Wednesday, December 26, 2018

How teaching is like tossing mud


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.


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.