Friday, April 18, 2014

REPOST: Why do we call Good Friday Good?

A day when a completely good...
Absolutely innocent man...
Was betrayed by one of His closest friends...
Abandoned by all...
Endured a fixed court case...
With false witnesses...
With no presumption of innocence...
Held under the cover of darkness...
Prosecuted by the wrong person...
With no defense entered or allowed...
Was beaten...
Spat on...
Whipped...
Tortured...
Overlooked for a murderer...
Who heard those who previously cheered for Him now cry out for His execution...
Who had to personally transport His death implement...
Held to it by five inch long nails...
Stripped naked...
Mocked by those who passed by...
Insulted by those who orchestrated His murder and those who were being killed on either side of Him...
Who endured an excruciating ordeal...
Dying a death reserved for the lowest of low...
The worst of the worst...
A demise off limits to those in power...
A fate, in the eyes of the Jews, for those cursed by God...
Who, in His own words, was FORSAKEN BY GOD...

It was the ultimate injustice.

Before His own mother...
A son...
A friend...
A teacher...
The King...
The Messiah...
The Son of God... was killed.

The day the bread of life was broken and the blood of the Lamb split...

WHY DO WE CALL THIS DAY GOOD???

The only reason we dare label this day good is due to what it achieved. It tore down the division between God and humanity. 

The result of Jesus' death and resurrection is the reason we celebrate Easter and can call Good Friday good.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Losing the church in the "divorce"

Year 6...
Year 7...
Baptism/Confirmation...
Year 9-10...
Year 12...
First year university...
Getting married...
Once you become a parent...

I've written about the drop out points in youth and young(ish) adult ministry before.

Lots.

Some drop out point are caused by life change...
Ending primary school.
Starting high school.
Starting higher education.
You "graduate" from a group.
Moving out.
Starting a family.

Others develop relationally...
Your friendship group changes.
You get married.

In this later category, another reason can emerge.

Breaking up.

Whenever a church-going couple break up, it's not unusual for one side of the pairing to "get" the church in the ''division of assets."

For some, it will be that they attended the church for the least amount of time, thus they feel relationally squeezed out.
For others, it will be that they are "at fault" for the break up and will feel uncomfortable, even judged, at church.
In some rare cases, in order to allow one member of the former-couple to stay connected, the other will volunteer to step aside and go somewhere else.

This is the risk when two people date, no matter how well they swear to "purposely uncouple."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The six statements of Easter

Just like the entire bible can be summed up by five meals, the story of Easter can be summed up by six statements.

Hosanna!

Crucify Him!
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
It is finished.
Surely this man was the Son of God!
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Over the next week-and-a-half I'll be reflecting on each of them at Tiny Bible Bits. You can check it out here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Restored perspective

This week the I was scheduled to speak at three primary school Easter scripture services.
 
I was only able to appear at two.

Yesterday it took me 2.5 hours to get to work.
Normally it takes 55 minutes.

As I was stuck in a massive traffic jam, eventually backtracking and AGAIN getting slammed by a plethora of cars, I started to stress.

As the minutes ticked away, the moments of the morning drifted past.

First, I was going to be late to setting up our church for the latter scripture service. Then I had to call my minister, who was helping me set up, and tell him that he would need to set up alone. 

After this, I started to scramble for the number of someone who might need to kill a few minutes if I was "very on time" to the first service. 

Finally, I had to admit defeat and arrange for someone else to fill in and speak at the service.

I was increasingly annoyed.

I promised the school and scripture teachers that I would speak...
I had a good talk planned...
It was a good opportunity at be "up front" at a school I'm on the fringe of...
I, potentially, put someone in a really difficult position by asking them to fill in at the last moment...

Then I heard that the delay was caused by a fatal car accident.
Someone died that morning.
Everything changed.

My problems weren't that important. 
Perspective was restored.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ideas need microwaves and slow cookers

Some people have ideas. They see the vision before anyone else does. They are the innovators I spoke about here.

Others jump on board when they hear about the new idea.
They would be the early adopters.

