One last post here – Aussie Green Thumb RE-LAUNCH

Posted in Uncategorised on January 4, 2010 by discipleoftheway

Just a quick reminder I am now blogging over at http://discipleoftheway.aussiegreenthumb.com

Launching AussieGreenThumb.com

As some of you may remember, back in 2007 I ran a website called ‘AussieGreenThumb.com‘. Well guess what? It is back!

On January 1st I re-launched AussieGreenThumb.com. It is back bigger and better than EVER! Read about Australian Native Plants, learn how to improve your garden, get hints and tips on how to become the gardener that you always wanted to be. AussieGreenThumb.com has a special focus on Australian Native Plants but that is not ALL you can expect to read about! Check out the launch article to find out more.

The focus of my gardening blog is on helping you develop a gardening lifestyle, today and tomorrow. This might mean equipping YOU to become a better gardener today so you can have a great garden tomorrow. On the other hand, if you live in the Perth metropolitan region and need some gardening done, why not contact me through AussieGreenThumb.com and we’ll see if I can’t possibly help you out? I can help you get the garden you want today and make sure it keeps on going to every tomorrow.

Also I was wondering if you might consider promoting my gardening website from your blog? What would help me a LOT would be a blog entry letting people know about the website BUT I’d also be very appreciative of a simple blogroll link.

Once again, THIS IS THE LAST POST EVER AT THIS ADDRESS, all future posts for discipleoftheway, including this one, can be found at http://discipleoftheway.aussiegreenthumb.com.

Thanks!

Disciple of the way IS MOVING

Posted in blogging on December 8, 2009 by discipleoftheway

The time has come, discipleoftheway has MOVED. Basically I’ve decided to move my blog from a wordpress server to my own webspace. All the content is still the same, though the theme is (and will again soon) be different. From today on all new entries will be posted at my *NEW* blog address which is:

http://discipleoftheway.aussiegreenthumb.com

If you have me on your blog roll I would appreciate it if you could change the link to go to me *NEW* blog address.

Look forward to blogging more in the future!

Book Review: Deep Ministry in a Shallow World

Posted in books, Youth on November 25, 2009 by discipleoftheway

Book Review: Deep Ministry in a Shallow WorldNot-so-secret findings about Youth Ministry by Chap Clark & Kara E. PowellDeep Ministry in a Shallow World

Described as ‘the best of careful theological reflection, serious academic research, and practical youth ministry know-how’ by Duffy Robbins and ‘both thought provoking and practical’ by Megan Hutchinson, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World talks about the issues surrounding how to make youth ministry in the 21st century deeper than it’s 20th century predecessor. Chap Clark & Kara E. Powell wrote their book from a deep conviction that much of what passes as youth ministry in the 21st century is ‘splashing around in the shallow end.’ In the book they have come up with a well defined 4 step approach to taking youth ministry deeper.

Step 1: Now – Discern God’s current transformation action.
Step 2: New – Reflect upon new idea’s and insights that speak to the issues that arose as you discerned God’s activity in your youth ministry.
Step 3: Who – Observe others who are already going deeper in ministry.
Step 4: How – Apply what you have learned from steps 1-3.

(IF POSSIBLE insert ‘infinity’ diagram for deep design here)

Throughout the book Clark and Powell reflect on their many years experience in youth ministry and draw upon that experience to illustrate how to apply these steps to youth ministry today. They talk about the 3 ‘solutions’ that many youth pastors try, and fail with, to go deeper and explain how these were destined to fail from the beginning. These first of these three common solutions are to do ‘more of the same’, the idea being if one activity isn’t enough, the solution is to provide two instead. The second common solution they suggest people avoid is to just copy what worked somewhere else and the final common solution they suggest avoidance of is to just copy without thought what the latest and greatest books say. A pretty well balanced list in my opinion.

One of the key filters that they suggest in this whole process is a reworking of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, being the idea that there are four sources of God’s revelation to the world. These four sources, in Clark & Powell’s words, are ‘Scripture’, ‘History’(as opposed to tradition), ‘Research’ (as opposed to reason) and ‘Experience’. By utilising the best principles from these four sources of God’s revelation, Clark & Powell suggest the every day 21st century youth worker can take their youth ministry into the deeper end of the pool.

