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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ministerial transfer

You're not my problem any more.
Once you're over the age of 25 the regulations say that you're almost dead to me.

Sounds harsh?

Technically, if you're between the ages of 12 and 25, you're in my ministerial hitting zone (in reality it is more like 8-25). You are a youth.

But i wonder how the transition should work when those who you have been ministering become young adults?

Is the responsible thing to wean them off you and onto the Minister of the Word? When they have a crisis, do you tell them to call someone else and not you?

Ideally, if you're ministry is growing and you've stuck around long term, you will eventually encounter this problem.

You either stay focused on the current batch of youngsters or gravitate up with the twenty-somethings. Is there a healthy middle ground or would you eventually spread yourself too thin?

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...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Changing the curtains

You will notice my new blog design. In truth, I'm not 100% sold, but at least i don't immediately look at my blog and want to fall asleep.

Further tweaks may happen, but the same Rambles will still filter out into the Internet.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why i don't fear numbers

A question that arises whenever you bump into another youth minister is the query "So... How many do you get on a Friday night?"

Sure, there are other (much better) markers of success, but, this is the checkpoint that can make you puff out your chest or quietly whimper in the corner.

For me, numbers aren't scary.

No, it is not because I'm the youth minister of a church with a mega youth group or converting more people than the Apostle Paul on a good day.

Simply, numbers matter.

I crunched last terms numbers for our youth ministry and i used my usual numbers maker. 50/80/80 (I thought i blogged on this, but i can't track it down).

50% growth (although this would be viewed more annually), 80% attendance (kids are there the majority of weeks) and 80% retention (a kid who is new will stick around).

All in all, this term was was better than last. Our average number of kids rose by almost a quarter, from the 18 new kids we had 5 return (which sends a message about our welcoming... this terms task) and the number of kids who were there most weeks doubled.

Unsurprisingly, numbers are track-able. They will be an indicator if you are staying on task. You can spot trends and adapt to the stats (like the welcoming example above).

Numbers may also indicate the health of the group. Healthy things grow. That's how they work. They may grow in depth of understanding, service, commitment, love but also in sheer number.

Finally, and most importantly, numbers represent people. People matter greatly to God, so they should matter to us.

If God took time out to number His people, why should we shy away from it?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dots and triangles in the diary

Being school holidays and sitting on the couch whilst on a day off, I'm going through my diary for the term ahead.

My diary is important since i need to keep a decent track of the hours i work. I do this by dots and triangles.

To make up my 25 hours i need to work 9 three-hour blocks of time (going over since others are expected to put in a few hours around church, but have a full-time job). Each day is split into morning (9-12), day (12-3), arvo (3-6) and evening (6-9). Each morning or evening i work is represented by a dot in the corner of the page and a dot sits at the top of a date if I'm around during the day.

I think that i stole this from John Piper (thanks John!), but the system works effectively for me.

I know ahead of time how many segments are nonnegotiable. Fridays, Sundays, scripture, meetings, ect...

With this in mind i can then decide if anything else will fit into my allotted hours and can quickly see how many nights i will be out a week.