Wednesday, December 26, 2018

How teaching is like tossing mud

Parents
Teachers 
Ministers

Usually, the most important lessons they pass on are taught in the same way.

It’s not in the form of a swashbuckling speech.
It’s not via a powerful diatribe.
It’s not from a standout moment.

It’s slowly.
It’s over time. 
Lessons are more caught than taught.
Values are like throwing mud at a wall.

What I mean by the last sentence is simple...
If you throw mud at a wall, most will drop off. 
But not quite all.
Some will stick.

Over time, if you throw enough mud at a wall, the wall will eventually become covered.

This is how we learn our principals and values - mud-at-a-wall-style.

We parent over incalculable small talks.
We teach over hundreds of lessons.
We pass on theology through faithful preaching.
We impress values upon students in youth ministry over years of consistent example.

These are the markers of effective teaching and ministry.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Guidelines for talking with friends dealing with cancer

Someone who I’m friends with on Facebook who has a lot of experience with this posted the following. As someone who has a husband dealing with cancer, it’s on point.

Guidelines for talking with friends dealing with cancer...

My list

1. Be prepared to listen to the detailed news and ask questions if you dont understand - this may be the person’s way of trying to understand themselves what is going on - by saying it out loud to you.

2. Change the scenery - if you can get out and go to a cafe Or go for a walk - do... if not, put on some nice music in the background - use your phone if necessary and get a nice flower - one will do... make your time for conversation pleasant. (Hospitals generally unintentionally suck)

3. Ask specifically... Can I get you something from the shop/pick up something from the pharmacy/fetch a glass of water? (Note - most people will not ask you to pay or anything, because they will be embarrassed, but remember that serious illness also hits the wallet hard... so they might not ask for something because they can no longer afford it)

4. Share a joke... dad jokes are great. Anything to bring on a smile.

5. Have a couple of photos to share... it is like an adventure for someone who is bed or housebound

6. Questions that show real interest include: what do you find most helpful?/ frustrating? / surprising? What do you miss most?

7. If they are sporty or musical, watch a game or a concert together... or a film

8. Understand if they are too tired to talk... sometimes they may just want to listen to you, sometimes they may want to sleep, sometimes the may need you tho stay, sometimes they may like you to just sit there

9. Remember the next-of-kin is going through this too. Just be nice. What they may need from you is simply half an hour Respite so they can get a coffee without feeling guilty... alternately they may be starved for company and conversation too

10. Deal with your grief and seek help elsewhere... don’t lay it on the person with cancer or their next of kin... go see the Chaplain. Have clean tissues in your pocket.

And finally - don’t just say you will pray... have a go... here is one for taking with you...

(To whoever you pray to... in my case, God)
Thanks for my friend....(name)
This sucks, but I ask for (name) to receive excellent care.
 I pray for relief from pain, frustration and symptoms. I pray for wisdom for those who are treating him/her.
I pray for the right support to appear when needed.
And, may our friendship be as true in the tough times as it has in the good ones. Amen.

Practice praying... we find it very helpful.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Seekers and Searchers

A long time ago I wrote about those who were done with church as a group who would be increasingly reached, alongside those who’ve had little or no previous experience of church.

But over the last week I stumbled over two better classifications for those who may walk into your church service for the first time.

Seekers and Searchers.

At the core, the difference is the intention of the visitor to a church or ministry.

Do they know what they are looking for?

If they are a seeker then they won’t know exactly what they are looking for.
A searcher, on the other hand, will know what they are after in a church or ministry.

Chances are, this later category will be influenced by a previous experience of church and, thus, know what they are after - either proactively or reactively.

They may be searching for a place to serve, where no opportunity existed at their prior church.
They may be searching for a place of greater acceptance or a network more in step with their stage of life.

No matter, the searcher will have a checklist which, at least in part, will be held up against their experience.

The challenge for the visited church is to be authentic enough that they will get a genuine experience of your church, presenting an accurate representation of your culture in order to provide the info they require.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The question which unlocks a young adults future

Want to know what’s drives a young adult?
Want to get an insight into the way they respond?
Want to understand what will motivate them?

Ask what frustrates them.
Ask what change they want to see happen.

This will expose their hopes.
This will expose their purpose.
This will expose their dreams.

These are the answers that those in ministry want to tap into and utilise, seeing how God is, has been and will be at work.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Hearing a problem should mean that you pray FOR the problem

Thank God that hasn’t happened/isn’t happening to me...

