Sunday, December 29, 2013

Questioning for a good sermon

What are you going to do tomorrow?
What do you need to change?
How would that make you feel?
Who do you identify with in the parable?
Who do you need to apologise to?
When are you most tempted?

Today, whilst listening to a sermon, I had a significant realization about effective preaching.

The quality of a sermon is in direct proportion with the number of questions asked.

The reason?

If plenty of questions are asked then the chances of engagement and application are increased.

If questions are absent then, while you might have heard/delivered a quality theological lecture, the chance of life change is reduced.

I'd much rather pose questions then keep up the flow of words.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Loser leaders?

I'm about to wonder something aloud which might put me in some hot water.

Let me preface this by saying that some of my previous and current children's and youth group leaders are some of the BEST people I've ever ministered beside.

But currently, in Australia, every youth group leader has their Friday night's back until school resumes the last week of January.

Usually, they are spending one of their prime social windows to hang out with teens, not going out to party, drink, date or cavort until the wee hours of the morning.

So... I wonder.

How are they viewed by those outside the church?

When they're invited for after-work drinks, what reaction do they receive once the reason for their decline is given?

Are they considered... (gulp!)... losers?

When it comes to retaining and recruiting leaders for youth group, do we give enough weight to the, potential, social stigma of sacrificing/investing the first night of your weekend?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why apologetics matter more today

I never need to wonder when a move was made.
Or who played the weird kid in the opening credits.
I can always find the words of THAT song stuck in my head. 

I can know everything.
Anytime.

So long as I have the Internet.

This is the modern world we now live and the church exists.

You NEVER need to wonder about a tid-bit, factoid or trivia morsel.

And this should deeply influence the way we communicate the gospel to young people.

They expect answers.
Instantly.

As Christians, it's a part of our calling to have these answers.
As someone who works for a church, it is a part of my job to help others wrestle with and find the answers, communicate the truths about Jesus and train others to critically engagee with the bible and alternate worldviews.

The Google-age demands it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Loving Jesus vs Loving Ministry

I was looking over my X Commandments of Youth Ministry Leadership in light of some activities I'm going to do at next year's leader's weekend.

The first is obvious... Love Jesus.

But there's a danger of loving the ministry activity more than Jesus.

We can love our church more.
Or our traditions.
Or our memories of youth group.
Or the excitement of Friday afternoon.

The difference becomes clear once we look at the fruit of loving Jesus and loving ministry.

One produces disciples.
One produces churchgoers.

One changes lives.
One changes habits.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The difference maker

Hosting a free BBQ for the parents of the youngest in our youth ministry.
Putting on a gingerbread house decorating night.
Surviving a lock-in with the teens.
Navigating a jumping castle for the last week of the Kid's Club.
Helping launch the new Christmas lights display at our church.

These last few weeks have been pretty busy and I'm fairly worn down.

But, aside from a few short talks, there is nothing really on my list of activities which couldn't be done by a non-Christian.

They can put on a BBQ... Any weekend at Bunnings will tell you this.
Plenty of schools do gingerbread house events...
Scouts have sleepovers...
Jumping castles are at numerous fairs and birthdays...
Christmas light can be put up by anyone.

And herein lies the importance of the of those "short talks."

Because much of what happens in youth ministry could, potentially, be done by a competent non-believer.

You just hope that the WAY you do any event, which could be effectively run in a secular backdrop, is done in such a manner that they are undeniably shaped by Christ.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why Lock-Ins?

Lock-ins.
Sleep-overs.
Over-nighters.

Some people love them.
Others loathe them.
Plenty do them by necessity or tradition alone.

I've just had the first one at my current church to finish off the year.

As expected, there were shenanigans once the sun went down.
The girls wanted to scare the boys.
The boys fought against sleep into the wee hours.
The youth minister pulled an awesome, fear inducing, prank on the girls.

So, what's the point?

For me, the aim is to create memories and bond the group closer.

That's why you put up with the precious few hours of uncomfortable sleep.
That's why you spend hours cleaning up.
That's why you do silly, unpredictable, things.

Hopefully, by the time they go home, the group - especially those of the same gender across the school years - are melded closer together due to what they've shared.

Even if it is being scared by the youth minister late at night.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Library lending

I have a problem.

I know it.
My wife DEFINITELY knows it.

