Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Best of...

I'm now officially... um... between jobs for the next fortnight with the last few days absorbed by planning the services on my last Sunday and packing 14 boxes of stuff from my old office.

Here are my favourite posts from last year...

Here are the guest posts I got published on MorethenDodgeBall
Youth ministry: Job, profession or craft?
The secret to cracking the tough nuts

Bible bits
Ministry Mutiny musings
Come, Go, Come
Brestfeeding adults (a guest post by Liam)
Kony Questions
Hanna Cate (definitely my most exciting post!)
Choosing Hagar
Easter Bible Bits
Criticism from Mr X?
Should you lie to your parents to go to church?
Could vs should
How to respond when a Christian leader falls
Why child protection matters
Do you have to remember it all?
What if it were Hanna?
Church service evaluating?
Church & Sunday morning sex
Gay Marriage: We do
Porn doesn't know your name (the post that resulted in 600 hits in an hour)
Instigate the Benoit procedure?
Tom's take on camp speaking 1, 2, 3 & the takeaway
Before you walk that aisle
Virgin kiss
Sex spiel
Finger condoms and porn (this is the post which resulted in my blog being blocked from my church computer)
Safe or less risky? 
Anonymous questions
Is the church dead?
Why we're not baptising our daughter
You may now kiss the Messiah???
The ladies you can cry over
Repetitive lessons
Help! I've got a work experience student for a week!
Work experience wisdom
Christmas Bible Bits

When I look back over 2012 one thing became quickly apparent.
I wrote about sex. 
A lot.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Bible Bits

At Easter I posted the series of posts I did on Tiny Bible Bits leading up to Easter on the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross.

These are the musings I've written over the last few weeks leading up to Christmas. Enjoy...

Matthew 1:1, 3, 5, 6, 16 – This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:… Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,… Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,… David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,… and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Matthew 1 paints the rich tapestry from which the Saviour of the entire world would come.

Tamar - Slept with her Father-in-law.
Rahab – Prostitute.
Ruth - Foreigner
Uriah’s wife - Adulteress
Mary - Virgin
All of them women.

In the eyes of first century Jews Jesus had some skeletons hiding within his genealogy.

Yet Matthew chose to include them at the start of his gospel.

These women remind us that God includes those who might be viewed as undesirable.
These women remind us that God can, and does, use those from all walks of life.

Matthew 1:21-22 – “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet:

I read last week that candy canes are hard to represent the firmness of God’s promises.

Whether or not this is factual for a candy cane is debatable (the Internet told me therefore it MUST be true!), but Matthew’s account of the Christmas story reminds us that it's true for God’s plan of salvation.

The where, when, who, why and how of Jesus’ birth were no accident. They were all part of what God started many years prior.

Do you just read the same familiar parts of the bible?

Get to know the Old Testament. The whole Old Testament. Read the prophets. Learn about their background and how they fit into the New Testament.

Within their pages are fascinating accounts of God revealing who He is, what He was doing at the time and what He plans to do in the future.

As you delve into these, often neglected, portions of the bible you will gain a wider understanding of the story God has unveiled, is still weaving and is still to unfold.

Matthew 2:3-5 – When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

For the second Tiny Bible Bit in a row the passage has ended with a reference to a Messianic Old Testament prophecy.

In light of their current political situation, the majority of first-century Jews would have been familiar with these prophecies.

And yet many of then missed the signs.

Do we do a similar thing to the chief priests and teachers of the law?

Are we aware of what the bible says but blind to what God is actually doing in the world?

Ask God to open your eyes to the places where He is involved.
If those in Jerusalem had prayed a similar prayer then they may have gone with the Magi to see the promised New-born King.

Matthew 2:11,16 – On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh… When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Nativity scenes are everywhere.
And they’re all, without exception, wrong.

The mistakes they hold indicate that we’re more familiar with the Christmas story than we actually are.

We think we can fill in the following gaps…
Mary rode a ____ to Bethlehem. There were _____ wise men. The magi visited Jesus _________.

Mary POSSIBLY rode a donkey. The gospels do not say.
There COULD have been three wise men. All we’re told is the number of gifts they brought along.
The magi came to a house anywhere up to two years after the birth of Jesus (thus the order of Herod to murder all boys under two).

Take some time out to actually read the Christmas accounts in Matthew and Luke.

You might be surprised what is, and is not, included.

Turns out the Little Drummer Boy doesn't make an appearance…

Luke 2:10-11 – But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Good news…
Great joy…
For all people.

