Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Patience for the germination?

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells the well known parable of the sower. As a parable, the main point is the underlying message about the nature and Kingdom of God, not the specific details.

But the tale Jesus spins makes me wonder about churches and the way they can view results.

Are churches prepared to wait for the results of a ministry to develop?
When a church weighs up bum-in-seat results, are they looking for growth to be slow cooked or microwaved?

If we delve into the parable, the results would not have be known until the seeds sprout. I wonder if some churches would have left the field by then due to impatience???

Monday, August 29, 2011

Aiming for a pass?

I've just submitted my first assignment for the course that I'm currently doing at university. And, truthfully, I'm hoping for a pass. But not much more. Sure, I want to do well and good marks are pleasing, but I'm a realist.

I would love to say that what I handed in was a literary masterclass. It wasn't. It may be due to the lectures only winding down last week, or that I had to write the entire essay today in my office (on the due date!), or that I have the phrase "P's equal degrees" in my vernacular, but it wasn't a grand entrance back into academia.

I wonder if I, and the church, hold a similar view when it comes to people and ministry.

We aim for a pass. We aim for good enough. We strive for keep-the-kids-out-of-trouble-so-their-not-sleeping-around-or-getting-too-drunk-on-the-weekend.

I mentioned in conversation last week that our standards are too low and compared it to the standards that Islam seems to hold for it's followers.

Looking from the rather ill informed, outside-looking-in vantage point, from what I can tell they wouldn't sit happily with a pass conceded grade in terms of their faith.

They demand more from their followers. They expect more from their followers. Often they receive more from their followers.

Perhaps, in that, there is a lesson for the Christian church and a challenge for those in ministry...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kindy prayers

On the back of a youth ministry inservice, I've just flowed out of a week-long ordination intensive. In between, our church had an elders and leader's retreat. All in all, I've gained a head overflowing with input, three two-inch folders to read, an assignment due on Monday and a stack of blog post ideas.

Churches can think they have "arrived" once they posses the sacred cow of church existence. Playgroups.

Or, better yet, a kindergarten.

Today I heard about a church that had a kindy. But something was different.

They intentionally prayed for the kids who go to the kindy.

I don't know how attached the kindergarten was with the church, but I don;t think that should be the point.

I've known quite a few churches where the kids who flow through the gates of their kindergarten are little more than walking cash cows. Perhaps we need to remember that they are a fledgling ministry as well...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Really average?

"Are you at a big church?"

"No, not really. We probably have, I dunno, an average of 250 on a Sunday across the services?"

Last week I overheard a conversation similar to the one above. The enquirer was from a small rural congregation and the respondent was from one of the most wealthy parts of Sydney.

For some, their perceived average is nothing like reality.

If I were to ask you the average attendance of a church service of your denomination, how many would you say? 50? 100? More?
How about the average number in a youth ministry? 20? 40? More?
Does your upbringing effect your view of "average"?

For many in ministry, particularly youth ministry, they come from healthier (and generally larger) churches. They don't come from a struggling church who strains to scrape together 30 on a "good" Sunday.

I've heard it said that the average church service in my denomination is under 30 people (which seems to make sense once the weekly number of attendees is divided by the number of congregations, mindful that some churches have multiple services).

Occasionally those of us conditioned by a fortunate, (pseudo)thriving church past can needlessly cry poor. We pine over the 100 who turned up on Sunday morning. We mope over the "barely 20" teens who darken the doors on a Friday night (I've also heard that the average number of young people in a church is 5).

This post isn't about celebrating mediocrity, but perhaps some need to open their eyes to what the "real" average is in the wider church.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Favour church?

"Hey... We're coming to church on Sunday!"

Sometimes I hear this enthusiastically exclaimed, and every time I do, I wonder what response I'm meant to have.

If I'm told you're coming so you can reconnect with God, then that is great. Brilliant. Excellent. Bravo.

But occasionally the tone makes me uncomfortable. It comes across like you're doing someone (myself, the senior minister, the service leader, a musician) a favour.

