Monday, February 27, 2012


Can you believe that some of Jesus’ disciples may have been a similar age as some young people in our youth & young adults ministries today? Whilst there’s no hard Biblical evidence that proves the age of His disciples, it is quite likely that many of Jesus’ followers were in their mid-to-late teens. That would certainly explain some of their immaturity and foolishness!

But these young men gave up all they had to follow Jesus – they answered his call to learn from the Master how to become fishers of men. This learning did not take place in a lecture theatre, isolated from the realities of the world, but rather right alongside Jesus, following in His footsteps… hearing his parables, playing a part in his miracles, having their faith stretched as they saw Jesus cast out demons and heal people. Their training was certainly ‘on the job.’

I believe that many young people in our churches today want to be activists like Jesus’ first disciples. They want to jump in with both feet and get their hands dirty as they explore how to make their faith real. They want to contribute something real to make a difference. They want to play a direct part in helping usher in God’s Kingdom. They don’t just want to be lectured to... they want to be involved.

They already post videos to youtube, share photos on flickr, add their insight to Wikipedia and have lengthy debates on Facebook – in the same way, they want to be contribute to and co-create their expression of faith within their church. Young people see their adolescent years as an opportunity to live out the calling of Christ now, rather than as years of preparation or education before they can engage with the ‘real world’ once they leave school or university.

Late last year, a number of our Grade 11 and 12 students got involved in a local outreach to the poor and marginalised. They spent the afternoon preparing food, and as darkness fell, they visited three sites to provide physical and spiritual nourishment to those in need. They had a chance to feed the hungry, to pray for the lost, and to reach out to the lonely. The climax of the experience was when one of these they served asked to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour. These young people returned to church absolutely buzzing, and were eager to report back to their peers about what they had seen, learnt, and experienced, and encourage others to get their hands and feet dirty in following Jesus now.

Creating opportunities for young people to grow and develop by serving others has its challenges. They make mistakes, it can get messy at times, and it is imperative to have wise mentors to guide them in the process. But in our churches and our homes, we need to be providing opportunities now for our young people to try things, to contribute, and to grow God’s Kingdom. After all, it seemed to work out well for Jesus and his disciples!

Tim Lucas
Youth & Young Adults Pastor
Gateway Baptist Church

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A 'Move' in the Right Direction

Move: What 1,000 Churches Revealabout Spiritual Growth
(Zondervan, 2011) Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson

This book may not be for every pastor. There may be a few churches out there in which most of the congregation excels in loving God and loving their neighbors, but for the rest of us, this book is right on target. It lets us peek inside some of the churches that are effectively moving people from a place of nominal belief to living Christ-centered lives.

The book is based on the Willow Creek Association's REVEAL survey, which, since its inception, has been taken by 250,000 people in more than 1,000 churches. My church took the survey the first year it was available. We found it a helpful tool in assessing the spiritual growth of our people, but we really wanted to know which churches were excelling at helping their congregations mature in Christ and discover what we could learn from them. Move answers that desire.

While based on detailed statistics, this is not a book about numbers. It is divided into three sections, and Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson write engagingly by (1) detailing the stages people go through toward becoming fully devoted followers of Christ, then (2) examining the practices that move people forward in their spiritual journey, and (3) conversing with 13 pastors whose churches show the highest percentage of Christ-centered people. The conclusions are game changers.

I live in the northeast United States where church leaders are highly skeptical about ministry principles gleaned from the Midwest or West Coast. But the diversity of the churches high-lighted in Move puts such fears to rest. Some are large, some are small, and they are located in all parts of the country.Yet they have one thing in common-their people, compared with many other churches, are growing significantly in their love for Christ and for others.

Read the full post here: A'Move' in the Right Direction by Steve Tomlinson was originally posted by Leadership Journal.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Personal Life

The doctors’ surgery my family are linked to offer an MOT (Men Over Thirty-five!) health check for those who feel well.  It’s based on the principle that prevention is better than cure. Church leaders, too, need regular personal check-ups to ensure that their spiritual health remains good. We ought to be asking ourselves some difficult questions – and facing up to the implications of the answers.  Here are some of those questions:

Does my inner life reflect my public ministry?
One of the early warning signs of spiritual malaise is a growing divergence between what is said publicly and what is ‘known’ inwardly. Devotional times with the Lord become perfunctory or non-existent, worship is increasingly formalised, evangelism an onerous duty and compassion a professional act rather than a burden of love. We need to be honest with ourselves here.

