A parent perspective on Youth Ministry – Part 2

In a recent post I shared with you a few thoughts on becoming a parent in youth ministry when my son went off to his first youth camp. I had high expectation for the camp and so on his return I was waiting eagerly to hear something spiritual about the camp. Instead he was full of stories about the fun, games and pranks that took place on camp.  After many interesting stories I asked my son what will he tell his best friend about the camp, the one who didn’t attend youth camp, and he replied “he totally should have been there”.  It was this one sentence that made me realise that something significant happened on camp. 

Over the next few days I had many conversations with my son about youth camp, none of them were deeply theological but they all helped me know my son on a deeper level.  In the week following the camp I watched him to see if there was any behaviour change and  I noticed that he was a little more reflective and a little more considerate but mostly he was the same kid who loves playing his video games.  At some level it was reassuring to me that there wasn’t a radical shift in my son; he was the same son just grown up a little.

In reflecting on the experience there are a few things that I learnt from hearing about the camp from my son:

  1. Leaders are important – whilst my son only seem to talk about the pranks the leaders got up to, he spoke with a great respect and admiration for the leaders.  It seems that he looked up to the leaders and when I dug deeper they really encouraged him in his faith.  As a parent I am so thankful that my son had some young adult leaders who were passionate about their faith and willing to share it with my son.
  2. Christian friendships are important – My son will spend most of his time with non-christians so to meet some committed christians is a really important thing.  We spent a lot our conversation time this week talking about the people that he met on camp.  I am sure that some of these people will become his long term friends even though they go to different schools.  In an increasingly secular world it so important to encourage our young people to seek out and develop christian friendships.
  3. The next step is important –  the youth ministry that ran the youth camp knew how important the next steps were and had pumped up the young people to attend friday night youth group.  My son was talking about it all week and was so excited to go that he was encouraging me to leave the house to drive to church.  Yet this is just the first in many “next steps” that my son will take.  As adults, parents and youth ministers, we need to roll out the next steps so that young people who have never done this before know where they are heading.
  4. My own faith is important – as a parent the conversation can be directed at my son; I want to know about your experience.  Yet the conversation seemed to open up opportunities for me to share my faith with my son.  As adults, parents and youth ministers, we can direct our conversation at the young people by asking them leading questions, yet we need to allow them to ask us questions.  I have to create a space where by my son can ask me questions about faith, prayer, theology, church, girls, dating etc etc.  Sharing my faith journey with my children is so important.
  5. This is just the beginning – I will admit that my son and i have had some great conversations but this is only the beginning on his faith journey.  My son still prefers to play video games and watch tv, so he his not an eager theology student by any stretch of the imagination.  My son and I have even had issues where i have had to discipline him and I am sure that this is just one of the many ups and downs we will experience over the coming decade know as “the teenager years”.

These reflections as part of my experience in shifting from a youth minister to a parent.  As I dropped my son off to youth group, which i had witness hundreds of times, I got the “you can go now” look from my son.  In an instance I had shifted from youth minister to daggy parent.  

My hope is that if you are a youth minister without children of your own, these reflection may help you minister to families in a better way than you currently do.  My hope for parents of young people is that these reflection may put into words some of the feelings stirring in you and perhaps pass them onto your youth ministry team.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net mrmarkmcdonald

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A parent perspective on Youth Ministry – Part 1

After 20 years in youth ministry my role in youth ministry shifted this week.  My eldest son headed off on his first junior high youth camp.  That means that I am no longer the youth minister, I became one of the parents dropping their child off at church for camp, while the child tries to get away without a hug or a kiss.

Whilst as a youth minister I know a lot about what happens on youth camp, I find my mind has shifted now that I am a parent.  The things that I am looking for in a youth ministry as a parent are different to what to what I may have wanted from a youth ministry being on the leadership side.  Whilst I have never seen parents as the enemy, I see things differently now my own son is involved.