It's common for pretty much everyone in ministry.

Someone needs to start a support group.
And a 12 step program.

Because my name's Graham and I buy books.
As I mentioned here, I have lots of books.

Last Sunday I mentioned to the congregation that my books were open for business.

Between my office and home, with the Summer/university holidays in full swing, anyone can mention a topic to me and I'll probably have a book which they might find interesting.

What's the other option? The books sit on a self.

I'd much rather see my books lent out and read, with the possibly of them never returning, then sit idle collecting dust.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Church blind spots

Last night I lead church in the round (where all the chairs are in a circle) and discovered an unexpected problem.

If you aren't aware, I get very little vision out of my right eye since I scared my cornea as a young kid, subsequently making that eye lazy.

The result? Whist I can see out of my right eye, I get no clear vision. On the eye chart, if I cover my left eye, I can read the top letter and that's about all.

As I found out last night, that's a problem if you ask for volunteers and those on the right-hand edge of the circle put their hand up.

It's not unusual that you'll read about blind spots in ministry.
Usually they aren't physical.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

This is when you should SHUT UP

CAUTION: Rant Approaching!

This is just a heads up for anyone MC'ing an event.

If you're going to ask for applause, do so, but SHUT UP FOR A WHILE.

Don't invite people to clap and then continue speaking. We can't hear what you're saying!

To sum up -
Invite...
Shut up...
Continue once the uproar has ceased.

End rant.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Would I really want to study the bible?

Right now every young adult can be on a study break - Year 12 has been over for a month and university exam period has just finished.

So, if you advertised for a new bible study, would this be attractive to those wanting to AVOID study?

I've previously written that bible study is/should be the wrong title for a group of Christians coming together regularly, but in light of the semester break, the name seems even less fitting.

Furthermore, does attending a "bible study" really appeal to non-believers? It seems like a lot of work for little results. What would the point be?

I suspect that an invitation to an bible exploration/application group would both be more attractive, but also a better description of what actually goes on.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The 6 horsemen of divorce

As I get older I get increasingly asked about relationships and marriage.

I've blogged about the questions I'd ask a couple before they get hitched here.

As I looked over that list, giving further thought to the traps which can ensnare a couple, the six horsemen of divorce became clear.

Family - How has your upbringing affected you? How do you get along with your in-laws? What are your thoughts about having children?

Expectations - Tying into the topic of family, do you expect that what happened in the home you grew up in to repeat? What do you expect when it comes to housework, provision and in the bedroom?

Values - What do you take into account when you make decisions? Are you aligned spiritually?

Courtship - Are you continually courting your partner? Do you have dates?

Intimacy - This is more than just sex. Are you engaging with your partners love language?

Money - To what extent are you going to share expenses? How will you decide on savings, minor and major expenses? How much will be "your money" and hat will you be accountable for? What is your attitude to debt?

Each horsemen influences the others, and boiled down, nearly all arguments between couples - especially newlyweds - fall into one or more of these categories.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sermon response

The aim of any sermon is to get some kind of response.
Enlightenment. Repentance. Encouragement. Conviction. Enablement.

And I've been in some sermons where the only response has been boredom.
I've probably caused that reaction a few times...

But I wonder how many people at church are aware that the way they respond to the sermon is a message in itself.

Especially to those who are new to your church or just "checking out the whole God thing."

If you're engaged with the sermon, then it tells those around you that what's going on matters.

If you're disengaged - looking at your phone, speaking to the person beside you, obviously drifting off into space - then it sends the message to those around you that what's going on isn't important.

If we want people to know about the life changing message of Jesus, and one way that message in communicated is via a sermon, then I wonder what a seeker thinks when a believer is outwardly unmoved by what's going on?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What to do with the well-delivered miss?

By now I've listened to many a sermon. Hundreds. Nudging thousands. 

Some have been good, having excellent, relevant points, lifted from the passage.

Most have been adequate. Not overly memorable, but a solid explanation of the passage.

Other sermons haven't been good.
They have rambled and not been applied effectively.

I'm sure I've been guilty of serving up a few of the later. Maybe more than a few.

But there's one sermon which is harder to define.

Usually, these types of sermons are given at a conference when one of the primary speakers applies "their spiel" on the main stage.

What do you do with the sermon, which contains a well delivered point, but isn't connected to the bible passage?

