A Book on Housegroups

A number of years ago Ian Coffey and Stephen Gaukroger published a collection of essays on different aspects of homegroup life which has recently been reprinted with a nice new cover. Some of the chapters now feel dated, and are really aimed at a particular type of church, but others are still incredibly helpful. For example John Earwicker on “The skills of leadership”; Trevor Gregory on “Praying Together”; and Peter and Rosemary Meadows on “Sharing” are highlights. If you’re involved in leading homegroups it’s definitely worth picking up and perusing. There’s plenty of good ideas to use and pass round.

On the importance of theological education

Here’s a link to a great article by John-Stevens.com. on the importance of a good theological education. It contains a particularly helpful update on the current state of play for those wanting to train for free church ministry in the UK. Exciting times!

Dangers to your children

As promised here’s another snippet from Rob Parsons’ book on getting your kids through church. His five big threats are:

1. Over-busyness – kids spell love T-I-M-E. Make some!
2. Cynicism – don’t bitch about all the difficult people and situations
3. Hypocrisy – don’t be gregarious and righteous at church and a sulky jack-ass at home.
4. Judgmentalism – don’t slag off everyone else for failing to do what you want them to do.
5. Over-familiarity – Jesus ain’t your boyfriend

In Parsons’ view these are the things that can kill a child’s joy among the church family so pastors and members alike, beware.

A poem from an anonymous pastor’s wife

I recently read Rob Parsons’ book, Getting Your Kids through Church without them Ending up Hating God. At one point, talking about over-busyness, he gives a poem sent to him anonymously by someone who only identified them-self as a pastor’s wife. It was very striking – here it is:

I want my husband to smile again.
I want to be able to talk to him after dinner.
I want our family to go out on Saturdays for a walk or shopping trip.
I want to be me – not ‘the minister’s wife’.
I want to sit in church, listen to the notices, and decide what I would like to go to.
I want my husband to come home at night and relax instead of just recharging the batteries and disappearing out again.
I want to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries always, not just when there are no church meetings.
I want to be able to tell the self-centred and self-righteous folk that they are.
I want him to come in at night and talk to us instead of slumping silently, reliving the awkward visit or difficult meeting he’s been at.
I want people to stop telling me how wonderful it must be to be the minister’s wife and then complain they’ve not had a visit for months.
I want people who regularly miss meetings because they’ve ‘had a busy day’ to let us miss occasional meetings because we’ve ‘had a busy day’.
I want him to come with me sometimes see our child swim or play football.
I want him to be my husband instead of their minister.
And I want not to be guilty about these things.

Parsons suggests that at the root of many of these issues is over busyness. We need to slow down, spend more time with family, which, in turn, will make us better pastors. The book is a quick and easy read and has much useful practical help. In a future post I’ll list his five dangers which threaten our kids. Buy two – you’ll want to pass them on.

The Best Idea in the World

I read Mark Greene’s book The Best Idea in the World yesterday – full of goodness. It’s all about the need for human beings to be in meaningful relationships with other human beings. Here’s just a few of the ideas which I particularly liked:

  • 70% of people don’t leave their jobs – they leave their managers
  • Politicians and employers need to create conditions in which people can flourish as whole human beings
  • Eating meals together as a family is a predictor of educational attainment [and also spiritual I wonder?]
  • Leaders choose teams, but eating together builds them
  • 5 factors that effect relational proximity
    • Directness of contact – in oral communication words make up 7% of the message – the rest is gesture, expression, tone etc. Talk face-face, person-person; eat and drink together. A third of British people eat their meals in front of the TV!
    • Continuity of contact – do the school run, use the same local pub, cafe, eatery, paper shop or whatever. Consider the relational cost of moving away from an area.
    • Commonality of purpose – foster some ‘in it together’ Dunkirk spirit.
    • Multiplexity – spend time in different contexts with people
    • Parity – ontological equality and functional difference

And here’s just a few more quotes or paraphrases stitched together:

  • Our best friends we see once or twice a year!
  • With texts, emails, webcams, social networks, and second lives we are globally wired but relationally disconnected – touched a million times but never embraced. The average US home has more TV’s than people.
  • As one writer puts it “One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night”.

This is definitely a book worth getting – there’s plenty of material to stimulate thought, and perhaps use for teaching or homegroup series’.

5 Ways to Ruin Your Sermon

More goodness from the guys at TheRocketCompany here. They claim that 90% of unchurched people choose their church based on the pastor or the preaching – no pressure. Here’s their five ways to foul up your sermon:

  1. Inadequate preparation
  2. Going on too long
  3. Too much content
  4. Not enough stories
  5. No action point

Six Systems Important to Church Growth

I receive an email once a week or so from TheRocketCompany – a group set up to give coaching in preaching, leadership, management and systems.  They often have helpful material and their email is worth subscribing to. This week they sent me an email with five systems crucial to church growth. I thought they were helpful so I’ve added a sixth (discipleship) and pass them on for your delectation:

• Volunteer system
• Outreach system
• Discipleship System
• Communication system
• Organization system
• Follow Up system

The message from the guys at TheRocketCompany is: if you have a thought through approach to each of these areas then you’re well structured for growth in depth and breadth.