everything is going to be just fine

As another year comes to a close we turn our thoughts to the rush and tumble of Christmas, and I have to confess that I do love it. Amidst the high-paced madness found in buying gifts, meeting friends and consuming food there is so much fun to be had. I mean, Christmas gives us an excuse for parties, presents and feasting, and who amongst us doesn’t enjoy such things?xmas-540x405

That said most people will find the silly-season a little overwhelming (or completely all-consuming) at some point, and if you’re anything like me you may also find yourself asking… ‘why?’

Why am I so stressed?

Why am I so busy?

Why am I so time-poor?

Why am I so debt ridden?

Why am I so preoccupied with everything other than the things that really matter?

Why am I subjecting myself to the chaos of Christmas yet again and when will this madness end?

Whilst I understand that such questions emerge as we are faced with all things Christmas, I do think we are being a little bit hard on ourselves. Make no mistake the very first Christmas was chaotic! A pregnant teenager and a shocked father-to-be homeless and on the road, it doesn’t get more messy than that! One can only imagine what they must have been experiencing. (Check out the short clip below made by my good friends at YesHeIs.com for a modern day spin on Mary & Joseph’s journey).

G O D  W I T H  U S

I’ve often pondered what Mary and Joseph must have felt as they approached that very first Christmas. Perhaps the chaos as we know it today is not that different to those who lived out the very first Christmas? And if this is the case, perhaps we have more in common with those who were expecting the birth of Jesus than we care to admit?

You see, when a child is born (expected or not) EVERYTHING changes. People pause to stare at new-life and they believe for a moment that hope is somehow real. Their hearts soften. They marvel at the beauty before them, a new-creation with the freedom to write a new story through a life unfolding. The blank page of possibility reflects from their blurry big eyes and it’s unlike anything else ever seen. This is true for newborns today, and this was especially true for the Christ child born in Bethlehem.

For many, a baby born in a manger two thousand years ago to a teenage girl and unsuspecting father is completely unbelievable. Even more unbelievable is that this child is claimed to be the Saviour of the universe – the Messiah, Immanuel, God with us. Some were unsure about this at the time of Christ’s birth, and it comes as no surprise that people today would still find this difficult to believe. I mean how could a perfect God be present in such an imperfect situation?

I happen to believe that ALL of Christmas, even the manic crazy and chaotic aspect of it contains something of the subtext of Jesus’ coming into this world. I guess no matter which way you look at it Christmas can only ever be about Jesus. Preparation for His coming, His arrival, and His life-giving presence all point us to the redeeming nature of God in this world. And I believe that God can be found in this time, even in the lives of unlikely, unmarried, expectant teens.

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(c) 2014 The Babes Project, photo taken by Kipindi Photography. Used with permission.

U N L I K E L Y  H E R O E S

There are thousands of young women and men in Australia (and abroad) who enter this season as Joseph and Mary once did – experiencing all of the doubts, fears, and anxiety known at the very first Christmas. They too are about to become parents. For them it’s messy, challenging, unexpected and perhaps we owe it to them to offer an alternative perspective of their situation?

If it was good enough for the God of the universe to enter human history this way, maybe it is possible these struggling parents-to-be also bear the image of the same God in the context of their circumstances? Perhaps we would do well to point that out rather than pointing the finger and adding further condemnation to their already difficult situation?

I have witnessed first hand the work of organisations like Compassion* and The Babes Project* who continue to do exactly that. They offer practical support and care to young people facing crisis pregnancy. Their efforts extend beyond giving them stuff (although they do this too and it is extremely helpful). They offer love, acceptance, care and hope. Their resounding message is ‘you are not alone because we are with you!’

It is their presence alongside these often frightened and vulnerable people that is the reaI gift of hope.

I can only lament that these incredible people and programs did not exist when I was faced with the prospect of becoming a Dad for the first time, for if ever there was a sign of the hope of Christmas they are it!

I T ‘ S  L I F E ,  B U T  N O T  A S  W E  K N O W  I T

Pondering the first Christmas a friend of mine once mused,

“… I was struck by the outrageous way that the reputation of Christ born into a patriarchal society, was tied in with that of a young unwed woman. Why wasn’t someone chosen of more proven moral standing? Anyone wishing to deny Christ only need deny the character of a teenage girl. It’s not the most watertight basis for a claim of divinity. But isn’t this like our God that he throws his lot in with the unproven and stands in solidarity with the unlikely? And when the character of those he stands with is rubbished, his image is tarnished too.” – Laura Florisson

New life is always a gift. This is true today and we can be sure that this is true of Jesus born over two thousand years ago. A baby born is always good news and Jesus birth is the Ultimate good-news story of the day. It was (and is) God screaming to all creation ‘you are not alone – I AM with you!’