Since the points are commonly derived from a book they've written or a presentation they've delivered many times, the points are made exceptionally well. But they totally ignore or misapply the scriptures.

I think we have little choice but, whilst accepting the point made, place the sermon in the "not good" category.

The reason?

When I hear a sermon, I'm expecting to hear from God based on the scriptures and anything else, whilst flashy, is a fail.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is burnout always bad?

Burnout in ministry is awful.
It affects WAY too many of those working within churches.

But what would happen if we saw burnout as a God-given sign to slow down?
What would happen if we saw burnout as a God-given sign that you need to stop or you'll lose much more than "your ministry"?
What would happen if we saw burnout as a process, not a destination?

I ask the last question because burnout shouldn't be the end.

What if someone's "burnout" is them taking the healthy step to reduce the stress in their life?
What if someone's "burnout" is them removing themselves from under a crashing weight?
What if someone's "burnout" is them removing unhealthy work practices?

Burnout doesn't have to be absolutely bad IF someone emerges from the other side with a healthier work/life balance, a closer relationship with their family and a renewed heart to serve God.

IF that's the outcome, burnout can be the exact medication required...

Monday, November 18, 2013

"Only 18 months" is Bullshit

If you hear something repeated often enough it can morph into a fact.
This is the whole idea of the TV show hosted by magicians Penn & Teller.

And this duo need to resurrect the show in order to debunk one final lie...

Everywhere you read and go, given enough time in the world of youth ministry, someone will inevitably mention the "statistic" that the average youth minister will stay at a church for 18 months.

I've written here, here and here that longevity matters. So, if the "18 month stat" is factual, then it's doing tremendous damage to the effectiveness of youth ministry.

The only trouble?

The "fact" is bullshit.
And I'm sick of hearing it.

Yeah, I went there.

The reason I say so isn't because I've done extensive research. I haven't. I can't even find any solid numbers (but I'm comfortable with the actual number being around the 4 year mark).
I'm not even going to dispute the reality that a sizable chunk of those in youth ministry don't round out their second year.

BUT...
Someone must be honest enough to draw back the curtain on the "fact" which is the foundation of this myth.

The "stat of 18 months" is only factual if everyone included
a) is full-time and
b) sees youth ministry as their long-term profession.

It's wrong to place a full-time youth minister in the same boat as someone working a 15-hour-a-week position (trust me, I've done both) and unrealistic to assume they will be in a church for the same length of time.

Furthermore, it's dishonest to lump those who view youth ministry as profession, trained or being trained to do the vocation, with someone who's doing youth ministry whilst undertaking a separate, unrelated, degree at university.

The "18 month stat" is a falsehood which should be removed from the youth ministry airwaves. All it does is paint a negative picture of those in youth ministry and falsely give those who've cracked their second year a sense of longevity.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Should you shoot at missing targets?

Whenever you write a sermon, ideally, a part of your preparation is made with a few specific people in mind...
People who are different enough to make sure that what you say will speak to a variety of life stages.
People who will ask different questions to the passage before you.
People who need to hear what God's saying through this passage of scripture.

The aim is to ensure that you're message is relevant and applicable.

But what happens when one of your points, crafted with someone in mind, is directed at someone who is absent?

I say you proceed anyway.

It makes sense to go ahead since the person might hear your point through another who is there.
You continue since jettisoning a point should negatively impact the flow of what you're saying.
You go as planned because your point could speak unexpectantly to someone present.
So long as you're speaking God-inspired wisdom, you might be providing a good lesson for someone in the future.

It would be downright unfair to deny someone an important nugget of truth just because the person you visualised in your head did a no-show...

Monday, November 11, 2013

They DO need an introduction

The following phrase should NEVER be uttered in a church service...

"X needs no introduction."

The reason?

Nothing makes someone feel more out of place than being the only one in the room who hasn't got a clue.

So X might not need an introduction...
Unless you're a visitor.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Date the church

Every relationship in life, if it's going to remain healthy, needs work. Both sides need to put in the effort to make the partnership work.

This is true in romance.
This is true amongst families.
This is true amongst friends.

This is true in the church.

Nothing is so self-feeding as people who start to disconnect from church, stating a sense of disconnection.

