Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The weakest reason to leave

After writing yesterdays rambling on youth ministry drop outs another occurred to me.

Not a drop out point for kids, but a drop out point for leaders.

Get ready... This rant is going to be a goodie...

The WEAKEST, LOUSIEST, WORST time to leave is during a transition of leadership. I think youth group leaders can see the loss of a youth minister as a prime opportunity to "step down from leading."

This sucks.

Firstly, it weakens the leadership if no immediate replacement if found (not to mention the message it sends to the kids).

Secondly, it creates unnecessary disruption for the new person.

The new person steps into a new position having to deal with issues he/she know little background with people he/she barely knows. In too many occasions the fact-finding missions can be an avenue to gossip about the person who has "jumped ship."

Finally, leaving when the youth minister departs shows a lack of maturity and commitment to the ministry. Were you there because you liked the guy up front or because you enjoyed serving God through ministering to these kids?

Was I a little harsh? Maybe... maybe not.

Moist ipods

Today at work my ipod died. The reason? It got moist. Working in the rain, it was inevitable.

I enjoy the word moist. It's like ointment. It makes you feel all creepy just saying it. Moist ointment... what a great combination.

Due to my technological impairment I'm wondering about two things...

First, I wonder how much time i will save at work over the next few days. I always was curious exactly how much time i wasted by having to stop and adjust my ipod periodically. This little thing could make a lasting impression on my speed. I always thought that the same thing went across many fields. For example... How much procrastination time would you save if you disabled solitaire and minesweeper from your computer? How much more would you pray on public transport if you didn't have games on your phone? How much more work would i have done if my old office wasn't beside a pool table and i stopped to play every half hour???

Second, whilst i was working in the silence of my thoughts i became aware of the quiet beeping sounds my work phone constantly makes. Over the last six months i had forgot that this quiet beeping followed me all day. Today i realised just how much we miss because we are plugged into technology...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The culture of leaving

Over the last few days I've been thinking about the "drop out points" in youth ministry.

In my mind they are... End of year 6/start of year 7. Year 9. End of year 12. First year uni. Moving out/getting married.

The first two surround changing schools or social circles. In year 9 you start to encounter the pressures of sex, drug and alcohol, which again come to the forefront in year 12/turning 18. By the time you leave school you have the issues of moving away from your church due to lifestyle change or financial nessesity.

Of course the issues are more complex, and i only glossed over them, but i think there is another, underlying problem (the title of this post should give it away!).

It may sound simple, but if the expectation of the leaders or kids (spoken or unspoken) is that you up and leave at one of the drop out points, then you will more likely to find the exit door at some point.

It's a tough nut to crack. Some kids will leave. As they mature and "find themselves" they may think that the "whole Christian thing" isn't for them. That's their choice.

I think it's sad when kids/young adults walk away from church when a better offer comes along.. be it new friends, sex, drugs, the pub...

Sad, because loosing kids suck. Sad, because kids follow the example of those who go before them. Sad, because on many fronts youth ministry will never compete on a level footing with many other Friday night alternatives. Finally... Sad because it doesn't change until someone decides to take a stance and stick around.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why I said no

As the year draws to a close i want to say why i turned down the church that offered me a full time position at the start of the year, since I've informed my reading public of why i left a perfectly fine ministry placement.

Let me be clear... They offered me the job and i said no.

Let me be even more clear... I said no well before the start of the year.

In the corner of my foundations of ministry PowerPoint printout are the words...

For me, these are the priorities for my ministry life.

The equation is simple. God is first... Everything else is secondary.

My wife is my next priority... All else is will be put on the back burner for her welfare.

As you can probably tell, my family will come before ANY church i work for. My wife before my family and my God before my wife.

Anyway... back to the start of 2007.

I turned down the position because they called my bluff. Due to the living arrangements and the future plans that Ange and i have, i either had to withdraw my priorities for ministry, or exercise them in this difficult decision.

My thinking was pretty straightforward. I will, hopefully, be married for many more years than i will be in ministry. If i had to sacrifice one, to the advantage for the other... church is the first thing on the chopping block.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why I left

With (hopefully) multiple job interviews in my not-to-distant future I'm going to answer a question i expect be asked in each interview... "Why did you leave your last church?"

I moved on from Balgowlah for multiple reasons.

Firstly, my life had changed significantly over my three and a bit years. I got married, moved out, learnt to drive and my Dad got cancer.

