Saturday, December 18, 2010

The speech

Today was a bad day. Actually, I'm really, really, ready for this year to be over...

I need "the speech."

I few weeks ago i submitted a guest post about the youth ministry speech.

The idea comes from the TV show "The Practice."

Every so often one of the attorneys would need "the speech" to remind them that they should persevere. No matter if they are a prosecutor and are staring injustice in the face, or on the defensive side of the judicial system and troubled by an ethical dilemma, they eventually ask to hear "the speech." A good example would be this scene... (for some reason the embed function has been disabled).

Today i need "the speech."

The speech that says that God is good. The speech that God is fair. The speech that God is still worth following.

Today my wife and I lost our unborn baby.
A week before we were going to announce the pregnancy to everyone at Christmas.
On the day that our first miscarried baby would have been due.

Right now, i need "the speech."

PS... I'm going to stop blogging for the rest of the year. I need to get some head space and spend more time with my wife.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thanks cards

My back hurts.

My hand is sore.

All because it's the week before Christmas.

Each year i spend a few hours sending Christmas cards to those who have supported the youth ministry over the last 12 months and, more importantly, church parents who have allowed me the privilege to minster to their children.

I this practice because of guys like these at my home church.

People who are your greatest cheerleaders. People who encourage you whenever they see you. People who faithfully uphold your ministry in prayer.

People who make you grateful that you are working at their church.

But also result in lots of Christmas cards and inevitable hand cramps.

With 12 down, i still have 13 to go...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Creating a solid platform

I haven't done many re-posts on this site, but I've had the thoughts of this post running through my mind.

In the post i mentioned the hurdles a ministry faces when responsibly growing numerically. In short, they are leaders and facilities.

As my mind turns to 2011, I'm hopeful that i will face these obstacles and thus need to create plans during the current school holidays.

For I'm mindful that i need to knock them over before the group can safely advance.

Before the youth ministry at my church grows beyond 25ish (where we could be now if all the regulars turned up on the same week), i need more leaders. Especially with a gender balance. I need to have at least five leaders (to keep a healthy ratio of around 1:6, leader:teen), with at least two females to confidently more forward.

If i want to expand in numbers, first i must create a suitable platform to build upon. There is little point if your expansion creates chaos, not productive growth.

Here is where the work that is done over January can pay off later in the year.

More so, if we get to 40 kids, the hall and where we eat dinner, would become overly cramped. As much as i could desire a group of 100 kids on a Friday night, it isn't feasible.

Finally, for the last term i have been trying to create another space for small discussion groups. But, the guy with the trailer, the guy who's donating the couches, myself and the weather haven't fallen into alignment for the last few months.

But, to move forward, the hurdles to numbers need to be dealt with... And surely i can find a sunny day to coincide with transport over Summer.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why the wise men may not have had camels

I don't pretend to be cutting edge. I certainly don't pretend that i an at the forefront of YouTube clips.

I first spotted this a few days ago and it has been making the rounds of various websites...

For some reason, i just can't turn away when i watch this.

Note: No animals or people were actually injured in this clip. But the bloke leading the camel may have had his ego bruised.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Prepared for them to move on

At college i seem to vaguely remember the stages that children/teens go through (something along these lines) in identifying and owning their faith.

What has held firmly in my mind is the transition that teenagers in Christian families (especially) go through. Over time, usually in the teen years, young people will begin to personally own their faith. They will clutch their faith for themselves, as opposed to having it attached to their parents, other family members or youth minister.

I keep this before me because it reminds me that church teenagers need chances to step out and posses their faith. Young people need opportunities to stand on their own feet.

For some, this will mean stepping away from their parents church service. Ideally, this would be a transition from the morning service to a more contemporary evening service. But for some this may mean leaving their home church and connecting with another.

Either way, this is actually a healthy step in their faith development.

And perhaps the church could do a better job in preparing parents for this transition.

Ironically, if a young adult, stays in their parents home and is dependant on their folks for too long, this is seen as a inhibitor to their development. But in the Christian eyes of some parents, the exact opposite can be valued. They want to keep their baby close to home.

It may not be easy, but perhaps parents should be gently pushing them away from the nest...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More than just one week

Today i started to crunch the numbers from the term and year just past.

There's still a lot of reflection to be done and planning to look forward to, but i saw a few noticeable wins.

An obvious one were the new kids who have stuck around.

When i think about how the teens have changed from their first week, I'm reminded that youth ministry isn't a sprint or a one off.

At best, you have six years in high school (and potentially years either side). Each year has around 40 weeks of youth group. Hopefully, each year you have at least one camp they attend and dozens of church services.

In short, you have more than just a week. Lots more.

And that's a good thing.

You have many, many teachable moments.

You don't have to try and squeeze the entire Christan message, relevant theology and useful church history into one teaching time.

You get the privilege to watch kids develop and mature.

You can share the highs and lows of growing up. You ride with them through dating, formals, driving, exams, birthdays, friendship breakdowns and family tragedies.

All because you get more than just one week...

Friday, December 10, 2010

What could happen?

