What Michael Jordan taught me about ministry

Over my recent holidays I watched The Last Dance, a documentary about the Chicago Bulls basketball team that dominated the NBA (the highest-level basketball league in the world) throughout…

Over my recent holidays I watched The Last Dance, a documentary about the Chicago Bulls basketball team that dominated the NBA (the highest-level basketball league in the world) throughout the 1990s.

At the heart of this story about one of the most successful franchises in basketball history, there lies another story – the story of their star player (and arguably the world’s greatest ever basketballer) Michael Jordan.

I have to confess, I’ve never been a big basketball fan, but I love sport. It took me just one minute of that first episode and I was hooked.

What stood out to me as I watched was the relentless determination that Michael Jordan had to be the best. It was this pursuit of excellence that led Michael to put in hours and hours of training.

“I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat.” Michael Jordan

As I kept watching I couldn’t help but think of my role as a camps specialist with SU QLD. There’s a lot of fun when it comes to camping and schoolies events, but behind all that I spend a lot of time training people.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard camp leaders say, “but I did training last year” or “I’ve covered this material before” and “do I really need to do this again?”.

When I hear these questions, I certainly understand the frustrations behind them. We don’t get involved in camps to do training, we do it because it’s exciting, fun and a great way to help young people grow in their Christian faith. But without training, without preparation, we’re not setting ourselves up for success.

In the field of children’s ministry and youth work, training can sometimes look similar or cover similar topics. But what I’ve discovered over the years is that every situation, small group and circumstance requires different adaptations of the same skills.

When we attend training with a group of peers, we have the opportunity to share ideas and challenge the way we currently support the next generation – so we can do it better.

If you already have the perfect youth and children’s program, please send me a copy. But if you’re not there yet, I’d like to share my top reasons for making training a priority:

  1. Every setting requires something different. There are many ways of doing youth and children’s work and each organisation you are part of will have different reporting systems and ways of doing things. We may feel the content is the same, but the outworking could be very different
  2. Look for ‘the new’ in each training. As we grow in experience we tend to understand concepts on a deeper level. Your training from three years ago may have a completely new outworking when you hear it after you’ve had three years of experience to bring to the table.
  3. Training is done better together. Sometimes the most important part of a training event is not the content delivered, but the conversation you have over a biscuit and tea with another team member about what you have just heard. Fellowship with other leaders can be a huge growth contributor.
  4. As people who work in children and youth ministry, who understand that each and every young person matters deeply to God and deserves a safe and meaningful life, we need to be passionate about training and ensuring that our young people are safe (it’s also a requirement that has come out of the Royal Commission).
  5. Your experience will add to the content. Whenever I deliver training material I always assume there is someone in the room who could know something about our topic that I don’t know. Your input, stories, and wisdom in training is just as valuable to the group as the content from the person delivering the training.

Michael Jordan’s relentless pursuit of excellence led to his name being known by millions of people around the world. But how much better would it be to know that through your relentless pursuit of excellence that you could make an eternal and life-transforming difference in the lives of the young people you lead on your next camp.

Get trained in 2021 by attending Amplify Conference on Saturday 6 March. Click here to find out more: www.amplifyconference.com.au

 

 

About the author…

Beavs is a former High School Maths and Christian Education Teacher who has been working and volunteering with SU QLD Camps for almost 20 years. As Camps Specialist he supports volunteers and chaplains run camps and community outreach events throughout Queensland, reaching over 4500 young people. Beavs is married with 3 children, and loves coffee and watching sport.

Posted: 18/02/2021

7 life lessons I have learnt from jig-saw puzzles

An unfinished jig-saw puzzle has always sat on the table at my parent’s house. When we visit, it doesn’t take long before we are gathered around the table, absorbed…

An unfinished jig-saw puzzle has always sat on the table at my parent’s house. When we visit, it doesn’t take long before we are gathered around the table, absorbed in the emerging picture, examining the puzzle pieces and trying to match them and fill the available gaps.

My father and mother had a very practical approach to teaching their six kids important life skills. They rarely ‘lectured’ or ‘preached’, rather they excelled at finding aspects of activities or situations where they could get us thinking about what we could learn from what we were doing.

Thanks to the hundreds of jig-saw puzzles we have done over the years, I’ve learned a lot about problem solving. In fact, I’ve used these learnings as ‘guide posts’ to help me meet the challenges I have encountered in life.

So today, I would love to share these insights with you in the hope that you’ll find these helpful when facing your own challenges.

1. Start with the end in mind.

Most jig-saw puzzles come in a box that shows a picture of what the finished product will look like. There is a clear goal we are working towards. If we know what we are trying to achieve, it is easier to map out steps to achieve the goal. It is important to keep looking back at the picture – to see where the parts fit into the whole.

2. Put boundaries in place.

When doing a puzzle, we usually start with the edge pieces. This sets the boundaries around the project. It is important to be clear about boundaries, what is in, what is out, what is my responsibility, what is not, what is within my control, what is not!

3. Only bite off what you can chew.

The biggest puzzle I have done was 1500 pieces, the smallest was eight pieces. There are factors to consider in choosing the size of the puzzle. It is important to assess your environment, your ability and the resources you have available before making a decision. While there is limited fun to be found in an eight-piece puzzle, starting a 500-piece puzzle over a 30-minute lunch at McDonalds is just silly!

4. Match your approach to your situation.

Different parts of the puzzle benefit from different approaches. Sometimes matching colours is the best strategy, or matching shapes, or sometimes trial and error is the only way! Trial and error is the most time consuming and least rewarding. It’s really a last resort.

5. Celebrate your successes.

We tend to start with the edge, then the sections of the puzzle that will be the easiest. The flowers of the field with their varying colours and shapes are formed fairly quickly under our busy hands. We stop often to admire our achievement and happily chatter away. Then we come to a solid block of blue sky only discolored by the occasional puff of white cloud. Nerves become more frazzled as the tedious ‘trial and error’ method must be employed, we celebrate our successes with an exclamation of ‘got a piece in’ which, when the going is slow, warrants a cheer and congratulations.

6. Start with what you can do, not what you can’t.

With a puzzle one tends to work on patches that seem easy. If you are stuck, move to a different part or simply look at what you are working on from a different angle. Sometimes it is best to put the puzzle on hold and come back afresh.

7. Know when to walk away.

This last ‘lesson’ is one that I have found particularly difficult. Recently, for the first time ever, we actually gave up on a puzzle. We pulled apart what we had done and put it back in the box. After many hours working on it my mother and I made a decision that it was just not worth continuing. As we solemnly packed it away, we reflected on times when we have pushed forward in what we thought was perseverance when time showed it to have been simply obstinance. While never giving up is a great catch cry, sometimes the struggle and fall out of continuing is simply not worth it

Most activities we engage in with kids lend themselves to ‘lessons’. So whether it is soccer, swimming, monopoly or even a computer game, it is worth taking the time to join in and help your kids discover their own life lessons through the activities they do.

Posted: 11/02/2021

What is ‘Ordinary Time’ and why is it important?

Well, it would seem we’re back into it for another year… >  Christmas – Done…! >  New Year’s – Done…! >  Back to work… Done…! >  Back to school……

Well, it would seem we’re back into it for another year…

>  Christmas – Done…!

>  New Year’s – Done…!

>  Back to work… Done…!

>  Back to school… Done…!

And now it’s “2021 – Here we come, ready or not”…

In the Christian liturgical calendar, this time we’re in now is called Ordinary Time. It’s the in-between time between the celebrations of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. In this season, we step out of special times of celebration and commemoration and step into the business of living our everyday lives.

But don’t let the title fool you. Ordinary Time isn’t meant to highlight how mundane, tiresome or uninteresting everyday life is. Instead, it’s supposed to prompt us to appreciate how sacred our oft taken-for-granted daily schedules and movements actually are. Sounds good doesn’t it?

But let’s be honest… for a lot of the time, our ordinary time can feel pretty, well, ordinary – and we find ourselves looking to the next distraction or celebration to get us through.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to live in Ordinary Time in a more extraordinary way?

Recently, I came across an article called The Eucharistic Life. I was intrigued by the title but had no idea what it could possibly mean. I knew that “eucharist” was another name for communion or “The Lord’s Supper” as my tradition calls it, and I understood that this vital ceremony expressed a deep truth at the heart of the Christian faith. But I’d never heard the ceremony linked to a way of living in the world.

So, I looked into it…

Towards the end of Jesus’ life, he celebrated Passover with his disciples. You may have heard of this. It’s often referred to as “The Last Supper”. As part of this meal, Jesus took bread, gave thanks to God for it, broke it and shared it out (Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:19). This process of taking, giving thanks, breaking and sharing, when applied to our own lives, is a template for living a more extraordinary ‘Eucharistic Life’.

