Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Opening up the kitchen?

Last night, while a few of the young adults were discussing the evening service one of the guys said something about preaching which I'd seen previously.

He said that the sermon was more like the dinner table, not the kitchen.

At the dinner table you present the finished product.
In the kitchen you craft what you are going to display.

I've been in a church services where the person giving the sermon was giving an academic paper. He walked us through the entire recipe from start to finish. It even included footnotes. No kidding, freakin' footnotes.

Sometimes, details need to be shared.
Sometimes, it is good to know where the person up the front has gone to shape their thinking.
Sometimes we need to glance at the recipe book.

The vast majority of the time? This is not the case...

I've previously written that story trumps theologian. It sure trumps footnotes.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Did you catch that?

Every so often I get the twisted need to slip them in. I slyly insert them into sermons, chapel talks and scripture lessons.

Last Sunday I had to slide in a subtle quip about Dollarmites and the film Fight Club.

Trouble is, some in the audience wouldn't have had any idea what a Dollarmite was, and, since the Fight Club reference was totally improv, I pointed out what I did.

They say, if you need to explain a joke, it flops.

Or perhaps I just forget how old and out of touch I can be...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Limited arsenal

A dinosaur. Brontosaurus' to be exact. They always go first.
Then a stegosaurus.
Perhaps a palm tree.
Then a great white shark.
Then a horse.
Finally a turtle.
Then a flower.

That's it.

Of what do I speak?

My drawing arsenal.

This morning, to entertain seven year old girl in church, we drew pictures together during the sermon (our kids programs don't kick off until next week).

The whole time I was fearing one thing... I hope she doesn't want me to draw something outside of my drawing arsenal.

If so... I'm screwed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012



If this were on the sign out the front of a church, attached with the advertisement of a church service, then I don't think most people would be more inclined to attend.


Because, if I weren't a Christian, I would have little idea what the above sentence would exactly mean.

Maybe it's just the way I view things, but perhaps the church overestimates either a)the amount or accuracy which non-believers understand what happens during church services, or b) that everything we do is attractive to an outsider.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Invite or NOT invite?

Today an interesting question was raised on this Facebook page.

The question revolved around inviting people to church and why many (let's be honest, the majority) don't seem to do so.

The author wondered...
When most people look around their regular church service, do they see more reasons TO invite someone else, or NOT invite someone?
When we gaze around are we inwardly embarrassed by what is going on (or what the perception of their invitee would be)?
Are we so entrapped in the Christian bubble that we don't have anyone in our life who needs to be invited to a church?

I don't have the magic answer, but they are good questions to be pondering...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cyber planning

Over the last few days I've been putting together a visual for my come-go-come 2012 youth ministry plan (I'll post about this in more detail soon). This, combined with a conversation I had yesterday, brought forward a fresh element to my usual plans.

Churches need to plan for the cyber world.

Ministries need to have an intentional strategy of how they will use social media, such as Facebook, and their website (either their own or wider churches).

Ministries need to evaluate how they will use the virtual world to communicate with those who are regulars, those who are seeking or on the fringe and (in the case of youth ministry) parents.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ministry Mutiny musings

After more than 950 posts, I can't recall ever recommending a book on this blog.

Sure, I may mention a book if I'm reading it and it's inspired a ramble, but never given a you-should-read-this-book pitch.

Now is that time.

If you are a youth minister or involved in a youth ministry (as a volunteer concerned parent or senior minister) then you should read "Ministry Mutiny" by Greg Stier.

Initially, I got the e-book for free off the web, but I can now only track down a study guide here.

The book has the simple backdrop of an experienced youth minister having a series of meetings with a younger, battle scared, youth minister on the verge of resigning.

I identified with a lot in this book. It has a lot of quirky little things which youth ministers will recognise. I identified with the younger bloke who has his first child on the way and is worried about what a ministry future would hold. If you're wondering about the future, then this book is for you.

Every time I've typed my resignation letter it has been for amicable reasons. But I've had days and weeks where I've wanted to vomit one out. In this, I am not alone. If you've been in that place, or are there now, then this book is for you.

I loved the simple, but game changing ideas.

Listen for God's Whisper - Take time out to personally connect with God. This will effect the nature of the relationship you have with God, impact the way you do ministry and the direction it takes.

Get Real - Be genuine. Launch into and encourage life sharing conversations (an idea I hope to launch in 2012) over diatribes. Don't lose the message of Christ in the "honourable" aim of "friendship evangelism."

