Thursday, June 15, 2017

How do you handle small group mutes?

It's every small group/bible study leaders nightmare.

No. One. Talks.

Under numerous circumstances, your group can become a pack of mutes - 
A group of year 7 boys who haven't developed the ability/vocabulary to share more than a grunt or fart jokes...
A group of year 9 girls who are in the middle of the latest "crisis" in their "social group"...
A newly formed bible study group...
A bunch of introverts...
Perhaps your usually talkative group have all had a hard week at work/a stressful week at uni/a tough week at school...

When this happens, what do you do? 

To some extent, this quietness may just be a characteristic of some groups and is nothing to be really concerned about.

For some members of a group, they will be fully engaged/thinking internally, yet outwardly quiet. This might have to be something which you'll just have to deal with.

In some cases, it may be a result of group dynamics, where primarily the extroverts talk, or at least get their responses/opinions in first.

No matter what the cause, what do you do if you're the poor soul trying to direct the group of mono-syllabic members?

First, you can just make sure they write down their answer, aware if it will be shared or remain private.

Second, you could give the group notice that you're going to give them all 30 seconds to think about their answer before you want them to reply. This may give the introverts a chance to get a word in.

Third, you could have the members pair off and either share their collective answers or the best part of the response from the other person.

Fourth, you could ask what they would add to the answer they heard in a small group.

Fifth, with or without advanced notice, you could call on people by name to give input. This is dangerous if the group is always quiet, but effective if it's an unusually quiet week for a group of regular chatterboxes.

Sixth, you could ask the members to give responses that they think those they know might give, like their friend or family. This gives the additional advantage that they can share their own answer, but under the guise that it's from "someone else."

Monday, June 12, 2017

My gay-and-in-ministry questions?

DISCLAIMER: I'm not gay. And I'm no longer in vocational ministry.

I wonder, for those who are gay, or... if you view sexuality as fluid... become/come out as gay during their ministry tenure, how does the situation work?

I'll admit, a large slice of the answer depends on your denominations stance on homosexuality and/or gay marriage. But, if your church is, at least, open to the possibility of gay ministry agents, how is the situation handled?

Do you volunteer the information during your initial interview?
Do you tell someone when they offer you the position?
Do you only mention your sexual preference to the senior minister?
Is the information open to only those in leadership positions such as fellow staff members or the church council?
If you're in a youth ministry context, do you tell your leadership team? 
If so, when do you tell new recruits?

Is the equation changed if you're in a relationship?
Do you mention your partner up the front of church, or if you do, are they gender neutral?

What happens if your relationship progresses towards, if your civil laws allow, marriage?
With your relationship inevitably becoming public, if not already, are you forced to announce your status? 
Is the engagement announcement to your partner considered too late for some? 
Do you even announce the engagement before the church like many heterosexual couples would?

What happens if someone comes out/begins to identify as gay whilst in a ministry placement?
Do they need to announce it?
Again, if so, who does it need to be told to and when?

I imagine these, and many, many, other questions restrict a lot of gay Christians from entering ministry.

As a heterosexual, these are questions which I don't even need to, really, wrestle with.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Ministry of being the thermometer

Excited.
Engaged.
Bored.
Spaced out.

Anyone who's at the front of a group, no matter what context, if they want to serve those they are communicating with well, must be a good thermometer.

Every speaker, presenter, host, chairperson & MC must be able to gauge the mood of the room and, if need be, change things up in order to keep connected with their audience.

This is a must when dealing with children and youth.
This is essential when leading a bible study.
This is vital when preaching.
This would serve your people tremendously well during a church service.

Every leader needs to hone their antenna of room discernment, or employ someone else who'll give them a helpful nudge, or their level of engagement/buy-in from the group will always be reduced.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

What the trigger apology shows

I can't imagine what it's like to struggle with an issue so much, or have something so traumatic in your past, that you can be adversely affected by what you might read or see.

Of course, as a society we're now far more aware about these dangers and, wisely and sensitively, give trigger warnings if something is going to delve into a potentially traumatic topic.

The worst thing that can happen, and something that's annoyed me multiple times already during my fresh university studies, is when there's a trigger apology.

This is when, after encountering a potentially traumatic topic, the person speaking apologizes if this has bothered someone listening.

The reason this troubles me is that it shows an awareness of the topic of triggers and, all too often, is nonchalantly brushed off.

Quite frankly, it's not good enough.

Anyone who is speaking in front of a group of people should know if their content might be disturbing to some.

To give a trigger apology shows that you knew, but probably didn't care enough about your audience to give them an appropriate warning of what was coming.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The perfect-churchgoer killer

With university cranking up and my general absence from vocational ministry, my creative ecclesiastical juices now tend to go to my three-times-per-week Facebook devotional, Tiny Bible Bits, instead of here (if you're not following it on Facebook then you should check it out).

Yesterday I posted something which I thought was pretty good.

1 Corinthians 1:8 - We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.

We smile at church. A lot.
Sometimes these smiles are fake.


When asked how our week was we reply that it was good.
No matter how bad our week has been.


Churchgoers have a habit of donning their everything-is-fine mask when they enter a church service.
Even if they are in pain...
Even if they feel heartbroken...
Even if their family has been fighting all morning...
Even if they feel like their life is falling apart...


Paul doesn't do this.
Paul shares his troubles with the church in Corinth.


Do you do the same?
Do you share your problems, or pretend that everything's always perfect?
Would you rather others remain uninformed about your sufferings?


Although it's not easy, it's only through sharing our struggles that we can be appropriately supported and begin to tear down the illusion that everyone at church has it all together.