camps are the best!!

When I was 7 years old I made my own response to Jesus at a camp. Mum & Dad were Camp Parents at a teen camp which meant I got to tag along and I can still recall many details of the moment when I was touched by Jesus in a personal, powerful way. 

Camps were a significant part of my faith journey as a youth. I lived in a small country town where only a handful of teens were part of my church. It was incredibly important for me to connect with a broader network of Jesus followers to ground and inspire my faith as I navigated my teen years. 25 years later some of the people I met at those camps are some of my closest friends and key players in my continuing God-story. 

As a Youth Pastor I have seen and championed the value of camping to the discipleship of young people. There are many reasons for their value but I think among the most impactful is the intentional setting aside of time and attention to make oneself open to the plans and purposes of God. 

There’s a new environment – a beach, a mountain, a view – at the end of a physical trip that marks a disconnecting from the routine, familiarity and comfort of home. There’s the need to sign up, save up and plan towards it that builds expectancy for what might happen. There is a new community created for the set time – relationships started and built in that set apart environment. There’s the worship and teaching sessions on a Saturday or Tuesday morning – normal “Sunday” activities engaged in a new way at a new time. There’s a leadership team who have been gearing up for this and are prayerful and hopeful for real God encounters and transformation – giving of their time and money to create an opportunity for young people to experience all that God has for them. 

Research points to camps as being a major contributing factor for faith retention and development. 

Critics of camps will point to the concern that camps generate an artificial spiritual ‘high’. They might observe behaviour afterwards and question whether or not that experience was authentic. I have ridden that wave as both a camper and leader. My belief is that ANY encounter with God is used by Him to draw us closer to Him. We don’t ever return to the same kind of ‘normal’; what we learnt is not un-learnt. The discipleship journey for everyone – particularly young people – is a series of steps and missteps as our faith increases and our personal story of God expands. 

I can’t recommend camps highly enough. The research is in. The testimonies are strong. The investment of time and money is worth the reward it reaps. 

What about you? How have camps been part of your faith journey? What involvement have you had in seeing camps impact others? What resources have you found to make camps most effective? 

why YOU should serve in Kids Ministry

I am an unashamed advocate for a generational focus in our churches.

Jesus was too. He’s my role model. With open arms and open heart He welcomed children and presented them as a model of response and heart posture before God. 

Significant portions of Christians make their response to Jesus before they’re 13. Healthy kids ministries are environments where children can explore and experience faith and a resource parents can draw upon in THEIR role of raising kids in faith.

It’s a given that Kids ministry is also a high-volunteer-engagement department. Duty of care requirements and the sheer practicality of how mobile, inquisitive and active children are means lots of adult supervision is required.

But here’s my case for why you (whoever you are!) should do a stint in Kids Min at some point. 

1 Kids min requires a broad range of skills, gifts and personalities.

IT & A/V; physical set up and pack down of rooms; craft and game planning; administrative tasks; leading in music or dance; preparing or delivering teaching; developing relationships; prayer and more – a successful Kids Ministry is sustained by a diverse team each contributing their part. I guarantee you have a skill that your Kids department could benefit from. 

Some children will respond more to a quiet, gentle personality and others will gravitate to the loud and playful. 

Commonly, kids ministry teams are filled with teens and young adults. It’s true in my context. They are the engine room of our kids min with their energy, passion, availability and relational “cool factor” with the kids. But the wisdom, experience, knowledge and security of more senior team members is required too. Both as a resource to the younger leaders AND to the kids themselves. 

2 Sharing faith with a child builds and inspires your own. 

They say if you can’t explain it to a 6 year old you don’t know it. As we more simply and clearly express the gospel and the work of God in our life to young people we crystallise our own understanding and faith. 

Watching someone grasp God’s truth for themselves is incredibly exciting. Encouraging young people to establish themselves in the love of God, anchoring themselves in His truth and His faithfulness as a starting point for their life is an incredible gift we give to others. 

Children lead us in joy and awe. They remind us to be uninhibited in our response to the activity and knowledge of God. 

3 You demonstrate church in action 

You show parents that you really are committed to supporting them in their role. You show the children that everyone serves everyone. You give opportunity for intergenerational relationships (which are a crucial contributor to the feeling of “belonging” in a faith community – for all involved). You model body life – showing the feet, hands, arms and ears all acting as they ought. You share testimony of God’s activity in your life and how He works across various ages and stages of life. 

And before you’re even thinking it – here’s three excuses that just won’t fly!

I’m too something (old, young, new, uncool etc) God uses all types of people to reach all types of people. Your unique “something” could be just the tool He needs to connect with specific people. If you don’t serve, that “something” is missing. 

