Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Youth Minister Olympics

Surprise, surprise, I'm watching a minor sporting event emanating from the Mother Country.
I wonder, if youth ministry was an Olympic event, how would the gold medal be decided?

In the past I've mentioned that I've applied for youth ministry positions and "come off second best."

I know of at least one occasion where it was down to two candidates and I "didn't get the gig."

So, what would you need to do to waltz away with the gold medal in youth ministry? Would there be any training which would help?

Obviously, there are some youth ministers (and family, children's and senior ministers) who are "better" than others. They are more skilled. They have more experience. They have cultivated a greater connection to those they are called to serve. They produce better resources. They have a more intense passion for what they do. They are a superior speaker.

To get better you can read unending books and blogs. You can attend conferences, seminars and courses. You can pick the minds of those with more experience. You can purposely reflect on what you do. You can become familiar with management, leadership and communication theory.

But ultimately, the judgement should only come down to one thing...
An individuals faithful response to the call of God in their life (are they living in obedience and stepping out in faith?).

For this, God says He will give a reward.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ministry shark jumping

They should have never switched Darren's on Bewitched... Fran and Maxwell shouldn't have got together on The Nanny... Or Mulder and Scully on the X-Files (never mind having Mulder leave the show!)... Or Tony and Angela on Who's the Boss... Optimus Prime shouldn't have been killed off in the animated Transformers series... They should have stopped after three series of Prison Break... No one quite knows where Lost went off the rails... And Fonzie certainly shouldn't have donned the water ski's in Happy Days.

Maybe they want to add a new character or kill one off.
Perhaps they want to head down a previously unexplored storyline to "freshen up the show."

Sometimes it will work.
At other times they will Jump the Shark.

I wonder... Can a ministry jump the shark?

As someone who has been involved in and heard of many a ministry "changing/shaking things up to give it an injection of life," I think they can.

But I DON'T think that is the worst thing in the world.

The worst thing is to do nothing different if it's required.

Ironically, a show which "jumps the shark" was already on the downward spiral.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The school waiting game

I demand classes which will fit perfectly with the activities which my church runs and includes all the kids who attend my church and their friends! Additionally, I want to be heavily involved in the lunchtime group and have an upfront presence at every seminar or festive service!!!
If you walked into a school and made the above demands you should be violently driven away by a group of pitchfork wielding locals.

To secure the above perks takes two things... luck and time.

If you're lucky, the classes you teach will fall within your intended ministry audience. But those select school years have a limited number of classes and, thus, teachers. Inevitably, there will be some times and locations where you're teaching a less desirable grade. But they will get older and you're challenging year one's will develop into a coveted year 6 class.

If this is the only opening which exists within a school then you take it for this reason if none else (but there is that small factor of sharing the gospel!).

But you need to stick around in the school and be patient. Be patient for an opening and patient to get a position which will be most effective for your ministry needs.

The same principal applies for other desired trimmings such as lunchtime groups and alike. Once you earn the trust of those "in command" then you're more likely to be thrust into the spotlight.

Again, the answer is patience and a willingness to persevere.

Monday, July 23, 2012

MTDB: The Secret to Cracking the Tough Nuts

Today my guest post on MorethanDodgeBall was posted entitled The Secret to Cracking the Tough Nuts. Check it out here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How notices should work in church

I just got word that a new guest post I submitted to MorethanDodgeBall will be posted later this week.

The post is about connecting with those in church who are hard to reach.

That topic, combined with the start of another school term, got me thinking about the way we do notices in church.

There is one way notices are sure to be effective.

Someone else's stories.

Firstly, have someone else simply say what got them involved in the first place.
Then, let them say why they still do the activity you are wanting to promote.
Next, have them share what they get out of it.
Finally, let THEM make the invitation for others to be involved with them.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The most important quality of a scripture teacher

For great slabs of this week, being the first week back from school holidays, I've been able to get by on my charm. I can keep conversations about favourite activities and wacky adventures going for nearly half a scripture lesson.

I was discussing this with one of my fellow teachers and she said that she couldn't do it.

I replied that she didn't have to.

As useful as charm and charisma might be, these are not the most important quality of a scripture teacher.

And it's not even close.

The most important quality is not being an extrovert, being an amazing communicator or a biblical scholar (as important and useful as these qualities might be!).

It's showing kids that you're an adult who genuinely cares about them and what is going on in their life. And beyond that, it's letting the kids know that you act the aforementioned way because you're a Christian.

This is what they'll remember in the long run...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sex spiel

I've written about sex often on this blog and have even posted a few series on the topic. One reason is that I get asked about it fairly often, on numerous occasions per year, especially in scripture.
In a few weeks I'll be speaking about sex at another youth group and, subsequently, have been thinking about my plan of attack for the latest "sex talk."

