Monthly Archives: September 2005

A New Calling

Following yesterday’s post I have received countless cries for assistance from readers. I have now received a second calling to bring the word to the ignorant and faithless.

Yes, from today, I shall be reaching out too those who have the misfortune to be sportless or who have a loved one who fails to see the healing, comfort, reconciliation and renewal that Faith Through Sport can bring. I have checked extensively (i.e. a quick search on Google) and found a gap in the market. There is no organisation called Faith Through Sport, until now.

So I shall see my secondary mission as the need to bring a love of sport to the sportless.

Some advantages are:

1. A great way of getting peace and quiet, away from nagging loved ones.

2. A chance to get fresh air, unless you’ve got a smoker sitting next too you.

3. Another way to get the full effects of passive smoking (see 2). You stand a chance of getting cancer from something, so why not do something enjoyable in the process.

4. Something that 95% of males talk about – therefore you may get some friends with something interesting too talk about. Who wants to hear people droaning on and on about fluffy animals, Star Wars, Dr Who and why their lives are so dull and uninteresting? How Gay is that?

5. The chance to suffer more disapointment and heartache than you may otherwise receive. 30 years as a supporter of an East London football team and an East Wales rugby team provide living proof. Only through pain and heartache can our faith in Jesus be strengthened.

6. The chance to show your Christian faith through prayer. Join others as they pray for victory and damnation on the opposition.

7. Proof that God does answer prayer; also proof that sometimes he doesn’t. It all depends on the result.

8. Girls you will get too see lots of fit men in shorts running around. This is providing you watch professional sport and not the local park variety. You mean even be able to pick one up – it worked for Victoria Beckham and Louise Redknapp.

9. You too could have a fit and buff body like mine!!!!!

10. Proof that sport is not just the province of tabloid readers. Except of course for quality tabloid readers. After all readers of The Times are a cut above these downmarket rags such as The Sun and Mirror. Even Guardian readers can enjoy sport, its that inclusive.

11. Provides an opportunity to witness to non-Christians. See, you’ll have something to talk about that they’ll understand.

So I call on all the unbelievers, doubters and backsliders out there. Throw off your blinkers and give it a try. Live sport can save you.

Inspirational Life

For the last week I’ve been reading Light Force by Brother Andrew.

He gained fame for his work in smuggling bibles into Soviet Europe during the 50’s & 60’s. That fame cost him his initial mission field as he became too well known to continue personally. He then helped to st up the Open Doors Foundation to carry on the work.

Light Force carries on his story as he heads to the Middle East. He has been involved with the church in Lebanon, during the civil war, and latterly with the church in Israel and the Occupied Territories. His new vision shows through in the book.

His aim has been to strengthen the church in these places. To give it a role in bringing peace and understanding too these bitterly opposed factions that bring war and terror to the region. He is passionate in his vision of bringing peace through witness and reconciliation and has helped nurture people and groups that do this.

His vision and mission is so strong that he has not only talked, and preached, to ordinary Israeli and Palestinian people but also to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PLO. He was on the Lebanese border to visit the 415 "Hamas" leaders that the Israeli put into exile on a mountainside just over the border.

His story is a remarkable example of what the church, as a body, should be doing. We should be taking Jesus’ commission and bring the word to everyone, including terrorists, and to act as peacemakers in conflicts.

The book is well worth £9.99 of anyone’s money. The message it contains is priceless.

Now a message to some others…….

Yes, I am who I think I am; I checked in the mirror while shaving this morning. For those who don’t know, I am indeed Chris Martin and I am married to Gwyneth. Or am I Guy Richie and married to Madonna?? I need to check again.

In response to one post, your wife does hate sport more than mine but at least I was allowed to get Sky, even if I can’t watch it. However, we could always let them talk to each other, or go shopping, while we discuss the more important things, such as the wisdom of 4-5-1 and the application of a Tiger’s swing.

Welcome The Cast

Who said work was interesting? Today I’m bored! Not unusual I hear some say.

