- Why Shiloh likes the idea of homeschooling.
- When meeting with a team member, make sure you regularly ask, ‘Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?’, suggests Dave Moore. I love the Manager Tools suggestion that the first 15 minutes of every such meeting should be focussed on just that question.
- How respectful is your Facebooking about your little kids? Will they be hurt by your comments when they are older?:
Parents, before you post about your small children, imagine a 13-year-old version of them reading over your shoulder. Your child bears the image of God just as you do. Does what you communicate honor them as equal image-bearers? Does it provide short-term gratification for you or honor long-term relationship with them? Does it potentially expose them to ridicule or label them? Does it record a negative sentiment that an adult would recognize as fleeting but an adolescent might not?
- The legacy of Keith Green. I loved that book ‘No Compromise’, but I must admit, I could never get into his Billy Joel sort of music. I could never get into Billy Joel either.
- Ed Stetzer reminds us that the horror story of the Cleveland sex slavery kidnappings gets repeated millions of times the world over, through the sex trade.
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of disprized Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action.
I find doom and gloom pieces about how social media kills community and learning and small puppies annoying. There are new risks that the internet brings. But it’s silly and simplistic to invest the internet with these unique and disastrous powers.
Paul Miller spent a year offline. And this was his discovery:
As it turned out, a dozen letters a week could prove to be as overwhelming as a hundred emails a day. And that was the way it went in most aspects of my life. A good book took motivation to read, whether I had the internet as an alternative or not. Leaving the house to hang out with people took just as much courage as it ever did.
By late 2012, I’d learned how to make a new style of wrong choices off the internet. I abandoned my positive offline habits, and discovered new offline vices. Instead of taking boredom and lack of stimulation and turning them into learning and creativity, I turned toward passive consumption and social retreat.
A year in, I don’t ride my bike so much. My frisbee gathers dust. Most weeks I don’t go out with people even once. My favorite place is the couch. I prop my feet up on the coffee table, play a video game, and listen to an audiobook. I pick a mindless game, like Borderlands 2 or Skate 3, and absently thumb the sticks through the game-world while my mind rests on the audiobook, or maybe just on nothing.
It has long fascinated me that our technologies don’t do anything to us that we don’t want. We can say we hate the Internet or email or cell phones, but if we hated them as much as we insist, we’d do something about them. We may hate them, but we love them just a little bit more.
Already there has been a spectrum of comments on the posts in this series. Part of the challenge is different people think different things are The Problem. So for the person who think ministry staff need to think more like secular workers about their work, The Problem is being too vague about what they do, and treating it as too distinct and separate. For others, the problem is long ministry work hours and we need to fight for the 50 hour week, or 40 hour week (or thirty hour week!).
I urge us to realise that there is not One Problem and there are big risks of judgmentalism and reductionism to settle on one thing that is always the issue.
So, for example, those who cry out against long work hours need to be careful to qualify their criticisms. Sometimes it is a problem. Sometimes it is unhealthy and unsustainable. Sometimes it is workaholism. Sometimes it is neglect of family and friends. I know I have times when I need to block out time to rest properly, to avoid the depression-crash after 2 months of intense work. I know I need to be careful not to neglect my family and my health..
But that is not always the problem.
Because it is possible for a job to be a lifestyle job, and approached to a certain degree of health and joy, while working apparently long hours. In a sense, to worry too much about counting hours is unhelpful, because it assumes a very clear dividing line between work and rest.
But ministry (and other jobs too) can contain aspects of friendship, recreation and renewal into their fabric. They are not always punishing work hours that grind you down. For example:
- Enjoying recreational reading that also happens to be on an area of theology, philosophy, history or practical skills. Or indeed a fiction book that equips you with new applications and illustrations.
- Working with people who are genuinely friends, with whom you laugh, pray, go for a walk-and-talk meeting.
- Conferences or other training events that have recreational perks such as sports, hotel rooms (and hotel breakfast buffets and hotel gyms and pools).
- Seasons where you need to be on the clock, but not much needs to be done. Where you can wander around the office, call your parents, surf the web, buy a donut, start a nerf gun war. Sometimes these can happen right before a big event, when everything is organised and there is nothing to do but wait.
- Attending social functions that are necessary as a part of your role, but that you would attend anyway: weddings, church BBQs.