Does my outer life reflect my public ministry?
Hypocrisy is an ever-present temptation for those who speak or lead publicly. While encouraging God’s people to acts of commitment, sacrifice and devotion we can shy away from the cost of acting on our own advice.  While heartily condemning the sins of the flesh we can be indulging in them. Sadly we can even hide behind the ‘truth’ that we ought to be proclaiming what is right, even if we fail to live up to it! Helmut Thielicke described this sort of hypocrisy as the process by which leaders build ‘houses’ of good works and godly living for the people they lead and then refuse to share the same accommodation.

No one can avoid hypocrisy entirely, but we must constantly be attempting to bring our words and actions into line with each other.

Is my life biblically ‘balanced’?
There must be ingredients in my life which feed the whole person – body, mind and spirit.  Without all three of these areas being addressed we are in danger of becoming ‘unbalanced’ as individuals. This will make us hard to relate to, but it will also cause a good deal of inner tension. We have not been designed to work well on only one engine. It is possible, but usually leads to an ‘unsteady’ flight, shorter journey and unpredictable destination!

As the answers to these questions emerge we need some positive guidelines to help us get back to good health spiritually, and to stay there.  Here are some suggestions:

   Find a friend!  Or several friends – at any rate people you can trust completely. Give them the authority (and opportunity!) to probe your spiritual life. Isolation is one of the biggest causes of failure and burnout in ministry; we need trusted advisors who will encourage us, but who are not afraid to also confront and correct us. This is not always easy in the context of a local church and we may need to look outside the church for such help. Growing numbers of leaders are meeting in small ‘clusters’ with those from other churches for mutual help and correction in this way.

Build into your programme times for reflection. Too often in local church life we are tyrannised by the urgent rather than motivated by the important. It is only in the periods of quiet reflection and assessment that we can clearly discern our priorities. These ‘oases’ of time can substantially reduce pressure and stress, keep us from going down a ministry cul-de-sac and help us ‘tune in’ to divine directions for ourselves and the church family.

Be human! Take proper time for rest and recreation. Play with the children, make love with your spouse (if you’re married!)… download a movie, sing in the shower, dip your biscuits in your coffee, listen to Beethoven … whatever it takes – relax! Time with family and friends is an essential part of wholesome living.

Be healthy. Many so-called ‘spiritual’ problems are rooted in the physical.  If we looked after our bodies properly many of our other pressures would go. We need to cultivate good eating habits, times of exercise and adequate amounts of sleep. The most significant spiritual tonic for many leaders could be a week of early nights, a gentle jog round the block and a big bowl of muesli! The principle really is vital. Far too many church leaders today are caught up in a pressurised lifestyle and end up blaming God, the church, the demonic, and other leaders for the stress they feel, when in reality it is ‘simply’ the result of neglecting basic health care.

Stephen Gaukroger 
Pastor and Senior Church Leader in the United Kingdom
Founder and Director of Clarion Trust International

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley Plan Weekend Services

How would you like to hang around Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley for a while and pick their brains about their approach to developing weekend services?

That’s what I had a chance to do recently, along with a group of church leaders in the town of Bracknell, England.

When Bill and Andy were asked about how they go about planning their weekend services, every leader was leaning forward to hear their response. I too, leaned in and also recorded it on my iPhone. I didn’t want to miss a word, and I don’t want you to miss a word either.

Friends, if you’re involved in weekend services, this stuff is gold.

You probably can’t really peg high enough just how important every single weekend is.
I have a creative team. And I meet with them for two and a half hours every single week.
I feel that’s a very important role of mine.

One of the things I learned years and years ago to help our creative people is this. They would always say, “What’s the message about?” or “What’s the series about?”

But then I discovered, I’d say, “I’m not going to tell you what the bottom line is. Let me tell you the tension I want you to help me create.”

read the rest of this post

Scott Cochrane (@WScottCochrane)
Executive Director, Willow Creek Canada

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Finding Your Rhythm

Have you ever felt the pressure of too many demands of ministry?