How do I piece all the blog sized chunks together?
The topics I'd want to cover are...

Is God for or against sex? Despite the message which you may have heard...God created sex. It was His idea. He made it to feel good (this wasn't something which Adam and Eve discovered by accident!) Sex was one of the first things God told humans to do (how else were they to go forth and multiply???). God deemed it good! God allows and encourages sex to be used, respectfully, within the context it is best expressed.

Why does the government think that a minor cannot consent to sex? Sex is not a children's activity due to the mature consequences.

What are the consequences of having sex? Fun, Children, STI's, how the other person views you will change (for the better or worse), Increased intimacy... When two people have sex they are the most open they can be. The bible uses the phrase "to know" on purpose.

Are the consequences serious and what damage could pre-marital sex cause? Aside from the middle two... When the introduction of sex ramps up the degree of intimacy far beyond that which exists between two people emotionally, relationally and in shared experiences then tension is caused by the lack of other relationship foundations.

Why does God place limitations on human sexuality and how it is to be expressed? God is not holding out on us, but like fire or electricity, sex has boundaries set upon its use so it is not used destructively. Marriage, where two people commit their lives to one another before witnesses and God, is the proper context for sex.

Who should I date? Someone who goes "off the same playbook," holding the same worldview and set of values which you do. Be wise with who you choose. If you are a Christian? Thus a Christian. You don't buy a bikini from a hardware store, go to the right places to get what you want.

The M rated section...
How far can I go? Where is the line for sex? We are not to try and be cute with our definition of sex and try and get as close to "the line" as possible. Sex begins before penetration. Toying with "almost sex" is unwise if you want to remain a virgin before marriage.

What about porn? Porn is to sex, what the film The Notebook is to real love stories... not genuine, dehumanising, damaging to the actors and the viewer.

What's the deal with masturbation? The core issue is lust and selfishness.

Most of all... If you have stumbled sexually, as important as culture, other teens and the church may say it is, this is not something which is beyond God's mercy. Ask for God's forgiveness and turn towards a new way of living. God will be good faithful and separate you from your sin as far as the east is from the west.

Is there anything else I'm missing?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The primary lens

There is nothing wrong with having a heart for social justice.
There is nothing wrong with psychology.
There is nothing wrong with fun.
There is nothing wrong with entertainment.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to teach.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to push the need to personal holiness and sexual purity.

Except they aren't meant to be the central focus of church, youth group or a small group.

The primary lens we should plan and evaluate through is the gospel message of Jesus Christ's life, ministry, teachings, death, resurrection and return.

The rest, whilst still having value, is secondary...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Virgin kiss

I've previously written my thoughts about saving your first kiss for your spouse. If you want to do it, more power to you, but I wouldn't advise it.

Today I was reminded why that was...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reference writing

One of the awesome parts of my job which pops up occasionally is writing references for people. References for jobs, to candidate for ordination, to become a marriage celebrant, for ministry extensions have all been reasons to put pen to paper.

Over the last two days I have written another two references. And they kicked ass.

I love giving references.

But, truth be told, they can be repetitive since I have a set structure which I follow and often look back through old references to dig out any hidden gems of wordsmith-ery.

I wonder why I enjoy it so much. Do I get some twisted sense of power? Do I like the feeling that somehow a person might be indebted to me or that I might wow the reader of the reference?

I suspect it has to do with the pride I felt when my first youth minister wrote a job reference for me and that it allows me to gush over someone. It is another way I can make a big show of appreciation.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Church does not equal cinema

I've written in the past that I think watching and discussing movies works fantastically well in a small group setting.
I've also written about the danger of watching clips in a setting where you cannot be sure who will be attending.

The more I think about the idea of watching an entire movie during church the less I'm a fan.

Now, I should put in a disclaimer that I am a MASSIVE fan of showing clips and using media in church. They engage people really well and can convey powerful messages.

But, my issue is with the viewing of an entire film.

Why? The length of time required.

If a film goes for 90 minutes then that will most likely gobble up your entire service. I don't think this is the best use of "church time."

If the aim is to chat about what has been seen then I fear the church service time frame doesn't allow for useful, in-depth discussion (at least without the service going near three hours!).

I wonder what price the "feature presentation" has on the church service.

If, like many churches, the aim is to get people in-and-out in under 90 minutes then some things must be cut. An example? prayer and singing. I don't think these are expendable for the sake of a scantly discussed movie.

And this is the core of my issue. If church is to assist people to meet with God and to build community then I'm not convinced that staring at a screen for +80% of your time together does this in the most effective manner.

If you want to watch a short film, then go crazy, but perhaps we need to examine if the majority of the weekly church service should be used to watch a feature film.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Before you walk that aisle

Today I was thinking about marriage in the shower.