Reading this book left me feeling quite encouraged. Admittedly most of the principles they suggested to try in terms of deepening youth ministry have been evident in the various youth ministries that I have been involved in. In fact I’d go so far as to suggest that over the past four to five years, many youth ministries have heeded the words of warning that were resounding in youth ministry circles towards the beginning of the 21st century and are looking towards taking youth ministry past the flash bang ‘games’ program it has been for so long. Reading about Clark & Powell’s experiences in taking the deeper approach leaves me with a great sense of hope for the future of youth ministry. I’d recommend the book to any youth pastor who isn’t sure if they are doing all they can to go deeper or any youth pastor that wants to be encouraged by seeing how the deep approach can pay off in the long run.

Overall rating6.5/10

Random Ponderings

Posted in Frustration, My Book, Popular Culture, Youth on November 17, 2009 by discipleoftheway

As I mentioned in a post a while back I have decided to undertake a project in 2010, to try and put together in the form of a book, my thoughts on ‘why youth ministry?’ The goal is to somehow try and nut out, in a more refined way, exactly what I think about youth ministry, its place in the 21st century church and its role in the secular society that we find ourselves living in. The main purpose of this project is to help clarify my thoughts in my own mind. It is to help me better understand what I actually think.

One of the first steps in this process was to ask some close friends in youth ministry to suggest some good books to read so as to expose my mind to the shaping thoughts of the current thinkers and dreamers in the youth ministry circles. From this I have formulated a pretty extensive reading list that I have started to work through. So far this has done exactly as expected, it has opened my mind to the many, many different idea’s and philosophies that exist in the church today. This was to be expected, though I think I naively expected this to not be as challenging to me as it is.

The main thing I am noticing is that any discussion on ‘why youth ministry’ is inevitably and intrinsically linked with a discussion on the future of youth ministry. If youth ministry were not to be part of the future then we wouldn’t bother with they ‘why’. In fact it could be said we only consider the question of ‘why’ something will exist when we have come to the conclusion that not only it will exist, but that it needs to. So really, to discuss WHY youth ministry involves considering what the future of youth ministry will be.

This is where it gets tricky. The more I read, the wider the scope becomes. Every man and his dog seems to have some differing idea’s about what the future holds. Though there are many trains of thought that correlate, as any discussion about future trends there are many trains of thought that do not correlate at all. This therefore requires an element of decision making, which way do I think it will go? This is proving a difficult concept for my mind to consider.

At the moment I am reading a book called ‘Postmodern Youth Ministry’ by Tony Jones. It is a book I remember reading during my theology training and finding to be a fantastic resource and upon re-reading it I am once again challenged by what it asserts. I think what I find most disturbing is how much I resonate with the arguments it presents about post modernity, even if there are significant levels of disagreement dispersed amongst the agreement. What frightens me most though is how unequipped I feel to actually tackle these thoughts and apply them to discussing with people older than me, with more modern thinking patterns, why a postmodern approach to ministry and in particular youth ministry, is so important. I cannot even begin to grasp this in my mind.

I am enjoying the task of focusing my reading in a particular area and certainly intend on completing my 2010 project, but right now my task is definitely growing by the day and definitely making me think this process, for me, may well take much longer than a year to complete. This is not necessarily so bad, but for someone who has grown up in a world of ‘now’ it is hard to imagine keeping myself focussed for a prolonged period of time. We’ll see how it goes. It is enjoyable, if not also thoroughly frustrating!

Kindle for PC

Posted in books, Technology on November 12, 2009 by discipleoftheway

I was reading one of my regular technology blogs today (but which one it was has escaped me) and they had an article on a new Amazon product, Kindle for PC. Now the kindle (electronic device that lets you store books and read them much like an ipod stores and plays music) has been available internationally for a few weeks now but I just have not been interested due to a)the high cost and b) yet ANOTHER piece of technology to carry around.  However the answer to this problem has arrived…Kindle for PC!

Basically amazon has made it possible to buy kindle versions of books and have them on a regular PC, no need for a Kindle! Of course, they’d prefer you bought a kindle too and it is designed to sync well, but there is no need. I just bought a fiction book I’ve wanted for a while which is $20-30. It was $10 as a kindle version and I can now read it on my PC, something I am on a lot anyway! This is great.

