Monday, May 30, 2011

"Rolling in the Deep" Adele from '21'

In my travels today I was listening to a variety of music as I attempted to make some sense of the struggle I'm engaged in about what to do next as far as my vocation/job goes. There are lots of questions, constraints, compromises, decisions and variables not to mention the decision making of others... my work this year is happening with the figurative sound of a ticking clock in the background and while conscious I have possibilities when some in the world have no hope of future employment... I am just trying to be faithful, engaged and to discern...
This song will get a run 'somewhere' as the fuel for prayer/activity or at least a pipe opener to reflection alongside bluesy lyrics and sound.
Adele has a brilliant voice as a recording artist and live performer on TV... great song for my mood today!!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

RIP Bill Hunter

There was period of time following 'Strictly Ballroom' where you simply couldn't make or call your film Australian, without a character played by aussie actor Bill Hunter!!
One of my favourite roles Bill played was 'Stan Coombs' in Mick Molloy's "Crackerjack" comedy about lawn bowls where Bill lauded Sir Francis Drake for completing his match before attending to the monarchs military call up and whipped Mick's character 'Jack' in shape for a tilt at the championship and attempting to stave off a poker machine driven take over of the club...
I look forward to his turn as horse trainer Bart Cummings in 'The Cup'

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

RUN OUT #04 Missional or Social Justice Activity

Every local context is different but here are some thought starters for a faith community of multi or any ages to engage with the community in helping to 'meet the hurts and hopes' of people in that community:
1. Healthy Breakfasts Schools Program
2. Covenanting or Reconciliation with local Indigenous Community
3. World Vision Poverty Village community partnership to highlight poverty issues but also promote connections
4. Participate in a community kitchen roster or meals program
5. Volunteer at a Community Garden
6. Choose an issue like 'Cash for containers' to advocate for and hold events
7. 'Flashmob' to highlight a cause
8. Write Amnesty International letters
9. Raise money for the 'Fred Hollows Foundation'
10. Organize experts to run skate workshops and eventually a comp at the the local skate park

'Its not rocket science'

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Talk of the Rapture and End of the World

Here's the kind of stuff I was thinking about the 'end of the world' prediction and people's fascination, with no time to write anything serious so I'm grateful to the author highlighted by Brian McLaren via Duncan MacLeod. Read a thought provoking take here

Friday, May 20, 2011

'Judgement Day' May 21st begins 'the rapture'

Harold Camping of the Family Radio Christian broadcasting radio network is having a second stab at predicting the end of the world on October 21st with 'judgement' beginning on May 21st!! This has created a media frenzy in an otherwise pretty antagonistic context here in Oz... the twitter-verse and media outlets are filled with talk of 'what you'd do if it was the last day tomorrow... fascinating... read more here from the source of all wisdom wikipedia!!
I would love to have the clarity and motivation to write something meaningful about this but there are plenty of those reflections around too and I'm too weary today... I hope that doesn't count against me!!

For now I'd be disappointed 'if the world ended tomorrow' even though if you read carefully it's October 21 we need to watch out for... that'll be tricky for me as I'll be mid air on the way to the Rugby World Cup play off and Final that day... whoops!!

I'll be annoyed because:
- I have tix to see 'Hairspray
- The NSW Waratahs have yet to win a 'Super' title
- 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2' finale film in July
- My 'Sydney List' is incomplete
- I turn 50 this year

- Oh and I am yet to fully 'be the change I want to see in the world' or to do enough for those who live at our edges!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

RUN OUT # 02 Activities

From the rarified air of a statewide role focused more on leadership development and 'big picture' ministry with young people... What would a great program of activities look like for high schoolers? Well first following on from RUN OUT #01 It might best be a series of events and activities rather than a single group program but these might make the list across a year... In no particular order:

- this is a community of faith focused on who God is calling them to be in this time and place
- young people are viewed ( if only by the leadership) as people, capable of shaping meaning, identity, faith and belonging
- programs or events are tools for the goal of being an inclusive faith community with hopes for all people and a better world
- 'resilience' is a hope for all young people the community encounters
- the group builds on an ethos not a mission plan and unrstands there are no maps for 21st C experiments in 'church'
- we seek to gather around people's affinities, authentically and with a focus on living in the world we live in
- I reserve the right to add to this list or change it as this is 'speed thinking'

