Friday, April 30, 2010

Content driven ministry

Duffy Robins is a Youth Ministry veteran from the United States. When asked the question “What's your biggest mistake when training leaders?” this was his reply:

“I was so busy teaching technique and how that I assumed people knew the why and what. So people became very good communicators of stuff that was nonsense” Watch the video

In another video he says that Theology and content matters. Even after working for years in youth ministry I was struck by that statement, content matters. It got me thinking, and I hope you as well, about the content of the material I teach to others. Is what we teach in our ministries driven by the question “how do we get our group to work?” or is it driven by the question “how can people love Jesus more?”

Whilst many interns and ministry volunteers what to know how to grow their ministry, the real focus should be on why and what.

  • Why? – Why does your ministry exist? Why is your parish better off because your ministry is there? Why are the participants getting involved?
  • What? – What is the focus of your ministry? What is the content that your ministry teaching? What are the participants in your ministry doing to grow close to God?

Here are three areas where content really matters:

  1. Evangelisation – when we invite people into a ministry we are not marketing a product (technique) we are being a witness to our faith (content). We are all called to evangelise not just invite people to church. Evangelisation brings a person into contact with a God that loves them and desire a relationship. A good indicator for technique vs content in evangelisation is this:

If someone has said no to an invitation to your ministry, do they walk away knowing more about Jesus? Don’t just work on your ministry sales pitch, work on being a witness to the living relationship you have with God.

  1. Catechesis: sometimes when we are teaching the faith we water it down to make it more appealing. We sometime believe that people will be turned off by the “God stuff”. We can focus so much on technique that we let the style determine the content. In ministry we need to teach the basics or foundations of faith. A good indicator for technique vs content in catechesis is this:

Are the people in your ministry searching for more? When Catechesis is focused on God rather than style, people are want to know more about how they can deepen their relationship with God.

  1. Mission: mission is not about feel good activity or doing nice things, it is a call from God to make a difference. Mission that focuses on technique can try to shock people into activity or guilt people into activity. Mission focused on content will focus on the desire that comes from within a person. A good indicator for technique vs content in mission is this:

Will participants engage in missional activity even if nobody else does? For some there is no other alternative.

Over the coming weeks we will take each one of these three areas to unpack a little more. Check in each Friday for more thoughts on content driven ministry.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Youth Ministry Stereotypes Part II

Have you ever broken the Youth Ministry rules? Maybe you broke rule number one or perhaps you broke rule number four. Maybe you have never heard about the Youth Ministry rules. Fight the Youth Ministry Stereotypes is a funny video that you should check out from the guys at Simply Youth Ministry. This video was shown at their recent youth workers convention.

Watch the Fight the Youth Ministry Stereotypes

So if you did check out the video, you will know that whilst there is some truth to the Youth Ministry rules, the video is a lot of fun. At times we all wish that there were five simple rules to success in ministry. Most of those who have been around ministry for a while know that just isn’t the case.

Without going into each rule in the video specifically, there are several points to draw out of this video:

  1. Be yourself. How can we expect young people in our ministries to be themselves if their leaders aren’t being true to themselves? Youth ministers might feel the pressure to look cool and sound younger in order to impress more young people. If we want young people to resist peer pressure, then it begins with the witness that we give as their leaders.

Try this: next time you are talking with young people share an example of how you got something wrong and what you learnt from the experience. This will help the people in your ministry to see that you are a real person too.

  1. Be responsible As youth ministry leaders we know what behaviour our parish leaders expect and yet we still remember the mischief that we got up to when we were young. As leaders in ministry we have to be responsible with the resources and trust that is given to us. At times we may have to stop the “fun” in order to keep the trust of the parish leaders and the parents of the young people.

Try this: next time you are faced with irresponsible behaviour in your ministry, correct the behaviour by saying to the person involved “this behaviour is not like you”. This simple statement tells the person that you believe they are usually a responsible person but this behaviour is not acceptable.