It looks something like this…

First, we take hold of our lives. We recognise that our lives are ours! That they are precious and worth grabbing onto with both hands. We need to own all the good and bad bits of our lives and take responsibility for what we can.

Secondly, we give thanks for our lives. Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you’, that would be sufficient.” When we understand each ordinary moment as a gift from God, our gratitude transforms those successive moments into a more extraordinary life.

Thirdly, we allow our lives to be broken. We need to accept, even embrace, that we haven’t got it all together and that’s okay. Some of our best life-learning will come from humble openness to this reality about ourselves. I love the Leonard Cohen song line, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Fourthly, we share our lives with others. Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls us is where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” When we take hold of our lives, living them with a deep gratitude and humility, we position ourselves to make the difference in the world that only we can make.

Now that we’re back into it for 2021, let’s make the most of our Ordinary Time…

 

About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

Posted: 4/02/2021

Can our differences on Australia Day help bring us together?

Tuesday 26 January 2021 – a day that divides a nation. Where do you stand on our national day? Do you celebrate with pride, or shun due to the…

Tuesday 26 January 2021 – a day that divides a nation.

Where do you stand on our national day? Do you celebrate with pride, or shun due to the date’s association with our colonial past? Or do you just enjoy the public holiday to kick off a new year, and try to avoid the background noise?

In this post I am not attempting to unpack the arguments behind Australia Day and the date on which it is held, though maybe I should someday. (Check out the link below for a little additional reading.) If you do want to talk it over, then let’s sit down for a coffee.

The reason I am writing is because I believe that it is possible to retain friendship with fellow Aussies, even if we disagree.

Australia Day is as good an opportunity as any to actually work out how we can come together, as fellow Australians, to rediscover the skills of giving and receiving dignity, respect and a good-old-fashioned “fair go”.

The fact is that each of the different perspectives are all right.

  • This is a remarkable, prosperous and beautiful country and we have so much to be thankful for – true!
  • This continent was the home of the First Australian peoples for thousands of years, before colonisation and the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships on 26 January 1788 in New South Wales – true!
  • The day is a public holiday at the very end of the long Summer break, and right before most schools commence for the academic year – true!

This is of course oversimplified, but depending on our own personal life journey, many of us have come to stand on our view as THE truth, which means we will often see those who disagree as wrong. We gather with our own kind, who reinforce our view of the truth, and refine our arguments against the other.

This pattern happens on so many important issues, leaving modern society highly and emotively divided. This is a huge problem, but I believe we can do something about it.

Do you mind if I propose a couple of steps we can take to overcome these chasms in the social discourse, and become agents of soothing change, both for ourselves and for our whole country?

1. Articulate what Australia Day means to you – each of us have a unique and special story. Some of us have an ancient connection to this country, while the vast majority of us have cultural stories that originate from lands beyond these shores. But if you now call Australia home, what do you love about the place? Look for the positives, talk to others and post on your social media feeds these best things. Explore and articulate what makes you feel thankful that we have a day to celebrate Australia.

2. Listen to different perspectives – the reality is that most of us are surrounded by our own kind, who share our own views of Australia Day. I admit this next step might be a challenge but take the initiative to seek out and listen to the views of those you do not agree with. Remember they may not be right as you see things, but their views are entirely valid. The best way to do this is to ask others questions about what they love about Australia, and what their views on the day are. And be sure to listen, and not launch into an argument why they are wrong. This step will be hard when you first do it, but it actually becomes therapeutic and enlightening the more you practice it.

3. If you do, protest with compassion – protest, or at the very least promoting your perspective, is not only healthy for you but it is vital for a strong society. But do this after acting on steps 1 and 2 above, and so recognising that those with differing views are fellow Australians who love this country and who do not like being yelled at (coz, you know, none of us do!) Who knows, if you take time to listen to their views and treat them with compassion, they may even hear what you are saying and come to your way of seeing things?

4. And in the end, mark the day – finally I have come to the opinion that despite the division and conflict, that it is actually really important that we do mark the day, somehow. You may have an impassable problem with 26 January, so you may choose to celebrate Australia Day on another date (like 8 May … or May 8 … or “mate”!), but no matter what you do, do gather with fellow countrymen and women, who hold views like your own as well as different views, and raise a glass to the things that Australia Day means to you!

We are an imperfect nation and people, but we can be a nation and people who enjoy peace and hope and who can learn to work together for an even better future, for all of us!

If you would like to read more check out these links:
Home ‐ Australia Day (https://australiaday.org.au)
Australia Day | What Is Australian Day | History Of Invasion Day (https://australianstogether.org.au/discover/australian-history/australia-day/)
Australia Day Grace – Ethos (http://www.ethos.org.au/online-resources/Engage-Mail/australia-day-grace)

 

About the author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

 

Posted: 25/01/2021

Christmas Day 2020 – a reason to hope

Christmas Day has a few extra feels in 2020, at the end of what has been an *unprecedented* (had to get in one more time!) year. Even now as…

Christmas Day has a few extra feels in 2020, at the end of what has been an *unprecedented* (had to get in one more time!) year.

Even now as I write, we are watching aghast as NSW closes down with what seems to be a new outbreak, and Christmas and summer plans for thousands and thousands of people are being wrecked. The nightmare of Covid-19 lingers on.

In Australia we have charted the year better than most countries, graciously, but even here we have experienced huge doses of fear, frustration, isolation and disruption. As if this was not enough, we have also seen vast bush fires, global racial conflicts, and fierce divisions over politics, vaccines and almost every issue of importance.

So we come up to Christmas, surrounded by the familiar and strangely comforting trappings of carols, decorations and shopping. In such a different year this public holiday is looming with extra meaning and value.

As I ponder why I am feeling Christmas more than in past years, I have been struck with three reasons that the season brings me hope:

  1. Simplicity – there is much that we normally do that we’ve been forced to give up (which changes depending on where we’re located), like travel, parties, going to the movies, avoiding crowds at shopping centres, and not being able to see some people we love. Our world has shrunk, as we have spent so much time at home. For many of us, Christmas will be smaller, local and with just the basics. This pared back experience initially felt like a loss, but as it gets closer I am finding it special and wonderful. After all, that very first Christmas was a simple, yet wonderful and meaningful affair.
  2. Family – or more specifically, the people I love and who love me. I sadly concede that not everyone has or relishes time with their own family, but whether it be one person or a crowd, Christmas presents a time to find and hold onto those who are yours. We are social beings who share a bond with our flesh and blood, or tribe or mob or gang, or those who we feel at home with. Especially in a year of so much separation, Christmas invites fresh connection – in person if we can, or virtually – if necessary.
  3. Gifts – I cannot shake the weird wonderfulness of giving at Christmas, the selflessness of finding and buying things to give to others. This entails spending hours at the shops (or online), spending our money, wrapping our presents and placing them under a tree – all so we can hand them out so that our special others can rip off the paper and discover the treasure they have received. This is quite literally a gesture of national generosity, unlike any other single time in our lives. Ok, so it is capitalism gone crazy, but still, isn’t the giving of gifts amazing.

It may not surprise that each of these reasons also remind me of the background story of Christmas. As a follower of Jesus, this man-made celebration is based on the truly remarkable story in the Bible of the arrival of a baby to earth.

The creator of the universe came as a mere baby, in a most simple and completely unremarkable fashion. While fully God, this baby came to a young family, Joseph and Mary, under social and moral clouds because of a virgin conception. They were without a home due to a government ruling and a threat to the life of their child. This baby came as God’s gift to our world, to reveal in human form his character and teachings, and to ultimately offer a sacrifice that would save the world from our sin and struggles.

I do love this time of year. And this year maybe more than ever before in my life. May you and yours find new hope in this Christmas season, and may your 2021 be full of joy and blessing.

 

About the Author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

Posted: 24/12/2020

4 reasons why it’s important for everyone to understand mental illness

There are many negative perceptions around mental illness. Some people think depression is just a ‘myth’. These sorts of opinions can have a huge impact on those going through…

There are many negative perceptions around mental illness. Some people think depression is just a ‘myth’. These sorts of opinions can have a huge impact on those going through serious mental illness.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for children aged between five and 17 years. One in every five Australians are affected by mental illness every year, 1 in 7 are aged 4-17, yet many don’t seek help. (Mental Health Australlia).

Why is that? And what can we do to support our Children and Youth in seeking help?

Mental Health can have a negative stigma when viewing a person suffering from mental illness. They are treated differently and can be viewed as “Dangerous” or “Crazy”. Having these stigmas can lead to discrimination, bullying, and in some cases it can lead to them becoming a target for violence or abuse.

