On Keeping A Journal

Over the years, probably on and off since high-school, I’ve kept a journal.

On Keeping A Journal

At times I’ve been consistent with this practice. I’ve taken dedicated time and discipline to write what I’ve experienced or felt about certain moments. Whether by typing or whether by handwriting I’ve dedicated time, notebooks, and files to exploring what is going on within. During certain seasons I’ve been able to write daily, expressing thoughts about the days just gone and reflect on how I’m understanding those experiences.

At other times, usually when the season is a hard one, I feel compelled to write. I feel compelled to make sense of what is going on. I feel compelled to discern what my mind and my heart is really saying.

You see, often through the exercise of writing, whether it be in list form or a more comprehensive essay, life can be made clearer. As I work through an issue, an experience, or a particular emotion, the ‘thinking on paper’ provides clarity.

Another aspect to journaling that I find helpful is the way it can become a spiritual exercise. A spiritual exercise centred around writing out my prayer for the day, the day coming or the day past, where I can be entirely honest with God.

Even within ourselves, we rarely take the time to really explore what is going on within our own hearts and minds. Through a journal we are able to explore those ideas, concepts, emotions, seasons, thoughts, issues, and pressures by patiently writing or typing our inner most thoughts. Between the pen and the page we are able to discern our own hearts and seek wisdom from above.

After more than 15 years of this practice, with a few breaks in-between, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong way to journal. In high school we may have been taught some form of formalised writing, and for some reason we carry over to our personal lives those structured ‘rules’ around how we are to express ourselves. There aren’t any rules for writing a journal, it is yours and you can do with it what you like.

As to reading old journals, it probably depends on purpose. I’m always nervous about re-reading something I wrote years ago. It’s like reading the ‘old me’, or at least taking a step backwards, realising how stupid and immature I was. I’m certainly nervous about it. But, for some of those more diary-entry journals it is worth being reminded of what I’ve experienced and gives perspective on the now. For example, I always find it interesting reading portions of my journals from my time in Lebanon, now over 10 years ago. Those entries can be a reminder of what I did, who I met, and what I was thinking at the time.

A little while ago I came across this post, talking about journaling as a pathway to joy. It highlights, for those of us who have a faith, that journaling can be a beneficial spiritual exercise, keeping our hearts and mind on the things of God. It talks about some of the similar things I’ve outlined here, but provides some good ways journaling intersects with our relationship with God. As the author points out,

“…journaling is a way of slowing life down for just a few moments, and trying to process at least a sliver of it for the glory of God, our own growth and development, and our enjoyment of the details”.

What about you? Do you journal? What have you learnt through it? 

Advertisements

Published: The Public Progress of a (Youth) Pastor

While listening to a podcast of one of Alistair Begg’s conference messages I was struck by his exposition of 1 Timothy 4:12-16. In it he refers to the public nature of the ministry, and the progress seen of that ministry by the congregation. This sparked an idea about what that might look like for those of us in youth ministry. In reality it took far longer to write than I’d hoped but I think it has come out with what I wanted to say!

It was recently published at Rooted Ministry, and you can read the whole thing here.

“Through our own maturity as a believer – our persistence in relying on Jesus – and the sharpening of our ministry skills and abilities, we will find ourselves making progress. As we use these God-given gifts, skills, abilities, and aptitudes we will grow in these things, develop these things, and our progress will bear fruit in those to whom we minister to (no matter the size of the group).”

Published: Clarifying The Call Of God

‘Calling’ is one of those Christian words, used by Christian people, that is more confusing than clear. In this article for Rooted Ministry I try to unpack the meaning of calling and seek to bring helpful clarification.

“To feel called by God would be evidence that we are unique, that we are special, that we are being used for a divinely appointed task. To feel called would be proof of some sort of special anointing upon us, a special anointing that no one else would have. To feel called would mean that we have been set apart to have a significant part in the movement and growth of God’s kingdom.

To some extent all of this is true, but the trouble we run into with this thinking is that it places the emphasis on us and not God. God has called us unique, special, anointed, and called, whether we feel it or not.

We have confused feelings with calling. God’s actual calling does not always show up on a billboard, nor does it always feel right.”

You can read the whole thing here.

This article was republished at The Gospel Coalition Australia on June 27, 2018.

Published: The Book of Ruth, Critical to God’s Narrative of Redemption

I’ve recently been preaching through the book of Ruth. It’s been really exciting and energising to do so. For one thing, I’ve been fascinated by the various levels of meaning the author uses throughout the narrative. Anyway, in reading and re-reading the story of Ruth I put together a post, which has been published on Rooted Ministry.

I imagine in the work you do as a youth minister – the people you have conversations with, and the crises you get called into – there are similarly tragic moments you’re involved in.