I say this is self-feeding because those who withdraw from a community (church or otherwise), feeling excluded, further expand the problem by creating further distance. The irony? With further distance making it harder to be included, fewer opportunities to connect are opened up, so a sense of even further disconnection is established.

The reason this disconnection happens because we don't date.

We don't date the church.
The church done not continually woo its people.

If both sides (the importance of BOTH) put in the effort, the I think we'd endure the pain of break-ups far less.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Would anyone notice if you removed one accessory?

When I look back on some of my past sermons I readily acknowledge that I should have pulled the plug earlier.
 
Sometimes I've been boring.
Sometimes I've gone way too long (either the sermon or the entire service).
Sometimes I've over-promised but under-delivered.

This Sunday I'm preaching the final sermon from our Song of Songs series.

While I was recently away at a conference, I went to a effective communication and preaching elective.

In truth, I left underwhelmed.

Whilst the input was solid enough, the way it was delivered, whilst engaging (this bloke was surely a great communicator) seemed to fly in the face of his core "authentic preaching" message.

But, he did say something which pricked my ears.

If you stopped your sermon half way... what would happen?

Would anyone be able to tell?
Is your introduction clear enough that they'd be expecting more?
Would they want/need more?
Would there be a sense of disappointment or thankfulness that you sat down early?

There is a Coco Channel quote which states that when a lady gets dressed, one of the final things she should do is look in the mirror and remove one accessory.

I wonder if preachers should do the same thing with their manuscripts...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Weekly win list

I've written before about having a win list.

In that post I mentioned an important question I asked to kick off our quarterly leaders meeting. In short, we shared the "wins" of the last term.

At the end of our leader's debrief last week I kicked myself because I didn't ask my leaders the same important question.

What was the win of TONIGHT?

For, if the leaders of a group are asked this question each week, sharing their answers with each other, then they should feel more encouraged about what good things are happening. Not having to wait three or six months to hear about the big and small victories.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Teaching young adults about sexuality by outback sheep-herding

Last week I went to an elective at the National Youth Ministry Conference about young adults and sexuality. The presenter made a really good point which, unexpectedly, involved the way they ensure sheep in the outback don't wander away.

When giving "the sex talk" to teens, something I've done quite often and always look forward to, it's good to present clear boundaries.

This mirrors how they keep sheep on farms. In fences.

But it's not the way they do it in the outback.

Instead, they use watering-holes.

For, with an adequate water source, the sheep will not wander away.

The same thing applies when you talk to young adults about their sexuality.

If, instead of just presenting boundaries, you talk about values, then they are far more likely to express their sexuality in a fulfilling, God-designed, manner.

It's in this, more mature, context that your thrust transitions from "can/should" to "the things you will/will not stand for."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sticking out the milestones

Youth ministry happens over a series of milestones.

First year.
Third year.
Fifth year.
Seventh year.
Tenth year.

Each milestone has unique challenges and up-sides.

It is worth sticking it out at a church in order to reap the benefits.

For, in the first year, you get the lay of the land and can set the foundation for...

The third year, when you've built solid relationships and trust, in order to develop in...

The fifth year, when you'll see the fruit of a solid foundation and established relationships with a generation of kids behind you. This flows into...

The seventh year, where you're leadership development and culture permeates through a generation of leaders who've risen up. Connecting with...

The tenth year. A time when you begin to cycle yourself out of hands-on leadership and focus on a leadership-mentor role.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Moving the starting blocks

I just got back from the National Youthy Ministry Conference, so there will be a flood of posts coming in compared to the last few months...

12-18.
Probably 12-25.

These are the ages which are on job descriptions for most youth ministers.

I've written about the drop out points in youth ministry previously.

With the first one soo young (year 6), it makes sense for those who work with teens to lower the age they begin to interact with "teens."

If one of the reasons those about to transition into high school drop out is due to the disconnection with the older activities, then time invested in tweens is time well invested.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sexuality idols

Last Sunday the evening service at my church kicked off a series on the Song of Songs. In short, I'm pretty excited to be speaking about the book a couple of times over the next month.

This Sunday I'll be speaking about dating and the value of waiting and putting in the work of courtship which we ready about in 3:5.

As I've been doing prep I noticed three common themes popping up and a common danger for each.

When it comes to orgasms, virginity, honeymoon sex we can drift into idolatry and place these three things above God.

