The death of lunchtime meetings on campus: what next?

Our small group ministry has been growing year by year. Our breakfast meetings with student leaders has been growing year by year - from 11 in 2010 to 35+ in 2013. Our monthly Thursday night Citywide Gatherings have been growing year by year from 40 in 2010 to 80 in 2013.

But our lunchtime preaching meetings have plateaued, and this year declined. I now teach more students at our breakfast meeting than I do at both our lunchtimes combined :-/

I anticipated this would be the case, which is why we started the Citywide Gatherings. It’s nice to be a bit ahead of the game with this. It’s a mix of the rise in part-time work, listening to lectures online, not hanging out on campus during the day and the growth of smaller satellite campuses around the city. It’s also that an evening meeting can offer a more holistic ‘experience’ (preaching, hang out, singing) that students will be motivated to come to, rather than a very simple lunchtime sermon meeting.

It is now getting so crazy-small that it’s just not good stewardship to keep investing the sheer staff hours into attending! (5 staff on Tuesday lunch, 2 staff return on Wednesday lunch - not counting sermon prep!).

I now have 2 questions to wrestle with: where else will the word be taught? And how will we redistribute these staff hours?

Where is the word taught?

  • I preach for 45-70 minutes once a month at our Citywide Gathering (8 times a year)

  • I have started preaching once a month at our student leader breakfast meeting this semester (8 times a year)

  • We have 4 conferences a year: Pre-Season Conference, 2 Day Conferences and Mid Year Conference (9-12 sermons)

  • Not all our small groups currently do Bible study, but we could make this compulsory

  • We have a new faculty structure in place that could allow for an additional teaching meeting per semester in these faculty groups

A regular campus lunchtime ministry would have 12-13 sermons a semester. If we removed lunchtimes this would mean there would be 8 regular sermons a semester, not counting our conferences. Is this inadequate? I suppose it depends, in part on your commitment to public preaching ministry. I think it is borderline.

Where to re-deploy staff?

We now have 7 staff hours per week to re-deploy. What do we do?

  1. Just let staff absorb that time into the many other things they are doing - they are already busy (I think this is a dumb idea)

  2. Fill it up with 7 new mentoring relationships

  3. My friend Joe suggested we think of it across a whole year as roughly 40 days (7 hours a week, across a rounded off 40 regular working weeks a year). What could we do in 40 days?

  4. My friend Dan suggested we all look at our ‘I wish we could get to this but we haven’t had time up till now’ list. What’s something crazy, exciting and experimental we could do?

  5. We could channel the time into doing faculty-based teaching events (described above)

  6. We could deploy staff into the student-lead small groups to provide short spurts of intensive teaching/training/coaching?

Whatever we do, it’s pretty important the staff all own it. With extra time, it will be so tempting to accidentally go for Option 1, to not treat the new thing as urgent quite like existing work is. Add to this that new projects are always harder to get off the ground. There’s no use me just imposing this on the team. We all need to resolve to redeem the time well.

What would YOU do with 7 extra staff hours a week?

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Advice on evangelism from ‘Uncle John’

I have known John my whole Christian life. He is a much older Christian man, who has been eagerly involved in many ways with church plants and other ministry activities all over the place.

Recently he has earned the nickname ‘Uncle John’ among the international students who now ministers to through his involvement with FOCUS at UTAS.

I was having coffee with John the other day and talking about evangelism and discipleship - how it truly is like the parable of the sower. I said something along the lines of ‘You realise how much it’s outside your control, how they respond’.

And John, a thoroughgoing Calvinist, clarified my comment with some very wise words that have stayed with me:

Oh but there’s a lot you can do. You can pursue them in prayer. Pray for them earnestly that God might prepare the soil of their heart to receive the word.

And you can show hospitality to them. If they show even the slightest bit of interest, you have to grab them and follow them up. Take a hold of them, invite them into your home, talk with them.