  1. Be creative perhaps we are bias, but youth ministry is more creative than many other ministries in the church. Perhaps others would say that we are just pushing the boundaries or not staying true to “how things are done”. Youth Ministry leaders by their nature should be creative and look for fresh insights. “Leaders are learners” is another wise insight for those who lead youth ministries.

Try this: next time you planning a youth night ask your team the question “what can we do that has never been done here before?” Not only will your youth night have a fresh look but it will force your team to learn from other locations about how they are being creative.

Please leave a comment about your Youth Ministry rules.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Youth Ministry Stereotypes

Yesterday I came to work in dress pants and a collared business shirt because I work in a corporate style building and I was meeting with a few staff from other departments. Today I sit here writing this in jeans, a “youthy” t shirt and my sneakers. Whilst I could get away with jeans on a casual Friday, it got me thinking about the image of a Youth Ministry Coordinator. What should a youth minister wear to work? Should a youth minister be trying to impress the youth or impress the boss? Those of us in youth ministry think about how we present what we do, how we dress and who we try to make an impression on.

What are the youth ministry stereotypes? One of the funniest things that I have see in a long time about youth minister stereotypes is an article by Jonathon Acuff titled “Wondering how youthtastic your youth minister is.” Jonathon asks the reader to give their youth minister a score for each “youthtastic” stereotype they fulfil on his list. Here are three of my favourites:

101. Knows how to multiply cheap pizza almost as well as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. = +3 points

103. Is often asked by parents, “What do you do all week?” = +3 points

109. Had someone in the church ask, “Do you think someday you’ll want to be a ‘real’ minister?” = +10 points

Here is my list of four Youth Ministry Stereotypes you need to protect yourself from:

  1. Youth Ministry Coordinators are disorganised – recently a Youth Ministry Coordinator that I think is a real expert advised me to be super organised. He said that you can get more money out of the finance team if they think you manage money well. If you are organised with a plan for an event, have a good budget and keep receipts you will get further with people higher up the organisation, i.e. the people who run the parish or school.
  2. Youth Ministry Coordinators need to keep up with the latest trends – believe it or not there are effective youth ministry coordinators who aren’t on facebook and twitter. Many youth ministry coordinators have realised that the youth subcultures change but the role of discipleship remains constant. To break this stereotype focus on the young people and their relationship with Jesus, not what songs they download or what they wear.
  3. Rock music and entertainment is the key to drawing in young people – Many people think that the “Big Evangelical churches” draw young people in with rock music and entertainment. Yet when you go to these churches they have a discipleship focus that runs deeper than the first impression. Doug Fields once said that youth ministry can’t out entertain the world. In your ministry work towards making a lasting impression rather than just a good first impression.
  4. You have to start Youth Ministry with Pizza – there are youth ministries that run very effectively without offering food. Many young people like pizza and will eat it if you provide it, but are they coming for the pizza or the relationships? Another Youth Ministry Coordinator said to design your youth ministry program for growth. He said that you can’t buy enough pizza for 100 people or take them all bowling so don’t make it part of the program when you only have 20 regulars.

We all encounter stereotypes in ministry. As a young intern or parish volunteer become aware of these stereotypes so that you can break the mould and be a unique gift to the Church.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A New Creation

Happy Easter to all those who minister to youth and young adults where ever you are around the world. This is the greatest seasons in our Church that continues long after the supermarkets have stopped selling Easter Eggs.

The Easter message has got me think about our ministries, are they a new creation because of Easter? How can we use the joy of Easter to empower us in our ministry?

There are two important points about Easter:
New Creation: When Jesus rose he was a new creation. Jesus was not a patched up version of his old self, he was a new creation. The Church reminds of this through the baptism of catechumenates at the Easter vigil, they are a new creation after their baptism. We can forget this because everything seems the same on the outside.
Old Body: When Jesus rose from the dead he was in his old body. Jesus didn’t get a new body; his resurrected body had all the scars from his crucifixion. Easter would have a whole different meaning if Jesus left his old body in the tomb to take a new body after his resurrection.