As important as the three subjects are, they are not God.
They are not to be the aim nor guarantee of a quality marriage.

Orgasms are good, but they are not guaranteed for a believer every time.

Virginity is to be valued and honoured but it should be kept in a proper perspective. You're not defined by your sexual purity prior to wedlock.

Just like orgasms, mind-blowing honeymoon sex isn't assured for those who get hitched. No matter how much they love Jesus.

When the church does speak about sex/relationships, and I've written before that it should fairly often (at least yearly), it should be clear about setting realistic expectations for sex and what REALLY matters.

God should be first and foremost, not the three idols which all too often jostle for prime position.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The grass isn't even greener in your head

In ministry you often hear, at the neighbouring church, the grass is NOT greener.

You might imagine it that way, but it isn't the case.

The people aren't nicer.
The politics aren't less.
The opportunities don't arise easier.
The kids aren't more receptive.
The traditions aren't more flexible.
The facilities aren't everything they appear on the outside.

As anyone who has worked for a church, any church, can tell you, every church has its own, unique, crop of problems.

And... deep down... we know that.

But we covert anyway.

But we also play "the grass is greener" game in our minds.
With ourselves and our past.

We wonder if we should have taken the alternate option and walked through that sliding door of ministry past.

We wonder if life would be better if we'd stuck it out just a little longer.
Or had that difficult conversation just a little sooner.
Or focused our efforts in an alternate place.
Of made that change at a different time or in a slightly different way.
Or cared for those people better.
Or caved into their demands just once more.
Or... whatever...

But, just like the church down the road, it's just as harmful to what you have now to be perpetually looking in the rear-view mirror as it is to be gazing over the back fence.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The personal connection chain

Call > Text > Mail > Email > Facebook > Hopeful Osmosis

As you work your way down the communication chain the personal connection reduces.

Normally, at the start of each term I will launch the usual communication deluge through Facebook, Email & Mail.

This term I've encouraged my leaders to touch base using one of the first two links (and I'm hoping they use the first one).

For many in youth ministry, this won't be groundbreaking.

In fact, you might wonder why I wasn't doing this in the past.

I'm wondering it myself.

But, with the leaders getting just a few kids each, I'm hoping this personal connection sees a bump in attendance from the usual first week lull.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

When a sermon illustration unfolds before your eyes

Some people don't know it yet, but they are immanent sermon illustrations.

People who make stupid decisions.
People who overcome great obstacles.
People who step out in faith.
People who ignore advice.

At times, you can see a situation unfold and know that you'll inevitably be pointing people back to that time.

All you need to do is wait to be preaching on the right passage and have enough time and space elapsed to reference them.

I assume I'm not the only one who does this...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Remember your...

In the subject I'm doing currently we had a good chat about the sacrament of baptism. It was noted that the church should continually point believers back to their baptism.

It is something they should live out.
It is something they should look back to as the start of a journey.

The same should be true for marriage.

It is something they should live out.
It is something they should look back to as the start of a journey.

This, for those present, is the blessing for those attending.

They remember... And hopefully look to live out the promises they made anew.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pre-emptive holidays

Right now I'm unshaven. That means, since I only shave when I have an occasion which merits it, I'm on holidays.

The week prior to sitting around and doing nothing special, I had a chat about holidays to a few blokes in ministry, asking them when they were taking time off.

By enlarge, they said they weren't because they didn't feel the need to.

I think they miss the point of holidays.

Holidays, if used wisely, should never be horded for a time when you're in desperate need for them.

If that were the case, holidays would be called casualty leave and the Sabbath commandment would only be cashed once a month.

Holidays are a time to recharge BEFORE your tired or a crisis hits. In fact, it's by taking regular time away that you're in better shape to handle the next unexpected hurdle.

The worst mindset to be trapped in is to be desperately seeking/needing a holiday and knowing that you can't get away for another two months.

When you get to this place...
You lose.
Your family loses.
Your ministry loses.
Your church loses.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ministry which gets you punched in the head

Sometimes the truth hurts.
Sometimes it hurts those who need to hear it.
Sometimes it hurts those who deliver it.

Sometimes, protecting those you’re called to minister to hurts.

There have been a number of times in ministry when, depending on how events transpire, I've been prepared to be punched in the head whilst doing my job.