1. Adventure Park activities as 'challenge by choice' including a picnic
2. Multi night at the property including (4) different activities with common supper e.g. Gaming, master chef, group building games, short films
3. 'Telling Stories' where people with a story to share are invited to do that in a familiar style e.g. Muso, coach, sport star, volunteer, activitist
4. Pastoral Small Groups Launch Pad. These groups might be offered in one format at a gathering but encouraged as an add on once a fortnight at another time\place as a mentored experience.... Straight after school or another best time
5. Movie Night with appropriate form of discussion
6. 'Life and Faith' is about gathering to focus discipleship activity augmented by a regular resource giving young people faith practices to do on their own... It might be one night, a launch weekend, or built into other program nights and has a noticeboard devoted to a multi-faceted one of participating
7. Social Action Teams. These are multi-aged teams around a small number of projects reflecting the community, context, skills, enthusiasm and connections of those involved. Choose a variety of activities and actively invite everyone to participate in something
8. Wider activity. Horizons are broadened and relationships and networks developed around road trips, hospitality and engaging in groups beyond your own... Anything really, that value adds to what you already have going
9. Scavenger Hunt. Whether modelled on 'The Amazing Race' or a video, audio or edgy version, well led groups scour the neighborhood or town for a set of compulsory and optional items/images etc...
10. Visits to places like Funeral Directors, local factories, museums bring great conversation
11. Park Picnic BBQ where the group of as much of the hospitality as possible
12. Drive In Movie. There are a handful around.... Line up the cars, bring a boom box and deck chairs, create a great story...
14. Healthy School Breakfasts programs need organizers and volunteers
15. Social Justice Action days, weeks and focused campaignsm, but not your own church version, partner with a community based local group and participate en masse
16. Laser Tag
17. Day Camps. Organize a variety of activities around the chosen affinities you offer at other times and run streamed activity onsite for Sat/Sun or weekday holiday Camps and add a variety of days across 4-5 days with expectation of entirely different crowds each day, no accommodation needs and travel organized around registrations for each activity or all based onsite
18. Movie making for different purposes... Fun, fractured parables, use in worship etc, maybe even a Short Film Entry
19. Tableau Activities where whatever is included, the groups rotate around at set times to experience a variety
20. Costume Night with Dinner.... Either you choose, tell different people different themes but set it up as a secret....
21. Nooma, TED Talks, or other 10-20 min video plus discussion over food
22. Leadership/ Team training.... Off this as part of your program for all comers, teaching life, faith and leading skills
23. Organize Fundraising for a cause 'beyond yourselves'
24. Volunteering. Together work out a cause or action to support e.g sandwich making for local volunteer graffiti removers
25. Include several activities voted 'yes' to by the group from a list of do-able options

OK more to follow later...

Monday, May 16, 2011


In my day it was the so-called 'limp fall' inspired by cartoonist Paul Rigby or later on the spectacle of a public 'pants-ing and it seems the latest viral pop cultural activity is what's become known as 'planking'! A 'limp fall' involved flopping to the ground in public settings, careful not to injure yourself. Typical of today's risk taking culture, no idea can just be fun or ordinary and so instead of just humorous locations, planking happens in dangerous places.
For those unaware [and after this week that'll be very few people here in Oz...] 'Planking' involves being photographed, lying face down 'stiff as a board' in interesting and challenging locations:
- goalpost crossbars
- gardens
- atop furniture
- on roadway speed bumps
- public spaces
- at heights
- done by celebrities
- and apparently on high rise apartment balcony rails
In this last case the bloke fell seven floors to his death from a Gold Coast apartment block.

This is a tricky one... on the one hand, it's a funny harmless and creative prank BUT the challenge was always going to be to find increasingly edgy scenarios... with a website for uploading your photos and a plethora of youtube videos... this was bound to go badly!!

Would you include 'planking' in your youth group 'photo scavenger hunt'? Will adults and Police speaking out and encouraging caution just make it worse or will one balcony plunge give pause for common sense?

You can see lots of photos here on Facebook where the message to be safe and creative, not dangerous, is getting out there!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

RUN OUT #01 What?

By the end of 2011 I will undertaking a new task in ministry/mission and at this stage I'm almost certain my role will not have an exclusive focus on young people... though it may be part of the mix! I will not be working in statewide youth ministry thinking, leadership training, events or resourcing!!
My 'call' and enthusiasm will always be for helping young people find identity, meaning, faith shaping and belonging and by it's nature, missional contextual stuff I find will have relevance there BUT I doubt there'll be headspace to summarise, encapsulate and continue to offer stuff with just that focus...
So today I begin a series of posts to do some 'thinking aloud', summarising and sharing about 'reculturing ministry with younger people' which will be an ongoing focus for me...
It's also a chance to share learnings and hunches, to demonstrate a consultant could still do a local gig and just maybe you'll read something you find helpful... it'll help me to write it either way... such is the nature of blogging...

This is an issue I'll get to explore in a workshop on the mid north coast in June as part of a look at the mission and ministry of two congregations...