Here are a few thought about youth camp now that I am a parent:

  1. High expectations – perhaps my expectation of youth camp are a little high but I hope that my son has an encounter with God at youth camp.  I hope that he gets a passion for reading the bible, that he meets some great friends, gets some excellent mentors as leaders, that he likes going to church and that he fights for world peace, ok perhaps not the last one.  Are my expectations a little high?  As a youth ministers I would tell a parent that those might be good expectations after five or six years in a youth ministry but not for their child’s first youth camp.  As a parent though I can’t help wanting the best for my son.  In reality I know that my son will enjoy camp but will come home talking more about the fun games than the bible talks, he will still be the same kid who won’t like doing chores around the house and whilst he may not be against going to church I am sure he won’t always be begging us to go.
  2. Being part of our family – we hope that our son maintains a sense of family and isn’t sold an idea that the youth ministry is the most important thing in his life.  As a youth minister I heard numerous stories of young people who got involved in youth ministry in spite of a lack of support from home.  In our case my wife and I are very supportive of our son being involved in the youth ministry.  Yet as a parent I hope that the youth ministry acknowledges the vital role that we as parents play in nurturing the faith of our son as well.  I don’t want my son going off to youth events every week at the expense of our family time.  Sometimes our son will miss a youth event to spend time with our family and it isn’t a sign of a lack of commitment to the youth ministry.  Too often youth ministers blame families for a lack of attendance from young people, yet as parent I now see the family time is often more important than time at youth group.
  3. Bigger picture of church – as a youth minister I focused so much on the youth ministry that youth camp or going to a youth festival was the biggest thing in the year.  As a parent I still have one son who won’t be going to youth camp for another two years.  I also am more aware of parents in my small group who have kids in the children’s ministry.  As a parent I am far more interconnected with the other things happening in the church so I now realise that whilst the youth ministry is important, so are a number of other ministries in our church.  Perhaps as a parent I am more thankful of the role of the children’s ministry which nurture the faith of my son long enough to help him want to go on youth camp.

Perhaps my expectations are a little high but maybe that is a good thing.  As a parent I should want the best for the spiritual life of my children.  One thing that I must remind myself is that the Holy Spirit has its own plan for my son and I must accept what ever the Holy Spirit does with him.  It will take a life time for my son to understand God, so I can’t expect it all to happen on his first youth camp, but I am just a little excited at what God might do with y son on youth camp.

In the next post I will share a few reflection after my son comes home from youth camp.

Perhaps you have recently become a parent in a youth ministry, what are your thoughts?  share them in the comment section below.

markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net

What happens when we need to take a break due to sickness?

Over the past few months I have been very sick, not only sick enough to take a break from this blog and ministry but sick enough to spend some time in hospital.  Without going into all the gross details of my illness, I had an inflammation of the large intestine that had me in hospital for treatment on two separate occasions.  The second trip to the hospital lasted nine days followed by twenty days of treatment at home by a community nurse.

In the past I had heard about ministry leaders getting sick but it had never happened to me.  I knew ministry leaders who suddenly had to take time off because of illness or a family crisis that needed their attention.  In this blog post I won’t focus on the break you need to take due to burn out, I have written on that before.  My thoughts have turned to the fact that being a ministry leader doesn’t except us from getting sick, sick enough to take a break for a few weeks even months.

Since the start of the year my ministry load hasn’t been that heavy, I help out at my local church where I can and I work a few hours a week in the ministry training centre.  At the same time I am completing my Masters of Divinity so there is lots of reading and writing to be done.  Yet when I got sick all of this had to go on hold because I couldn’t concentrate, I would often need to rest in bed or I was in doctors waiting rooms; ministry, study and blogging became the last things on my mind.

To make things more complicated the church where I serve could really have used my help over the past few months.  Whilst it can survive without me, two of the ministers were leaving so all the lay people had to step up to fill in until their replacements come in 2014.  So I could have been really useful to have around, instead I was either in hospital or at home receiving treatment.  As someone who has been in ministry for 20 years it was the first time where I knew what ministry needed to be done but was unable to help due to serious illness.

God uses everything to form and shape you, even when we don’t know why things turn out the way they do.  Even though I wasn’t able to be involved in ministry during this time I learnt a number of things throughout my illness.  I thought I would share these with because I have been off the blog for a number of months now so I wanted to update you on what I have been reflecting on.

