Friday, February 28, 2014

Loving the past or furture more?

I was reading this article yesterday and the second point resonated within me.

I wonder, if you went around and posed the question "Are you more in love with the past than the future" to every church, what would their answer be?

I suspect, even if some won't admit it, their actions clearly say that their vision and desire are for things which have passed.

They long for "the good old days," not seeing the things which lay ahead.
They reminisce about the times when they were "bulging at the seems," not straining to impact the community and culture around them now or a decade in the future.
They get glassy-eyed over people and events of yesteryear, not the people still to be reached and the activities engaging the next generation.

As indebted as the church is to those who have worked tirelessly in the past, we must continually keep looking and striving forward. Otherwise, our church becomes a slowly-dying museum of a bygone era.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Leaders leaving shouldn't be a shock

Leaders in youth ministry don't, usually, last forever. Given enough time, and advancement through life stages, they leave. Or eventually die.

If the Grim Reaper doesn't strike them down...
Their university timetable will change and can no longer make it in time.
They will need to study at a campus afar.
They will accept an internship overseas.
They will get a full time job and are wrecked at the end of the working week.
They will get married and look to settle in a church elsewhere.
They will become a parent.

Now, in some of these situations, they don't have to leave. Instead, they can transition to another level of ministry support like the ones listed here.

But, sometimes, life changes and people need to move on. It happens.

And this shouldn't come as a shock.

In fact, it's only a matter of time before you lose your best leaders.
You know, the ones who are especially talented, outgoing, smart, creative, dependable and committed.

If you were an employer, you'd want to hire and invest in them.
You shouldn't have a problem seeing them be trained in their dream job.
You shouldn't deprive them of life shaping experiences overseas.

Truthfully, it's kinda annoying.
But never surprising.

The longer you're at one ministry position the more you'll encounter this reoccurring "problem."

But there's a silver lining to this inevitable storm-cloud.

When leaders step down, you get the chance to train up another leader and allow them to be used by God. Hopefully, there's always a next generation of leaders to invest into and take their place.

And, unsurprisingly, they'll be fruitful and leave also...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

We can do better than age to determine a leader

Different churches do things... differently. No surprises there.

But in the world of youth ministry, especially when looking at "utilising" teens into the children's ministry leadership team, there is one common thread... Age.

And I think it's wrong.

I became a children's/youth group leader at my home church because I was included in the first batch of teens deemed to be "old enough" to lead. 

But I wasn't ready. If anything, we got in the way far more than we contributed.

I think, when it comes to giving positions of non-threatening leadership to young people, age shouldn't be the primary determining factor.

In fact, some churches throw teens into leadership far too early.

Instead of age, I think there are far better scales to weigh a prospective leader on.

Belief - Are they a committed Christian?

Maturity - Are they separated enough from those who they're going to lead to be seen as an effective leader and positive influence? The last thing most ministries need are leaders who act like the kids.

Passion - Do they WANT to be involved and think this is not only something which God is a part of but something THEY can be contributing to?

When it comes to youth group, we tend to be far more discerning about the type of leaders we accept into our "sacred group." Just because you're out of school doesn't mean you instantly get a gig.

It seems strange then, when it comes to the children God has entrusted us with, we look at a date-of-birth and think they'll be a good fit.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Empowerment timeline

In many ways this blog is about me and for me. It is a resource I can go back to and "dig up that thing I blogged about ages ago." In reality, most of the time, you're just looking over my shoulder.

Today John Maxwell posted about empowerment here which I'll definitely want to revisit.

Here are the levels of empowerment that I take my people through as I gradually release responsibility to them:
  1. Look into the situation. Report back to me. I’ll decide what to do.
  2. Look into the situation. Report alternatives with pros and cons, along with your recommendation. I’ll decide what to do.
  3. Look into it. Let me know what you intend to do, but don’t do it unless I say yes.
  4. Look into it. Let me know what you intend to do, and do it unless I say no.
  5. Take action. Let me know what you did.
  6. Take action. No further interaction required.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Given enough time... the honeymoon ends

From the moment you enter a church... the countdown begins.
From the moment you meet someone new working at your church... the countdown can start.

Because it will inevitably happen.

Given enough time, the church will do or say something which will frustrate you.
Given enough time, someone who works at a church will let you down. Or do something regrettable. Or just plain dumb.

Ideally, the period of time which elapses between first contact and disappointment will be a lengthy one.

But the honeymoon will certainly end.

This is especially true the closer someone gets to "the eye" of a church or a ministry.

What matters then are the following three things...

1 - The relationship which has been cultivated before "the incident."
2 - The response of the church/minister. Hopefully full of grace and, where needed, apologies.
3 - The response of the congregant. Will they be able to coincide with the messiness of partnering with an imperfect institution and the imperfect people who work for her?

