Thursday, July 29, 2010

One of the ugly sides of the Internet

One of the least mentioned issues in ministry is porn, particularly the easy availability of Internet porn.  I'm not talking about child porn here, but porn intended for men in general. 

And it doesn't just affect men in the congregations, it affects some ministers as well, though at present we have no New Zealand statistics on the extent of this problem.

A recent interview showed up on Newsbusters.   The article has the title CNN highlights porn's destructive effects on society?  (I'm not sure why there's a question mark at the end.)

The interview is with Gail Dines, the author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.   The figures she presents are horrific: 420 million Internet porn pages, 4.2 million porn websites, and 68 million search engine requests for porn each and every day.   (While these are American stats, most of these sites are presumably available to New Zealanders as well.)  

Furthermore, according to one study, in 56% of divorce cases, one of the partners has an obsessive interest in porn.   Porn becomes the equivalent of a man having an affair, and worse, the women in question are able to 'satisfy' needs that his wife may not be willing or able to.

Plainly, getting up on a Sunday morning and preaching on this topic would be something of a shock to the average congregation.   But for some men in the congregation, it may be necessary....

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Secret Churchgoers

Earlier this year I read the book, I Sold My Soul on eBay by Hemant Mehta.   It's an interesting insight into how an atheist (a 'friendly' one) viewed Christian church services and what suggestions he had to make about them as far as making them inviting to outsiders, strangers, visitors.

The person who 'bought' Mehta is Jim Henderson, a pastor who'd long since felt that the way most Christians are taught to evangelise is more off-putting than encouraging.  There a recent article on USA Today about Henderson, who has continued to explore news ways of being Jesus-friendly to those who aren't Christians.   Some of his approaches are mentioned in the article but one that I want to mention in particular is his Church Rater website.

On the home page of the site at the moment is a video conversation between Henderson and Matt Caspar which briefly discusses the issues Henderson is concerned with.   Caspar is not a Christian, but he and Henderson did a road trip some time back, producing the book Jim and Casper Go to Church.  Caspar is also Henderson's partner in the venture, and says his engaging with Christians is motivated by his desire to get them to question their certitude, and to see that atheists don't have tails and horns.

The Church Rater site does exactly what it says: allows people to anonymously assess a particular church's service.   These reviews are then put up on the site.  At present there are almost a thousand of them.    The site also has an 'endorsements' section where there are links to various comments about the site's modus operandi.   Some are not complimentary, as you'd expect. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

How to really love your child

Tapu Misa, the NZ Herald columnist, begins her latest column with these words: 

When I was a younger mother of three preschoolers, doing a barely reasonable job, my daughter's preschool gave her a book called How To Really Love Your Child.

At the time I wasn't sure whether to feel offended (how dare they suggest I needed lessons in how to love my child?) or embarrassed (how did they know I needed lessons in how to love my child?). I found out later that the preschool gave copies to everyone - for good reason.

The author, American psychiatrist Dr Ross Campbell, was right. Most parents need lessons in how to love, especially (but not only) if they haven't been loved themselves.

Misa goes on to discuss how many parents who abuse their children have never know love in their own childhoods, and how there's a slow but sure move towards teaching people to love their kids, in New Zealand.   

Campbell's book was first published in 1977, and has sold continuously since.  It has been translated in 20 languages, including Russian.   It was one of our 'staples' when I worked in the bookstore.  

Forgive the lack of pictures  in recent posts: Google is having some issue with uploading them.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Palliative Care

We don't have to remind our regular readers that one of our main topics in this blog is the increasing 'grayness' of New Zealand, that is, the proportion of our population that is elderly is increasing.   This is providing challenges for those in charge of infrastructures and social policy.

A recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, entitled 'The Quality of Death' ranks New Zealand third out of 40 countries for our quality end-of-life (palliative) care.   (Palliative care means relieving or soothing the symptoms of a disease or disorder without effecting a cure.)    It says: It is no surprise to find countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand high in the overall ranking, given their relative wealth, advanced infrastructure and long recognition of the importance of developing national end-of-life healthcare strategies.

As the Maxim Institute notes: The report points out that palliative care makes financial sense, but perhaps more importantly, it challenges us to ask important questions about life and death.

