Tag Archives: Ministry

Christian: Are You Ready For Exile Stage Two?

Some incredible insight here from Stephen Mcalpine for Australian culture. this is the world our young adults are growing up in and their peers will usher in this new exile.

Stephen McAlpine

The Western church is about to enter stage two of its exile from the mainstream culture and the public square. And it will not be an easy time.

In case you missed it, Exile Stage One began a few decades or so ago, budding in the sexual revolution of the sixties before building up a head of steam some 20 years ago. Finally some Christians sat down to talk about it 15 or so years ago, and that set the ball, and the publishing companies rolling.

For those of us in ministry who were culture watchers, Exile Stage One was a heady time.  Only we never called it Exile Stage One. We simply called it “Exile”, and poured over biblical texts such as the exilic book of Daniel and its New Testament counterpart 1Peter.  After all no one ever called World War One “World War One” before World War Two came along…

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Stop Doing Ministry To Young People

0020.community hand imageI don’t like having things done to me. Like my dentist who wants to drill into my teeth with the most annoying sounding drill ever created. Or my physio always wants to cause me pain, always assuring me that I will feel more sore tomorrow. And while we have high levels of appreciation for them, no one likes going to the hospital and having all sorts of things done to them by nurses and doctors. Having things done to you is generally not a positive experience.

I find it fascinating to hear so often that such and such a church has a ministry to youth and young adults. Or how I often hear people talk about the ministry they are involved in to young people.

While people may not mean much by this type of language, it is actually very telling. It shows that young people are not very important to you. This type of understanding and language actually communicates disconnection. It is something you do “to” them over “there” so you can come back over “here” and get on with your life or get on with the other ministry of the church.

It is a way of thinking that removes young people from where they should be in our lives and in our communities and puts them in a place where we can do things to them and then let them go. We can have a certain amount of detachment from them. We don’t have to get to involved in their life and things don’t get too messy. We have clear boundaries of when we invest and when we care and how much we expose ourselves to them, and when that time is up, we can go back to how we like it, where things are easy and safe.

If your church is doing ministry to young people, it could be possible that you are missing the point.

Wouldn’t it sound strange if we talked about Jesus doing ministry to his disciples. Or even talked about Jesus running a program to grow his disciples in their faith.

If Jesus ministered to his disciples the way that we do much of our ministry to young people, I’m not sure how long this whole Christian thing would have lasted.

What Jesus models to us (and even more powerfully, what God models to us in Jesus) is incarnation. A coming and being with. A taking up residence in our world and in our lives. A coming alongside of and living with. A oneness, a unity. It was messy and frustrating (Matt 15:16) and discouraging and exciting (Matt 11:4-6). But it birthed the kingdom of God in the disciples.

If you or your church wants to be most effective in ministry to young people, it does not need a program. It cannot afford to do ministry to them. What it needs is a willingness to open up the life of the church and the lives of the individuals in the church to the messiness that is young people.

If you’re a parent, you understand that having children around is messy and frustrating and exciting. That there are moments of despair and grief and moments of pride and joy. But you gladly go through it all because you want your children to thrive in life.

Our churches need to recapture the understanding that it is our responsibility to adopt the young people in our church into our spiritual families and live with all the mess that comes with this. Anything less is not true discipleship. It is about giving them space, and permission and a voice in our community just like we would our own children in our homes. It’s about nurturing their gifts and talents and potential and doing everything we can to help them succeed. It’s about sacrifice and laying down our life so that our children have the best chance of thriving in faith and life.

David Sawler in his book, ‘Before they say goodbye’, says

“A church will only experience long term growth when it lays down its life to reach, disciple, and parent its own young…. When it does what Jesus did for the disciples.”

Whatever opinions or arguments you have about how important the traditions and rituals in your church are, nothing can ever be more important than the young people in your church and in your community. This is your first and most important priority as a church. If we as a church can’t do this well, then I think there is not much else in the great commission we can do well either.

It is time for the faith of our young to become a focus of our communities. Does this mean we neglect the elderly and only do worship and sermons for kids, youth and young adults? No. It means that we understand that God’s church is best expressed as a family who loves and serves each other and invites each other into their lives as an act of discipleship. We grow an understanding that the prayer of a 6 year old boy is just as powerful and nourishing for the community as the prayer of the 60 year old elder.

This means as a church we equip the entire family to fulfil its mission to be the body of Christ. We call and equip those more mature in our community to live a life that does not do ministry to young people, that does not get involved in a program with young people. Instead we call and equip them to live lives that invite young people into their homes and their families and their joys and their struggles and their faith. That helps young people encounter the embodied and alive Christ in the lives of each other.

This is the type of life I believe Jesus called us to when he called us to make disciples. He called us into the mess of life, and he called us to invite others into that mess as well, so that we could see together all the strange and amazing and ordinary and joyful ways that he turns up every day.

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Why do you want young people in church?

I came across this fantastic article writem by Elizabeth Rawlings which sums up a lot of my thinking around young adult ministry and children’s ministry for that matter as well.

