Thursday, January 31, 2019

Your most effective welcomers at church aren't who you think

Are not your oldest members...


This is who we usually stick on the door to greet people.

They are friendly.
They know the answers to any question.

But, I think there's a better answer.

The best person to welcome someone new to church, aside from the minister (!), is the latest integrated member.

They will recognize the anxiety of the new person... They are the one's most recently familiar with it in the congregation.

They will be aware of some of the questions the new person will have... They had them when they arrived.

They will know the unwritten rules which are only exposed when they are broken... They may well have violated a hidden rule in the past. 

While experienced members should, absolutely, welcome visitors to their church, a far more empathetic greeting would come from the last person to be new.

Importantly, this person can, if given the chance, then share why they choose to stay.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Should you assure people that the game will be on after church?

I've been a part of multiple church services where those in leadership have assured everyone that they will watch the "big game/event" straight after the service. The classic example is the rugby league on a Sunday night, be it the Sate of Origin or Grand Final.

Should churches do this?

Pragmatically, this may counteract a drop in attendance by those who would otherwise skip church for the event. 

But, I'm not so sure about the message it sends and the potential implications.

Are you really prepared to stop whatever is going on after the service because the event is about to be telecast?

Even worse, would you be prepared to cut the church service short due to the broadcast?

Would this be stifling the Spirit?
How might you explain this to the preacher or leader?
How would you transfer the worship space, if this is where the event is to be shown, into "footy" mode?

Would you just run the risk that the Holy Spirit knows when kick-off is?

Ideally, you'd have a mechanism which means that you could watch the event on delay after the service, but sometimes this isn't a possibility.

The easiest answer, if pushed for one, is to assure people that you'll watch the game, if people want, after the service - whenever that may be - and, as a community you can watch it together. But, I'd be hesitant to guarantee people that it will be live.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Should you advertise numbers?

I've written about numbers a bit in the past.

Youth ministers can fear them, embrace them, track them or hide behind them.

But, should you advertise them?

Should you advertise how many will be at an event, even verbally?

I'm not sure.

If you advertise numbers, then you send the message that they are the most important thing. And, while numbers matter, people matter more.

For, every number has a name.

You want the person you're speaking with to know that they are more than just a number.

They are not just part of the crowd.

A vastly better message is to personally invite them.
Tell them WHO you expect will probably be there (I wouldn't guarantee it since you may be mistaken!).

If you advertise numbers, like with the individual above, then you set yourself up to be measured against something you don't really control.

Numbers, for whatever reason can dissipate.

Anyone in youth ministry knows the feeling of the week where, seemingly, everyone "had something come up" and your attendance is way down.

I was once part of a regional event in a rural setting where, because it rained heavily days prior, everyone had to stay home in order to work the fields.

It happens.

But, if you're invitation is about the person, not just the attendance, then the kids who were personally invited can still feel welcomed and, importantly, not deceived.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The art of faux giving

I can't recall the last time I put currency into an offering plate or bag.

Sure, I've been in plenty of church services where an offering has occurred, I just haven't reached into my wallet.

For, whenever I give, I now do a direct transfer from my bank account into the church's account (it's because of people like me that it's incredibly stupid for a church not to provide these details somewhere in their bulletin).

Personally, I just don't carry that much cash with me and I can then transfer an amount somewhat close to a tithe portion into the offering, which I may not be able to do if I was relying on cash.

Consequently, I now face the prospect of a faux offering.

For those uninitiated, the faux offering is when you pretend to give the traditional way, but you've got nothing physically in your hand.

Sure, the cards informing those around that you directly give exist, but really, whoever remembers to collect those???

The regular routine is to dip your hand into the bag and do... nothing.

But, this covert offering is ineffective with a offertory plate.

This is where the expert faux-givers employ their darkest magic.

As the plate comes around you place your had near the top of the plate and you tap the bottom of the plate with your other hand. This creates a thud which rattles the coins in the plate.

The risk is that those around you will only think that you've given the equivalent of loose change, but for those who are concerned that they'll be gossiped about over morning tea due to their offertory-non-observance, this trick can save face.

At least ever so slightly...

Monday, January 7, 2019

Why Youth Minister Sunday hurts not helps

In you're at a church who has more than just a sole ministry agent, then it's almost assured that there will be a day annually when the assistant/youth minister/family worker/children's coordinator will get a preaching gig - the Sunday after Christmas.

By then, the post-Christmas-minister will be sunning himself on a beach and the pulpit will be left in the hands of a ministry youngling.

Some call it "Youth minister Sunday." At least a lot did within the youth ministry groups did that I'm still attached with on Facebook.

I'm not sure this regular gig is a healthy growth strategy.

In theory, this allotted Sunday is useful to give an aspiring preacher experience and the church an opportunity to hear from other members of the ministry staff.

The practice... may not be all that effective.

First of all, if you work at a lectionary directed church, with set readings, then you'll inevitably get lumped with the same story - almost certainly the visitation of the Magi.

And, while every youth minister has preached on this passage, doing it for the third time, especially before the same congregation, is a daunting challenge.

Second, many people are away straight after Christmas, especially families, meaning the "target audience" for the junior minister may well be absent (even if they haven't gone on vacation, the church may shut down their youth/children's/creche activities so families are more inclined to skip church.)

Third, if the aim is to help develop a potential preacher than it's odd that they would only preach from select passages when their direct supervisor is absent!

Fourth, it means that the youth minister doesn't get to ever have this immediately-after-Christmas-season for vacation.

The danger of "Youth Minister Sunday" is that the weekend after Christmas has a degree of tokenism, which would be easily avoided if the ministerial junior had a reoccurring gig in order to both build their preaching proficiency and enhance their impact beyond just the subsection they oversee.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018 Best of...

Well, after my quietest year of blogging (the aim is to do more in 2019), what is there to review?

I got engaged - getting married in April 2019.
I went to Europe for the first time -meeting my fiancee's family in Germany.
I'm now, approximately, halfway through my teaching/history degree.
I'm still not in ministry - only doing a handful of things at one of the two churches I attend (one with my kids, the other with my fiancee).
Tiny Bible Bits (my Facebook devotional) has doubled in size and reach - the closest thing I have to a regular ministry.
I still think about church/youth ministry significantly - these filters are really tough to shake and, frankly, I'm not sure I want to discard them.

From the last year, here are the gems worth revisiting...

How I Failed my Scripture Classes

Would the need to Poop ever be a Sermon Stopper? (I ask the big questions...)

The Intimidating Butts in the Pews

What's the Message of your Bible Reading?

God's Graceful Repetitiveness

How to Cut Off a Service Hijacker

The Difference Between Dropping your Kid off to a Birthday Party and Youth Group

How Long Should it take to Create a Kids Talk?

Are Numerical Prayers Dangerous?

Making Space for #SpiritualParentingWins

Why I haven't watched a Single Episode of 13 Reasons Why but Every Youth Minister Should

Why I'm Learning German

We all have Something 

The Awkward Preaching of Naked Boy

Doing Less Means you Value More

Why Facebook makes me think that Youth Ministers are Lazy and Unoriginal (my most controversial post)

The Answer to your Next Mission Location is Closer than you think

Guidelines for Talking with Friends Dealing with Cancer