I’m busy. No one currently serving in your kids min team is doing so because they have nothing else to do. You prioritise what you value. And there is always flexibility in regards to time commitments, frequency and scheduling required by each ministry. 

I don’t want to miss the sermon/service. Podcast the message, attend a second service at a different time  (and consider why it’s ok for others on the teams who make kids min possible in your church to miss out on what you think is unmissable – just sayin.). 

So how about it? Why don’t you give it a go? At least for a season. Consider the impact you could make in the life of the team, the church …or even just one child. Be prepared for God to do something big with your availability and willingness. 

5 things every kid needs || nosey parents

#5 nosey parents

Every parent will know that the way kids and teens relate to their parents ebbs and flows throughout their life. 

There may be times when children are clingy and needy; they don’t like to be away from their parents. At other times kids seem so independent a parent can almost feel redundant. There’s the “please don’t make me kiss you” or the “drop me off around the corner” phase. There are times when you are the source of all knowledge, power and entertainment and the times it seems you can know, say or do nothing of value. 

When it comes to raising children in faith, regardless of what your child may think they need or want from you – every kid needs nosey parents – at every stage. They need parents who are interested in their spiritual condition and concerned for their spiritual development. 

To this end, parents can 

  • Develop a faith-culture at home 

Deuteronomy 6 encourages the incorporation of learning and sharing of faith into the normal practices of home life – eating together, bedtime routines, and the regular comings and goings of life. Just as you would expect your kids to engage in routines such as brushing their teeth, expectations around faith practices communicates high value. 

  • Know the questions your child is asking 

And if they’re not asking any – ask some of your own. Stories shared about interactions had with friends, news and current events, or movies and TV shows, are all opportunities to know how your child sees the world and where God’s perspective shapes that view. Are they caused to question God? Do they understand His heart towards people or circumstances? What do they know of His power and activity in the world? 

  • Recruit others to shepherd and invest in your kids 

Know the names of your child’s ministry leaders – know even more than that! Know the leaders your kids love and why. Help the leaders know your child and your family better. Encourage those who have an influence in your child’s lives and champion them as your most powerful allies. 

Ministry leaders and other parents can also be a rich resource for you as you navigate difficult topics or responses to behaviours and attitudes. 

  • Know what they’re learning in faith groups and activities

If you get the “nothing” or “I can’t remember” answers when you ask your kids what they learnt at youth or kids ministry go directly to the source. Ask the ministry leaders what discussions and activities were part of that week’s session. You can still demonstrate trust in your leaders while also having a high expectation of communication of topics, intentions and responses. 

** A note for ministries and leaders …

You can train your parents to be nosey. Firstly, by your responses to their inquiries. Any sense of reluctance to share or a lack of knowledge will communicate to the parents that their inquiries aren’t welcome or they are asking for something that you can’t give (which is concerning!). When you welcome and engage with parental inquiries you grow their confidence to ask and your genuine intent to partner with them. And secondly, by answering the questions they should be asking – even if they’re not. Offering information to parents about what you’re observing of their children in your ministry or in their faith development, builds their confidence. Sending emails or “take-home” sheets that empower parents to connect with their child on the topic or story of the week is a great resource. 

Parents – what ways have you been “nosey” in your child’s faith development? What have you found most or least successful?

Leaders – how have you encouraged “nosey parents”? What successes (or failures) have you had in this endeavour?

5 things every kid needs || think orange 

#1 a really big God

#2 someone else

#3 another voice

#4 uncommon sense

#5 nosey parents 

pumpkin soup mindset

Have you ever noticed how so many cafes have Pumpkin Soup on the menu? Now we’re in official soup season we might see some specials of a variety of different soups but Pumpkin Soup is on the printed, year round menu. 

In my expert, soup-eating-cafe-crawling opinion there are three main reasons this is so. 

1. It’s easy. 

Like, super easy! At its most basic – you chop up some pumpkin, maybe add an onion, boil it to death in some chicken stock, blend it up and there you go. A dash of cream, a sprinkle of chives and some crusty bread on the side and it’s cafe ready. 

2. It’s safe. 

For the non-adventurous diner, Pumpkin Soup is a low risk order. “Hmm Pumpkin Soup, I wonder what that might be?” It’s soup, made from pumpkins. You know what you’re gonna get. 

3. It’s available. 

A nice big pot of soup, frozen into individual serves is perfect for a quick buzz in the mickey-groover (aka microwave) ready to serve on demand. 

