Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Marriage THEN sex

This week I'm discussing "God, dating, love, marriage & sex" in a senior high scripture class and at youth group.

As we crept closer to this week I mentioned the topic to various people and one made a great observation.

Previously, I called the topic "Love, sex, dating, marriage & God".

Wisely, he advised that I should consider the order of the terms and move sex AFTER marriage.

That is one of the main points after all...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Signage dangers

Today I changed the church sign from what I wrote on it last week (I mentioned what it said here).

And... If I'm too brutally honest (don't we all judge ourselves this way?!?)... I recognise that I snared myself in the signage trap.

For I over-promised and under-delivered.

This is the danger when you advertise.

You need to meet expectations.

If you say it's going to be the best event all year, then you need to deliver.
If you say that it's going to be value for money, then it needs to be worth every penny.
If you say you're going to provide answers then you should have some prepared.

Otherwise... Why will they trust your next promise???

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Length limiters


Above is what I wanted to put on the church sign this week since I'm speaking on the topic later tonight (tying into The Bible mini-series which is playing on Australian TV at the moment).

Trouble was, I only had one question mark. And not enough H's.

So, I stared at the sign and struggled to put my revamped message into coherent words, dragging out a job which was intended to take me less than 30 minutes to almost an hour.

It reminded me that most communication devices have a length limiter.

If you have two morning services then you can't preach beyond the time needed for the later service to begin.

For many churches there will be a time, no matter if it is 20 or 50 minutes, that they will be able to actively interact with the sermon.

If you're on Twitter, 140 characters is all you get.

And herein lies the challenge...
You need to communicate your message before you hit the limit your audience or medium will allow.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Busy or Significant?

With the lectionary spitting up the story of Mary & Martha over the weekend, someone mentioned a really good thought at a meeting I attended during the week...

Do our churches, and ministries contained within them aim for busyness (reflecting Martha) or significance (reflecting Mary)?

I wonder, if we fixed our vision on moments and events of significance above a full events calendar, what would change?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The first division would be???

Church Leadership.
Thee role of women within the church.

These are just SOME of the reasons churches have spilt.

I wonder, if someone waved a magic wand and all denominations were combined, how long would it take until we found a reason to divide again.

And, if we were all thrown together, which issue would be the one to divide us first?

Biblical authority?
Women in leadership?
Pews vs chairs in church?
Wooden vs plastic lecterns?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

To empower they must HAVE and KNOW

As I've written here, one of my aims in ministry is to empower.

But, truth be told, I also feel it is one of the weakest areas of my ministry.

So I really valued "7 Signs of Healthy Empowerment" by Ron Edmonson.

His points were great...

Confidence is conveyed – They know you believe they can do the job.
Expectations are clearly communicated – They know what a win looks like in your eyes and what is required of them to complete the task.
Authority has been granted – They have the power to script the path to accomplishment.
Permission to fail is assured – They know if it doesn’t work they will be encouraged to try again.
Resources are adequate – They have the training, tools and people to accomplish the task.
Back is protected – They know their decisions will be backed by senior leadership…by you.
Recognition is shared – They know they won’t do all the work for someone else…you…to get the credit.

Basically, this is how you not only set those in leadership up "for the win" (they have...) but let them know that this is the case (they know...).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Living the the shadow of...

Whether it is factual or not, the myth states that the average youth minister will only serve at their current church for 18 months.

I'm relatively unusual in that I only ever had one youth minister as a kid. He was at my church for approximately 14 years.

So I assume that, at least in some respects, I "do youth ministry" similar to the way he did.

And I wonder... Is that a good thing?
More so, what does that mean for those whom I'm currently serving?

For, as I've written before, we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.

So... If the leaders or youth of my church gleaned many of the good things which I have to offer, learning from the areas where I struggle, and go into youth ministry, what would they turn out like?

And... If they were, in part, shaped by my shadow... Would that be a good thing?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Emptying your cup

With the school holidays winding up today I've spent the last two weeks knocking off a few books from the every expanding stack-of-books-I've-been-meaning-to-read.

One book I've been looking forward to reading was Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley.

And the book was good. But if you've read enough blogs and articles which he has written then there wasn't a lot of new ground.

But one point of this blog is to write things down, even if they might not be game-changing ideas, in order to be reminded of them later.

And the thought which has hounded me from reading Deep & Wide?

When you're training others, it is not your job to fill their cup, it is your responsibility to empty yours.