The next two chapters revolve around the Great Commission.

Go Wide - Jesus tells his followers to find and reach out to those who don't know God. We need to share the message of Christ locally and beyond. Make telling the gospel message a priority in your youth gatherings. We should push our teens to take their faith continually wider.

Grow Deep - Don't be shy on teaching and obedience. You can be attractive to "seekers" without skimping on teaching God's truth. When teaching teens the fundamentals of following Jesus, and are not shy at encouraging kids to live their faith out, then you are equipping then for a lasting relationship with their Maker. We should push our teens to take their faith continually deeper.

No More Outsourcing - Parents are not the enemy, but our ministry partners. We are not their substitutes, but their ministry partners. Teens should see adults living out a genuine, vibrant faith. Especially work at encouraging this in the lives of believing parents. Share with parents what you are going to be sharing with their kids.

Build on Values, Not Fads - The fundamentals don't change. Methods may get tweaked and the wrapping get shinier, but the core things are unchanging. Acts 2:41-47 is a brilliant blueprint for effective ministry. Don't keep worshipping at the alter-of-the-next-new-thing.

If it were up to me, I would read this and "Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry" by Doug Fields with any new youth minister.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Public prayer spiel

I'll admit...

I listen. Kinda.
I zone out.
I wonder about the choice of words spoken.
I sometimes struggle to personally connect with God during this time.

Of when do I speak?
When someone prays aloud during a church service.

Previously I've written that I'm not a massive fan of liturgy during church services (or at least the effectiveness in how it's usually done) here.

Whilst away at camp I did something slightly different before I lead the teens in prayer.

I encouraged the teens to do more than eavesdrop on my conversation with God.
I encouraged the teens to fight against zoning out.
I encouraged the teens to think about my words as OUR words.
I encouraged the teens to think about this time of prayer as OUR conversation with God.

During the week I gave the intro twice, the first time unplanned, and I think it really helped each time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chess ministry growth

A ministry can move in a number of directions. Hopefully it moves forward.

But every ministry is not meant to move in the same way or at the same speed.

I think ministries move like chess pieces...

Pawn - The ministry is making steady, plodding, progress.

Bishop - The ministry is moving in down a slightly new path.

Knight - The ministry is doing something completely different.

Castle - The ministry is in a time of consolidation.

Queen - The ministry is aggressively on the march, taking ground off the enemy.

King - The ministry is in survival mode.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Own the room

I like to be in control. I like to have things set up the way I desire.

In speaker terms, I like to "own the room" (plenty of speaker blogs say this is a good thing, like this one, or this one).

When I first arrive at an unfamiliar venue where I'm speaking, I give extra time to get familiar with the surroundings. I've arrived hours early and awoken at the crack of dawn to be comfortable with the speaking environment. Ideally, I get to give a run through of the entire talk where I'm actually going to be giving it.

If "owning the room" means that I have to move things, then (within reasons), so be it.

To check out the space, I arrived extra early at the camp I spoke at this week.

Honestly, it wasn't great. The space was cramped. It was untidy. The projector was on a tragic angle compared to the screen. Even the host mentioned that the space wasn't what they expected upon arrival.

So I made some slight changes. I tidied up. I created more space by moving an armchair and a table. I helped adjust the projector by placing a small table under it.

I didn't change the world, but I did feel more comfortable in the room.

On Wednesday I couldn't control the surrounding I spoke in. Bonfires aren't very co-operative.

As I alluded to yesterday, the setting was... challenging.

I spoke on the edge of a fire pit with smoke intermittently choking both myself and the teens.
When the wind picked up, the teens were showered by hot sparks.
Before I started there were drops of rain.

Some things are out of a speakers control. Kids cry. The power cuts out. The bonfire throws a tantrum like a baby with nasty nappy rash.

At those times you make the best of a bad situation.

Otherwise, I aim to own the room.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Success standard?

Last night I gave a talk around the bonfire at the camp I'm currently engaged in (I'll write tomorrow about the... challenging... experience that was).

The talk itself was nothing more than alright. At least in my mind.

Others said it was really good.

So... Who is right? Was the talk a success?

Whilst the talk wasn't a shocker, I'm not convinced execution is an accurate marker for success. Delivery is a detail, not the bulls eye.

What does count is response. How did those listening respond and how did the Spirit of God use what was said?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Make my body sing!

I previously mentioned that I'm currently speaking at a camp. During my intro last night, my brief brush with television fame was mentioned.