One of the small blessings of a lifestyle job is that you have more flexibility to do personal errands and meetings during your work time, and can squeeze some aspects of your work conveniently into cracks after hours. This can mean that a 50+ hour week can be a positive experience.
Of course it can also mean that you get ground down by stress without realising it, because the very things you are enjoying are also exhausting you and you are never switching off. Its not the whole story, but just another perspective to take into account.
From his great little book, Metroland:
There were a few private things which I didn’t confide to Toni. Actually, only one: the thing about dying. We always laughed about it, except on the rare occasions when we knew the person involved. Lucas, for instance, wing-forward int eh Thirds, was found one morning by his mother, gassed. But even then, we were more interested in the rumours than in the fact of his death. A girl friend? The family way? Unable to face the parents?
There must, I suppose have been some causal connection between the arrival in my head of the fear of the Big D, and the departure of God; but if so, it was a loose exchange, with no formal process of reasoning present. God, who had turned up in my life a decade earlier without proof or argument, got the boot for a number of reaosns, none of which, I suspect will seem wholly sufficient: the boringness of Sundays, the creeps who took it all seriously at school, Buadelaire and Rimbaud, the pleasure of blasphemy (dangerous, this one), humn-singing and organ music and the language of prayer, inability any longer to think of wanking as a sin, and - as a clincher - an unwillingness to believe that dead realtives were watching what I was doing.
So, the whole package had to go, though its loss diminished neither the boringness of Sundays nor the guilt of wanking. Within weeks, however, as if to punish me, the infrequent but paralysing horror of Big D invaded my life. I don’t claim any originality for the timing and location of my bouts of fear (when in bed, unable to sleep), but I do claim one touch of particularity. The fear of death would always arrive while I was lying on my right side, facing towards the window and the distant railway line. It would never come when I was on my left side, facing my bookshelves and the rest of the house. ONce sarted, the fear could not be diminished by simply turning over: it had to be played out to the end. To this day I have a preference for sleeping on my left side.
What was the fear life? Is t different for other people? I don’t know. A sudden, rising terror which takes you unawares; a surging need to scream, which the house rules forbid (they always do), so that you lie there with your mouth open in a trembling panic; total wakefulness, which takes an hour or so to subside; and all this as background to and symptom of the central image, part-visual, part-intellectual, of non-existence. A picture of endlessly retreating stars, taken I expect - with the crass bathos of the unconscious - from the opening credits of a Universal Pictures film; a sensation of total aloneness within your pyjamaed, shaking body; a realisation of Time (always capitalised) going on without you for ever and ever; and a persecuted sense of having been trapped into the present situation by person or persons unknown.
The fear of dying meant, of course, not the fear of dying but the fear of being dead. Few fallacies depressed me more than the line: ‘I don’t mind being dead; it’s just like being asleep. Its the dying I can’t face.’ Nothing seemed clearer to me in my nocturnal terrors than that death bore no resemblance to sleep. I wouldn’t mind Dying at all, I thought, as long as I didn’t end up Dead at the end of it.
Dan Godden has become a good friend of mine over the last few years. We really got to know each other during a junket to the USA in 2011. It turns out that when you order a ‘double room’ in the US it means ‘double bed’... you get to know someone well when you have hotel check in clerks thinking you’re a gay couple, and when you have to drive on the right side of the road in a foreign city while jet lagged.
ANYWAY. It’s really exciting what God is doing through Dan and his team in the Salt Church church plant in Wollongong. I can say that it would be a great ministry to be a part of and Dan would be a great guy to work with.
Maybe you should apply? (Eccles 11:1-6)
Ministry is not best talked about in hours-worked at all really.
Ministry payment is not a wage paid on a per hour basis or a salary for a full-time or part-time job. Not really.
Better to think of ministry payment as a stipend to free someone up for the task. Any particular tasks, duties, meetings, hours that might give some form to this are very much secondary.
You are paid to be freed up to be you. You are paid to be freed up to fulfil a role. Particular tasks or particular hours are a sometimes necessary and very inadequate proxy for this.