If, when having a necessary but difficult conversation, the person lashes out negatively, I've been ready to cop a whack to the side of the head.

At other times, if someone threatening arrived at an event, I've been prepared to duck a right-cross.

A guy might not like hearing that he shouldn't be getting drunk or sleeping with his girlfriend. And he might react by smacking you in the head. So be it.

If a restricted person attempts to attend an event or drunken teens arrive at an activity, upon being asked to leave, the wrongdoer might respond with violence. So be it.

As a bloke, I think this is just one of the risks of messy ministry.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Next time you get annoyed by kids in church...

Last weekend I was at the joint baptism of my nieces and nephew.

Between the service being very Catholic and my daughter wanting to roam the room like she's grown accustomed to church, at times, I was a little lost.

In fact, the kids presence made keeping track of the read-straight-out-of-the-book service quite difficult.

In truth, I don't think I missed a great deal.

But there were some who gave the obligatory glares because the kids were making noise (gasp!).

The longer I work for a church, and the longer I'm a parent, the clearer one thing becomes...
If you get annoyed by children in church (especially young kids) then the problem is not with the toddler. The problem is with you and your understanding of church.

Families are God initiated institutions.
Children are a blessing from God to the parents and the church.
Jesus welcomes children.

The question I have for those who tut-tut kids in church is...
Would you rather be in a quiet, child free, church which is dying, or hear the toddler?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Principal of Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Earlier in the week I wrote a Tiny Bible Bit on Facebook about Proverbs 7:6-10,21.

Usually, my posts are liked and, sometimes, commented on.

This one wasn't.

I think the reason was the topic matter.

Wrong Place.
Wrong Time.

I've previously written about the important elder statesman conversation which should be had with many Christian young adults. The enquiry beginning with "Walk me through what you were thinking..." matters due to the danger of wrong place, wrong time.

Christians in their late teens and twenties can wander into threatening/tempting situations just because they put themselves or others in positions which they should never have been.

My post recently about Buck's night's is an obvious example. They can easily wander into the wrong place, wrong time.

And at the wrong place, wrong time...
Mistakes happen.
Unforseen mistakes.
Costly mistakes.

This is what ensnared the bloke in Proverbs 7 and the principal which the elder statesman is trying to warn everyone to be alert to...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Best Man's main job

This was meant to be posted right off the back of my last post, but I've been having computer issues...

I've never been a best man. Or even a groomsman.

But I've seen plenty.

And most people think the job of a best man is to make sure the groom is at the church on time, wearing a suit. Additionally, he is meant to organize a Buck's night and, perhaps, hold the wedding ring for a portion of the ceremony.

But the above description misses, I think, the most important duty of the best man.

Make sure the groom is making the right choice.

His most important job, in all seriousness, is to take the groom aside just prior to the wedding ceremony and ask him is he wants to actually go through with it.

Hopefully, the groom has sincerely considered the vows he is about to take (pooped himself at the gravity of the decision) and wants to proceed.

But if he doesn't, it is the job of the best man to hold the back door of the church open, bundle the runaway-groom in a cab and cop the flack when he informs everyone that the wedding won't go ahead.

The best man, if he truly is looking out for the groom's best interests, should want his mate to be doing the right thing.

At the core, this is his main role. Not organizing strippers.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Buck's differences

Booze, cigars, debauchery, hazy memories, kebabs, lap dances and stumbling home covered in stripper dust.

If the Hangover has taught us just one thing it's that a buck's night is meant to be choc full of crazy, corrupting adventures.

Right?
Even for a Christian?

This is what the Internet thinks should happen at a Christian buck's night (here, here and here).

So how should the shindig go down?

I'm fine with poker/paintball/insert manly activity which results in the groom to be legally embarrassed.

I'm also okay with some robust drinking and smoking (so I'm no wowser).

But I draw the line at strip clubs.

Why?

First, because the buck's night is about two things... the groom and the bride. Both should be honoured by the night.

With that said, I don't think sitting around and watching strippers is a healthy thing to put into a soon-to-be-husbands head. Not only should it something that his soon-to-be-wife isn't be thrilled with, but it just adds another writhing body to the mental gallery she'll be compared with. I just don't see this being a wise action.

Second, especially if the groom gets drunk, the potential for things to get progressively physical is a possibility. Why would you go to a place where that is even a remote chance?