Now that I'm working at a church a significant distance from where i live and grew up, i don't get the chance to invite those a really know to church. Sure, I'll invite and encourage teens in come, but this doesn't hold the same amount of risk.

Then again, i can only think of one person I've invited to church in the last year. Maybe.

Perhaps this video is for me...

This video outlines some of the fears Christians hold when they extend an invitation for someone to come to church.

With Christmas on the horizon, maybe it's worth putting our fears aside and taking the plunge.

What's the worst that could happen?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

As my prop will now illustrate...

This week i looked like a weirdo to most people who are in my ministry and friendship networks. I asked for a sparkly, sequined jacket to use in a sermon on Sunday evening. I figured that someone would have one stashed about.

Lately, I've used some fairly effective props in my talks. I've used a leather glove to be slapped with and a Greek theater mask. Now both occupy space on a bookcase in my office.

I keep them to remind me of the points that i was making (that God's mercy isn't cheap and to avoid being two-faced at church) and as discussion starters for others who notice them.

I like to use props whilst preaching because they remain in the mind of those listening. Hopefully, when the congregation views the item that was used in the sermon they remember the point about God or Christian living that was made.

For some reason, i can't look at a tomato without thinking about integrity.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas sideshow

Every NFL match is not the Superbowl. Every wrestling event is not WrestleMania. Every cricket match is not an Ashes, Boxing Day Test.

And no-one pretends they are.

But with Christmas rapidly approaching, i can tell that grand plans are being hatched across the globe...
Churches are being decorated within an inch of their lives.
Sermons are being crafted, edited and re-edited.
Purveyors of children's talks are scouring their networks for mind-blowing props.
Choirs and dramas are being assembled and rehearsed.

All to put our best foot forward on December 25th.

But... is it to the churches long-term advantage to punch out one incredible service, if the other 51 weeks of the year they don't come near hitting the same mark?

Do churches flirt with bait-and-switch at Christmas?

Wouldn't it make more sense to give those who walk through your doors a genuine experience of what they could find ANY Sunday?

And if this regular Sunday isn't up to scratch, then shouldn't the church look at improving their normal service, not just have an uncharacteristically spectacular one?

Just a thought...

Monday, December 6, 2010

A unicorn kills a mime

If only it were true... (I got this from this website, one of my favourites)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why i don't fear money

I while ago i wrote a post titled "Why i don't fear numbers."

Well I don't fear money either. I'm not shy in talking about it and how followers of Jesus are called to use the polymer notes that flutter in and out of their wallets.

And many of the reasons i don't shy away from numbers apply to the issue of money.

Simply, money matters. Money pays the wages, funds ministry and keeps the lights switched on.

One in six parables that Jesus told dealt with possessions and churches seem to fail in reflecting the teachings of Christ by avoiding the topic.

Whenever i lead a service i will always make an effort to speak, no longer than 3 minutes, about giving before the offering. If nothing else, this keeps the issue before the congregation and (i don't think surprisingly), churches that aren't shy about speaking about money, normally, aren't doing it financially tough.

For me, money indicates two important things.

First... Buy in. You can tell how invested people are by what they are willing to give towards it.

Second... Obedience. Money may indicate the obedience of the group. God calls His people to be generous with their finances and give to the work of the church. If the congregation is growing in depth of understanding, service, commitment and love, then this should be (somewhat) reflected in the offering.

I would love to be at a church where 5c pieces were eliminated from offering plates. I think this would speak highly about the mindset that the church had towards giving.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Should a Christian date a non-Christian - Examples

Yesterday's post created (and still may) good chatter. The purpose of this series is to get people thinking. If you disagree, or have something to add, then go crazy.

They say that if you write something and everyone agrees with what you say, then you've wasted your time in writing...

So finally... after looking at wisdom, compatibility and influence, we get to...


1 Corinthians 10, while speaking about the Old Testament, says "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us..."

For me, two apt examples spring to mind. Solomon and Samson.

1 Kings 11 speaks about the wives/concubines of Solomon and the influence they had on him. We read that "...his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God..."

Like i said in yesterdays comments, your danger of drifting away from God is heightened by the company you keep. We see this in the subsequent actions and attitudes of Solomon.

Similarly, we encounter this with Samson and Delilah in Judges 16. Through engaging in a relationship with a non-believer, things turn sour. Admittedly, Samson wasn't the most upstanding bloke, but we should glean the lesson.

She had another allegiance and this effected the two of them.

When you date someone who holds some other worldview, I'm troubled to see how it turns out productively.

If nothing else, in light of what you're both living for and experience (both biblical and in life) it seems to be unwise.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Should a Christian date a non-Christian - Influence

When i am asked the question about believers dating non-believers, i usually start with a well worn illustration that has to do with INFLUENCE.

Basically, i get someone to stand on a chair with someone beside them. The person on the chair represents the Christian. The person on the ground represents the non-believer.
The person on the chair then tries to pull the other person up onto the chair.
The person on the ground does nothing more than passively resist.
Finally, the person next to the chair actively tries to pull the other off the chair.

I have done this dozens of times and i have never seen anyone pulled up onto the chair. Similarly i can barely think of someone who has been an effective evangelistic influence on their non-believing partner.

