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.

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."