Sunday, January 25, 2015

Teens HAVING or HAD sex?

The percentage of teens who aren't virgins isn't small.

But, it's not as big a percentage as high-schoolers or the media would have you believe (anywhere from 55-70% still hold their v-card when they finish high school).

But, I wonder, how many teens are HAVING sex, as opposed to HAD sex?

If all we care about, or at least monitor, is when someone actually has HAD intercourse, then I think it skews the figures away from those who are actually HAVING sex.

Because there's a massive difference between someone who, in a moment of regret, had sex, with someone who is in a relationship having sex.

There's a massive difference between someone who's had an unpleasant, one off, or unconsented sex then someone who's having a regular or enjoyable sexual experience.

If the stats we tracked for teens weren't solely about loss of virginity, but were measured by meaningful or continuous sexual experiences, then I think that the sheer numbers - and the pressure associated with them - would dramatically drop.

After all, if the stats hold up and 55% of a high school class have had sex (which I think's about right), doesn't it sound more realistic that this number would reduce to closer than a 20-30% are actually HAVING sex?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

3 reasons the younger need the older with different plumbing

What does a Christian man actually look like?
What characteristics does he display?
How does he treat his loved ones?
Could you ACTUALLY point one out?

At the upcoming leader's weekend for my youth group we'll be looking at the books of 1 Timothy and Titus, asking the two questions "What does this say about leadership?" and "What does this say about being an example to those younger?"

When you delve into those books, there's heaps to uncover, but there's also a connection which is more subtle.

Obviously, younger Christian guys need solid, Jesus-following, older guys around them.

Why?

To have conversations like this and help them avoid the knock-out punch.

BUT, younger Christians need examples of the opposite gender.

Why?

First, because wisdom can comes both genders and some issues aren't affected by the one speaking to you being male or female.

Second, because some problems can use the perspective of the opposite gender.

Third, younger Christians need to see what a solid, Jesus-following, person of the other gender looks like. If, like I've written before, it's far preferable for believers to date each other, then it would be helpful for them to be able to look around and see what a quality, God-and-spouse-honouring, husband/wife looks like. 

In short, it will be useful for them to be able to see an older woman/man living out their faith.

Or, aside from the example of Christ, how else will they know to look out for?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Is it ok to play dumb?

At times, I play dumb.
I pretend to know less than I actually do.

And... I wonder... is it fair to do so?

Should I, if aware of an issue or the entire narrative, leave gaps for others to fill in order to -

a) give them the opportunity to raise an issue on their timeframe (within reason)
b) hear their side of the story
c) allow them space to only share what they're comfortable with me knowing
d) have a subtle test as to how much they want me to know and how much they want to hide.

Is it ethical for me to dangle enough rope before people in order for them, potentially, to hang themselves?

Or, should I always fess up?

Hmmmm

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Invite v Ask

Please stand.
Would you like to stand?

I need you to sit down.
Can you sit down please?

If you want something done, you can do two things, invite or ask.

Hopefully, no matter which one you choose, the person you're addressing will comply.

But, when dealing with children or teens, one method is far more effective.

If you invite people to do what you're wanting, you'll never hear the dreaded reply... "Well, I COULD stand" or "Where do you want me to take it?"

Sure, invitations can be shot down with a firm no, but at least they kill off the smart-alec response.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Whose standard do you use?

I went to my local public high school.
It wasn't very good.
The students didn't value their studies.
I got 68.15 for my final mark and, I think, only three people from my entire year went to university straight out of school.
It took me a decade to finally get my degree.

But, I've worked with some quite prestigious (and pricey!) schools and school-goers.
I've gone to church with people who got high 90's for their final mark and think very little of doing double degrees. 

We, often, don't use the same standard.

I can slip into the standard used in high school... the bear minimum is more than enough.
Others, can use the standard where near perfection is barely a pass.