Actually... Only one.

In a decade and a half, across three churches, beach missions, camps, bible college and miscellaneous other networks i know of ONE PERSON who has come to faith due to their partners beliefs.

The odds do not remotely slant in favour of the Christian.

I can think of a stack of people who have walked away from their faith through this process. I can think of significant leaders who have left their ministry if not their faith behind over this issue. I can think of many a close walk with God becoming a distant connection for a period of time. "Evangelistic dating" damages the church in a way that is staggering.

And yet young Christians keep thinking it won't happen to them.

And God identified this way back in the Old Testament.

Before God's people were to enter the Promised Land God warned then about intermingling with those who in Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:3).God warned that in doing so, they will be influenced.

And not in a good way.

God warned that the Israelites would be turned away from following God due to the influence of those outside the community of faith.

And that is exactly what happened. It happened to those who entered the Promised Land and it still happens today.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Should a Christian date a non-Christian - Compatibility

A follower of Jesus should have their faith as the center of their life. This should control the decisions they make. They are to love God with all they are. All their physical-ness, intellect and passions.

This should cause a real issue if they date someone who does not share this same core belief.


In the New Testament Paul refers to animals that are unequally yoked in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 … “do not be unequally yoked, for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness, …or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?”

While this passage does not specifically refer marriage, it definitely has implications for relationships.

The idea of 2 Corinthians 6 is a couple of incompatible oxen (or other animals) sharing the same yoke (the wooden thing put over animals to pull a plough). Instead of working together to pull the load, they would be working against each other.

A Christian and a non-believer are pulling in fundamentally different directions. One has Jesus as the center of their life and one has something else (whether it be themselves, their family, their job, money, sex... whatever).

Quite simply, they don't run off the same playbook!

If you couldn't share the main thing in your life with the person you are dating, wouldn't that make you incompatible?
If your main identifier was your connection to Jesus, wouldn't it make sense to share that with your partner?
If you based your life decisions on the teachings of Christ (ranging from sex to money) and your partner based their decisions on something else, wouldn't this create conflict?

Finally, these issues don't dissipate over time. What happens if you get married? What about kids?

Malachi 2:15 says that one of the purposes of marriage is Godly offspring. What are the changes of that happening with someone who doesn't believe in Christ?

Life, at best, is greatly more complex due to dating a non-Christian. They have fundamentally alternate outlooks. You wouldn't recommend a die-hard, boot scooting, country music tragic hook up with a hardcore gangster rapper.

Unless one influences the other... But that is for tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Change committee

After some meetings you leave with a breath of fresh air, whilst others make you feel like your soul has been slowly drained from your body.
During today's staff meeting we had a chat about effective, uplifting committee meetings.

The key? Change.

If you are on a committee where you feel like you are making positive change, then you will feel significantly better about the meeting than one where you feel like you are achieving nothing.

Who wants to waste their time on that committee?

Should a Christian date a non-Christian - Wisdom

Yesterday, Tony left little doubt where he stands on the question. I agree, but only because the question says, SHOULD not CAN.

For a believer CAN date anyone they want, but the important element is SHOULD they?

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul quotes his society in saying "I have the right to do anything.” But Paul continues to point out that "not everything is beneficial."
So... Is dating a non-Christian beneficial for a believer?

This should be the backdrop to any argument that is open to shades of grey.

That said, I think the first reason to avoid dating non-believers is due to the calling God places on the lives of His followers. Ephesians 5 says “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise…” God calls them to be wise.

Christians are not to do things which they could anticipate their physical, emotional, or spiritual harm.

In the following days i think we'll see that who you date can be quite unwise...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Should a Christain date a non-Christian?

I'm in the series zone at the moment, so why not keep going?

The next question that has a lengthy-ish explanation is... Should a Christian date a non-Christian?

I'll chop this into four manageable parts - Wisdom, Compatibility, Influence and Biblical Examples.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Regretable family holz?

My wife and i just got back from having a night in the city, and my mind has wandered towards holidays and camps.

With my history of youth ministry and church, I've been associated with plenty of camps. Almost without failure, a family/child won't attend due to a family holiday.

But i am increasingly less frustrated by this occurrence.

Sure, not all family vacations are journeys that are looked forward to or a time of bonding. But in my ministry experience, many are.

And what would be worse? A kid misses a camp to go on holidays with his family, or a teen who comes on camp but has no real connection or meaningfully shared experiences with his/her family?

I'll pay the price of occasionally annoyance for a child to have a healthy family relationship.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Considerations before you go #7 & 8

To finish this series, the last things that are evaluated is the advertising itself and the overall benefits of our attendance.

Advertising -
Is it of good quality?
Would a kid think it is good?
Does it tell me everything i (or a parent) need to know?
If i need more info, does it tell me where i can easily find it?
If i need more advertising, can i easily get it?
Did i get the advertising in time to realistically fundraise?
Do they have a website and is it actually useful?
Do they have a promotional video?
In short... Does the advertising speak well of the event?

Overall benefit of going -
Will we be exposed to something different? Culture? Sheer size? People?
How have people returned from the event in the past?
In short... Does the event contribute something that we wouldn't be able to achieve on our own?