All these influenced my decision to move on. Any church i was going to work at would need to be a place i could settle down for at least the next five years (remember that my first principal for ministry is longevity). At this church i would start a family. This was not going to be the case at Balgowlah (nothing against them). I had already been there for over a dozen years, all my Christian life, and it was time to branch out.

Both personally, spiritually and professionally, this was the right choice at the time. I needed to live and work outside of the Balgowlah bubble that i had grown up in.

Secondly, i had three aims when i applied for the initial position in 2004. Develop a stronger young adult ministry. Develop a reinvigorated youth ministry. Contain the fallout from losing Neil.

Looking back at my years at Balgowlah i think i achieved my goals. Through the birth of IMPACT and the expansion of BUYA i don't look back with any regrets and am proud of what i did.

Thirdly, i thought me moving on would be a positive for Balgowlah. Please don't read this as saying that i was disappointed that Liam got the job... but i felt that Balgowlah needed someone new in the youth minister chair. After thirteen years of Neil, and then three years of me, a fresh perspective was in order. With IMPACT off the ground, the timing (i felt) was right.

Even with a year out of ministry i know that the choice i made at the time was the correct one. I don't regret the decision that i made... because with the same set of circumstances... i would still make the same choice.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why i give

After my rant on giving like an adult a few days ago i figured i should say why i give...

Because I’m made in the image of God, who gives generously to us.
Because I’m told to give and obedience pleases God.
Because I'm able… I have $.
I can be an example to others.
To support the work of the church.
Because I can mix it up. I can give in a variety of methods.
Most importantly... Because it shows my heart for God.

Guilty stomachs

Today, after a rainy, wind swept day of reading water meters, i dropped by KFC. As i was ordering i noticed their newest fundraising initiative.

KFC and Pizza Hut and raising money for hunger relief overseas (you may have seen their ads).

I was intrigued at the amount people had given. Unsurprisingly, the containers were full of coins... mainly silver... and one five dollar note.

After ordering copious amounts of fatty food, it turns out a few coins will sooth your conscience.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Missing the best parts

Today i saw someone do something that made me want to slap them. No, they weren't walking a cat. Instead, they were getting into the back seat of a cab.

Not so strange you wonder... but the odd thing was that the front passenger seat was vacant. Stranger still... we weren't in America.

The reason i wanted to inflict bodily damage on this unfortunate soul is because of the consequences of their actions. This woman missed the best part of a cab ride... Talking to the driver.

More than that... Asking the driver the same questions that they are asked by each passenger.

The typical cab ride goes like this...

"G'Day mate"
"x thanks"

Insert short time of travel...

"So... How's your day/night been?"
"Had a busy day/night?"
"What time do you knock off?"
"Where have you gotta take the car back to?"

End conversation.

By now I'm pretty certain taxi drivers must keep track of these conversations. You know the machine next to the driver that constantly beeps and squawks at the cabbie? We think it's alerting him to fares. No. Actually it registers these repetitive conversations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You wanna be an adult?

Today i was thinking about young adults becoming members of the church. I thought of this in the context of how young adults are thrust into, or invade on their own, various meetings and deciding forums in a congregation.

Now, i think that young adults should be empowered and encouraged to get involved... but I'm not sure it shouldn't come without a challenge.

Quite simply, the young adult should be asked if they are willing to give to the church like an adult.

It's no secret that those of my, and the previous generation don't give to the same extent as those prior. A reason could be that they aren't challenged to give in the mainstream church. They aren't told that maturing as a Christian stretches to their wallets, not just their dedication to service or Bible reading.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Falling away decisions

I was thinking about backsliding today. I got to thinking about the choices someone makes as they slide further from their faith.

I wondered... What is the final straw?

Is it getting drunk? Taking drugs? Changing social circles? Having sex? Not feeling guilty about doing any (and more) of the above?

I haven't come to a conclusion... but i think having sex is a fair indicator. When you consciously decide to step over that threshold without reservation, i think it is a fair indicator where you stand with God.

Will my fond feelings last???

I'm aware it has been a while since i last posted the exciting happenings in my world...

I was meant to mention this on Friday... but life got in the way.

While in the backstreets of Cromer a guy approached me and asked about Cecil (my car for those not in the know). The, admittedly weird, guy said that he himself owned a Cressida in the past and mentioned two things that i never asked to hear.

His Cressida was the best car he ever owned...And he now owns a Merc.

It got me thinking... Will i be mentioning my beloved Cecil to random people when I'm wandering the streets in middle age?

Will the passionate love i hold for Cecil still be aflame in decades time?