I decided, if some misguided soul wanted to chat to me before they walked down the aisle (read the things I did here),  then I would talk to them about...

How are you going to negotiate their finances?
What are you expecting in the bedroom? (I would have them read the book "One Flesh" together)
What do you want to achieve in the future vocationally and personally? Do you want kids?
What are your family histories and how might they affect your future marriage (especially looking at their parents marriage)?
What do you currently argue about and do you argue well?
What does the bible say about gender roles? (I would chat to the guy, a lady with the soon-to-be bride)
What does the bible say about marriage?
What does the ceremony itself say and what do the promises mean to you both?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tom's takeaway's

I purposely had a chat to Tom about camp speaking to answer two particular questions...
Do you always give a gospel presentation or do you prefer a single gospel presentation talk? and
Should the speaker stay at camp the entire time?

I asked these specific questions since I've wrestled with them to some degree at every camp I've spoken at in the past (and I've got a few potentially popping up in the not-too-distant-future).

I really liked Tom's answers.

Include Jesus in every message, giving a few chances for people to respond to the gospel and stick around at camp in order to speak WITH the campers, not just TO the campers.

Another thing I took away from our chat is that I'm a rubbish interviewer.

But this is not new information. In the past I used to do a "special kind of interview" for visitors at one of my former churches.

And, looking back, they were crap.

I would try and be too cute with the questions I asked (making odd connections with random people on the Internet who shared their name) and didn't just pose a few focused questions and get-off-the-stage.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tom's take on camp speaking 3

Speaker extraordinaire Tom and I continue our chat about speaking at camps (you can read part one here and the second instalment here). Give Tom some love and check out his blog here. 

Ideally, the audio would be inserted here, but my phone and my laptop can't get on the same wavelength.
So you'll have to do the hard work of reading to be impressed by Tom's wisdom and my woeful interviewing skills. Our chat went for 12 minutes so here is the final thrilling instalment. Enjoy.

G: Important question... Do you have an official gospel spiel which you present which you keep in your back pocket which you use all the time?
T: No. When I present the gospel I will always make sure that Jesus is Lord; that He died and rose again; that you need to come to Him in repentance; you need to put your faith in Him and ask for forgiveness for your sin, beginning your life living for Him as Lord. I don't always use those particular words. Depending on what audience you've got, you want to make sure you're culturally appropriate. I don't have this one spiel that I use.
It depends what you're doing. Often I'll be guided by the passage which I'm speaking from and that will change how I present the gospel. But they are are basic things I'll put in.
G: Do you gather have one gospel-camp-fire-talk to present the gospel or do you rather weave it through all the talks?
T: The ideal for me is that every talk I make comes back to Jesus. I'm a bit of a stickler for that. So I'll try and make sure whatever we are talking about points to Jesus and how He essentially died and rose again for us. So while that always happens but I don't always give people a chance to become Christians. Normally I'll try and do it twice.
Say I am doing a Monday-to-Friday camp, I might do it Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday is good because by then people are awake at camp and once you do it, you can say that if you didn't do it then, there will be another opportunity later in the week (Unless Jesus comes back on Wednesday). I feel that if you do it once then people don't have the opportunity to respond a second time if they kept it to themselves.
G: So do you have a preferred heads-down-shut-your-eyes-hands-up method?
T: No, I keep experimenting. My ideal is that somebody comes and talks to you in some form or another. If people just put up their hands then they tend to disappear. So what I've been doing lately is say-a-prayer/put-up-your-hands/with-your-eyes-closed but then say after that I would really like for you to come and talk with me, I'll be hanging around after, or another leader. I try and not be manipulative. You want to make it easy for people to respond, but you also want them to stick at it beyond the camp high.

Tomorrow I'll share the pearls of wisdom which I learnt from this chat.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tom's take on camp speaking 2

Tom has spoken on a lot more camps then I have so we had a chat about them. You can read part one here and should check out his blog over here.

Ideally, the audio would be inserted here, but my phone and my laptop can't get on the same wavelength.
So you'll have to do the hard work of reading to be impressed by Tom's wisdom and my woeful interviewing skills. Our chat went for 12 minutes so I’ll here is the next exciting instalment. Enjoy…