However, if a person suffering from mental illness is feeling that negative stigma it can also mean they are less likely to seek treatment when needed.

What can we do about it?

1. Educate yourself about mental illness

This will help you understand how mental illness impacts a person’s life and how we can support those around us.

2. Use facts

Media can be a powerful tool to reinforcing negative stigma, so be sure to know the difference between fact and myths when it comes to mental illness

3. Help reduce stigma

Advocate for those who are suffering from mental illness, encourage those around you to seek the facts and know that people with mental illness have the same rights as everyone else.

4. Encourage to seek support

If you know of someone suffering from mental illness, encourage them to seek help. Let them know that it is okay to look after your mental wellbeing, and that stigma should not stop them from seeking treatment.

 

It is important for us to be able to contribute to how we can increase the awareness of mental illness and how it is viewed in our communities and schools.

If we can have a positive view of mental illness, we can help reduce the negative stigma and encourage those around us to seek the help they need.

Our children and young people need to know that it is okay to look after your mental health and ask for help.

 

About the author…
Jane has been involved with SU Camps and Community Outreaches for 15 years. She has experience working as a chaplain and has a background in nursing. Jane currently works as the Camp Specialist for SU QLD, overseeing the camps and missions across Queensland.

 

 

References:
https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-stigma
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics
https://mhaustralia.org/our-work/world-mental-health-day-oct-10

Posted: 11/12/2020

Why do I celebrate NAIDOC Week?

As a non-Indigenous Australian man, I confess to being a little nervous about penning a blog post about NAIDOC Week, which runs from 8-15 November this year (later than…

As a non-Indigenous Australian man, I confess to being a little nervous about penning a blog post about NAIDOC Week, which runs from 8-15 November this year (later than the usual July dates due to COVID-19). This time is about our First Nations people, and I feel a little like an intruder.

Standing for “National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee”, NAIDOC has its roots in the 1920s and 1930s as a protest against the status and treatment of our Indigenous peoples. Nowadays the week – which sometimes extends over the month – is a celebration of the history, culture and achievements of these First Australians.

So while with trepidation, I am also embracing the chance to reflect on why I personally believe NAIDOC Week is so special and why we all need it:

1. First Australians have had and continue to have unfair struggles

Sadly my starting point is the disparity between life experiences of First Australian peoples compared to the majority of us from non-Indigenous backgrounds. The statistics are shocking, necessitating a national government policy called, strikingly, “Closing the Gap”. Just a couple of the stats include:

  • A child death rate of 146 per 100,000 for Indigenous children, compared to 70 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous children – twice as high!*
  • Life expectancy of 71.6 years and 75.6 years for Indigenous males and females, compared to 80.2 and 83.4 years for non-Indigenous males and females – a gap of 8.6 and 7.8 years!** However in 2018, the median age at death for Indigenous Australians was 60, compared with 82 for non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged between 15 and 24 are almost four times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous people the same age.***

These numbers are only a small part of the picture, and do not include challenges like rates of incarceration, deaths in custody, low levels of education, and the general blight of racism. These are unfair and not right.

However – this is not the whole picture! Despite these sobering realities I do not see our Indigenous peoples as victims and helpless pawns forever defeated by history. There are many other reasons to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

2. First Australian have an amazing culture

Australia is a unique country in the world, marked by a rich, vibrant and unique contribution from our First Australian peoples. No one else has their didgeridoos and boomerangs, art and dance, dreamtime stories and connection to country.

I have to confess that my perspective on this comes from my own experience of having grown up in an Indigenous community, and from having lived overseas and missing home, but I still feel a sense of pride whenever First Australians are represented in the image we project to the world. I feel a sense that this beautiful and ancient culture is ours, and we’re so blessed to have it.

3. First Australians have much to teach us, to build a better Australia

As someone who is wired to rush through life, being busy and productive and ticking off my never ending to-do list, I admire and quite honestly envy our First Australians’ approach to life. In fact, I find myself becoming a student of their values and rhythms, and reckon they hold powerful truths we could all benefit from.

One of these is asking “who is your mob?” where they cherish the past, our roots and the people who we come from, and so intentionally recognise our cultural identity. We are not islands but connected to our ancestors, and knowing this is invaluable to establishing where we fit in now and how we will see and build the future.

Another priceless lesson is their practice of yarning or conversation, where they take the time to sit down and talk, to tell stories, to listen and to learn from each other, and together work out solutions. My nature fights this, but as I practice this discipline I start to see different solutions and experience different feelings of what progress might be.

4. First Australians are people like me

The Bible tells me that God made all people and that each is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and Jesus tells me that I should “love my neighbour as I love myself” (Mark 12:31). My First Australian neighbours were made by God just like I was, and each have hopes and dreams and fears and struggles just like I do.

However as a tiny minority (less than 3% of our population) their voice is small. Every single one of us have at times experienced being the odd one out, the newbie, the exception to the group – and know how good it is when we are included, when we are invited into the whole and made to feel special.

Like on our birthday when our family and friends celebrate us being born, NAIDOC Week is a special time to lift up and honour our First Australians.

May NAIDOC Week be a step, together, for all Australians to better understand each other, to revel in and learn from each other, for every week of the year. And like in any relationship, we need to acknowledge the hurts and the misunderstandings, but also to be open to being changed and having our perspective widened.

I know I’d like that, so that is what I seek for my First Australian friends and countrymen. In fact, it’s what I would like to see for our nation, and even our world.

About the author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

 

*  [Indigenous child mortality and life expectancy] https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/ed34c67c-e1aa-4d4f-9ff2-366ea6f27b52/aihw-aus-221-chapter-6-3.pdf.aspx

** [Indigenous life expectancy and deaths – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/indigenous-life-expectancy-and-deaths)

*** [Suicide rate for Indigenous Australians remains ‘distressingly high’ | NITV] https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2019/09/26/suicide-rate-indigenous-australians-remains-distressingly-high

Posted: 12/11/2020

Make Empathy Great Again

A presidential campaign and election in a country far, far away has been dominating our news feeds.  Amidst the drama of this world-impacting, democratic process, you may have missed…

A presidential campaign and election in a country far, far away has been dominating our news feeds.  Amidst the drama of this world-impacting, democratic process, you may have missed a less publicised movement.  Make Empathy Great Again, commenced in the lead up to the 2016 US election and is a small, but expanding movement/operation. Both campaigns aim to make a difference. I wonder if we were to compare the potential long-term outcomes, which would be the most world changing?   

You may ask whether empathy ever stopped being great or has it just disappeared from view. In the Gonski-Growing Up Digital Study*, 80% of the almost 2000 Australian teachers and school leaders surveyed, reported student empathy has declined over the last five years.  This statistic means the majority of our country’s classrooms and playgrounds have been impacted. In a time when our young people would benefit from more rather than less understanding, maybe it’s time to Make Empathy Great Again.

Empathy is the ability to feel with someone, it’s about creating connection that leads to compassion.  It’s a skill that can be modelled and taught to young children and according to Brene Brown*, also mastered in adulthood.  It is different from sympathy, which is feeling sorry for someone else.  Empathy improves relationships, reduces conflict and is essential for good leadership. 

Screen time is up, face-to-face time is down. Competition has become a lifestyle, and our culture of offence and blame are some of multiple explanations for declining empathy.  It’s worth reflecting on these causes, as is Making Empathy Great Again, by modelling, encouraging and deliberately creating opportunities to develop it as part of family life. As in most learning there will be setbacks but practicing empathetic responses can only happen in relationships.

Here are three areas that might be worth focusing on.

In Conversation

The weight of a problem lessens when we sense we have been heard. Being aware of our own feelings and thoughts as we pay attention in conversation is important to really listening.  Being curious without trying to fix someone, recognising and tuning in to the other person’s feelings and checking for meaning can be encouraged in general conversation, after school debriefs and while reading books or watching movies – particularly those with some emotionally charged moments. Modelling and explaining the aspects of empathetic conversation with our kids will give them real tools they can use in relationships outside our homes.  

In Conflict

Conflict is often the reason students visit my chaplaincy room.  Rather than lecturing and expecting reluctant, meaningless apologies, I’ve noticed the transformation that occurs as I start by acknowledging the pain and how difficult it is to get along. Next, I encourage kids to consider how their own feelings may have influenced the way they acted and then I ask them to listen to the perspective and feelings of the other person. Often this leads to the realisation that they were actually trying to achieve the same thing.

I must admit smiling (internally), as two teary, fighting girls, realised that they both simply wanted to be accepted and valued.  They voluntarily offered, “I am sorry I called you a Ranga.”  “I am sorry I called you a Monobrow.”

As a parent, I realise the times I have blamed or lectured my kids for fighting with their siblings may not have been the empathetic modelling they needed.

