Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Missing 15 centuries?

On Monday I attended the first lecture of my new BTh Christian Worship subject.

To be honest, it was great to sit before a talking head and get away from the hustle of ministry life.

One thing which jumped out, as we discussed the history of worship, was the common places we look for a blueprint of "how things should be."

In the Protestant tradition we normally look in two places. The reformation and the early church. The 16-17th century and the 1st century. Luther/Calvin and Paul.

The trouble?
We ignore the middle 1500 years.
We miss the things they did well. We miss the things they did faithfully and prayerfully. We glance over the things they got wrong and the mistakes they made.

One of the weaknesses of the modern church is this millennia and a half vacuum of knowledge.

We don't learn from their mistakes.
We aren't inspired by their wisdom.

I'm not a church historian guru, but there does seem to be hundreds of years from the church's past which we ignore.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

40 days of giving up, taking up and getting better?

This week churches will launch into the Lenten season.

One thing which my former minister encouraged was the novel idea (at least I'd never heard of it prior) that Lent is not just about giving up things.

Sure, you can give up your indulgences of caffeine, chocolate, or Facebook, but Lent can also be about taking things up.

During Lent you can embrace things which help you focus on God and following Him closer, not just withdraw from doing things you love.

But I wonder if we miss a larger point of Lent due to the way we behave from Easter onwards.

We use Lent to remind ourselves of the luxuries which we could do without.
We use Lent to raise money.
We use Lent as an exercise of self control.

Lent shouldn't be merely 40 days of torment or intentional spiritual discipline.

Lent should be a launching pad that last long after Holy Week..

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Should you hit the eject button if you don't support the leadership?

I pity my wife. She is at home on maternity leave and is already sick of it.

If you live in Australia your nation is (supposedly) in turmoil.
It is on the television everywhere.
The radio waves are full of it.
Every water cooler, in every workplace, is buzzing with speculation, gossip and mindless, ill informed banter.

On Monday those competing for the leadership of the political party in power (and thus the leadership of the country) will have a old-school Mexican standoff. If you don't know about the story you can read about it here.

I don't want to bore you with my political ravings, but the way the entire episode has unfolded over the last week has raised a few questions for me...

What if this was going on in a church?
If someone was actively undermining the leadership, would it be tolerated?
If you were in a visible leadership position, but not the "head role," and publicly rejected by the senior leaders of your church, should you resign immediately?

BUT, the question which bounces around my mind the most is this...

If you don't respect, follow and support the leadership of you church, should you do yourself, the minister and the church a favour and leave?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is Youth Ministry a good option for work experience?

Last week I had a chat with a teen about my job and we somehow got onto the topic of work experience. In most schools around my area they do two separate sessions of work experience, one vocational and the other more community based.

So... Would doing work experience with your youth minister be a good idea?

Personally, I've never had a work experience kid join me, but I've seen it happen numerous times in the past.

From what I've seen, it appears to be a positive experience for all involved.

Assuming the teen is a committed Christian, it gives the student a far greater understanding of what goes on " behind the scenes." They are made aware of the numerous scripture classes and other ministries not in "their sphere," the prep that goes into each activity and the chance to experience the wider church through attending various meetings.

If I had my choice, one definite thing I'd do with the work experience student would be to read "What Matter's Most" by Doug Fields.

Even if the youth minister is not full time, the work experience kid can be farmed out amongst the other staff members to get a greater insight into other areas of the church which they may be otherwise unaware.

In nothing else, the youth minister gets to catch up on all his filling and knock off a few jobs which he's been avoiding.

Isn't that the actual point of having a work experience student?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Suicide, the afterlife & abortion disclaimer

Previously I've written about ministerial disclaimers.

This week I've added another disclaimer to my arsenal.

Over the last week I've been in a series of email discussions about various questions. Some of the queries have revolved around the topics of the afterlife and suicide.

Before launching into my half-baked answers I gave the following disclaimer...

Again, like a discussion on hell, I always feel a little uncomfortable talking about suicide because 1) the bible doesn't give us the details that we sometimes desire and 2) it potentially touches on the very real and sometimes awkward topic of death (not only our own, but also those we love).

I start with this launch point, especially if I'm not absolutely sure of the enquirers background or reasoning behind the question because hell, suicide (and the bonus subject of abortion) are deeply personal and emotive issues.