They go on to say:
A doctor's job is, appropriately, to preserve life. But death is also a reality for every person, and must be faced. The "Quality of Death" report ranks various countries' performances in end-of-life care, using a few key indicators: public awareness about death; quality of care available; and cost and availability of that care. New Zealand comes in third behind the UK and Australia. Countries that rank particularly poorly tend to face the challenge of negative taboos or cultural perceptions about death that make palliative care very difficult. Some countries also are challenged by restrictions around the use of painkillers, resulting from concerns about drug trafficking and illicit use.

The remainder of the Maxim Institute's report is on their website and the full report (39 pages of pdf) is available online here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pastors and Burnout

Carol Howard Merrit posted a piece on which asked, What Causes Pastors to Burnout?
Her concern is that there's a very high attrition rate in the first couple of years after graduation from seminary.  (Note that this is in the USA - the attrition rate is probably less here in those first years; the losses seem to come further down the track for us.) 

Merrit's question is one we post about a great deal on this blog too, and it's one we're working on in the National Mission Team on an ongoing basis.   Some of the answers are obvious, some less so, and in some cases there's nothing anyone could do that would assist the burnout situation.

I like what Martin Stewart from Christchurch had to say about this topic:

1. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Ministry is not all about you and what you do, but about who God is and what God is doing in Christ.
2. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
3. Ministry is not at people but with people. I have been aware of many colleagues grumbling about the people or church, and often the escalating conflict has been about a leader trying to bully people into something different rather than working alongside, building trust, and finding a way ahead that is appropriate for the people of that place and time. Too often ministers (and sometimes the people) embark on a totally unrealistic set of expectations.

Booze and Bethlehem meet

I'd heard something of what went on recently in Tauranga when Jim Wallis' Bethlehem church put up a sign echoing the Tui ads which said, “Jesus was just a man…Yeah Right.”

The last I heard things had got a bit edgy with the Beer Company, with them saying that the expression 'Yeah Right' is copyright.

However things went from somewhat awkward (as opposed to downright bad) to remarkably good.   A US site called Church Marketing Sucks picked up the story and goes through the details in a nice orderly sequence

Well done, Jim!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Update stats relating to Internet access and usage

Statistics NZ reports today that:

Mobile access plays an increasingly important role as New Zealanders use the Internet both at home and away from home. In over half of households with the Internet in 2009, a laptop or a hand-held computer was used to access the Internet at home, five times more than in 2006.

25% of Internet users in 2009 used mobile phones or wireless hot-spots to access the Internet while they were away from home. This compared with 14% of users in 2006.

“The increase may be because laptops are much more affordable now, and wireless connection technology is increasingly a standard function for laptops, Hand-held devices, and mobile phones,” Statistics NZ manager Gary Dunnet said.

There are still rural areas without broadband (rural in NZ Stats terms is an area with a population of less than 300). But even in more populated areas, cost is still a factor when it comes to using broadband.

At December 2009, almost half of New Zealand households not planning to get digital TV in the next 12 months cited cost as a reason for remaining on analogue broadcasting. This was followed by over 40 percent of households who stated they simply do not want it. {Nothing like a bit of the reactionary!] The move to digital TV by New Zealanders will allow analogue television to be switched off in the future. This will free up spectrum for other uses such as mobile broadband.

Over half of New Zealanders indicated they would vote online in general and local elections. Younger people and those earning higher incomes were more likely to vote online. These groups also have higher proportions of Internet users than other groups.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Feeling a little crowded lately?

Statistics New Zealand has just announced that visitor arrivals to New Zealand were 2.501 million in the June 2010 year, the first time 2.5 million has been surpassed.
"This milestone was almost reached in 2008, but the global economic downturn contributed to a decline in visitor numbers after a peak of 2.497 million in the March 2008 year," Population Statistics manager Bridget Hamilton-Seymour said.

The 2 million visitor mark was reached in the November 2002 year, and the 1 million mark in the April 1992 year.

Visitors from Australia accounted for 1.119 million or 45 percent of all visitors in the June 2010 year. A further 25 percent of visitors came from four countries; the United Kingdom (248,900), the United States (194,000), China (105,200), and Japan (83,600).

Visitor arrivals in the June month were 145,800, up 8 percent from June 2009. There were more visitors from Australia, and visitor numbers from China, Japan, and Korea recovered after the H1N1 pandemic affected arrivals from those countries in June 2009. Fewer visitors arrived from the United Kingdom and the United States.

Statistics NZ also notes that net migration continues to decrease.

