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...