Sunday, July 31, 2011

The funnest room at church

I'm currently writing this at church and it looks like a $2 store exploded in my office. As time elapses, more and more miscellaneous junk accumulates in my workspace.

My office has sombreros, punching alien pens, neighing toy horses, pinatas, a purple top hat, electronic drum sticks, garden gnomes, foam swords, pirate flags, a slowly turning disco light and balls of every shape and description (these are just some of the random things I can just see from my desk). Oh, and a strange gyroscopic-spinning plane thingy.

Most of it is crap that I don't need. Leftovers from various events. If the office burnt down tomorrow I wouldn't lament the loss of my orange traffic cone, white fluffy cushion or graduation hats.

But if you want fun, my office should be the first stop.

I do wonder if all the bells and whistles help my ministry or just make it seem that I'm a sideshow. How would an outsider learn about my job from just looking around my office? Could they tell what I actually do? What message does my office send to a parent who glances in?

I don't think my office should be a furnished like a beige jail cell, but I sometimes wonder what my office communicates...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Breaking in the newbie

Last week my minister announced to the congregation that he had accepted a new position as a school chaplain and that he would be leaving in a few months.

This puts me in a new position because I've never been actively involved in a church (never mind being on staff!) when a new minister has arrived.

I've never had to break a fresh one in. Sure, I've been on the other end of the rope and newly arrived on the scene, but never the reverse.

What should I do? What expectations are there on me?

Hopefully, by the end of the year, I will have a new co-worker.

When I consider this, in light of a new youth minister popping up down the road, here's what I think would be a good game plan.

Time - Meet with the new person. Often. Not a stalking amount, but enough to develop a healthy working relationship. Start to get a grasp on their understanding of God, their journey with Him and their calling into ministry.

Fun - Get to know the person as more than "the minister." Don't let the initial few months be nothing but stress and meetings that require minute taking.

Grace - Give the new person space to find their feet. Even allow them a miss-step or two.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

70 hours wasted?

How important would you say it is for the youth minister to live close to church?

I've known youth ministers that lived a significant distance away from their church (including getting two modes of transport... one being a boat!) and others who lived next door to the church building. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

I exist somewhere in the middle... just over 30 minutes from church... nearly 60 in peak hour (which I tend to avoid).

Whilst driving to work this morning it occurred to me that I could save a heap of time (in the ball-park of 90 minutes per week) if I lived closer to church.

Am I wasting that travel time?

In reality, it only costs me in the morning. Wherever I lived I would leave home at the same time and leave the office around the same time. I would arrive at church earlier, but "punch out" at the reciprocal hour that I do now.

If I were full-time at a church then it is reasonable for the church to expect their youth minster to live nearby. If you're going to work 40-50 hours a week, and be available for "impromptu" or irregular ministry opportunities, then proximity is important.

You don't necessarily want to drive 40 minutes to drop in on a sporting event, play, church garage sale or working bee.

But in a part time setting there must be flexibility. In fact, it is the price a church often pays when they go down the "we pay by hours-per-week" route.

So, is my travel time wasted? I'm not sure. Sometimes the drive to and from work makes my ministry healthier. It creates a definite space between my church and my family. With the cleansing drive behind me, my head is often in a better place to function at both church and home.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Safety Bieber

I don't like Justin Bieber. I don't hate Justin Bieber. I'm indifferent.

But I am not a 13 year old girl.

In a similar way, I'm pretty unmoved by a lot of things that realty interest children and teenagers.

I couldn't tell you what a Ben 10 is (or was?). Or a Dragonball Z. Or a Pokemon beyond Pikachu.
I don't know the names of the Bratz Dolls. Their big heads kinda freak me out and the thought that they had a movie made about them seems absurd.
I've never read a Twilight book and not even my wife (who has read them all) would endure the final film. I guess I'm team Jacob, but I wouldn't take a bullet for the bloke.
I've never, ever, read a Harry Potter book. Sure, I skimmed the part where Dumbledore dies, but that's it.
Tamagotchi's were stupid. As were the Power Rangers. Ditto for Pogs.
Heck, for me, the Spice Girls caught my attention due to anything BESIDES their music.

I'm sure my youth leaders also didn't have their world revolve around what I cared for when I was a youngster. But they didn't shut me down when I spoke about the object of my devotion.