There are a bagful of context questions to be asked and an understanding of leadership and other resources are needed BUT what I'm reflecting on here is more about the young people in our communities than a full expression of a youth ministry model.
Too much of what we do as 'church' is focused solely on our agenda and a 'rose coloured glasses' view of our rich history. It is no longer true in many communities, that "if you build it, they will come!"
Young people in the mainstream Aussie context are not so much into joining groups or institutions, choose 'culture of better offer' over programatic loyalty and are happy for the work 'to be done for them'... but there are motivators in evidence which parrallel the learnings of Mark Oestricher in 'Youth Ministry 3.0'


Rather than maintaining or starting a regular homogenous 'Youth Group' [if other resources and the context line up] I'd work towards a series of activities or group projects connecting with the 'affinities' of the young people in our community e.g. gamers, adventure types, socialites, academics, joiners, geeks etc but also more nuanced than social labels.
The printed group program would promote those events and affinities rather than group identity and different things might attract different FB pages, egroups, forums or event pages in social media so people can find [1] set of details without having to 'buy in' to the whole group identity.
Relationship building is a plank of every happening and it grows 'belonging' not membership and enthusiasm not compulsion.
Sporadic or selective attendance are the 'norm' but the relationship building needs to affirm affinity, not punish absence...

AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS or what Andrew Root calls 'Unfiltered Relationships'
These are not fostered as a tool for evangelism or to create 'members' but are central because we are all created and loved by God and because 'every person has a story and everyone's story is worth hearing'. These can be fostered in small groups, mentoring, joint multi-aged projects and by promoting an ethos or values encompassing respect, valuing etc

Young people's 'crap detectors' are highly attuned to hypocrisy [what a shame we're all guilty of falling short] but especially in the area of 'righteousness' and 'holier than thou' as the root of these words belongs in justice, right relationship and making ammends.
Rather than paying 'lip service' to the environment, poverty, ethical buying, consumerism etc we need an honest culture of trying to 'be the change we want to see in the world' and this lends itself perfectly to action projects 'thinking globally and acting locally' to engage young people in making someone else's life better or at least choosing this path to try...
This can enliven Bible Study and worship and you can unlock stories of the principles behind 'why' and 'who God calls us to be' and instead of just praying for the 'poor' you know their names...

Finally, these are not add ons, but require an overhaul and intentional change to what you already do or hope to establish... they are especially not just 'tools' for a narrow version of the gospel but are good news in and of themselves. They should not be formulated as a tick box exercise e.g. don't choose one surfwear company and one chocolate product to boycott and call that a holistic approach to living out the values of God... don't talk creation and then run camps and events dumping packaging, wasted food and endless party food packets into landfill because it's too hard to recycle with a group at a venue...

OTW Newsletter Ideas

I have just sent out the latest and probably last edition of my "Off the Wall" Youth Workers Newsletter from the Synod YOUTH UNIT NSW/ACT Uniting Church in Australia as the Unit winds up during the rest of 2011 with our Boards of Education and Mission merging and a new 5 person Team replacing a whole host of roles due to shrinking finances... ho hum!! 'OTW' is a title of mine so it may appear elsewhere with another focus but not to this target audience...
The point is I wanted to share some ideas here!

Movies worth USING:
1. 'The Kings Speech' M 1hr 58mins
Course language but great story
2. 'Source Code' PG 1hr 33mins
Thriller with great questions
3. 'The Adjustment Bureau' PG 1hr 48mins
great questions, but challenge the films premise and imaging of 'the plan'
4. 'Rio' G lhr 36mins
Great story and message about care for creation
5. 'Thor' PG 1 54mins
Latest Marvel story with a moral, building up to the Avengers
Look past the wooden acting

Songs worth Hearing
1. 'Price Tag' Jessie J feta B.O.B.
priorties, values, outlook
2. 'I Feel Pretty/Unpretty' GLEE
covering the Sugababes on self image
3. 'Maybe' Sick Puppies
who am I? who will I be?
4. "Plans' Birds of Tokyo
more mood than specifically the lyrics, about hope, plans, future
5. 'Pray' acoustic version Justin Beiber
Could be useful with younger groups as I channel my own daughters love/hate relationship with the Beiber!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Closure of Ministry for Nicole

As a result of shrinking financial resources for our state wide arm [Synod] of the Uniting Church and it's resourcing through the Boards of Education and MIssion [leading to a Board Merger and the collapse of a number of Units and roles into a 5 person Resourcing Team]. The Synod Youth Unit is coming to a conclusion by the end of 2011...
My creative and versatile colleague Nicole is heading off to be the Minister of the Word at Balmain Uniting Church congregation in Sydney [a great thing I believe]!! It's in our tradition to hold what's called a 'Closure of Ministry' worship which recognises the end of responsibilities and a celebration of same... We described it as a simple and meaningful marking of the journey!! Here's what we did at our Centre for Ministry Chapel.
We sat 'in the round' with a central table [black cloth and familiar blue cloth with coloured stars] and it had a crockery bowl and cup and a candle. Across the back of the space there were some 50 photos evoking the aspects and impacts of Nicole's work and some symbolic images. The cloth on the table was sprayed with 'Repo' spray glue. The in house data projector and sound system were in use [except for the dodgy 'hearing loop']!!

