Monday, March 29, 2010

Unemployment in NZ

In the latest Vulnerability Report from the NZ Council of Christian Social Services shows that the current unemployment rate is 7.3%.

This is even more alarming when it’s broken down into who is most affected: youth, Maori and Pacific peoples and benefit dependent households are bearing the brunt.

The unemployment rate for youth aged 15-19 years is a staggering 23% and the unemployment rate for Maori aged between 15-24 years is nearly 26%.

Also of concern is the longer term impact of financial deprivation on our youngest citizens. A wealth of research indicates that now is the time to build up investment in our children and young people.

The Report covers a great deal more material in its seven pages, and is well worth reading for anyone who wants to know what's happening to the poor and disadvantaged in our society.

Communicating Leadership

John Maxwell's site has had a face-lift, and now appears to be called, Giant Impact. There are two short articles on leadership on the site, one of which focuses on communicating expectations to those you're leading, and the other on communicating vision.

Each article contains six points which can serve as a reminder to anyone in leadership that just telling people what to do doesn't quite cut the mustard.

Regarding the first point of communicating expectations, Maxwell writes: A primary responsibility of leadership is to communicate expectations, both with words and actions. When leaders carefully and consistently set expectations, they engineer a flourishing work environment. However, when leaders abdicate their duty to communication expectations, chaos ensues. Here are six rules of thumb to follow as you set expectations in your organization.

And in relation to the second he has this to say: Nothing motivates an organization like a clear and compelling vision. But it can be tricky to paint a picture of what's in your mind so that others can see exactly what you're seeing. As a leader, how do you enable others to glimpse your vision and how do you inspire them to adopt it?

Why do bullies bully?

Bullying is an issue in the church as in the business world. It may be the minister (and his family) who are being bullied, or the minister himself who's doing the bullying. In an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Create a Bully-Free Workplace, Nathanael Fast writes:

Among targets of bullying, 40% never told their employers and, of those who did, 62% reported that they were ignored. This suggests there's a significant opportunity to increase profits and beat the competition by eliminating the prevalence of workplace bullying in your organization. But how?

The first step is to identify the root of the problem. A set of recent studies conducted with Serena Chen, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, may provide some insight. We found that power is partly to blame. However, in contrast to the old adage that "power corrupts," giving people power did not turn them into bullies. Rather, it was the simultaneous pairing of power with feelings of inadequacy that led people to lash out. In our studies, the power holders who felt personally incompetent became aggressive, not because they were power hungry or had domineering personalities but because they were trying to overcome ego threat. Put simply, bullying is a cheap way to nurse a wounded ego. [my italics]

Stifling innovation

Youngme Moon writes: Here's a question for you: If you had to come up with a checklist for your organization that was guaranteed to stifle imagination, innovation, and out-of-box thinking...a checklist designed specifically for people who want nothing to do with disruptive change...what would it look like?

You can find his slightly irreverent (only in the business sense) response on the Conversation, one of the Harvard Business blogs. I can't link directly to it, as it's a Vimeo video.

Why should anyone who reads this blog watch it? Because the same kind of thinking often (more than often) goes on in the church....

It's never too late...

Old people and the digital age? For some the two just don't go together. Put a computer in front of an old person and they have no idea how anything works. Or so the theory goes.

But there's another approach, one that Marty Bullis talks about in a brief article on the Leadership Journal online.

Marty works as a chaplain in a Presbyterian nursing home, and wherever he goes, he takes his laptop with him. Using pictures familiar to people who have Alzheimer's, he's been able to improve some of their ability to remember; using hymns in large print, he's been able to get some people to sing along; and he's even got some of the old men 'driving' on the computer with simulated driving games.

An innovative approach to chaplaincy.

Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simoes

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lots of new neighbours

This may either scare you or inspire you.

The world population is heading towards hitting the 7 billion mark. According to some calculations - those who like to predict absolutely everything down to the day - it will happen on the 9th April this year - in other words, around about a fortnight away.

This may or may not be a bit over-the-mark. At present the World Population Clock is showing 6,834,880,600, as I write. However with the speed of the meter it looks as though it'll hit the 6,834,881,000 mark before I've finished this post! [Yup, it did.]