My "big break" was in a banana commercial. If you watch very carefully below you'll spot my old rugby union team in the red & blue. We aren't on the screen for long (only on for two seconds, starting 15 seconds into the clip, and flashing up at 1:03).

I know, I'm also shocked that this was not the start of my flourishing acting career.

Container messages

I'll admit... They are convenient. They are a useful size, portable and relatively sturdy. They are downright handy.

Of what do I write? Empty beer cartons.

An empty case of beer can be downright handy to transport and store things.

On numerous occasions I've seen them being used to store and transport things in churches. And whenever I do it makes me feel uncomfortable.

Especially when it happens in a youth ministry setting.

Perhaps it hasn't occurred to the person, or maybe the head honcho is oblivious to what is going on, but the subtle message that must be sent to teens is surely less than helpful.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Generating cheesy consumers

I give out a love of crap at my church. Much of it good fun. But in the cold light of day it is really useless, cheap crap. Useless, cheap crap that may possibly have the letters JESUS or GOD on the side.

Whistles, lights, bells, puzzles, bouncy balls, kazoos, eye patches, pencils... all cheesy christian crap.

Sometimes I wonder if it is doing more harm than good.

When I arrived at my current job they ended each term with a game that gave away these sorts of prizes. I thought it was not harmful, so I continued the trend.

By the end of 2011 I started to taper off the presents.

The reason?

They were costing a heap of coin, they didn't really achieve anything, the prizes usually annoyed the leaders (and parents!) and, finally, they have a danger of creating a spirit of entitlement.

For better or worse, youth ministry continually flirts with creating this spirit.

We cater our programs to the kids.
We model our activity space to be as pleasing as possible.
We provide everything with as little fuss to the kids as is reasonable.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the drop-out rate is significant once teens pop-out-the-top-of-the-system and this pandering ceases?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Not teaching vanilla

Next week I'm giving a series of talks on Deuteronomy at a camp.

As a speaker wanting to avoid potential awkwardness, I checked if the group had previously done a study on the book.

This request, accompanied with the first suggestion of the topic, was met with the light-hearted question "Has any youth group ever had a series on that book?!?"

I suspect, the answer is "Probably not."

I think many youth groups haven't heard a series on Deuteronomy due to the leaning of too many youth ministers to teach vanilla.

To teach the plain. The ordinary. The flavourless.

I'm not suggesting that a wave of lengthy series on Zechariah should sweep the globe, but (like it did with Deuteronomy), if it fits the message that you think the your audience needs to hear, it shouldn't be avoided either.

I'm really looking forward to next week and plumbing some of the depths of Deuteronomy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bible bites

Since late September, I've been writing small thoughts about bible passages on Facebook called Tiny Bible Bits (which I wrote about here).

One thing I do miss is posting my, sometimes insightful, often inane thoughts about passages of scripture that I stumble over.

So, here are a few of the things which I've picked up on and shared in the last 3 or so months...

Acts 4:13 - Peter and John were ordinary. It was recognisable. Yet God used them to change the world. The difference maker? Being with Jesus.

Romans 15:4 - When we read the bible we should be taught, encouraged and more hopeful. Once we read the scriptures our attitudes should be changed. Reading what God has done in the past should affect how we face today and the confidence we have in facing tomorrow.

Philippians 4:8 - This passage has as much to say about what we are to think about as it says what SHOULD NOT occupy our thoughts. We are not to ponder what is false; or what is immoral; or what or wrong; or what is dirty; or what is disgusting; or what is to be hidden.

1 Peter 3:15-16 - When you share your faith, don't be a jerk.

Revelation 3:20 - Jesus is not Rambo. He patiently knocks and waits for the door to be opened, he will not drag someone kicking and screaming.

Ephesians 4:26-27 - Anger is not wrong. It is okay to get angry about the things that anger God like poverty, injustice and sin.

Matthew 28:18-20 - We need to GO and make disciples, not expect them to come to us.

Judges 16:21-22 - Even thought, by his own doing, this is was Samson's lowest moment, God still showed His faithfulness.

Jeremiah 29:11 & Romans 8:28-29 - God has a plan for your life, like He did for Israel. Like them, the point isn't comfort, it if to (re)connect with God and become more like Jesus.

Philippians 2:9 - Jesus is the name above all names, including our own.

Deuteronomy 1:21-22 - The spies were sent to find a route into the Promised Land, not to see if they should go. This was a mission of HOW, not SHOULD.

Deuteronomy 4:1 - Why should you bother living God's way? It is for our benefit.