You need to drain and dredge up everything you've learnt, experienced and reflected upon, hoarding nothing back for yourself.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The chain of communication

I've had some brillant ideas. Not many, but some.
I've also had some very, very ordinary ideas. Not a lot, but a few.

No matter where on the brilliant-ordinary scale a idea falls, any proposal needs to be put through the same communication filters.

1 - Your Spouse
They are your primary ministry and call the shots on any event and it's wise for them to have final say over ANYTHING in or entering your diary. Surprise events do not equal a pleased life partner...

2 - The Senior Minister
It will not be unusual that your senior minister will have greater ministry experience, and probably, a different feel for the vibe of the church. It is smart to utilise this view from a slightly alternate angle.

Additionally, depending on how your denomination works, it is the senior minister who not only is seen as "calling the shots" but they will take the brunt of the heat if it goes pear-shaped.

3 - Additional Church Staff
We want to avoid conflicts as much as possible. Better yet, we want all our ministries to be working in unison. This only happens if you fly your ideas past the vision and calendar of the other church staff.

4 - Invested parents
Ideally you have a pool of supportive parents who you can call upon. These are vital, again because they view your ministry from a fresh angle, but importantly, they will have the inside word on how your idea will affect family finances and school/sport activities which you may be blind to.

5 - The Church Council
It could be debated that the wider church leadership should come in at number 4. The reason? They call the shots and again, depending on your particular context, are the people who keep you accountable and you directly report to.

6 - Those who it will effect - Parents & kids
Advertising 101. Promote far and wide, pointing to how the change fits into the why-you-do-what-you-do and why this next step is better than staying where you are currently.

7 - The Congregation
Those in the pews pay your wage so tell them what is going on. Hopefully they're not only interested, but with a new announcement, you might reach people who would otherwise be disconnected.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Do you know your people well enough to pray for the ordinary?

In church we pray for the big things.
In private we pray for the big things.

Because we know about the big things.

We're aware of the marriage which is on the brink of divorce.
We know about the family with a chronically ill member.
We hear when misfortune happens and people end up in hospital.

And we should pray for the big things. Earnestly and often.

But I wonder, should it be a marker of a churches pastoral care network that they are able to pray for the things going on in someone' life which is not "this-is-serious-enough-to-be-put-in-the-notices-and-emailed-around-the-prayer-circle."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Earn your way out

Right now I'm on holidays so I've, naturally, been watching a lot more daytime TV than usual.

Consequently, my lunchtimes are occupied with my daughter, my wife (who is also on holidays) and Dr. Phil.

One reoccurring Dr. Phil-ism, when "counselling" a married couple who are in strife, is for the pair to "earn their way out."

For, Dr. Phil suggests, you need to scrape, scratch and claw your way out of a marriage.

If nothing else, before you call it a day on your partnership, you must commit to lengthy counseling.

I wonder, should we expect a similar thing when leaving a church?

If employed, you earn your way out by devoting every last moment in your position to ensuring things are in the best possible position for your departure. You have the required, even difficult, conversations. You help create a clear succession plan. You end well.

If you're a lay person who is pondering going to another church, then you earn your way out by, again, having a conversation. Strive to fix the problems when they arise and not just "leave it to the professionals." Look someone in the eye and tell those in leadership that you are a) leaving and b) your reasons why. Don't just drift away.

Now, life within the walls of a church are messy and the above might only be possible in an ideal situation, but...

If we stressed the importance of being in and committing to a church, then leaving that community should be a serious step which is only embarked upon once every stone is overturned and the work done to leave without regrets.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Testing the response

I don't think it's too much of an overstatement to say that if you've never played a game of real-life Angry Birds then you're not dong youth ministry correctly.

All it requires is a few different coloured cushions (to be the different birds), some targets to be the pigs (we used cheap cartoon skull-caps) and a HEAP of cardboard boxes.

This term I've played the game twice.

And I've used A LOT of boxes.

So, like anyone in youth ministry, I asked my church for help when in need of ridiculous amounts of a generic item.

And I got a lot of boxes. Some extremely useful. Some... appreciated... but not exactly what I was asking for.

In fact, I had too many boxes. Way too many.

But I didn't withdraw the request for cardboard cubes because I wanted to catch the vibe of my new church.

For this was the first time I'd really requested help of this kind.

Not a request for money.
Not a request which would cost time.
Just a simple request for accessible items.

Now I have a much better idea who is willing to help out.
Now I know who will, some surprisingly, drop off a stack of boxes "because they want to help out."

And, even though I now have a couple of dozen of boxes which I didn't use, I now have a greater awareness of what the response might be the next time I ask for assistance.