Saturday, November 29, 2014

Two questions for the tough times

1 - Who can you trust, what did they say?
2 - Who cares for you, how did they show it?

I firmly believe that these two questions are an important part of getting through the tough times in life which we'll encounter every so often.

If, when life seems darkest, you intentionally look out for and record the answers to these two questions each day a significant change begins to take place.

Your mindset.
Your outlook.
Your memory.

If, when life is bleak, you keep track of the people who have said something you can trust (even if you don't completely feel the reality of that truth) and the ways (even in the smallest of gestures) which people have showed you that they care, then, slowly, the way life looks can begin to turn.

Even if all it does is allow you to take notice of the silver lining to a darker cloud...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Getting someone to the watering-hole

I finally get it.

I'm no longer 20 years old.
I'm not even 25.

I've just finished my study.
I've been married for eight years, having been with my wife for eleven and we have a toddler.

I have regular car payments to keep track of, rent to be paid and all my large bills are now paid by the month.

I'm old.

I'm now the guy who gives advice because I can remember "back in those days" when I "did those kinds of things" and can now reflect back on them.

But I can't make anyone follow my advice.

I, now, understand that also.

In fact, more often then not, I lay out options and warn about the obstacles which will need to be negotiated.

I provide resources which can make wise decisions easier.

But I can't, and many times shouldn't, force someone to make a decision.

For, the old adage is true... 
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink.

My job, especially when dealing with young adults, is to make sure that they sense the value in the water and ensure that access to the watering-hole is as easy as it can be.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sometimes you shouldn't cast the vote

Yesterday our church had a meeting where a vote was taken surrounding an issue of staffing. It wasn't highly controversial and the vote went as I expected.

But, while I could have voted and knew which decision I would have made, I decided not to.

I didn't tell anyone and, in all likelihood, no one probably noticed.

But I believe that there are some time when a staff member should abstain from being a decision-maker.

The reasons are simple.

On some resolutions, like staffing, mission or redevelopment, the decision ultimately lies with the members of the church. They need to own the outcome. They need to way up the costs and discern the direct God is taking them. Whatever is decided needs to be up to them.

Furthermore, on significant matters, the results will directly effect those on staff. If you vote, then you can leave yourself open to the accusation of bias or self-serving.

Finally, depending on the outcome of a vote, tensions can be created amongst staff who have voted differently. And, even if it is a silent vote, questions can be raised about the way workmates voted in a tight decision.

As important as I might think my opinion is, at times, it's not worth airing voting in order to give control to the congregation and because of the potential interpersonal fallout.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A safe person for two unsafe responses

BE WARNED: The following post involves swear words. But, in the context they are used, they are, although uncomfortable, somewhat appropriate.

When I read this post on about the 10 Things You Should Never Say to a Grieving Person, I had two responses.

These are the two responses I've both felt, and recommend to people/warned people about, when they're going through a time of tragedy - especially death or miscarriage.

Bullshit and Fuck Off (I did warn you! Don't keep reading if you're offended).

Whenever you're fresh off an event of misfortune or heart-break rationality is not your friend. Sometimes, Bullshit and Fuck Off will be the things which spring to mind and someone needs to allow space for them.

In fact, one of the most important people are those whom you can, even retrospectively, say Bullshit and Fuck Off to. It might not be directed to them personally, but someone who can be a safe sounding board for Bullshit and Fuck Off. Bullshit to the cliques. Fuck off to the idiots.

For, when people are trying to be comforting, they can be unhelpful. And awkward. Even hurtful.

And, at these times, you'll feel one, if not both, responses...

The linked-to article gives a quality run down why the following statements are, intentionally or unintentionally, boneheaded.

But this post is about feelings.
Raw, irrational, feelings.

And they aren't always pretty.

For example, from the article on ministrymatters... This is what's gone through my mind while grieving...

I know how you feel - Bullshit and Fuck Off.
God has a will in this/There is a reason for everything/God is in control - I don't need to hear this right now, Fuck Off.
How are you doing? - How do you think dickhead? Fuck Off.
He's in a better place - Fuck Off.
You can have another child/At least you have other kids - No really, Fuck Off. Far, far, away.
God just wanted another angel - Have a steaming bowl of Bullshit with a giant side of Fuck Off.
It was his time to go - Perhaps so, but I don't want to hear it right now, Fuck Off.
You have to be strong for X - Bullshit and Fuck Off.
God never gives us more than we can handle - Well it's lucky I'm so strong! I don't feel it, so it's Bullshit. Now Fuck Off.

Is there anything I can do for you - Actually, this question isn't so bad compared to the others...

If you're offended by the above, then I apologies. But grief can be ugly.

In case you're wondering, the advice I'd give for those grieving can be found here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The time being part of a denomination helps

No doubt, they are out of fashion.
When churches rebrand, generally, the thing which gets dropped is the traditional title of their denomination.

And, admittedly, they can be annoying.
They can seem out of touch...
They can be weighed down by those entrenched "in the system"...
A large system which, sometimes, seems to slow the movements of God...
A structure which can be difficult to wade through...
An expense which can be used more effectively elsewhere.

