Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Short climb for a longer drop?

I'm not perfect, not even close, and sometimes I wonder what degree ministry is stalled due to the sin of the leader.

How many things flop due to the hidden failings of the one in charge?

The question bounces around my mind because, for some, they are highly successful in ministry (or continue to be) DESPITE prominent sin in their lives.

And you don't have to look long nor hard to find examples. Often the situation blows up publicly.

They are busted cheating on their spouse.
Their computer is found riddled with porn.
They are caught embezzling funds.

Yes, God is outstandingly good and any ministry grows purely by His grace.

But, I wonder, is it an effective strategy of the Enemy for some ministries to grow and gain publicity, for the leader to inevitably fall and greater tarnish the work they had done and the people they leave behind.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Increasing our perspective of God

Today I chatted with a few kids about how God revealing himself being similar to how you may get to know me.

You can know some things about me just by looking at me. I'm a guy in my mid-late 20's. I'm married. Baldness runs in my family. But there would be lots of gaps, like what my character is like.

You can know more about me if you, for example, read my blog. You'll know what I do for a job and what I think about the church and ministry. You'll know more about my family and even the name and tribulations of my first car. But you will still have a limited perspective.

You would know me the best if we spent time together and I told you about myself.

The same is true with God.

You can know some things about God from creation. He is creative, He is powerful... But you're knowledge about God would be limited.

You can know God better by reading the Old Testament and seeing how He relates to the patriarchs and the Hebrew nation. But some of your questions will be missed.

God shows Himself fully by becoming flesh and revealing who He is. Our view of God is increased by the way He lived as a man. God discloses more of His character as the invisible becomes the visible.

This is what the start of Hebrews is trying to get at...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Paper x 5 + pen + sentence = FUN

The part I like least about youth group is the games. I'm not against fun, and playing them can be really great, but they do have a massive down-side for me.

Organising them. Usually my prep will fall comfortably into the basket of ad-hock or uninspired.

But, last night I got it right.

Nothing was flash. In fact, it was painfully simple. And not even an original idea (thanks Paul!).

The hit of the night went like this...
1 - Start with five pieces of paper. Write a sentence on the top page. Pass the pile to the person next to you.
2 - Read the sentence on the page. Draw the sentence on the piece of paper underneath. Pass the pile, with the picture on top to the person next to you.
3 - Look at the drawing and write a sentence of what you're seeing on the paper underneath. Pass the pile, with the sentence on top.
4 - Repeat step 2
5 - Repeat step 3
6 - Flip the paper over to reveal the starting sentence and pass the bundle of paper to the person beside you.
6 - Go around the circle and recount the wacky adventures, starting with the initiating sentence.

Friday, May 27, 2011

SlutWalking down George St

Caution: This will, most likely, be a poorly thought our ramble. But it''s my blog and my blend of half baked thoughts...


On June 13 (read why here), a woman could walk down the main road of Sydney displaying the above slogans and fit in.

Let me be clear about a few things... I am all for non-violence against women and rape is never, ever acceptable nor right.

SlutWalk (check out their website, FaceBook page and Wikipedia site), as an idea, is pretty good. It was born from justifiable outrage.

But the name sucks and I struggle to see any redeeming features in it.

Could I be wrong? Perhaps, but I struggle to see how. Sure, it was based off a quote, but this isn't immediately obvious. If the event is to raise awareness of the value, rights and dignity that women intrinsically have, then is branding yourself a slut or "reclaiming the word" the way to achieve it?

I wonder how many parents want their daughter to be a "sexually empowered" slut? Is that how we want "Daddy's little girl" to grow up? I wonder when, as a society, we figured that was something we would be okay with?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Preaching again and again and again and...

What is a regional advisor or domination leaders greatest need? Three great sermons.
If you work for a para-church organisation, what should you never leave home without? Two gospel presentations and a stack of brochures.

One joke that pops up periodically is the idea that some get to perfect one sermon and do-the-rounds.

Sure, it's not true, but the perception persists.

This Sunday I'm preaching two different sermons and would love to not be doing twice the prep. With nearly 60 sermons under my belt, I wondered what my rinse-and-repeat sermon would be.

I think it would be the talk I gave when I arrived at my current church. To encourage people to love God with ALL their heart, mind, soul and strength. To not be HAFJ (Have Assed For Jesus).

That would be my 10 minute travelling sideshow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Before you speak up...

I'm currently writing up the small group questions for this coming Friday night where we'll be looking at James 3.

One thing which I couldn't squeeze in, but will probably mention in the talk is the following...

Before you speak... Ask yourself...