  1. The church will cope without me – my church were great at swapping my spots on the rosters and finding replacements for the roles that I was meant to fill.  Everyone likes to feel invaluable but in reality most ministries can and should be able to survive without you.  Someone always steps up to cover the hole that our absence makes because even ministry leaders get sick.  As a ministry leaders we need to trust God and trust our church that they can cope whenever we get sick.
  2. The church should care about me as a person – my church were great at caring for me as a person, asking me how I was going not just about who was covering for me when I was away.  Many people were worried about me as a person, they didn’t just pray for me so I would get back to ministry quicker.  People offered to cook meals for my family, pick me kids up from school and all kinds of other helpful things.  If you ever get sick I hope that you are involved in a church where people care about you as a person and don’t just see your illness as a problem to handle.
  3. There is still a bit of guilt – it is hard to let go of the things that I regularly do in ministry.  I felt guilty about letting the blog writing fall.  I felt guilty about have to swap out of a sunday roster.  I felt guilty about not being able to help the church.  Yet a number of good friends in ministry reminded me that it is good to rest and recover.  Self care is more important that pushing it for a few weeks.  Being sick reminded me that the correct theological perspective about work and ministry is that I am more than my work and ministry; whilst I may feel guilt at times, when I am sick I need to move beyond the guilt to focus on rest and recovery.
  4. Illness helped me to refocus on God – sometimes I get so swept up in ministry, blogging or theological study that I forget the daily practices that draw me closer to God.  When I was sick I had the time to read and meditate on scripture.  I had time to listen to christian worship music just to listen for God’s voice.  I decided that I didn’t have to blog every week or check twitter everyday.  My time away from ministry helped me understand that God rescues me everyday from a whole range of things whether I am serving in ministry, spending time at home with the family or sitting in a hospital bed recovering from an illness.
  5. There is always hope – when I was sick I would often read psalm 107 where God rescues a variety of people from a variety of circumstances, you should read it.  Two things struck me:
    1. In this psalm God rescues those who ask for help without demanding they change their behaviour before he helps them, check the psalm yourself.
    2. In this psalm God rescues people yet there is evidence that they still take some time to get out of their circumstances.  For examples the exiles are rescued but will still take some time to get back to Jerusalem.

In my case I knew that God was healing me and would rescue me from this illness, I just had to wait a few months for full recovery.  Perhaps you will get sick and need to take a break from ministry to recover, don’t worry there is hope.

Perhaps you haven’t ever had a major break from ministry due to illness but my guess is that you know someone who has.  Perhaps you had to step up and cover for a fellow ministry leader who got sick.  In reality if you stay in ministry long enough you will at some point have to take a break due to illness.  My hope is that you can honestly and peacefully take a break without feeling guilty.

It is ok to take a break

It is ok to rest and recover

It is ok to fall behind on email, twitter and blogging

It is important to trust in God that the church/ministry will survive without you.

Please leave a comment.

mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith, markoffaith.net

Is your church ready for Visitors?

Is your church entrance sending the message that visitors are welcome?

Is your church entrance sending the message that visitors are welcome?

In the New Year people will visit new churches, try out new ministries and attend prayer meetings.  So it is likely that there will be visitors hanging around your church buildings this month and next month.  So what do you think the church buildings look like?  Now try to think how new people will see them.  We need to tidy up the church buildings in the same way that we would clean up our home if we thought visitors were dropping in.

Recently we invited neighbours to come to our place for lunch and we thought we better clean the place up.  Looking at our house from the perspective of a visitor I noticed a whole lot of mess piled up on our front porch.  For weeks I had walked past it without noticing it but with visitors coming over I paid more attention to the details.  Most of the items just needed to be put away so the place looked tidy.

The same is true for your church buildings.  Recently I visited a church foyer that was spotless and had clear signage telling me (a visitor) where to go.  However I also attended a church where the foyer was a mess, it still had Christmas items laying around in February.  Sometimes we need to imagine our church through the eyes of a visitor and here are a few things they will notice:

  1. Can I find the correct room?  It is so important to a first time visitor that they can find the room they are supposed to be in.  Try to think like a first time visitor, is it really obvious which door they should enter?  If not then you need to have a person or sign directing people where to go.  Can parents find the kids ministry room?  Can young people find the youth group in the various rooms on your site?
  2. Where are the toilets?  Often people will ask where the toilets are so it isn’t a big deal but if they are really hard to find then put up a sign.  Often visitors will go to the toilet before your service because they are nervous about how long the service will take.
  3. Is the space tidy?  A visitor should not have to see decoration failing down or mess from a previous event.  Have the musicians kept their area tidy or is it a mess?  Is the hospitality area clean?  Are the toilets clean?  Are there tidy facilities for parents to change a nappy?
  4. Stay up to date – replace any old posters or out of date event material.  Make sure that the bulletins from each week are put in the recycling bin.  One church I visited had flyers for a theological college that were five year out of date.
  5. Less is better – don’t try to fill your foyer or notice board.  If a space is too cluttered then the mix of things confuses people and everything blends in.  Instead of trying to advertise every ministry event in your district, give clear message to visitors about what you would like them to attend.  One church I visited just put up new notice boards and they filled it with at least 50 ministry events across the city to the point that their own ministry events got lost in the noise.
  6. Where is the coffee?  If you go to the effort of putting on tea and coffee make sure that visitors know where to find it.  Don’t expect them to follow the crowd; they will most likely avoid the crowd and go to their car.

Every time we have visitors to our house we hope that they love our home as much as we do.  The same is true with our church buildings except we want them to love our church not the buildings.  Richard Riesling in his book on Church Marketing says that visitors have made many decisions about your church before the service even begins, make sure that they are the right decisions.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith.net

Introductions at Church events

Empty Chairs in Conference RoomOver the past few weeks I have been paying extra attention to how ministers, service leaders and worship leaders introduce themselves at church services, prayer meetings and ministry events.  Given that it is a new year, there is a high chance that visitors are testing out a church or ministry for the first time so a good introduction is important.  But I have noticed that there are some simple phrases that people say or don’t say that may sound odd to a visitor.  When standing in front of a group, think about how a first time visitor hears what you say.

Here are a few tips on introducing yourself at your next church or ministry event:

  1. Expect visitors – even if you know that nobody in the room is a visitor introduce yourself as though there are visitors present.  This will not only train you to make it a habit but also train the congregation that visitors are to be expected.
  2. You are not a celebrity – never ever say “my name is _____ if you haven’t met me yet”.  You are not the centre of attention so don’t make it about people who haven’t met you yet, it implies that everybody knows you.  It is better to warmly state your name and your place in the church/ministry/congregation such as “my name is _____ and I am a member of this church/congregation”.
  3. Don’t assume anything – sometimes we assume that people remember what we did last week or assume that people were attending last week.  We can’t assume that everybody knows the service order or how we run our prayer meetings.  If you expect visitors then expect people to be a bit confused as to when to sit, stand, kneel, sing etc.
  4. Stay positive and energetic – it is important to kick off the service or meeting with a lot of energy just like it takes a lot of energy to get an aeroplane off the ground.  If you are the first person to stand in front of the group give a positive and energetic welcome.  We know that some people have had a bad week but they don’t need to reminded of it with a boring welcome to church.
  5. Thank people and affirm people – often we take people for granted, we need to thank people for attending our ministry events, church services and prayer meetings.  You don’t need to list all the things they could be doing instead of coming to church, don’t give them any ideas for not attending, but you need to be aware of what people give up to come along.

Whilst this might seem simple enough, the welcome and introduction are often overlooked when planning a gathering of God’s people.  If you are not the service leader or minister in your church, then perhaps you can pass this post onto them.  My hope is that churches expect visitors to come every week and that when they do come, visitors feel warmly welcomed.

Overall presentation at Events matters

Have you ever been to an event that has exceeded your expectations?  Have you been to an event where everything looked perfectly in place, well laid out and everything flowed smoothly?  Sometimes in the rush to get our events ready we overlook the presentation of the event to focus on the content.  Whilst content is important, bad presentation spoils content every time.  For example, imagine a poorly designed website which may have great content but you can’t find it.

Last night I went to a youth ministry event by Mustard that exceeded my expectations.  Mustard is a ministry that runs events in schools here in Melbourne and were hosting a Roundtable event for Parents and Youth Leaders.  After almost 20 years in youth ministry I have seen all types of events from well-done presentations to complete train wrecks.  This event was above the average events I attend, even many of the good events that I have been to.  There were just a few things that caught my eye that were better than standard events that I go to.