So I thought I’d describe some of my fellow beings I associate with in my youthwork:

Pastor Chugabug – This is their first ministry. Like all of us has faults and positive aspects. Organising needs improving though. Mother of Piggy Back and Brain. Wife of Ummmm Man.

Ummmm Man – Husband of Chugabug. Missionary Secretary. Charity Worker. Earns name from inability to form sentences that do not contain at least one Ummmm.

Piggy Back – Best attender in Sunday school class. Always wants me to give her the piggy backs I some how owe her. Also very fond of food.

Brain – Intelligent, quiet, meglomaniac. Very good at entertaining the troublesome trucks.

Troublesome Trucks – The collective name for my nephews – Shouts-a-Lot and Sly Dog. Loveable pair but hell together.

Notice Whisperer – Like the Horse Whisperer, only with Church notices. her superpowers include the ability to be hard to hear, even with the PA system. Sunday School Teacher and Deacon. Helps with C Club.
The Quiet Man – Says little until you get to know him. Loves football, obviously a big plus too me. Helps with the C Club (5-7’s y/o on Fridays) and the youth group. Father of Bendy Girl.

The Quiet Man – So called because he rarely speaks. A great advantage when you used to be a councillor. Loves his football, so obvious why I like him then! Father of Bendy Guide.

Bendy Guide – So called because she is always off doing things with gymnastics or the guides. Every spare minute seems to be filled with her doing handstands or the Crab!!

Party Girl – Youth helper and cook. As happy in the kitchen as the pub. Fun too be with. Mother of Silent Hunk and Popular Girl.

Silent Hunk – So called because he’s very quiet but a hit with the ladies. If only he showed interest in them they’d be overjoyed.

Popular Girl – As sister of Silent she is very popular. Then they get too like her for her sweet nature.

Shagged Out – ME!!!! So called by my loving wife. When I get home I just want to veg out and recover from work, youth, sunday school or some other event.

Sport Hater – THE WIFE!!! Nuff said there, I think!

Lassie – To hide his true identity. One of the youth group. Fun to have around. He always wants to play computer games or tell us about his multitude of girlfriends.

Gem – One of the youth. Also helps with the C Club. Very nice girl. Fun and kind – but don’t tell her I said so.

I look forward to telling you more about them as time goes on.

Oh Happy Day!!

Does God acknowledge our efforts? When we get despondent does he come to revive us?

It can be pretty depressing to come to Chapel each Sunday morning too find 1 person in your Sunday School class. It can be hard too motivate yourself to prepare a lesson and then give it. You hope for response but sometimes its like conversing with a lump of lead.

This Sunday has changed that….

Yes, I only had Pastor Chugabug’s daughter again. You could have called her as Surly or Petulant but over the last few weeks that has slowly begun to change. At last I am getting feedback. Not just the odd word but consistent, well thought out questions and challenges.

I have ditched the Scripture Union books for this year and decided too go with a less structured basis for class. You could never guarantee the same attendees for the classes, so trying too follow structured themes was a waste of time. You’d have to keep repeating yourself to cover what’s gone before and then run out of time for the lesson.

Now we have begun looking at what a Christian is. We look at what a Christian’s role is and how we can put that into practise. We look at the enviroment, poverty, disability and work from there.

This week we did the Sermon on The Mount and how that effects us. I was expecting non-commital comments but got positive response.

We talked about what we need to do. What Jesus meant in the Beatitudes and how they are there as a sign that, no matter what happens, God is there to comfort us and strengthen us. If you read it in the NIV you get the feeling that he is not talking about separate entities, such as peacemakers or the meek, but the things that we meet in our own lives. Each of those points is for us as individuals to absorb and act on, or take comfort from.

I know have at least class member who is actually learning, and wanting too learn, about her place in God’s world. She has now acknowledged that her idea of a Christain, that of a church goer, is only a part of what God wants and will use.

Here’s to more and more weeks of development. Hopefully we’ll have another soul saved for Jesus.

The Sunday School Teachers’ Meeting

Thursday we held the first Sunday School Teachers’ Meeting since I return as a teacher last year. In my previous stint as a teacher, 20 years ago, we used to have these every month.