For a children's ministry to be a save place, you sometimes need to endure a conversation about Katie Perry or (heaven forbid!) Justin.

And that's okay. It's important that they feel comfortable enough to share the things in their life that they find interesting.

Sure, occasionally, you need to speak up because a kid has a fondness for something harmful, but normally, the worst thing you can do is spew your adult venom over their latest fad.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Change game plan

In you live long enough you will go through change. It is a part of life. If you're fortunate enough, you will be the one who is a leader of the transition.

Soon, I expect, there will be a lot of transition in my ministry.

So how do you make change as smooth as possible?

As one who hasn't always hit the bulls-eye...

Explain the Purpose - Clarify why the change is needed.
Paint a Picture - Show those whom it will effect what the end-point will (hopefully) look like.
Share a Plan - Give an outline of the steps that will be made to make the change happen smoothly.
Invite them to play a Part - Show them how they can be involved.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Speaking off-ramps

Every speech has an off-ramp. No matter if the speech goes for 15 or 50 minutes, there is an opportunity to disembark. Every sermon has a good chance to stop.

Sometimes, a sermon will have more than one.

At times, I've been listening to a sermon and thought that I've arrived at an off-ramp... only for the ride to continue.

At times, I've been listening to a sermon, pleading for an off-ramp.

I'm also sure that I've been up the front of church and missed my chance to shut up.

Any quality speech will take the the speaker and those listening on a journey of discovery where they are both confortable to stop. There lies the challenge...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Honouring what I assume is going on...

I've been doing a big chunk of praying at the moment because a lot in my life is somewhat uncertain.

It occurred to me a few days ago to request that God honour the prayers of others.

To honour the prayers that I have asked in the past.
To honour the prayers of those who have prayed for the future, which we are presently in.
To honour the prayers of the church congregation who support the ministry by taking it to God since they are unable to contribute physically.
To honour the prayers of the parents who pray for their child's spiritual welfare.

The only trouble... It assumes that the church, leaders and parents are actually praying for the ministries of the church...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Teddy health

This week at youth group I lead a post-holiday reflective exercise where they drew their past few weeks as a teddy bear.

Each part of the body represented a segment of life and, depending on how healthy the body part looked, matched how they felt the part of their life was going.

The head represented the intellect. Is your grey matter being stimulated by what you are studying, watching and reading?

One arm represented the physical well being. Are you fit? Are you exercising? Are you getting enough sleep? How is your diet?

The other arm represented the emotions. How have you been feeling? Appropriately happy or sad?

Your torso was representative of relationships. How are things between you and others? Friends? Enemies? Family? Your partner/spouse?

One leg represented vocational welfare. How are things at work or school? Are you stressed? Are you taking time off to do things that you enjoy? Are you giving enough time in your life to hobbies?

The last limb represented the environmental health. Are you aware of your connectedness to the planet around you? To you recycle? Compost? Care about environmental issues?

Finally, there is a space for the spiritual health over the heart of the bear. In the relationship between you and God, how strong is it? Are you maintaining the spiritual disciplines of regular prayer, bible reading and church attendance? Are you following what God is trying to teach you or resisting?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Charging the offering?

This week the church I work for got an EFTPOS machine. Hopefully, this may mean that the staff will now be able to pay for events and resources by a church Credit Card (a day I have longed for in previous placements!).

Additionally, this will open up the option for people to give electronically in person. Awesome. I've had multiple conversations about raising the profile of regular, electronic giving to those in the congregation.

Society is progressively becoming cashless. To only give the plate on a Sunday as a giving option is silly.

But one thing about electronic giving has always troubled me... The option to give via credit card.

Now credit cards are not evil. They are just another tool in life that can be useful or, if abused, harmful. It is no secret that many people struggle using this tool effectively. In fact, Australia has one of the largest credit card debt per person on the planet.

Sure, there are plenty of people who knock their monthly credit card back down to zero, but what about those who won't?

The option for someone to go into debt to give to God bothers me.

If you are giving by money that you don't have (which is what credit REALLY is!) are you offering what is not yours?
Is this giving God the first fruits of your labour?

Of course, you could put a mighty disclaimer on your churches website or on the offering envelopes, but should the option for debt cards be the only one that is offered?