In your fears, I AM with you.

In your anxiety, I AM with you.

In your shame, I AM with you.

In your pain, I AM with you.

In your uncertainty, I AM with you.

In your brokenness, I AM with you.

In the chaos of Christmas, I AM with you.

The great I AM comes in the form of new-life and new-life is to be found everywhere. Can you see it, even amidst the chaos? Because paradoxically the joy and peace of Christmas can also be found there. So pause. Remember Him. Examine His life. His words. His actions. Look for the many signs of new life all around you. Oh… and of His birth? Consider what it is His birth represents.

“All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”

For when it’s all said and done everything is going to be just fine. A baby has been born.

Merry Christmas.

BK

*Not sponsored. I simply admire their work

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Every leader has a bias, and this is good… BUT

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It’s getting to that time when leaders and teams start to take stock of the year that’s been and plan for the year to come. It’s a hugely important part of the rhythm of a year and therefore deserves a leaders time and attention. Lots of leaders and teams go through the process of asking:

What do I stop?

What do I start?

What do I sustain?

These questions are crucial as they relate to projects, programs, budgets, and strategic plans. Each of these items are tactile and controllable enough to be changed and shaped as needed. However, the most influential factor related to the success of any ministry is the team of people deployed to do the work. If we’re going to assess the actions of our team as it relates to the vision we’re pursuing, it’s crucial that we also assess the balance, gift mix and cohesion of the team of people working together.

My leadership context has mostly been youth and young adult ministry and whilst I have struggled with the tension of different personalities and priorities within teams, a slight shift in perspective has taught me to embrace the enormous opportunities such challenges afford. Allow me to elaborate with an example.

what-is-an-unbalanced-questionT H E  M E E T I N G

The leadership meeting went something like this…

“I don’t care what we do, as long as these students are cared for and are experiencing genuine love and acceptance nothing else matters!”

Then someone else said,

“It’s all well and good that we care for them but if they aren’t learning anything about Jesus and the word of God then we are not really building the foundations of their faith.”

Then someone else said,

“We might be teaching the kids we have but if we’re not reaching out to young people who don’t know Jesus then we won’t have any kids to teach!”

Then someone else said,

“We need to think strategically about how we will develop the youth ministry and make sure that our planning allows for growth and multiplication, that’s what’s really important.”

Yet another said,

“You’re all wrong, the way we’re doing things now needs to change, and if we don’t do it soon, there’ll be nothing to multiply!”

Sound familiar? Most youth leaders and ministers have all been involved in a meeting or two like that. It is frustrating, and can leave you asking ‘How on earth can I get this team to agree on a direction let alone work together?!’ But when we look more closely this is not an issue of disunity or a lack of shared vision. It is more just a reality that every leadership team will face, especially if the team has a diverse mix of gifts and leadership styles.

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A P E S T

Through a seemingly conflicted moment we are actually seeing the five fold ministry gifts expressed as described in Ephesians 4:11-13, and if it is understood and embraced rather than resisted, it can serve your ministry in ways that might not otherwise occur. The Apostle Paul said…

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 TNIV)

Leadership should be diverse in approach and practice. It should have a different emphasis and focus depending on the person, their leadership bias and the season of the ministry. Teams that embrace the difference understand that different leadership styles will be elevated to prominence depending on what is necessary for the time. They will not elevate one gift over another for the sake of the leader and their need to exercise the gift. But they will demand an approach that helps their young people to

‘…become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’

And from time to time, for each young person the leadership approach will be different. This is why we need to have different leaders with different gifts avoiding uniformity and apparent conflicts. None of us can become ‘all things to all people’; we need each other and our young people need us to know this.

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W H A T ‘ S  Y O U R  B I A S ?

So… the question is, do you know your leadership bias? Are you an apostle charged with the responsibility to see new kingdom works established and multiplied? If so, then you will need the prophets to question your decisions. You will need the evangelists to reach out to and embrace the lost. You will need the shepherds to care for and protect them. And you will need the teachers to help them learn and grow. You get my point… whatever your gift-mix you NEED the others so that,

“…the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (vv12-13)

And surely we can agree that is what we want for our young people.

I regularly meet with many teams that are not well balanced which inevitably hinders their ability to get the job done. Indeed it is completely possible to have too much of a good thing! So take stock of your activity AND be brave enough to assess your team.

So tell me… How do you asses the balance of your team’s gift-mix? What tools or framework do you use? How have you managed the tension between different leaders bias? Let’s hear it!

BK

**If you want explore further your own gifts and how they might fit in a team context you can go to http://www.apesttest.com (not sponsored).