But, being a part of a main-stream denomination, like my church is, does have some significant positives.

First, it makes you a part - for better or worse - of something bigger. Your small church is one of many. With united-ish views. Under one symbol.

Furthermore, you're a part of a history. A legacy. You're connected to those who, generations ago, decided to stand unified. You're identified with theologies which have been debated and cherished.

But, being a part of a denomination really kicks in at a crucial time...
An emergency.

Being a part of something bigger is of critical importance when scandal or tragedy strike.

Because they have the structures to help you deal with them.
They have the history, in all likelihood, of dealing with the situation before.
You are not alone.

Don't believe me?
Mars Hill has imploded because it wasn't a part of something bigger. It was isolated and, thus, vulnerable. For, when it got hit by a mega crisis, it was without the structures, or history, to overcome it.

Now, just by being a part of a denomination might not have saved Mars Hill, but I know that whenever I, my church, or one of my colleagues have been thrown an unexpected bout of turbulence, I've been glad that there was something bigger behind me to help us get through.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Is this what I signed up for?

Some days, those in ministry get home from work and allow their mind to wander back to their initial, first-date-like, job interview.

They think about the promises made.
They think about the rose-coloured perspectives.
They think about the flawless faces which greeted them on their first Sunday.

They then look at what the people at their church go through and wonder... Is this what I signed up for?


The answer, no matter how cordial the interview was nor what your job description includes, is a resounding yes.

If you decide to work in ministry, you signed up to the privilege to share life with other people.

Broken people.
Messy people.
Brave people.
Imperfect people.

In ministry, if you're lucky enough, you're able to journey besides people through the ups-and-downs of life.

When life, inevitably, throws something difficult at churchgoers, these ARE the time you signed up for.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A WHAT meeting?

Last Sunday, if we were live streaming our evening service, I'd be Internet famous right now.

Whilst making an announcement about an upcoming, and important, congregational meeting I said something slightly alternate.

A conjugational meeting.

It was not unnoticed.

How the wires in my mind went from congregational to a mash-up of conjugal (if you're wondering why that might be a little awkward, then this might assist), I don't know, but at least I didn't make this guys mistake...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Before and after family ministry expectations

Those who work with kids on a Sunday morning can get frustrated by the flocculating numbers experienced each week.

One week you'll have a handful of kids, the next you'll get a near-full-turnout, seemingly, without any discernable pattern or reason.

Thus, planning can be problematic and, on a week you've got something special planned, quite discouraging, if that happens to be the Sunday families "have off."

We can even, in our weaker moments, wonder why families are "so flakey" when it comes to church attendance.

But, there are two stages of life for those who work with families...

Before, when you expected families to be a church each week, and after.

Before, when you didn't fully get why families are tired, stressed, overworked, and after.

Before, when you didn't live the life of someone on four hours sleep - months on end, and after

Before, when you didn't know what croup was or were kept up due to whooping cough, and after.

Before, when you didn't have to plan the next day ahead for someone who's totally dependent upon you, and after.

Before, when each journey didn't involve car seats and contingency plans "just in case," and after.

Before, when you didn't have a toddler who can radically tantrum at any given moment, and after.

Before, when toilet training and "big girl pants" never entered your mind at the start of the day, and after (what my wife and I are going through currently).

Before, when you didn't have kids, and after.

Before, when you didn't understand, and after, when you do.

A commonly quoted "stat" is that a regular church family will make it to church twice a month.

Once you've got kids, the perspective you have for those families transforms.

Now that my wife and I ARE THOSE FAMILIES, getting to church when able... despite our willingness, I LOVE IT whenever families attend church.

Because now I understand just how much of an effort it is...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The last piece to get rid of?

I've written about the changes a one might need to go through upon de-conversion here, but, prompted by something I read the other day, I now realize that I missed one sad artifact of prior faith.

Your bible.

What would you do with it?

Upon walking away from faith, how long would it take to cast off your bible?

Would/could you, like the person in the article I read, sell it?
Do you give it away to charity?
If so, why would you want to put, what you now think is a erroneous book, into the hands of others?

Thus, do you destroy it?

Or, would you keep your bible on the shelf... just in case... you'll want to reach for it one day?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Focus on one section of the teddy

Sometimes, do you wish you could just chop off a segment of your life?
Do you wish you could leave the physical ailments at home or unplug your overworked intellect?

One of the ways I help determine the healthy of people is to take them through the "Teddy Reflection" which attempts to weigh up the healthy of seven areas in life.

But, life isn't so segmented.

If one part of your life's out of whack then it'll have a flow on effect.

Physically, if you're not sleeping enough, it will effect your ability to effectively work and study...
Stress at work will effect your relationships at home...
If your emotions are running rampart, they will leech into other areas...

But, when life feels out of control, you can choose to work on just one area.

For, if one area starts to regain health, it'll make it easier to tackle some of the other problems life's throwing at you.

Better yet, for someone who feels overwhelmed, hearing that it's okay for them to especially focus on just one area is far less daunting than looking at a warped teddy and feeling that the problem is too big to change.