I’ll confess, this has been my prayer. Far too often

After hearing about a problem my mind can wander, selfishly, towards myself.

Instead of praying ABOUT a problem, and FOR the other person, I can pray about my relation to the situation.

I can pray gratefully that I’m not going through a similar situation or have been spared that difficulty.

Yes, it’s selfish.

An important mindset shift is a determination to keep prayer about others.

We should fight to keep our prayers other-person-centred. And, against our sinful nature, it can be a true battle.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Why every youth minister should hear a former kid’s testimony

Over the last few weeks my bible study has been doing a tremendous activity - taking it in turns to share their testimony.

Sure, it’s not groundbreaking, but it has been really good to both share and hear each other’s stories.

My story took over an hour.

One of the most rewarding things has been to hear the testimony of those who had previously been involved in my youth ministry.

It was odd to hear the story from someone on the inside - warts and all.

It was an experience which everyone in ministry should go through.

You’ll discover that what you did had some affect.
You’ll hear about lessons which you taught.
You’ll praise God for the successes you played a part in.
You’ll be astonished by the advice heard and pondered.

But, you’ll also find out that you’re only a small part of their story.
You’ll be disappointed at the flaws which were noticed.
You’ll, frankly, think that you owe the person an apology.

No matter how the story plays out, hearing the testimony of a former youth gruop kid is an illuminating experience.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The answer to your next mission location is closer than you think

I just wrote that my Facebook feed is constantly clogged with requests for assistance from youth ministers.

One request which drives me up the wall has to do with potential mission locations.

Now, I’ll admit that my context in Australia is different from that in North America. Missions are a religious rite of passage in the US, in Australia they needn’t be.

Nonetheless, I get annoyed when I see people requesting locations for taking their youth group away. Especially if they are large groups.

A little while ago someone asked for suggestions for his group of a hundred.

Ugh?!?

How many places could sustain a group that large?

A vastly better option would surely be your own community.
You should seek to serve there. Especially if you’re struggling for far-flung optoins!

Supporting chaplains in hospitals or prisions.
Homeless shelters.
Women’s shelters.
Food stations for the poor.
Cleaning up your local area.
Doing restoration to a downtrodden part of town.

There are 100’s of options for “mission” in your own community.

Surely, if you can’t find “mission” within your own context then you may want to consider what messages you’re sending to your youth about where and how they can serve God.

A vastly superior lesson would be to help them identify areas of need locally and empower them to serve in the next suburb, not only hours away.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Why Facebook makes me think that youth ministers are lazy and unoriginal

I’ll admit, I’ve been a bad blogger. A good student, with my last month throughly absorbed by university assignments and then exams, but a bad blogger.

Now, with my subject load increased by a third over the last semester, I’m in the sweet week of holidays I’ve got before my next subject launches. With this window of opportunity, I’m back on the blogging bandwagon.

Even though I’m no longer in vocational ministry, Facebook seems unaware since my feed is constantly filled with updates about youth ministry and church matters.

One thing which annoys me is one particular youth ministry page which gets constantly clogged with the same kind of requests - bible studies, game ideas, sermon series promos, sermon shortcuts, design inspiration.

I get peeved because, aside from being repetitive, it feeds a damaging youth minister stereotype.

Lazy and unoriginal.

Youth ministers are just efficient searchers for resources.
They know all the good game websites.
They know where to find free sermons and kids talks.
They know where illustrations lurk on the Web.
They know which designs they can reuse, or worse, don’t care about ripping off someone else’s cool backdrops.

If you’re part time, I’ll be prepared to cut you some slack.

But, really, requests that ask for a “bible study about the Old Testament” are not good enough.

Surely you have done one in the past.
Surely you could write something yourself.
Surely you have better networks then a Facebook group.
Surely you can find inspiration yourself.

But, I suspect, that the internet has helped make ministers both inferior and lazy.

They don’t think that anything they’ll create is up to scratch.
Thus, they’re hesitant to put in the time and effort to craft something themselves.

So, my Facebook feed will continue to be clogged with frustrating requests and the stereotype of lazy and unoriginal will remain strong.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Why the minister lets their eyes glaze over

Everyone in ministry is guilty of this...

Every.
Single.
One.

What?

Nodding and trying to follow a string of technical jargon shared with them by an enthusiastic volunteer.