Net permanent and long-term migration (arrivals minus departures) was 100 (rounded figure) in June 2010, the lowest monthly figure since the series briefly went below zero in November 2008. This series has been decreasing steadily since January 2010 (1,800). On an unadjusted basis, there were 500 fewer arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens and 900 more departures of New Zealand citizens compared with June 2009.

The annual net migration gain was 16,500 in the June 2010 year, down from the recent peak of 22,600 in the January 2010 year. The main inflows of migrants were from the United Kingdom, India, and China. There was a net outflow of 15,900 migrants to Australia, well down from 28,700 in the June 2009 year.

Face to face

Two different articles from The Guardian, both relating in some way to mental health.

Firstly, How to beat depression - without drugs, looks at the work of Dr Steve Ilardi, and his book, The Depression Cure: the six-step programme to beat depression without drugs. Dr Ilardi isn't saying anything particularly new, but he does note one thing especially:

Social connectedness is important to Ilardi. In The Depression Cure, he argues that the brain mistakenly interprets the pain of depression as an infection. Thinking that isolation is needed, it sends messages to the sufferer to "crawl into a hole and wait for it all to go away". This can be disastrous because what depressed people really need is the opposite: more human contact.

Which is why social connectedness forms one-sixth of his "lifestyle based" cure for depression. The other five elements are meaningful activity (to prevent "ruminating" on negative thoughts); regular exercise; a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids; daily exposure to sunlight; and good quality, restorative sleep.

And social connectedness is the focus of the second article:

the lack of face-to-face interaction can make the world wide web a lonely place sometimes. But fear not, for not only can you use the web to order your takeaway and DVD, now you can also use it to order the friend you share them with.

Rent a Friend, which already offers its services in the US and Canada, is being launched in the UK this week to give people the chance to overcome their British reserve and hire someone to keep them company. Unlike the myriad dating websites, which cater for everything from a long-term relationship to a no-strings fling, Rent a Friend advertises itself as "strictly platonic", while also emphasising that it is not an escort agency.

So face-to-face contact may be coming back into its own.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Faith, Ethics and Public Life

The Centre for Theology and Public Issues at Otago University is delighted to announce that Jim Wallis, founder and CEO of the Sojourners Community in Washington DC, will be in Dunedin on Tuesday 28 September. He will be keynote speaker at a conference on 'Faith, Ethics and Public Life' that afternoon, and deliver the Howard Paterson Memorial Lecture in Public Theology. The venue is First Church, Moray Place.

Jim Wallis is a leading author, speaker and international commentator on faith and public life, and one of President Obama's advisers on religious and ethical issues. He has written ten books, the most well-known of which, 'God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It', helped change the US political landscape and was on the New York Times bestseller list for four months. He is in high demand internationally as a speaker, and this conference in Dunedin - his only speaking engagement on the South Island - will be a rare opportunity for us to hear him in person.

Full information about this event can be found at, and tickets for the full conference, priced at $20 ($15 students, beneficiaries & U-16s) can be booked online at this address. The price includes afternoon tea, coffee and home-style refreshments. May I encourage you to book early, as the event is being advertised across the South Island and we are expecting tickets to go quickly.

The Howard Paterson Lecture, like all University Open Lectures, is of course open to all, but if space is tight priority will be given to people booking for the whole conference.

There is a special e-mail address for enquiries relating to this event: (phone enquiries: 03 479 8450). If you hear of someone who would like to attend this event but simply has no way of accessing the internet, please ask them to call this number or write to the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Get ready Church!

In the most recent North & South magazine (August 2010) Mike White presents some interesting statistics and projections regarding New Zealand's population. Every one of these stats affects how we do church. Remember that Israelite king who knew that something bad would happen to his children's generation and basically said, why should I care? We need not to be like that.

Currently 4,369,977 according to NZ Stats today (19.7.10)
By 2027 our population could be up to five million
Another person is added every 20 minutes.
Some 700,000 NZeders live overseas.

In the year to March 2010, the population grew by 56,300, the fastest growth rate since 2004.
It wasn't the result primarily of migration.
In 2009 there were 62,543 births and 28,964 deaths with a net gain of 33,579.
Net migration only added 21,253.

An argument for increased population is that if we want to maintain our lifestyle without excessive cost, we will need more people. Our infrastructure at the moment is costing more than we can afford given how ‘few’ we are.