The piece in about kids ministry but I am a firm believer that if you dont do good kids ministry and good youth ministry it will be very hard to do good young adult ministry. I am not talking about programs here but more about the posture of the congregation.

Often I talk to people from various places who ask me how to get more young people in their church.  This article really digs into that and asks us back, why we want that to happen.  Often my responde to these people is something like, “love some 5 year olds really well and celebrate their faith and involve them in your community in significant and meaning full ways.  Then do that for 20 years.

If a community has no young people, it’s often because many years ago they decided that they did not value young people.  Not as much as other things in the church anyway.  They might have talked about wanting young people around, but when it came to making decisions, they didn’t value young people.

This article articulates very well, so many good things and is a great place to start if you are looking at growing your children’s ministry (or young adult ministry in 20 years)

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Love, Collaborate & Innovate.

I have just finished reading “You lost me” by David Kinnaman, which talks about the challenges facing the church in response to a generation of young adults that have said to the church, “you lost me”. In the last chapter he gets inputs from a stack of people on how the church can response to this challenge. Charles Lee gives an incredible challenge to the church in this little nugget.

The creative implementation of innovative ideas is at an all-time high. Rapid advancements in technology and human networks have exponentially opened up new pathways to actualizing one’s passions. Unlike in past centuries, people no longer need to wait for “permission” from established institutions to pursue a dream. If a person genuinely cares about a product or cause and commits wholeheartedly to giving his or her life to it, he or she will find or be found by a tribe of like-minded people. What does this mean for the church today? We must humbly recognize our inability to “manage” people. Most are not asking to be managed but rather loved. We must move from cultures like Britannica (i.e., closed and controlled) to that of Wikipedia (i.e., open and collaborative) in which new ideas are welcome, easily shared, and postured for refinement and collaboration. We must architect more communities that allow for innovation without threat and inspiration without judgment. The alternative to all of this will be a growing trend of disinterest, pessimism, and abandonment.

WOW! How could your church respond to this?

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You tube Faith talk

You tube Faith talk

The guys over at the Rethinking Youth Ministry blog are doing a great series on creating faith discussion around you tube clips. This weeks is on the meaning of life and is particularly worth sharing. There are three videos and a bunch of questions for reflection.  A whole your night or small group discussion could be done around this.

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Trust and Teams

Do you trust the people in your team?

This could be one of the most important questions you could ask yourself when forming or re-evaluating your ministry team.

Without trust the effectiveness of a team is greatly diminished and the impact in ministry is reduced. So what exactly does trust look like for a team leader?

As i have reflected on this over the last week i have come to believe that there are two types of trust that a team leader needs to exercise and they are both very different.

Trust from experience and understanding 
This is the type of trust that does not come easily.  It only comes after long evaluation and consideration and prayer.  This is the type of trust where you need to suss a person out first and get to know them before you can trust them. This is informed trust.

if you are the leader of a team then it is important to exercise this type of trust when forming a team and letting new members onto a team.  You need to know and understand your people. Know their faith, know their background. What makes them tick and know if they are going to be a valuable addition to your team of if they will cause trouble. I have been caught out in the past forming teams and just chucking anyone on there without first getting to know and trust them.  These people have the potential to become a burden on your team and on your ministry.  Sometimes you can fluke it and get it right but, it’s not worth the risk.

If you leading a team, you need to be able to trust your team. To do this you need to know your team members. This means being informed

So what’s the other type of trust?

Blind trust
So maybe blind trust isn’t the best phrase to use but it gives a good picture of what I am talking about.  Once I have made an informed decision to trust my team members and let them onto my team, I can now have faith in them to carry out the tasks they are entrusted with. Sometimes I can even trust them with something I know that they might not get it right, but trust that they will learn from it.  It is a trust that puts a leader into a new situation and trusts that they will pull it off. It’s giving a Leader a group to lead and trusting they will not stuff it up.

Often I will have leaders come to me expressing their doubt in their ability to achieve a task they have.  I always remind them that I asked them to be on this team because I trust that they can do it.  I trust them with the kids in our youth ministry.  The leader might not see it in themselves, but I do and I trust them and I make sure they know this.

What is really going on here with these two types of trust is that one is about character and one is about ability.  I need to know my leader’s character is solid before I let them onto my team.  once I have chosen to trust that, I am happy to trust them with any task because even if their ability may not be up to scratch, I know their character is. And no matter how the task turns out, i trust that they will grow and learn.

So really both trust are about their character but the second allows me to empower my team and show them I believe in what they are capable of.

So how are you trusting you team?

If you can trust them. How are you empowering them with your trust?

If you can’t trust them, what are you doing to address this, reconcile or maybe adjust your team so you can trust and empower them?


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Stick around long enough and you will fail

I am being haunted by the feeling of failure.

When i first felt the call into youth ministry, it came out of a deep longing for the church to do youth ministry better than it was at the time. i felt that God had called me into the church to make a difference. to help it be more effective at youth ministry. maybe this is arrogant or naive but still it was my heart and and still is.

As i come to the end of my forth full year in my current role. i am starting to see the cracks in the ministry that i have built up. i’m starting to see that things are not as i would like them to be. this ministry that i have created is starting to show signs of failure.