Now, I’ve had my share of Pumpkin Soups when working in cafes and looking for a simple, low cost lunch option to fuel my writing. But every time I do, the above three thoughts come to mind. Because 1. I don’t like ordering (or paying for) things I know I could make at home, 2. I enjoy dining out for stretching my culinary palette – give me some Morrocan spices, give me an ingredient I don’t recognise that makes me feel like I’m being a little daring to order it. And 3. I want to see my lunch served from that big steaming pot of yumminess or see a pile of vegetable scraps being scraped into a bin that make me think there may still be some nutrients active in my food. 

In context to these thoughts – I wonder if cafes aren’t missing the opportunity to show themselves as more creative, current or keen to bring us on something of a culinary journey each time they choose Pumpkin Soup over the myriad of other winter warmers that might be available? A Pumpkin Soup mindset might be easy, familiar, safe and practical – but it’s hardly going to set the cafe world alight or bring any great education or change to the palettes of cafe crawlers. 

Which made me wonder, where else does the Pumpkin Soup mindset manifest itself? The answer that first came to mind was, “pretty much everywhere” but the thought that quickly followed (associated with feelings of frustration and discomfort) was “in church life; in our faith”. 

The Pumpkin Soup mindset is the enemy of relationships, church cultures, faith walks, communities and families that we desire to be dynamic, vibrant, thriving and growing. 

How often are we tempted to make choices based on what is easy, safe and available when none of those things is likely to bring about best outcomes? Where in the call to be a disciple or make disciples was easy, safe and available part of the deal? I’m not talking complicated, unsafe and exceptionally difficult just for the sake of it, but when we’re looking to grow in our personal faith or to encourage our faith communities to greater obedience, greater acts of love and service, greater witness – the Pumpkin Soup mindset is just not going to cut it. 

Next time you’re in a planning meeting, chatting over a problem with a friend, making a big decision, looking to God for guidance on an issue, choosing a course of action, or seeking to grow in your faith, reject the Pumpkin Soup mindset. Be ready to explore a variety of flavours, ingredients or cuisines – be open to the challenge, the unknown, the extra effort and the faith-required options that God might call you through to His best. 

5 things every kid needs to grow in faith || another voice

#3 another voice

“So, if David told you to jump off a cliff would you?” “If Sarah stuck her hand in a fire, would you?” 

I bet you’ve all had a parent or teacher make this kind of argument to you. Maybe you’ve said something similar as a parent or teacher? This would normally be in response to a child using the argument (or defence), “but David told me to” or “but Sarah was doing it”! 

Of course, as a kid, you thought this was just the proof you were needing to confirm that your parents had officially lost the plot!

“Yes Mum, of course I would jump off a cliff if David did. Because I’m stupid and I do stupid things!” [written in bold ‘sarcastica’ font] – complete with eye roll and huffy body language. 

Or “Sarah wouldn’t put her hand in a fire, she’s not stupid, why don’t you like Sarah?!”

But here’s what we know for sure. The reason parents say things like that is because they genuinely worry that the influence of others on their kids’ lives could legitimately lead them to do really silly things! It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where there’s a group of friends hanging around a fire and Sarah sticks her hand in and everyone joins her! 

They know – and subsequently fear – that people do become who they hang around with. That they will mirror the behaviour and attitudes of those they admire. That they will gravitate to any people or groups that extend belief, acceptance or respect. They know a young person’s sensibility and sense of consequence is easily overridden by the intensity of their need to belong. 

Parents get this. Teachers and leaders get this. So the logical next step is to use that power for good rather than evil! 

To grow and persist in faith young people need voices other than their parents reinforcing the life changing message of Jesus. They need other adults and invested “older” people who will show them a way of living after Jesus that is relatable, attainable and authentic. 

While parents will always be the number one influencers in their children’s lives they also say dumb things about fires and cliffs! (wink) Children are looking for other people to affirm or contradict the values and beliefs of their parents. People that provide relational connection, belonging, respect and safe places for exploration of doubts will win a place of influence in the heart of young people. 

Faith communities and families can work together to nurture these relationships and our young people to maturity and flourishing in life and faith. (Read more at how to fix your church). 
 5 Things Every Kid Needs || Think Orange

#1 a really big God

#2 other people who believe what they do

#3 another voice 

#4 uncommon sense

#5 nosey parents

5 things every kid needs to grow in faith || someone else

#2 someone else 

My favourite part of a baptism is hearing the God-story.

I love when people stop to really reflect on how God has been at work in their life and they share the ways He has revealed Himself to them and drawn them to Himself. It points to a very creative and loving God. Each person tells us a different story of a unique encounter or series of encounters they had that made clear God’s call on their life and led them to respond. God is so good.

