Sunday, November 30, 2008

Power of the ask

Yesterday i was thinking about my times at Beach Mission and, for the purposes of the post, how i got there. The answer, in short, is that i was asked.

For a while i was against Beach Mission as a place to meet your future life partner and blow a week beach side. Then i was asked to go and i said ok...

The whole episode makes me wonder about how we often seek volunteers in church. Often we just announce that we need help and take anyone who obliges. We cast the net and we accept whatever we drag back in...

But i think that we would get better results if we ditched this policy and focused our volunteer recruitment to "the ask." First of all, this is way more personal and valuing to the person that is asked. Second, you are able to gain people who you are actually desiring to be a part of the ministry.

Sure, you can be surprised by red herrings who crawl out of the woodwork and turn out to be amazing. And sure, the people you are after could volunteer anyway... but why risk it?

Friday, November 28, 2008


Finally the Manly Daily has proved to be a useful source of knowledge!

Flicking through the local rag my eye was caught by the notification of a LifeLine bookfair.

I love bookfairs. Especially the first nights, with the other bookfair FREAKS! (Yes, Stefan is included)

I love the cheap books. I love the old Nana shopping trolleys people bring. I love the un-navigatable isles. I love getting in peoples way. I love the excitement before you head off...

I'm so glad i'm already married. Otherwise, if the above info got out, i'd never get a date.


I'm confused... If the nation across the ditch is called New Zealand, then where is Zealand?

I know that there is a Wales to accompany New South Wales and a York to match New York... But Zealand?

Also... What kind of place is it? In the two above examples, the "New" is superior in my opinion. Therefore, how crappy is Zealand to be trumped by the Kiwis?

Confusion reigns.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Party Time!!!

Today also kicked off the party season. Long live the 25th!!!

Today is my second wedding anniversary...

One month later is Christmas...

Two months later is my birthday...

The dating begins soon

Today i got a call from a church, setting up an interview for a full time youth ministry position next year. It reminded me how dating and the rigors of getting a church position are similar.

First, you woo the perspective partner. You meet up with those you will directly work with, usually the minister. Here you're just feeling the water and getting info if you'll possibly mesh.

Second, you meet the family. You meet up with the interested parties in the ministry, usually a small youth team made up of leaders, parents and concerned others. Now you get more serious, you determine if you have a long term future together and ask the hard questions.

Third, you meet the extended family. You are introduced to the wider church or youth. Now you're neck deep. You should determine if it is time to hit the eject button or full steam ahead.

Finally, you get hitched together. You sign on the dotted line...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Church gorge or desert?

Lately I've been thinking about church and what happens if you go overseas to a country where you don't understand the language or know anyone. It doesn't surprise me that believers who travel to foreign lands struggle in keeping their faith vibrant long term.

In my mind it comes down to how you upkeep the individual spiritual disciplines and how church fits in to the whole equation.

Does you faith revolve around a Sunday gorge, or is your faith regularly fed on regular personal Bible reading/study and prayer? Is church the only place you get spiritual input, or is it the desert which supplements the "meals" you're having during the week?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christian protection?

Today i thought about what i would do if two of my leaders were going out and she fell pregnant. First... Hopefully... It would be a nightmare, so I'd wake up. Second, i never resolved an answer in my mind (if you need an answer, push me for one and i may be able to squeeze one out).

But my mind further wandered to what i would say to a Christian guy who told me that he had slept with his girlfriend. In my mind, the context resolves around a repentant young chap (over 18), who has a long term missus.

I pondered if i would be happy that he used a condom. No, i don't hope they wouldn't, but why would he have one handy?

More importantly... Should he?

Should a Christian guy carry a condom with him just in case passions get the better of the two of them, or should he not have one and (if they don't abort) have unprotected sex? Hmmm... Self control should fix the problem... but that's too simple.

Again, I'm not totally resolved on the issue, but i remember that a box of condoms used to be available in the office when i was a kid in the youth ministry (When i took over the practice was abandoneed). It wasn't advertised or passed about but the idea behind it was that if they were going to do it, they should at least be safe. Furthermore, they need to go into the office to retrieve one... so you might catch them in the act and chat to them about the decision they are about to make.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nasal delivery technology

I was driving home from work today and heard an ad for nasal delivery technology. If you don't know what I'm talking about... you' re lucky. (insert disclaimer) I wasn't paying attention to the ad cause i need it, but the figure they quoted intrigued me. They said that over 1000 guys call for help each day.

That's a lot of guys.

Say they have the phones free on the weekends and two weeks for holidays.... This leaves 5 days a week for 50 weeks. That's 250,000 guys a year!