Here are a few little things that made the overall presentation at the event better than other youth ministry events I have attended:

  1. Welcome signs – as the event was on a large church campus with many rooms there were signs directing me from the car park to location of the event.  Often event coordinators assume that people will follow the crowd or look for where the lights are on to know where the event is being held.  As an event coordinator help participants find the right room with a few welcome signs.
  2. Greeter – at the main foyer there was a person who greeted me and directed me along the hallway to the sign up desk.  At the sign up desk there was a person greeting people in front of the desk and several people behind the desk taking registrations.
  3. Name tags – I am used to writing my name on a name badge with a marker but these name tags had my name printed on the tag as well as the event logo. 
  4. Event logo – The team hosting the event had designed a logo for the event and printed the logo on the registration form, name tags, PowerPoint slides and handouts.
  5. Button Badge – each team member had a button badge with the ministry name on it.  It was that extra step that impressed me.  Each of the team members were smartly dressed rather than dressing like young people because it was a youth ministry event.
  6. Stage set up – there were a few props on stage that got the crowd talking as they entered the room.  These props were then used at a point within the event to explain a key message.
  7. Skype call to Guest – there aren’t many events that attempt a live feed of a guest from another country.  Mustard had a live feed of special guest Cheryl Crawford from Azuza Pacific University and Fuller Youth Institute in the USA.  This isn’t a multi million dollar ministry either; they were just using skype but had done their homework on how to get working well.  Cheryl had been prepared ahead of time and they had a plan for drop outs, which did happen, to keep things moving.
  8. Hospitality – the coffee and tea were laid out really well and there were nice cupcakes to go with the drinks.  Whilst we drank our tea and coffee there were team members connecting with the crowd.  There was a musician creating atmosphere with some live music.  There were also large posters of other ministry events on art easel’s to create atmosphere.

Whilst the ministry team had gone to all this effort to get the overall presentation correct, the content delivered as well.  As we connected over coffee and tea the participants were talking about the content of the talks. If you are interested in the content of the night you hear an audio copy of the event on a special website, click here, which again is above average for many events I go to.

Presentation should enhance the content of an event rather than dominate it.  Yet sometimes we rush our preparation, setup and layout to focus on the content and we overlook how important presentation is.  Take the examples about as a guide of how you might exceed people expectations at your next youth ministry event.

Please add a comment about events that you have attended where the presentation exceeded your expectations.

You might also be interested in Creating a Big Impression at Church

markoffaith MarkofFaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith

Creating a big impression at Church

Creating a Big impression at Church

Creating a big impression at ChurchThere are occasions in every Church calendar when the leadership team want to create a big impression.  Perhaps it is an outreach event, a new members night, Back to Church Sunday or the first night of an Alpha Course.  Whilst we can’t create a big impression all the time, there should be one or two events every year that really create the big impression to visitors.  Whilst we all look for shortcuts to creating a big impression, the reality is that a big effort creates a big impression.  In a world where everyone is bombarded with excellence, people are still impressed when an organisation makes an effort to impress.

For example this week I have been taking my boys along to our local church holiday program.  As we walked to the church on day one, I was expecting the boys to have a good day with other kids from the area.  When I arrived at the church the entire foyer was decorated with a jungle theme including hand made vines hanging off the rafters.  There was a welcome team that opened the front door for us and showed us how to register.  By the time I had dropped my boys off, they were so impressed by the foyer that they were expecting a great day.  The foyer experience had created a big impression on me and my boys.

Michael Hyatt suggests that the “Wow Factor” is created when an organisation goes beyond our expectations.  In other words to create a big impression an organisation has to go beyond the effort that people are expecting.  But there are some guideline to remember when creating a big impression so that you don’t burn out your team:

  1. Cut back  – it might seem odd to suggest that you cut back on events in order to create a big impression at Church but you can’t do everything.  Your team will have to decide on what they will stop doing in order to create the time and space needed to put in the big effort required to create the big impression.  Perhaps instead of doing 10 events that require a lot of effort you could scale back to three or four big impression events.  Some churches have cut back from holiday programs every term so they can put the effort into one big annual holiday program.
  2. Beg and Borrow – no ministry has the budget to do everything they want to do, so think about low cost ways to create the big impression.  One ministry drove a car into the church foyer to create the wow factor for a father’s day event, another church put a king size bed on stage for an event on Marriage (both items were owned by church members).  Think about items that you can get or borrow for free and then use them in interesting ways.
  3. Centre piece – if you do have the budget for decoration, then spend it on the focal point in the room.  When people are sitting or standing for the longest part of your event where will they be looking?  This focal point is where you can spend your money and biggest effort.  You don’t want to spend money on the foyer if the participants will spend 3 or 4 hours looking at a blank wall behind the guest speaker.  However if you are after positive first impressions then what will a guest see first?
  4. Recruit Volunteers – having lots of volunteers will make it much easier to set up and pack down.  We often forget how much effort it takes to pack up the event at the end, so organise the pack up team before you start.  The more volunteers you have to make things before the event the less you will have to spend on items made by someone else.  For example Conference bags are a standard item that create a big impression if it is full of useful items rather than just a pen and blank paper yet it can take hours for volunteers to stuff 100 conference bags carefully.
  5. Invite people to the event – if you are going to spend time and money on creating a big impression then you want people not just to see it but experience it.  You need to spend as much effort on inviting people to the event as setting up for the event.

