Friday, August 27, 2010

Defining the Culture of your Ministry

Programs define what you do; Culture is determined by who you are.

Recently a friend asked me to define the culture of Broken Bay Youth Ministry.  Whilst I was able to share a few thoughts off the top of my head, I realised that there is no definite answer at the moment.  The challenge for us at the moment is to define the culture that we want to develop in our Diocese.  The challenge for you is defining it in your ministry.

The reason this is so important at the moment is because we have a number of parishes that are looking to begin a youth ministry.  What will the youth ministry feel and look like?  What will the parish begin with and what we will recommend they don’t do?  Ministry is more than a program it is relational, it has a look and a feel.  This look and feel is the culture of a ministry; it is this unique culture that makes your ministry different to the one down the road.

Here are four questions to ask about the Culture in your ministry:

  1. What will you begin?  When you are sitting down looking for ideas, some ideas are attractive and you would like to give them a go in your ministry.  Perhaps you have seen another ministry in your area that has a better feel or a more positive attitude than where your ministry is at the moment.  In your ministry you could begin a whole number of activities or programs, but which ones would support your mission, your style or culture?  In your ministry what behaviours or attitudes could you begin or encourage that would strengthen your ministry?
  2. What will you promote?  When you look at your ministry there are things that you are good at and you should promote them more.  We all promote our events or programs but we should promote the strengths and passions within our ministry.  There are also behaviours that you want to encourage and celebrate.  Perhaps you can celebrate people who “go the extra mile” in service so that you promote a culture of service. In your ministry what is the behaviour and attitudes that you could promote to new members?
  3. What will you stop doing?  When you look at your ministry closely you will see things that you don’t like.  You need to stop doing those things and teach people what you do want.  For example you may have a culture of lateness, so teach people about the value of being on time by starting meetings on time, even if people are not there yet.  You may have a culture of “it is will be alright on the night”, so change the culture by asking people to submit their program a week before an event.  You just have to stop certain behaviours so that new people will pick up the behaviours that enhance your culture.
  4. Major on the Majors and Minor in the Minors.  What ever you repeat as the leader, others will think is the Major thing.  If the leader of a youth ministry majors on social activity, then young people will think the major focus of the youth group is having fun.  If the youth ministry leader focuses on Bible study or catechesis, the young people will see that as the major focus.  If people keep referring to your ministry as “small” and talking about the attendance then people will think numbers are a major issue.  Remember to keep you focus on the major reason your ministry exists.  For example, Broken Bay Youth Ministry exists to assist parish based youth ministry, so social events or mission trips are nice but they are a minor part of our focus.  What are the behaviours and attitudes that enhance the major focus of your ministry?

By reflecting on these four areas in your ministry, people will pick up more of the positive behaviours that you want to develop in your ministry.  Your ministry will feel more like you want it to feel and look more like what you want it to look like.

Mark McDonald
Mark McDonald is the Diocesan Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Broken Bay.  You can follow Mark on twitter @mrmarkmcdonald

Defining the Culture of your Ministry – Part II

Programs define what you do; Culture is determined by who you are.

In a Part 1 we had a look at four areas that build the culture of your ministry.  In this post we will look at a practical example of what that might look like in an imaginary parish.  This practical example might help you understand more about applying the general principles in your ministry.

Our made up parish will be called St Luke Parish for this example.  St Luke is a parish with one primary school, one Catholic high school and one government high school in the area.  The Parish has had a part time youth minister for two years as a trial.  The parish has three parish interns who are volunteering in the youth ministry team that we will look at in this example.  Imagine that you are also part of the Youth Ministry team at St Luke Parish.