In all these questions an event may not tick all the boxes, but if it doesn't jump enough fences, then the changes of our attendance drop dramatically.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Considerations before you go #5 & 6

On the back of Tom's comment "that i ask a lot of questions", the simple answer is... yes i do. The over-riding aim is to get a feel for the event before heading off because, lets face it, plenty of groups have been burnt by not asking enough questions and diving in blind. I know I've been on the rough end of an event because proper checks weren't considered...

These questions create a framework of thinking, not necessarily a standard of Sims-Event perfection. An event won't tick every single box, but at least you'll have a clear idea going in...

Next off the list is the theological position and previous experience of the organisers.

Theological position of the organisers -
How do the organisers view or fit into the Christian faith?
How do they view or fit into the views of the Uniting Church?
Would our attendance at the organisers event be a potential stumbling block for others?
In short... Do we agree with what they believe enough to be associated with them?

Previous experience of the organisers -
Have they run this event or a comparable one previously?
Do we know anyone who went and was it run smoothly?
Do they have a long-term vision for the event and has it moved forward in the past few years?
In short... Does their past point to a positive future?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Considerations before you go #3 & 4

Once the speaker and the cost of an event have been evaluation the next tings to consider are the demands on us and the venue.

The demands on us -
What, if any personnel, will we need to provide? If we bring kids, do we need to bring leaders?
If we do provide leaders, do they need to pay and do they need to go attend any training events prior?
In short... Are the people we send going to be on output or receiving input from the event?

The venue -
Have we been there before?
Can anyone recommend the accommodation?
Has the site been used in the past by the organisers to iron out any previously encountered troubles?
Will those we send be staying together?
How is the event catered and what effect will that have if i send someone with dietary requirements?
Is the venue easy to get to or near public transport?
Are there others things to do nearby if we have spare time?
Is there phone or Internet reception?
In short... Will we be comfortable and does the site suit the organisers and our needs?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spin me a yarn...

I just read this post and a line from the third point struck me... "In my experience more Christians can recap the meta-narrative of the Star Wars saga than can recap the biblical meta-narrative."

I wonder just how many believers are more familiar with the exploits of the Skywalkers, or Balboas, or Buffy, or the Rafters than the story told through the pages of scripture...

Considerations before you go #1 & 2

When weighing up the potential of any events that get thrust under my nose the first two hoops that it must leap through is the speaker and the cost.

The speaker -
Have i ever heard of him/her before? Were they good?
Could anyone else recommend them?
Can i listen to them on the Internet?
Do they have a blog or book and did it/they get me thinking enough to be worth hearing in person?
In short... Would i have a reasonable expectation of quality from the biblical input?

The cost -
Does it fit into the financial year planner? (eg Does it come near another, preferable, expenditure?)
Will travel costs be a factor?
Are individual or group subsidies possible?
How does the cost of this event compare to other relative events (length of time, location, distance travelled)?
If we had to pull out, how would that effect us financially?
In short... Could i reasonably sell the price of this event to a parent or my church?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Considerations before you go

I get info about camps, conferences and events all the time. I get advertisements for stuff that i can go to alone, with my leaders, or with the entire youth ministry.

Since i go on holidays tomorrow I'll give myself a job to do during the week.

Over the next couple of days I'll explain what things I consider before deciding if I spread the advertising around or if I/we go.

In short, they are...
The speaker, the cost, the demands on us, the venue, the theological position of the organisers, any previous experience of the event or organisers, the advertising itself and the overall benefits of going.

Starting tomorrow, I'll explain them further...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Giving thoughts

When i lead one of my first ever morning service at my home church i introducted the offering with a bunch of quotes and things to get the congregation thinking. I stumbled over some of them last week...

If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving” Mother Teresa

In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John one out of every six verses deals with money. Of the twenty-nine parables Jesus told, sixteen deal with a person and his money.

God judges what we give by what we keep” G. Mueller

Giving isn’t giving unless it hurts

He who gives what he would readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice” Sir Henry Taylor

A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson. She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church “Put whichever one you want into the collection plate and keep the other one for yourself,” she told the girl. When they were coming out of church, the mother asked the daughter which amount she had given. “Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the dollar but, just before the collection, the man in the pulpit said that we should be cheerful givers. I knew I'd be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter, so I did”

Halford Luccock, a Yale professor, tells of the Franks whose “whole armies were sometimes given baptism at one stroke. Many warriors went into the water with their right hands held high so that they did not get wet. Then they could say, “This hand has never been baptized,” and they could swing their battle axes just as freely as ever. The modern counterpart of that partial baptism is seen in many people who have been baptized, all except their wallets. These they hold high out of the water.”

A few Sunday's ago i retold the story of the axeman.
But for me, the one that hits home is the anonymous saying that giving isn't really giving unless it hurts...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Who do you serve?

At the moment I'm thinking about youth ministry leadership and i just read this blog post.

The question in the third point got me thinking.

If i asked my leaders on a Friday, or the leaders who i want to invite on board next year, what would they say? Who are they serving?

Me? The church?