That's a lot of little persons arriving in the world.

We hit 6 billion on 12th October, 1999 - now known as 6 Billion Day (although I can't say I've ever heard if called that). Of course, that was an estimate, like everything else to do with population. We were up to 6.5 billion sometime in 2006. Seven years for half a billion; four years for the next half a billion. It kind of makes your head explode.

Now if God is keeping track of all the hairs on everyone's head, how many hairs does He know about?

Church of Facebook

The Church of Facebook: how the hyperconnected are redefining community, by Jesse Rice.
Some people think social networking fosters community. Others think online networking is superficial and competes with deep human interaction. Whichever side of the fence you're on, the Wi-Fi, worldwide movement is changing how we interact with others.
Jesse Rice believes that Facebook offers a profound look at our deepest needs. In his new book, he explores social networking and its impact on culture and the church.
"Facebook has become part of our lives, and we're just beginning to learn how to be human in it. Online, we have power over how we express ourselves. You can take the time to choose your words carefully, edit your responses, PhotoShop a picture until you get it just right. Real conversations, real relationships don't allow that. They include awkward silences."

Read a review by Brian Orme.

Read the first chapter online.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Excuses for why someone might not attend, football:

I made up my mind never to go to another football game. I’ve attended faithfully for many years, but now I’ve had it. Here are my reasons.
1) I was taken to too many games by my parents when I was small.
2) The games are always played when I want to do something else.
3) Every time I go to a game, somebody asks for money.
4) The other people who go to games hardly ever speak to me, and the coach can’t remember my name.
5) The seats are too hard. Besides, sometimes I have to sit down front at the 50 yard line.
6) There are hypocrites in the crowd. Some of them just come because they think it’s a good place to be seen. Others just want to see what people are wearing.
7) The referee says things I don’t agree with.
8) The band plays numbers I’ve never heard before.
9) Some games last too long and I get home too late.
10) I have a good book on football, so I’ll just stay home and read it.

From Ralph Milton's Rumours ezine.

The Gospel and the Internet

Many organizations are using the reach of the Internet to present the gospel to those around the world. One such ministry, Global Media Outreach, is currently looking for "online missionaries."

"We believe that God has given us the technology and the strategy," says Allan Beeber, the Orlando director of GMO, the media arm of Campus Crusade for Christ. "As more and more believers get involved, we think it's possible to see the Great Commission fulfilled, five to ten times over, in ten years." [ I'm not sure what he means by fulfilling it 'five to ten times over' - I'm merely quoting the original report.]

GMO is currently seeking workers. Last year, 66 million people reportedly visited one or more of GMO's 100-plus Web sites to search for information online about Jesus and the hope He brings. Of those, more than 10 million indicated a decision to follow Christ, and nearly two million initiated discipleship and requested more information about Jesus and Christianity through GMO's 4,000 online missionaries.

As more and more people gain access to the Internet and visit GMO sites requesting information and assistance, more mature believers are needed to respond. GMO says it now needs at least 10,000 online missionaries. These volunteers are asked to devote as little as 15 minutes a day to help respond to the e-mail inquiries that are being received — 80 to 90 percent of which are reportedly sent from outside of the United States.

Since its inception in 2004, GMO has seen the number of people indicating a decision for Christ grow from 21,066 annually to more than 10 million in 2009, twice its original projection for last year. No projection has been announced for 2010, but it could be over 30 million.

Anyone interested in more information or applying to be a volunteer online missionary should visit GMO's Web site at [sourced from via the Pastor's Weekly Briefing ezine]

It's worth checking the global media site out; they appear to be a group that's focused on using the power of the Internet with the intention of hooking people up with local congregations. They're an arm of the well-established Campus Crusade for Christ.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Simon Carey Holt on video

Alan Roxburgh is a name that turns up on this blog fairly frequently, but it was only today that I discovered the videos on Roxburgh Missional Network site.