Auckland Regional Council estimated the region is growing by more than 50 people a day, requiring 21 new homes, and resulting in 35 extra cars on the road.

Auckland is predicted to grow by 570,000 by 2031, reaching two million (the equivalent of adding all of Wellington and Dunedin to Auckland).

Auckland needs to consider and fund several major transport projects:
• Second harbour crossing at $4 billion
• Underground CBD rail loop at $1.5 billion
• Rapid-rail link with the airport at $1 billion
• Completion of SH20 at $2 billion.

There's too much talk of migration making the difference to the population – bringing people in with money and then being able to charge them for living here – compared with making sure that young people stay here in the country rather than t go off overseas and not return.

In 2009 one in eight NZeders was over 65.
By 2061 it’s predicted that one in four will be - some 1.44 million people.
Life expectancy for men will be 85.6 and women 88.7 in 2061.

The median age in 1971 was 25. Currently it’s 37. In 2061 it’ll be 43.

In the late 1960s, children made up 33 percent of the population. in 2061 they’ll be just 17%.

Currently 67% of the population is working age; in 2061 it’ll be just 58%.

Divine Drama Queen (!)

A good friend and I have debated the Martha and Mary story in Luke 10 more than once. I have a tendency to side with Martha and puzzle over Jesus' reaction to her request. My friend tells me that I should be siding with what Mary does.

This morning I came across a wonderful poem by U A Fanthorpe, an English poet who gives us a picture of Martha from
Mary's point of view. It isn't the usual picture. You can see my comments here, plus links to the poem, some background to Fanthorpe, and also to a sermon by Colin Gibson, which discusses the same poem.

When I sent a copy of this poem to my friend, he replied with an article by Mark Galli from Christianity Today. It's called Divine Drama Queen, and presents a picture of a God who
isn't emotionally reticent - not in the least. Here are some extracts:

A God who doesn't fly off the handle at the least provocation. A God who lives one step above the fray. A God who has that British stiff upper lip even when disaster is looming.

This God is like the volatile Italian woman who, upon discovering her husband's unfaithfulness, yells and throws dishes, refuses to sleep in the same bed, and doesn't speak to him for 40 days and 40 nights.

When God sees the space shuttle hurtling toward its destruction, he weeps, he rants, he pulls his hair out. And something inside him dies.

He yells and throws dishes, and walks off in a huff, slamming the door behind him—and then he turns around and gives his life for us.

He's like the crazy uncle in the family. At some point, you have to let your friends know about him, but you'd just as soon avoid having to introduce him.

And the reason why God acts like this? Because humans are 'mere' humans. We're something vastly more special than that....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vocation vs Job revisited

An extract from a post by Bob Hyatt in the Out of Ur blog, again on the topic of where 'job' ends and 'vocation' begins - or vice versa.

First, as always, I need more fully to embrace the Gospel at a personal level. My failure at turning off ministry and making true rest a part of my weekly rhythms reveals within me a basic disbelief of the Gospel truth that Jesus is enough and that my identity can and should be rooted in his finished work for me--not the results I get, the church I pastor , how well (or poorly) it’s doing, or whether I think people are approving or disapproving of me based on the amount of access I give them to myself and my time. The only way we pastors will ever find sustainability and longevity in ministry is if we do what we tell other people to do ALL THE TIME: Rest our souls in the finished work of Christ. Stop getting our identity from our job/ministry. Take some time to unplug, unwind and, more importantly, connect with God, our families and our own souls again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

God and organisational development

Part of the reason at least, is that some Christian OD [organisational development] work is functionally agnostic, if not atheistic. Our strategy or team-building exercises, for example, are sometimes no different from a secular process. We treat them as simply technical processes. By keeping our faith separate from our OD work, we practice OD as if God was not interested or involved in human change. We try to change our church organisations in our own strength alone and end up exhausted and disillusioned.

Rick James in Creating Space for Grace: God's power in organisational change. [Available as a pdf download from the Swedish Mission Council.]

Leaders burn out because they stop learning.