In Connection

Jesus spoke about inviting those in need to our dinner table. This could be the elderly neighbour, the family with a different cultural background, or the isolated single parent of the “class behaviour problem,” among others. When we have opened up our home, I have at times, struggled with my own attitude while simultaneously learning from people who I presumed had not much to teach me.  I have fielded complaints from my kids, “Do they have to come over?” It has at times been inconvenient and out of my comfort zone and it has grown empathy.

In Romans, Paul wrote, bless those who persecute you—bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be proud, but associate with the lowly. It sounds like a way to Make Empathy Great Again!

 

About the author…

Andrea is a former secondary school teacher and counsellor. She has worked as a school chaplain for over 19 years and now also serves part-time on SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. Andrea and her husband are parents to three adult children and grandparents to two.

 

References

Gonski Institute – Growing Up Digital Report, (2020)

Brene Brown – Dare to Lead, (2018)

Posted: 5/11/2020

Halloween – Finding Light in the Darkness

Halloween is a big deal in my community. Each year, we have a huge Halloween community event, with a parade, performances, rides and food. It’s easily the biggest event…

Halloween is a big deal in my community. Each year, we have a huge Halloween community event, with a parade, performances, rides and food. It’s easily the biggest event in our local calendar. But this hasn’t always been the case. The enthusiasm for Halloween seems to have grown quite dramatically over the last few decades in our area.

I remember when I was in Year 7 (almost 40 years ago now), I went trick or treating up and down the street with my friend and most people weren’t prepared for us at all, with many having no idea that it actually was Halloween night. We didn’t fare that well in terms of treats and I don’t think we played any tricks. We didn’t bother heading out the following year…

Halloween’s origins are believed to go all the way back to a Celtic festival that celebrated both the harvest and the change of season towards the colder, darker half of the year. It was believed that during this night, the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds would blur, resulting in heightened interactions between the living and the dead.

The festival morphed over time, influenced particularly by the Roman Empire and the Christian Church in the early centuries of the Common Era, but it’s clear that certain elements from these early expressions have stayed with us up until this day, for example, people might not wear disguises today to evade the dead’s trickery, but they still enjoy a good, spooky dress-up.

It’s been a long time since Halloween has been taken seriously as a genuine commemoration of the blurring lines between the physical and spiritual worlds.

For well over a century now, it’s been considered more of a community holiday where people get together for a party, to eat too much junk food and to freak each other out with spooky costumes, rubber masks and scary costumes. It’s supposed to be fun. I guess that’s why it’s grown in popularity over the past decades.

However, I do know people who aren’t sure about Halloween and whether it’s right to participate in a festival with seemingly such dark and unwholesome themes.

I have some sympathy for that view. I don’t love Halloween for some of those same reasons and I don’t usually go out of my way to get involved. But despite myself, I can’t help thinking that Halloween provides an opportunity to look not just at the darkness, but to look through it and see the light on the other side.

There’s a great verse in the Bible that says, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.” (John 1:15 GNT)

It makes we wonder if I’ve failed to see the light that sits beyond the apparent darkness of my local Halloween celebration. Sure, there’s darkness on the surface. There’s lots of skeletons, zombies and scream masks, and people are certainly enjoying the shock factor in all that. But at the heart of it, people are getting together to have fun with their neighbours and friends. Surely there’s light in all that, brighter than the apparent darkness…?

So, maybe this Halloween, I won’t avoid the big community event like I usually do, even though it’s not my thing and aspects of it don’t sit completely right with me. Maybe I’ll join in and look for the light that is there under the surface. Maybe I’ll even try to be part of the light of the occasion.

I might even dress up.

Perhaps I’ll go as an angel.

Just to be sure…

 

About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

Posted: 30/10/2020

4 keys for planning your church events during COVID

Spring holidays have always been a busy time for our SU QLD Camps team. Historically, it’s included over 30 events, involving over 2500 participants, volunteers and staff. Our volunteer Event…

Spring holidays have always been a busy time for our SU QLD Camps team. Historically, it’s included over 30 events, involving over 2500 participants, volunteers and staff. Our volunteer Event Directors start planning in April, or earlier, to design programs, form leadership teams and develop spiritual input activities.

So in July this year, when we sat down with directors to present them, at short notice, with our Spring Camps COVID Safe Plan, it came as no surprise that there was a lot of concern and a lot of questions: “Isn’t that going to be a lot of extra work?”, “Will we actually be able to run?”, and “Will kids even come?”

Now that we are on the other side of this year’s Spring camps season, I am pleased and grateful to say, yes, yes and yes to those questions.

We are so thankful for all that everyone did to help make our 24 Spring events happen, involving 1447 people. We’re especially grateful to our Event Directors who, in many cases, went above and beyond what would normally be expected of them.

The comment that I have heard a number of times and keeps coming to me is, “Once all the set up work was done, it was remarkable how normal it felt to run the event.”

Over the course of the last 6 months, words like “pivot”, “unprecedented” and “ever-changing” have become part of our everyday vocabulary. We celebrated when we heard over and over again that our camps felt like the normal special experience they always have been.

So as we enter the fourth quarter of this very strange year, planning for end of year events and events for early 2021, you might have some of the same concerns. You might be asking some of the same questions our Event Directors were asking 3 months ago.

Well, here are a few tips that helped them and just might help your church or youth group’s event planning:

1. Read the Industry Plans or requirements for what you need to do and write up a clear COVID Safe Plan on how they will apply to your context. So many times, when questions came up about what we should be doing, it was great to be able to simply come back to this reference point.

2. If you are the person running the event, find someone else to manage the implementation of your COVID Safe Plan. Your focus should be on the success of your event, not on ensuring everyone has been sanitised at the right times, in the right places.

3. Focus on all the things you can do and don’t fixate on what can’t happen. The experience of everyone getting together will be more important than the feeling of it looking and feeling a bit different.

4. Find someone to be in your corner to answer your questions and be a sounding board. One of my great joys of the last two months has been all the times I was thanked for just being available to help others think through the process and come up with workable solutions.

Whether you are running completely different events or just adjusting existing ones to meet the new requirements, just remember this.

While it may seem like a lot of work now, know that each step in the process is going to be worth it, and people will celebrate getting together at your event.

 

About the author…

Beavs is a former High School Maths and Christian Education Teacher who has been working and volunteering with SU QLD Camps for almost 20 years. As Camps Specialist he supports volunteers and chaplains run camps and community outreach events throughout Queensland, reaching over 4500 young people. Beavs is married with 3 children, and loves coffee and watching sport.

Posted: 15/10/2020

Spiritual, but not Religious…?

You might know someone who says, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” I’ve heard it plenty of times and it’s fair enough. Some people have had a bad experience of…

You might know someone who says, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.”

I’ve heard it plenty of times and it’s fair enough. Some people have had a bad experience of religion, but still want to hold onto the spirit they hope is sitting somewhere behind it.

But this saying can be a real challenge for those of us who actually are “religious”.

That’s me and it might be you too…

You see, if you identify as a Christian, then almost by definition, you’re religious. If you go to a church, then yep, you’re probably religious too. And if you support SU in some way, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’re religious. We seem to attract religious types. If you work for us or volunteer with us in some way, then we pretty much require you to be religious. You need to belong to a church, to have a pastor who can vouch for you and to be able to sign off on one of the classic Christian creeds. Religious…

So, I’m sorry to say, if you’re reading this blog post, there’s a good chance that you don’t have the luxury of being able to say, hand on your heart, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”… as nice and neat as that might be. People like us have to come up with another saying that more accurately describes our position. Maybe something like, “I’m spiritual and trying to live out some good religion.”

I know that’s a bit clunky and needs some work, but I think it’s on the right track…

There just must be something that we can point to as “good religion”. Something that goes hand-in-hand with, and points directly to, “good spirituality”. And, there must be someone out there who could show us a glimpse of what this might look like.

Well…

On Sunday, earlier this week (4th October), many Christians celebrated “The Feast of St Francis of Assisi”. You may have heard of St Francis. He is possibly the world’s most well-known and popular saint and he is definitely someone who knew about living a good religious life that pointed to a spirituality worth looking into.

St Francis lived in Italy across the 12th & 13th centuries. He is mostly remembered for his generosity to the poor, his love for animals and his close connection to nature. Born into wealth, St Francis walked away from a life of wealth and comfort, to not only live with and serve the poor, but to become poor himself. It is said that he preached to the birds and referred to the sun and moon as his brother and sister. St Francis founded three religious orders that continue to promote reflection, humility, simplicity, generosity, sustainability and reconciliation through their ministries today. He is the patron saint of both animals and the environment and was honoured in 2013 when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina took his name as his own (anyone heard of Pope Francis?)…

That all sounds pretty religious. But “good” religious…

It seems to me that St Francis was not only just the right shade of crazy, but someone who knew how to practice his religion in such a way as to point people towards a positive and life-giving spirituality. Interestingly, one of the things he did and encouraged his followers to do, was to imitate Jesus Christ as closely, seriously and radically as they possibly could. He chose an excellent role model on which to base his spiritual and religious life.