This stinks.

If you're going to attend church as a token of affection for anyone but God, then understand that it doesn't thrill me. Yes, an exception should be made for those who are investigating following Jesus or the church anew, but the random Facebook message will not get much more then a smirk.

If you're going to attend church, what would make me much happier, is if you did it for reasons to do with God.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Really regional?

The Internet was outraged, the Twitter-verse imploded and Facebook froze.

And rightly so. I made a promise and I broke it.

In this post I wrote that I'd blog next about regional churches but instead posted on ministers raving about their church.

Well, belatedly, here is the foretold post...

Some churches like to think of themselves as "regional."

Perhaps they have a prominent minister. Or had a renowned ministry. Or maybe the membership directory indicates that they have "members" from across a wide area.

Whilst having a conversation with a minister last week he mentioned an often neglected criteria.

You are a regional church if you genuinely SERVE a large region.
You can be considered a regional church if you IMPACT a large geographical region.

If you just like the term, or judge the appropriateness of the title based on your furthest travelling congregant, then you're probably NOT a regional church.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Raving 'round the clock

This week I've been at the annual Youth Pastors conference for my denomination. Included yesterday was a visit to Parramatta Mission with the senior minister Keith Hamilton.

The thing that struck me the most from the experience, along with the amazing work they do with the homeless, was the way the bloke raved about his church.

From the moment we met him and were shown around, introducing us to their ministries and volunteers, he rarely stopped talking.

For a solid hour he enthusiastically chatted about his church.

I wonder how long many ministers and ministry leaders could rave about their church?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Whenever a church finds itself between ministers, one of the first things it needs to do is get a church profile together to show potential candidates.

Churches use this as a good time to give themselves a label. Thriving. Accepting. Progressive. Evangelistic. Family-Friendly. Regional (a term I'll chat about in my next post).

The trouble is, churches get confused between were, actual and wish.
Sometimes they describe what they were. It may have been a generation or a decade ago or mid-March 1912, but the church labels itself with what it WAS known for.

Sometimes a church will describe who they wish they were. They call themselves what they would LIKE to be in a season, year or decade in the future.

Unfortunately, it is all-to-rare that the profile a church provides falls into the "actual" part of the spectrum.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sexy giving

I just listened to a bunch of giving videos here and one thing that caught my attention was the idea to make the budget/giving sexy.

No, this doesn't involve the treasurer doing a strip tease.

Instead it needs three things.

A need.
An amount.
A time frame.

Whenever you ask for money, include the three above things.

People give to specific needs. They don't to vague figures on a spreadsheet.
People give when they know how much money is required. They don't if their is no goal to acquire.
People will give more readily if they are given a time to do it by. People are wired to act within a date. Otherwise we will just keep putting it off...

Youth ministry costs

I've had "the talk" a few times.

The "you've broken something the the hall again" talk.
Or "the youth group leaders miscounted the money again" discussion.
And I've overheard the "chat" about the amount of noise kids made during church or the "mess after youth group."

Youth ministry costs churches.

It costs them money.
It costs then light fixtures.
It costs them windows.
It costs them an otherwise vacant building.
It costs them peace and quiet.

But that's the price a church should be willing to pay to see ministry to young people happen. In reality, it's usually not that great a burden...

Friday, August 12, 2011

The option of not going anywhere...


Youth ministry goes in cycles. Sometimes you are on the upswing. Sometimes you are in the midst of a downturn.

No matter where you are. There is one constant.

Kids will leave. Not all, but given enough time, some.

Some will move away. Some will have a conflicting event that is unavoidable. Some will be slammed by school work or disapproving parents. Some will find better things to do on a Friday night. Some kids will just stop coming.

I understand that some kids won't be fond of me. That's okay. If they go to another youth group, are cared for and grow closer to Jesus. That's great.

But however it happens, when kids leave, it's not a great feeling. But it is made much worse when they drift away to nothing.