Monday, February 17, 2014

How my Year Without God would work

If you read my bog for cutting-edge news from the world of pseudo-religious matters then you have a large problem. I don't break the news.

At the start of the year Ryan J. Bell, a former Sven-Day Adventist minister, started a "Year without God," launching a blog here about his journey.

In the post he announced his plan, one which cost him his job teaching at a religious university, he said he will be...

...embarking on a new journey. I will "try on" atheism for a year. For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else's circumstances. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result).

I will read atheist "sacred texts" -- from Hobbes and Spinoza to Russell and Nietzsche to the trinity of New Atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett. I will explore the various ways of being atheist, from naturalism (Voltaire, Dewey, et al) to the new 'religious atheists' (Alain de Botton and Ronald Dworkin). I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible -- scholars, writers and ordinary unbelievers -- to learn how they have come to their non-faith and what it means to them. I will visit atheist gatherings and try it on.

In short, I will do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist. It's important to make the distinction that I am not an atheist. At least not yet. I am not sure what I am. That's part of what this year is about.

There's only one problem with his plan; he's overthinking it.

Many atheists, and the vast majority of agnostics, don't put in the effort he will in order to hold their worldview.

They don't read the "sacred texts."
They don't try to forget God.
They don't drop spiritual disciplines.
They aren't "acting" like something they don't believe.

All they do is put something else as number one in their life.
This falls in line with the way atheists are described in Romans 1.

If I were going to "experiment" with a "Year without God" all I would do is make myself top priority. I would decide that I was more important than God. The actions would flow naturally from there...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Aim for bronze

There is an unwritten rule in youth groups everywhere: Leaders don't win games.

Leaders can compete, but the game shouldn't conclude with an adult being victories. For safeties sake, leaders should aim to finish third. No better.

For some, this can be a difficult rule to follow if you're...
a) a guy in his teens or early twenties,
b) competitive, or
c) coordinated.

Fortunately, I don't fall into any of the above categories.

But last Friday we played a game, which I'd never played before, and I tried to get as close as I'm comfortable to victory.

I was agile...
I was focused...
I drew upon my years of game-playing experience and vast reserves of energy...
And still couldn't crack the podium.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I want bothersome leaders

At the bottom of any agreement surrounding expectations for leader's within a ministry I think there needs to be a vital condition.

I will tell someone if I'm struggling in any of the above areas so they can support me and help me travel down a productive path.

I like this clause because it opens the door for an important first step in communication. Often, if youth group leaders leave suddenly, it's due to unresolved issues which have been bubbled under the surface.

I would much rather a conversation.
I would much rather hear the issues.
I would much rather struggle ALONGSIDE my leaders then be blindsided by the issue's eruption.

I want leaders who are bothered when they are struggling.
I want leaders who are bothered enough that they will say and do something.
I want leaders, if they have a problem with me or what we are doing on a Friday, to be so bothered that they can, and will, speak up.

I want bothersome leaders.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sibling communication

I've often shared that I communicate with all the teens prior to any school term. I am the king of mail-outs and since last year I now invite my leaders to contact a number of designated kids the week youth group is due to resume.

But there's one tension which must be delicately managed... Sibling communication.

I believe that siblings should get separate communication. Every time.

A household with a pair of kids will get two individually addresses pieces of mail. 
Even though they are contactable on the same home phone number, two different leaders will make contact with a sibling. 


Because each teen matters. Individually.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Input, then output

I just got back from a planning weekend away with the leaders of the youth group and some have wondered why I programmed the days and weekend like I did. 

In short, after breakfast each day, the leaders would look at a bible passage, followed by time alone with God. It was only after this, and the rest of Saturday morning filled with thinking about leadership expectations, that we focused on the actual youth group schedule. 

The reason the weekend was structured this way is simple... Any ministry, or output, you do should be balanced by the amount you are being ministered to, or receiving input.

Not only is it fair, but healthy long term.

In theory, any ministry you do, being done for God in response to what He has done for you and worked in your life, should spring from an overflow of your personal spiritual journey.

This is why my leader's weekends run input-then-output.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Youth group bouncers

We could all use someone to watch our backs.
We could all use a youth group bouncer.

Bouncers, in nightspots, are used to prevent and shut down any hazards which might flare up. They are another set of eyes and willing muscle to deal with any problems or emergencies.

If I could wave a magic wand over the youth ministry world, I would bless everyone with a servant-hearted bouncer who'd watch over the activities being run and have no issue being called upon to roll up their sleeves and assist setting up, packing down, evaluating what they observed or stepping in and helping with anything which arises.