It is often said that “Excellence honours God and inspires others” and yet this takes a lot of effort.  If you want to create a big impression it is going to take a big effort.  After reading this post perhaps you need to lead your team to think through the rest of  annual calendar to choose one or two events that are going to get the big effort and which events won’t require as much effort.

You might also like to read about creating excellence at Church

Also please leave a comment about how you have created a big impression at your Church.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith

Young People are the future of the Church

For over 20 years, Youth Minister have been arguing that the youth are not the future of the Church, they are the Church of today. Frankly, it hasn’t worked, young people are still leaving the Church, youth ministry budgets are still low and staff levels have either declined or stayed the same. The “Church of today” mantra hasn’t worked. What if we return to the motto of “young people are the future of the Church” would it work any better?

Here are a few questions we might ask our Parish Council, Vestry or Elders board if young people are the future of the Church:

  1. Senior Minister:  if you had to recruit your next Senior Pastor, Minister or Parish Priest from within your own people, are you developing future leaders?  Do you have enough good Christian young people entering theological education so that your next Senior Pastor is a great God honouring leader?  Who is your Senior Minister personally mentoring to take over their job in the future?
  2. Youth Pastor: if you had to recruit your next Youth Pastor from within your own people are you developing young people who have had a positive experience of youth ministry?  Do you mentor young adults so that they feel supported enough to take on a leadership role in future years as the Youth Ministry Coordinator?  If young people drop out of Church between the ages of 10-14, perhaps the 14 year old who just gave up on your church was your future Youth Pastor walking out your back door.
  3. Parish Council: if you had to recruit your next Elders board, Vestry or Parish Council member from within your own people would it be possible?  Are there young adults coming through your church who honour God with their lives and in the future could stand for leadership in your parish?  If you are not forming young people in your church today then the future of your Parish or Church leadership team is not looking good.  Perhaps the young people sitting in your church today who are bored and making paper aeroplanes out of the bulletin are thinking the last thing they want to do with their life is serve the Church.
  4. Financial Partners: nobody likes to mention the fact that the Church has always needed, and will always need, people who earn income in the world and donate it to the Church.  Are you investing in young people teaching them to go into the business world and be the best they can?  Because one day those young people will earn a pay cheque and make a decision on how much they give to the Church.  If they skip youth ministry and stop coming to Church, pretty soon your church will have fewer and fewer financial partners.  Perhaps the 14 year old who walked out your back door never to return was going to become the key financial partner in the future of your parish.

If we truly believe that the young people are the future of our Church wouldn’t we do things differently?  If your church had to recruit all its future leaders and financial partners from within your church wouldn’t you take the young people more seriously?  It is my opinion that many churches don’t think the young people are the future or the present of the Church, they are someone elses problem. Many churches are doing nothing hoping that someone else is forming great leaders they can steal/employ years down the track.

Absolutely we should see young people as the Church of today, but if we are serious about them being the future of our Church then let us invest far more into youth ministry than we currently are too.  Please a comment or share your thoughts below.

markoffaith mark of faith Mark of Faith

Would you do what you ask your workers to do?

There is a WorkSafe campaign on Victoria television at the moment with the slogan “would you do what you ask your workers to do?”  In each of the seven 20 second commercials a supervisor asks a worker to do something that is obviously unsafe and the worker agrees.  The point of the campaign is that workers are asked to do unsafe things all the time, just not that obvious.  Of course a worker would never do something unsafe if it was that obvious but what if it wasn’t obvious.