Now, I want to be clear, when it comes to ministry I want to pursue excellence (this is what the second E in my foundations for ministry stands for).
God invites me to, and deserves, for me to do my best.
Also, ministry takes work - sometimes bloody hard work - and those who faithfully give in order for me to work in a church deserve for me to do my best.

BUT...
I wonder about those whose standards - at home, at work or in church - don't align.
 
I wonder about those who work to a standard which isn't "faithfully do my best" but, due to their upbringing or schooling, reflects near perfection.

I wonder about those who feel like failures because they don't make the "passing grade" drawn in their head, but not reflecting reality.

I fear, for some, going to a private school has, almost, set them up for a sense of unreasonable failure whenever they don't nail that worship set, give a flawless talk, give seamless game instructions, execute a faultless scripture lesson or give a less-than-tear-jerking prayer.

One of the jobs for those in ministry, when sensing that someone is using a set of incredibly high standards, is to...

a) Express heart-felt gratitude for what they do, even if it isn't perfect. Tell and show that you are thankful for not just what they do, but who they are.

b) Be liberal with encouragement and feedback so they see that what they're doing is of a high quality and you notice.

c) Remind them that God works on a standard of grace and love. Like a parent, He is proud whenever His children do things for Him. He sees their hearts and motives. And, He will reward them generously for what they have done.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Time doesn't heal all wounds

Get healthy... Stop looking at porn... Mend a friendship... Save a marriage... Find a job... Quit smoking... Transform a youth group... Reverse the downward trend of a church...

If you want things to get better, you have three options.

1 - Do nothing.
2 - Keep doing what you've been doing.
3 - Get active and do something different.

It's rare that number one, by itself will work. Time, alone, doesn't heal most wounds.

It's unusual that number two, if not already heading in a helpful direction, will solve the problem. As the old saying goes, the definition if insanity is to do the same things, but expect different results.

The answer to lots of life's problems lies within number three.
Generally, things don't get better unless you DO THINGS which enable them to get better.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Control the fuel for the uncontrolled conversation

One thing you cannot control in life is what other people say.
But, you - somewhat - can control the things they are able to talk about.

You control the input.
They control the conversation.

This is the power, and danger, of gossip.
Once people start talking, it can be incredibly difficult to stop, never mind control.

If people decide to talk about you, truthfully or not, they can.
You don't control their conversations.
You don't control the conversations youth group leaders have with each other.
You don't control conversations parents have.
You don't control conversations that the kids or teens have.
You don't control the conversations overheard by those inside (and outside!) the church.

But those in leadership can, to a degree, control the fuel they provide for the fire of gossip.

This is one reason why leaders in the church are to live a live above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2). For this above-suspicion-kind-of-life vastly reduces the amount of ammunition which others, armed with good or poor intentions, have to talk about.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Guys need side-by-side

As I instigated once I started at my current church, nearly two years ago, I still go on regular dates with people at my church.

But, not all dates are the same.

One big difference, depending on the relational temperature I want to set and gender of the person, is where I choose to sit.

In a sweeping generalisation, guys chat side-by-side whilst women converse face-to-face.

So, for some guys, I'll make sure we'll chat about things while watching a screen or playing a game. That will be far more productive then an across-the-table luncheon.

The same thing applies with teens on a Friday night.

In general, the most open conversations with teenage guys is while they're doing something else. That's why, for guys, a pool table is the perfect ministry tool... after all... it got me talking. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

You don't HAVE to leave

As I've written about here, periodically, youth group leaders should be given a chance to step down if they don't want to be a leader anymore. This exists to fight the unwritten expectation that youth group leadership is a never-ending commitment.

But, leaders often have an expiry date due to life's transitions and when this happens, the option to become a part-time leader should be explored.

But, a leader never HAS to step down.

When a leader starts working full-time, they might stop youth group leading... but they don't have to. 
When a leader finishes university, they might step aside... but they don't have to.
When a leader gets married, they might stop leading for a season... but they don't have to.
When a leader becomes a parent, they might cease being around on a Friday... but they don't have to.
When a leader turns 30 (or 40!), they might make way for other leaders... but they don't have to.