Why would you allow a bloke, especially if he is a fellow believer, to be taken to the wrong place at the wrong time?

Furthermore, how could the events at the buck's night affect the example anyone attending have if they say they're a believer? The gospel and strippers don't go together.

For I believe a buck's night can be a significant point of difference in the life of a Christian guy.

It's too bad so many guys get this so wrong by conforming to the wishes of those who aren't believers. Romans 12:2 would seem to firmly refute this...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Invisible investments

A while ago I posted a plan for the youth ministry at a church I previously worked for. It was called Come, Go, Come.

Tonight, while on the topic of the "visible" and "invisible" church, I was involved in a discussion about the importance of the church going out to where people are, not expecting them to come to us.

This, it was touted, is especially true since there are many (more than we probably realise) who are open to the gospel message and/or are already interacting positively with Christians, just not within church buildings.

In youth ministry there are many examples...
School based lunchtime groups.
Students who meet before school at a local cafĂ©.
Students who hear the gospel at camp or beach mission.

The discussion tonight was about the transferring use of funds away from the church building and towards resourcing and/or strengthening the small faith communities who are already functioning.

I wonder, if this is a growing realisation by those "in the trenches" how long will it take before it flows up the financial food chain to church councils, finance teams and treasurers?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why you should (at least) skim before church

A long time ago I imagined my perfect Sunday.

I was reminded of one of the elements during a conversation yesterday.

I was having a chat with a minister about the best time to read the newspapers on a Sunday.

Usually, if I have time, I read them between services on a Sunday.

He argued, wisely, that at minimum you should skim over the papers so you're aware of any major events heading into a service.

The reason?

You don't want to miss either a connector which you can slide into your service leading/sermon or a catastrophe which should be mentioned during the prayers.

Nothing is worse than perusing the papers on a Sunday afternoon and discovering you missed an obvious opportunity or open the door for others to thing you've ignored a pressing event.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mother church?

Last Sunday night I stayed home from church.

In a very nice gesture, I was given the night off by my minister since it was Father's Day.

But it got me thinking about church and the way it was described by a church forefather in the "Being the Church" subject I'm doing at college.

It was noted that the church is to nourish Christians like a mother does a child.

The only trouble is... It's wrong.

A child is totally dependent on the parent for food. We should never be absolutely dependent on a church service for our spiritual food.

This is a dangerous place to be and a sign of immaturity (thus the child analogy).

The church should be a place to serve and be encouraged not be spoon fed your sole spiritual meal for the week.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Chat leaders

Each week I produce a run sheet for both the youth group and kids club. Call me slightly OCD.

And each week I have the same two words multiple times... CHAT LEADERS.

For there are multiple times during each weekly event when connecting conversations are able to naturally occur - when kids arrive, when everyone is eating, when travelling with kids and just before kids leave.

And each week, with my new leaders, I push them to get two stories.

Two stories about the kids week.
And follow up from the two stories from the previous week.

As I outlined earlier, these "How was your week?" questions are vital because they show the young person that, unlike many adults in their life, you actually care.

But, more so, I want the leaders to be comfortable asking the connecting question in the first place.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Leader innoculation

The weeks are quickly counting down until the year 6's are given their first taste of youth group.

Over the last month I've tried an idea which, in an ideal world, would make the transition from children-to-youth ministry MUCH SMOOTHER.

Leader inoculation.

Ideally, you would be able to parachute some of your youth group leaders into the children's ministry activities so that the borderline-high-schoolers can familiarize themselves with some of the youth ministry leadership team.

And anything which takes the unknown out of youth group is a massive step in the right direction.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What to do when a kid thinks you're a dickhead

What do you do when a kid at your church doesn't like you?

I write WHEN because, inevitably, you won't get on with every kid.
And, despite your best efforts, every young person won't get along with you.

But this isn't the end of the world.

Why?

Because it's not all about you.

And this is why you have co-leaders.
Leaders who don't look the same. Think the same. Sound the same.
They will connect with teens who you don't have an awesome chemistry with.

But, what if you don't have someone who connects with a kid in your church?

First, don't give up. You might grow on one another as time and trust is developed.
Second, pray for the kid and opportunities to make a stronger connection.
Third, the answer might be to point them towards an alternate ministry. If we truly believe that we aren't in competition with the church around the corner, then pointing the youngster in there direction isn't a great problem. Further, you can try and channel the youth into some of the Christian activities at their school.