Worse... if the population of Australia is 21,490,143 (as shown on the ABS population clock when i posted) and just under half is men (49%)... that's roughly 10,500,000 chaps roaming this big brown land.

If one third of guys are under 17 or over 70, then that only leaves around 7 million guys who may call the hotline.

Why am i making a deal of this? Well, if a quarter of a million guys are calling an impotency helpline each year, then in around 28 years our whole nation will be shooting duds or needing nasal help to be ready.

The leaders prayer burden

It may just be me, but Ange and i were talking before praying together a few nights ago and we chatted about praying out loud. I mentioned the pressure that is placed on those in leadership to pray when leading a group.

It has only dawned on me now that I'm not in the leaders chair. I now have the option to not pray if I'm not moved to. Is it allowing the Holy Spirit to move? Possibly. Is it part laziness? Perhaps.

Sure, i know all the arguments why the leader should pray. Someone has to. You need to set an example if you're leading kids. You get the opportunity to pray for application for what you have been teaching.

Still... Not having the burden of having to pray... Not the worst thing in the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mistakes and Unplanned Memories

Today my mind wandered to the most memorable mistake during my years at Balgowlah. On the inaugural young adults weekend, a much hyped event, with an even larger hyped breakfast, i forgot the keys to the place we were staying.

This wouldn't have been an issue if we weren't over two hours from the keys location. But, alas we were.

As a result the breakfast didn't develop, nor was i around for lunch. Luckily, those who were there on time, had a lovely time playing with sheep (or at least that's what the photos suggest!).

The episode further cast my mind back to the old days of my discipling group and the random unplanned memories that were created. You don't plan for fart blankets or the creation of the term for the awkward silence after a good group laugh... a madoferin.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Over the last few days i've had a few conversations about events that they would love to repeat again and again. Usually it is a concert or sporting event you saw.

For me it is last years NRL Grand Final. It think i've seen the game, or at least a large part of it, six or so times. Truth be told, i think i could watch that game every day for the next six months and find that totally acceptable.


As i was shuffling chairs before church yesterday afternoon my mind was reminded of the difference between acceptable and excellent. I may have heard it from a famous footy coach, quoted by John Maxwell sometime or even mashed together in my own head...

It goes something like this...

The difference between acceptable and excellent is made up of 1%'s. The little things make the difference.

It's the PowerPoint slides and newsletter without typos. The clean church. Adequate lighting. Starting and finishing on time. Not having a buzz through the PA.

It's the details that influence the way others react.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How my preaching is helped by my Impediment

Most of you would know that i have a speech impediment. The more you are around me the less you tend to notice.

For me, the equation is simple. Avoid hard R's and L's. My daughter will not be called Laura nor my son called Larry.

Can i tame my impediment? Yes. If i focus and speak slowly. Do i bother? No.

When preaching i do two things to minimise the effects.

First, i know which phrases and words to avoid. I avoid saying the "glory of God" for example, instead i would talk about the majesty of God, or the wonder or the magnificence. The synonym feature in Word does most of the work for me. Also, I will never drop the sentence about the "little red race car that run around the racetrack."

Second, i work off a full manuscript. I may not keep to it as religiously as i did in the past, but planning what I'm going to say word-for-word, controls where my thoughts are going and draws me away from the entanglement of hard R's and L's.

I think the two things help. Firstly, it means i need to be more intentional in my prep. Second, i know fairly closely what i have said in the past and can pass that on or post it online (if the church I'm preaching at does this).

Blog stopper

In the book i mentioned in my last post it mentioned that it was vital for the church leadership to approve any new blogs (not necessarily the posts, just that a blog exists). It made me come to a potentially disturbing decision...

If i get a job at a church next year (here's hoping!!!) and the senior minister isn't ok with me blogging, then... the ramblings will cease (sob, sob). My ramblings will have to be contained in my head once more and the Internet will be a duller place for all...

I've created a monster!

I feel that i will soon have to issue another official apology to my first girlfriend due to the new term that is catching on like wildfire. The term is a Penny. In short, it it the awkward, short term relationship you had in your past. Either you have a Penny, or you were someones Penny. Technically it should be called a Graham, because i was her Penny, but whatever.

In a book i just finished on blogging and ministry it said that the "word of the year" for 2007 (turns out an award is given for that!?) was blog. I hope that Penny doesn't become the "word for 2008."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Deadline ministry

Tonight I'm speaking at IMPACT, the Friday night youth group I used to be a part of. I'm excited to go back and hopefully will see lots of productive changes and heaps of new faces.

On the back of this I'm also doing the sermon at the evening service. Again, I'm looking forward to this, as this week is the closest I've come to working a youth ministry week.