It comes in various forms, and is dependant upon gaps in the ministers knowledge, but it’s unmissable if you observe it from the outside.

Personally, it most often happened with musicians or sound/technology officinardos.

Often, they would be trying to help. The expert would be explaining how they fixed the buzzing sound, which I probably barely noticed, or going in depth about the improvements they made or the superiority of one kind of cable over another.

No matter how we arrived at the destination, I would be lost.

Hopefully it wouldn’t show.

Herein lies the secret in negotiating the jagon-expert.

Silence.
Smiling.
Nodding.
Googling.
Surface learning.

Why would you bother?

Because, even if you’re lost in the technicalities, you should honour those who serve. Without them the church stops. Furthermore, you should be thankful that others have knowledge and abilities (and the willingness to use them!) which you don’t posses. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Theologically infectious footprints

We all have a theological footprint and we have the power to imprint ours upon others.

You teach and, arguably more importantly, show those around you your understand about God, Jesus and faith.

Family.
Friends.
Workmates.
Associates.

Anyone who is aware that you are a Christian can, and will, examine your theological footprint.

This is even more true for those in ministry.
Now, your footprint is infectious.

To those in your bible study.
To those in the youth group.
To those you teach scripture to.
To those who hear you preach.

But, this transference is amplified again for those in Christian leadership.

Those on church councils and decision making bodies.
Those teaching in bible collages.

For, more often than not, theology trickles down from the head.
Good theology can infuse across entire denominations.
Poor theology will inject a toxin which will be increasingly difficult to diagnose and remove.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Contagions within the classroom and church

Within the classroom emotion is contagious. 

If the teacher is excited, then they will display enthusiasm, which is then observed by the students, which then increases their enjoyment, thus raising their engagement, which is observed by the teacher, which then increases their level of excitement...

Alternatively...

If a teacher is unenthusiastic, then they will be sluggish in their lessons, which will be observed by students, which will decrease their enjoyment, creating disengagement, which is observed by the teacher, lowering their enthusiasm for teaching the class...

This equation is true both within the classroom and the church.

Just as enthusiasm is contagious at school, spiritual fevor is caught by the congregation.

Just as boredom infiltrates all within the class, spiritual lethargy spreads throughout a church.

When I think of many ministers, I wonder how many realise the contagion they are able to spread by their very presence and enjoyment in what they are doing.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Doing less means you value more

100 church services attended down to 40.
40 bible studies lead down to 4.
10 funerals attended down to 0.
35 sermons down to 0.
100 scripture lessons down to 0.
40 weeks of youth group and kids club down to 0.

This is how my annual ministry schedule has changed since 2016.

Over the last few years the biggest change has been the following... now I get to choose.

I now choose if I go to church.
I now choose if I volunteer to lead a bible study.
I’m now free to decide how free I am to invest in something new.

Before, I didn’t get a choice.

As much as I enjoyed my job, a lot of what I did was mandatory.

This is the difference between vocational ministry and volunteers - choice.

This has done two things in my mind.

First, it has increased my appreciation for anyone who volunteers in a ministry. I never truely understood the commitment and cost to vulunteers. 

Second, I’m more selective in what I choose to do. When in ministry I would leap at every chance to get involved and snatch at any new ministry avenue. Now, I’m able to be far more discerning. Again, this has increased my appreciation for those who discerningly choose to get involved.

Truthfully, I suspect I would never have reached this place if I stayed in the bubble of paid ministry...

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

5500 words which have made me more sympathetic to my leaders more

I’m currently doing a education/ancient history double degree, having upped my workload to three subjects this semester. As a consequence I’ve been dreading the number 5500. That’s how many words I’ve had to write across two assignments over the last five days.

Over the last two weeks I haven’t done a single church related activity.
No church services.
Not attending bible study.

My life has felt like nothing but reasearch, stressing, planning and writing for the past fortnight.

I even had to take a day off work.

Over the last fortnight I’ve become the very thing I used to hate - A flakey university student.

I used to hate it whenever my youth group leaders would skip events due to pressing university assignments.

I thought they were just unorganised and flakey.

Now I would be that leader.

And, if I was still in ministry, I would be vastly more sympathetic.

When I did my theology degree, I coasted through.
No worries.
Little stress.
Barely an insignificance.

Now, I’m neck-deep in assignments and have a far greater appreciation for university students.