Are my words true?
Are my words necessary?
Are my words in the other person's best interest?

A lot of fires spread by the tongue wouldn't be lit if we just posed these questions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fall over moments

At the moment I'm six days through an 8 day leadership intensive (stretched out over six months) and the course has had, like any course you undertake, various highs and lows/good and bad.

One part of the each day, which has been quite hit/miss, have been stories of leadership. Some have held your attention much, much more than others.
But each story has had one thing in common.

A chance to stop what they were doing.
A chance for the momentum to stall.
A chance to for the leader to be distracted and drop the ball.
An opportunity for the whole thing to fall over.

Instead, they continued.
They ignored the distraction.
They persevered in the face or adversity or disappointment.
They sort out unique solutions.

In ministry, there are plenty of "fall over" moments.

Times when people don't see the big picture and try to derail what you are trying to do.
Times when you feel little support from the church, parents or kids.
Times when you feel like every step is uphill and a battle to be fought around every corner.
Seasons when you're tempted to change tact and stop doing what you believe God is calling you to do.

The question is... Do you let what you're trying to achieve for God fall over?

Monday, May 23, 2011


All term I've ended small group with the question above and the reason is simple.

This question holds the point of every sermon of bible study.

What are you going to do about it?

If the times we dive into God's word do not ultimately force us to consider how it should and will affect our lives, then we're missing the vital element that keeps the message relevant.

The aim of Christianity is not to merely accumulate more knowledge, but life change and becoming more like Jesus.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The year that DOESN'T leave

Today my guest post is meant to go up on More Than DodgeBall. It's not posted as I type this and I'm assuming that the reason isn't anything worrisome (like the rapture has happened and I missed out...).

If you're one of my regular readers, head on over and check it out here.

If you're new here because of the post... WELCOME.

Now onto today's thought...

"I'm at that age/year in school when people usually stop coming."

Youth ministry has a number of distinct drop out points. Some are unavoidable and it sucks to lose people who have to stop coming due to changed circumstances.

Some are times when a convenient excuse arises to stop attending. You can serve them and support them as best you can, but plenty of teens take the chance.

The thing that makes it tremendously difficult to keep kids is a previously established culture of leaving (like the post I linked to said). You are fighting an uphill battle when younger kids have previously seen their peeps periodically walk out the door.

Eventually, there needs to be a generation that doesn't hit the exit in year 9. There needs to be a bunch of teens that don't slam the "eject button" in year 11 and model faithful attendance an a strong faith.

Not only will it help their faith journey (der!), but it will send a powerful message to the kids who look up to them. That message? Being connected to people of faith is more important than sex, booze, parties and exams.

Often, all it needs is one generation to show the way...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

End post

It should all be over by now... (depending on the international dateline).

The couple I saw getting married today are lucky. It would have been a waste to organise and stress for nothing.

If you haven't checked out my guest post at More than DodgeBall then do yourself a favour and do so. If you're reading me for the first time due to the guest post the WELCOME!

But the latest the-world-will-end-today episode has got me thinking...

Did people move their wedding forward to yesterday? If they didn't, does this show unbelief?
Has the church got a church service planned for the following Sunday? Does this show unbelief?
If the world does not end, would you be more or less likely to attend the church service? Would you not attend since May 21 has passed, or would you be more likely to attend to hear the explaination?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

WWLS? What would Leunig say?

In every third Australian newspaper there certain to be a Leunig cartoon and approximately 8.35 times out of 10 I have little idea what they are about.

Given enough time, you will eventually hear a Leunig quote said in a church. It may be to kick off or close a meeting. It may even be included in a church service.

Trouble is, I'm not exactly sure he is a Christian (perhaps he is, but neither his website or wikipedia page say so). I suggest he would more fall into the spirituality-from-the-shelf-of-Oprah's-book-club category. To put this in perspective for those abroad. It would be in the same ball park of "Conversations with God" or "Tuesday's with Morrie."

I'm not saying that secular quotes can't ever be uttered in a church, but I'm just not sure churches should be so dependant on Leunig's "prayers" and poems.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tom's take: What do you do if your youth minister dies?

Today Tom and I are both writing on the same topic. You can check out what I wrote on his blog here. And yes, he is significantly higher on the hilarity scale then I am...

Also, with the absence of any noteworthy search results for this question, Tom and I are now the primary sources of information on the topic.

"What do you do if your youth minister dies?" Baldock posed this question to me when we were out to lunch a few weeks ago. I was a little worried when he posed it. I thought he was about to tell me he was dying. Turns out he's not. Or at least he's not dying any quicker than the rest of us.