Here are the four areas of Culture that we will reflect on in this youth ministry:

  1. What will you begin?  Recently you heard about another Youth Ministry in the Diocese that has been running the Youth Alpha Course and you will look to run the course in a few weeks after a period of promotion.  This will encourage the young people in the ministry to develop a culture of learning (catechesis).  You want people to learn more about their faith and Alpha will enhance this.  One of the Interns heard about another parish that has some hospitality after their youth mass.  The Interns think this will work in St Luke parish.  This will develop a culture of hospitality and friendliness around the Youth Mass.  This will also keep the focus on the Youth Mass which St Luke’s have been working on for 12 months.
  2. What will you promote?  Whilst the team have been working on the Youth Mass for 12 months, you haven’t really promoted the music ministry.  You will look for ways to promote the music ministry with young musicians as a way of drawing them into the ministry.  This will create a culture of inclusion where everyone can add their gifts to a ministry.  You also want to develop a culture where young people prepare for the Sunday mass during the week.  The Facebook group is one way of developing this culture.  An Intern will update the group page with links to the Sunday readings each week.  By providing links to the young people will become familiar with one tool that will help them study the Bible themselves.
  3. What will you stop doing?  After months of social outings the Parish Priest feels this is distracting from the focus on the Youth Mass.  A culture has developed where people turn up sometimes and don’t RSVP at other times making events hard to plan.  Also people are choosing the social events yet say they don’t have any “spare time” for serving at the Youth Mass.  So the Youth Ministry will stop offering social activities on Friday nights and build a culture of staying after the Sunday night youth mass as a way of keeping the social connections.  The music ministry also decided that they will stop music rehearsal 30 minutes before the Sunday mass so that musicians can socialise with people arriving for Mass.  This will give space for CD music which will create a more vibrant atmosphere than the last minute practice.
  4. Major on the Majors and Minor in the Minors.  After reflecting on your ministry, the Youth Ministry Team realise that the Youth Mass is important to the ministry, it is your Major.  The ministry team will work with the Interns to create a culture of service around the Youth Mass.  The attitude that you want to develop is that the Youth Mass is the high point of your ministry, not just something that we have to do.  So everyone in the ministry will place a major focus on building a culture of serving in the activities before, during and after the Youth Mass.  It is also important to develop a culture of invitation (Evangelisation) that encourages people to bring their friends to the youth mass not the social activities.  The social activities are a minor part of the culture so as a team you decide to reduce the emphasis on this for a few months.  The Interns suggest that the annual Christmas party be seen as a chance to celebrate the success of the youth ministry over the year.  This will be an “open mic” night where people share the stories of the year and the success of the ministry.

Now this is just one example of building culture.  In your ministry go beyond the programs you are offering to have a look at who you are as a ministry and what you are inviting new people to join.

Mark McDonald
Mark McDonald is the Diocesan Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Broken Bay.  You can follow Mark on twitter @mrmarkmcdonald

Friday, August 20, 2010

3 stages of engaging presentations

What does a scenic flight in an aeroplane have to do with presentation skills?  If you reflect on the three stages of giving a presentation, there are a lot of similarities to an aeroplane flight.  There is usually a starting point to any flight the same as there is always an introduction to any talk, speech or presentation.  There are usually a couple of points of interest in any scenic flight, and in any presentation there should be a few points of interest too.  Every scenic flight must come to an end as should a good presentation.

Have you ever heard a talk that never really grabbed your attention?  Perhaps the introduction never got off the ground.  Or perhaps you have heard a talk or speech that went on and on and on; they didn’t know how to “land it”.  So here are three simple tips for giving a great presentation in your ministry setting using the image of an aeroplane flight:

  1. The Take off:  When an aeroplane is getting ready to take off it uses the most amount of energy of the entire flight.  When you begin your presentation you will have to use a lot of energy to get the attention of the audience.  If you loose people in the take off you may not get them back, but they are stuck with you.  Even if you know your topic, you must give some thought to your introduction.
How you can kick off your presentation?

  1. The Cruising: when an aeroplane gets into the air it aims for its cruising altitude and then turns down the engines to cruising speed.  An aeroplane doesn’t fly at full speed and cruises at an efficient speed.  In the cruising part of your presentation you might have to come off the energy level a little.  People can’t keep their energy up for a constant time so adapt the pace in the middle section.
Just like an aeroplane flight there are usually only two or three points of interest.  In your middle section don’t confuse people with 10 or 15 key points.  You want two or three key points that get you to your destination but add interest along the way.

