Thursday, April 28, 2011

I QUIT (Part 5) Quit Blaming: Choose To Take Responsibility

Blaming is a surface behaviour that we all engage in. When something isn’t going our way, we place the blame on all manner of things like our parents, spouses, friends, co-workers, the traffic, and even God. From little blaming, ‘who touched my earphones’, to bigger blaming of our childhood and the economy; blaming is everywhere – in every class and race, like an epidemic. It’s a sin we all share.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Learn, Lead and Live

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)
It’s been a really confronting time for Christians as we have watched, and for some of us, been embroiled, in the natural disasters that the world has experienced in the first few months of the year.  We watch the suffering, we feel the pain, and see great mourning come from these situations.  We wonder what God is doing in and through these events?

Recently the team at Willow Creek has been spending time each week reflecting on Jesus’ teaching in the beatitudes.  Beatitude is the blending of two words – “beati”, meaning supreme happiness, or extreme joy and “tude”, meaning a state of being. 
It appears on the surface a contradiction when Jesus says, “be in a state of great joy when you mourn”.  When we read these words we naturally link mourning to bereavement around the loss of someone we love.  But this verse doesn’t make sense if we apply that understanding to it.  When Jesus talks of mourning here, he is referring to grief that comes when we understand how sin has broken our relationship with God.  Our sin breaks God’s heart and therefore breaks ours as well when we fully understand how it affects God, our creator. 
As we approach Easter, our prayer at Willow is that people in your church and ministry will be blessed as they mourn over their sin and the sin of others that drove Jesus to the cross, so that through his death our sin could be forgiven, and through his resurrection, we may have life, and a blessed life!
Andrew McCafferty
CEO Willow Creek Australia

Monday, April 18, 2011

Creating and Communicating a Ministry Culture

Children’s ministry teams by their nature draw together a wide range of volunteers. These volunteers come with a variety of experiences which shape their expectations and often direct their methods.

They have a mental picture of what Children’s Ministry is and what it ought to be. A teenager can tend to favour a fun environment being a “mate’ to the kids and may struggle with the leadership aspect. Someone who has worked with kids for a while, will want to draw on the methodology of the past and as a result may struggle to adapt to new methods.

Some volunteers value recall answers, others discussion and others craft. The more volunteers we have, the more diverse their expectations, therefore the clearer you must be in determining your culture.

A clearly defined culture
·         Gets everyone on the same page.
Visitors, Volunteers, parents and children all know what your ministry is about. Every week there is one consistent message going home and a clear plan on how parents can be involved in helping children take the next steps.
·         Gives consistency and continuity for our kids.
Most of us have teams that rotate, so the same team does not serve together every week. We need to present consistency in presentation, language, and expectation across our ministry.
·         Ignites passion.
Nothing is more inspiring to a team than working together to see goals achieved. Knowing and feeling like you are part of something bigger, and more significant than just you!

Vision and values can be recorded for people to read, but culture defines what actually happens. It’s what people see, feel and hear when they are in your ministry area as a visitor, volunteer, parent or child. It can be heard by the language that is used, the rituals (programming) that you engage in and in the dynamics of your team.

Communicate your culture
·         Speak it!
Remind your team of the things that matter most and why they are important, what would be lost if we did not pay attention to them? These characteristics not only form the vision piece, but link to the process (eg. “when you give kids time to share, they feel we value them”), and evaluation as well. Don’t say it once, but over and over again in different ways.
·         Show it!
Use non verbal ways of communicating your message through signage, decor, atmosphere, and procedure/ritual. Our words become even more powerful when they are backed up by consistent actions. eg If your ministry area is truly targeted for the kids, it will look age appropriate. This can be done on a week by week set up, it does not have to be permanent. If we say we are relevant and prepared and then to quickly write a bible verse on a white board or a scrappy piece of paper shows something different.
·         Feel it!
Atmosphere is one of the first things that registers for me when I walk into a ministry area. A collaboration of visual messages reinforced by the personal approach of the team and reflected in the kids response. Ownership is a value that can be felt. When every person on the team knows what their contribution is and how it helps the overall team, you can feel it. There is an atmosphere of encouragement and support—we play as team!!
·         Live it!
These characteristics become part of the fabric of being team, it’s like breathing, we just do it!

