Saturday, December 27, 2014

I'll be proud of you when...

One of the privileges of my job is being alongside people as they go through what life throws at them.

Over time, as the Holy Sprit works within people and they develop in both Christlikeness and ministry involvement, I get opportunities to witness people grow tremendously.

As such, I get numerous chances to see people do things which make me proud.

I'm proud when people genuinely offer to help.
I'm proud when people do things which they find hard.
I'm proud when people do things which are scary.
I'm proud when people do positive things for the first time.
I'm proud when people make difficult, but ultimately helpful, decisions.
I'm proud when people take steps towards getting help with a problem or persistent sin.
I'm proud when people admit their mistakes.
I'm proud when people ask for help.
I'm proud when others are recognized for what they contribute.

But, I'll be proudest when God says to them... "Well done, good and faithful servant..."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Avoiding the knock-out punch

When you know a crisis is coming you're able, to some extent, to shield or prepare yourself for the blow.

But I remember a bloke I went to college with, who did a bit of boxing, saying, in general, it's the punch you don't see coming which knocks you out.

I trust that this is true in boxing.
But I've seen it play our in life and ministry.

When you're able to see a problem on the horizon, generally, you're able to navigate the turbulent time smoother.

But, when a problem appears out of the blue, then you can find yourself floored since you get winded by the punch you don't see coming.

And, herein lies the value of two things...

First, this fits perfectly with my observations last term at youth group where I spoke about making wise decisions and compared life to driving a car. In short, good drivers don't stare blankly at the car ahead and blindly follow. Good drivers have their gaze on the horizon in order to see potential trouble coming. In life, those with wisdom look ahead and consider the future consequences of their actions, not just the next few meters down the road.

Second, older Christians who can not only give an outside perspective, impart warnings from the times they've messed up, but also have the respect and... gumption... to speak up when a younger believer is making, or has made, an unwise decision.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Everyone gets a season of extra support

You get a bad diagnosis from the doctor.
A family member dies.
You have a miscarriage.
Your marriage is in trouble.
Work is extra stressful.
Exams feel overwhelming.
You've been fired from a job you loved.
Your long-term partner breaks up with you.
A painful thing from the past has flared up and you're only starting to process it.

Given enough time, everyone has a season when they need extra help and support.

When these times happen, you shouldn't apologise.
This is life.
This is what being in ministry is about - being with people in the good and bad times of life.

BUT, there's an important difference between being in a place of receiving extra support for a season and occupying that space permanently.

The first one is expected. Everyone gets a season. Some more than others.
The second one is unhealthy for all involved.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

When you SHOULDN'T apologise

If you've been around churches long enough, eventually you'll hear about boundaries, primarily based around the book Boundaries and its offshoots.

Essentially, you need to be aware of where you, physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually stop and others begin.

In order to have healthy, safe relationships, boundaries need to be respected.

At times, in churches, we get this wrong.
At times, those who work in churches, get this wrong.

When this happens, we should apologize (like I did here).
We should apologise when the boundaries of others have felt trampled on, violated or ignored.

But there's one time, when dealing with boundaries, we shouldn't apologise.

When we assert our own.

When someone in ministry, in a gentle, caring way, asserts their personal boundaries in order to maintain healthy self care, relational or vocational boundaries, then the minister shouldn't apologise.

Ideally, you're only putting into practice the healthy lifestyle choices which you encourage others to do.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two consequences because words matter

Words matter. Is it ironic then, when I first posted this, that the title had a typo?

The words we use matter.
The words others use matter.

One of the most probing questions you can ask is "Why did you use THAT particular word?"

Often, they give subtle indications into what we truly think and feel.

In short, this has two important consequences for those in ministry.

1 - Be cautions and deliberate with the words you use. Speak carefully.

2 - Pay attention to the words the people you're speaking to use. Listen closely.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The core of being a minister

I still think I gave a kick-a$$ answer here, back in 2008, to my understanding of the role of a minister.

Now, when asked to whittle down my job, I give two responses - Care and Protect.

God grants me the privilege to care for and, when need be, protect those He has placed in the church I minister within.

Reflecting a pastoral shepherd (like that described in John 10 & 1 Peter 5 and preached at my very first induction service), I am able to stand with, and share life with, those placed in my care. I get to watch out for and help guide people who want to follow Christ.

This, at the core, is both the challenge and the blessing of my job...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Why you shouldn't program what you're studying

Tomorrow I'll get to wear a black robe, a funny hat and graduate with a Bachelor of Theology.

In theory, for a while, it will be the end of my studies (aside from some more Greek I'll be doing next year) and, in partnership with a question I was asked during a congregational meeting, the process has reminded me about programing.