St Francis is a saint for today. He’s the kind of saint that us religious types should take notice of. You should google him and find out more of what he was about. He was the kind of guy who would say, “I’m spiritual and religious”, and you’d think that was a good thing.

 

About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

Posted: 9/10/2020

10 tips to build a better church website

For more than two millennia churches reached out to those in need by getting outside the walls of their buildings. In today’s digital age, churches have the opportunity to…

For more than two millennia churches reached out to those in need by getting outside the walls of their buildings. In today’s digital age, churches have the opportunity to reach even more people in need through their online presence – and it starts with your website. With churches moving services online or to a hybrid online/in person model, the need to have a strong digital presence has become more critical than ever.

At SU QLD, our heart is to serve and partner with churches in their mission to their local community. Our friends at R6 Digital, Brisbane’s second largest digital marketing agency, share our heart. It’s why we reached out to Jake Hart, R6 Chief of Design, who shares his top 10 tips for creating your church’s website. 

TIP 1: Establish your look and feel

Before you create/remodel your website you’ll want to establish its look and feel. This means, if you don’t already have a brand guide, you should develop one. This will determine what fonts, colours and high-resolution images you will use for your website. The more work you put into defining your look and feel, the easier it will be to design your site, which will ultimately lead to a better outcome.

TIP 2: Understand your audience

Now you’ve got your look and feel, the next step is knowing who your website is for. Are they first time visitors? Are they people transitioning from one church to another? There’s also your existing members to consider too. By understanding who your potential audience is, you can better plan the content of your site.

 

Keep it simple and easy to digest – Tip 5

 

TIP 3: Ease of navigation is key

This is critical to the effectiveness of your website. While you may want to shout from the rooftops about everything your church is doing and what you have to offer, you don’t want to bamboozle your visitor with too much, too soon. In other words, less is more. Focus on simplicity and user friendliness, which leads in nicely to my next tip…

TIP 4: Give your visitor an experience they’ll come back for

An effective church website, or any website for that matter, is one that focuses on creating an enjoyable, responsive experience for the user, regardless of the platform they use. In other words, your site needs to be flexible enough that it looks and functions equally as well when viewed on a mobile device or on a desktop PC.  

TIP 5: Communicate smartly

Here’s your opportunity to let your potential visitor know who you are and why they would want to join your community. Again, keep it simple and easy to digest. You will want to include: who you are (Our History and Our Team); what you believe (Vision Statement, Ministries and Outreach of the church), and why you do this.

This gives the user a simple, engaging introduction to your church, with enough information for them to get a feel for who you are, how you will support their faith journey, and/or whether they will feel welcomed. 

TIP 6: Don’t use stock images, be authentic

Stock photos might look great, but they’re not you. Your website visitors want to see who you really are. Think of your website like the foyer of your church. What will people see, feel and hear? Show them what they can expect inside.

TIP 7: Show your community involvement

Be sure to include your community outreach programs on your site to inspire visitors to give them a sense of community and purpose.

TIP 8: Use external giving platforms

Ohhhh it’s the uncomfortable bit… we’re talking about money. The reality is the amazing things your church is doing is only possible because of two reasons: God and the faithful giving of your community. It’s why I recommend using external giving platforms like Tithe.ly, EasyTithe, Givelify, PayPal or PushPay. Avoid integrated payment options because it will deter people from making larger investments as these options are potentially less secure.

Inspire the people that visit your website – Tip 7

 

TIP 9: Link your site with your social media

Think of your social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) as a way to funnel people to your website. Post engaging, quality content that is consistent with who you are as a church community (remember Tips 5 and 6) and encourage people to find out more by clicking a link to your website.

TIP 10: Choose the right web CMS for you

While you might be blown away by the bells and whistles that various Content Management Systems (CMS) promise, be sure to pick one that is easy to edit, update and use. You don’t want a system that only the “I.T guy” can make even the most minor changes to.

We hope you find Jake’s tips helpful. If you’d like to find out more about setting up your church’s website, or if you think yours’ could do with a minor tune up, the team at R6 Digital would only be too happy to serve you. Contact them here to start the conversation today!

 

Posted: 6/10/2020

How to build a life giving home

Almost 40 years ago, American author and businessman Alvin Toffler described the view from his kitchen window in this way, “All the old roots – religion, nation, community, family…

Almost 40 years ago, American author and businessman Alvin Toffler described the view from his kitchen window in this way,

“All the old roots – religion, nation, community, family and profession – are now shaking under the hurricane impact of today’s accelerative thrust. In the midst of all this change sits the family – stunned by the shockwaves of novelty, shifting values, and information overload, wondering how they are going to survive. The family has been called the ‘giant shock absorber’ of society. Home is ‘the place to which the bruised and battered individual returns after doing battle with the world, the one stable point in an increasingly flux-filled environment’.”

This is my picture of what family should be – what God intended for families to be.

In a world that is changing at a frenetic pace, where values are being diluted and eroded on a daily basis, all young people need a place of safety and security in which they are enveloped as they make sense of life.

When Marg and I welcomed our firstborn into the world, we talked together about what kind of home we wanted for our children. We had the opportunity to build a home that was shaped by our values and not a house that was shaped by our budget. We wanted a home that would be a safe place where all voices were validated, where anything and everything could be talked about. We wanted a home where we could laugh and cry together, and where our children felt secure in the knowledge that they were a part of a family that would always be there for them.

As followers of Jesus, our greatest hope and desire was that, in this journey, they too would grow a faith that was active and lifelong.

Put simply, our vision was for a life-giving home.

These were easy words to say those many years ago! We certainly didn’t achieve all we strived for, but we are thankful to God that our three children are living out an active faith today. When children are brought into this world through something called labour, this provides a clue of the commitment required of us as parents as we take on the responsibility given to us.

In the fast-paced world of today, when so much of our thinking is shaped by scanning and swiping and reading just 147 characters, I wrote a small 32-page book as a manageable read, to unpack this vision further.

Listen to the chorus of voices in these pages that amplify the urgency to return to the central place where life is formed, celebrated, experienced and matured.

What is proposed is a counter-cultural paradigm shift away from quick-fix solutions and program-centred strategies towards a return to the ancient, God-given priority for growing lifelong, active followers of Jesus.

Read on to find life for both yourself and your home.

Click here to access the 32-page book: Life-Giving Homes TW

 

About the author…

Terry is married to Marg and they have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. His developing gifts are in UNO, LEGO, Monopoly, racing cars, fairies, dinosaurs and Zooper Doopers. Terry is also a specialist in ministry with families and children at Scripture Union Queensland, where he has worked for 36 years.

Posted: 1/10/2020

Mentoring Matters: 5 keys to help your teens thrive

Close your eyes for a minute and think back to your teen and young adult years… Who were the important people in your life at the time? Who were…

Close your eyes for a minute and think back to your teen and young adult years… Who were the important people in your life at the time? Who were the significant adults in your life?

I was blessed with an abundance of aunts, uncles and family friends who all played important roles in my youth. I have great parents too (*applauds my mum and dad*), but there is a special place in my heart for those grown-ups who didn’t have to invest in my life but chose to anyway.

Research tells us that high-quality relationships are crucial to the development of young teens and young adults. However, 40% of young people report feeling lonely (Search Inst. 2017) and possess one or less relationships they would deem significant (Search Inst. 2017). In a hyper-networked world, teens and young adults lack real relationships, and are at a high risk of not having a significant adult in their life to guide them through the unstable landscape of young adulthood.

In short, teens and young adults need mentors.

When I think about mentoring young people, I am reminded of this little gem from the Bible;

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says; “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Young people in our communities need invested adults to walk beside and guide them through the sitting, walking, laying and rising of life. Mentors for the mundane and monumental.

How does mentoring benefit teens and young adults?

The Search Institute uses the term ‘developmental relationship’ to describe the nature of healthy connection between significant adults (mentors, parents, coaches, teachers, etc.) and young people.

In layman’s terms, a Developmental Relationship is a close connection between a young person and an adult that positively influences the young person to help them thrive.

Through their research they identified three key benefits of these relationships;

  • Help discover identity
  • Help develop capability
  • Help discern purpose.

If you think about the important people in your life during your adolescent years, can you recall how they helped you discover your identity, develop your capabilities, and discern a sense of purpose?

How can I help the teens and young adults in my life?