Of theses, some are microwaves and some are slow cookers.

The microwaves will want action. Screw the procedures. They want to see tangible results. Immediately if possible.
The slow cookers will be just as committed as the microwaves, but will have the patience to see the entire project through.

Microwaves will often burn themselves out or get side-tracked when the next new initiative comes along.

For an idea to see the light of day, you need both microwaves and slow cookers.

Microwaves will provide the enthusiasm, energy and positivity to help sell the idea.
Slow cookers will be the ones who help the idea get past the difficult fall over moments.

The challenge is finding a healthy mix of both and managing their expectations.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The change equation

No matter if it is losing weight, learning a language, starting a new ministry or kicking a bad habit...

Identify + Desire + Envisage + Plan + Accountability = Change

See the need to change...
Want to change because it will take you to a better place...
See an anticipated destination...
Have a series of achievable steps towards change...
Be held responsible until you reach your goal...

When you have all these pieces then you have lasting change.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The munchkin drop-off point

I've written about drop out points in youth/young adult ministry previously. Currently, my wife and I are in the middle of the oldest, and previously unmentioned, one.

Having a young child.

This drop out (or as it has happened with us - drop off) point arises in a lot of churches with differently-focused evening and morning services. In fact, young families will inevitably face this problem if the service in the morning and evening don't both cater to families with babies or toddlers.

Why?

It all has to do with toddlers needing routine. Break the routine and it can throw out the rhythm of the next two days. For us, our little one's bedtime is somewhere between 6:30-7:15pm. My churches evening service starts at 6:30.

Sense the problem?

I would suggest that most evening services, at least initially, are catered towards teens or actual young adults. Thus, they aren't set up for young kids.

But, as the years pass and the "clientele" advance in life stages towards parenthood, some will notice that "their" service no longer suits their needs.

So, in order to fit around their offspring's sleep patterns, they need to attend church in the morning.

But what happens if they don't feel like they fit into the morning service since they've never made a cross-congregation connection or the earlier service isn't appropriate because it's "classic" church with a "quite mature" average attender?

Fortunately, this isn't a problem in many churches since they have some form of "contemporary family service." But this isn't always the case, particularly if a successful youth ministry starts in evening service BECAUSE they wouldn't fit into what is provided in the morning.

Does a young family screw up their child's sleep pattern weekly?
Do they "suffer" through a morning service which they don't connect with?
Does only one parent attend church, alternating, whilst the other looks after the munchkin?
Or, do they go to another, family friendlier, church?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Share but don't return

Questions don't only make for good sermons but good church services. I start each service with a question and often throw one in the middle of the service somewhere. People, in a safe environment, usually have no problem sharing.

Normally, I'll prod people to talk to someone they don't share a surname or normally chat with (even if this involves moving!). In fact, a few people in church have set themselves a challenge to sit beside a different person each week at church.

One tricky thing I did in church a few weeks ago, as they were discussing with their neighbour, was to have the band immediately begin the next song.

The reason this was sneaky, tying into the sit-beside-a-different-person-challenge, was that it limited the opportunity for someone who moved to return to their original seat.

Who knows?
Sitting next to someone unfamiliar in church might be a good idea???

Sunday, March 23, 2014

God is not deaf

I'm fully aware that praying out loud isn't comfortable for everyone, and is a learned discipline, but it's important for community building and burden sharing.

So anytime I'm leading a time of open prayer I give everyone an important reminder about God.

Even though they aren't praying to me, I still wanna hear and be able to honestly say amen. Thus, anyone who prays will need to speak up so I can hear, not because God is hard of hearing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Are they REALLY Young Adults?

Where do you draw the line?
20? 21? 25? 29? 35?!?

Very few churches have a solid idea about the top age of their "young" adults ministry.

Do you include everyone who is studying?
What if I'm still doing my masters, doctorate or specialising in medicine into my early thirties?

Do you include everyone who is single or lives at home?
What if I got married at 21?

Do you include everyone who goes to the evening service?
How will you ever has them link with the other congregations?