So I don't know why he asked the question, I guess he thought it'd make a good blog topic. He may not be dying by he certainly isn't right in the head.

That said, let me tackle this most pressing of topics. What should you do if your youth minister dies?

1. First call emergency services

If the youth practitioner has died in some freak dodgeball or Honey-if-you-love-me accident you should call for an ambulance. And the police too. There could be foul play involved, it may just look like an accident. Don't disturb anything around the body. It's probably a crime scene. Youth Ministers make a lot of enemies. Chances are the cleaner, the church handyman and the lady who does the flowers all have a motive to kill the youth minister.

2. Provide counselling

If a 13 year-old was to see their beloved leader decapitated during a sock wrestling episode, it would seriously freak them out. You'd need to get in a team of trained professionals to look after the kids. You might also want to bring a change of clothes for them all. I know from experience the severed neck can spurt blood a very long way.

3. Organise the funeral

Turn that frown upside down. A funeral is a great way to bring the youth group together. Give each of the young people a role. You could get some handing out orders of service, some showing people to their seats. Have the drama group perform a skit and the dance group express themselves to some dc talk. You could even get one of the kids to do a sermon on death with an short clip from The Matrix to illustrate that the departed chose the red pill.

4. Hire a new youth minister

The best way to help kids deal with death is to replace the youth minister quickly. Young people have short attention spans. Especially the YouTube generation. Find a new youth minister and they'll forget the old one in a week. Just make sure you have the cleaner do a good job on the blood stains in the hall before youth starts on Friday, as long as he's not in jail that is.

I'm pretty sure this is exactly was Baldock was hoping for.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I sometimes feel awkward getting all riled up about giving. Sure, it is important that it happens, but often you feel like you're bleating at the faithful and missing those who really need to hear the message.

But, on some occasions it is demoralising to find that the offertory wouldn't cover the cost that was incurred by the two staff embers be around for two hours each. Or even one hour. Or even 20 minutes.

Sure, direct debt isn't counted in the plate and everyone could be doing it. But, in reality, this is not the case. The financial papers back this up.

So... imagine... whilst still giving to God generously and avoiding legalism... If you converted your offering to ministry-per-hour, say $20, what message would it send to those who worked on the service?

What if the question was reversed and you converted you offering into the time it took you to earn?

Even more frightful, what if the effort ministers put in matched the wage of the plate the week prior? Would it buy you a whole service? If so, would it buy you a good one?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Losing your main players

Today I submitted a guest post to another blog. I was going to include the line "when you lose key leaders..." but instead decided to write about it here.

Because inevitably you have leaders come and go in ministry. Some are great and a real blessing. Some are labelled "people God is still working on."

But, no matter how great or lousy they are connecting with the teens...
No matter if they have been in the group for years or only around for a relatively short period of time...
No matter if they seem to be your right-hand or just a stable face...

Losing leaders in never fun. It is always felt. It has an impact.

It affects the person in charge. It affects the co-leaders. It is felt by the kids.

In some situations, the departure is good. They are moving onto greener pastures. They are stepping into ministry elsewhere or serving as a missionary.

In some situations, the departure is far less pleasurable. The leader leaves burnout. They are neglected or feel dis-empowered. They step down from leadership and then rarely (if ever!) darken the doors of the church again.

Stopping people from leaving is like trying to stop the tide. It happens. It will continue to happen.

It's just better when they are heading in a forward direction...

I don't know

It should all be over by now (I'm writing on the 21st, despite this post going up a few days earlier)... depending on the international dateline.

The world should have ended today according to this guy, I find it ironic that my next guest post on More than DodgeBall was due to be posted on the date that the Apocalypse is due (I'll post on that tomorrow). If the world does fall into an abysmal mess, then here is what I posted...

I once lead an evening service at my home church and plainly said "I don't know". I had just taken over from my long-term youth minister and was out of my depth. I was in my first ministry position and felt I had no clear vision or direction for the juggernaut that was placed in my lap.

We've all been there. Probably more than once.

When attendance at youth group seemingly drops for no reason…
Or the reason teens seem to be dropping out seemed unavoidable...
When your small group is on the brink of you and two others... again...
When a parent asks you "Why doesn't my kid believe in Jesus yet?"...
When a kind congregant ponders "Where are all the young people you're meant to be working with?"...
When your fears of TOO MANY kids attending are realised (a great problem!)...
When you feel like you're barely holding it together...
When your well laid plans for the week/quarter/year are tossed into chaos...
When you look out at a church service and sense nothing but empty chairs...
When great people move on and don't seem to be replaced...
When you're patiently waiting on God to reveal the next step...