The 4 teachers got together and began to talk about what we, as a group, are doing. We have a Sunday School that is in decline but this has been happening for quite some time. We have had occasional rallies and the numbers have leaped from 5-6 up to 10-12 but then they gradually drop off.

We decided to reorganise earlier this year and had two teachers for the under 6’s and 2 for the 7-10’s but this has now had to be rearranged. I hate this constant reorganisation but in a chapel such as ours it keeps happening. With an ageing congregation, and one that is based around families, it is not surprising that we lose helpers to care for relatives.

We have decided that the under 7’s will now have one teacher, there are currently 2-3 children; the 7-10’s will also have 1 teacher, meanwhile the over 10’s will have me and my sister. With my work with the youth every other Sunday afternoon, and a wife to keep happy, I felt that it would be better not to spread myself too thinly. Considering my size that should be impossible, I hear you say!!!

Now we’ve got that done I can begin too devote more time and resources to improving the youth group and coaxing some back to Sunday School.

Posting Again??? My, How Concientious!!

One of the things I enjoy about youthwork is, to the annoyance of some kids, I actually enjoy joining in the fun and games. The fact I’m a 4th decade person with the body of a 7th decade person but a mind that tells me I’m still 16-18 takes some getting used too.

One of Pastor Chugabug’s favourite pastimes is Balloon Volleyball. However we have now refined this too balloon badminton. The object is the same as conventional badminton…. except too me. My objective is to destroy the balloon (cue maniacal laughter and impressions of Dr Evil!!!).

This may sound easy when using a badminton racket but it took me a good 30 minutes to achieve my aim. Oh, the satisfaction of hearing that bang!! How you get pleasure from youthwork is up too you. Me, I’ll settle for my continued childish ways; after all, it keeps me so young and fit 😉

The other source of enjoyment is the kids. They don’t understand how amusing I find them. They entertain me just by listening to them interact. Its good that they can relax with us, especially as 3 of the 4 helpers are parents of some of the children. Its good that there is no family squabbling or bitchiness in operation.

That’s not to say that life is perfect. A discussion on fashions, the need to conform to others and the value of brands was very heated. We covered bullying and found that 2 of the youngsters bought designer labels because it helped them "fit-in". Another youngest had been abused by her friends for not wearing "labelled" clothing.

Then they began to take post shots at each other. especially when the "designer" pair defended their purchases on the "quality" issue (I seem to have an attack of "" tonight). (Apologies to all concerned for this.) Now I’m being attacked by ()’s. How do you stop this?

What makes me laugh is that I used to work for a well known fashion label in a previous life. I know what they pay for clothing, the quality, what they do with it and how much they inflate the price. Trying to get some of the kids to understand that a £40 designer t-shirt is as poor quality as a £4 supermarket one is hardwork.

The good thing to come out of the discussion was that I was thanked by one of the parents because her daughter had gone through the bullying experience in recent weeks. The fact that the majorty agreed that the expenditure was not worth it and that so called friends who could not accept you without expense clothes were, in a way, worthless.

That was a worth while Sunday afternoon….

Sunday 18th September

Over the last 3 weeks, since Sunday School restarted after the summer break, I’ve seen a 100% increase in attendance. The only problem is that they haven’t been there together. Yes, my Sunday School class increased from 1 to 2, unfortunately the one member was off ill this sunday when the second one came!

Before the summer I was very cheerful as my class numbered 7, at least 4 of whom attended every week. Eveything seemed to be progressing. All of these kids were related to church members and attended the youth group. A feeling of joy and a job well done were beginning to appear.

Admittedly there were problems as I was undergoing some minor upheavels in my private life that led to me having to miss the odd week here and there. Then, of course, we had the dreaded summer break.

I hate this as it always seems like a good idea until you struggle to get them back. And I’ve found that you always struggle. Then you have additional problems with them being at the age where they have other commitments to fit in, such as dancing, gymnastics and guide gangshows. In addition you have family crisis’ such as divorce or the death of relatives.

This sunday was also the return of youth group. A new year and an opportunity to begin building on the finish before summer.