What are the 2 or 3 key points of your presentation?

  1. The Landing:  when an aeroplane takes off it knows where it is going to land.  A long “holding pattern” before landing can be hard for the passengers.  When you are giving a presentation you must know how you are going to land or finish before you begin.  What is your final destination?  Keeping the audience wondering when you are going to finish is not a good idea.
How are you going to finish your presentation?

These are three really simple stages to any presentation.  There is one more thought to add using the aeroplane analogy: 
How many planes can a pilot fly at once?  A pilot can only fly one plane at any given time.  So too you should have one only one key theme each time you present.  Some people will get up and talk for the allotted time, packing in as many themes and topics as they can.  Apart from confusing the audience, each theme is undervalued because it is not explored properly.

So the next time you are giving a presentation remember:
  • fly one plane (theme)
  • give energy to the take off (introduction)
  • have 2 or 3 points of interest while cruising (body) and
  • nail the landing (conclusion).

written by Mark McDonald
Mark McDonald is the Diocesan Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Broken Bay.  You can follow Mark on twitter @mrmarkmcdonald

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Year In - an Intern's Perspective

This post is a reflection from Riley Scott one of our Interns.  

One Year In

The WYD Parish Internship Program is at about the halfway mark - one year through, with one left to go: as good a time as any to reflect on where we are and where we're headed.

From the stories of others and my own time thus far, we've all of us experienced the internship differently. Personally, as in life, so in ministry: realized in retrospect, the most rewarding times have been the most challenging or demanding or uncertain, etc. Stepping out and stepping up, the rewards have well been worth the efforts (e.g. to care, to try) and risks (e.g. the pain of failure). Dedicated service has seen me feeling more a part of my parish than before, such that as a spectator a vital aspect would be missing; in giving, it feels I place myself in right relation to the community, without which life experienced within would be attenuated.

For the hours of the week we give, the Diocese extends an invitation to Madrid; for the heart we devote in service, we hear an echo of Christ's invitation to enter into a deeper relationship with God. To complete the average weekly hours for some is easy, for others it less so, but in any case the extra step we're all called to is the spirit with which we do those hours. Just as we'll have to actively experience Madrid when there to get from it all we can, so too with the ministry we now do: we can perform the requisite tasks mechanically or with heart and both will get us there, but when we try and care and give ourselves for it, we gain something else in the process; why settle for the former when we can use this as an opportunity for the latter?

In one sense we're halfway through the journey, our progress measured by the numbers in our logbooks, and it will all come to an end in a year or so. But I hope each person feels it in another sense, that this a stage of a journey we each started before and will continue long after the internship program, that can't be captured by something as simple as a number or name, and isn't about where we are on the face of the earth but where we are in relation to God.

A blessing perhaps sometimes unrecognized or unacknowledged, many are working with us without the motivation of Madrid (and so forth), and without their help a few of us probably wouldn't make it. Many thanks to all involved, from fellow interns to support staff to parishioners, especially to those that go beyond what any could reasonably expect of them, that, with servant hearts, serve us as we serve others. I hope we as a group can have an undeniable, substantial, positive impact, that our deeds may be a light that reveals the glory of God; a success such that no doubt is left that the program ought be continued and another group given the same opportunities and support for an equally meaningful and fulfilling journey.

Peace and God bless,
Riley Scott

Friday, August 13, 2010

The greatest tension in Youth Ministry?

Is faith caught or is faith taught?  Pick up any book on Youth Ministry and you will find that it has a particular bias to this question.  Many of the popular models of Youth Ministry have some good ideas but maybe they don’t solve the issues you face in your ministry.  So as a youth ministry leader which model or theory should you choose?  This is perhaps the greatest tension in Youth Ministry today.