Maybe every youth minister should undergo a stressful season of assignments and exams in order to know, or remember, what their leaders are going through.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Bringing more than you intend

The disciples were, often, slow in understanding what Jesus was teaching about. This is especially true for the parables Jesus told.

Aside from the genre requiring a discerning ear, the simple stories reveal a deeper meaning surrounding the character of God and His Kingdom.

But when it comes to the teachings of Jesus, we need to be aware of what we bring to the table.

Our theology.
Our experiences.
Our expectations.
Our language.
Our doubts.

All these play a role in the way we interact with the bible, including the parables.

We need to be aware of the baggage we bring to the bible.

These will taint the way we read and how we interact with the words.
These will affect what we take away.
These will colour the level we are willing to obey.
These will raise up questions which the bible may not by seeking to answer.

Our challenge is to try and leave our baggage aside from the biblical text and let it speak for itself, just as the audience who listened to Jesus needed to do.

Friday, September 28, 2018

If you don’t offer this service then you’re clearly saying that you don’t want families to attend your meeting

Childcare.

I could wrap this post up now and my point would be made.

No matter what it is about, if a church doesn’t offer some form of child minding then they are sending the message that those with small children don’t want to be heard.

Why?

Because, the reality is, the majority of families will not attend otherwise.

For a demographic which is so highly desired by churches, to make important decisions without their input is foolishness.

No childcare shows them that they are not valued.
No childcare strips families of their voice.
No childcare alienates them from contributing.
No childcare stops them from feeling truely included.

If you wonder why churches seem to be guided by those in retirement age, it might be because they don’t put in systems for families to effectively be involved.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The awkward preaching of Naked Boy

For years, at my home church, there was a picture of an apparent nude teen going down a waterslide. Unfortunately, this was labelled Naked Boy.

I was Naked Boy.

Years later I worked at my home church; Naked Boy was their youth minister.

By that time, the picture had long since disappeared, so few people knew what Naked Boy was, never mind that it was me.

Nonetheless, some knew.

And I wonder if they remembered Naked Boy whenever I did something at church.

Naked Boy was leading an activity.
Naked Boy was giving a report to church council.
Naked Boy was saying a prayer.
Naked Boy was preaching about Jesus.

This is the danger of leading at your home church.

You have a history.
You have baggage.

While having a history of growing and developing within a place buys you valuable grace and an allowance to make mistakes, it is a double edged sword.

A similar thing exists then it comes to being a witness before you’re family or longtime friends.

You have a history.
You have baggage.

They know more of your dirty secrets.
They saw you as a tantrum-throwing child.
They remember the things you deeply regret.
They have heard the hurtful things you have said.

But, while this baggage can inhibit your witness to a degree, it can also work in your favour.

Those closest to you should be able to see your changed life better than anyone.
Those closest to you can see for themselves, in light of your baggage, that God can use those who are far from perfect.

This was the opportunity before Naked Boy at his home church.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The importance of saying that you’ll go first

Instruct.
Think.
Tell. 
Consider.
Contribute.

Above is the order which enable bible study responses to work most effectively. 

The secret is in the middle of this list. Once you’re given instructions to a group, you should insert the phrase which can ease a lot of anxiousness from the room.

I’ll go first.

If you tell a group, especially if you’re inviting them to create something or share something about themselves, informing them that you’ll go first can relieve a lot of the pressure of going first.

Furthermore, if you then give the group a moment to consider your response before they contribute, then it can help them be comfortable that they’ve accurately answered what you’re asking.

Doing this simple task...
Allows you to share as a member of the group, not just a facilitator, clears up confusion over what you’re asking of them and removes fear that their response will be totally off track.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Why breaking habitual sin is so hard

A few days ago I heard someone make a really good point about changing long-term behaviour and why it is so difficult.

They drew the analogy that our actions create paths - grooves if you will - which, over time, become progressively easier to follow amd more difficult to steer out of.

This is certainly true for sin.

We fall into familiar patterns.
We stumble in the same ways.
We surcome to the same temptations.

Why?

Because we’ve created a deep groove for that sin and we fall back into the familiar tracks.

The difficulty we find is choosing a different path. Luckily, we don’t fight, even the most familiar, allure of sin alone, but with the help of the Spirit of God. This is what keeps us on the track of holiness and faithfulness.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

We all have Something

Now that I’m not in vocational ministry I don’t read anywhere near as many articles about church and church culture as I used to. The articles from various blogs still appear in my newsfeed, and a few days ago, this one jumped out at me.