The youth group started late last year. We have 4 leaders and up to 12 kids attending. Since the beginning we have encountered the problems associated with anything organised by Pastor Chugabug. Disorganisation seems to be her middle name.

Do we have a thought out programme or aim for the group? Are we there for something other than a way to get the kids out of the house? Are we just a childminding service for her children?

I expect you can guess the answer too he above.

With regards to Christian teaching I was told that we shouldn’t press this yet as the aim was to get the kids into the church before trying to indoctrinate them. Makes us sound like the Moonies or the Scientology crowd!

Now I’ve read up on the youth stuff and found that everyone agrees that you should challenge the kids with Christ. They won’t run but they will listen and respect you. I also see it as a way to challenge their outlook on life in general. Too teach them about justice, fairness and respect for others. Yet I’ve found that we can spare an hour for games, 30-45 minutes for food but only 15 minutes to talk to them about anything else.

Now your hero is not known for taking things lying down. As such Tired has taken the opportunity to state that this year things will be different. They can play/vegetate for 30 minutes; have 30 minutes for food but the rest will be spent exploring Christ and how we can live as disciples for him.

The funny thing is that a lot of the kids we have already attend other churches. Therefore why be afraid the connect on a Christian level? Why is a minister concerned about not sharing the word with them?

So this sunday we began again. Expected attendance, based on replies received…. 8. Actually attendance 3. This included the girl who was too ill to attend Sunday School that morning.

Background

Before I start with some background a quick word to all those who have responded so far……. THANKS. Also a word to Hermit…. yes, I am real. No, I did not steal your life from you. Everything said about my role(s) in the fellowship are true. Indeed there are probably a few I’ve forgotten.

So here we go….

I belong to a small fellowship in the city of Oldrum in South Wales. We are based on a council estate on the western side of town and have a membership of about 25 and a congregationthat varies from 20 to 40, depending upon weather, sun spots and the phase of Saturn in relation to the marigold gloves in the kitchen.

We have a Sunday School split into 3 – under 7’s, 7-s-10’s and over 10’s. The current strength of the sunday school varies from 4 to 10. Again things depend on several factors, including whether or not my family are on holiday.

Our Youth Group (so far unnamed despite the minister’s attempts) can have anything from 3 attendees to 12. In addition we have an under 7’s group that meets on a Friday that has around 25 attendees.

Like everything in life we have a problem of resources. Our congregation is ageing and we have not seen any expansion since 2003. Soory I will correct this slightly, we have seen expansion through marriage only.

We have tried leafletting the estate; have held harvest suppers, candlelit carol services, hold a bi-weekly bible study and a bi-weekly coffee morning. Yet whatever we try we rarely see this pay off in increased membership, or even casual visitors.

Everybody who comes to the chapel say how friendly the welcome and people are. We have had several people walk-in and stay but nothing within the last 2 years.

The other problem we have is that the majority of the congregation and membership is over retirement age. We have no young people – between the ages of 18 and 30 – and only a few between 30 and 50. Therefore you get the same people having to do all the work. In addition they have to hold down full time jobs and maybe look after the family.

How do we motivate the congregation to get off their butts and work? That is every church’s $1,000,000 question. Maybe its a percentage thing! If someone was to undertake detailed research would we find that it is the same percentage of workers too attendees in every church?

I have also begun to do some preaching, on an ad-hoc basis, and am often amazed to hear people say that they enjoyed the sermon and the message touched them. Do they actually act on that? No. So why is there the difference between wishful intent and action?

An example in point is the church meeting. We have 27 members on the books. At the last 2 meetings we’ve had 9, the minimum needed to get decisions ratified. Where are all the others?

What To Expect

This is the story of an ageing youth worker, deacon, sunday school teacher and general dogsbody. I hope to highlight the joys of being a member of a small fellowship and take you through some of the events that bring joy, sadness, indifference or complete annoyance.

I have changed names, sexes, species and even heights to protect the innocent, and not so innocent, members of the congregation. Anyone who recognises, even remotely, characters appearing in this blog are recommended to undergo a reality check. Alternatively, you could inform me and I’ll try to make this a little less revealing.