Monday, July 18, 2011

From the outside...

Any story, when viewed at a specific time (and out of context) can be classified as a success. Or a failure.

These are the views we have most often.

We view a church or a ministry from the outside and make a snap judgement.

We think things should be in a better position, or would be better placed if we were in charge, so we brand it a failure.
We look at how things have grown, so we hold it up as a success.

But we don't get to see all the cards.

From the outside, you don't get insight into the future plans.
From the outside, you don't get to see why a ministry heads in the direction it does.
From the outside, you don't get the entire picture.

Perhaps it is something we need to me mindful of when we gaze lovingly or scornfully down the road, across town or around the globe.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Christianity 2013

Due to a combination of holidays and a trial fortnight of our pay-TV movie package, I've watched more films than usual over the last week.

One movie has been 2012.

Disclaimer: Before anyone reads on I know that a) It's just a movie and b) God is sovereign over human history.

Warning: There are spoilers ahead, but if you haven't watched the movie by now, then you probably aren't too fussed.

The movie ends with a portion of the worlds population, 300,000 or so, being rescued from the world calamity in a number of Arks. Subsequently, some questions popped into my head...

As a Christian I wonder what this would mean for the faith. Would Christianity still be, numerically, the largest belief system in the world?

What would it mean for Catholics since the Pope, presumably, perished when the Vatican was destroyed?

How would believers of the world religions that hold firm to Genesis deal with the event? The planet looked pretty flooded. What would it mean for this promise?

With the reduced number of Christians, how would they structure the new church? What would this mean for denominations? Would they be done away with?

What theology would they hold to? Would this be an opportunity to "refine" what we believe? Would there be any ministers? Would there be any more ordinations?

Assuming a bible survives, what would this mean? The vast majority of biblical source documents would be lost and, you'd think, no further discoveries made. What would this mean for biblical accuracy over time? Realistically, the claim that the bible "is copied from a modern copy" would be tough to refute...

Friday, July 15, 2011

That don't impress me much

This week I've been on holidays and my main jobs for the week have been going to my Mum's to use her Internet, sorting out my enrolment for further study, staying up late to watch Le-Tour, and being roused out of my morning slumber by our cat smacking me in the head.

In short, I've done very, very little.

But for this post I'm going to channel my inner Shania Twain.

Because people who tell me that it has been years since their last vacation don't impress me much.
People who talk up working the last 19 days straight don't impress me much.
People who are proud of their 14 hour days or 80 hour work week don't impress me much.

People, particularly those in ministry, shouldn't be big-headed about of their lack of sleep. They shouldn't brag about their level of tiredness.

Because it is not good. It is not something to pride yourself on.

If God could rest, then you doing the opposite isn't a thing to be proud of.

In the end you will pay for it. Physically. Emotionally. Relationally.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another meeting is not always a step forward

Churches love to have meetings. Or committees. Or hold "think tanks."

Sometimes they are productive. Other times they seem to exist to merely make us feel important.

Whilst at the conference I attended a few weeks back I was a part of a dramatised meeting. I was the chair and had to negotiate a volatile meeting of opposing views.

In the end the decision made was to hold another meeting.

It was noted that this was not progress. Instead it was a delay.

But this is our action step all too often. Plan a date for another meeting. Then talk about the same things.

But this just pushes back the problem, and potential solution, back a further month.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Try before you buy?

Apologies that I did not post this yesterday, the Internet at chateau de Baldock is being difficult.

So... Try before you buy... Does it make sense in regards to living with your partner before marriage?

If people are to be treated like a used car or a pair of shoes, then sure. Dabble before you make a commitment. Test the water. If you read about my second car Gerald (here and here), then you'll know that I'm more than sympathetic to test driving cars for quality and compatibility.

But people are not like cars. This mantra only works to dehumanise the person you are hoping to move in with and works with the positive slant towards the driver.

Also, you don't bring your baggage with you when you take a test drive and carry some away to the next car. Car's don't care if you reject them. Car's don't have their trust in the next "test driver" trashed if you pack up and walk away.

Furthermore, the divorce rate for those who live together prior to marriage is higher than those who marry first. If "try before you buy" was a successful method of wedding out "incompatible" couples then the rate should decrease.