When dealing with these three topics we need to be honest and state that we don't hold all the answers and, depending on the circumstance, the "right answer" isn't always the most appropriate.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Second chance invite

Inviting people to church, a youth group or the Christian activities at your school for the first time can be hard.

It can be awkward. You might get shot down. In flames.

But I think there's an ask which is much more difficult.

The invite to something which they have already experienced.

Inviting a friend to the evening service at your church after they came previously and it didn't rock their world.
Inviting a kid back to your youth group after they stopped attending a year ago.
Inviting a teen to the lunchtime group at school, knowing that they tried it once and thought it was lame.

The second chance ask has a higher degree of difficulty.

Once someone has tasted something and decided they don't like it, convincing them to give it a second chance is much tougher.

But it is still worth making the ask...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Should Youth Ministers be first date masters?

I know, a lot of youth ministers are not single. Either they are already married or in a long term relationship.

It makes perfect sense.

During their Christian life they been a part of many of the usual this-is-where-I-met-my-spouse activities. They have been to many camps, probably a couple of beach missions and at least a few years in a Christian learning institution.

Over the last few days I've been pondering dating and youth ministers (not that I'm thinking of taking it up!).

Single youth ministers should be pretty good at dating.

Youth ministers are generally outgoing.
They encounter a lot of people and need to relate to them. They are used to being introduced to people and making small talk. New kids. Parents. Other church workers. Fellow youth ministers.
Youth ministers, usually, have decent listening skills and are fair conversationalists.

But there are obstacles which still need to be overcome...

Many youth ministers are on the... umm... odd side and they are both busy most Friday nights and need to get up early on Sunday mornings.

BUT... They should be able to nail the first date.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


If you're a long-time reader of this blog then you'll know that I will gladly spend 90 or so minutes watching less-than-top-notch SiFi films (Like Sharktopus or Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus)

Today I had a meeting get postponed.

How do I pass the time?

Spend time with my heavily pregnant wife or watch Dinoshark?

Dinoshark wins!

Upgrading self

For a long time I've had a thought about leadership sent to me each day. The deal is simple, John Maxwell is given a word and he speaks about it for approximately one minute.

This one about the word "SELF" has stuck with me since I heard it.

When speaking about this word, John mentions that to improve an organisation, one area is often neglected. When we want to increase what we do, or the way we do it, we all-to-rarely look at improving ourselves.

I've been in plenty of church-based circumstances where I've wanted things to get better.

Like plenty of others, I have avoided seeing a place to improve in the mirror...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meeting euthanising

I've written a bit about meetings. Good meetings. Bad meetings. Productive meetings. Mind-numbing, kill-me-now meetings.

When you work for a church, or are just an active member of a congregation, you have lots of meetings.

I had one last night.

As the meeting was arranged I was told that the term "meeting" was... unproductive. In fact, I recall being told that it sucked.

The more I think about it, the more I agree.

The term "meeting" should be stricken from the church vernacular.
So should "think tank."
So should "committee."
For good measure, toss in "consultation."

Churches should work in terms of "conversations," "gatherings" and "get togethers."

Maybe we'd have more people attend our "meetings" then.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Guest Post: Breastfeeding adults

Some of you will know Liam. If not, he was the best man at my wedding and we shared an office at our home church doing youth and children's ministry.

A few weeks ago we were having a chat which, in part, opened the door to this guest post. If you dare, you can track down the Little Britain skit on YouTube. BE WARNED! NSFW.

Thanks Liam!

There is one word that I can say to my wife that will cause instant repulsion. Her face will cringe, her arms will cross, and her brow furrow at this word. I will be told to not say it again, and that if I do, that I can sleep on the couch. ‘What is this abomination that causes desolation?’, I hear you ask. Well here it is …


Not so bad, hey? Unless you’ve seen the Little Britain skit from which it comes. In case you haven’t seen it, the skit starts off with a man, in his thirties, taking his new girlfriend to meet his parents for the first time. Everything is going swimmingly, and the family is very upright and proper. Until … the son (remember, clearly a man in his 30s) says to his mother ‘bitty, bitty, I want bitty.’ At which point, the mother, to the shock of the girlfriend (and the viewer) proceeds to breastfeed here fully grown son. Total gag-fest. Gross to the max. Defs totes disgusting.