Sadly... and with mild hopefulness... I'm thinking it won't be the case.

Every car i have in the future will be better than Cecil. They won't break down and they won't be lit up with warning lights.

More importantly, i hope i never stop people to talk to them about my worn down, beat up Cressida.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blokes and their tomfoolery

Yesterday at small group it was mentioned that when guys get together in a youth ministry setting they turn all macho and generally "throwing a ball at you head"y.

It made me think of two instances that warmed my heart...

First was the birth of what became known as "the game." One afternoon, years ago at a discipling group, it was just myself, two guys in the group and my youth minister at the time. That afternoon we spent hours just whacking a nipple ball at each other with hockey sticks. Needless to say... it was awesome.

Secondly, a night that my stomach will never forgive me for. One night at the guys small group we decided, in our infinite wisdom, to have a batter sav nite. For the uninitiated, battered savs are like the hotdogs of the seafood world. That evening the guys split a dozen of the slimy critters. Needless to say... it was awesome.

In ministry I believe there is space to just be silly. To do stupid things that will create memories together, no added agendas. Just plain shenanigans...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I just got a whole lot busier

I remember a while ago Liam and i had an animated discussion that ended in us scheduling a time in the week to pray together. In the end, if i don't set a time for something in concrete, the chance of it going undone is greatly increased.

Sadly, the more important the action, the less likely it is to be scheduled (it is important after all... How can i forget!).

Yesterday Ange and i put two things in our diaries, which are important, and thus, haven't been regularly completed.

In my diary now is a permanent date night and another night where we will pray together before we go to bed.

So far it hasn't happened yet, but there can be nothing but positives from spending more time with my lovely wife...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A not so great day

So far today i haven't had the best of days. It hasn't been awful, just not good.

I couldn't get to sleep until around two in the morning last night. Thus i woke up late. Thus i was in a rush to leave and didn't take spare socks.

The traffic to Hornsby was crap. The travel time doubled today compared to yesterday.

It rained today. Constantly. This made the change of socks much needed... (please note that Gavin should head to drought effected areas to curse rain upon them as he did to me yesterday)

While at work i had crap phone reception and my phone fogged up causing me to stop around 2 (the silver lining to this cloudy day), but meaning i will probably need to work half of Saturday (the cloud to the silver lining).

Finally, the weather turned good by 4, too late for me...

A Dream or Premonition

My random question of the day...

If you have a dream where you sleep in, and then wake up late, did you have a dream or a premonition?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Decision making

In the book I'm reading by John Maxwell he had a chapter on decision making and it reminded me of a system that I've had in place over the last few years in deciding major (or not) choices...

It's the eightfold test... Used to decide everything from whom to date, when to marry or where to work...

I should say that not every test needs to come back in a positive manor to proceed in the affirmative, but it may point you in the right direction.

INTELLECT: Simple... Does it make sense?

Remove all emotion and just consider it rationally. Are you going to be living 150km away fro the person you wish to date and don't drive? Will this job result in a pay drop which sends you broke?

HEART: Simple... Are you passionate about it?

Remove all intellect and go on your feelings. Are you in love with this thing/person? Are you passionate about the profession? Will this get you energised in the morning?

GUT: Simple... What does your gut say?

I believe God gives us our gut feeling for a reason and it makes sense to listen to it sometimes. That queasy feeling you have may exist for a reason. It's the vibe man...

SEXUALITY: Simple... Are you attracted to them?

Doesn't apply in all cases, but our sexuality is a strong motivator in life, so it deserves a say.

GOD: Simple... What does God say about the choice ahead of you?

What does the bible say? Is there a teaching for or against the decision? Is there an underlying principal that can be drawn upon, even though your specific situation isn't mentioned? When you pray, what do you hear God saying?

OTHER CHRISTIANS: Simple... When you ask other Christians for advice, what do they say?

God speaks through his people and we are to filter what we think we hear God saying through the wisdom of his followers (1 John 4:1)

INFLUENCER: Simple... What does the most influential relationship in your life say?

What does you spouse/long term partner or parents think? These people should want the best for you and may bring a perspective that you haven't considered.

NON CHRISTIANS: Simple... What do your non-Christian friends think?

Firstly, you should have some. Second, they can be smart, wise people, even though they don't believe in Jesus. Third, they can bring a point of view which you may be blinded to.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Getting old

Gavin and i were watching the cricket at the pub last night and talking about women between overs. Obviously, we are both comfortable fitting into the stereotype which states that Aussie guys only ever drink beer in a dirty pub (it was the round bar) chatting about sheilas.