The student who loses her best friend to suicide and didn’t know she needed help. The young man in high school whose father passes away suddenly. The family who is effected by a car accident, or by cancer, or by an illicit liaison.

As youth ministers, we often have the privilege of being part of people’s lives at the worst of times. And often we ourselves don’t know what to say or how to handle such events and experiences. But we sit there, we listen, and we show our love and care for them.

You can read the whole thing here.

Chair of Deacons Postpones Meeting To Confirm Identity of Youth Pastor

The monthly deacons meeting of Eastbourne Baptist Church was temporarily postponed 45 minutes on Tuesday night as the identity of the youth pastor was confirmed.

It is understood that Chairman Nigel Andrews was unsure of the identity of the man sitting to his left; needing confirmation it was indeed the church’s youth pastor, Jason Jackson.

Chairman Andrews chose not to start the formal proceedings of the meeting until the man’s identity was proven. Only after conversation with other members of the diaconate, and a phone call with the young man’s mother, did Mr Andrews finally begin the meeting.

The alleged reason for Mr Andrews’ confusion was that he had never seen Youth Pastor Jason in a collared shirt.

Chair of Deacons Postpones Meeting To Confirm Identity of Youth Pastor

After gathering the thoughts of those on the committee he then asked Pastor Jason to produce his driver’s licence. Still unconvinced Chairman Andrews had a brief conversation with Mr Jackson’s mother, confirming his choice of apparel for the evening. It is believed there was a 25 minute delay in getting through to Pastor Jason’s mother, she was apparently outside hanging up his hoodies on the washing line.

The meeting finally got underway 45 minutes after its scheduled start.

After the meeting Deaconess Jennifer commented that she too was unsure who was sitting next to the Chairman. She thought he might have been the consultant to help the church in the next stage of their building program. But she was pleasantly surprised to find that it was indeed Youth Pastor Jason and has encouraged him to dress in similar fashion more regularly. Jennifer is quoted as saying, “Usually I see him wearing t-shirts and hoodies. In fact, I’ve never seen a youth pastor of EBC wear a collared shirt. It’s a new level of professionalism. If this continues then a number of parents may actually believe Jason to be an actual pastor”.

Despite the confusion Youth Pastor Jason said that he understood the reason for the confusion. He said, “No one is more surprised as I am in finding myself wearing a collared shirt. I saw it in my wardrobe and realised I hadn’t worn it since I graduated high school. Now that we’ve gotten over this speed bump I look forward to coming to these meetings in similar attire”.

Likewise, Chairman Andrews agreed that the collared shirt is a good move for Mr Jackson. He said, “Despite the hiccup at the start of the meeting I was impressed by Youth Pastor Brad’s attention to detail for such important meetings”.

In coming days Chairman Andrews will encourage Eastbourne’s Senior Pastor, Daniel Hooper, to have a word with Jason, suggesting he buy a new shirt for the next meeting.

Late last week Mr Jackson’s mother was seen lining up at Target with a couple of new collared shirts ready for purchase.


I submitted this satirical post to The Babylon Bee. It wasn’t accepted. I thought it worth publishing here. I hope you enjoyed it as much as enjoyed writing it. 

My One Blogging Goal For 2018

With the turn of the new year comes the flurry of posts about how to improve your blogging in 2018. I think I’ve read a dozen or so already.

It’s made me think about my own blogging for the year ahead.

My One Blogging Goal For 2018

There is no doubt that I enjoy the writing process. It clarifies my thoughts, it helps me think out loud, it gives me the opportunity to express my opinions and ideas. Depending on what kind of day it is the writing will come easily, but more often than not it is hard. It requires actually articulating my thoughts in a systematic or structured way. Writing requires me to sit in front of a blank screen and turn that white document into something worth reading.

I’m not sure I achieve this very often, but it seems people do read what I write. I am appreciative of that.

And I’m particularly thankful for those who have read the odd post over the last 12 months. I’ve had a focus to increase readership and write more regularly, which was achieved, even if there were seasons where nothing was published.

But they were last year’s goals. And having read enough “Improve Your Blog” type posts it is apparently important to have goals coming into 2018.

For the coming year I have reservations about setting number goals about readership. It keeps me focussed on numbers, which at the best of times are encouraging but totally distracting and beside the point at the worst. So for 2018, instead of focussing on the statistics, which get looked at far too often, I have decided to make my goal writing-based.

That is, I want to write from the heart more this year. 

Reflecting on my own writing I don’t believe I write from the heart enough. Sure, I may have a post that moves someone else. I may have a good piece of writing that connects with a reader. But am I actually writing from the heart?

To me, writing from the heart is about putting words on paper that reflect more of who I am.