The Search Institute’s research found five essential components of developmental relationships that benefitted young people the most.

Express Care. Young people don’t just need to be told they matter; they need to be shown. Think of how you can practically demonstrate to a young person that they are valued.

Challenge Growth. Young people need to be encouraged and pushed to keep getting better. Consider how can you encourage a young person to give their best and keep them accountable.

Provide Support. In order to grow, sometimes we need a little help. How could you assist a young person to complete their tasks and achieve their goals (without taking over)?

Share Power. We all want to feel empowered to make decisions and take action in our lives. How could you treat a young person with respect and give them a say in what is happening around and to them?

Expand Possibilities. I don’t know what I don’t know. Can you connect a young person with people, places and experiences that broadens their horizons?

Consider how the significant figures of your teens and young adulthood demonstrated these key elements, and how they impacted your life?

As the African proverb says; it takes a village to raise a child. Mentoring Matters, not just to avoid loneliness, but to assist teens and young adults to thrive on their journey to adulthood.

To read the full Search Institute report click here.

 

About the author…

Tess is a former school chaplain and youth pastor with 15 years of experience in youth work. She now serves as SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team Leader, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. She holds a bachelor of communications and diploma of youth work.

 

Posted: 24/09/2020

Webinar: How Christian Families Can Navigate The Challenges Of The COVID19 Disruption

The acute crisis of CV19 is passing for the moment and we are in a period of transition which in reality is just the latest in a series of…

The acute crisis of CV19 is passing for the moment and we are in a period of transition which in reality is just the latest in a series of multiple transitions over the last 12 months. Life changed in the space of a few weeks on a global scale. Fear and panic may have temporarily reduced however we have widespread hardship that impacts people, families, the Church, communities and our nation. Each of the areas of Faith, Family and Finances have been profoundly impacted in both negative and positive ways that need to be explored better understood and shared.

This free webinar explores this topic, with a great lineup of international speakers. To register FOR FREE, click here: https://www.thrivecast.com/faith-family-finance/

Posted: 21/09/2020

Covid-19 and mental health

COVID-19 has touched each of us somehow. For many, it’s been a point of realisation that mental health is important and should be prioritised as we go about our…

COVID-19 has touched each of us somehow.

For many, it’s been a point of realisation that mental health is important and should be prioritised as we go about our daily lives.

We loved this article from the World Economic Forum about caring for mental health in the midst of the pandemic.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/covid-19-and-your-brain-6-ways-to-control-the-damage-to-your-mental-health/?fbclid=IwAR1D1_PlrD1d7L2B5wC-tTKdKO1gW5cNG_CJWYz6slnh2h6cghUZo1QZlrU

Posted: 16/09/2020

Schoolies as a ‘Rite of Passage’

In November 2000 I graduated from high school. At my school’s graduation, every year they played the same music. It symbolised the end of your time at school as…

In November 2000 I graduated from high school.

At my school’s graduation, every year they played the same music. It symbolised the end of your time at school as you moved into adult life.

For me, that experience was a big moment I’ll always remember. A point of transition – a rite of passage.

Fast forward 20 years and our 2020 high school graduates are facing a very different rite of passage.

COVID-19 has limited numbers for events and gatherings, and is already influencing end-of-school processions with bans now in place for the traditional mass schoolies events on the Gold Coast.

While some think that Gold Coast schoolies events are a horrible ‘rite of passage’ for our high school graduates, the fact is that schoolies options available to previous cohorts have been taken away from the class of 2020. What will this mean?

Rites of passage have changed through the generations – but all support the same general premise: an event or ceremony to mark an important transition in someone’s life.

For Gen X and Gen Y some rites of passage included owning a first car, leaving home and getting your first job. For Gen Z and Millenials, who are staying home longer and studying/working simultaneously, there are fewer points that we can label as ‘rites of passage’.

This makes the milestone of finishing school an even more important marker for this generation.

If you’re a parent or mentor of someone finishing high school this year, here are some things I think are really important to keep in mind.

1. Talk talk talk!

Talk about the year – and ask them what are some of the symbolic markers they feel they have missed out on because of COVID-19. What are some creative ways they can experience these?

2. Help them to share their feelings

It’s okay to be disappointed – but allowing feelings to stay bottled up can have really negative consequences. Encouraging your teen to share what they are going through is vital to help them have a positive experience as they approach this key transition in life.

3. Celebrate with them!

Celebrate the successes of this year, and of the last few months of their schooling journey. Focus on the ‘lasts’ – celebrate when they finish their final assignment, final exam, etc. Help them plan a safe schoolies celebration with the friends they have valued through their schooling journey.

Regardless of the changes COVID-19 has had on our society, helping our Year 12 students to find positivity in the midst of all the things they have missed out on is key. Let’s give them the joy-filled rite of passage they deserve!

The good news for SU-Schoolies Sunny Coast is we have a COVID Safe Plan for our event, which we’ve developed in conjunction with Alex Park Conference Centre. This will allow us to proceed under the appropriate Industry Action Plan.

While this plan includes a cap on participants and restrictions on some activities, rest assured we are putting together a program that will allow you to still have the time of your life as you celebrate finishing your 12 years of schooling with your peers.

www.su-schoolies.com

 

About the author…

Beavs is a former High School Maths and Christian Education Teacher who has been working and volunteering with SU QLD Camps for almost 20 years. As Camps Specialist he supports volunteers and chaplains run camps and community outreach events throughout Queensland, reaching over 4500 young people. Beavs is married with 3 children, and loves coffee and watching sport.

Posted: 16/09/2020

How can we safely talk to young people about ‘that’ Tik Tok video?

Weeks like this one remind us why awareness campaigns like R U OK Day are important. Again, we have been reminded of the tragedy of suicide and how its…

Weeks like this one remind us why awareness campaigns like R U OK Day are important. Again, we have been reminded of the tragedy of suicide and how its impact reaches far beyond its victims.

The media’s coverage of the viral TikTok video has left many parents concerned about their children’s exposure to traumatic content online.

There are many questions to be answered and a lot of avenues of support. Here are some answers and helpful resources if you are trying to work out how to talk to your child about traumatic online content.

Should I ask my child if they’ve seen the video?

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant advises against drawing young people’s attention to the issue. If your child has not seen the video, raising the topic could cause unnecessary worry, distress or increase their curiosity about the video. Instead, monitor your child’s demeanour and behaviour for any changes, particularly those who may be considered more vulnerable or at risk. If you want to talk about it, raise the conversation generally, asking about both their online or offline activities. Parents should keep an open dialogue with their children about their online activity.

How do I talk to someone about their mental health?

If you are concerned that your child or loved one is thinking about suicide or has been triggered by online content, have a conversation. Most people are scared that they will say the wrong thing and make it worse, so they avoid the conversation. This is not true. Initiating the conversation will allow the person an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings and ask for support. For more specific guidance on how to conduct a conversation about mental health and suicide, follow the links below.

R U OK: How to ask guide

Suicide First Aid Guidelines (MHFA)

ChatSafe: Talking safely about suicide online

Parent TV: How to talk to your child about suicide

How can I comfort my child who is upset by the video?

A young person may be significantly upset by what they have been exposed to online. It is not possible to unsee what we are exposed to. So how can we help alleviate their distress?

1. Express care. Reassure your child they are loved, valued and safe.

2. Normalise feelings. It’s natural to want to get rid of unpleasant feelings. We often say things like; “It’s okay, don’t be sad” or “chin up”. However, our emotions are signals to our minds and bodies that tell us something. It is normal to emotionally respond to inappropriate content online. Having a “yucky” feeling tells us that what we saw was not okay. It’s not about getting rid of the “yuck” feeling but working out what we should do when we experience that feeling.

3. Encourage positive activity. This is a good time to take a break from the online world. Suggest an ‘offline break’ to do something that will make your child feel better, taking a walk, playing with the dog, doing some art or cooking a meal, the options are endless.

4. Invite further conversation. Keep the communication channels open, allowing your child an opportunity to keep talking, if it’s helpful.

5. Keep an eye out. As mentioned above, monitor your child’s ongoing behaviour and demeanour, if you notice a persistent change, follow it up.

How can I protect my child from harmful images, videos and online commentary?

The internet is a big place full of wonderful and horrible things. Trying to eliminate the bad content is like a game of whack-a-mole; just when you hit one on the head three more pop up. Understandably, parents often feel helpless when it comes to managing their children’s activity online. But, there are a number of great organisations that are empowering parents to keep their kids safe online. The eSafety Commission is my first port of call when I want information about internet safety for young people. Parental controls might be an option for your family, restricting certain content and websites while keeping parents up to date on their child’s online activity. The Communications Alliance LTD has a list of reputable products on the market. The Australian Council for Children and Media helps parents determine what will be appropriate content/platforms for their child.