Who knows, this tough kid could end up being one of your most valuable leaders in the future, connecting with similar kids who you won't gel with.

All you need to do is get over those first few months.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The last minute inspiration

Earlier this week I posted about the frantic last hour before a ministry event.

Last night I went through the frantic last minutes before speaking.

Normally I'm quite (some would almost say over) prepared, but for this gig, I was only signed up to speak the previous day due to the original bloke having a medical emergency.

And plans were... quite fluid.

Including the start of my talk.

In order to make a stronger connection with the night's theme I added a reflection exercise which only really hit me ten minutes before going on to speak.

Usually this is the blueprint for disaster.

But, on this occasion, it worked fairly well.

In fact, this is just the second time that I can ever remember following through with an idea which not only hit me in the moments prior to speaking but also transformed the structure of a talk.

When would I do it again?

First, only if the point must ACTUALLY adds to what I'm going to say. It's usually unwise to go with the last minute inspiration because it's majorly undercooked and there's no point adding another loosely connected or developed tangent. Better is the aim, not just more.

And second, the addition only makes the cut at the cost of something else. There's little point adding to what you're going to say if you've timed your talk accurately and have a timeframe to work towards. Again, better is the aim, not more.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Defending your turf?

You'd never say it out loud, but you/your church might dare to think it internally...

It's OUR school.
It's OUR service.
It's OUR program.
It's OUR culture.
It's OUR church.

The biggest, most shocking, trouble?

We can claim turf which isn't, and potentially has never been, ours.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The frantic last hour

It happens before Kid's Club.
It happens before youth group.
It happens before services on Sunday.
It definitely happens before big events or camps.

The frantic last hour.

And whilst it might not be the ACTUAL 60 minutes prior to an activity, it's as inevitable as the Sun rising in the East.

Going through my metal checklist I...
Confirm that the room is set up the way you want.
Double check that your technology will work.
Check the microphone works and it at the correct level.
Make sure you have any handouts to give out.
Ensue you have the notes or props for your input.
Take a tinkle.
Have SOMETHING to eat.

As any church secretary I've worked beside can attest I, progressively, run around like a crazy person as the deadline for kids arriving approaches.

And, as I've written before, I love it having to hit the deadline.

In fact, I get a nervous unrest if I get a lot of downtime prior to an activity.

The biggest secret?
Plan for your frantic last hour to finish at least 30 minutes before the event is due to begin.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Someone who doesn't really care is a positive thing

We've been mates for a long, long time.
He was one of the people who stood beside me when I got married, endured two miscarriages and welcomed our daughter into the world.

And he's not a Christian (at least the last time I checked).

In fact, he probably cares about my church as much as I care about the finance (?) company he works for.

And that's a good thing.

Because, when I need an escape from the chaos or stress of ministry, there will always be a guy who wants to do little else than have a chat, grab a feed, knock back a beer and watch some sport.

And sometimes, that's the exact thing you need.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

This isn't a great song... but...

I'm not one of those guys who compulsively needs to use a song in every presentation they give.

In fact, I hardly ever use them.

I'm just not a "music guy."

The majority of my CD's are "best of" albums of mainstream bands.
I don't have an iTunes account and I've never downloaded a song. Ever.

But I can respect those who will utilize music to help convey the message they are trying to communicate.

And, occasionally, when someone will play a song they'll give a declaimer...

This song isn't very good... but...

This song is a bit old... but...
This song is a bit slow... but...
This song has a bit of a cringe-worthy video... but...
This song isn't the best recording... but...

BUT... the message contained within is worthwhile and exactly what I want you to hear.

Sometimes, in order to communicate your message, you need to admit that... even though this isn't a great song... keep your ears open for the but.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Postioned to help people get through

Right now life is tough.
Life at church is REALLY tough.
My church is going through one of those events which you hope you'll never personally encounter.

And it's at times like these that you sometimes wonder why you're caught up in the midst of disaster.

Over the last few days I've been increasingly aware that, for some, they are put into a church in order to help the church GET THROUGH the tough times.

Even though it wasn't on the job description they initially signed up for, it is one of the primary reasons they were placed in that church, at that time.