Check out the adds: Worksafe victoria


Whilst the campaign is frightening it drives home the point that we can’t ask people to do something that we know is unsafe.  One supervisor asks the young worker to work on a broken machine, another asks them to work in an inappropriate desk, another to fall off the back of a motor bike on a farm and another to work on a roof without a harness.

So it got me thinking about the situations which we ask our young ministry workers to go into.  Here might be a sample add:

Church leader: Will you work in our church unsupervised with no support but with all the responsibility, you will receive complaints from parents and church members, you will burn out after 18 months and probably hate the church for a while?

Young Leader: Sure

Church Leader:  Oh and we will pay you less than you would get at a fast food restaurant but work longer hours

Young Leader: Sure

If you think this is a far fetched situation then why is it all too common?  Why do we ask people to take on children ministry or youth ministry for 8-10 hours per week?  Many young people take on jobs in ministry for low pay with little supervision because we take advantage of their interest to serve the Church.  My hope is that we reduce the turn over rate of young ministry workers by putting into place support systems for our youngest leaders.   I know some churches can’t pay any more but lets give them the best mentoring and supervision available, lets disciple them like Jesus would.

Would you do what we ask young worker to do?

The Excellence debate

“Excellence honours God and inspires others”

Have you ever gone into a church for the first time and seen something that made you think “that is a little out of place”?  Have you ever been to a church or attended a ministry event and thought things looked a little sloppy and could have been done better?  Or on the flip side have you ever been to a ministry event that ran like clockwork and you were impressed?  It seems that we all have our own interior benchmark of what we think is “done well” and what we think is “done poorly”.

Yet I often hear from people that the Church needs to pick up its game in terms of the standard of events, presentation and hospitality.  I have also heard from others who say the Church should never be too slick or fancy.  Whilst some churches are pursuing excellence others are deliberately keeping things low budget so as not to look perfect.  So my two questions for today are:

  1. What level of excellence is appropriate in the Church?
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?

Let me start by giving you a few examples that I have witnessed from the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry:

Worst

  • I attended a young adult camp where the worship band left plates on stage from breakfast.
  • One church had posters for a youth group that looked like they were designed by a kindergarten class.
  • One church foyer had three different style of notice boards, posters about Christmas at Easter time and a pile of lost property that just looked messy.
  • A guest speaker had to rearrange the stage before he could start speaking because the musicians just walked off without clearing the stage.

Best

  • My church has a well-designed event template for all their posters so they look professional even though the ministry leader drops their event details into the template.
  • A ministry team that turned the cheap hall they hired for a youth camp into an inspiring place for worship.
  • A café night at church that had tasty food with enough for everyone to have extra.
  • A celebration night at church that had proper wine glasses and plates for the food (no plastic forks!)

These are just a few things that I have noticed.  But what have you noticed?  I invite you to leave a comment at the end about what you judge to be the best and the worst of excellence in church and ministry.

  1. What is the right level of excellence in the Church?  The right level of excellence is doing the best you can with the best you’ve got.  Excellence doesn’t mean spending more money; you have to have excellent budgeting skills too.  Excellence is about enabling people to encounter and experience God without any barriers in the way.  If the goal is excellence then we have failed.  Excellence is a tool to help you bring people into an encounter with God.
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?  The Church should do the best it can to make it easier for people to encounter God, make disciples and join in the Mission.  The Church should be a place that inspires people to see the grandness and greatness of God.  People in ministry should offer the same level of service, or higher, that a person would get if they visited a hotel, restaurant, shopping centre or cultural museum.  I think the problem is that we either don’t inspire people or we go back to “traditional” methods that Christians used last century to inspire people but they don’t inspire 21st century people.

Recently I was listening to a podcast with Louie and Shelley Giglio about the level of excellence at their Church, Passion City Church.  They shared their thoughts about the right level of excellence in two ways:

  • When they get ready for Church or events their team doesn’t pray for excellence, they pray that the Holy Spirit might touch people.  For Passion City Church, it is not about achieving excellence but removing barriers.
  • When the Church is excellent in presenting its craft, services/ministry, then it encourages people to go into their jobs and be excellent at their craft.  Louie said “the best evangelism happens when your lifestyle is so inspiring that people ask you what makes you tick.”

So don’t kill yourself or stress your team or break the budget to achieve excellence in your ministry.  But please don’t be sloppy, unprepared or messy as it doesn’t do anyone any favours.  Could you please leave a comment about what you have seen as the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry?