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...