Really, the answer should be God.
Then the kids.

I think I'll ask this question a lot whenever i meet with my leaders...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marriage Union or Civil Marriage

I need to speak about controversial things. I would be a bad blogger if i did not.

At the moment, in Australia, there is a ruckus about the issue of gay marriage.

In my mind there are two main things worth speaking about.

First, i heard a lady say to the PM that she wants to ask her partner if she wants to get married not "civil unioned." Here, i believe, is a big part of the issue. The title of marriage.

I would ask the woman what she really wants. Does she desire a title or the recognition of her feelings and commitment to the other person.

The government's response to gay marriage is a civil union. Two same gendered people can be recognised as a couple and have all the legal trappings that come with that union being recognised (eg access to superannuation). The government amended the laws to make this the case.

If there was not a hangup over the title of "marriage" would there still be an issue? I don't see what the gay community really gain in the whole argument except a ceremony with a slightly altered title.

But second, is marriage really a legal or a religious ceremony?

I believe, in today's society, it is seen more as the former than the later. This is especially true with the prevalence of weddings being performed by celebrants and the open decline of mainline Christianity.

What would happen if, no matter what gender you were or what kind of partnership you were entering into, it was all deemed a civil union? Would this greatly dissolve the issue?

If marriage was a separate religious ceremony, would heterosexual couples kick up a stink? And what would be the reasons?

If marriage is a committing, into covenant, to another person before God, isn't it inseparably a religious ceremony? If you don't believe in God, then what are you really saying?

I'm just not sure a religious ceremony this is what some gay couples are actually wanting to enter into...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Submit-ment problem?

How was your day?
Mine was great. Really great.
Thanks for asking...

Yesterday i gave my quickie advice to potential spouses and my last point reminded me of an objection a have occasionally heard about submission within marriage.

Some females have told me that they are offended at the idea that a wife should submit to her husband.

Personally, i don't see a problem with it. And no, I'm not a chauvinist jerk.
Normally my response is to enquire what type of spouse they will have. Will the husband be like those described in the New Testament?

For I don't have a problem... as long as the bloke is a husband in the biblical mold. If he loves you like Christ loves the church, then what's the problem?

Submission is not about domination, it is about leadership and accountability. Marriage has one leader and it happens to be the guy.

Anything with two heads isn't healthy, it is a freak.

So... if you're husband loves you in a sacrificial manner, putting your needs ahead of his, treating you like Jesus treats his bride... would submitting to him be so awful?

It's not like it doesn't go both ways...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Marriage Advice for the ADD

Last year i posted the things that i did before i got married.

Last night i, by request, messaged my advice about marriage...

1 - Read every passage in the New Testament about marriage and the role of a husband.
2 - Realise that you need to treat your wife in a similar manner that Christ treats His church.
3 - Ponder point 2. Really sit with it for a while.
4 - CRAP YOURSELF at the enormity of what you are embarking into.
5 - Once you're prepared to love and sacrifice for your spouse in a Christ-like manner, then you are ready to say your vows and be the husband that your wife deserves and God calls you to be...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Should you force your kids to church?

I've been thinking about this question for a few days.

And I'm a pretty smart guy.

But i have no gem of wisdom in answering this question.

Ideally, this question should never be posed because church is a place that kids WANT to come to. They have fun, make friends, are accepted, have a tribe of adults who care about them and are sowing positive things into their life (not to mention hearing the life changing message of Jesus).

But, a lot of kids don't go to the ideal church. In fact, some go to a church at the opposite end of the spectrum.

One argument says that parents "force" their children to do a heap of beneficial things that the kids aren't keen on. If it's true for vegetables, then why not church? If you won't allow your child to drop out of school when they "get over it" then why should it be acceptable with church?

BUT the other side of the coin will say that forcing kids will taint their experience of church, especially if it is a church not suited/catering for youngsters.

Perhaps if your child, consistently, doesn't want to go to church then there is a message worth listening to. Perhaps the family should find a different church?

And don't even wonder about when the parent should stop pushing and let the teen (?) decide for themselves...

As i said... I'm not 100% on what the answer is... Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Leader net-etiquette

Miranda Kerr will be such a MILF... I can't wait!
Check out these pics from my CRAZZY 21st-Halloween-Bro's & Ho's par-ty.

None of the above sentences ever lead to a particularly helpful place.
Especially if they are seen by those you minister to or their parents.

Those in youth ministry need to be careful about their technological footprint and every church would be wise to have Internet awareness raised with their leadership team.


Because your church and it's ministry is judged by what is online.
It can be viewed, out of context, by those who read your blog, tweet or Facebook page.
People will form judgements based on your "likes," your photos (or the ones you are tagged in) and your updates.

So it makes sense to be wise. To think before you post. Or contribute "f@#k yeah" to the conversation.

Imagine what the first four sentences of this post would say to someone digging around before committing to your church. Or sending their kid to your youth ministry. Or just checking out the guy who teaches their child scripture.

You are who you appear under the technological microscope.

Perhaps youth ministers should make their leaders be more aware of this. Especially if they are friends with adults who trust them with their children.