Equipping volunteers, sorting rosters, communicating to parents, pastors and of course, planning great messages for kids. Training events, camps, did I mention the weekly set up and pack down, the balancing of budgets etc.

Will you ever get some sort of order to what feels chaotic? “Its just a season,” you say, but how long will this season last?

The reality is there will always be peaks and valleys, the challenge is to create a rhythm and work within that. This is critical for the longevity of your leadership.

Step back and take a look at the whole year. Mark out the months of the year on a time line. Identify the peaks, those seasons/events that take additional effort: the start of the year, additional events (include training) or church wide initiatives, launching new teams and implementing curriculums.


1. What do you want to achieve by the end of the year?
2. What will it take? Estimate the hours involved.
3. How long can you keep up this pace?
4. How will I know when I have achieved what I set out to do?
5. Look at your hours available for ministry in a week—prioritize how much time each activity is worth in relation to the expected outcome.

Finding your rhythm will enable you to lead a team in the same way. Over scheduling fills up the calendar and decreases your effectiveness. The phrase “less is more” is applicable when we decide what we will do less of and identify how we will get more from what we do.

Spend time visioning and planning. Spend 1 hour a week, 1 day a month and 1 week a year planning and visioning for the future. Make decisions in a timely manner; indecision costs valuable time and energy.

What are you doing that only you can do?

Is there anything that you are currently doing that would be better done by someone else?

Once a marathon runner was asked: "What do you think about when you run such a long distance?" And he replied: "While I'm running, I'm thinking how to breathe correctly and properly put my foot." His breathing and the proper placement of his feet create a rhythm: this rhythm allows him focus on really important things and forget about the less important and the unimportant.

When you have your own rhythm you focus on your goal and the steps needed to reach it. Finding the rhythm of ministry allows you to pace yourself for the long haul. Your journey becomes more enjoyable. You have strength to navigate the demanding season and the wisdom to harness the momentum of the “down” times.


· Ask if they can articulate the current rhythm of your ministry.
· How does this impact them?
· What changes do they feel need to be made?

Margaret Spicer
Children and Families Pastor
Crossway Baptist Church, Melbourne

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Courageously Hospitable Leader

Have you ever wondered how being hospitable can challenge your faith life and make you a better, more courageous leader?

To be hospitable in Abraham’s day meant that being hospitable was not optional, it was expected. Abraham, while dependent on the Lord, acted in an intentionally brave and courageous way.  In Genesis 18:2-5 we read how the Lord appeared again to Abraham while he was living in the oak grove at Mamre. One hot summer afternoon as he was sitting at the opening of his tent, he suddenly noticed three men coming toward him.  He sprang up to meet them and welcomed them. “Sirs”, he said, “please don’t go any further.  Stop a while and rest here in the shade of this tree while I get water to refresh your feet, and a bite to eat to strengthen you. Do stay awhile before continuing your journey.” “All right,” they said, “do as you have said.”

Abraham sprang up, in other words, he was in a state of expectation which drove him to action in order to meet the needs of these traveling strangers. Abraham took a leap of faith. This type of action takes courage because you never know how your act will be responded to.  Meeting another’s need for food and shelter was and still is one of the most immediate and practical ways to obey God and do His will.  It is also a time honored relationship builder.  Hebrews 13:2 suggests that we, like Abraham, might actually entertain angels.

When was the last time you welcomed someone into your home for a brief stay? Are you, like Abraham, waiting expectantly for the opportunity to receive visitors for the sake of the Kingdom?

Does your church have a hospitality ministry?  If not, would you consider starting one? Perhaps you have a sister church in another part of the world who would be greatly impacted by connecting with you and your congregation.

Wanting to learn more about establishing a practical Hospitality Ministry?

Contact Karen Frisella -, former Director of Willow Creek Community Church’s Global Hospitality Ministry and founder of Joy Along The Journey.  Karen has a passion for helping churches establish their own Hospitality Ministry and helping Christ-followers rediscover this ancient practice, in a contemporary way, for themselves.