Do you include everyone who isn't catered for my the other groups?
Is this still okay then, if I'm 38, but "young at heart?"

If anything, I think we should draw the line YOUNGER, not older. Avoid the Peter Pan syndrome.

Say... 22.

By the time you've hit 23, you're no longer a young adult.
You're just an adult.

The world thinks so.
So should the church.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Baptism & Confirmation: Selectng a sport & a side

One of my favourite sports is rugby league and my league side is the mighty Manly Sea Eagles. That is my sport and they are my team.

You follow your sport closer than any other and select one group to contribute towards and travel life-within-that-sport alongside.

The scenario reminds me, imperfectly, of baptism and confirmation.

Baptism is like announcing your favourite sport in that you stand up and pronounce that you're going to follow Jesus over all other options (including yourself) and confirmation is selecting your team in that you're deciding upon a group of people to take the journey of faith with.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Get the leader & make a memory

Yesterday, at the Kid's Club of my church, I took one for the team in order to create memories.
Yesterday we played a game I dubbed "Firing Squad."
Yesterday I stood exposed and invited them to take their best shot.

When I wrote about making memories here I missed the one I used yesterday.

Getting the leader.

Yesterday afternoon, when we played wet games, I ended with each kid getting the chance to throw a water bomb at me whilst I stood still in the middle of the car park.

Most missed.

Except for the pot of water, tipped on me by surprise, by some of the leaders.

I'll never turn my back on them again...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The 2 conditions of a reference

I pointed out here one of the hidden perks of my job - writing references. In fact, I did another one just last week.

But, previously, I didn't mention my two conditions.

In order for these conditions to make sense you need to know that when I do a reference, if I think it's accurate, I REALLY talk the person up. My favourite line starts with a favourable attribute followed by "this is the thing I admire most about him/her." It should bring a tear to the eye of any prospective employer.

My first condition, once it's written in black & white, is that the person seeks to live out what I've written.

My second, and I've never had to do this is even consider it seriously, is that I can request to get the reference back.

I'd hate for things to turn pear-shaped and I'm made out to be a liar.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The final P's of a sermon

I'm going to be preaching in a few hours and, having typed up what I'm going to say yesterday, I emailed the transcript to myself with the three final P's as the subject.

Polish.
Practice.
PowerPoint.

Polish - Go ever everything with a clear mind and fresh eyes, tweaking what needs to be fixed.

Practice - At minimum, be able to nail your introduction, stories/illustrations, transitions and conclusion. I find this happens after three to five solid dry-runs.

PowerPoint - Only once you've decided the input and flow of the sermon do you look for pictures which communicate the same things in as few a words as possible.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

#HijackCHURCH

I'm a fan of professional wrestling. I'm nowhere near as tragic as I was growing up, but I keep track of what's going on and watch the odd show if I've some time to kill or something monumental happens.

Last week was meant to be noteworthy.

The primary show, Monday Night RAW, was meant to feel the brunt of a tsunami-like wave of fan discontentment.

The city with one of the most vocal fans, Chicago, was to unleash a disgruntled fury against the creative direction of the company.

To make the situation more volatile, the hometown boy - CM Punk - was rumored to make his big return after walking out on the company, and, as you can see below... his people love him...





The plan was dubbed #HijackRAW. It trended worldwide on Twitter and even had a manifesto outlining the way the crowd would take control.

I wonder... What would happen if a similar thing happened in church?

Could someone #HijackWORSHIP or #HijackSERMON?
If they tried, how would they do it?
What would the manifesto describe?
Who would be more annoyed, fellow congregation members or clergy?
How would a church leader appropriately respond?
Worse still, how many people would need to drastically change their actions to be a part of the anarchy?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Second year problems

I've mentioned before that longevity's a positive thing in ministry but, having been at my church for over a year now, it's starting to create a problem...

For I get ideas fairly quickly. When faced with a sermon or children's address, I'll have a thought pop into my mind without too much strain. 

But I also have a poor memory.

Herein lies the problem.