Additionally, any electronic communication (whether it be e-mail, MSN or Facebook chat) needs to be transparent (i will send anything i ever send electronically to a teen to another staff member as well - all a part of covering your back), ideally in an open group forum.

And finally, things are annoyingly permanent on the WWW. We shouldn't allow anything with hidden teeth to bite us, the ministry we represent or the One who we are to be worldly ambassadors for.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Having the others back

Yesterday i made a mistake.

After a day of two church services, spilt by a five hour visions planning day and an encroaching bout of sickness, i headed home.

And this was my mistake. I should have stayed. I should have had my co-workers back.

But i didn't.

I left a my male minister chatting alone with a female young adult.

Now... They could have left the building 43.25 seconds after a departed and I am absolutely comfortable that nothing untoward occurred. BUT i should have stayed.

The reason? I left him vulnerable.

I should have had has back. I should have stuck around.

The New Testament says that leaders should be above reproach and that if anyone made an accusation against them that it would be deemed laughable by all.

Last night i left the door of accusation open just a crack. And that was my mistake...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Slow cooking

I'm preaching next week and I'd love to avoid writing the sermon late in the week.

Normally, the one who is giving the sermon will have the truth of the passage speak into their life much longer than those who are hearing it fresh on a Sunday.

Ideally, the preacher has sat with the passage for at least a week and you could see the application lived out in their lives.

But, i am troubled when you discover that the sermon is written on a Saturday night.

Isn't it much better that the sermon is slow cooked over microwaved?
What message does it send to the congregation if you have only personally been exposed to the message for hours more than those listening?

Friday, November 5, 2010

The most important visitor

This is my 666th post... spooky.

Whenever a guests visits your church service or youth group it is exciting.

But it also creates curious uncertainty.

Are they actually looking for a church or just passing through on holidays? Are they looking for a church because they are interested in Christianity or have they been jilted by another church? What baggage, if any, do they come with? Do they have a previous connection to anyone or are they trying to make new ones? Are they just shopping around? Were we high on the shopping list of places to visit? How did we compare to others? Are we welcoming enough? Is my paranoia about the new person visible?...

If all goes well, the guest leaves with a pleasant taste in their mouth.

But the most important visitor isn't the one who darkens the doors once, but the one who returns.

This, i believe is the neglected guest. There are a heap of reasons why someone may only turn up once, but a second time is significant.

If someone has taken the trouble to come twice then the chances of them sticking around are far weightier.

And it should be one of the top priorities for those attending to include and (hopefully) positively integrate the second-time guest. It is the second time when genuine connections can be cultivated and long-term links created.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Putting on a Greek play

At the moment i have a pain in my mouth and a white mask in my office. Both are connected.

A week ago i bit the inside of my cheek and since then it's troubled me whenever i eat or speak for extended periods. Whenever i chew on my right side, or eat something salty, i notice my cheek. If you listen carefully, i will have a slight lisp because the wound inside my cheek effects how i pronounce certain words.

But you probably wouldn't know it. I'm hiding it well.

And this is where the mask kicks in.

Last weekend i spoke on Matthew 23 and my first talk was about the way that Jesus spoke against the hypocrisy of his audience. In the talk i used a Greek theatre mask as a prop.

The term hypocrisy come from Greek theatre and it refers to the dual nature of the actors. They had an exterior face and an interior identity.

The mask in my office reminds me to not wear a false exterior at work. To avoid being a hypocrite. To not wear a mask.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The power of the guest

As a youth pastor I get to speak to teenagers a fair amount and, occasionally, I’ll get the chance to talk to kids that aren’t my usual crowd.

I’m no gospel-spreading-travelling-gypsy like Tom, but I do the occasional lunchtime group, chapel service or camp (like i did last weekend).

And with anonymity comes power. You can swoop in and deliver a granule of truth that may have otherwise gone unspoken.

With unfamiliarity comes power. The kids get the chance to hear a different voice up the front, with alternate stories, jokes and points of view.

This is why I have invited people to speak before.

Sometimes you need a hired gun to convey a message of correction. Not a bloke to throw a bomb in the pews, but a clear message of life adjustment.

Sometimes the kids just need a rest from your voice or you require a rest from speaking.

But additional power lays in the lap of the guest. You are treated well. Really well.

I've been on camps where, as speaker, my air mattress got a hole in it and i was brought a new one (with inflation happening by willing youngsters). I've also had separate accommodation and been guest judge in multiple competitions.

The guest has much power. But with much power, comes much responsibility...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cat wins

I've been posting more stuff from YouTube lately.
Can you tell that it took me ages to work out how to embed and that i'm procrastinating from tweaking the talks for this weekend?

This just makes me laugh...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why does youth ministry matter?

This week I'm snowed under. I'm preparing four talks and two small group sessions for an upcoming camp this weekend (thus the lack of posts).

As a searched around my old files, i stumbled across the youth ministry philosophy i did at college. I answered the question in the title of this post to begin.

My reasons?

First... Young people matter to God. They need to hear the life changing message of the gospel.

