Saturday, May 31, 2014

Not a young man anymore

Last week it was my hamstrings...
Now it's my left ankle.

I'm currently in that very awkward phase of youth ministry where I'm in my early thirties.

I'm not young enough to be able to keep pace with an athletic teenage boy.

But I'm also, even delusionary, not old enough to decline whenever they throw down the gauntlet for a "race to be the first one back."

So I'm living in the midst of a battle between body and spirit.

And, as every day passes, the body reminds me that although the spirit might be willing, the flesh is getting weaker...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The female attraction

My parent's have never gone to church. Instead, my wanderings into a youth group started by following a girl (it's the start of my "boring" conversion story).

But that fact does have something to do with my following preference.

I would (inserting sweeping generalisations here) rather have a group of all teenage girls then guys.

The reason is fairly simple. Females attract blokes. Guys, generally, deter girls.

Given enough time, a gaggle of ladies will draw in teenage guys, especially if there's a rogue male who's attached to the group. Even if that guy isn't Casanova, then his mates will discover that he's connected to a bunch of the opposite gender and want in.

And whilst I enjoy playing rougher games with guys (one of my favourite afternoons ever comprised hours of two teams whacking a soft ball at each other with rolled-up newspaper), the type of activities which appeal to blokes will not keep females. Especially if she/they are outnumbered.

The best evangelistic strategy any youth group has is a welcoming community of young people whom share an active faith. No doubt.

But a healthy group of teenage girls is a close second.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

When you MUST NOT write your own stuff

Earlier this month I wrote here that I write almost all my own curriculum.

Somewhere last week, now trapped in the Internet, I read an article stating the case for using packaged small group studies.

Whilst it made the predicable arguments about time management and critically tested material, I think there's a healthy middle ground.

There's a time when someone in ministry MUST use purchased/external resources.

Eating Disorders.

No matter how long you've been in ministry, when it comes to the above topics, you are not the expert.

Unless you've done extensive research and worked as a counselor, hands on, then you are not an expert.

When it comes to professionally treated issues, no matter how well I know my kids, I'm not an expert and it is responsible for me to refer them onto others (thus the resource folder in my office).

If When we talk to our youth about troubling issues, then we MUST be humble enough to bow to the wisdom and expertise of others.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why I won't flash the Greek

I'm currently learning biblical Greek for the second last subject of my Theology degree and I can assure you that there's one thing I won't be doing regularly.

Quoting Greek when I preach.

The reasons?

Primarily, flashing the Greek is often a veiled way to display the training the preacher has or the amount of preparation they've put in. Either way, it doesn't usually add to the sermon.

I say usually, because undoubtedly, sometimes it will make a difference. This just isn't as often as some ministers seem to mention it from the pulpit.

If anything, when I hear someone pontificating about the "original Greek" I tend to think of them as a wanker, not a scholar.

Second, and more importantly, I think a routine flash of Greek can sow more harm than good.

If the "professional" Christian must use subsequent texts or need a far higher level of training to decipher the message of the bible, then what message does that send to the congregation?
Will it breed assurance or uncertainty?
Will they trust in what they feel, a basic on-the-surface-level interpretation/application, is ACTUALLY the intended meaning or just another "misinterpretation" from the translators or "hidden nuance" of the language?

Finally, and more sceptically, if no one in the congregation is capable of reading or understanding Greek, then it provides no way for anyone to verify that what they're being told is accurate.

It would be reckless for me, having done a whole 12 WEEKS of Greek under my belt, to start quoting "original texts" when I could be, unknowingly, be leading others down a fruitless rabbit-trail.

If you're a Greek nerd, who can communicate APPLICABLE parts of the original language relevantly, then go ahead... Flash your Greek. But, for some ministers, they flash way more than what's needed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Reasons to write your own stuff

There's A LOT of quality small group material out there in Internet land (Google just churned out 9.25 million results). I have brought some in the past and used it quite effectively.

At times, during a stressful season or time when you're on an extended leave, it makes more sense to use pre-produced material.

But, as timetabled here, I just finished writing the small group question for youth group this coming Friday.

And this raises a question eternally bantered about the youth ministry blogosphere by minds much wiser than mine.

Should you write your own small group/discussion questions/bible study material or curriculum?

On this point I'm not a zealot.
I usually produce my own, but haven't always.

The reason I tend to write our small group discussion questions has to do with the one who is speaking to the teens in my youth group.


I know, at least somewhat, what will be most effective thing for my teens to hear.
I know, by midweek, what I'm going to be saying on a Friday night.

Thus, I know exactly what direction the questions can flow OUT of the talk, not be hemmed in and need to cater a talk to fit INTO the discussion questions.

This just seems to make more sense.

And really, when you do it this way...

a) You can churn out a few weeks or a whole series of questions in a day (this is one of the reasons school holidays exist!),
so b) It doesn't take much monger than becoming familiar with the new material anyway.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sing it ONLY if you mean it

You won't agree thoroughly with every word in every sermon.
You also, most likely, won't agree thoroughly with every syllable in a worship song.

Most times, if you're like me, you'll just let it slide.

But sometimes you can't.
And you shouldn't.