PS. Apologies about the lack of posts over the last week, my Mum unexpectedly had a triple-bypass operation a few days ago. Turns out she had a mild heart attack a while ago, so it's good that the doc's caught it now. She's getting out of intensive care later today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Today is the third anniversary of my blog since I started with this little-viewed masterpiece.

What do the stats say?

22,762 page views from 10,372 individual visitors from 74 countries. 86.89% from Australia.
One singular view from Bahrain, Nigeria, Croatia (Hrvatska), Bolivia, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Botswana, Czech Republic, Virgin Islands (U.S.), Guatemala, Kuwait, Venezuela, Peru, Slovak Republic and Ghana.

My most popular month for views was January 2011 with 1,30 and with visitors was April 2011 with 504.

My two most popular posts are "Putting on a Greek play," "Marriage advice for the ADD" and "Christian swingers."

603 people have searched and stumbled over my blog with most people finding my blog by looking for something to do with swinging (164 times), relationships with non-believers (67 times), the reason for "Good Friday" (48 times) or theater masks (34 times). From the 306 individual searches the post popular was "christian swingers" with 114.

The most random search to find here? "18 never been kissed loser," "unicorn kills mime" and "christiannymphos"

Finally, much thanks to my current churches website, Tom's blog and MoreThanDodgeBall for pointing the most traffic my way.

Monday, August 8, 2011


A while back I heard that a large church was originally a church plant from a congregation in my suburb. Initially I was surprised since the local church is... well... less than thriving.

I wonder, with the fluctuating fortunes of the original church, would a chunk of people consider heading back? If, for example, the planted church has lots of twenty-somethings or young families, but the other church has none, should those geographically close to the original church consider switching?

Is there ever a case for church replanting?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Coin comparison

Churches get dirty and need to be cleaned. I get that.

People like flowers. They are pretty. I get that.

One thing that did jump out at me during a meeting this week was a statement about ministry budgets.

If you compared the amount of coin that you spend on cleaning or flowers to the amount that you spend on children's, youth or family ministry, what message do you think it would send about what your church values?

Friday, August 5, 2011

NT Door-bitches

As I was reading a counterpoints book on women in ministry this morning, I stumbled over a previously unfamiliar role that the ladies took in scriptures.

In Exodus 38:8 and 1 Samuel 2:22 it is mentioned that women served at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.

This isn't all that interesting until you hit the familiar passage in John 18 of Peter's first denial, starting at verse 15.

My mind flashes to women I've encountered on the door of miscellaneous establishments. It seems hard-nosed, fast questioning dames were patrolling the doors 2000 years ago.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Before I go...

I wrote earlier that I've never been seriously connected to a church when a new minister has arrived. Additionally, only once have I been actively involved in a church when a minister has given their departing sermon.

Whenever I've moved on from a congregation I've never preached on my last Sunday.

But I wonder what I would say.

I suspect it would be, without wanting to give the impression that I'm a departing superstar, that things will be okay.

The reason? Because God is in control. He is faithful to them and He calls them to be faithful to Him. He is in charge of what happens to the church.

I would ask members of the congregation (particularly the elder ones) to recall times when ministers have left previously and share how God came through then. The church should be encouraged that just because the minister leaves the ministry does not stop.

More so, I would remind the believers that they continue to do God's work due to the Spirit of God that dwells within and empowers them with gifts of the Spirit. Each of them is still just as able and invited to be a part of what God is doing in the world as they were the week before.

Monday, August 1, 2011


A few years ago I stopped going to the Hillsong conference. But it had little to do with the event.

When I did attend it was great. I heard from some of the best ministry and leadership minds on the planet. I got to be around tens of thousands of believers. I got a week off work!

But the event became less and less about God and more about the talking heads. The conference became less and less about connecting with God and more about seeing the person from TV or the book-cover live.

And I'm not alone.

Christians do it all too often. With conferences. With camps. With youth events. Even with churches.

We get swept up in the pseudo-celebrity and let our focus slip from Jesus.