Second... the NCLS (national church life survey) has conclusively shown, backed up by other research, that the vast majority – up to 85% - of Christians in churches today made their commitment to follow Christ prior to their 21st birthday. The church should focus on times when people are looking for things to stand for and identifying their belief systems.

Third... The story is told of a struggling youth minister, who when faced with justifying his ministry, placed two candles before his unimpressed audience. He then proceeded to break one candle, reducing it to half the length of the other. Upon lighting both candles the minister then asked the congregants which candle would burn the longest. The audience concluded that the tallest candle would. With this exhibition the pastor sat down – his demonstration concluded.

This displays one of the greatest benefits of youth ministry – the longevity of the fruit. The results will burn for Christ the longest, giving a greater impact to the community around them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Keeping your balls submerged

Take 12 minutes out of your life to watch this.

No really. Especially if you were bullied (which is what it is really about, not homosexuality) at school. Or you're a teenager. Or you work with teenagers.

In part, this clip made me anxious about last Friday at youth group.

That night i began to tell a similar story. The story of when the issues that i was struggling with erupted to the surface at a school dance (it was either in year 8 or 9, i don't even remember anymore).

The day after i was given some advice about coping with what life throws at you.

Imagine that life is like standing in a wait deep wading pool. Life throws issues at you like dodge balls. You can either process them, or hold onto them.

If you hold onto them then you need to push them under the surface of the water.

With just one ball this isn't too difficult.

But life will eventually throw another... And you have the same choice as before.

Deal with the issue or push it under the surface of the water.

Over time, you can get to the point where controlling the balls under the surface will be too much (if you've ever tried to keep a stack of pool noodles submerged them you'll know what the outcome will be).

Eventually, the balls will rush to the surface in a violent explosion.

My explosion happened at a school dance and a spiked drink.

On Friday night we then had a school counsellor talk about what her job is and what kids could expect if they, or any of their friends, ever went to see someone in her position.

It was an important message to give. Even if it did make me anxious.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Recruiting the warriors

Last night i was anxious. I expected that everything would be fine (I'll post tomorrow some of what we did last night), but my gut i was uneasy.

So i made a call for back up.

I searched out the prayer warriors. I asked the people at church, who are renowned for prayer, who would accept an invitation to pray for the youth group.

With a few calls, i had 2 bible studies and a dozen pairs of faithful people praying at the moment when i would be giving the talk.

The reminders i received through the whole afternoon?

One - People, when asked to pray, will do so happily and feel a great sense of involvement (especially if they are elderly).

Two - I gained a huge wave of relief, mindful that what we were doing was being supported and uplifted by others.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

God kills kittens whenever...

Somehow, I think I'm not going to add this to the list of reasons.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What to do about Mary Mac?

If you don't live in Australian, you may not be aware about the brew-ha-ha that has been sweeping this sun burnt land. Last weekend Australian got their first Saint, Mary MacKillop. As a Christian, a Protestant, I'm torn about how to deal with the whole thing.

On face value, the raised awareness of faith and spirituality has been a good thing. For once, Christianity has been getting good publicity.

I should be clear. From my Internet searching, Catholics don't pray TOO Saints, but call upon them to pray with them to Jesus. This isn't about worship, but about prayer.

But, the idea of canonisation of saints and asking those who have passed to intercede to Jesus on your behalf, grates me.

First, the practice isn't specifically mentioned in the bible. When Jesus taught His disciple how to pray he didn't teach his followers to pray through believers who have "run the good race."

Second, I'm convinced that the bible calls all followers of Jesus saints. Example? "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 1:7 (There are a stack others, probably better verses, but this was the first to spring to mind).

Thirdly, my greatest problem is encountered by the book of Hebrews and the idea that others should/need to intercede to Jesus on your behalf. The book of Hebrews has the clear message that Christ is superior to any other way of approaching or revealing God. Jesus is better than the Angels, Moses or any High Priest (who would themselves intercede on behalf of Israel at the temple).

Hebrews 7:26-25 makes the point that there is no more need for a middle man, and any substitute would be inferior.

Elsewhere, Paul states that "there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" 1 Timothy 2:5.

Fourth, if there is anything that helps us pray, it is the Spirit of God! Through the Holy Spirit, which lives in all believers, we can pray. Surely, this is adequate...

Fortunately, God grants us the blessing to be a part of ministry and what he is doing in the world whilst alive. I'm just not convinced that this extends once one has passed away.

Finally, can saints be of any use?

Absolutely! This is part of the reason to study church history? The Christian God is a God who is based within history. We can learn from the past faithfulness of both God and His followers. They can be inspired in our own journey of faith. We can learn from their mistakes. We can be encouraged by their examples. This is a massive reason why Hebrews 11 is in the bible.

But what about the miracles attributed to Mary?

I'll end with my greatest concern. I can live with God doing miracles in the world. I believe they happened in the bible and can today. If God exists, He can break into human history and do extraordinary things. But, the credit should go where it is due. To God, not any person.

Monday, October 18, 2010

If this sign offends...

You don't have to look to hard to see a cringe worthy church sign.

You only have to look sightly less to track down an offensive church sign.

An example?

I wonder what would happen if one Sunday every church put up this notice... IF A CHURCH SIGN HAS EVER OFFENDED YOU. SINCERE APOLOGIES.