It’s hard work. But it’s good work.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Mirrors 26th July 2013

  1. I like this quote from Dave McDonald’s review of Outreach and the Artist:
    He also helps churches to consider how their often rigid and judgmental attitudes serve to alienate many alternative types from their midst. The lifestyle of the artist is very different to the 9 to 5 office worker. Days or weeks can be spent just seeking inspiration, or reworking an idea. Productivity may seem non-existent. Thousands of hours can be ‘wasted’ or spent ‘indulging’ in practise, with little to show for it. Con challenges us to see things afresh. If we appreciate the craft of an elite artist, musician, or athlete, then we must also appreciate how many years of effort go into getting there. Most musicians work late nights and weekends. They recover by sleeping in. This doesn’t mean they are lazy. Churches are urged to think more empathetically about connecting with people who have very different lifestyles.

  2. One person’s experience of what was lacking about being raised by a same-sex couple.

  3. Old news now, but have you read about Exodus International shutting down and apologising for how it conducted some of it’s sexual orientation treatment? Insofar as they are backing away from extreme practicses, extreme rhetoric, and overpromising, this is a good thing, right?

  4. Tim Challies talks about the different kinds of experience of love he has for his different family members. A beautiful little post.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Even high level delegation requires oversight

The Problems with Just Releasing People
“I just give people jobs and let ‘em go and try it out”.

Sounds heroic and visionary. And sometimes it works brilliantly.

Of course it is a hit and miss method. Sometimes the job doesn’t get done. Sometimes the person suffers.

And I will show you a better way.

Even Oversee your most Capable People

Provide oversight even to those who are the Level 4 ‘Use your discretion to make decisions and report on goals’ people. In fact focus your energy on investing in your best people MOST!

Sure, they may be fine without you. And they may not. Why not eliminate the uncertainty?

And they might not need you. But they might benefit even more from your input. Why neglect your best people?

And you might be freed up to do other stuff. Or you might miss out on their energy and ideas. Or their ability to channel their work to work in alignment with your work. Why not take advantage of your combined efforts?

A Different Kind of Oversight

Rather than let people go and give them no oversight, change the kind of oversight you give them. Move away from hassling about deadlines and micromanaging details.

Instead invest in the relationship, remind them of the big vision, provide extra training and resources, ask tricky questions, help them plug in with what your whole ministry is about.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

The Man Behind the Blog: make a donation to my ministry on campus

Sorry the blog has been a bit quiet of late. The start of Semester 2 has meant a lot of preparing, sermon writing and meetings. Sadly Christian Reflections has not be as high up the list :-P

And that of course is the constant challenge. I value the ministry of Christian Reflections, and I value you, my readers. But I need to carve out extra time to dig into Christian Reflections in addition the the other ministries I am involved in.

I work as a missionary with AFES, leading the University Fellowship of Christians at UTAS in Hobart and overseeing the broader AFES Hobart staff team. All AFES staff are funded through the missionary support of organisations and individuals like yourselves.

So I ask you, if you have benefitted from Christian Reflections, to consider investing in it, by making a once-off donation towards my ministry support here.

This year so far, I’m a little short of the required fundraising target, actually, so your contribution would help close that gap.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Thoughts on the DiSC Profile 8: Thoughts on ‘SC’

SC’s are the nice-details-people. They bring a desire to be friendly and co-operative to their desire to be accurate and consistent.

SC’s are not as abrasive as C’s or DC’s because they are not merely task/information focussed. They are interested in details as far as they help people. They are also not as influenced or as (accidentally) inconsistent as S’s and iS’s, they are more solitary operators - who want to provide a stable environment for others, without having to then spend lots of time interacting with others.

To respect and care for an SC make sure you give them lots of information and lots of time. Springing them with ill-defined tasks or short deadlines is very unkind to this person.

SC’s will not find it as natural to be driven by vision and outcomes. They can be very valuable, for example, on management boards, but need to be willing to talk bold risks to achieve the purpose of the church/organisation, rather than keep things safe.

On the other hand, an SC loves the idea of slowly, steadily and patiently working towards a big, long-range goal. If you take the time to give them information, support and time they need they will help you make huge advances.

SC’s will also need a lot of help to focus on building rich relationships to ‘let people in’. They actually like being in a safe setting with other people who accept them, but they need gentle encouragement to facilitate these relationships.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Why you should not default to saying ‘No’

I’ve had some conversations this week with young leaders figuring out how to set priorities, manage their work, own their priorities.

They have rightly heard that it’s important to say ‘No’. But I think they’ve got it wrong. They need to actually learn why it’s important to say ‘Yes’.