As good as it might be to give space for leaders to step aside, it would be equally as unhelpful to push them away if they're not ready.

For, while you don't have to be a youth group leader for all eternity, you should never feel that you HAVE to leave just because "your time is up", you're "too old" or "it's someone else's turn."

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

If you can't buy condoms...

I've written a few times on this blog about condoms (if condoms make sex "safe" and if a Christian guy should carry condoms).

Yesterday I stumbled over this post about what teens need to know about sex and the author made, what I think, is a really good point.

In short, if someone can't face up to buying condoms then they're not ready enough to use them.

Now, condoms have never been easier to get.

Much of the stigma in buying them has been removed.
Most sexual health centers give them out for free.
Toilets have condom vending machines in them.
Self-serve checkout mean that you don't even have to look someone in the eye when purchasing them.

Gone are the days when you'd need to go to the corner store, view the local grocer in the eyes, have a little awkward chit-chat and grab your rubbers in a brown paper bag which scampering out the door.

But, you can still be discovered with condoms.
And, then you'll have to have a conversation about using them.
To the person going through your wallet.
Or with your parents.

AND, if that's going to bother you, you're not ready to be using them.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A date must include one of the following...

I tend to give a lot of dating advice.
I've written a lot of blog posts about it...
A series about Christian's dating non-Christians.
The general timelines to knowing if you're compatible.
The two pieces of advice I give to guys on a date.

But I don't have the access to dating's secret sauce.

But, today, my wife and I went on a date.
How do I know?
Because it involved one of the two key elements of a date.

Food or and activity.
If you're share a meal or do something active, then, you're on a date.

Are you having dinner? Then it's a date.
Are you sharing a picnic? Then it's a date.
Are you playing mini-golf? Then it's a date.
Watching a movie at the cinema? Then it's a date.

I think this is important when asked the inevitable question about dating... Is sharing a coffee a date?

With this filter, I say... it's barely a date.
Or, at least, it's not a very good one.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The adult way to face a mistake

So, you've made a mistake...
What do you do?

Yesterday I wrote about the immature way to deal with a mistake... F.I.S.T.C.

Today I want to describe the way adults deal with their mistakes.

They pay the price to put it right.
They wear the cost to fix things.
They make the hard choices in order to set things straight.
They make a plan to do better next time and avoid the mistake again.
They don't make excuses.
They apologise.

These responses are exactly the opposite of F.I.S.T.C.

These responses are a part of accepting responsibility for their part of the problem.

This is one of the significant differences between teens and adults.
With maturity comes responsibility.

Friday, January 2, 2015

F.I.S.T.C.

People make mistakes.
Myself included.

Some mistakes are entirely your own fault.
Usually though, mistakes are a series of decisions which you play a somewhat limited part in.

I've done some pretty stupid things.
I've done things which would certainly fall into the category of "young & stupid."
Some mistakes I've learnt from, others I'm doomed to repeat and kick myself later.

When you come face-to-face with a mistake there's one option you can take, commonly taken by teenagers and young adults.

F.I.S.T.C.

F#ck It, Screw The Consequences.

It's this attitude which leads to many poor decisions.

It's behind taking drugs, especially if you're unsure what it exactly is.
It's behind having unprotected sex.
It's behind drink driving or getting in the car with someone drunk.
It's behind cheating on your partner.
It's behind a lot of physical fights.
It's behind sharing that juicy gossip.

In short, this attitude decides - even if the worst should happen - that those consequences will be outweighed by the immediate thrill of the poor decision.

Tomorrow I'll share the better, adult, response when face-to-face with a mistake you've made.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I'll be proud of you when...

One of the privileges of my job is being alongside people as they go through what life throws at them.

Over time, as the Holy Sprit works within people and they develop in both Christlikeness and ministry involvement, I get opportunities to witness people grow tremendously.

As such, I get numerous chances to see people do things which make me proud.