I have this overwhelming feeling that i have simply created another ineffective youth ministry like all the ones i vowed to revolutionist. that instead of changing the church, i have been sucked into it way of doing things.

I am seeing Students that were on fire for Christ 6 months ago, walking away from their faith.

I am seeing Students who are passionate and committed going elsewhere to get spiritual fed.

I am seeing kids that I have poured my life into, simple give up and walk away and look for life elsewhere.

and this all hurts me terribly.

many people in youth ministry only stick around for 3 years or even less. just enough time to make something amazing, feel really good about it and then move on. if i left after three years i would have been so happy with the revolutionary ministry i has built. but i stuck around to see at all start to fall apart and reveal itself and something much less.

maybe this is the only way we can grow in ministry. to stick around long enough to fail. after four year you start to see your own shortcomings in your ministry and in your leadership team. you start to see the long term fruit of what your doing and if it is fruit that will last or fruit that withers.

I believe that this is one of the reasons why we should aim to stick around in ministry. so we can see our own effort fail and then learn and grow. to see what we do wrong and then work toward fixing it. learning all the more along the way. what will we learn if we don’t stick around for this season of ministry?

don’t get me wrong. God has done heaps of group stuff and there are stacks of amazing teens who love Jesus and will continue too.  but the cracks have shown themselves. a number of students have left and i feel like i have failed them because i can see that i didn’t do things as well as i could have.  i was to busy running programs to really nurture faith. to create a culturing my leaders that nurtures faith.

That is a wake up call for me. a call to get back to the heart of God and his intention for ministry and his heart for Students. at the moment this journey hurts but i feel that God may be at work here as well.

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A year of very much and very little

So this year has been busy. Not only have i been working full time and probably taking on to much responsibility but also i have been studying on the side as well which has taken me out of ministry for another solid month. So to say that i am worn out is an understatement.

here is the thing. I thought i was doing it for God. I thought i was glorifying God through all my busy work. I thought that if i didn’t do it God couldn’t work in students lives. I was doing lots of ministry and programs and events that other people looked at and Said “WOW, your doing such a good job tom”. this is what i was feeding of. only now as i come to the end of the year am i starting to realize how little my “so much” has produced. maybe in Man’s eyes it is amazing and a good effort but for the Kingdom, i have my doubts. Sure God has used it, but i can see the cracks as well.

In trying to “do everything” for God, i am starting to realize that i have done very little.

I have been to busy to catch up and care for my leaders.

I have been to busy to spend that time listening and caring for students

I have been to busy to walk with new Christian and help them grow a solid foundation in Christ

I have been to busy to care for my own spiritual welbeing

I have neglected the core things of Christ to pursue to big things of Man. I have chased after my own need to achieve and do a good Job and have others approve, that i have made myself too busy to simply nurture souls.and this is the core of youth ministry.

you see, the nurture of souls is not something that can be measured with key performance indicators. It isn’t evident in any big and flashy way. It cant be seen with a big event and it’s not something i can easily get up in from of people an say “look at this, this is what i have done”.  It’s life, it’s the simplicity of being alongside kids as they navigate life. Equipping them with spiritual tools to help them along the way and grow them closer to God. sometimes this work takes forever to bear fruit, to even be sure if you are making a difference.

As 2011 comes to a close i realize that i have committed the number one youth ministry sin. i have run events and programs at the expense of being with people and helping them know and grow in God.

How did i ever get here?

Easy really.

1) I thought i has the skills and knowledge to do good ministry (instead of relying always on the spirit working in me).

2) I thought that the more “I” did the more God could work through all these great things. but in fact, the less i do, the more i must turn myself and the people I’m working with towards God.

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Being busy for Jesus is still a sin

It’s it funny how things strike us. how something that now seems so obvious come as a surprise when the voice of God confronts us. i was at the end of a very busy few weeks, or months you could say. however my devotional time had been lacking and i hadn’t spent any decent time with God in a few weeks.

i got up early in the morning to get back into it (not that early really) and i sat down and started by apologizing to god for not having the time for him over the last couple weeks. it went something like this, “I’m so sorry God that i haven’t had much time for you recently, it’s just that i have been doing this mission trip and this church event, and this youth camp and ……..” before i could finish the list in my head i was interrupted by a strong and confronting thought. in the middle of me making excused for not being with God, God interrupted me and clearly said “your being busy working for me, is not an excuse for you Sin of neglecting me”.

Wow, i was taken aback. God’s rebuke was so strong and sure that in a flash he had revealed what was really going on. here i was trying to pretend that i was being all holy and important in serving him, but the reality was that i was being busy propping up my self worth and reputation. God never called me to be busy, he never asked me to fill up me weeks so much that i don’t even have time to be with him.

i had forgotten that this is Gods first and most important call on my life. to be with him.everything else is secondary. in Matthew 7 22-23  Jesus says “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!


just because i do things for Jesus doesn’t mean that i know him. in fact, the heart of Jesus and what he requires of us is to know him. that’s it. First and foremost before anything else Jesus wants us to know him.  Don’t ever let your doing things for God substitute your being with God. they are not the same, not even close

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