As a gross generalisation, I want young female leaders to say ‘No’ more and young male leaders to say ‘Yes’ more.

Why it is good to say No

It’s good to say No to give value to your Yes’s. It’s good to say No to things that are not priorities. It guards your priorities. It’s good to say No to people you are not as highly engaged with and committed to so you can fulfill your commitments to those you are in deep with.

And it’s good to say No when you honestly don’t have the resource. You can’t spend money you don’t have, for example. And the same goes with healthy, time and energy.

But that doesn’t means it’s always good to default to ‘No’. Or to say ‘I’ll think about. And then 5 days later say ‘No’‘.

Why it is bad to say No

I aim to be busy and fill up my time and stress myself. And at the same time I aim to be available. In that sense I don’t want people to think of me as ‘too busy’. As I grew up my Dad often said ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person’.

If something or someone is important to me I will do my best to say ‘Yes’ to them. I default to Yes for those things that contribute to my core priorities and for those people who are most important to me.

The great thing about this is that it fills up more and more of my time with the things that are most important and allows less and less time to those things that are not important.

Defaulting-to-No leaves you wide open to continue being ‘Too Busy For This New Task’

Defaulting-To-No slowly sends a message to those people who are important to you that you are too busy for them, and sends a message to the organisation you are a part of that you shouldn’t try to stretch to do more of what matters.

If you are given a new opportunity, presented with a big need, or invited to a great event, Default-To-Yes and then figure out how you can make it work.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Mirrors 19th July 2013

  1. This is shaping up to be an interesting series from Paul Grimmond on our understanding of work. This first article is on the cultural mandate. As I commented on the post itself, I worry that the argument of this article formulates its conclusions from merely doing a biblical theology study, rather than the systematic theology work. And then it goes on to use an argument from silence. I will read the two follow up posts with interest.

  2. These photos explore the modern world of confused gender roles by portraying men in their partner’s clothing. They are strangely moving and disturbing and cute and funny all at once. I had dinner the other night with some friends we’ve met through the kids’ (inner-city, left-leaning) school. Strangely the much of the conversation was about the reality of gender distinctions and the difficulties of clarifying what they are.

  3. A funky uni mission website.

  4. An intriguing post about how unpaid internships ruin journalism, by restricting it only to the privileged who can afford to give their time to such an internship.

  5. Mike Jolly gives some deep reflections on his reactions to the recent amazing light sculpture in the centre of Hobart.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Thoughts on the DiSC Profile 7: Thoughts on ‘iS’

iS’s are the ultimate people-persons. They are all-round relaters being skilled at both engaging and socialising in larger social situations and being sensitive and gentle one on one.

An iS will not be excellent at dealing with conflict and disagreement. They might respond to it in either a fight or flight manner, but either way, will not want to stay there long. This could mean they put up with an unpleasant situation rather than cause conflict, or that they gently quit early on to avoid prolonged conflict.

An iS will feel frustrated and limited if the social/environmental/organisational/vibe factors are ‘all wrong’. They need a positive, relaxed and attractive atmosphere in which to do their best work of engaging and interacting.

An iS can be very patient, which will make them well-equipped for gradual growth and development work. The ‘S’ pattern helps them be considerate and collaborative and take their time; the ‘i’ pattern helps them keep a larger end in mind and inspire people steadily towards change.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Why I liked Built to Last more than Good to Great

Jim Collins is great at writing books for the business community that the Christian leaders love to read.

Good to Great

His second, more widely known book is ‘Good to Great’. It’s got some helpful stuff in there about focussing on what you’re best at, aiming on what results you’re aiming for, getting the right people onto the team as the first thing to focus on. He summarises his book as a call to ‘disciplined thought and disciplined action’. This is certainly a thing we need to pursue as faithful servants of the gospel.

Good to Great also has a supplement for not-for-profits, which is very helpful at thinking through how you can take on board its advice when your primary outcome is not profit.

But I didn’t totally love the book. And some things really annoyed me: He tried to come up with catchy names for things, and they were almost always annoying and hard to remember: ‘hedgehog concept’ (!?), ‘Level 5 Leader’, ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.

Also the vision of the book was somehow not especially inspiring to me: I can’t quite put my finger on why, but making a transition from good to great didn’t resonate with me as a compelling vision. Something felt amiss about it, necessarily subjective or something?