Whilst thinking about this, i decided that i enjoy the deadlines that are attached with ministry. Sure, at the time, as the hours draw closer to the event, be it a scripture lesson, youth group, evening service, big event... whatever... it's not always fun, but it has it's positives.

Come Friday or Sunday, what you've done by the deadline, is what you have to go with. If nothing else, this demands that you get some definite boundaries and efficient time management.

Also, the results are only temporary. If you do a smoking sermon, and aren't poached during the week, or woeful scripture lesson, and don't get sacked in the next seven days, you need to back up again the next time. Once you perform on the ministry horse, the carnival arrives again on Monday and the race begins again...

Summer offically begins

Today i drove through a bush fire. Not a real one, but a fireman controlled, helicopter encircled, caution "hazy driving conditions ahead" one.

Every though they cause heaps of damage... the smell of a bush fires makes my mind spring to summer...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

PowerPoint Preaching

I just finished my PowerPoint presentation for Sunday 's sermon and I've noticed that the trend of using a slide show with the sermon has gone out of favour at the evening service.

I would like to say that i use slides because they help the audience retain the information they are receiving... That i find inspirational pictures to convey the audible message i am giving... Or that the visual stimulus appeals to the visual learners and visually wired blokes. But really, my reasons aren't that deep.

I use PowerPoint to keep me on track.

In preparing the sermon i can tell if my points make sense and are in the correct order. During delivery i can use the slides, and focus less on my notes. Finally, it means i get lost less if i turn two pages of notes at once (no-one likes the preacher who fiddles with his notes).

Starting on the big stage...

Today i was wondering if i would want to go to the new church I'd work for on Christmas day. I'm not totally sold on the idea, but it may be growing on me.

Here you should see their A-game. Their musos should be on... The sermon should be smoking... Everyone should be at their cheeriest... The church will never be more packed. What better day to check out the church than the biggest morning of the year?

Still... I don't think I'd want to be introduced or anything of that nature... It should be about Jesus after all.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wing special

I'm not sure if i have or have not mentioned that musical talents of Wing Han Tsang. She is amazing on a level that amazing can barely be quantified... AND she is having a special!

For the price of a CD (US$15), and a small fee of US$3, Wing will sing for you down the phone on your birthday! That screams class! That screams bargain!

If you haven't had the chance, go to and let the music move you... Maybe you will be inspired to get someone a VERY special birthday gift.

Theology on the streets

Today at Lindfield i saw a young lass walking at great speed holding a theology text book.

It sent my mind racing... Was she a Christian book thief? Was she a college student rushing to a study session? Was she just a street theologian going door to door?

Either way... I wasn't prepared to start an awkward conversation.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Century

This post is very exciting... my 100th.

It only seems like 85 short days ago that i began... 687 views... 356 visitors ago.

Barefoot church

Tonight i noticed that there were a lot of bare feet at church. I like going to a church that doesn't enforce the wearing of shoes.

I was reminded about some controversy that was stirred up when someone once preached barefoot. I don't remember the exact details, but it became law to wear shoes if your going to speak the Word of God.

Next week I'm preaching at church... I'll be wearing footwear.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Roles of a minister

One of the questions i had to answer in my MASSIVE short answer application form for a job had this question... What do you believe is the role of a minister?

I think i gave a killer answer... It went like this...

"I believe the role of a minister is sixfold.

First is evangelism. A minister must introduce people to the message of salvation through Jesus.

Second is discipleship. A minister must teach the Word or God accurately and effectively.

Third is pastoral care. A minister must nurture those God has entrusted into their care.

Number four is empowerment. A minister must help a believer find their God given ministry within the Body of Christ and equip them to do this in the most dynamic manner.

Fifth is being an example. A minister must be able to say, like Paul... Follow me as i follow Christ (1 Cor 11:1).

Finally, a minister must be a servant to those in church."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Two questions

Yesterday on Sunrise i saw a story on some chap talking about job interviews, especially on the importance of the questions you ask.

For me, i go out of my way to ask two questions in particular. Both, hopefully, reveal what the churches value...

First question: If the person you hire is exceeding expectations in six months, what would they be doing?

This should show what the churches view as success. Is it all numbers based? Is the growth of faith mentioned at all? Do they desire innovation? Are they satisfied with the status quo?

Second question: What is your church known for in the community?

This should reflect what the church thinks they do well. Also, it could show what ministries they have to nonbelievers.

For me, if the person/committee, give satisfying answers to these two questions... then they go along way to stirring my interest.


Today i worked my ass off at Lindfield, done by 3:30.

Really, it all boiled down to the inspiration that was waiting for me at home... KFC and cold beer. The thought of these two spurred me on all day.