G: So, Tom, if you have a camp that has more than one talk (as most of them do) what do you do in the first talk to break the ice?
T: It depends. Generally, I find two types of camps that I go on. There are holiday camps which are run for anyone to go on, not just youth group camps. I normally just do youth group camps. If you go and no one knows one another or not that well, then I'll establish who I am, but that's okay because everyone doesn't know each other. In some ways you help establish the culture of the camp as you do it, so you want to talk about what camp is about, what's going on and what you want to achieve out of camp.
If you are going as a speaker on a youth group camp or a lunchtime Christian group like I did last week, then you just need to establish yourself. You also need to establish what the culture you are going into (hopefully you know before you go in) and in some ways you let people know that you know where camp's at.
G: As the speaker, what is the one thing you would want provided for you by the host?
T: Um... Probably an ability to talk...
G: A voice box?
T: Yes, do not stab me in the throat!
Sometimes you can get a camp where you don't know whats going on or where you're meant to be when. You want to have a well established timeline and it is clear that the talk is important and now we are to listen from the Word of God. You want to know that there is respect for the time of hearing the bible time. That is probably the thing I want the most. I don't mind to much the rest of the stuff.
G: You don't need a foot spa provided.
T: I don't need a foot spa. But sometimes I ask for a music stand so I can put my notes on it...
G: You Diva! You don't demand MM's with all the brown ones removed?
T: No. I don't think I've ever asked... Oh, I once asked for post-it notes. But that was for an activity which I was doing, not because I like a particular love for post-it notes.
G: Important question... Do you have an official gospel spiel that you present and keep it in your back pocket because you use all the time?

Find out how Tom responds tomorrow...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tom's take on camp speaking 1

I've spoken on a few camps and get up to speak in churches or chapels often enough to be comfortable.

But compared to Tom I am a speaking dwarf. He is a giant. A seasoned veteran of camps, sermons, chapels. You can check out his blog here.
So when we were trapped in a car I spoke to him about speaking, especially focusing on camps.

Ideally, the audio would be inserted here, but my phone and my laptop can't get on the same wavelength.

So you'll have to do the hard work of reading to be impressed by Tom's wisdom and my woeful interviewing skills. Our chat went for 12 minutes so I’ll break it up into chunks. Enjoy…

Graham: Hello Thomas. Who are you and how do you know me?

Tom: I’m Tom (insert awkward laughter at the ineptitude of my launch question). I know you because we went to Anglican Youthworks College together and, because you aren’t going to say it, we are currently in the car travelling home from the Anglican Youthworks graduates dinner, where we spent the night together, hearing about the college. So I just want you say you should support the college with prayer for them, you should promote them and… um… (Tom is trying to remember the third point) give money to them from your pocket. I also want to mention that we are currently driving over the Harbour Bridge, the world famous Harbour Bridge (Tom and I were going to thrill my international readers with a world-exclusive-audio-of-the-landmark-crossing, but alas).

G: So, Tom, what do you know about speaking at camps?

T: Well… What do I know about it? (again, insert laughter at my poor questioning)

G: When was the first time you did it?

T: The first time would have been 2003 when I got asked to speak at the youth group camp with a guy who went to college with us. And I was expecting this youth group to have about 30 people or something, but there was probably 12 kids there. All my talks were originally planned to be given standing up in front of a group. Instead, I sat before them and give five horrible talks. Partly because I wasn’t giving them as I had planned and partly because I hadn’t had enough time to plan five really good talks, so I give five bad ones. So my first camp was pretty useless. (Ironically, I spoke at the same camp a few years later, also my first time as a camp speaker)

G: So if you’re first one was useless, why did you do the second?

T: To redeem myself. I don’t actually remember when my second camp was. Um… I think it was a while between camps…

G: You needed time to recover.

T: Yeah… and he probably put it out there that I wasn’t a very good camp speaker, and then, by the time my reputation had been forgotten, they asked me to do it again on another camp. But I think I’ve been doing camps steadily since 2006.

G: How many camps do you think you’ve spoken at by now?

T: Oh… Maybe like 20-25.

G: Okay, do you think the speaker should stay at camp the entire time?

T: I did this one camp that was a hip hop camp. And I love hip hop dancing (insert chuckles from the questioner). I love people who do it and I have a lot of respect for hip hop dance but I can’t do it at all. I was a little terrified of the camp when they asked me to do it, but it was only two days – Friday night/Saturday. But I couldn’t do Friday night because I had youth group and I wasn’t able to be there on the Saturday afternoon, so I came in and did one talk in the morning. And I just felt dumb turning up and doing the talk when no one got to know me. Driving home I thought that I needed to go on camp. The best thing I find is when you stay the whole time and do as many activities as possible you get to know the kids; you get to help out with orderlies, as more people see you doing stuff, they connect with you, they laugh with you, they get to know you. You have good conversations when you are doing other stuff. Otherwise you’re just talking at people, not talking with people and you are halving your effectiveness as a camp speaker. Maybe you’re 20 precent effective.

G: That’s a made up statistic like all of them are!

T: No, I did research on that one.

G: So, Tom, if you have a camp that has more than one talk (as most of them do) what do you do in the first talk to break the ice?
Find out Tom's answer tomorrow...