1. Opening Words/Call to Worship [Rob]
As we gather here this evening in this place,
acknowledging the traditional owners of this land
and their custodianship since time immemorial,
We need to be reminded of and to hear, the voices of the voiceless.
There are cries of 'quiet desperation', questions, laughter and hope.
There are younger voices from different cultures and contexts.

Will we make space and give permission for who God is calling us to be,
at this time and in this place?

Let's worship God,
A simple celebration and marking of the journey
Opening ourselves to opportunities for justice and love,
of compassion and hospitality.

2. Candle Lighting
"We light this candle as a symbol of Christ's presence with us in the everyday" [Judyth]

3. "Burn Your Name" Powderfinger
Song clip onscreen

4. Welcome/Comments/Apologies [Rob]
a. Welcome to this celebration and marking of the journey for Nicole
as she concludes the 'Youth and Young Adults Worker' role
within the Synod Youth Unit and the Board of Education
b. and c. [various welcome and apology comments]

5. Prayer Activity with "Long Ride" The Audreys [Nicole]
Nic modified a brief intro inviting people to take a card and write a prayer in a word or sentence then place the card on the cloth around the table... all while the song is playing

6. Bible Reading
Luke 24: 13-35 [this weeks lectionary] Charissa

7. "Eric" Story
from 'Tales from Outer Suburbia' Shaun Tan read by Tom
Images onscreen

8. Reflection/Word
- Two sad, despondent travellers on an 11km journey are joined by, in my mind,
a mysterious figure...
- whose natural way is to ask open ?s and so as they journey the stories are told and heard...
- Jesus takes the opportunity and the cues, to share deeply and to walk with...
- As I see it, these travellers have experienced all the dislocation of that Easter experience,
the death of hope, the disappointment, things changing...

- In the Youth Unit we talk about the four fundamental searches of young people [from social researcher, Richard Eckersley in relation to the tasks of a society in relation to it's young]

And in events like Summer Camp we engage with fringe young people and leaders for whom that six days IS church OR their engagement with a community of faith where those saerches can take shape for them.
- Into this space leadership, ministry an engagement in God's activity in the world, happens
- To me the mysterious companion, Jesus, models a style of leadership, helping people explore life and faith in all it's 'crap' and celebration
- This journey, this travelling, brings hospitality to the stranger,
warmth as Jesus enters into their lives, walks 'alongside',
cares and offers space for God to speak.
- These too are the marks of Nicole's ministry and who Nic is..
# open questions
# shared experiences
# mentoring
# grace
# hospitality
In the context of younger leaders, tertiary students, campers, ministry agents, under stress, staff and colleagues teams, asking the obvious but uncomfortable, important and caring questions.
Nic has been a colleague and a friend, who when I haven't had a clue, has...
who has witnessed my occasional 5pm stoush with our boss and has been able to say, "you're right, that's not your fault"
We have felt cared for, welcomed and listened to and kept honest...
Jesus examples and called all of us to take these journeys, to hear each others stories, to be engaged in what's really happening for others, to be engaged in what's really happening for others, offering the deeply held love of God in all ways.

9. Closure
Nicole has undertaken the role of 'Youth and Young Adults Worker' since September 2005
and 'here' are a collection of images
representing the issues, energy, ministry, mission, networks and individuals
in and around the Synod Youth Unit in that time...
[come and choose an image and share in pairs back in your seat, why you chose it]

The Synod through it's Board of Education believes that your ministry
now lies in another place, and confirms your call to Balmain congregation
The time has come to mark the end of your particular responsibilities
and to send you eith God's blessing on this new ministry journey.
[Tina added words of affirmation and thanks]

Hands back symbols and talks to each

Presentation of Gift/Card
Nic shares a few words of thanks
Tina prays for Nic

10. Prayers for the World
You chose a photo and are invited to think about,
who ro what does that image call you to pray for,
place you photo on the table and name aloud what your prayer is...

11. Part of the Sending Out
As we begin to be sent out from this time
This song is offered for reflection and celebration...

12. 'The Wood Song' Indigo Girls
Lyrics on screen

13. Words of Mission/Sending Out
As we mark this moment and continue on our journeys,
let's do that with renewed hope and imagination.
Grace and compassion should be our goal.

Go from here as God's people,
With the energy and spark of God's Spirit,
to live out Jesus example in the world.