Least you think the only blogger I'm reading at the moment is Len Hjalmarson, be assured that isn't the case. But the following paragraphs from a recent post were worth repeating:

A few years ago I read that many leaders stop learning around the age of thirty-five. There are many reasons: pace is a big one. We demand much of our leaders, and so we push them into action mode where it becomes difficult for them to find time for contemplation, reading, travel, and the kinds of things that root intentional learning.
Yet the verb (mathetes, “disciple”) means “learner..”
Leaders burn out because they stop learning. When we stop learning, we stop growing, and we get stuck. We end up as pragmatists, defending a status quo because we no longer have the energy or ability to imagine other worlds.
This in turn makes it very difficult to open space for others. We lose the ability to be hospitable, to open conversation that generates learning for others. Stuck leaders = stuck system.

"Leaders burn out because they stop learning." Do you believe that? I'm sure it's not the only reason, but it's certainly one that's worth considering....

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Len Hjalmarson writes in a recent blog post:

One of the very large and looming questions we hear from churches is how to transition from inward and program oriented to outward in mission. As Mike Breen and Bob Hopkins point out so ably in “Clusters,” the question is not adding a new program, or shifting deck chairs, but a call for a shift in the very culture of the community. The most profound shift is from control to accountability: away from the centralization of ministry and the cult of leadership.

Our church has begun to work with these too, calling them 'hubs.' However, ours have begun for a somewhat different purpose. Being missional in our church wasn't so much our problem as building community, and this is what the hubs focus on. They also include mission, but for the moment that's a not the highest priority. Clusters or hubs usually contain up to fifty people, including children.

Clusters is a book that came out in 2008. It's subtitled Creative Mid-sized Missional Communities. Being a British publication it doesn't seem to have made the impact that an American title might have. However, you can read about Breen, St Thomas' Church in Sheffield, and more, at the St Thomas' site. The people at St Thomas have gone through several transitions, and detail them in the story. Their use of the word 'clusters' is explained on this page too.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Binge-drinking is a major canker on NZ society's skin. All manner of reasons have been put forward to explain its rise in the last decade. In an opinion piece in the Otago Daily Times, David Seymour, a policy analyst in Saskatchewan, Canada, and an expatriate New Zealander, focuses on a word which is implied rather than use in his article: hopelessness.

"The result is thousands of youth in education devoid of real meaning."

"[youth] come to believe that our way of life is unsustainable, even immoral, and any success they have in it will be nullified by environmental costs"

"The only real long-term solution to youth alcohol abuse is to attack its root cause; the diminishing ability of youth to make a difference in their own lives."

You can read the complete article here.

Clearing the Air

Clearing the Air - Fri 16-Sat 17 July, 2010.

What does the Church have to say to government, society, and itself – if anything – on the topic of climate change? The failure to reach any agreement at the recent Copenhagen conference is regarded as a triumph by some and a tragedy by others.

This forum – convened by Glyn Carpenter, National Director, NZ Christian Network, visionnetwork, and Associate Professor Jonathan Leaver, Unitec Institute of Technology – will bring together both groups, and look to produce a consensus-based position statement.

Topics will include (a) epistemology, (b) creation mandate, (c) what position can be reasonably supported by the science, and (d) what can and should we do? The forum is designed primarily for church and public issues leaders, but places are available for students and others to hear a great line up of speakers.

The forum is designed primarily for church and public issues leaders, but places are available for students and others to hear a great line up of speakers, including:
• Professor Ralph Sims, Director, Centre for Energy Research, Massey University
• Dr James Renwick, Principal climate scientist, NIWA
• Ian Wishart, Editor, Investigate magazine, Author: "Air Con"
• Prof Jonathan Boston, Director of the Institute of Policy Studies, Victoria University
• Barry Brills, President, NZ Climate Science Coalition
• Dr Andy Reisinger, Senior Research Fellow, NZ Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University
• Ken Harrison, Chairman National Church Leaders group, National Superintendant Assemblies of God in New Zealand
• Archbishop David Moxon, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia
• Stephen Tollestrup, Executive Director, Tear Fund

Though Matt Flanagan's name isn't in the list above, he's the opening speaker of the conference.

Vocation vs Job

The following paragraphs are extracted from a post by Brandon O'Brien on the Out of Ur site.

The struggle for pastors today, says Eugene Peterson, is to “keep the immediacy and authority of God’s call in my ears when an entire culture, both secular and ecclesial, is giving me a job description.”

According to Peterson, a job is “an assignment to do work that can be quantified and evaluated.” Most jobs come with job descriptions, so it “is pretty easy to decide whether a job has been completed or not…whether a job is done well or badly.” This, Peterson argues, is the primary way Americans think of the pastor (and, presumably, that pastors think of themselves). Ministry is “a job that I get paid for, a job that is assigned to me by a denomination, a job that I am expected to do to the satisfaction of my congregation.”