If you truly don't agree with the theology behind the lyrics of a song (this means they make you more than just a "little uncomfortable" and that you've seriously considered the topic) then you have every right to not sing that part of the song.

Further, this also applies to any words you don't understand and anything in a foreign language which you don't comprehend. Again, it's perfectly acceptable to remain silent when this occurs in church.

This has three immediate consequences.

First, we shouldn't be shocked when new people, especially those from outside the faith, don't sing (or do so hesitantly). We need to give them space to process the words and concepts before they embrace and participate with them in song.

Second, it then marks a step forward when someone DOES choose to sing for the first time.

And third, it raises the volume on what your church is saying through the songs it decides to sing. If people are passive during a song then it might indicate that the lyrics are off base or that the congregation needs to be taught in this area by the worship leader or preacher.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

No one should do it all

This blog post might just cost me my current job.

If you take a close look at the weekly timetable from my last post you'll notice that I work with both children and teenagers. At times, I've taught both ages scripture classes and minister to both on a Friday and Sunday.

If I could wave my church-transforming-magic-wand then very few people would have a ministry position like mine.

Now, I must say, I enjoy my job highly and I do it fairly competently. Sometimes really well. Sometimes really... just okay.

I don't have my job because I'm one of the rare breed who can do it all.

AND, I'm aware that what I'm about to propose isn't a financial reality in many churches...

But, ideally, no one person should be in charge of the children's and youth ministry at a church.


In part it has to do with logistics and physics. You can't be in two places at once. Presently, I can't be involved in lunchtime groups at both a high school and a primary school at the same time. If nothing else, two separate people allow for greater opportunities to be involved and expansion to what is already happening.

Additionally, my focus, thoughts and time are divided between our children's and youth activities. This is especially true, if you're like many Australian churches, and your younger group precedes the older kids on a Friday afternoon/night. Neither group will have the absolute best of the "head" leader as they will either be drained from the kid's ministry, or have one eye upon the upcoming activity.

Furthermore, both ages present quite different needs and require alternate skills. It's unusual that you'll find someone who will be able to effectively cater to those aged 8-20.

A little known secret is that many in children's/youth ministry have a preference. One will be easier than the other. Ideas will flow quicker towards one demographic. Their God-given makeup will draw them naturally towards one.

Finally, for diversity, in an ideal world, these two people would be quite different people with opposite genders, thus exposing the young people to a wider style of leader and, critically, a female in leadership (for the reasons I outlined here and here).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

How my week breaks down

I don't get asked how I spend my time as much as this guy but occasionally I am asked who I whittle away my week...

Monday - 1 Hour (excluding study)

Normally this is a day off, but currently is taken with study and then a Greek lecture for the second last subject of my Bachelor of Theology.
If I'm preaching on the Sunday, which I do fortnightly, I'll start looking at the passage.
One thing I have to do is the devotion for Tiny Bible Bits.

Tuesday - 4-6 Hours

This is the day I do some basic admin (emails/phone calls) and finishing touches for the week's primary school scripture lessons.
Create the week's to-do list.
If I'm preaching then I'll start the exegetical work this day.
Formally, the middle of this day was occupied with high school scripture lessons.
Occasionally I'll drop by the evening young adult small group/bible study.

Wednesday - 6-9 Hours

Kick off with two scripture lessons followed by a staff meeting.
Do basic admin and produce any promotional notes to be given out that week.
Organize the basic structure for the upcoming Friday, finding or reminding leaders what they will be responsible for.
Send electronic promotions for the youth group.
If not already done, write the talk for youth group and produce the small group questions.
Send small group questions to youth leaders.
If need, finish off the exegetical prep for Sunday.
Do the Tiny Bible Bit.
It won't be unusual to have a meeting (supervision, regional planning, peer support, church council) sometime this day/night.

Thursday - 6-9 Hours

Again, start with two scripture lessons.
Start to plan the scripture lessons for the following week.
Do basic admin including producing the run sheets and PowerPoint for the following day.
Write the Kid's Club talk for tomorrow.
Arrange Sunday morning helpers, activities and write "kid's talk."
By now, any impending sermon should have the outline set on stone and the manuscript drafted.

Friday - 10-13 Hours

Purchase the supper for the evening and anything needed for the day's activities.
Set up the church/hall for Kid's Club.
Do basic admin.
Lead Kid's Club, running an activity and giving the talk.
Set up for youth group.
Have Youth Group, usually giving the talk.
Do the Tiny Bible Bit.

Saturday - 0-2 Hours

Ideally, this is a day off but, depending how I feel about the sermon prep already done, I'll further work on the manuscript and PowerPoint.

Sunday - 10-13 Hours

Morning Church - Usually giving the kid's talk and running activities for the older kids.
Reconfigure the church for the evening service.
Reflect on Friday night, logging what happened and attendance.
Do the PowerPoint for the evening service.
Evening service, which I'll lead/preach.

I an ideal world, my week ranges from 37-53 hours per week.
This year, I've stretched from 29.5 (during school holidays) to 53.5 hours.

You may notice that I don't have any dedicated time set aside for long range projects. That was one thing I appreciated from the article I mentioned earlier. I just slot it in the to-do list and opportunistically see if I get around to it.