Seems the mantra isn't all that effective long-term.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lorenzo's Thoughts

My minister just started a blog. You can read his musings here...

Marriage gain?

I've been reading an introductory Christian ethics book and just finished the section on cohabitation before marriage.

Nothing was to earth-shattering, but the author made a few good points. Two particularly stood out.

First, for a believer, marriage is liberating. With the wedding ring comes freedom. You can experience things that you couldn't/didn't before. You gain something once you're in wedlock.

Alternatively, if you're living (and sleeping) together you "gain" very little. Sure, you'll get a sweet party and kick-ass holiday, but the landscape of your life will look fairly similar.

For some, they avoid the "baggage" or marriage since they want to evade constricting what they already posses with a costly legal ceremony.

The second point had to do with the mantra of living together - "try before you buy." But I'll post on that tomorrow...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hope & commitment

Your level of hope and commitment go hand in hand.

The more positive you envision the future being, the more prepared you will be to get involved and sacrifice for the cause.

This is true for both ministry and the greater Christian life.

If a ministry has a positive/beneficial goal that they are trying to achieve, then people will be much more willing to jump on board.

Likewise, if a believer owns the hope that the message of Jesus offers (heaven and eternal life) then that will influence how they live today. They will be less focused on their comforts and more attentive to the needs of the gospel.

The challenge for those who lead is to paint the picture of hope in such a way that people will embrace it. More so, we need to be humble enough to step aside and let them be involved.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Spiritual ADHD and personal reflection

I mentioned a few days ago that I just finished a conference that was heavy on personal reflection and I've been thinking more about why I dislike it.

Firstly, I know it's important. It's vital to take some time out and think about how things are going. I get it.

I get that you need to work out why thinks went well, how come some things flopped and if your life is in proper balance. I may not enjoy it, but I get it.

But the reason, from what I can tell, that personal reflection bugs me is because it seems so stationary.

You space to reflect on what's happening.
You need adequate time to process how you are feeling and why you react the way you do.
In short, you need to stop.

And society doesn't condition us to be comfortable with this. We value action over contemplation. We get fidgety when we have nothing to occupy ourselves with.

I admit it, I at time feel like I have spiritual ADHD.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Achievement days

A program.
An advert.
An overview for the next series.
A clean office.
Papers from the last three months filed away.
Finally enrolling in university.
Helping the minister start a blog of his own.
Putting out the next edition of the youth ministry news.

During these school holidays the above, amongst other things, are the aims for each day.

Some days you need to feel like the time and energy of going into the office was worth it. Otherwise I find that the hours I spend enclosed in the office are sucked into a time vortex, never to be seen again.

If each day can have at least one achievement, then the two weeks between school terms becomes productive.

And we all need a reason to get up in the morning during school holidays...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Story questions

When you are telling stories you should engage people in four fundamental questions, especially when dealing with younger people.

1 - What did you like in the story?

2 - What do you think was most important in the story?

3 - Where do you think you fit into the story?

4 - What could you live out in the story and still stay true to the original meaning?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Toffy Apple perks

On Friday I had to borrow money to buy a toffy apple (I lost my wallet on the way back from last week's intensive).

I didn't need to buy a toffy apple, but it seemed to made a difference to the teenager who received it.

She had just got her braces off and that was a food she said she had missed.

But I didn't NEED to get her a diabetes inducing treat. If she wasn't one of the leaders in our children's ministry, I may not have.

But there is an advantage of being in leadership. You get more attention. The input into your life is more focused since the output asked is greater.

If the cost of having a happy, valued leader is begging my minister for a personal loan, then the price is worth it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Conference change

I've just got back from the final two days of a conference, thus the lack of posts, and I would be disappointed if all I judged was the information deposited into my head.

When I signed up for the intensive, this is was I anticipated. Information download. Facts, figures, formulas.

But this course was different. It was beneficial in an alternate manner.

They pushed an intentional element of reflection, group support and application. The course was geared for change, not just intellectual development.

And that annoyed me.

Intellectual development is simpler. It is less messy.

But life change is the true goal.
True for conferences.
True for leadership.
True for preaching.
True for churches that spread the transforming message of Jesus.

Not mere intellect enhancement.