This is the message of Christmas.

Luke 2:16-18, 20 – So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them… The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

When the shepherds personally encountered the Christmas story they spread the word.

The told others what God had revealed to them.
They told others how God had entered into human history.
They told others how they had met Jesus.

This is the appropriate response to encountering Jesus.

Who are you going to tell about your experience of meeting Jesus this Christmas?

John 1:14 – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God did not charge in with an army.
Jesus did not invade with power.
He did not come clothed in wealth and prestige.

When God came into the world, He came in humility.
He came to display grace and truth to a world in need of both.

As another Christmas slips by, remember the impact of the incarnation.

Remember the effect of God taking on flesh and dwelling amongst His creation.
The Lord of all entered the world in order to show a life dedicated to the Kingdom of God, bringing together Creator/creation and allowing us to call out to a God who has intimate knowledge of our sufferings and temptations.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Not the day for aerobatics


When people attend one of these services then they have a set of expectations.

I know a minister who mentioned that these were significant ministry opportunities, but quite difficult to totally stuff up.

The reason?

If you cater to the expectations of the majority, hitting all the high points, then they should run smoothly.

So... Don't wander too far from the well-trodden path.

For funerals? God is with those who grieve and pain and death is not a part of God's original plan for the world.
Weddings? God's love for all is represented through the partnership created through a marriage and He wants to be a part of the union.
Easter? God came into the world to restore the relationship between humanity and Himself. For God, this was not cheap nor easy.
Christmas? God reveals Himself clearest and through the incarnation, and through the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus we have access to Our Father.

Don't use the chance to clearly present the gospel and, instead, twist in the plot of the latest movie blockbuster.

The sermon title for Christmas 2012 should not be "The gospel according to The Hobbit."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The final line of the job description

Fix light fixtures.
Become pseudo-competent in working the sound desk and photocopier, fixing problems as they occur. 
Monitor and maintain the churches social media presence.

Every job description has one fateful line which goes something along the lines of "and any other miscellaneous duties which arise."

Churches are no different.

And when you're typing up poems written by a homeless guy you just need to remember that every job has hidden tasks which fall into "miscellaneous... but important."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Whispered exhortations

This past Sunday my church put on a farewell morning tea for me (even though I don't officially leave until the end of the month, they wanted Christmas to be about Jesus!). During my speech I mentioned a common, but wonderful, thing that lurks within churches.

The muttered word of encouragement.

The way it normally works is that a person, usually a part of the grey-haired brigade, pulls you aside quickly and drops a dollop of verbal support. It's not a big deal and it's normally over in an instant.

BUT... This is what made these blokes so great at my home church.

I've previously mentioned that I'll ask every kid how their week was whenever they arrive at a youth event. The payoff usually comes once you've asked the question dozens of times.

For the muttered word of encouragement the payoff ratio is similar.

Most Sunday's the exhortation will be appreciated but not dwelt upon.

But every so often it will be one of the only things which will make you think you're making a difference...

Monday, December 17, 2012

If I had to empty the piggy-bank?

I don't really use purchased resources. I have nothing against them, and while they certainly have a time and place, I tend to create my own (or at worst highly modify an existing resource).

But what if I HAD to spend money to create a youth ministry resource bank? 

This is what I would spend it on...

I would get these single-lesson studies for emergency scripture lessons (
I would get these apologetic resources (
For teaching material I would look at and
For a curriculum I would buy the Live Curriculum series which applies.

Whilst these might cost a church a few thousand dollars, they would see anywhere through the rest of it's youth-ministry-life.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Things that make you go...

I remember doing a small group study based on the idea that there will be times in everyone's life when their mind will naturally turn to God. 

Sometimes these God-moments can be triggered by the negative...
Terrorist attacks.
School shootings.
Cancer diagnoses.
Car accidents.

Other faith stirring moments can be triggered by positive events such as a wedding or a birth.

The takeaway from the study was for Christians to be alongside non-believers, living their life in such a manner, that their friends and workmates can naturally talk to you about their faith.

In light of some events of the last week, not just confined to events in America, I think there's another reaction to some of the events listed above.

You're just a little more thankful for what you have and you hug your family a little tighter...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Help! I've got a work experience student for a week!

So God created mankind in his own image… Genesis 1:27a

For seven days you have a bright-eyed teen to craft into your own image…
An apprentice who will glean the nuggets of wisdom which flow out of your mouth…
A Padawan to pass on your odd quirks and hear all your bad jokes…

This is the point of having a work experience student with you.
Isn't it???

