Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pick the low hanging fruit

I want to add something to my list of things-i-would-want-to-do-whenever-i-start-a-new-ministry list.

Pick the low hanging fruit.

Sometimes those in ministry aim too far. They shoot for the stars. There vision is focused on the horizon.

This, of course, isn't a bad thing.

Unless it comes at the cost or oversight of those who are already in reach.

I don't want to forget the teens who are loosely connected to the church or formerly associated with the youth group. I want to send them updates of what is happening. I want to invite them to events. I want them to feel that they are welcomed.

I want to reach out to the kids whose parents come to church, but they are on the fringes.

It seems odd that those "in reach" are sometimes neglected in evangelism and communication efforts. For many churches, the growth (or critical minimum) could be achieved by engaging those who are near, but disconnected.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Real speak

If you only spoke to your parents by regularly speaking the same set of words, would you really have a good relationship?

If you only spoke to your best friend in poems or structures that you learnt as a youngster, would you really be having a decent conversation?

If you did the above things to God week after week, would it bother you?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Your church stinks!

Each church should be individual. It should be different.

It should look like no other, have jokes that won't be heard elsewhere, have a unique sound and even smell a tad special (thus the title!).

Tonight the youth group i organise will be heading to another church. And it will be different. Just like it was last term when we combined with another group at their church.

And that's okay. It's to be expected.

They will have a different mix or people, ages, cultures and leadership than the church down the road or the mega church on the other side of the globe.

Perhaps churches need to embrace their stench more.

To realise that their musicians won't sound like Hillsong United, but like that their band sounds different. To appreciate the way that their church worships and the preaching they hear, even if it is not streamed live into people's televisions.

Churches ultimately aren't meant to be carbon copies of each other and we are actually weakened when they are.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Banding together

I know that disappointment awaits.
Just like it did last school holidays.
Just like it did when i began my latest church position.


Because of lone shout-outs to meet up.

I reckon it is majorly important for those in local youth ministries to get together regularly.

So far, i have meet with two local youth minsters. But a stack of them are still ghosts to me. I may hear of their existence, but i couldn't recognise them.

Somehow, this doesn't seem right.

I think those who have the privilege to serve God in a local area should meet up to support one another.
To bounce ideas off one another.
To advertise the stuff they are doing at their church.
To pray for one another.

Because ministry can be tough and sometimes you need to chat to people who understand. People who are in a similar battle and are familiar with the trenches that you are fighting in.

Also, i don't know it all nor do i have the sole monopoly on good ideas, events and resources. I can learn from others, share what has worked and hear of things that i would never have dreamt up.

Likewise, i won't be able to reach every kind of teen. I won't be able to meet all their needs. If a kid will be better served by some one else's youth ministry, it is for the benefit of the teen, the church and God that i lovingly point the youngster in their direction.

If i get 1% of the kids in the local region coming to my youth ministry, i would be overwhelmed (but totally stoked!).

That leaves another 99%. 99% for everyone else.

Surely, if we are working together, this has to be a good thing for my teens. Not to mention that i may actually recognise those whom I'm meant to be on the same side with!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Prophet? Deity?

Yesterday i had a lengthy chat to the bloke who cuts my hair, a Muslim, about faith, church and Jesus.

I made the point that both our faiths say that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet. If that is the case, then he cannot lie, nor speak mistruths about what the future will hold. If he did, he would be a false prophet and executed (Deuteronomy 13).

I brought this up because of two claims that Jesus made.

First, he said he was God. To our somewhat removed ears it may be harder to hear, but Jesus left no doubt to those around him. In fact, this claim, was a major reason that lead to his death.

Jesus used the personal title that God gave to himself (I AM in Exodus 3:14). He said he was the I AM (usually translated LORD) in John 8:58. This was an unmistakable claim to be God for those listening and they attempted to stone Jesus. A similar sequence of events unfolds two chapters later when Jesus says that he "and the Father are one." During his trial before the High Priest, Jesus is accused of blasphemy due to his response to being the "Christ, Son of God." (Matthew 26)

Jesus claims the titles that are attached to God to himself. He is the Good Shepherd (John 10) like God is depicted in Ezekiel 34 and Psalm 23.

Jesus does what only God was meant to do. This is most obvious from Mark 2 where Jesus forgives the sins of the man he subsequently heals. This claim to God-ness is recognised by those there in Mark 2:7. Jesus also feeds the masses, like God did for the fledgling Jewish nation and was the giver of life (John 5)

Jesus does what no good Jew would do, he accepted worship as God. Paul and Barnabas stop people doing the same to them (Acts 14), but Jesus does not halt the leper (Matthew 8), the ruler (Matthew 9), his disciples (Matthew 14), the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15), James & John's mother (Matthew 20) and Thomas, post resurrection (John 20).