It reminded me of an illustration I did with a lot of the young adults at my last church and resonates with me far deeper now.

Now, I’ve got a big something.

I’m divorced.

That is my thing.
That is the thing which I should keep hidden from others in church.

And, as the article mentioned, everybody has a thing.

It might be something in their past...
It might be something they are entwined in today...
It might be something they fear will spring up unexpectantly in the future...

An active porn addiction.
Regular drunkenness.
An abortion.
Sleeping with their partner.
Having depression.
Being on anxiety medication,
Having a miscarriage.
They are a victim on domestic violence.
Being abused as a child.
Taking drugs.
Engaging in casual sex.
Being deeply unsatisfied with their career.

While you might think these are extreme examples, they are the reality for a lot of people.

This is their something.

And they feel like they can’t share about it to anyone. 
Especially those in church.

We need to remember, no matter how good we might look on the outside, a haunting something might be lying under the surface.

Something they are ashamed of.
Something they struggle with.
Something they want to remain hidden.

The church should be a place where your “something” is welcome because God doesn’t reject you because of your “something” and can even redeem your “something” in order to reach others.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Prayer points you don’t celebrate

I’ve decided to give up looking at porn!
We’ve decided to stop sleeping together!
I’ve made the choice to abandon my emotional affair!

These are just a sampling of the significant prayer points which we don’t, and in many cases can’t, share in public.

But, these are points which we should celebrate.

These are significant steps in discipleship.
For new believers, these are important steps in sanctification.

Yet, we could never speak them aloud.

So, largely, they go uncelebrated.
And, unfortunately, those taking the significant steps of faith do so unsupported.

Do I have an answer?

Not really.

But, I suspect, that the solution may lie in small groups which cultivate authentic relationships.

The challenge is to find a way to develop these groups...


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

You need to hear that you were annoying as well

“You were exactly the same at their age”

This message is majorly important for my six year old because she has a sister going through the terrible two’s.

This involves tantrums.
This involves occasionally throwing things.
This involves the unwillingness to share.

And, this greatly annoys Little Miss 6.

The message she often hears is, when she was younger, that she was exactly the same at her age.

This is why we don’t get as frustrated or surprised as her.

We have seen it before.
We have heard it before.

I think this message is also significant in youth ministry.

For those who have been around long enough to see a generation of teens grow into their fledging youth leaders, it’s important to remind these young leaders of the times when the modern teens emulate their previous generation.

They were just as annoying.
They were just as loud.
They were just as frustrating.
They were just as smelly.

And, vitally, they had leaders who had to show grace. And patience. And forgiveness. And perseverance.

These are a few of the reasons why they felt so welcome, accepted and cared for.

Now it is the young leaders turn to do the same.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The ministry of repeating yourself

Jesus must have been quite frustrated because, frankly, the disciples were, at times, were very dull.

There must have been lots of occasions when Jesus was explaining something and His followers just didn’t understand.

They missed the point. Often.

In many ways they were like teenagers.

Impulsive.
Enthusiastic.
Confused.

For those in ministry, there is a grace and patience in the ministry of lovingly repeating yourself.

I’m sure this is what Jesus did.

He repeated Himself.
He explained things again.
He, once again, started from the top.

In a growing community of broken people reminders will be nessesary.

They will need to hear the gospel, for the first time or as an encouragement, often.
They will need to hear the message of hope.
They will need to hear the words of grace.
They will need to hear the declaration of forgivenness.

An important role for those in ministry is to be willing to repeat yourself.

Again...
And again...
And again...

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Why I’m learning German

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. 

Over the last month I’ve been travelling around Southern Germany with my fiancĂ©, which may be news if you don’t know me personally, and launching into an expanded university workload.

Leading up to my European holiday, I had an important challenge - Learn German.

Now, I’m not a keen linguist, with the only language I’ve been forced to study over the last 15 years being Biblical Greek. But, ease was not my motivation.

Why did I do it? 
Because I was going to Germany (duh), newly engaged to a German and meeting her family who are German.

These were my motivations.

To honour her family.
To honour her culture.
To open ways to connect and understand.
To share an important thing with my fiancé.

It reminds me of the things that those in ministry will do in order to connect with members of their congregation.