A fortnight ago I had a year 10 student from the local high school alongside me.

I couldn't recommend it highly enough because it was a great week.

And over the last week I learnt one thing. Having a work experience student with you is not primarily about youth ministry.

It is about helping the young person find their sweet spot (If you’re the kind of Christian who chiefly plays cards, board games or Call of Duty, the sweet spot is a sporting term you can read about at

Having a work experience student with you is, at the core, about helping them discern who God made them to be (know themselves) and what He might be forming them to do (know their call).

Over the last week I tried to achieve this in three ways.

First, I wanted to student to determine his spiritual gifts, discover his personality type, examine his history, identify his natural abilities and work out what gives him energy. Through a series of surveys, reflections and conversations we discerned what things he was good at and where he might be effectively used to build up the body of Christ (in paid ministry or as a volunteer).

Second, we read “What Matters Most” by Doug Fields (you can get it from for under $10), chatting about the book over lunch every day.

Every youth minister should read this book.

And so should every mechanic, nurse, lawyer, single mother and garbage man.

The reason? I believe the book is not just about youth ministry. It is about knowing what is really significant and using these top priorities to shape what you agree to do.

No matter if my work experience student decides to go into youth ministry or another vocation, I wanted to arm him with an ability to discern what is really important.

Third, as tempting as it was to take him water-skiing and utilise my newly acquired golf caddie, he accompanied me everywhere during a “normal” week (as if youth ministry ever has one!). He came to meetings - both fun and pretty dull; he helped me write a talk (a sex talk!), being involved from the start, implementation and in post-event dissection; he did the same scripture lesson three times.

He caught a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes. He saw the preparation which went into scripture lessons, church services and youth group.

He saw that youth ministry was not just eating McDonalds and bouncing between sugar fixes. Just like every job, ministry has parts which are not glamorous, nor altogether enjoyable.

Sometimes, to quote my minister, you need to “eat the dead rat.”

Sure, we did do some unusual, memorable things. We attended worship with the Korean-speaking congregation (which none of us could understand) and climbed the church bell tower (which neither of us had done before).

But, if the aim this week was to shape this young man into my youth-minister-image, then I failed.

Luckily, when you have a work experience student alongside you for a week, this is not the aim…

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The teacher filter

I've sat through them all.

Disorganised. Confusing. Unfocused. Unengaging. Embarrassing. Cringe worthy. Boring. Bad.

These are some of the words which have gone through my mind while enduring a combined Easter/Christmas/insert-event-here service at a school.

Now... Whilst I've also been a part of and seen some FANTASTIC services, others have been stinkers. 

Sometimes I can't even begin to imagine what the kids are thinking.

But there's another audience member which the organisers of these services must take into account.


Often teachers are witnessing the mess of a combined service and feeling similar things which trot through my mind.

And it hurts the cause of scripture in schools.

I wonder, if those who organise combined services kept the audience at the forefront of their mind (both kids AND adults) then they would improve remarkably.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ministerial interpretation

I have a unique calling.
A special gift.

Ministerial interpretation.

Sometimes it us during a meeting.
Sometimes it is during a church service.
Occasionally it will be required whilst co-facilitating a confirmation course.

For ministers can slip into speaking Christianese.
Ministers can get so excited when describing the mystery of the trinity that they use concepts no one without a theology doctorate can follow.
Clergy can get carried away and flood the room with words in a heartbeat.

And here is where I come in.

I am not shy to ask for a clearer explanation.
I am not shy to stop someone and make sure everyone is on the same track.
I will fall on my sword and fill an awkward silence.
I will swoop in and ask the obvious, just-to-clarify-something-which-we-are-99.9%-sure-we-already-know, question on behalf of the teens.
I will interject a more age appropriate application or translate a dated illustration.

As a youth minister, sometimes I need to be an advocate for those who aren't fluent in the Christian lingo.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Before sealing the deal you should ask...

I wrote previously that interviewing for a new ministry position is like dating.

First you find out details about one another and work out if you have sufficient common interests. 

If you make it past the first hurdle, then you ask the tougher questions to discover if you could share a life together.

What questions, in no specific order, should you ask before you sign on the bottom line?