The focus of these is 'moving back into the neighbourhood' and the two dozen or more videos look at different aspects of this. The softly-spoken Australian (so soft I had to turn the computer's sound up), Simon Carey Holt features in five of them, and gives as good an idea of what the focus is as anyone. He tells a story in the first of his videos about being in a Los Angeles neighbourhood when three young boys were mistakenly shot (the local gang mistook them for members of an opposing gang). In spite of there being a church of 9,000 people nearby, with 100 pastors, Holt was surprised to find that not one of those people seemed to know anything about the shooting, nor did any (as far as he knew) turn up to the spontaneous memorial that took place in the alleyway beside the Holts' kitchen window.

The problem was most of that enormous congregation drove to their church, and drove home again to a different suburb.

Holt is the author of a book, The God Next Door, which also focuses on the themes discussed in the videos.

Perhaps your church isn't very neighbourhood-connected. However, you are, and there's nothing to stop you being involved with the people who live on either side of you, or behind you, or across the street. We tend to think of our neighbours as being there by chance; perhaps the reality is, God has put them there purposely.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leaders Who Last

Rowland Croucher has placed a review of this book by Margaret J. Marcuson on Facebook. What follows is just a part of the review.

Here’s one of the best little (150 pages) books on pastoral leadership with an American mainline church /Alban Institute flavour to emerge in the last decade.

They say every sermon/book should be summarizable in one sentence. Here’s mine for this one: ‘Your pastoral leadership style/conflicts can’t be understood apart from your family-of-origin experiences; so be patient: most changes in a pastor’s approach and a congregation’s responsiveness will take time and sensitivity to that church’s history as well.’

Margaret’s a Baptist, but as a non-fundamentalist Baptist myself, I hasten to add that the people she quotes and the ideas she espouses indicate that she’s a ‘broad church Baptist’ (yes, some of us do actually exist!).

Some of her (and her professional friends’) wisdom:

• When we are less dependent on the approval of others we can be more effective in our ministry (p. 6)

• Carrying other people, until we can’t do it any longer, is the real source of burnout, not overwork (11). We can be the most help by giving people space to find creative solutions to their own struggles (17). Identify who in your family you were trained to rescue so as not to mistake legitimate professional helping with illegitimate family rescuing – which is inevitably tied to unhealthy ways of trying to feel good about oneself (18-19).

• Many clergy are oldest children: they learn early to over-function in relation to others, to take responsibility for them (34-5). Of course not all that we learnt from our families is negative. Ask: ‘What gifts did your parents give you?’ (36). An initial step in looking at our family story is to create a family genogram (37). And remember: the problems with parents is that they had parents (46).

• Clarifying your vocation: Where do I want to go? What energizes me? What future possibilities do I see? What legacy do I want to leave? Do I know what I love to do? Can I do more of it? What was my original thinking in going into ministry? If I had to write down my ministry purpose in one sentence right this minute, what would I say? (73).

• The person who desperately wants to be liked is never the most popular; the leader who desperately wants others to follow is not the most effective (76)

• Teresa of Avila’s daily prayer: ‘Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you; all things are passing, God never changes. Patient endurance attains to all things; who God possesses in nothing is wanting; alone God suffices’ (110).

The excellent final chapter on personal spiritual disciplines includes such classical wisdom as: worship in different places and traditions, go outside, find a spiritual mentor, read Scripture devotionally, not just for your sermon preparation.

At the end of each chapter are some very helpful discussion-starters. The ten questions to ask about your church’s history are brilliant (32). I’d suggest this book as an excellent resource for your pastoral colleagues’ support-group.
Alban Institute 2009

A rift between the males in church?

Circuitously - in other words, via the sustain-if-able kiwi blog - I came across a piece by a blogger I'd never discovered before, but will definitely be keeping an eye on: Richard Beck, on his blog, Experimental Theology.

The piece is entitled
: Thoughts on Mark Driscoll...while I'm knitting, and looks at whether educated men in churches tend to dismiss, or lose track of, the guys who are 'blue collar'. There's a video of Driscoll doing his usual in-your-face thing about what the church isn't doing right - and, as Beck says, he's mostly right on this. However Beck has more to say on the subject, and he's right too. Here's a quote from it.

Most church leaders are highly educated. This means that most church leaders are culturally divorced from the average NASCAR [National Association for Stock Car Racing] fan. The very group Driscoll is targeting.