Jesus resurrected his old body into a new creation and Jesus does the same for us at Easter. As a ministry coordinator, Intern or volunteer, Easter is the time for you to become a new creation in the circumstances of your old life. You may not have changed your ministry position, but you can have a new attitude to your ministry during this Easter season. Here are three attitudes to take on:

  1. Leave it at the Cross – if there are things that have been a burden to you in your ministry, leave them at the foot of the cross. The cross is a symbol of all that Jesus did for us at Easter. Perhaps you need to write down your burdens and worries, place them in an envelope and leave them at the foot of the cross. Jesus died so that we can be free; we are missing the point if we don’t live into that freedom.
  2. Become a new creation – The Easter season is the beginning of the Church’s year so take on a new years resolution. As a new creation in Christ what ways can you make a positive change in your ministry? Are there some new habits that you can develop to become a better minister? This week I started telling myself to see the best in people, it is amazing the difference it makes to see the best in others rather than how they could improve.
  3. Share the Joy – have a sense of urgency about sharing the Good News. If you won a million dollars in the Lotto, you would rejoice and spend it quickly because it is a good thing. How much more important then is it to share this Good News with as many people as quickly as you can? Share the joy with those in your sphere of influence and you never know what effect your Joy can have.

Again Happy Easter to all of you and thanks for reading this blog. Perhaps you can pass this on to others and share the Good News through this blog.
Please leave a comment about what Easter meant to you in 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy Easter

From all of us at Broken Bay Youth Ministry we wish you a happy and Holy Easter.
Easter is a time for Christians to reflect on their relationship with Jesus. At Broken Bay Youth Ministry we have taken a disciplship focus to youth ministry. Our goal is to support parish leaders to help youth and young adults deepen their discipleship walk with Jesus. Easter offers us the opportunity to renew our commitment to Jesus.
"At Easter we celebrate, with due solemnity, the central mystery of our faith: that is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God has saved us and brought us to share in the divine life. The mystery of Easter is not just for us." Bishop David Walker

Creating critical mass

We have been reflecting on the role of culture in your ministry. Ministry culture is the way that the people in your ministry live their lives rather than the activities they engage in. As a leader you work hard to create the right ministry culture in your setting. The hope is that there would be a core group of people who live out the values and teaching of the Gospel in your ministry. Once you have this core group the culture of the ministry infects everyone because it is lived rather than taught. This core group becomes a critical mass through which the entire group is transformed.

Recently in the Broken Bay News, Bishop David Walker wrote an insightful article called “Living our Faith in a Mature Way”. There are a number of issues in the article which you should read, but the two sections quoted below link in with this discussion of ministry culture:

There are five million Catholics and millions of other Christians in our society today. Yet, our society does not feel, in a significant way, the love that God has shown us in Jesus. We have a majority of Christians in Australia, but our country is not a Christian society. Is the implication that we need more Christians? No! The implication is that we do not have a critical mass of disciples of Jesus that is capable of transforming our society. How do we achieve this critical mass? . . .

. . . To achieve the task outlined above, we need a critical mass of mature disciples of Jesus. This maturity is not simply achieved by going through the practices of our faith, but by a conscious and deliberate effort to work at transforming our own life by the power of the Gospel. The critical mass that we need is sufficient mature, committed disciples who can make the Gospel present effectively within our society. Then the power of the Gospel will be more operative and effective.

As a leader in your ministry you can only have so much influence. The key to making your ministry successful is to equip others with the Gospel values so that they can also influence others with the way they live their life. Your ministry culture the “conscious and deliberate effort” to pass on the values you want others to pick up. Your ministry should be an environment where people can transform their lives not just engage in a lot of Christian activity.

We hope that this series on Ministry Culture has helped you look at the lives of the people in your ministry, not just the activities you run. As an intern or ministry leader your focus should be on creating a culture of transformation rather than a culture that is driven by activity. We hope that this has assisted you to create a culture in your ministry where Gospel values are highly regarded and people feel loved by God.