A part of me imagines that this would serve the Gospel better when compared to what is on many church signs normally.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The ground floor needs Generals

I read a stack of blogs. Particularly youth ministry blogs. It takes up a chunk of each day i'm in the office.

Normally, i'll skim articles.
Sometimes, i'll read them closer if they particularly grab me.
On the seldom occasions they will stick with me for a few days.

This post has been bouncing around my mind since i read it.

The gist? Those who know what they are doing in youth ministry can get the bigger, cushier jobs and those which are higher on the "difficulty scale" usually fall to the less experienced.

The sentence that jumped out at me was... Ministry experts should flow to the expert level jobs.

He has a point. A really good point.

It actually reminded me of this post.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hello? I'm what? Awesome? Thanks!

Turns out there is a service that will have a real person call you every day to tell you, "You're Awesome!"? at

As a service to my blog readers i installed a "Self-Esteem Booster" ages ago.

Go on... Scroll down and give it a click... and save yourself US$40 a month.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You are scripture-ly special

Today i gave my favourite scripture lesson of the year.

This morning i read "You Are Special" to my year 5/6 class and then gave them silver stars to remind them the point of the book.

No matter now cool the kids are, or how much they complain when they first hear what we are doing, the kids love it.

Each year it is a reminder to me that they are, in fact, still children in year 6...

Bomb in the blog

When you speculate that ministry in Christian schools (and young people in general), if done in a rubbish way, could be a hindrance to youth responding to the gospel you'd think there would be outrage. Comments would flood in defending children's, youth ministries and the school chaplaincy program. You would be branded a heretic and your faith in a God who works through fallen humans questioned.


Nothing but eerie silence.

You can read what i wrote and hurl you're own bomb in the comments section here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Things Not to Do in Youth Ministry

It's all Tom's fault. My love of blogs and the insatiable desire to jump on the bandwagon all began by staking Tom. He was the outbreak monkey.

Now... for the first time... a guest post.

From the mind of the immensely talented and funny Tom (if he wasn't also losing his hair i would say that we are complete opposites!)...

So seeing as I've been working in youth ministry for 9 years, and Graham likes to blog about youth ministry in the hopes of becoming a famous youth minister, I thought I might go the youth ministry line and tell you some things not to do in youth ministry. Most of these I've learnt from personal experience.

1. Never call one of the girls in your youth group "phat", even if it sounds good in your head.

I knew not to call them fat, but I thought phat could be funny. Especially when I explained that it's an acronym for "Pretty Hot And Tempting". But it was only halfway through saying "Pretty hot and..." when I realised that perhaps, while more flattering, you really shouldn't be saying that sort of thing to your youth.

On a similar note, don't announce as a joke to your youth group during announcements that the senior minister has been trapped in a car accident with a marshmallow truck on the way to a boxing match. Even though you said "Now he's driving and iced Volvo*, and he's in a pretty sticky situation", they might not realise it's a joke, and will just think your being crass.

What to learn? Watch what you say carefully, especially your jokes. Some of them might be funny, some might make kids cry, some might get you fired and arrested.

2. Don't expect to come out injury free

Over the years I've had bleeding noses, a broken finger, a lost tooth, stitches, grazes, and more. Youth ministry hurts.

But the things that will cause more pain are the people who talk about you behind your back, the political maneuvering which hurts your ministry and your reputation, the leaders who let you down, the families who leave because they don't like what you're doing.

And what's going really hurt is the lives of the youth you're leading and loving, when they get hurt and sick, and depressed, when they're making dumb decisions and having other people do dumb things to them. And when you have to watch some of them walk away from Jesus, that hurts.

Youth ministry hurts.

3. Don't leave all your planning to the last minute

Booking camps, speakers, social activities, at the last minute just causes you stress and plans to fail. Trust me.

4. Don't name your youth group after an acronym

Everyone does it, and it's not cool, unless your youth group is PHAT.

5. When you let the youth group buy their own dinner, don't let the 11 year-old boy have 2 liters of Coke and a packet of Juicy Fruit dinner

Even if he says it's a good idea, it's not. He'll wet the bed, and you'll get a phone call from an angry parent.

Probably the bigger principle here is, your job is not just to win points with the young people who attend your youth group, you need to win over their parents too. It's much less fun and much less cool, but the parents can be your greatest allies or your biggest obstacles. When you do ministry you need to think through not just what will work for your young people, what will work for the parents. In fact, learn the parents names, have a chat to them when you ring to talk to their kids, or when they are picking them up at the end of a night. The more they like and trust you, the more they'll like and trust your ministry.

6. Don't think you're all that

You're not. Jesus is. Your youth group might grow, your talks might be awesome, your young people might get into fights with other youth groups about who has the best youth leader, people might be becoming Christians, everything might be awesome, and you might feel awesome, but you're not. Jesus is awesome, you're his servant. Jesus saves people you don't.

Keep your ministry focused on Jesus, not on you, and you shouldn't go too far wrong.

*Stole that joke from 1995 Wendy Harmer.

Now, go and give Tom some blog love at