Yep, mentioning that skit totally repulses my wife and gets me in a lot of trouble. And fair enough. There is something very abnormal and just-not-right about a man that is still totally babied by his parents. But, the babying of young Christians happens way too often in our churches, and nobody bats an eyelid. They just accept it as normal. Thankfully, it’s nothing like the Little Britain skit, but it is still a matter of concern. What does it look like though?

Well, it’s much more subtle. Kids who grow up in a Christian home tend to take on the faith of their parents in the early years. They go to their parent’s church, mimic their parents prayers, and generally believe whatever their parents tell them. This is cool, but it’s not meant to last forever, and one way or another it won’t. Christian parents need to be, as early as possible, I believe, giving their kids the chance to develop their own faith and trust in Jesus. One family that I know, actually encourage their kids to go and find their own church as soon as they turn 13. Huge move for the kids, but it gets them thinking about finding a church that they can grow in and contribute to.

Unfortunately, I don’t see too many Christian parents empowering their kids to develop a thriving faith in Jesus. More often than not, I see parents who make their kids go to church every Sunday morning until the age of 18. They never really have a choice in the matter, and it feels like something to do to keep mum and dad happy. 18 comes along, and then they disappear.

This should be as upsetting as seeing a grown man breastfeeding.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alltop inclusion

Today I was informed that my blog is now listed at Alltop.com under the Christian Church category (if you don't know, Alltop's like an online magazine rack for blogs).

As I've mentioned before, Alltop is a place where I kill plenty of hours, trawling around the Christianity, Christian Church, Leadership, Speaking and Blogging topics.

No matter what weird interest you have, Alltop is almost assured to point you to blogs within that niche.

To be listed is really cool (and kind of humbling when I think about all the amazing blogs which are already there).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Flop costs?

If this event ABSOLUTELY flops, what would it cost us?
Predictably, what is the worst that could happen?

Church leaders like to say that failure is an okay option... (not preferred, but an acceptable outcome)

Some new activities churches try will fail. They will flop. And it may not be their fault.

But failure is only a danger of they are willing to try something.

Try a new lunchtime group in the local school.
Try to connect with their neighbours by hosting a block party.
Try to engage seekers by hosting an Alpha course.

Sometimes we need to ask the opening questions of this post and decide to put our finances, facilities and egos at risk.

Responsibly, what is the worst that can happen?

The family BBQ is a flop? It costs us sausages.
No one comes to the marriage enrichment course? The leader may be sightly embarrassed.

Perhaps, if we weigh up these relatively insignificant costs against the potential rewards, we would be willing to try more things???

Monday, February 6, 2012

Living in someone elses' generosity

Previously I've written about potential awkwardness created when the topic of bequests (money left to the church, sometimes earmarked for specific purposes, once someone has died) is rasied.

Last week I was told that there are people who are hired by the church to do the "bequest request." (Would they be the closest the church has to the angel of death? The essclesiastical Grim Reamer?)

But bequests are a phenominal way for the saints of the past to leave a legacy for the future. Many churches are living in the midst of their generosity.

The wages of staff members are paid.
Grants for new ministries come from these funds.
New properties are purchased.

In fact, my position is funded by the generosity of someone who is now "with the Lord."

In a time when it can be all too common, and too easy, to bag out "the oldies," perhaps we should be thankful that many good things the church is currently doing is (in part) able to happen due to bequests.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Come, Go, Come

In this post I said that I'd write about the short-mid term plan for the youth ministry of my church.

The plan is pretty simple.

COME: The children's ministry has kids come to us. Sure, we make contact in schools, but the bulk of our programs happen "on our turf." In short, kids (particularly school years 3-6) still come to us. Parents prefer it at this age.

GO: When dealing with teens we change tack. Instead of them coming to us, focus on going to them. We are heavily involved in the schools. We teach scripture. We get involved in the Christian activities at the school. What we hold and advertise is, primarily, not "on our turf."

Why would any church do this?
First, people are less likely to attend things on a church premises. They may be interested in exploring God and the meaning of faith, but they are increasingly less keen to darken the church doors.

Second, when Jesus sent out his disciples He told them to "go." He did not instruct His followers to wait for people to approach them.

So this year I'm aiming to "go."
To meet more kids ''on their turf."
Sure, we'll still do things to care and nurture the teens who are already plugged in, but it's time to decouple from the church building.

COME: Over time, those who have a relationship with the share spiritual conversations are invited to more activities in the church building, being integrated into the church family.