Dig a little deeper and you will find there two camps of Youth Ministry:

Camp One - Catechesis focused
Key Goal – Giving young people the foundations of the faith for their future
One Extreme form – the Baltimore Catechism
If you look at the development of Catholic Youth Ministry it came out of the Religious Education movement and the Social Movements.  The basis of this style of youth ministry is that youth ministry prepares young people to be adult members of the Church.  With this goal in mind youth ministry leaders are encouraged to provide opportunities for young people to learn their faith, perhaps the motto is “Faith is taught not caught”.

One extreme version of this mindset is the old style Catechism.  The Baltimore catechism was meant to be learnt by heart, even if the young person didn’t understand the answer.  The thinking was that young people would learn the faith as a child and learn to understand it as they grew up.

Camp One - Evangelisation focused
Key Goal – getting young people to begin a relationship with Christ
One Extreme form – The Altar Call
If you look at the development of Evangelical Youth Ministry there is a lot of emphasis on young people making a personal decision to follow Christ.  The basis of this style of youth ministry is that youth ministry leaders have to take the Gospel to young people or else they are not “saved”.  With this goal in mind Youth Ministry leaders are encouraged to provide opportunities for young people to have a personal experience of God, perhaps the motto is “Faith is caught, not taught”.

One extreme version of this mindset is the pressure of the Altar Call.  Young people are told that responding to one altar call and repeating a prayer said by the Leaders will guarantee their salvation.

Faith is caught AND taught
Perhaps this tension is good because it encourages all of us in Youth Ministry to see that the focus should be Evangelisation and Catechesis.  The goal for youth ministry could be:
“Helping young people to begin a relationship with God that will grow and develop through life long Catechesis.”

Both camps have got some elements right and have grown Youth Ministry yet both sides are also missing some important elements of Youth Ministry

Please comment on how you see the greatest tension in Youth Ministry.  Join us next week for further thought on this tension.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What is your purpose? Part III - Stewardship

What does the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 have to do with your God given purpose?  More than you might think.  There is one more thought that we need to add to the recent blog post, “What is your purpose?  We looked at three areas where you need to explore your God given purpose.  God wants you to make a significant contribution to our world through your career, your personal life and your Church ministry. 

There is one more thought that needs to be added to this series, Your God Given purpose is a gift from God to give Glory to God.

In the Parable of the Talents, three servants are given money by the Master of the House.  Each of the servants has to care for the money while the Master is gone.  There are three thoughts about this reading that apply to your God given purpose:

  1. Your purpose comes from God – In this parable the money comes from the master, the servants have not earned the money themselves.  Sometimes we forget where our God given purpose comes from; we believe that we have earned it.  We can have the attitude that we have worked hard to get ourselves into the position we are in.  We believe that it is our study and diligence that got us into the Career or Hobby or Community group.  Yet if we have to be honest it is God’s grace that gave us the ability to study, the ability to work and the opportunity to take on the tasks that we taken on in our career, personal life or ministry.
How are you using your God given purpose to give glory to God?

  1. Your purpose goes back to God - We can so often focus on what the servants did with their “talents” that we forget that they had to give the money back.  We are given stewardship over our God given purpose not ownership.  We are accountable to God for the opportunities that come our way when we are following our God given purpose.  The history of our Church and the Bible are full of stories where God gives and takes away.  The book of Job in the Bible is the story of faithfulness when God takes away the blessings in Job’s life.  We need to realise that we steward our purpose until God wants us to move on.
How are you stewarding your God given purpose?

  1. Your purpose is teaching you about faithfulness – At the end of the parable the Master takes the small amount of money off one servant and gives it to another.  Sometimes we can be worried that we are not reaching our potential.  Yet if we read this parable, we can see that if we are faithful in the small opportunities, greater opportunities will come our way.  Perhaps God is using the season that you are in to prepare you for a greater season in the coming years.  Your faithfulness now can help you reach your God given purpose in the years to come.
Are you being faithful to the small parts of your God given purpose?

Please leave a comment.

Please join us next week as we begin another topic that will enhance your ministry in your local community.