They will dabble in gaming.
Or try out for the musical.
Or do a crash course in the newest social media craze.
Or read up about the university subjects of their young adults.

In ministry you dip your toe into a lot of subjects, behind-the-scenes, in order to have easier avenues of connection with those you minister to.

But the aim is not to become an expert in their hobby.
I certainly didn’t leave Australia fluent in German.

But this effort shows they those around you, be it within the home, work or church are important.

Monday, July 16, 2018

We shouldn’t just major on conversion or discipleship

Converts.
Disciples.

Jesus invites His church to make both.

But, these are not the same thing and they are not done the same way.

Conversion, in a Christian sense, is about actually becoming a Christian. It is about giving control of your life to Jesus, taking the mantle of authority off your own head.

Discipleship, on the other hand, is the seeking to live your life the way Jesus showed and taught.

One is an event.
The other is a process.

One has a date.
The other is day-by-day.

One is a 180 degree turn from the direction your life is going.
The other is an ongoing journey in the same direction.

In general, churches will focus stronger on conversion or discipleship and, thus, do one more effectively than the other.

Churches will either stress gospel presentations and alter calls or bible study membership and authentic fellowship.

The irony is, we need to do both well.

If we just push conversion then, eventually, any converts we produce will feel unconnected, unsupported and move elsewhere.

Equally, if we major on discipleship, then our churches will be in danger of becoming stagnant cliques.

To be a healthy, growing, Christian community, we need to do both, or else our churches will be in danger of becoming a nursery or a retirement home.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Why picking a scene should be asked more in church

Thinking of a personal example can be challenging. Especially at short notice.

Sharing a way you might apply a biblical concept can be tough. Especially if it is a sensitive or convicting area.

Yet, these are common questions posed during most bible studies and sermons.

What if, at least at times, we engaged people in a slightly less personal, and thus less threatening, way?

One novel way might be, particularly when introducing a topic, to invite people to try and think of a scene or character in a movie or tv show who would apply to the topic.

This might allow introverts a less challenging way to engage and contribute.

But, there should be one rule for anyone wanting to invite media engagement - you need to have one example you can think of, preferably two.

Why?

Because if you can’t think of two examples, then the question might be too difficult to answer.

Furthermore, with a few responses, you can give an example to show them what you’re inviting them to think of, and then have another answer when sharing begins.

Since we live in a society so entrenched in our consumption of media, it’s a good idea to actively seek engagement with these narratives to show how biblical principals can be applied.

At worst, it might stretch those within our churches to engage with the things which they watch deeper and through the lens of scripture.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

How important are you showing that your small groups are?

One of the secrets for effective discipleship, not to mention church member engagement and retention, is a group of believers who meet regularly to study the bible, pray, share life with and hold each other accountable. While these things happen on a Sunday, the best place for them to occur are within a smaller setting.

Ministers know this.
Churches know this.
Larger churches depend on this.

Yet, you’d never know it from the way many churches behave.

They don’t push the importance of small groups.
They don’t explain the significance to new believers.
They don’t show their importance by publishing when and where they are.
They don’t provide space in their services to advertise them.
They don’t share what is happening within their small groups.
They rarely have someone dedicated to oversee them.

So, the message sent is, they are a luxurious extra which don’t really matter.

If we measure the importance of something by the way they are publicised or the amount of time they are given up the front on a Sunday, then it could be argued that many churches value their rosters or the protocol required to send in a notice more than their small groups.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Why I haven’t watched a single espisode of 13 Reasons Why but every youth minister should

I’ve never watched an episode of 13 Reasons Why. I don’t have to anymore.

Over the last few days I haven’t had to frantically try to find out if someone within my ministry has a connection to two teens killed by their father in the neighbouring suburb. Now there’s no need.

I no longer feel the need to keep up to date about wider church or Christian controversies.

Since leaving ministry a few years ago, things have changed. I now don’t need to have my finger on the pulse of youth trends, especially of disturbing ones, or be concerned with the way global or local incidents might effect people within my church or ministry.

As my vocation has changed a lot of ministry induced quirks have fallen away.

I wonder how many people going into relational ministry have these mindsets and if a church would evaluate this when looking to hire someone.

Personally, if I was looking to hire a minister, a question I pose would be connected with a rising influence within their ministry scope, a local event or Christian talking point - like the Royal Commission into institutional sexual abuse, and hear what opinion they have and how it might apply to their ministry context.

