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It works everywhere else but here

When I was first getting into Youth Ministry, the Anglican Youth Ministries (AYM) was pushing a program for youth ministries by Ken Moser. The whole idea of this was to develop a style of youth ministry that would work in both large and small youth groups, and enable the youth worker to not burn out in their average 18 months.

I went along, I did the training, and it sounded great. So we tried it out at our youth group. It didn’t work so well. The program was almost a church service, and our youth (who had all grown up in the Church) were coming to youth group to get something that wasn’t Church. It may well have been a good program, but it wasn’t a good program for the youth that we had.

Over my time as a youth leader, I have read numerous books of programs purporting to have “THE” program that will work at any church, that will work at any size youth group, and will work with any youth. I eventually grew skeptical of these claims, as while they were all written by youth leaders who had remarkable stories of taking their youth groups from single figures into the hundreds, they had seemed to forget that starting element, and their programs that they promoted just didn’t seem to work in smaller groups.

The other day, I heard someone complaining about a youth group program that was being pushed because “it worked everywhere else” yet the first night they ran it, instead of having a youth group of 30-40 like they have for their activity nights, they had 7 attend for this bible study. I’m not saying that bible study is not a great thing to have as a youth ministry, but it depends on your situation. The kids that were coming to this youth group were mainly kids from the community, who had no knowledge of Christ yet, and were more so interested in the activities than study.

What I’ve now realised that the program that works “everywhere else” or the program that works with “any sized group” should carry a disclaimer – “except in your situation”.

Youth Ministry must be one of the toughest gigs in the church. Many people have said this, so I’m not saying anything new here. You go into youth ministry with certain expectations of what you will be able to achieve. However, you also have to balance up what the minister expects you to achieve, what the parents of “Churched” youth want you to achieve, what the rest of the church community wants you to achieve, and what the community wants you to provide.

Each one of those expectations will be different depending on your community. One church minister may have an expectation that the youth leader will bring in a lot of members from the community. Another minister may prefer his youth leader to be focussing on building up the youth already within the church.

Because of this, no book that claims to have the method for your situation will actually work, because the expectations that they were working under will be totally different to the expectations you are working under.

However, you – as a youth leader – should still be reading these books. A youth leader needs to be constantly coming up with fresh ideas, and the more ideas they have, the longer they can go before repeating those they have already used. (However, be prepared to repeat ones that worked – one youth group I had was very musical, so talent nights, and Spicks and Specks quiz nights worked very well. They however didn’t work so well at the next youth group I worked at which had a very different community).

So before you go and start that “next big thing” or that program that has worked everywhere else, ask this most important question: “Will it work here? Why?”

You’ll save yourself a whole lot of work trying to make a square program fit a round community.

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Composing Power

I am enjoying living close to work at the moment. It’s a ten minute walk to my workplace three days a week, and this week, I’ve been walking home in order to get some arranging done.

It’s something that I’ve been embracing more since I am not playing my violin as much any more, so this is something that I can use my musical skills in. I’ve arranged a couple of worship songs so far for the songsters at my church, and I’m working on another arrangement at the moment, this time of the hymn “There’s Power in the blood”.

I pulled this song out at a recent Chrysalis retreat and the guys really got into it. As the weeks went on, I couldn’t get the song out of my head, and it turned from this slightly rock, slightly rockabilly version into this kinda jazzy version that I’m now arranging. I’m working through this arrangement and hope to have it done really soon.

After that, I’m thinking I might have a go at a brass band arrangement. Got a few ideas running around, just need to see what would work well.

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A Trustworthy Life

“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things.”

Luke 24:46a-48

Jesus tells his disciples to be witnesses to the truth of what has happened. While nothing we say can confirm or detract from the Word of God, we do bear witness to its trustworthiness.

The challenge in this is to live our lives in a manner that allows others to see us as trustworthy so that what we share about Jesus is also trustworthy. Difficult? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Worth the effort? Absolutely.

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Why does God allow evil in his world?

This topic suggestion, Why is there evil in the world?, is from The Daily Post as part of the Post-a-day writing challenge.

Student: Sir, you are working on the Premise of Duality. You argue there is Life and then there is Death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.

That quote is part of a longer story about an atheist Philosophy lecturer and a student having an argument in class, where the student ends up declaring to his classmates that the lecturer has no brain, because no one in the class has seen, felt, tasted, smelt or heard it. You can read it in full here.

You see, there is evil in this world when people are far away from God. God allows it because he has given us free will. We can choose which way we go. I have this image of God, and all his angels, looking on from above, cheering each of us on to choose the right way, and consoling us when we make a mistake.

Postaday2011 links

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You can feed five thousand

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
A depiction of Jesus, teaching seated. (Image via Wikipedia)

Liesl and I have been asked to lead a service at the York Corps on August 7, and it’s apparently my turn to preach. Now, I’m due to have knee surgery on Tuesday (if I don’t there’s a whole heap of other problems happening, but I’m not going into that), which means I may well be on crutches when we do the service. So I’m planning to preach sitting down. Jesus often sat down while teaching, so why shouldn’t I?

It got me thinking about the times Jesus did sit down to preach, which mostly appear in Matthew’s gospel. This is all because Matthew’s gospel was written for a mostly Jewish audience, where Teachers would teach seated. So there’s the Sermon on the Mount, and the parable of the Sower and the seeds that fall on various ground, but these didn’t seem to grab me. I turned to chapter 14 and read of the feeding of the five thousand.

After this, I read the relating passage in the Tyndale commentary that we were given a while ago and I now have a bookcase to display them so I grabbed this commentary and this little bit sparked an idea.