If you too want cheap books and don’t mind reading them on a pc, go to Amazon to download the FREE program

I will still by hardcopy versions of many books because there is still something to holding a real book in my hands, but in some cases having a copy on my computer will make things SO MUCH EASIER and it also cuts down on shipping time…as the book is downloaded instantly!

Brilliant.

Rights of passage

Posted in Church, My Book on November 11, 2009 by discipleoftheway

For a few years now I have been involved in Leavers. One year a few years ago a particular youth stood out to me. He exhibited all the signs of being rather inebriated. This is, of course, not uncommon during leavers celebrations. It is also not uncommon that the time was approximately midday. It is also not uncommon that he was randomly walking around, not really sure what he was doing. What was a little uncommon was what he was carrying. A 2 litre sauce bottle. Upon seeing this I thought to myself ‘that is actually a rather ingenius way of carrying around one’s alcohol.’ Due to the fact none of this was uncommon I continued walking, not thinking for a moment I’d see this youth or the sauce bottle again anytime soon.

The next day, about the same time I noticed the same youth carrying the same sauce bottle walking around in the same manner in around about the same place. Again I continued on doing whatever it was that took me to that spot. When this happened a third day in a row I thought I might engage him in conversation and ask him about the sauce bottle. I expected to get some story about needing to ‘hide’ his booze, about the ease of carrying it around in the bottle etc. What i discovered was a lot more disturbing.

We started out with the usual questions. Name, what school he was from, what he was going to do next. These initial questions continued for a little while until I finally asked ‘so what is the deal with the sauce bottle’? His reply? ‘Well, we spent all our money on alcohol…this was all we could afford for food for the week’. Yes, that is right, inside the 2 litre sauce bottle was indeed…sauce. This was to be his nutritional intake for the week. Scary.

Leavers, or schoolies as it is called in the rest of Australia, is an amazingly jam packed environment that over the last few years has almost become a ‘right of passage’ for teenagers desiring to enter adulthood. The major provider of alcohol for teenagers celebrating the end of school is not illegally purchased with fake id’s OR an ‘older brother’ but generally is provided by parents who want their kids to have a ‘fun week away discovering themselves’. The modern day right of passage for teenagers in Australia is…binge drinking and sexual experimentation on a scale not experienced anywhere before or after, to the same extent. This right of passage has the ability to take a completely rational, sane, smart teenager and turn them into someone who, in normal circumstances, would be seen as immature and making bad choices. I remember a school dux(top student) telling me ‘normally I don’t drink and I until now planned on waiting till marriage to have sex, but this week I don’t care what i do!’ Indeed, he believed to enter ‘adulthood’ he had to have a week of craziness.

This is but a snippet of something I plan on discussing in my book on ‘Why Youth Ministry?’. We really do lack any semblence of worthwhile rights of passage in modern, western society. An article I was reading today suggests that where normalised rights of passage are lacking, adolescents will create their own, often less beneficial forms.  Another article from youthspecialties.com suggests that

“It’s unfortunate we don’t have an official Christian coming of age ceremony for our boys. For most young men there’s no “well done, my man” moment. The Jewish culture has the bar mitzvah. The first nations people have ceremonies—an African friend of mine told me about his three-day gathering. The closest thing to a rite of passage in our culture is the party at the bar when they reach legal drinking age.”

The same can, and is often said, for girls. Perhaps one area that youth ministry really could provide something ‘unique’ insociety is some form of ‘right of passage’ that is more useful and less destructive than the usual ‘Get drunk, party, discover my limits’ form that currently exists. Perhaps we’d get less Peter Pan’s…teenagers who never grow up and are still, effectively, adolescents into their 30′s! Just something I am interested in exploring.

Why Youth Ministry?

Posted in books, My Book on November 6, 2009 by discipleoftheway

I was walking down Rokeby Rd today in Subiaco and had to pass some time so I dropped in to Dymocks bookstore to check out what they had on offer. Usually I browse for a pretty short period of time and then just leave but today a book peaked my interested and I eventually ended up buying it. The book is Teenagers – a natural history by David Bainbridge and it was published just this year. It mostly peaked my interest because I could tell that it was a secular approach to the history of teenagers which I figured could be a good read in light of my desire to write a book on why I am so interested in Youth Ministry.

