Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Best of...

With this being my first year out of vocational ministry in over a decade, it shouldn't be a great surprise that the amount of posts on a blog focusing on ministry - especially to youth - have somewhat decreased.

But, from what I did write, my most viewed post was Fun will never win, followed by The Leader's Cringe Poker Face.

Here are the other highlights...

Expanding to Two (my most exciting post for the year)

The Ministry of Silence (something that anyone who used to inhabit the inner sanctum of a church knows that they need to exercise)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Do we up the show for the special services?


All these church services have something in common - an increase in "outsiders" and an increase in effort and execution.

Last night I lead the Christmas Eve family service at my church and there was a good chance that there would be a significant number of guests.

The opportunity got me thinking of these extraordinary services which periodically spring up for those in ministry.

Are they viewed, judged, valued and prepared for differently to the regular services? And, should they be?

Do we value the attendance and opportunity higher for one of these special services?
Do we think those attending would be more or less judgemental or critical?

Are these questions a sign of the dedication those in ministry have to reaching those outside the church or are they signs that they take their usual congregants for granted?

I'd like to say that anyone up the front of a church will place the same value in any ministry, no matter who attends - purely regulars or guest - but I feel that our actions might show that it's the activity which draws in the new faces.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Why you need those who have walked the imperfect path

Perfect leaders don't exist in any church.
They don't exist in any youth ministries.
But we can pretend that there are.

In fact, perfect people don't exist within any area of the church.
Or outside the church either.

If a church or ministry wants to authentically connect with imperfect people, then an incredible resource is imperfect leaders.

So, why do we all-to-quickly reject those with "a past"?

Those who are divorced.
Single mothers.
Those who lived the "prodigal lifestyle."
Former alcoholics or drug users.
Those who've experienced homelessness.

There's many more examples which could be named. 

But, my point is that those with an imperfect past can be powerful tools for the advancement of the gospel.

Because they can connect with those who are doing it tough.
They can genuinely listen with a degree of understanding.
They can speak into difficult issues with authenticity.

I think that young people can use adults, of any age, who can say the following - 
I've gone through something similar...
I remember how that felt...
You can talk with me...
Let me tell you what I did...
I wish someone had given me the following advice...

These phrases have a far deeper impact when said by imperfect leaders.

Better yet, young people have the opportunity to hear - 
God still loves me...
God still accepts me...
God never rejected me...
God still uses me...

In these statement there is both hope presented for the present and the future.

And, these are things which are not only desperately needed today and absent when spoken by those who pretend they aren't imperfect.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Is it good to see the church sausage being made?

Law and sausage are two things you do not want to see being made. No one should see how laws or sausages are made. To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making. The making of laws like the making of sausages, is not a pretty sight.
Otto von Bismarck 

I wonder if church services are like the law.

You want them to be effective.
You want them to be run well.
You want them to be agents of positive change.

But, do you want to really peek behind the curtain?
Do you want to become aware of what's happening behind-the-scenes?

AND, importantly, would it be a positive thing if you saw the church service sausage being created?

Being neck-deep in planning, crafting, executing and reflecting on church services, I've seen both the positive and negative of the processes.

And I've seen people both energised and crushed by the process.

Because it can seem disorganised.
It can seem uninspired.
It can seem boring.
It can be argumentative.

But it can also be amazing to see God work in, through, and even despite of, the planning.
It can be empowering to plot things into the future.

I think those on the fringe of the institution - the young, new believers, fresh believers who have just committed to the church - can both bring powerful ideas to table and be inspiring to witness the religious sausage being made.

I just hope those who are willing to roll up their sleeves get to sit at the table with master sausage-makers.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Would I hire a pair?

I can think of multiple occasions when a couple have taken on a ministry partnership within a church.

Usually this ministry mix is a married couple who do the youth/children's ministry or perform a hybrid senior minister/pastoral care or worship leader mash-up.

While this can work, avoiding the unwritten two-for-one deal which some churches expect (BTW I wrote how much a church should expect a spouse to do at church here), it also comes at quite a risk.

Especially if the couple are "only" dating not married.

The danger?

What happens if they break up?
What happens if the ministry puts a too much of a strain on the relationship?

Of course, a couple formerly in a relationship can remain friends and have a productive working relationship, but... What if they don't?

Who loses the church in the divorce?
How does this vacuum affect a ministry?

Is it worth the risk?

I think it can be, especially in ministry with young people since they need older Christians of both genders - particularly females.

But, the risk remains for those churches which are willing to take the gamble and the pair willing to equally step up to the task...

Monday, December 5, 2016

Untried and untested

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried ... The world is full of these unfulfilled ideas, these uncompleted temples. History doesn't consist of crumbling ruins. Rather, it consists of half-built villas abandoned by a bankrupt builder. This world is more like an unfinished suburb than a deserted cemetery." (G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong With the World?, chapter 6)

I don't often put "profound" quotes on here, especially from things I've been reading because a) I think it's a bit wanky and, b) all too often the quotes are taken out of context.

But, I was struck by the quote above - cited by John Dickson on his Facebook page - since it, as John pointed out, speaks loudly to the all-too-common attitude of post-modernity.

We don't try.

Not really.

Not with jobs.
Not with dreams.
Not with church.
Not with faith.

We also don't test.

At least not long enough to reach an informed conclusion.

We give it a half-assed attempt, see that it doesn't instantly cure all our ills or deliver on all it's promises, and then move on to the next new thing.

Someone on the Facebook theme pointed out that this is used apologetically.

While I think this might somewhat fit, I, frankly, don't think that it's identified as a reason for faith's decline.

In order for that to happen, you'd have to be able to stop yourself, consider the culture around you, and have the guts to identify it out loud.

And... most don't have time for that...