But here is the very important point about all this. A lot of the reaction to Driscoll isn't even about gender. We are actually talking about the little discussed fissure running through many churches: Education.

I see this everyday in my own church. The educated teach, preach, and have the public leadership roles. The uneducated are marginalized. Worse, if you are an uneducated male, you are force-fed those feminine metaphors. Educated males, being chickified, don't mind or even notice the feminine metaphors. But Joe Six Pack notices the metaphors. All this creates a disjoint in the church. Two groups of males who find each other alien and weird. So when Joe Six Pack wants to start a Wild at Heart study the chickified church leader just blinks uncomprehendingly. Or, if you are me, turns back to his knitting...

I've added the word, chickified, both my spellchecker and my personal vocabulary. Read the rest of Beck - and watch out that you don't get distracted by a host of other pieces he's written, such as those on Calvin and Hobbes, or one on 'pants.'

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The joys of denominationalism

All the Christian denominations were having a big ecumenical meeting in a church. Suddenly, lightning struck and the church caught on fire!

* The Methodists gathered in a corner and prayed for the fire to go out.
* The Baptists gathered in a different corner and prayed for rain.
* The Quakers gathered for silent meditation on the many benefits of fire.
* The Lutherans nailed a list of the ninety-five evils of fire to the church door.
* The Catholics passed the collection plate a second and third time to pay for the damage.
* The Episcopalians gathered up their incense and formed a dignified processional out the door.
* The Fundamentalists declared that the fire was God’s just wrath on everybody else.
* The Presbyterians elected a chairperson to appoint a committee to study the problem.
* And the United Church people shouted “Everyone for themselves!” and ran for the doors.

Found on Ralph Milton's ezine, Rumours, which has just announced that it's going to be producing its final edition at Easter.

Doing Good

Peter Cappelli writes:

My colleagues and I recently completed a study of Indian businesses based around interviews with the leaders of 100 of the biggest companies in India (the basis of our book The India Way.) Every executive we interviewed described the main objective of their company in terms of a social mission. They expected to make money, but they expected to do so while doing good.

In the case of Bharti Airtel, the mission was to get cell phones into the hands of people who have no means to communicate; for ICICI Bank, it was to provide financial help to those with no access to banking; for Dr. Reddy's, the pharmaceutical company, it was to address the health care needs of the poor the world over; for Infosys, it is to show that Indian business can lead in technology. Business strategy rests on the social mission. And the corporations put charitable money behind social missions at a level that dwarfs anything we'd see in the US: Sixty-five percent of the profits of the Tata Group companies, for example, go to charities. Infosys has built and staffed entire hospitals in different regions of the country, rolling out a national curriculum to develop IT skills at the same time. Dr. Reddy's provides for the health care needs for 40,000 children. The list goes on and on.

There is every reason to believe that these companies have done well precisely because they are doing good. Helping poor people pays off when those people get money and become consumers, as millions of Indians have done every year. It also helps in a still regulated economy to get government permissions and approvals.

As Cappelli adds later in his article, serving all those involved in a business rather than just the shareholders, has big advantages. Does this have any connections with the way we 'do' church?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Virtue Reborn

Bill Kinnon, in reviewing a book by Tom Wright called Virtue Reborn (apparently entitled, After You Believe - why Christian character matters in the States) notes late in his review:

What a call for each of us as the church - to work at this life of character building - leading to virtues that will cause us to do the right thing, when the moment comes, as it will for each of us. Where and when only God knows, but when it truly matters will we know it in our bones, marrow, hearts and brains - and do the right thing, make the right decision, becoming Christ-like in our character. Are we the signposts and beachheads of God's future kingdom in this current world? It is not just a matter of "luck" (grace) but rather preparation and work and decision-making so that doing the right thing becomes automatic. (The emphases are his.)

Kinnon sums up the book in this way: [Wright] does a masterful sweep of ethics and its various roots and streams, calling us back to working at Christian virtue - identifying and then avoiding the extremes of grace and works - those two polarizing positions of Christian history. In fact, the book gives us a broad enough and thoroughly orthodox way forward - to begin to become who we already are, in Christ - doing so framed within the church, communally, for the sake of the world, missionally.