About the book Teenagers - a natural history
The book is not ‘Christian’ and is basically an attempt to account for the phenomenon of teenagerdom from both a historical and evolutionary perspective. What I have read so far has been really, really  interesting regarless of one’s view on evolution and its role or non-role in the Christian worldview.  The book discusses what makes teenagers who they are and what the importance of adolescence is from a historical perspective. The first chapter gives an evolutionary history of ‘puberty’ and how humans correspond to other animals. Again, regardless of ones beliefs I have found this an interesting approach. Reading all about the physiological changes that take place, what causes them scientifically and what they ’cause’ in the teenager really opens your eyes to the everyday challenges that teenagers face from WITHIN their own bodies.

Some quotes from the book that I have found interesting or that I think could be useful in my book are as follows.

“The teenage years are in fact the most interesting of your life. Science says so. These years can also be the most positive – it all depends on what you make of them.” (Page 1)

“Everyone wants to give you advice on what you should and should not do, how you should do it and with whom you should do it. There soon arises in the young mind a suspicion that adults cannot really remember their own teenage years clearly enough to be able to give good advice. The suspicion feeds into a growing mistrust of authority, which gets even worse when teenagers discover that adults cherish such distrust in themselves, but dislike it in anyone under twenty years old.” (Page 2)

“As I have distilled the developmental biology, the paleoanthropology, the neuroscience, the physiology, the therapy and the politics, I have become ever more convinced that adolescence is the most crucial time of our lives.” (Page 3)

“It [puberty] was all much vaguer and mixed up than the books suggest, and perhaps it is that chaotic unpredictability that can lift a teenager to a higher, more intense level of experience than any other phase in our lives.” (Page 6)

“And the reason why being a teenager can seem more confusing than any other ‘life stage’ is that there are simply more things happening than at any other time – a teenager is neither a child nor an adult, but a complex mixture of both. These years are not a gap – rather they are a wonderfully exciting collision when all the different strands of our life get tangled together in a way that will never happen again.” (Page 7)

Put quite simply, the teenage years are virtually unique in our lifetime. We never again go through such radical change in such a short space of time. Our brain never again develops at the same rate as it does during adolescence. We never again have the same level of crazy hormones convulsing through our veins as we do during puberty. So what can teenagers do with all this craziness?

What does this have to do with Youth Ministry?
One of the topics that I wish to cover in my book is based on a discovery by the Barna group in a study some years ago. Basically they discovered that approximately 80% of people that will become Christian in their lifetime had significant involvement in some Christian setting or from some Christian person before the age of 20. 80%!! Now I obviously believe that God can win anyone over, but this statistical finding still says something important I believe in regards to ministry to youth and I think it is uniquely tied in with a teenagers physical and spiritual development. During the teenage years, as I have quoted above, so much is going on. Much of who we are to be as adults is developed and shaped in the teenage years. It is a transition phase from childhood to adulthood in every sense. The blueprint for how our brain will think, function and grow for the rest of our lives is virtually cemented before we have to get our first real job. If Christians don’t get a chance to influence this development we make it much harder, I believe, to reach people when they are older. It does happen, but it is much more difficult.

One of the difficulties of youth ministry is that the fruit may not be seen during these teenage years but the more I read about both youth ministry and the physiological development of teenagers, the more I am convinced that youth ministry is a pivotal ministry for the gospel. If we can help teenagers to catch the vision while they go through all these crazy changes, I believe we can both make their teenage years easier and also use their enthusiasm and energy to catalyse a whole new generation of followers of Jesus. Tonly Campolo once said something along the lines of  ‘the problem in youth ministry is not that teenagers don’t want to do anything, it is that we do not expect enough of them. Teenagers are more than willing to fight for a cause if they are invited and encouraged to take part.’ Are our youth ministries fighting hard enough to challenge our teenagers to use their adolescence to benefit society or do we just accept that teenagers are at best are difficult and at worst are good for nothing youth’s whose blatant disrespect for authority proves they are a lost cause? I’d prefer to fight for the former. As Bainbridge says, ‘These years can also be the most positive – it all depends on what you make of them.’

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