On one such occasion I witnessed, a 14 year old girl was sharing her story. She had been raised by Christian parents and attended church all her life but, when she was 13, she had attended a state wide youth camp with our church youth group. There were several hundred youth there from all parts of Melbourne and beyond; from various denominations and church expressions. She talked about her experience of that weekend and the impact it had on her developing personal faith, “I didn’t realise there were so many other people who did this Christian thing, I thought it was just our church.”

It seems almost comical to think that she might not have known, but her church experience had been limited to just our church and we were the only Christians she knew. It was significant for her to discover there were more. Because, as much as youth culture talks about the drive to stand out and be different, there is a deep yearning in our young people to find belonging and acceptance in likeness. Whether it is in shared fashion style, music tastes, sporting interests or leisure pursuits; young people find connection and comfort with others who affirm their style, taste, interests and pursuits.

Kids who are developing their own faith need SOMEONE ELSE (or multiple someones) who hold to the same core beliefs they do. They crave the affirmation that the faith they hold and the values they’re ascribing to are held by people other than themselves (and other than their own family). Christianity is, by Jesus’ own description, counter-cultural and as our society becomes increasingly pluralistic it is ever more likely that they will have friends and family and people in their basketball teams and neighbours in their streets that would not hold to the same beliefs.

It is one thing for their parents and grandparents to believe. It is significant for them to have leaders and other grown ups who believe similarly (more on that next blog). But it is also important that they have peers who share their beliefs. It reminds them that God is bigger than just their own family’s experience of Him (and #1 of the 5 things every kid needs to grow in faith is a really big God) as it continues to inform their understanding of who God is and how He operates.

We are all no doubt familiar with that powerful feeling of finding others with whom we find that “Oh, you too?!” connection. There is something profoundly validating about finding a like-mind, heart or soul. Our children need that too. It is significant to their faith development. Regardless of how independent and unique they might want to be they also crave the sense of being understood and affirmed for who they are and the choices they make.

5 things every child needs – Think Orange.

#1 a really big God 

#4 uncommon sense 

5 things every kid needs to grow in faith || a really big God


I love giraffes. They’re so graceful and elegant. And tall. They’re really tall.

Not only are they great to look at, they’re also incredibly intricate in their creation.

In order to keep blood pumping through their long legs and neck they have a heart that is TWO FEET long!! They also have valves in their neck that stop blood from exploding their brains when they lower their head to drink.

My favourite of their amazing features is a sponge like collection of veins (the rete mirabile) that is at the base of their brain. It expands to fill with blood while their head is lowered so that when it is raised (potentially a height shift of over 12 feet) they don’t pass out. The blood slowly releases to keep the brain oxygenated while the heart works to stabilise the blood flow. How cool is that?

[hear more about giraffes in the podcast of my sermon from Sunday Feb 14]

Knowing all this, every time I see a giraffe I remember again how clever God is! How His creation is so intricate and complicated and ingenious. It’s amazing. Ahh-maze-ingggg!!

But then I think how the giraffe is just one of hundreds of animals God made. And animals are only one aspect of God’s created world. There’s the birds and the plants, the oceans and the mountains, the planets and the solar systems, and then …then …there are humans!! Our bodies are so complex and so functional and there are so many different types of us! Wow! Like really, wow!

He is a big, powerful, creative, loving and active God.

When it comes to supporting kids growing in their faith one thing they need is a REALLY BIG GOD. They need to know that everything about Him is bigger and better than we could even imagine. He made the giraffe, and the tiny ant, and the infinite galaxies, and you. His story is long and big and we have just joined it for a small part. He has been making and loving people for thousands of years. Guiding them. Helping them. He has been faithful to people who have not been faithful to Him. He has used children and kings; people who made really dumb decisions and mistakes, as well as people who were humble and seeking Him. For thousands of years He has had people talk about Him and wonder if He’s real or not. He’s had people wonder if He really made the earth or if His promises are actually true. And He has kept loving and pursuing us and using us to write His love note to the world.

He is a really big God!

Sometimes, in our attempts to explain God to our kids we inadvertently shrink Him (only in our minds – He can’t actually be shrunk). We try to describe and define Him and we are limited by our own understanding and our ability to ariculate the revelation of God to us.

Our kids need to hear about a God who is big. Big enough to know and be everywhere. Big enough to always be in control. Big enough to know every star in the universe AND their names and thoughts and fears. Big enough to have their future in His hands and to not be scared by their questions or doubts. They need a God who can be trusted at all times.

What might it look like for us to consciously consider the language we use? To be intentional in the ways we respond to our kids’ wonderings. To not limit them in their questions or shut down their doubts. God is big. He is big enough to handle whatever you are thinking, feeling or fearing.
5 things every kid needs – Think Orange

#1 a really big God

#2 someone else

#3 another voice

#4 uncommon sense 

#5 nosey parents