At these times, and a thousand others in ministry, you look skyward and whisper "I don't know..."
At these times you want to shout at the heavens "God! What are you doing?”
When you gaze into your answer depository and find it's as empty as Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard.

Keep trusting God.
Know that He is still faithful.
Hold firm that He is still good.
Draw near to God.
Keep expectantly waiting.

I don't write this because I've got it figured out. I don't. In fact, I seem to be quite a distance from possessing many of the answers that will allow me a better nights sleep, but stay true the calling God has placed you your life.

It’s worth pressing on, through these “I don’t know times” times, to see what God has in store. Quite often, the answer God has isn't the one you’d meticulously crafted anyway...

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Like much of mainstream Christianity, I'm going to refer to something well after it has come to the attention of the rest of the world and speak about it like it is still "cutting edge" relevant.

We all went crazy for the antics of Charlie Sheen for approximately 6.42 days in March. He was wild. We were captivated by the "tiger blood" and couldn't get enough of his "winning" shenanigans.

But in ministry "winning" has nothing to do with "goddesses."

It has to do with parents and teenagers (or at least my last two wins did).

You win when a parent writes how much they appreciate what you do.
You win when a group of teenagers say they want you pray for you and the youth group, and then do it.

Sure, these wins don't make the evening news, but they keep you going when ministry life gets tough.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bothersome bible reading

I've read the bible, cover to cover twice. The first time I just read it through. The second time I used a one-year-bible reading plan.

Then my bible reading was lousy. For years. I did what a lot of people in ministry or at bible college do. I read the bible for study or sermon prep.

And I thought that was enough.

Then I changed things around three years ago. I began to read books/slabs of the bible, making notes and doing fairly in depth study. As a result, I now have commentary like notes on approximately half of the bible.

The whole then process started to get dull. Right in the middle of the book of Romans.

And my bible reading started to get lousy again.

This year I tried something different. I'm currently in the middle of a character based bible reading plan and, surprisingly, am already up to Isaiah.

I find it sadly ironic that the voice up the front of church will implore the congregation to maintain spiritual disciplines, like regular bible reading and prayer, but neglect the same thing themselves.

I wonder how many church workers have lousy bible reading habits.
More so, I wonder how many are bothered by the fact.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God did good... DESPITE you.

God did good, you just happened to get in the way...

Every so often this would be what was said jokingly after an evening service at my home church.

The longer I'm in ministry the more I sense that the outside perspective isn't the most helpful.

Sometimes events run flawlessly. Sometimes they are expected to, without any behind-the-scenes angst.

Normally this is not the case.

Things aren't flawless and angst runs amok.

I've had things go really well and the whole time my stomach has been tied in knots. Sure, I'm Mr Cucumber on the outside (is in cool as a...), but inside I'm butterfly city.

It is useful to remember that sometimes success happens DESPITE the leader. Churches grow DESPITE the leadership. Sermons change people's lives DESPITE the person holding the microphone. Kids encounter and grow in God DESPITE the well worked programs.

Ideally, the two work in a harmonious partnership.

BUT... Despite the talking head up the front, we must remember that the credit ultimately belongs to God.

God does good... Often.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reversable sermons

Every sermon should be inspired by and applicable to the bible passage that it is drawn from and able to be distilled down to an understandable statement.


Ideally, any sermon should be reverse engineer-able.

Basically, if you begin with the end-point, you should be able to accuartely navigate back to the start.

If you had the main point of a sermon and took it to someone who knew the bible really well, they should be able to predict the passage that it was drawn from.

This week, my challenge is to do that for the first two chapters of the book of Nehemiah...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why do I deserve to be listened to?

I wrote plenty of statements in my last post that should have some dedicated readers hitting unsubscribe.

I have only been in youth ministry for five years. I have never worked full-time for a church. I have never worked at a church longer than 28 consecutive months.

So... Why the heck should anyone care what I think about ministry, teenagers or the church?

I'm no expert. Not even close.

If I walked into a book publisher and suggested that they should hire me to write a book, I would be laughed out of the building. In the past, I would have no chance on being on anyone's radar.

Today, anyone with time and a computer can have a voice. That's why I started this blog.

And that's the beauty of today. People you would never have heard of can add value to your life. I read heaps of blogs. The majority are of people who I would never be exposed to normally.

Sometimes they drop nuggets of gold. Sometimes they give me great ideas or links to brilliant resources.

So... Do I deserve to be listened to (unless you know me and want an insight into my small slice of the world)? Not really.