A vocation is not like a job in these respects. The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare, “to call.” Although the term today can refer to any career or occupation (according to Webster), the word (vocatio, I imagine) was coined to describe the priestly calling to service in the church. So vocation=calling. This is how Peterson is using the word, anyway. And the struggle for pastors today, he continues, is to “keep the immediacy and authority of God’s call in my ears when an entire culture, both secular and ecclesial, is giving me a job description.”

When I was a boy, and growing up in the Catholic church scene, there was always talk of 'vocations' - so and so has a vocation to be a priest, or a nun, or.... It was like certain people were handpicked by God to go and do something the rest of us klutzes couldn't quite manage.

And in a sense, that's correct. While we're all ministers (in the sense that Protestant churches use the word), only some of us are called to
be ministers, to take on a vocation. That's not to say, of course, that we don't have a vocation elsewhere, as Peterson mentions in relation to the artists he worked with at one time.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Christ and Mission

Christology is not a sufficient foundation for mission. With Jesus alone, we see mission, but not the engaged body; love, but no community, so says Len Hjalmarson in his latest Next Reformation post.

Is he right? He certainly gives plenty of good reasons why he should be right, and brings in various heavyweights such as David Bosch, Lesslie Newbigin, David Fitch, and Charles Ringma to back him up.

Hjalmarson isn't in any way denigrating Christ - he's expanding the limited picture of mission that many of us have, one that focuses all the attention on the minister and makes him the sole 'expert' in ministry/mission; that makes individual ethics more important than communal transformation; that sees a Jesus and Me approach to the Christian life as the norm.

Check out his post for his full argument.

Mission is Messy

In an article entitled Why we must shift our attention from ‘save newspapers’ to ‘save society’ by Clay Shirky, he notes that when Guttenberg invented the printing press, the results were initially chaotic...
“Only in retrospect were experiments undertaken during the wrenching transition to print revealed to be turning points.....That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent in the moment; big changes stall, small changes spread. Ancient social bargains, once disrupted, can be neither mended nor quickly replaced, since any such bargain takes decades to solidify…
“And so it is today. When people demand to know how we are going to replace [all kinds of things- add your favourite institution here] .. they are demanding to be told that the old systems will not break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.
“There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.....The future is already here. It just isn’t evenly distributed.”

Why have I headed this post 'Mission is Messy?' Because what Shirky discusses is very similar to the way mission works, the way the 'emerging' church works (and you can think of 'emerging' in any way you like), and even the way a person converted from the old life into a Christ-life 'works'. Though the article focuses on the on-going crisis seen in the newspaper industry, it has resonances far beyond that.

Thanks to Len Hjalmarson for bringing this to our attention.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Being Christian in the South Pacific....and more!

2010 Conference - Being Christian in the South Pacific: Kiwi Christian Practice
Pastoral/Practical Theology in Aotearoa New Zealand
Monday and Tuesday, November 8 and 9
Monday, 9:30 to 5:00
Tuesday, 9:30 to 3:30

Location: Knox Centre Seminar Room, Hewitson Wing, Knox College
Arden Street, off Opoho Road, Dunedin

Cost: $10 donation to cover morning and afternoon tea/coffee/biscuits
Optional group dinner on Monday night at a local restaurant

Pastoral/practical theology stands at the intersection of Christian ministry and academic research. In pastoral/practical theology, we critically examine the practices of Christian ministry using theological and historical analysis as well as humanities and social science research methods.

Please forward this email to anyone who you think would enjoy this conference. Please consider proposing a paper, and please encourage post-graduate students to think about offering a paper. If you wish to register for the conference, please email Mary Somerville with your contact information:

Looking forward to seeing you in Dunedin,

Lynne Baab, Jacky Sewell, Anne Thomson, Chris Lee, and Mary Somerville -Steering Committee

Call for Papers
Pastoral/Practical Theology in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2010 Conference

We are seeking presentations that address a wide variety of topics related to congregational life in Aotearoa. We hope that graduates and current students of MMin, MTheol, DMin and PhD programs who studied topics related to congregations will consider presenting a summary of their research or one aspect of their research.