I think it’s these qualities, as much as any, which help shape a quality ministry agent.

They know.
They care.
The research.
They read.
The keep up to date.

The reason?

You don’t want to be caught off guard or thrown about by a punch you don’t see coming.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The powerful message of pronounciation



Earlier this week I wrote the following about the above video on Tiny Bible Bits...

John 10:3 - The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 
The video below is from the broardcasters of the World Cup and has been making its way around social media in Australia.
In short it is about the importance of names, the significance of correct pronunciation and the effort required to get it right.
The hosts acknowledge, in a multicultural society, the honour that is shown when you ensure that you pronounce someone’s name correctly. 
Why? Because our names, and the people behind them, matter.
Jesus tells us that The Father knows your name.
He is familiar with it.
He calls it out.
Because the Good Shepherd not only knows the name of His sheep, but each member of His flock personally.

As someone who worked in a very multicultural denomination who’s churches regularly house multiple congregations spanning two cultural groups, I’ve seen a few people apply the message of this video to ministry.

The importance we put in learning and using someone’s name matters because it displays the importance they have, to us personally, within the church and as someone made in God’s image.

For our efforts to correctly pronounce a name sends a message - you matter.

This is true within the church.
This is true within the classroom.
This is true within sport.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Making space for #SpiritualParentingWins

Over the weekend something very exciting happened.
For the first time I heard my eldest child really pray.

Not in church...
Not with prompting...
Not with a suggested script or structure...

But it wasn’t over something massive like world peace.

Instead, it was over her fish being safely transferred from the container they were being kept in back to their newly cleansed fish tank.

Honestly, it took me by surprise and took a few seconds to work out what was going on.

But it was incredible.

I wish I could tell... everyone.
But, in general, churches don’t really give space to celebrate these kinds of spiritual parenting wins.

Which is a massive shame.

Churches should be the very place that we enter and comfortably share the spiritual milestones of our kids.

Yet, all too often, it’s not.

Churches don’t invite parents to share where God has been evident amongst their family.
Churches don’t share stories of spiritual parenting wins.
Churches don’t alert parents to opportunities of faith development and exploration.

When I was in ministry, I didn’t.

Which was a disservice to the families in those churches.
And a disservice to their kids.
And a massive missed opportunity for the congregation.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The two things needed to keep church interesting if you know-a-lot

Over the last few weeks I’ve been neck-deep in university assignments and exams. But, now, the studious fog has cleared I’m free to Ramble away.

At the church I attend with my kids, there’s a well-known Christian writer, speakers and thologian.
Over my ministry career, I’ve worked at churches which have contained former ministers, denominational heads and experienced ministry veterans.

I’ve wondered if those who have a rich experience in ministry and, seemingly, know “a lot” within church circles, have a harder time within church services.

Every so often I get bored, critical, or distracted in church because I’m overly familiar with a passage or concept going on before me at church.

So, how do those with a rich ministry behind them handle church?

Some, I’ve seen, struggle.

They are also critical.
They like to talk about the things they did “back in the day.”

I think that secret for those who know a lot is humility and expectation.

No matter who is leading the service or delivering the sermon, an experienced minister must be humble enough to realise they don’t know everything, thus want to learn more, and expectant that they will encounter God within the words they will hear, even if they are quite familiar.

These, I suspect, are the attitudes which keep church engaging for former ministers, just as much as older congregants who have heard decades of sermons.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Your first response is vital

Since stepping down from vocatoinal ministry I’ve dipped my toe into a few activities at various churches as a volunteer.

It was a process I haven’t really negotiated in over a decade.

I had to discern my willingness, volunteer my interest to get involved, discover what was required and then do the activity for the first time.

One thing I was reminded of was a vital step for those in ministry - the response to someone doing something for the first time.

The reason this is so important is because your response can, and often will, deeply affect the likelihood that someone will volunteer a second time.

Your response, in short, can either encourage or burn the volunteer.

This is the power those in leadership wield and the vulnerability new volunteers open themselves up to.

If nothing else, an appreciation of this power dynamic would deeply strengthen the health of current, novice and potential volunteers.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The only constant answer to the 'What if...?' question

What if...
What if I did x instead of y?
What if I'd listened to x?
What if things turned out differently?

We all have these questions.
Everyone.

About a lot of things.
Things in the near and distant past.