What is the start date? When can I get a key?
What is the pay? Will it be paid monthly? Fortnightly?
How are raises negotiated?
What are the expected hours of work each week?
Is housing included? How about a housing allowance?
Is further study a requirement? Is there a professional learning budget?
How are holidays acquired? Do they work on a calendar or financial year? 
Is there a youth ministry budget? Is it a separate line in the budget? How is it accessed? What was it spent on last year?
What office space is provided? Computer? Bookcase? 
Is your mobile phone bill, or at least a portion, paid by the church?
Why have people left the church lately?
On button issues, such as women in ministry or homosexuality, what is the standing of the senior minister, staff and wider congregation? Have they been an issue in the past or currently?
What are the days off for current staff? Are they contactable on their day/s off? Is this an expectation?
What, if any, role is expected of your spouse and family?
Financially, what shape is the budget in? Are there looming issues? Is sizable chunk of income dependant upon one thing or a few people?
Are there plans for future staff or property expansion?
Are there any traditions which you should be aware of?
What, if any, ecumenical activities exist? Are there any churches who don't "play with others?"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Healthy, Unhealthy, Troubled


They can either be classified as healthy, unhealthy or troubled. 

If things are on track then it is healthy.
If things are starting to go wayward then it is unhealthy
If problems exist and need to be rectified quickly then it is troubled.

I'm not sure how to make this the standard going forward but it's a start...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Work Experience Wisdom

I imagined that there would be lengthy times of silence over the last week.

Surprisingly, there wasn't.

In fact, there were nuggets of gold scattered throughout the week. Sure, some snippets of wisdom won't change the world, but nonetheless... here's some of the wisdom dropped over the last seven days whilst I had a work experience student with me...

Sweet Spot - The whole point of the week... No matter what it is... Work to find out what God has designed you to do. Seek out your spiritual gifts and examine the way God has wired your personality. Strive to work in your sweet spot (the spot on a tennis racquet/baseball bat/cricket bat where the ball travels further because you connect in just the right spot).

Eat the dead rat - Even if you find your sweet spot and work in that field, sometimes you'll need to do things you don't want to do. Do them. Some things you need to just suck up.

Margin - Create margin in your life. Give yourself extra time to do things. If you plan everything to the exact second, then you're flirting with disaster. Less margin equals more stress.

Praxis - Think. Act. Reflect. Repeat.

Advice on dating - #1 - When you're going to pick up a female on a date don't beep when you arrive. Don't text from the car. Don't call and have her meet you out front. Knock on the door. Man up and face whomever answers the door.

#2 - Turn your phone off during dates. Don't be shy in announcing that you're giving your date undivided attention.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

When the teen above .05 walks through the door?

It's a regulation Friday night at youth group...
Fun things are planned, but nothing out of the ordinary...
Kids are starting to arrive and you're getting prepared to swing into the first game/activity...

Then a couple of teens turn up who are obviously drunk.
They aren't falling over and vomiting drunk, but it is clear that they've had a bevy.
Whilst one of the teens is a regular, the other is relatively unknown to you.

What do you do?

Without doubt, every ministry job interview will contain a tricky scenario or three.

The above situation was one I was given during my latest interview (have a mentioned that I secured a new, full-time, job for 2013???).

A few days ago I had a chat about this conundrum with the work experience student accompanying me this week.

My answer?

Immediately, I'll want to send the kid home.
There is no way I'm going to expose the other kids to these "emotional" pair of teens.
As a duty-of-care issue (my responsibility to provide a safe place physically, emotionally, relationally & spiritually), it would be irresponsible to allow them to stay.
Whilst driving him and his drunken mate away with pitchforks might be extreme, the idea did wander through my mind.

But, I also have a duty-of-care to these two tanked-up young men.

So I decided that, although I would send them home, I had to do so in a manner which ensured their safety.

Once I'd called the kids parents, if geographically possible, I would have a male leader walk the two blokes back to a house where parents are present.

If they lived too far away then I would put them in a cab with a leader, again, making sure they arrived to a supervised environment.

But the next 48 would be equally as important.

For I would contact the teen I knew on the Sunday (it would be unfair to call him hung-over on Saturday) and seek to catch up that afternoon.

And I would ask what is going on.

For no kid, I suspect, awakes on a Friday morning and decides to have a skin-full and roll up to youth group. Something must have happened.

And the company he keeps would certainly be one of the topics I would discuss.

But I neglected to add another important part of the answer for this situation.


Whilst pretty embarrassing and fairly dumb (and I've had my share of both), what this teen has done is not unforgivable. During our Sunday conversation, I would impress this to the teen and welcoming him back the next week... Without the booze.