We were debating if a thirty year old would be too old for either of us (pretending that i wasn't married of course). To our horror we came to the realisation that we aren't 21 anymore (or even mid twenties) and thirty year olds aren't as old as they used to be.

Anyway... forty year olds are totally out of the question.

Maybe... At least for now.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A public appology

Over the last day or so I've been pondering my dating history. Truth be told, it should have been a short ponder. In my entire life life I've been in a committed dating relationship (aside from the women that became my wife) for a grand total of around three months, encompassing one woman.

I owe a lot to her. In fact, i think my wife owes her more...

In short, the woman deserves a public apology. From around December 2002 to February 2003 i dated a co-worker from Big W. Because it was around the Christmas and going-back-to-school rush we saw each often. Most days in fact. Just not alone and not on a date. In our time together we went on four things which could be called dates.

I don't think i called her ever.

Strangely enough... she dumped me. Over the phone.

In response to this, i was single for nine months and then treated my next girlfriend a thousand times better then the previous sheila in my life.

To Penny... wherever you are... i apologise. As Timbaland would remind me... It's too late to apologise... it's too late...

I sucked. I see that now and openly acknowledge it. But we all suck at our first relationship. I fumbled through it and generally made a meal out of the whole thing.

My now wife should take you out for dinner, buy you a few drinks, take you shopping and give you a hug (actually, the two of you hanging out would freak me out, so just pretend). She gained the benefit from the neglect i put you through.

The three E's unleashing a passionate SHAPE

On the back of yesterdays question, i should probably state my aims in ministry.

Simply stated they are the title of this blog... (aside from introducing people to the gospel and having them respond by having Jesus be the Lord of their life)...

My aims are to Engage, Equip and Empower those in the church. Engage them so they will learn. Equip them so they can serve. Empower them so they can have a ministry of their own.

With this, a follower can be unleashed to make an impact on their world, using the unique makeup God has designed them to have. From looking at their Spiritual gifts, their History, their Abilities, their Personality and what Excites them, you can see what they are passionate about and the area they are called to be used by God (i ripped this off Rick Warren... ta).

Christianity, at the core, is about following Jesus with a PASSION. Ministry should be about cultivating a culture where this is ok and making avenues where passionate followers of Jesus can do what God has called them to do. NO MATTER WHAT IT IS!

With proper discernment, through the Bible and the affirmation of the church, if someones field of calling is left-handed golf ministry, then my role is to wholeheartedly encourage and support them in that endeavour. Simple really.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Foundations for ministry

As the year comes to an end i suspect that more of my posts will start to sound like answers to potential job interview questions. Today... What will you base your ministry on?

For me i have four traits that i aim for...

LONGEVITY - 1 Thes 2:8 - Ministry gains in leaps and bounds the longer you stick around at a church (I blogged a little on this yesterday). In looking for a position my mindset begins with the aim of staying for no fewer than five years. Over time and shared experience you build trust, gain influence (both with the kids and the wider church).

EXAMPLE - 1 Cor 11:1 - In ministry we must show in integrity, both personally and professionally, and servanthood (Mk 10:45).

EXCELLENCE - Col 3:23 - God's people should be known for producing quality. This doesn't necessarily mean that perfection is the minimal requirement, nor that failure isn't an option, but if you don't strive for excellence you won't hit it. This will require the needed effort and planning along with a strong dose of the following...

PRAYER - Psalm 127:1 - On my own strength i can do ok... for a while. Maybe a week. I achieve Graham sized results and goals. With dependence on God i do much better. God sized results and visions are much bigger than mine...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Strutting around in longevity

This week I've been back reading water meters and positively strutting around like i own the suburbs of Cremorne Point and Cammeray.

Through my continuation at reading meters I'm now at the stage where I'm reading the same areas for a third time. By now i can almost walk up to the water meters without too much trouble and, so far this week, have been able to knock off a days work by 1 and 2 in the arvo.

This all got me thinking about a stat i may have made up and old guys with skullets.

I remember seeing a stat which said that a youth minister will have their most productive period at a church between years 4-8 (years 7-10 for senior ministers). Working this week reminded me why.

Both water meter reading and ministry are hugely cyclic. You do the same things time and time again (within reason). Reading water meters you (hopefully) read the same regions four times a year. In ministry you go through the liturgical year, school year, annual camps, bi-annual leaders weekends and the full lectionary every four years.