- The Briefing’s latest critique of Hillsong Conference. Note the positive observations of the workshops:
Off that main platform, however, my constant impression was that everyone involved was keen to be shaped by how God has revealed himself in his word, and to align their ministry and understanding of church to that. For sure, they came up with conclusions that at times I disagreed with, but the principle of carefully reading Scripture and forming how you act on that foundation was both clearly in place, and widespread.I was surprised at home positive they were about the lyrics of ‘Beneath The Waters’ and other such songs. I was disappointed with how ordinary the lyrics of these songs are. They have a lot more atonement terminology, but it seems sort of jumbled together, like it’s been pulled out of a scrabble bag (This is my revelation, Christ Jesus crucified, Salvation through repentance At the cross on which He died[?! What does this even mean?])... but good that they are seeing the good and acknowledging it, even while giving a pretty harsh critique!
- A cute little image from Challies about why he always turns around to look at the groom’s face when a bride walks into the church building:
Now here’s the tip: When those doors open, steal a quick glance at the groom. I know the bride is the star of the show and you don’t want to miss her, but it’s okay to look to the front of the church for just a moment. The more I read and understand Ephesians 5:22-33 and the more I come to grasp the deepest meaning of marriage, the more I find myself not wanting to miss what happens at the front of the room. Because in that moment the groom is just a small picture, a dim reflection, of the love Jesus Christ has for his bride, the church. There is nothing quite like the expression on a groom’s face when his bride appears before him. There is joy there. There is delight and desire and such love. There is the knowledge that his longing for a bride is being fulfilled and that she will soon be his, that in just moments they will be united together forever.
- A silly-but-cool AFES fundraising drive. Fundraising drives are good gimmicks, but must never be the heart of our fundraising strategies in gospel ministry. Because we are not FUNDRAISING, we are not MERCHANDISING, we are raising up GOSPEL PARTNERS. However, as one minor strategy amongst many, things like this can be great - and a fun entry point for genuine gospel partnerships.
- A great new MTS blog post about adjusting to ministry as work.
- Joe shares the speech Tasmanian MP Jacqui Petrusma gave for why she opposed the recent abortion bill.
- Dove has recently done some excellent commercials. It’s quite touching to see these women realise that others see them as much more beautiful than they see themselves… and that the perception of others are more accurate! The three minute version The six minute version
A handy little bit of advice I learned from working with Alan Reader was: always bring a printer, paper and a power-board to conferences you are organising. They always come in mega-handy.
One helpful general piece of advice from Grahame from EV Church (thanks for your help Grahame!) was: ‘Make sure you set up your departments and groups to reflect reality’. That’s a hard thing to do in practice. But it’s a good reminder to think hard about how you will actually use the software. Don’t give this setup job to an IT geek or office lady in your church who doesn’t really get how your ministry functions. It is a ministry tool, not an admin tool.
We went for the ‘Standard’ solution rather than ‘Deluxe’ and I think that was a wise move. However, if I had fully understood what ‘Coaches’ and ‘Departments’ were, I would have been tempted to adopt ‘Deluxe’: after all it is not that much more expensive - maybe $200 more a year?
The advantage of ‘Departments’ is that it allows you to have several layers of leaders and communication:
- A Department Head: say ‘Small Groups Department Leader’
- Coaches: say ‘Small Group Regional Overseers’
- Leaders and Assistant Leaders: the leaders of the individual groups
Not only does this allow you to give a bit more organisation to how your groups are ordered, it also helps with, for example communication.
Rather than having to create a separate group called ‘Small Group Leaders’ in order to bulk message them, or a separate group called ‘Small Group Regional Leaders’ to bulk message THEM - and then make sure that everyone is in every group they need to be in… You can simply put them in the one group and then email:
- Everyone in the department: eg all small group members, leaders, regional overseers
- All the leaders: eg all of the small group leaders, across all the groups and regions
- All the leaders or all the members in a region
- All the coaches: eg all the regional leaders
Unfortunately Departments and Coaches can’t host events. These need to be hosted by one group which then invites all the others. Or a dummy group called ‘Host Group’ could be created to host these events.
Departments and the Standard Version
The Standard Version has at least three things lacking from this setup:
- No coaches feature. So there’s one level in the hierarchy missing - you have to create a separate group for regional leaders
- No message a department feature: You have to use Mail Merge to do that
- No custom-departments: you have to use their out-of-the-box departments.
We used the ‘out-of-the-box’ department ‘Teaching / Management’ for our Small Groups, so that rather than creating a separate group called ‘Small Group Leaders’ we can simply go to ‘Mail Merge’ and email all the leaders in the Teaching / Management Department.