Either Jesus was telling the truth or he wasn't. Either he was God in the flesh, or he was a nut case.

Second, Jesus said he would rise from the dead (Mark 8 & 9). Either he did, and that points towards a guy who you should put your faith in, or he didn't and is an untrustworthy loon.

If you accept that Jesus was a prophet of God, but hold the belief that Jesus didn't actually die on the cross (like my barber believed), I struggle to see how this is not unquestionably deceptive. No matter if another died in the place of Christ or he "revived" he cannot be a prophet.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Things that make you go... Oh, I remember

When i started my new job i arrived with three filing cabinet draws full of odd files. Sermons, illustrations, youth ministry snippets from years past, resources...

This afternoon i finally filed them away.

Whilst i was avoiding that job, i printed this out. In it, the tenth commandment of youth ministry is to have fun and create memories.

This can be done in four main ways...

Repetition - Have a routine structure. Do things regularly enough that the teens can tell their friends what to expect. Let the memories of these experiences build over time.

Extreme Experiences - Almost the opposite of the above. Do things that are the most (whatever). The highest. The fastest. The scariest. The chocolate-iest. Do things that will cause those there to say "You think this is cold? I remember this one time..."

Relational and Emotional Experiences - Travel through life together. Be there when things are great and when things are lousy. Share each others joys and sorrows. This will both bond the singular relationships, but the group as a whole.

Mountaintop Experiences - Do things of significance. Intentionally give opportunities where those involved will be able to look back at the event/camp and say that they were changed by going and influenced positively by being there/the decision they made.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Slap happy

I don't know what the best part of this ad is...

That i can be in a great mood all day by slapping my troubles away?

That boring tuna is giving me a boring life?

That i will love his nuts?

That i will slap away every day (i thought that was a bad thing!)?

That the host is like a Harlem Globetrotter when shooting crap choppers into kitchen sinks?

That he knew watching onion on television makes me weep?

That i can now grate my bikini?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Change/loss equation

Every so often, change has to happen. Change is a good thing. Either you need to get back on track or you're heading in a new direction.

But in doing so you need to juggle the change/loss equation.

Are you prepared to ruffle feathers for the greater good?
Are you willing to have dozens of conversations with people to explain the direction you want to go?
Are you willing to let an under-performing ministry die so you could move forward, even if some hold fond memories of the program?
Even though it's not ideal, would you be willing for people to leave your church because of the change you are making?
Put simply... What or how much are you willing to lose to see your change come about?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Where are you at?

At the end of this term I'm speaking at a lunchtime group in one of the local high schools and have been told to "give it an evangelistic angle."

For a while I've been meaning to write about giving talks with a specific chance to respond by coming to faith. This was initially prompted by a book i was reading, but also reminded me of something that we aimed to do at a church i worked for.

At least once a term we would have a night, either on a Friday or a Sunday, where we would give those there an opportunity to respond to the gospel message.

If i had to choose a method i think i would go with the "Where are you and God right now on a scale of 1-10. 1 being - I'm distant from God by choice, 5 being - I'm not totally convinced and still trying to work the whole Jesus thing out, and 10 being - I'm absolutely devoted to Christ and it's Him who I'm living for."

I like this because it makes people think about where they are and permits them to be struggling or not totally convinced. The options aren't straight black and white.

Additionally, this allows you to be challenged more than once (during a camp or term) and you can be unsure about God but still see that you were a 2 and are now a 4. You can see progress on the journey of faith.

If putting your faith in Jesus is like filling a bucket (which i see my conversion being), you can see the bucket slowly getting more and more filled.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Investment banker

Young people measure value most by time.

The more time you spend with them, the more you listen to them, the more you create memories with them, the more you are willing to sacrifice other options to hang with them, the more they feel valued.

As someone who works with teens i consider much of what i do an investment.

Each week i make a deposit with my presence, or plan events for them or actually show that i care about their answer to the weekly "how was you week" question.

The payoff? Over time, something will happen in the life of the youngster when they will look to see who has invested into their life.

You need to set the platform of I-give-a-stuff-what-happens-in-your-life to be called on in these moments.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grace points

I don't say grace often (possably because i wasn't raised to do so), but I have been asked to say grace before meals plenty of times, especially at camps or when i was at bible college.

It took me a while to get into a good rhythm of what to say and not trail off once i got past the "Thanks God for the food we are about to eat and... ummm..."

If you have been in a similar situation... i found this blog post with a remedy of what to keep in mind before you dine.

The gist?

Be thankful to God who provides everything, including the food you are eating.
Be thankful for those who worked to prepare the meal.
Be thankful for the food and how good it is. That it tastes good and satisfies our hunger.
Be thankful for those you are sharing the meal with.
Be mindful of those who do not have the privilege to eat the amount of food that is available to us.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Creation and Evolution... Buddies of faith and God?

Similar to last term i am answering tricky questions raised by the teens at the youth group. This week...

Creation and Evolution… How do they fit in with believing in God and what the Bible says?

First, it would make sense to read Genesis 1 and ask a few questions...

Does this chapter read like a science textbook?

Does it read like poetry?
What point do you think God is trying to make about Himself, people and the world?

Second, people who follow God, love Jesus and are committed to growing the church disagree wildly on this issue. Some think it is absolutely vital. Others think it is more of a side issue. Some think that creation must have happened the way the bible says. Others are open to this not being the situation. Whatever the case…
You are saved by how you have responded to Jesus and if you have put your trust in Him and what He has done. You are not saved by how you have responded to the question of how life began.

Personally (this is Graham speaking, my 2c, not necessarily God), I place this issue down the list of issues that we need to fuss over.

I am comfortable with evolution. It has been seen that animals evolve to fit their surroundings. Darwin saw this with the neck a tortoise and the beak of a bird. This is micro evolution (meaning small).

But, this doesn’t definitely mean that single celled organisms became multi celled-began to move-grew tails-sprouted limbs-became amphibians-became lizards-became birds-became mammals-became monkeys-became humans. This is macro evolution (meaning big). Maybe it did happen that way. Perhaps not. The evidence isn’t conclusive for me.

And I don’t think it absolutely matters.

Because I’m not convinced that the point of Genesis 1 is the METHOD God created.
I think the point we are to learn is that God DID create. That God did get involved and made humans. That humanity was set apart to be in relationship with their Maker and to exercise responsible rule over the rest of creation.

For me, this is the point.

That is how I deal with the question of creation and the “problem” of evolution.

Anyway… if you were going to try and explain evolution to a society that new nothing of cells and genetics and little of adaptations, how would you go about it?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Inside or outside?

Faith in God is more caught than taught. You learn what is it to follow God by observing others walk with God more than a weekly 40 minute sermon or Friday night youth talk.

Teachable moments occur when life is lived together. You more often speak about the things of God as they arise.

The trouble is, the church can only view ministry as happening inside a building and ministry-happens-in-the-church mindset is shortsighted.

If spiritual input only happens the three hours that a young person is in a church, then there is a massive time slot that is missed. Kids are at home way more then are at the church and it makes sense for the parents to be actively ministering to their kids as life brings up opportunities.

I believe this is the more accurate picture that the bible paints of ministry and nurturing the faith of young people.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Things you're gonna hear

Last Sunday, a person our church got in to chat about family work, mentioned the most common things kids hear in church.

Each week kids will hear... "And now it is time for the kids to leave."
And we are surprised when they depart forever.

But also, teens get to hear... "There is a special evening service for people like you. Go there"
And we then surprised when the teens grow up and have little connection with the rest of the church congregations.

Finally, young families hear... "This is the service that you're going to attend. It's been inherited from a generation ago. You will inherit it when you've been here long enough."
And we wonder why families go off to search for another church that will include them.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mind, will, emotion

I just finished reading a book on preaching that made the point that those who preach should aim for three things...

Speak to the mind - Have people realise that they CAN be saved. That salvation makes sense.
Speak to the will - Have the listener WANT salvation. That the gospel is something that requires a response.

Speak to the emotion - Have the audience understand the URGENCY to be saved. That they need to be put right with God immediately.

If the preacher speaks to these three points, then they go a long way in giving a good sermon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Positive employment?

You don't have to search hard to find people who have worked for a church and were messed around. People who love Jesus and, as a consequence of working for a church, were weakened in their faith and trust in the Body of Christ.

I wonder how many faithful followers of Jesus have had their faith harmed by working for the local church?

How many people never viewed the bible as a pure resource before they worked in ministry?

How many people have been burnt by the politics that can tug at churches, tainting the way they view fellow believers.

Working for a church, for some, has been to the detriment of their faith. There needs to be a ministry especially for them. A rehab facility perhaps.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I don't want to listen to these...

You can find more truly awful Christian album covers here.