But I'm okay with that and it continually blows my mind that others read anyway...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rooting yourself

Yesterday was a cliffhanger. If you couldn't sleep last night, waiting anxiously for the answer, then you should probably get out more.

But my conundrum about getting business cards is a part of a larger question.

How do I show the people that I'm serving here that I'm planning to stick around?

Business cards would be only one small way.
As is putting my details on 1000 promotional cards.
As is making connections in the local schools and community groups.
As is inviting people to partner with you.
As is casting a fresh vision.
As is being a part of the long term planning for the church.

Why is is important? Because planting roots communicates that you can be trusted. It shows that you're not planning to go anywhere.

From the start of my ministry, I've always said that longevity is important, both for those in the ministry and the person at the forefront.

The annoying thing? I've never been in a ministry position longer than 28 months...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mr X, Youth Pastor, cards

I've been you paid you ministry, excluding my looking-for-a-job "sabbatical", for five years, but in that period I've never been paid full-time.

At my first position, I was initially a fill in whilst they looked to hire someone else. They stuck with me, and over three years, I went from 20-25-30 hours per week. But for years the name of the previous youth minister was still on the church noticeboard. Due to my potentially transient state, the change was just overlooked.

At my second position I was on 15 hours a week. Not enough to live healthily on and a job that was "dipping my toe back into ministry."

Again, it took a while to have my details on the church signage (this could say more about the speed that churches work then anything else).

Now, a year into my current position, I face a dilemma that was put to me by my minister. He asked if I had personal business cards (now that I've made a stack of promotional ones for the youth group).
Do I get business cards for my work?
Do I trust that I will be here long enough for them to be worthwhile?
Do I expect that my details will remain the same?

Currently, I have a stack of blank denominational cards on my desk.

Tomorrow I'll post why the question matters...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama reaction

Note: I am not am American. I did watch the events of 9/11, but it was on television... 16,000km away. I don't think I know anyone who is/has been on active serive in Afganistan. I do not know anyone who has been killed in battle, or a terrorist attack in American, London, Spain or Indonesia.

This morning I was expecting to hear about death in the morning news.

Lybia, Egypt, Yeman, Iran, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Syria, Afganistan, Indonesia... somewhere. Somewhere there would be an attack on an American embassy.

Fortunetly the news only told me, again, about the death of a mass murderer in Pakistan and dancing in the streets in Washington.

The whole episdoe has made me feel uneasy since I heard about it and the reactions it has caused.

To celebrate the increased chance that there will peace in the world is fine. To feel that a small measure of justice has come about for the near 3,000 people who died on 9/11... okay.

To celebrating the chance for their troops to return home (which is only somewhat true since the Allied forces are fighting a diffent enemy in the Talaban) seems right. Perhaps some knew people who had been killed on wounded in the "war on terror."

But mass dancing in the streets and celebrating someones violent death seems... unsettling. Especially when there was outrage when similar scenes happened from a minority of people after 9/11 in some countries.

Personally, it would have been great for Osama to be caught and tried for this crimes. If justice was what the victims families were after, this would have been a better ending. But life isn't always that clean cut.

The figurehead of world terrorism is no more. Good.
Even if he was not the mastermind in recent years. The world seems like a slightly safer place.
If terrorism was a snake, it just got decapitated. I just don't know if another one head or five will sprout.

One thing I am sure of... I wish the reaction on the streets was more comforting. I wish I wasn't so disturbed that this happened after a wrestling PPV. Announcing a death to a live crowd of predominately kids, and everyone cheering, seems kinda wrong....

To end on a lighter note... This did make me giggle. I got it from here...
So the US have buried Osama at sea....they also buried Megatron at sea...and we all know how that turned out...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Future numbers success

In the past I've blogged about the inevitable question that is asked whenever youth ministers get together.

I said I don't fear numbers for they hold significance, but this morning in church my mind wandered to what I think one of the real queries should be when measuring success.

This question relies upon longevity and focuses on the effectiveness of the disciple-making process. It asks..."From the number of year 11's you had three years ago, how many are still around?"

Getting large numbers isn't always easy. I would love it if it was. But it's also not impossibly hard.

You just do lots of crazy things. Go on nothing but wild adventures. Have amazing advertising. Shamelessly poach kids from other churches. Cater especially to the popular crowd. Never challenge them with the truth of the Jesus and the invitation to give their lives to Him.

But the overall Kingdom effectiveness of this method will be reflected once they leave school.

Sure, some teens will get married or move away for work or study, but the majority of the fruit will wither. If we are called to make disciples, not just high-school-followers, then this will be reflected in the answer to the question...