I'll forget the stories, illustrations and objects I've used in the past, and one day, get caught using the same immediate-ideas to describe different, even opposing, things.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Loving the past or furture more?

I was reading this article yesterday and the second point resonated within me.

I wonder, if you went around and posed the question "Are you more in love with the past than the future" to every church, what would their answer be?

I suspect, even if some won't admit it, their actions clearly say that their vision and desire are for things which have passed.

They long for "the good old days," not seeing the things which lay ahead.
They reminisce about the times when they were "bulging at the seems," not straining to impact the community and culture around them now or a decade in the future.
They get glassy-eyed over people and events of yesteryear, not the people still to be reached and the activities engaging the next generation.

As indebted as the church is to those who have worked tirelessly in the past, we must continually keep looking and striving forward. Otherwise, our church becomes a slowly-dying museum of a bygone era.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Leaders leaving shouldn't be a shock

Leaders in youth ministry don't, usually, last forever. Given enough time, and advancement through life stages, they leave. Or eventually die.

If the Grim Reaper doesn't strike them down...
Their university timetable will change and can no longer make it in time.
They will need to study at a campus afar.
They will accept an internship overseas.
They will get a full time job and are wrecked at the end of the working week.
They will get married and look to settle in a church elsewhere.
They will become a parent.

Now, in some of these situations, they don't have to leave. Instead, they can transition to another level of ministry support like the ones listed here.

But, sometimes, life changes and people need to move on. It happens.

And this shouldn't come as a shock.

In fact, it's only a matter of time before you lose your best leaders.
You know, the ones who are especially talented, outgoing, smart, creative, dependable and committed.

If you were an employer, you'd want to hire and invest in them.
You shouldn't have a problem seeing them be trained in their dream job.
You shouldn't deprive them of life shaping experiences overseas.

Truthfully, it's kinda annoying.
But never surprising.

The longer you're at one ministry position the more you'll encounter this reoccurring "problem."

But there's a silver lining to this inevitable storm-cloud.

When leaders step down, you get the chance to train up another leader and allow them to be used by God. Hopefully, there's always a next generation of leaders to invest into and take their place.

And, unsurprisingly, they'll be fruitful and leave also...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

We can do better than age to determine a leader

Different churches do things... differently. No surprises there.

But in the world of youth ministry, especially when looking at "utilising" teens into the children's ministry leadership team, there is one common thread... Age.

And I think it's wrong.

I became a children's/youth group leader at my home church because I was included in the first batch of teens deemed to be "old enough" to lead. 

But I wasn't ready. If anything, we got in the way far more than we contributed.

I think, when it comes to giving positions of non-threatening leadership to young people, age shouldn't be the primary determining factor.

In fact, some churches throw teens into leadership far too early.

Instead of age, I think there are far better scales to weigh a prospective leader on.

Belief - Are they a committed Christian?

Maturity - Are they separated enough from those who they're going to lead to be seen as an effective leader and positive influence? The last thing most ministries need are leaders who act like the kids.

Passion - Do they WANT to be involved and think this is not only something which God is a part of but something THEY can be contributing to?

When it comes to youth group, we tend to be far more discerning about the type of leaders we accept into our "sacred group." Just because you're out of school doesn't mean you instantly get a gig.

It seems strange then, when it comes to the children God has entrusted us with, we look at a date-of-birth and think they'll be a good fit.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Empowerment timeline

In many ways this blog is about me and for me. It is a resource I can go back to and "dig up that thing I blogged about ages ago." In reality, most of the time, you're just looking over my shoulder.

Today John Maxwell posted about empowerment here which I'll definitely want to revisit.


Here are the levels of empowerment that I take my people through as I gradually release responsibility to them:
  1. Look into the situation. Report back to me. I’ll decide what to do.
  2. Look into the situation. Report alternatives with pros and cons, along with your recommendation. I’ll decide what to do.
  3. Look into it. Let me know what you intend to do, but don’t do it unless I say yes.
  4. Look into it. Let me know what you intend to do, and do it unless I say no.
  5. Take action. Let me know what you did.
  6. Take action. No further interaction required.