I'm sure the IOC has the combination on the banned substances list. If not, they should. It really boosts performance.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Changing the scene

With my wife and (hopefully) me changing jobs shortly, my mind was stirred to change. More importantly, how to go about change in a new workplace/church.

From what i have come up with, there are seven ways...

1 - Slash and burn #1 - John Maxwell says that when you enter a failing company, you should fire as many people as possible. The idea is, if they could do the job well, they would have already. Also those left behind would be stained by the previous leadership.

2 - Slash and burn #2 - Not as harsh as number one, but starts from scratch using the resources and people that already exist. When i shifted the after school, single year, discipling groups at Balgowlah to a combined Friday night youth group i used this method. We shut everything down over the holidays and relaunched with the same leaders (who were never the problem anyway).

3 - Incremental change - With a final destination in mind, the leader makes changes over a period of time. In youth ministry, this would work over a term or two. My most obvious example is back when i was at Big W. Over a month or so they would do a refit of the entire store in segments.

4 - Tweaking - Used when the incumbent leader is ok with what exists, he/she tweaks what already exists, adding their individual fingerprint to what already works. For me, this was my first few years at Balgowlah. I moved the furniture around for a while, but the structure remained the same.

5 - Change the culture - This one takes a little longer. Over time you transform the thinking, expectations and demands of the group as you explain and groom your vision.

6 - Change the focus - Change those who attend. The example of this is when pubs go "up market" and turf all the riff-raff that used to attend. Exhibit A: Brookie Pub.

7 - Leave - Drinking from the fountain of John Maxwell again... The "Law of the Lid" says that a ministry or organisation will only rise as far as the leader can take it. His/her ability and vision will put a lid on how far they can go. I got to this point on a few occasions... even to the point where i said to the Chapmans that i was going to resign the next morning. They talked me out of it...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Handsfree shells

Today, while driving home, i saw someone talking on their mobile whilst driving.

Surprisingly enough... it got my mind wandering...

Talking on your mobile must be illegal because you don't have both hands on the wheel. It can't be because you are distracted by the conversation, or you couldn't use handsfree sets or converse to passengers.

If this is the reason, then would putting a shell to your ear and listening to "the sound of the ocean" be illegeal whist driving as well???

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The perfect Sunday

Today, once i read the papers, my mind wandered to what my perfect Sunday would include... Imagine a day consisting of...

10:30am - Wake Up
10:30-12:00 - Bible Reading/Study
12:30-3:00 - Read both papers cover to cover
3:00-5:30 - Watch the cricket at Manly Oval with Gavin over a couple of beers
6:00-9:00 - Church... with a really good sermon
9:00-11:30 - Out at the Brighton with the Young Adults



Over the last few days I've been chased to help someone out in a JP capacity.

I've been a Justice of the Peace since 2006 and i don't understand why all youth ministers aren't JP's. The process isn't too complex and the duty is quite useful. All you need to do is show due cause on a professional or communal level, get signed off by your local MP and take the oath of office.

As a youth minister, you are called upon a few times a year (be it for uni, child protection/drivers declarations) and it is useful for a wider use in the church (statutory declarations, witness forms).

Finally... It adds more letters to the end of your name! Why wouldn't you?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Testing and Tempting

Today i read a bit in Exodus where it said that God tested Israel whilst they were in the desert.

This made my mind jump to James 2, where it says that God doesn't tempt believers.

God tests His people and this is a positive thing. It refines their faith, gives an opportunity for obedience and strengthens their belief.

Satan, on the other hand, tempts Christians into drawing away from God into sin and weakening their faith.

I think there's a significant difference in the two terms which we don't always acknowledge or recognise when the two unfold in our lives.

An annoying office

In the DVDs we are currently watching at small group the guy keeps saying that he does a stack of prep at coffee shops. This exposes him to nonbelieving coffee shop workers... (What happens if they do believe? Do you leave and find another store?)

Personally, if i worked in a coffee shop this would annoy the hell out of me. I would hate having this guy sit in my store for hours on end, working away on a laptop or doing sermon reading.

For the amount of time that you are in the cafe, compared to the amount of coffee that you order, they are on the losing end of the equation...

Trick or Treating freaks!

Yesterday, being Halloween, there were odd pockets of Trick-or-Treaters out and about.

This annoys me.

First, we are not American. This is not a Christian rant against the pagan ritual that is Halloween... rah, rah, rah... but an issue of culture. Halloween is not a part of our heritage. It should stay that way.

Second, due to the first point, many people are unprepared for kids to arrive on their doorstep and demand chocolate.

Finally, how many kids will perform a trick if you call their bluff?


I love my wife. She's so wise and knowledgeable.

When my ipod died my darling wife said that it would come good once it dried out. She was right.

It's the greatest resurrection since Easter...