The nature of life and the curiosity of humanity leaves us bound to these hypotheticals.

So, what do you do with 'what if' questions?
Ignore them?
Entertain them?
Dwell on them?

No matter if they revolve around family, relationships, friendships or vocation these 'what if' questions will always leave us dangling.

Because we can never know.
We don't hold enough info.
We can't see how things would play out.

Furthermore, our imaginations either drag us into the extremes of an overly rosy outcome or the precipice of ruin.

When it comes to one of the areas I ask this question the most, my previous churches, I have a simple rule...
Assume, no matter what happens, that God will work in whatever context created.

And it would be unpredictable.

If I were involved or not.

For, that is the nature of the goodness and faithfulness of God.
He works in ways we don't expect.
The Spirit moves in ways we don't always expect.

But, God is always to work.

No matter where in the 'what if' scenario we find ourselves.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Are numerical prayers dangerous?

Dear God, we pray for (insert number) to show up tonight...
Dear God, we pray to grow by (insert number) over the next year...

Should you pray humerical prayers?
Are they healthy?

Frankly, I don't know the answer.
But I think the question should be asked.

For everyone attached to a ministry or event, paid or unpaid, has uttered these prayers in desperation.

And, sometimes, they seemingly pay off.
At other times they don't.

I've been involved in ministries which have both grown and shrunk.
I've been involved in events when vastly more people have turned up than we've expected and an event where only one kid attended. 

Just one.

In a sign of weakness, these types of prayers make me nervous because they are specific enough for a definite success or failure.
With a numerical prayer, either you hit or exceede your number or you don't.

But I think something more alarming can be displayed by a numerical prayer - the heart of the person praying.

Why do they want "that" number?

Do they want to look successful?
Do they need to reach a threshold to be financially viable?
Have they been given a numerical ultimatum to reach in order to be vocationally secure?

Or, do they want "that" number because each one represents an individual who needs Jesus?

I ask the last question because, if that's the genuine aim, then why does reaching "that" number matter?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Assessment evangelistic windows

It's fairly well known that the most effective window for evangelism are the teenage years. 

But, I feel, for similar reasons, that there are two other windows for efficacious faith-development.

New parents and the elderly.

The reason these three life stages are more fruitful for evangelism have to do with the common threads of self assessment and a realigning of self identification.

As a teen you're establishing and testing your place in society. 
As a new parent, everything in your life is reordered with the new arrival.
As you enter your later years, ceasing work or losing your spouse, you have the chance to assesses your values and what you want to do going forward.

Of course, people can come to faith at any age and life stage, but I think these three times are especially fertile to the message of the gospel.

For, Jesus invites us to make assessments about how we live.
The gospel challenges us to consider the things we stand for.
The church invites us to be a part of something larger than ourselves.

These are the things which are already stirring within the hearts and minds of teens, new parents and the elderly.

The continuing challenge to the church is to purposely seek to reach these people and offer them the words of eternal life.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

How long should it take to create a kids talk?

I've given lots of kids talks in church services.
In my experience, if your church wants to be family-friendly and child-inclusive, then they are a manditory element of the service.

But, these 5 minute interactive spiels are not done at the church I take my daughters to (even though they have a decent Sunday morning ministry to children).

With this in mind, I've been pondering the amount of work needed to do a kids address and if this is a perceived hindrance for the church doing them.

Frankly, I don't think it should be.

In my history, going from a blank-piece-of-paper to rough-script-of-what-you-are-going-to-say, takes about 20 minutes.

In theory, all you need to do is read/study the passage, select the primary/applicable/child appropriate point, think of or find a connector to this point and then write an rough script which flows from connector to point to application.

This shouldn't take too much time.

Why?

Because your talk shouldn't be too complex. It should be a point from the passage which explains what God is like or points to the significance of Jesus, applied to your audiences context.

Furthermore, there's soo many resources which can give you a launchpad (not a full script!), that an absolute impass can be fairly quickly traversed.

Now, all this doesn't mean that you should start planning 15 minutes before that start of the service.

That would be foolish.

Even if you've planned everything in 20 minutes, it will take longer to gather anything you need and, prayerfully, be completely comfortable with your point and deliverance.

But, my point in all this is to share that children's address need not be too intimidating to putt off successfully.

And, for the effort required, kids talks make a massive difference to the ministry you have to families and, often, provide a means of basic, applicable, theology to everyone in the congregation.