The need for support

And one more piece from the huge Rowland Croucher collection on stress and burnout in ministry. This one was written (originally as a letter) by Wayne Dobratz, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Hampton, Iowa. I can't tell you how long ago, however, as there doesn't appear to be a date on the article.

He confirms some things Croucher has said in a previous article about the family of origin having a considerable impact on pastors, but also says a couple of other significant things:

Don't stop writing [he's talking to Rowland here] about the need for a small sharing group. We clergy try so hard to hide our own emotional needs all the while attempting to bail out a dozen sinking boats alongside of our own leaky craft. My problem right now is that I left behind just about everything you prescribe when I changed churches more than 4 years ago. Where does a Pastor turn when there is no group of "wounded healers" to which he can turn?


The mentor is so very important. I have a friend who is about 20 years older than I. Though he may not fit the exact definition of a mentor, the needed sharing/talking takes place when we are together. Every Pastor needs this.

Supervision for pastors is high on the agenda in New Zealand....but how many are availing themselves of it - or can?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Not angels in disguise

Continuing on with our occasional series of pieces from Rowland Croucher, today's article fits in well with the last post I wrote on pastors being bullied by their congregations.

Croucher's article is entitled: Do Yourself A Favour - Encourage Your Pastor!

We're too often keen to nitpick and complain about our pastors, forgetting that they aren't angels in disguise (and thus superhuman). Nor are they supermen/women whom only kryptonite can touch.

Croucher's article is an A-Z of things to think about in terms of your minister, from Accountability (yours as a congregation member, not his or hers as a pastor) to Zeal - zeal to pick up jobs around the church scene and not leave them to the minister to his or her spare time.

And Y for Yourself is succinct and to the point: If every church member encouraged others as much as you do, what sort of church would it be?

Bullying: church, schools

Bullying is a topic that's coming increasingly to our attention within the church. This blog post about pastors being physically threatened and their families verbally abused by members of their own congregation, brought a bunch of comments in which the stories are horrendous.

Yesterday I caught up with a short video from Sweden - it has an English soundtrack - in which a young boy is seen being bullied (somewhat mildly at this stage) by some older boys.

What is interesting about the turnaround in the video is that the other older boy does something that has a ring of the Gospel about it. Sharing in the pain the victim is suffering, but in the process, turning the evil away. It would make a good starting point for a Gospel sermon, even though that isn't what the makers intended.

For a different look at the problem of bullying - in a Japanese school context - check out this video report. It runs for about 21 minutes.

Monday, March 01, 2010

On being a new minister

There's an excellent post on the Per Crucem ad Lucem site today, entitled: Pastors aren't Prophets - some unsolicited advice for newly-minted ministers. It's by Rick Floyd.

In it he discusses (amongst other things) the need for ministers to gain the respect of their congregation by being a faithful pastor to the people day in and day out - only then can you speak prophetically to them, and have them listen.

You need to be aware that in spite of all our calls for self-care and avoiding burnout, a minister's job is never going to consist of a forty-hour week, with no evening/night calls or weekend work. It's truly a full-time job...though that doesn't mean you mustn't take any time off. As he writes:

One of the modern heresies (but by no means the only one) of the contemporary mainline church, is that you can have something akin to a normal 40 hour a week professional life and be a faithful pastor. It isn’t true. A pastor’s life, and the life of the pastor’s family is necessarily involved in the community of their congregation in season and out of season. Sometimes, even often, it is wonderful; other times it isn’t. That’s the way it goes. It isn’t the Canyon Ranch spa. I often say being a pastor is the best vocation there is, but perhaps the worst job. If you are not called to it, it is something you really don’t want to do.

And a little later:

One of the things I learned was that you have to love your congregants, even the unlovable, of which there are far too many, and who take up a good deal of your time. If and when you find yourself loving them, you know you are on your way to really being a pastor. Some of them you will just never learn to love, and you have to turn them over to God, who does.

Floyd probably packs more wisdom into this one article than you'll find in many a day. Essential reading.