I'm proud when people genuinely offer to help.
I'm proud when people do things which they find hard.
I'm proud when people do things which are scary.
I'm proud when people do positive things for the first time.
I'm proud when people make difficult, but ultimately helpful, decisions.
I'm proud when people take steps towards getting help with a problem or persistent sin.
I'm proud when people admit their mistakes.
I'm proud when people ask for help.
I'm proud when others are recognized for what they contribute.

But, I'll be proudest when God says to them... "Well done, good and faithful servant..."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Avoiding the knock-out punch

When you know a crisis is coming you're able, to some extent, to shield or prepare yourself for the blow.

But I remember a bloke I went to college with, who did a bit of boxing, saying, in general, it's the punch you don't see coming which knocks you out.

I trust that this is true in boxing.
But I've seen it play our in life and ministry.

When you're able to see a problem on the horizon, generally, you're able to navigate the turbulent time smoother.

But, when a problem appears out of the blue, then you can find yourself floored since you get winded by the punch you don't see coming.

And, herein lies the value of two things...

First, this fits perfectly with my observations last term at youth group where I spoke about making wise decisions and compared life to driving a car. In short, good drivers don't stare blankly at the car ahead and blindly follow. Good drivers have their gaze on the horizon in order to see potential trouble coming. In life, those with wisdom look ahead and consider the future consequences of their actions, not just the next few meters down the road.

Second, older Christians who can not only give an outside perspective, impart warnings from the times they've messed up, but also have the respect and... gumption... to speak up when a younger believer is making, or has made, an unwise decision.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Everyone gets a season of extra support

You get a bad diagnosis from the doctor.
A family member dies.
You have a miscarriage.
Your marriage is in trouble.
Work is extra stressful.
Exams feel overwhelming.
You've been fired from a job you loved.
Your long-term partner breaks up with you.
A painful thing from the past has flared up and you're only starting to process it.

Given enough time, everyone has a season when they need extra help and support.

When these times happen, you shouldn't apologise.
This is life.
This is what being in ministry is about - being with people in the good and bad times of life.

BUT, there's an important difference between being in a place of receiving extra support for a season and occupying that space permanently.

The first one is expected. Everyone gets a season. Some more than others.
The second one is unhealthy for all involved.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

When you SHOULDN'T apologise

If you've been around churches long enough, eventually you'll hear about boundaries, primarily based around the book Boundaries and its offshoots.

Essentially, you need to be aware of where you, physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually stop and others begin.

In order to have healthy, safe relationships, boundaries need to be respected.

At times, in churches, we get this wrong.
At times, those who work in churches, get this wrong.

When this happens, we should apologize (like I did here).
We should apologise when the boundaries of others have felt trampled on, violated or ignored.

But there's one time, when dealing with boundaries, we shouldn't apologise.

When we assert our own.

When someone in ministry, in a gentle, caring way, asserts their personal boundaries in order to maintain healthy self care, relational or vocational boundaries, then the minister shouldn't apologise.

Ideally, you're only putting into practice the healthy lifestyle choices which you encourage others to do.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two consequences because words matter

Words matter. Is it ironic then, when I first posted this, that the title had a typo?

The words we use matter.
The words others use matter.

One of the most probing questions you can ask is "Why did you use THAT particular word?"

Often, they give subtle indications into what we truly think and feel.

In short, this has two important consequences for those in ministry.

1 - Be cautions and deliberate with the words you use. Speak carefully.

2 - Pay attention to the words the people you're speaking to use. Listen closely.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The core of being a minister

I still think I gave a kick-a$$ answer here, back in 2008, to my understanding of the role of a minister.

Now, when asked to whittle down my job, I give two responses - Care and Protect.

God grants me the privilege to care for and, when need be, protect those He has placed in the church I minister within.

Reflecting a pastoral shepherd (like that described in John 10 & 1 Peter 5 and preached at my very first induction service), I am able to stand with, and share life with, those placed in my care. I get to watch out for and help guide people who want to follow Christ.

This, at the core, is both the challenge and the blessing of my job...