As the day wore on, the disciples urged Him to discontinue His healing activity and to send the crowds away to obtain provisions before it was too late. Jesus, still moved with compassion for the hungry, shepherdless throng that surrounded Him, decides to use His miraculous power to satisfy their needs. But first He brings home to His disciples indirectly the fundamental truth that he has called them to be shepherds of the new Israel which constitute the Messiah’s flock, but that they will never be able to discharge that function in their own strength. All the power necessary for ‘feeding the sheep’ comes from Him, the chief Shepherd of the flock, and from Him alone. Such would seem to be the significance of Jesus’ words “They need not depart; give ye them to eat.” When they point out that their available supplies, “but five loaves, and two fishes” are totally inadequate for a catering task of such magnitude, He bids them bring their resources to Him; and in His hands they become so wonderfully multiplied that when the disciples receive them back from Him and distribute the broken pieces to the people they are found to be more than adequate for the entire company.

The Gospel According to St. Matthew Tyndale Commentary (General editor Professor R.V.G. Tasker), 1961. Page 143-144
Reading this passage sparked a light in me. When Jesus says “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (NRSV), he’s telling the disciples that they are able to feed the people spiritually. Yet they aren’t able to see past the physical needs into the spiritual needs. And then as the commentary points out, it is only through Jesus, the “chief Shepherd” that we have the power to feed five thousand people, spiritually, and when we come to him, when we rely on him, we are able to do the seemingly impossible.

So, that’s where my thoughts are at a couple of weeks out from the sermon. We’ll see how they turn out. But for now, a question for you to think about: Do you think you could feed five thousand? If not, how many could you feed?

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Right Job, Wrong Time

Dog Rock - Albany, Western Australia.
One of the iconic landmarks of Albany - Dog Rock (Image via Wikipedia)

I was offered a job yesterday. It was, a couple of years ago, my dream job. It was teaching violin, 4 days a week, at schools in Albany. A couple of years ago – even possibly as late as last year – I might have jumped at the opportunity. This time, however, I turned it down.

Why? Well, I’m heading to college (hopefully – should find out on Wednesday) next year, and if we’re accepted to that, then I’m moving house. Working 4 days a week in Albany (which for those playing overseas is about a 4.5 hour drive, or around $200 each way for flights) would put a serious strain on my relationship with my wife, especially in the lead up to college, where we would be thrown into a boiler room of pressure, living in the college, studying every day with everyone else around us.

So I turned the job down. I know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also incredibly hard for me to pass something up that I had wanted for so long. A full-time teaching job – doing for a living what I was trained to do, instead of my current situation – working three hours on a Friday morning teaching, and doing non-musical work the rest of the week. But it’s ok, as I know that God has called me to ministry in the Salvation Army, and in a couple of years, I will not only be doing what I was trained to do, but also what I was called to do.

I think that makes it all better.

Have you ever had to give something up that you really wanted, because the situation wasn’t quite right?

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I knew it, I just didn’t get it

I’ve finally got around to start reading Bill Hybel’s book, “Just Walk across the room” and it’s already got me posting something, and this is only from the introduction!

Bill is telling us of the time when he was seventeen and he accepted Jesus into his heart. He was at a camp, and one night had a realisation that Jesus loved him, and there was nothing he could do to earn that love. He ran back to the dorm to tell his mates, armed with a series of “Guys, did you know…?” questions. They all came back to him saying “Yea, yea, Bill, we know all that.” He said to himself, “I just never got it until now.”

How often have we heard the stories of the bible, yet only really got the meaning of them later. You might read it and get new insight, or have it explained in a different way and suddenly, it all fits. We can know, but sometimes we just really don’t get it.

For me, I had one of those moments on a spiritual retreat, Chrysalis. I heard the story of the Prodigal Son explained in a really simple way, and it just clicked. That story that I had such a hard time relating to for all those years, suddenly I could see myself in every character in the story. I knew the story, I just didn’t get it. Now that I get it, I can take that knowledge into my life, and live accordingly.

Have you had a light bulb moment, where you suddenly understood something that you’ve known for a while?

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Religious Tolerance isn’t removing religion

A Christmas tree in the United States.
I fail to see this Christmas Tree imposing Christianity on anyone. (Image via Wikipedia)

There’s a lot of talk going around at the moment about “religious tolerance” or “freedom of religion.” There was the Bondi Public School who banned the word “Easter” being associated with their Easter Hat Parade because they were trying to promote tolerance. Then there’s the new Childcare laws that have been passed in Victoria that prevent Children being forced to participate in Religious or Cultural activities, such as decorating Christmas trees and painting Easter eggs, yet they’re also not allowed to separate children from the group “for any reason other than illness or an accident.” Continue reading Religious Tolerance isn’t removing religion

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Evangelism for those uncomfortable with it

There are many dirty words around. Often referred to by the first letter, there’s one word that Anglicans don’t like: The E word. Evangelism. Coming from an Anglican background, it’s something that I’ve never been comfortable with. the thought of going out there and telling someone why they should be a Christian is something that fills me with dread. Unfortunately for me, as I want to become an officer of the Salvation Army, this is something that I am going to have to get over. Continue reading Evangelism for those uncomfortable with it

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You are invited

For many are invited, but few are chosen.

Matthew 22:14

Jesus shows in this parable (Parable of the Wedding Banquet, Matthew 22:1-14) the sorts of people who will get into heaven.

Then he said to his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.”

Matthew 22:8-9

God invited the pharisees, but they weren’t willing to listen. So he invited everyone. But once invited, there are certain responsibilities. In the banquet, the one who didn’t put on the wedding clothes got the boot. Likewise, when we become followers of Jesus, we need to put on the clothes of Christ.

You’ve been invited to Christ’s banquet… What are you going to wear?