Should I ban my child from social media?

It may be helpful to keep your child away from social media for a time, to allow the platforms opportunity to remove the explicit content, but also to give your child a break to positively work on their mental health. However, for many young people around the world, social media is a vital connection to their network of friends. Perhaps less of an “All or Nothing” approach and more of a healthy balance is needed. The eSafety Commission has loads of excellent information for young people regarding healthy use of social media. As a parent you know your child best and should feel empowered to make decisions for the wellbeing of your child.

What should I teach my children to do about traumatic content online?

We cannot avoid or block every piece of inappropriate content online; our power lies within our response to these images, videos and commentary. Here are some steps to respond to traumatic material.

1. Close the video/image. Just because you started the video doesn’t mean you have to finish it. If your feelings are telling you something is wrong – get out. Don’t share/repost it.

2. Report the content. All social media platforms have a reporting function, use it. The eSafety Commission also has a reporting page where you can make official complaints about online content. You can also call the police on 000.

3. Tell a trusted adult. It’s important your child shares any inappropriate online activity with a trusted adult (parent, school teacher/support worker). This will ensure they receive the support they need, and the problem is dealt with properly. They should know that they won’t get into trouble for telling someone about what they experienced.

4. Unfriend/Block. Children should never connect online with people they don’t know. However, sometimes even known friends can share and upload inappropriate content. It is okay to unfriend or block someone who is willfully sharing harmful material.

If you require extra support, please don’t hesitate to talk to someone about it. R U OK is as much a question for us as it is for our young people.

Call:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Click here for other support agency details

About the author…

Tess is a former school chaplain and youth pastor with 15 years of experience in youth work. She now serves as SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team Leader, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. She holds a bachelor of communications and diploma of youth work.

 

Posted: 10/09/2020

What Father’s Day means to me (a dad’s perspective)

I’m the father of two sons – 14 and 11 years old. I love being a father. It’s one of the most important parts of who I am these…

I’m the father of two sons – 14 and 11 years old. I love being a father. It’s one of the most important parts of who I am these days. Of course, I wasn’t always a father. I’ve been one for less than a third of my life.

With Father’s Day coming up, I’ve been reflecting on some of my fathering influences and how they impact my own fathering today. Special days like Father’s Day provide good opportunities for such things.

Firstly, I had a good father, which is a great start. They say that some good traits in life are “caught not taught” and that rings true when I think of what I learned about living well from my dad. It was less about what he tried to teach us and more about how he moved through the world. He was a strong, calm, and warm presence in our home. He gave little unsolicited advice and when he did speak into our lives, we were ready to listen.

He gave us plenty of space to make our own decisions, which included making our own mistakes. I see a lot of him unconsciously expressed through what I do with my kids now.
Alongside my dad, I also had a bunch of other father figures who I “caught” positive traits off.

As good as my own dad was, he couldn’t be everything to me by way of an example of good manhood or good fathering. No-one can be expected to provide that all themselves. The other good blokes in my life included – Sunday School teachers, camp leaders, youth group leaders, teachers, coaches, mentors etc… These father figures all brought something positive into the mix of my life, and I count myself lucky to have had their guidance through my formative times. I recognise some of these influences in my fathering, and I want to give my boys opportunities to have these kinds of positive influences in their lives.

Another thing I’ve tried to do is keep my eyes and ears open to various conversations around what good fathering might look like these days. I like the more traditional idea of being a good provider, but I’ve also appreciated the movement towards being more hands-on around the family home and in the lives of our children. I do the morning shift in our house, making breakfasts and lunches while the boys get ready for their day. Nothing too deep and meaningful – just good, incidental hang-out time. And across the week, we’ll talk, run, check homework, do chores, shoot hoops, watch shows and eat pies (when mum’s not looking). These times are some of the highlights of my week, and I think they’re good for all of us.

The research into good fathering strongly suggests to me that I’ve been on a good wicket when it comes to fathering influences: a good father, good father figures and access to positive fathering information that has shaped what I do (Fathering Project, 2013). Really, with all that going for me, I haven’t got much of an excuse…

My deep hope is that my boys will look back on what they got from myself and others and value it as I value what I have received from my dad, and the other good blokes in my life. I guess the point is to pass it all forward. I hear people say that one of the reasons we’re blessed is to be a blessing to others. With Father’s Day coming up, that makes as much sense to me as it ever has.

 

About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

 

 

 

How Fathers and Father Figures Can Shape Child Health and Wellbeing (2013) – https://thefatheringproject.org/fpwp/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/New-Fathering-Research.pdf

Posted: 3/09/2020

Why Can’t Turtles Sing? Using Questions to Grow Kids

Kids under school age ask as many as 200-300 questions per day*. Young children live a life filled with a level of curiosity that appears to evaporate as they…

Kids under school age ask as many as 200-300 questions per day*. Young children live a life filled with a level of curiosity that appears to evaporate as they mature.

Answering questions is a vital part of parenting.

Asking questions is an equally important element of parenting and a tool that stimulates connection, confidence and critical thinking in our kids – in addition to nurturing curiosity.

Here are a few reasons why I believe questions are such a powerful part of parenting.

 

1. Our questions encourage connection

What do our young people think about current events? What are their hopes, fears and questions? What would they ask God in a face-to-face meeting? Well-formed questions can deepen family connection. At the dinner table, give someone the opportunity to ask a question of everybody else, use purchased conversation cards, or make your own (there are plenty of online resources.) Communicate, “I hear you,” as you attentively listen to each other.

One idea you can do is play ‘Question Ping-Pong’ in the car or on a walk.

The rules are simple – Two people take turns asking each other questions. No butting in, and a valid answer to any question may simply be, “I would like another question please.”

Genuine questions and deep listening connect people.

 

2. Our questions can arouse curiosity

For a time, I had the privilege of regular nursing home visits with some twelve-year-olds. Each week, question cards facilitated conversation and storytelling.

Thelma was an elderly resident who had undergone the amputation of both legs. While initially, the kids were cautious to speak with her, affection towards Thelma quickly developed.

As part of a post-visit conversation a few weeks in, one of the girls stated, “Once you get to know Thelma, you forget what she looks like because she is so lovely.”

My heart soared.

Genuine curiosity followed by engagement had dissolved the fear of difference and enabled beautiful, mutual connection.

Will Wise in the book Ask Powerful Questions claims there is a “national curiosity deficit that fuels division, separation and prevents us from building trusting, healthy connections.”

Can we wonder with our kids about people, their stories and what lies beneath the visible? Can we model and promote openness, humility and genuine curiosity?

 

3. Our questions can inspire confidence

“How did school go today?” was my query one time as I ‘ubered’ my daughter from school to netball. Her response gripped my parent-heart.

“Imogen and Mia wouldn’t let me play with them today. Nobody likes me.”

I want to side with my daughter and tell those so-called friends what I think of them. I wish I could rescue her from the pain of rejection and yet, as I respond, can I consider the long term?

I need to breathe, empathise, and later ask questions that empower rather than reinforce a victim mentality.

Questions that encourage problem solving communicate, “I believe you’ve got this.” What would you like to see happen? How could you approach this? How can I support you with your plan?

And as a check-in after the next day, “How did you go?” rather than a problem-centred, “Did they exclude you again?”

Maybe in the future, that solution-focused thinking will transfer to confidence in facing the challenges of adulthood.

 

4. Our questions can promote critical thinking

“I don’t believe in God,” “I don’t want to go to church,” (or some other statement of objection to a deeply valued belief), can hook our parent-hearts into reacting rather than responding.

Once again, well thought through questions and appropriate timing may just be the parenting tool we need. If we can still our beating hearts long enough to listen without defensiveness to this exploration of personal values, we might ask, “What led you to that conclusion?” “What have you seen, experienced or read that makes you think that?”

Once again, with the long- term view in mind, a parent who can facilitate this questioning with openness, can encourage their young person to deeply consider their own worldview rather than overreact to a reacting parent.

Attentive listening could provide an opening to be heard at some point and an apology for reacting, a reset and another conversation opportunity.

 

So why can’t a turtle sing?

Have you ever considered that maybe they can sing and the real question is “Why can’t we hear them?”

Many of life’s big questions, including those about current world events, will never have easy answers. Maybe together with our kids, we could consider alternate questions.

Intentionally using purposeful questions as a parenting tool could serve to deepen our family connections, in addition to developing the capacity for curiosity, compassion, confidence and critical thinking.

 

About the Author…

Andrea is a former secondary school teacher and counsellor. She has worked as a school chaplain for over 19 years and now also serves part-time on SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. Andrea and her husband are parents to three adult children and grandparents to two.