We are seeking papers for 20 and 40 minute slots. In a 20 minute slot, please plan on speaking for 15 minutes and allow five minutes for discussion. In a 40 minute slot, please plan on a 30 minute presentation and 10 minutes for discussion.

As a rule of thumb, you talk at about 100 words a minute, so a 15 minute paper (in a 20 minute slot) should equate to roughly 1,500 words, and a 30 minute paper (in a 40 minute slot) to about 3,000 words.

In submitting a proposed paper, please,
• indicate what sort of time slot you are applying for, remembering that most of us suffer from the occupational hazard of nearly always saying more than we think we’re going to.
• include a 50-100 word abstract of the proposed paper.

These should be sent to Lynne Baab at, or if necessary by post to her at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, and should be received by July 30.

Christ in the Workplace Conference

‘Christ in the Workplace’ is a conference where people from all professions and disciplines, at every career stage, can come together to consider the gospel’s impact upon their work and lives.

It will take place from the 3rd to the 5th Sept, 2010 at Laidlaw College in Auckland. Speakers include Nigel Pollock and Andrew Thorburn, and there will be workshops taken by Peter Shaukat, Ben Carswell, Roshan Allpress and Andrew Shamy.

Nigel Pollock is the current National Director of TSCF. Andrew Thorburn is the CEO of the BNZ.

The workshops will include how to Develop a Mission Orientation in Business, and, Growing our Witness in the Workplace.

Check out the promotional brochure for more information on other speakers and 'tracks.'

• CafĂ© Connect—offers a great opportunity to foster the formation of groups and networks within your profession.
• Tracks—put you in direct contact with colleagues gathered from around New Zealand.
• Optional workshops—all are intended to invigorate the broader conversation.

You can Register Now.

Single people (not) at church

There's an interesting stat from a recent Barna report entitled, Who is Active in “Group” Expressions of Faith? Whether similar figures apply to NZ, I don't know, but it's a possibility.

• Religious activities are typically missing single adults, especially those who have never been married. Just less than half of Americans are unmarried. [see below] However, the Barna study found that two-thirds of those who attend church, participate in a small group and attend Sunday school are married.
Further, 69 percent of church volunteers are married.
Fewer than one-fifth of single adults who have never been married are involved in "group" faith experiences, with worship and volunteering the least likely to attract them.
Those participating in house churches, however, reflect a 50-50 split of married and unmarried.

The NZ Stats relating to marital status from the 2006 Census are as follows:
  • 34.1 percent of people aged 15 years and over living in New Zealand have never married
  • 48.6 percent are married,
  • 17.4 percent are separated, divorced or widowed

    The other important stat in this are is that:
  • 27.2 percent of people aged 15 years and over in New Zealand who have never been married live with a partner.
This last is a subgroup of the 'never married' category above. In effect, it says that more than a quarter of the people who have never married are not single, but living in a relationship. However, this still leaves just over 70% of the first group as single people.

To make it a little easier to grasp:
If 34 people out of a hundred have never been married, 9 will be living in a relationship, and 25 will be 'officially' single. Add these 25 to the 17 or so who are separated, divorced or widowed, and you have 42 people in a hundred who are effectively single.

Please tell me if I've got my maths wrong! :)

How do we find ways of encouraging single adults into the church scene without making them feel uncomfortable because of all the married people around them?

Ways for congregations to drive their pastor crazy

On previous occasions we've posted about the bullying of some pastors by their congregations. This time, with only a little tongue-in-cheek, Richard Floyd sets out a fairly comprehensive list of ways in which congregations can make sure they're doing their best to drive their pastor crazy.

Unfortunately the list will be too close to home for some in ministry. Don't read this is you're already feeling low.

Floyd calls his list
Ten Highly Effective Strategies for Crushing Your Pastor's Morale.

A couple of examples:

3. Make sure to have an annual customer satisfaction survey where every member of the congregation fills out an anonymous questionnaire about their views of the pastor’s performance during the previous year. Make sure all the negative (or ambiguous) comments are read aloud at several meetings, and publish them without attribution in the church newsletter.

5. Cut the mission budget to balance the budget. Better yet, ask your pastor to choose between a raise in salary or an increase in the mission budget. This would be a good subject for an extended conversation at a congregational meeting. You can never talk too much about clergy compensation at a congregational meeting.

There are some funnier ones, and some that will set your teeth on edge. One or two would make Jesus himself weep.