But then perhaps it was just not an ‘Aha’ book for me, perhaps it just didn’t speak to where I am ‘at’ right now.

Built to Last

The guy I borrow the book off also lent me Collins’ first book: ‘Built to Last’. And this book I found much more exciting, inspiring and practically helpful.

I liked that way it was focussed on a much longer time scale: how to build something that endures through multiple generations, multiple transitions of senior leadership. This was a much more exciting goal than just having a burst of ‘greatness’ for a season. It seemed that it gelled more easily the vision and priorities of Christian ministry in that way.

Here are the major bits of advice in Built to Last:

  1. Clock building not time-telling (a cheesy metaphor like his later, ‘Hedgehog Concept’ thing): don’t just do work well, but architect an organisation that will continue to do this work well beyond your lifetime. This is a very powerful insight I think. Collins even observed that often these long-term organisations experience slow growth in their early years/decades - but ended up having an enduring, long-term impact.

  2. More than profits: don’t just pursue profits, but aim to be faithful to your mission, vision and values.

  3. Both preserve your core ideology AND stimulate progress.

  4. Big Hairy Audacious Goals: set tangible, inspiring goals to motivate work, innovation and sacrifice. Make sure you set a new goal when you are close to meeting your existing goals.

  5. Cult-Like Cultures: have a very intense and specific culture in the way you do things, such that if people fit they will love it and thrive, but if they don’t fit they won’t like it.

  6. Try a lot of stuff and keep what works.

  7. Home-grown management: and investing a lot in the developing of your people.

  8. Good enough never is.

    via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Thoughts on the DiSC Profile 6: Thoughts on ‘Di’

In some ways this is a textbook leader of leaders: both persuasive, relational and visionary (the ‘i’ pattern) but also hard-nosed and outcome-oriented (the ‘D’ pattern).

The Di deeply values BOTH enthusiasm AND compliance. Enthusiasm on its own feels aimless and compliance on its own feels heartless.

There is a strange polarity in relating to Di types - a sort of push-pull. They draw you close, and yet at the same time you feel that they don’t need you, that they are keeping you at a distance. This can be hard to get used to. It does means that highly relational people can struggle to feel really loyal to Di types.

To help a Di really work well, you need to teach them to know when to talk less, when to be satisfied without a pep rally and when to set more conservative goals and targets. Overall the need to slow down and be attentive to others.

I think Di’s are able to be collaborative with strong leaders, who are energised by vigorous disagreement, but find collaboration with more sensitive souls hard work.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Thoughts on the DiSC Profile 5: Thoughts on ‘DC’

DC (or CD) personalities are intense creative geniuses. They might struggle to lead and motivate teams, but they can understand and architect grand concepts.

Such people are valuable assistant leaders, provided they are given a global scope, not merely nitty gritty work. They combine an attention to detail with a desire to deliver on big outcomes.

DCs can also be great leaders of teams, provided they work really really hard on their soft skills and gather around them and nurture a team of friendly and non-intimidating people.

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to

Growth group regional overseers better of with 10 groups than 3!

I just wanted to share this little gem. In this audio, the Andrew Heard and another guy from EV church make an observation about the role of Growth Group regional overseers that really rang true to me as we’ve been slowly building some more structure at Uni Fellowship.

They observed that if you ask one person to oversee a group of 3 growth groups, it seems more manageable, but actually doesn’t work as well as if you ask them to oversee 5-10.

The reason is that with 3 groups, it doesn’t feel enough of a job - one of the groups will have a mature/self-starter leader who doesn’t need your help, another group will have a very young and needy leader - but their group meets the same night as yours, another group will be led by a mate of yours whom it feels weird to lead.

Whereas with 5-10 there’s enough of a task to really focus on it fully and really invest in it. In a funny way, the bigger job feels easier to grasp, understand and invest in.

As I listened I wanted to add that I think the GROUP LEADERS also take you more seriously if you are leading a group of 5-10: it’s a big enough crowd to implicitly give the regional overseer some authority and gravitas. It’s easy to ignore emails from a guy who leads your group and 2 others - what does he even do anyway? But it feels a bit more important to not muck around a guy who’s working hard to oversee a group of 10 people!

via Blog - Christian Reflections (NB: to comment go to