Now for the skullets (a mullet where the wearer is bald in the front... thus skull). At a youth ministry convention a few years ago, i remember the MC had those in ministry stand. Then those in the job for 5 years. Then 10 years. Then 15 years.

As the time in ministry expanded, those standing dwindled, until two long haired bald guys were the only ones left.

One of them said that the job gets easier the longer you are at it. It makes sense...

With longevity you inevitably repeat the same tasks. Your twentieth term planner should be much easier and faster to produce than your first. Your eighth camp should run smoother than your first. The mistakes you made in your first big event, should be ironed out (or at least identified sooner) by your tenth.

This all goes without mentioning the advantages of building trust and influence throughout the church and youth ministry as time goes on...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The movie i'll watch in heaven

If I would be watching "Snakes on a Plane" in hell then I'll be watching "Turner and Hooch" in heaven.

Actually, I'll be too busy worshiping at the throne to be watching TV.

Instead I'll sit on my couch and watch Turner and Hooch now. I believe Hooch will still end up eating the interior of a car. Then most of his new owners possessions. Turner will get laid by a vet. Finally Hooch will ID the murderer... and catch a bullet in the chest.

Poor Hooch.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Room Group Leading for Dummies

With camp over and having an influx of new Junior leaders next year i started to wonder how i would tell them to be room group leaders.

The game plan is simple.

1) Love Jesus
2) Love the kids.
3) Lead from the front in example and service.
4) Know the program.
5) Know where you gotta be and when. Get your kids to said place at said time.
6) Know where the first kid in your group is.
7) Be with the last kid in your group.
8) Aim for as little space and time between number 6 and 7.

What i would be watching in hell

Right now I'm suffering through "Snakes on a Plane"

I'll spare you the details of the intricate plot... but you can guess that it involves snakes on a ....

I'm fairly certain that if i end up in hell I'll be watching this film. Beside me will be Samuel L Jackson (he must have been in dire financial trouble to do the role). On the other side of me will be Samuel L's agent (he must have been searching for a way out of the business).

Time well invested... The Weird and the Brave.

At camp i was struck by two campers especially. Both were juniors, but will remain nameless.

One was a kid who took creepiness to a level i could barely imagine possible. Over Challenge Camp 2007 he took awkwardness to strange new places. This year he wasn't as bad, but as i thought about his behaviour, i grew to see it as a positive trait for camp.

Either he is always weird beyond the norm, and thus showing that camp has a ministry to the creepers (keeping me safely in a position of security). Alternatively, and even better for camp, he turns up his kookiness for the week. If the later is the case then it shows the freedom he feels in the setting of camp. A freedom to be as weird as he wants.

If this kid, when surrounded by the people of God, can reveal his uninhibited true self for only seven days a year. I'm ok with that.

The second kid scared me at the start of the week. He was a big year 8. By the second day of camp the fear remained. He was giving the leaders nicknames.

By the middle of the week two things happened that brought me closer to the kid. First we made a hemp bracelet together. We were connected by the wrist for an hour. Most importantly... his bracelet kicked ass!

Second, I spent another hour with the kid at the flying fox waiting for him to jump.

If i was a crap storyteller, i would tell you... we walked up, we sat about, we came back down.

The actual tale goes like this... I told him we would be side by side any way he traveled up or down the hill. I helped him put on his harness and then put on my own. We walked up the path slowly together (getting our photo taken prior to fool anyone into thinking we jumped either way). We stopped halfway, but decided to keep going to "check out the view." We sat up the top for a while. He was crapping himself. After some (read a lot) convincing he strode (read quivered) to the edge. After two aborted attempts, getting to the edge of the platform, i lived up to my word. We slowly walked down the path again. A process just a troublesome as the journey up the hill.

The guy at the top of the mountain said that being brave isn't having an absence of fear, but doing something despite that fear being present.

I'd be honest in saying that i walked down a mountain path with a damn courageous kid.

Back in the saddle

I got back from camp today.

As usual, i returned feeling sleepy, grumpy, happy, queasy and dopey (not to mention the rest of the dwarfs) all at the same time.

Over the last week i was reminded how much I've missed ministry. I've missed the crazy kids who are generally awkward and clumsy at flirting. I've missed the wacky times the leaders have while away from the ankle biters. I've missed leaving all shame and personal dignity behind to entertain others. I've missed having to change plans on the fly and perform to a timetable.

Most of all, I've missed the chance to see God work up close. The opportunity to see kids lives transformed and God's faithfulness unfold before your eyes.