 

*Warren Berger, A More Beautiful Question

Posted: 27/08/2020

Lessons from a COVID wedding

In addition to lockdowns, panic buying, border closures and everything else COVID has thrust onto our society, it’s also threatened many of our special occasions we may have once…

In addition to lockdowns, panic buying, border closures and everything else COVID has thrust onto our society, it’s also threatened many of our special occasions we may have once taken for granted.

From mourning the loss of a loved one, to celebrating the big milestones in life – births, birthdays and graduations – COVID has seemingly left no stone unturned. In my case, it was my wedding.

Planning a wedding is never easy. Planning a wedding during COVID is an emotional rollercoaster with no promise of when or how it will end.

With restrictions constantly changing, we were constantly adjusting and sacrificing for what was supposed to be one of the most amazing days of our lives. We reduced our guest list, cancelled our reception and honeymoon, and moved our wedding date forward.

We had everything planned in March for our April wedding. We’d accepted it would be smaller than we’d hope for. With restrictions getting tighter, we cancelled our April wedding and moved the date forward to the closest weekend.

Everything was locked in for the coming Saturday – just four days away. Within a few hours, restrictions for weddings were reduced from 100 people to just five. We were no longer able to even have both sets of parents there. So again, we cancelled.

This was the part of the roller coaster ride where you’re tempted to just get off. I give up COVID – you win.

We had no control over when we could start planning and rescheduling our wedding and when we could finally start our lives together. Instead of getting off the roller coaster, we stayed the course and set a new date for October.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. The news had just broken of a possible outbreak in Queensland. Once again our plans were in jeopardy.

We didn’t want to make the same mistake again and decided to get married in a week’s time. Last Saturday, we got married!! 3rd time lucky!!

Here are 4 things I learned organising a wedding during COVID.

1. Take control in a world of uncertainty
There are so many things we cannot control – even more so during a global pandemic. Instead of waiting, we took control and got married while we still could.

2. Importance of family and friends
It’s incredible to reflect on the amazing family, friends and church community you have in your life. We could not have organised a wedding in one week without everyone banding together. The community of friends and family around you are so important.

3. Celebrate in hard times
In times of struggle and suffering, it’s important to still focus on celebrating the good things in life – like a wedding. The response from our guests and from the public when they saw me wearing my dress was wonderful. “It’s so lovely to see something good happening in this time of suffering” and “Exactly what I wanted to see in such a sad time,” were just a few of the comments we heard.

4. The importance of marriage over wedding
COVID has helped changed my perspective on what’s important to have in your wedding, such as the vows we made to each other before God, and the presence of our close family and friends. We didn’t need the most expensive wedding, the perfect decorations, or the biggest party. We are thankful for the small but important things. We still had our wedding ceremony with 50 people. We had a wedding cake and celebrated at the end of the day with a BBQ in the backyard. To top it all off, we had our first dance underneath our Hills Hoist covered in lights.

We’ve learned so much from organising a COVID wedding, but I guess the most important lesson of all has been to never taking anything – big or small – for granted. And while at times you may feel that the roller coaster ride you’re on is in control of you, remember God can still control your roller coaster. Just trust Him.

 

About the author…

Jane has been involved with SU Camps and Community Outreaches for 15 years. She has experience as working as a chaplain and has a background in nursing. Jane currently works as the Camp Specialist for SU QLD, overseeing the camps and missions across Queensland.

Posted: 20/08/2020

Twenty Ideas to Connect Kids with Nature

We loved this sheet of ideas you can use to engage children and young people with the beauty of nature that is all around them! Some of the ideas…

We loved this sheet of ideas you can use to engage children and young people with the beauty of nature that is all around them!

Some of the ideas include…

  • Follow a trail of ants back to their home
  • Go for a night walk under the stars
  • Warm stones in the oven (carefully!) then draw on them with crayons and find out what happens!

Click here to access the full list: https://www.unitingearth.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Nature-Connection-Resource-FINAL.pdf

Posted: 17/08/2020

Taking a positive approach to parenting (and grandparenting) – by Professor Matt Sanders

There’s one type of family conflict that’s very common, but not often discussed in the media: parents and grandparents disagreeing. Fortunately, the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program® can…

There’s one type of family conflict that’s very common, but not often discussed in the media: parents and grandparents disagreeing. Fortunately, the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program® can offer some new ways to handle the problem. 

Commonly, conflict between parents and grandparents occurs when: 

  • Grandparents give the child extra treats or toys even when Mum or Dad has said “no”.  They may even feel that it’s their right to do so because day-to-day discipline is no longer their responsibility, and because they’re taking on some care duties. Parents may be surprised – especially comparing what they see now with their own memories of a stricter upbringing. 
  • Grandparents want to pass on their wisdom and experience in the form of frequent suggestions, but this can seem to the parent like constant criticism. Most parents don’t like unsolicited advice and therefore may not respond well.

Parents may feel annoyed and frustrated, or even disrespected, if grandparents don’t agree with their methods of child-rearing. And grandparents may feel upset because they’re just trying to be helpful, and want the best for their family.

It may be a relief to know you’re not the only one dealing with these kinds of problems. And there are ways to bridge some of the communication and expectation gaps, and help bring everyone onto common ground when it comes to managing children’s behaviour.

In a trial of a special Triple P program for grandparents, participants reported lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress, and (not surprisingly) fewer grandchild behaviour problems. Grandparents also said they felt more confident when having conversations about delicate parenting topics with parents, and this resulted in a better relationship with their own (adult) children.  

Adjusting to new roles takes time for everyone. A step in the right direction is to think about all doing a parenting course together, (parents and grandparents), to help everyone to agree on the basic issues. 

The Queensland Government is currently funding free access to Triple P across Queensland. Programs available include one-to-one, group, online and self-help. Check the Triple P parent site for more information: www.triplep-parenting.net 

* Many school chaplains are trained to deliver Triple P in Queensland schools. ISo If this is something you’re interested in, check with your local school chaplain to find out if they are a qualified Triple P trainer. 

Posted: 11/08/2020

Fairness, shame and racism – how Covid-19 fears are stoking a dangerous fire

I’m not sure about other families, but my children definitely have a finely tuned sense of what is fair and what is not. “His slice of pizza is bigger…

I’m not sure about other families, but my children definitely have a finely tuned sense of what is fair and what is not. “His slice of pizza is bigger than mine!” “Why do I have to go to bed earlier than her?” “But I cleaned up after dinner last night!”

As parents we are constantly under pressure to make sure each child is being treated with complete fairness.

Last week we heard the news here in Queensland that three young ladies were found to have caught the Covid-19 virus in Melbourne, and then lied about their whereabouts when returning home. Naturally this put the state under great pressure to ensure we didn’t see a surge in the pandemic locally.

Soon after the identity of the girls was released, with their photos and names shown on the frontpage of our state newspaper, under the headline “Enemies of the State”, there was no hiding. They had done wrong and they had put us all at risk.

After the images and names were released, the comments on social media started rolling in thick and fast.

In these extraordinary times, when emotions are high, it was no surprise to see these young women recieve a lot of criticism. Sadly, it was also no surprise that the women, who happened to be of African heritage, started receiving a steady stream of vitriolic comments based on their race, which had nothing to do with their actions.

When I checked in with a Sudanese friend he confirmed that he and others of African heritage were having to cope with hurtful comments, as a result of the actions of these three women. He said “It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.” No it is certainly not fair!

We call it racism, when people are treated unfairly because of their skin colour or background.

One of the rules I have adopted in learning how to engage well with people of a different background, culture or faith than my own is: Do not judge a person by what other people of their faith or community do.

This reminder helps me to look at a person and acknowledge that while they may come from a people group who share some similarities, they are also unique and special, and need to be treated as an individual.

So yes it is right that someone is challenged and held accountable for their actions. This is justice, and if they have done the wrong thing they need to receive the consequences. That is fair.

However it is not fair to then transfer their behaviour onto all other people who look like them. Personally, I do not represent all men, or all Christians, or even all coffee-drinking-Brisbane-dwelling-right-handed-amateur-runner-Christian-men. So I should not need to answer for the actions of another person who shares any of my traits – be they spiritual, physical, cultural or otherwise.

Let us take steps to overcome the temptation to fall into racism or any other -ism that doesn’t see a person for their inherent value as an individual created by a loving God. And let’s help our children do the same.

About the author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.

Posted: 7/08/2020

What is Family Space?

Family Space is a resource-based website that’s all about nurturing the family unit.

Our mission is to equip, empower and nurture family households and church families across Australia.

Family Space seeks to support children, teenagers, parents and churches through practical resources, activities and expert advice.

We’re all about nurturing healthy families and creating healthy communities.

See how your support impacts young lives
Sign up to our monthly e-News