To change any aspect of your existing culture takes time and intentional effort.

What are the characteristics that define the culture of your ministry?
·        How do you demonstrate these on a weekly basis?
·         If you were to evaluate your ministry this week based on these characteristics,
how would you score?
·        Ask your parents, volunteers and children questions to determine if you are actually communicating clearly.

Margaret Spicer
Children and Families Pastor
Crossway Baptist Church, Melbourne

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Faith In Action: Open Door Policy

Statistics suggest that in Australia there are over 105,000 people who are considered to be homeless.

Many churches are stepping up to serve people who find themselves without a place to stay, with a homeless ministry often propelled by an individual acting on a prompting from God. The overnight drop in centre at Door of Hope Christian Church in Launceston came about from one such prompting. Some of the volunteers share their story:

“It all began more than five years ago [when] one of our members, a nurse, was walking to work, passed a local park and found a person huddled under a bush. They felt challenged by God to do something to help ease the plight of homeless people in Launceston.”

With a vision to build an emergency housing facility to be called ‘Levi House’, capable of caring for people of various demographics and situations, they lobbied the government for funding for a permanent crisis care facility. Whilst waiting for a grant they decided to open up the church at night to act as a drop-in centre.

This drop-in centre is now in its 3rd year, and in March of this year, Levi House, their purpose-built facility with 20 versatile units opened. Their hope is to “accommodate individuals, couples, or families for between about six weeks to six months, providing case workers and training opportunities.” They are also planning to continue on with the drop-in centre as it currently runs.

When questioned about difficulties they have had to overcome along the way they respond that they “have had to cut back available nights in the drop in centre because of shortage of volunteers to supervise overnight. Some of our church members have expressed concern about opening our doors in this way, especially on a Sunday night when the clients mingle with the church-goers!”

However they are committed to “maintaining a safe environment (even setting up CCTV as a security measure) and want to be faithful to the rules we set. When faced with criticism we remind ourselves that this is what God has called us to do, to be His hands and feet, and He will work out the rest.”

They have been received “quite well by the majority of the community. We have volunteers helping from other churches as well as our own, partnering with two other churches to provide the service most nights of the week.”

After starting with just a handful of people there are now three teams totalling approximately 60 people, one that collects the food, serves and cleans up the dinner; another that sets up beds and supervises overnight; and another that cleans the next morning.

The team have also managed to secure the help of a number of organisations who contribute to cover the costs and demands of providing accommodation and making meals. “The local hospital staff cafeteria supplies us with their leftovers; a local cafe also donates desserts, wraps and rolls that they don’t sell; the hospital [also] donated mattresses and linen that they were replacing; a laundry service cleans our linen for a low cost; the caravan park next door allows our clients to use their showers.”

The main reasons people find themselves without somewhere to live are: domestic violence, eviction from previous accommodation, relationship or family breakdown and financial difficulty.

Over the past twelve months the drop-in centre has had over 1000 ‘bed nights’. “Most nights we serve between three and ten people. A couple of weeks ago we served a family with two young children and were able to help them to find temporary accommodation.”

The majority of people don’t have any other contact with the Christian community and drop-in centre volunteers honestly testify that not many people who come appear to have any interest in the Christian faith, but “we are faithfully serving them with no strings attached, [and] we sometimes have the opportunity for spiritual conversations. When we think we are not reaching people, someone will open up!”

Monday, April 11, 2011

I QUIT (Part 4) Quit Denying Anger, Sadness, Fear: Choose Your Humanity

This message focuses on Psalm 22, and looks at the wide range of emotions that God has given us. Pete and Geri encourage us to stop denying the 'difficult' emotions of anger, sadness and fear, but rather integrate those parts into our person. God created us with a whole range of emotions but the problem is that we don't all experience or process them in healthy ways.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I QUIT (Part 3) Quit Dying To The Wrong Things: Choose Delight

In this message Geri and Pete consider the assertion that if you’re going to choose what’s right, you’ve got to first quit what’s wrong. There is no easy way to become what Jesus intends for your life, but it does require radical and continual decisions to quit certain behaviours and ways of thinking.