When I was asked about the curriculum we use in our youth/children's ministry, I mentioned that I've already planned a rough outline for the cycle of the children's and youth ministry (thus I could look up and tell them an outline of what we'll probably do at the start of 2017).

One advantage I have, now that I've been in ministry long enough, is that I have a vast bank of lessons and programs to go back to.

AND, I'll never fall for the programing trap which ensnares a lot of ministers...
Using your current topic of study in the current program.

By this I mean, say you're studying 1 & 2 Samuel in your theological studies, then, simultaneously, you'll also study the same thing at youth group bible study or the church preaching plan.

On face value, it seems like a decent idea.

First, you get to share with those you minister to what you're learning.
And second, you get to cut down in preparation time, since you're going to be delving into the topic anyway.

But, there's a significant danger...

First, until you've finished the topic, you might be shooting in the dark when initially planning the series since you're unfamiliar with the way your topic hangs together. In short, you're without a fully developed big picture.
Second, the reduction of preparation could blow up in your face if you need to cram a confusing week of lectures into a somewhat coherent talk.
And third, you're not far enough ahead of your people in order to adequately address unforseen questions.

So, while it might seem like a wise idea to "preach from the overflow of your studies" the risks aren't worth it.

Give it another semester, it can only help...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Training attitudes

Each year I go to a number of training events and conferences with the standard I use to weigh up their success, usually, being the number of blog posts generated.

But if I'm honest, when I go to many training events, my attitude isn't completely positive and my expectation isn't one brimming with receptivity.

But, having been to two all-day training event this week, I have a renewed marker for conference/training success.

Is my attitude better going out than it was going in?

Because, even if my thinking going into a conference is less than stellar, if the few hours of input has changed my attitude, then the event has done something right...

Monday, December 8, 2014

The inside line of ministry

He's going to ask her out...
She's going to break up with him...
Someone's thinking of leaving the church...
A staff member's going to resign...
Money has gone missing...
An abuse scandal's about it hit...

When you work for a church, sometimes - due to your position, you get the inside line for information, getting advanced warning of an impending problem.

And then a weird chain-of-events takes place...

You're made aware of a problem...
You begin to mentally process the potential fallout...

Then, eventually, you witness the problem drop...
And then you see everyone else go through a similar process to the one you've wrestled with, and potentially resolved, earlier.

The benefit of the inside line is that, in order to support others effectively, the event is not as raw or out-of-the-blue.
And, you have the opportunity to secure resources as you process your own thoughts and feelings.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Choosing to forget generosity

Matthew 6:3-4 - But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

In ministry there's a wonderful thing which you sometimes get to be a part of...
It's nowhere specifically on a job description, but it's a great perk of the job...

Helping people.

No matter if it's helping someone pay bills...
or put food on their table...
or get a job...
or store furniture...
or have time for their struggling spouse...
or a thousand other opportunities church communities can come together to make a difference in the life of another...

Sometimes, this involves a dash of sneakiness.

And at these times you need a dose of "giving amnesia."

You need to, purposely, forget those whom you know have contributed to help others.
Choose to never disclose whom gave you that money filled envelope to "quietly pass on."
Decide to clear your memory of those whom blessed another.

In this way, you get the privilege to quietly see God at work, being one of the few whom sees both the generous right hand and the receptive left hand.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

All moments aren't the same

4 Sunday morning services, preaching and leading...
25 Sunday evening sermons...
45 Sundays leading the evening service...
38 weeks of youth group...
1 Lock in...
38 weeks of Friday afternoon children's activities...
40 weeks of Sunday morning children's activities...
1 annual kid's morning service...
3 Easter services...
1 Christmas Day service...
1 Christmas Eve Family service...
2 Leader's weekends...
140 primary aged school scripture lessons..
30 high school lunchtime groups...
50 high school scripture lessons...
Guest speaking at a regional event...
Speaking at one camp...

My job is full of events and speaking gigs; these are the ones which came off the top of my head.
And every one, of course, isn't identical.

Many are routine.
Others are special.
Some are extra significant.

Whenever I'm speaking about sex or relationships.
Whenever I'm speaking about suffering and sharing about the tough times in my life - like when my Dad died and we had two miscarriages in the space of a year.
Whenever I'm presenting the gospel and asking for a specific response.
Whenever I give the one, and currently only, talk which starts with me singing.
Whenever it's the first or last regular event of the year.
Whenever you're presenting at a special occasion.
Whenever the church is full of visitors, like Christmas and Easter.

On these weightier moments the stress is higher.
You feel the nerves increase.
You do extra prep.
You arrive extra early.

But, you're also even more satisfied, and grateful to God, when they go off as planned.