online, direct-debit, giving - while absolutely essential during lockdowns - has stripped the congregation of the tangible-ness of the offering.

We need to get that back.

If we don’t, the offering will remain another weekly bill that we barely notice.

The habit of bringing your offering will go unlearnt by younger generations.

While I’m sure the offering bags won’t overflow with their reintroduction, since cash is a far rarer commodity nowadays, the lessons that the offering bags teach are well worth their return.

Friday, December 2, 2022

The power of the meeting confession

Last Sunday I was in a church meeting. Nothing unexpected was predicted.

How wrong I was.

During the meeting the church leadership did something I’ve never seen before.

They publicly confessed.


In front of the entire church.

Without even the hint of a scandal.

They admitted that they’ve let people down.

They admitted that they’ve miscommunicated.

And then they were prayed for, while kneeling before the congregation, by a lay leader of the church.

It was refreshing to see and hear.

It was vulnerable.

It was authentic.

It was something I’d never considered doing personally.

Nor was it something I’d heard done elsewhere.

But, it’s moments of pastoral awareness like this which dramatically add relational capital with those who have been let down by the leadership and those who will remain under the pastoral wings of the leaders.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Why I showed a bunch of non-preachers how you prepare a sermon




These are the steps I took a group of young adults through last night.

In short, we went through the process that you’d go through in order to write a sermon.

Meditation: Think deeply and slowly about the text. Note anything that jumps out, surprises or raises questions.

Investigation: Research the details of the passage and delve into some of the things raised as you meditated on the passage. Use resources of various types and depths.

Reflection: Write out your thoughts. Make connections. Draw out application. Share your thoughts with others.

Obviously, I won’t be delivering a sermon on Sunday based upon the passage we dealt with last night.

No one in the room will be.

But, in going through the process, it exposes those present to the steps a preacher will undergo and, more importantly, arm them with an effective method to deeply interact with a bible passage.