It isn’t giving more of my opinion, it isn’t making the post feel more energetic with faux-excitement. Writing from the heart is about writing truthfully, clearly, and with an openness that leaves part of me on the page. It means I’m not hiding behind words but I’m putting myself on the line when I write and publish.

While this goal isn’t particularly measurable, certainly not from the outside, it may cause me issues when seeking to evaluate come the end of the year. But that’s my issue. For now I’m committed to writing through this blog, seeking to help others in youth and young adult ministry reflect on their experience and be better in their work.

Let’s see how we go.

What about you? What’s your number one blogging goal for the year? 

My Top Posts of 2017

Earlier this month I wrote briefly about how I’ve managed to achieve a couple of blogging goals this year. I wanted to write more regularly in 2017, and as a result I’ve averaged a published post per week on this site and a few guest posts on others. The second goal was to increase the amount of views from last year. I aimed to double last years result and achieved this too. Happy days.

Top Posts of 2017

But, there are a few things that continue to get read reasonably regularly so here’s a list of the five most popular posts viewed this year (2016 and 2015).

One, 11 Things: The Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor Relationship

It seems there’s a few people out there wanting some tips on how to deal with the Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor dynamic. It’s not surprising, it’s probably the number one reason Youth Pastors move on from their job.

Two, Growing Young – Keychain Leadership

I wrote this over twelve months ago. I was working through the book Growing Young. This post talks about how churches need to be willing to pass the baton of leadership to young people. It is a key chapter in the book and worth reading entirely.

Three, Growing Young

Here I begin the Growing Young series, which I wrote over a period of three months. I write about each chapter, but this one gives a general summary of the whole. Again, it’s a book for those in youth ministry and church leadership (and others if they’re interested).

Four, Beginning As A Youth Pastor: 11 Things I Wished I Knew

I wrote this in preparation for a presentation. It describes what I wished I knew when I started out as a Youth Pastor. As it turns out I had 11 points, and those 11 points were then made into a blog post each. This series has already been mentioned with the number one most popular post on the site. This one covers them all.

Five, On Youth Pastor Position Descriptions

I saw a really poorly written position description for a youth ministry position and I got annoyed. This resulted in further articulation of my thoughts in this post. It seems it was reasonably well read and rather relevant to people. Not really many surprises there if you’re a Youth Pastor.

Some other random bits of information about this blog:

  • The top five countries where readers are from are Australia, the USA, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. Australia and the US bring in the most by far.
  • Facebook and search engines are the digital spaces people come from to read.
  • I currently have over 200 posts available for people to read.

If you’re a regular reader, thanks very much for coming by. I am always in two minds as whether or not keeping this up is worth it. When I get to the end of the year and begin to re-evaluate my goals there is something about giving this up that I would find painful. I hope the words written here are worthy of being read, fun and humourous at times, and most of all bringing glory to God as I write about youth ministry.

Thanks again.

Achieving Blogging Goals

Today I achieved my main blogging goals for the year.

It’s a day to celebrate! 

At the start of the year I set myself two main goals to achieve by the end of 2017.

Achieving Blogging Goals.png

First, I wanted to write and post more often. Making sure I could achieve this meant I needed to make it specific and measurable. The goal was to average a post a week by the end of the year. This is now my 58th post. I achieved this goal with when I posted about freedom.

Second, I wanted to have double the amount of views this year than I did in 2016. Last year I had 2,567 views. Today I tipped over 5,134! This is awesome news, and very pleasing for all the work I end up putting into this site.

So, it is a day to celebrate.

I can tick off two major goals I sought to achieve at the start of the year. It didn’t come easy. There were times when I didn’t think I’d make it. The regular writing, editing, and posting takes more time than I’d like to admit. But, with intentional focus this year it seems to have worked.

More people are reading my stuff, which often blows me away–that people actually take time to read what I write and occasionally comment. And, for a personal blog that is targeted at quite a niche topic it’s certainly on the improve.

So, here’s to achieving goals!

(Let’s not talk about new goals for 2018 just yet)

 

Published: The Whole Duty Of The Whole

I’ve had my third piece published at Rooted Ministry. This time I seek to conclude a week long series about how Ecclesiastes speaks to today’s teenager. You can read it here.

“As we have found over the course of our series, Ecclesiastes speaks powerfully to the postmodern teenager. May we help our teens to scratch through the heavy layers of their circumstances, performance, jobs, relationships, and perhaps even through their selfies to find the real answer to that hard question: why am I here?”

When You’ve Been Writing For 8 Years And Your Blog Still Sucks

I’ve been writing on this blog, on and off, for about eight years.

And yep, my blog still sucks.

There are probably a number of reasons the blog sucks. The writing. The topics. The lack of consistency in publishing posts. The poor promotion, even though it is the age of social media.

I don’t like to think about these reasons. It’ll send me into a spiral.

But, yeah, the blog sucks.

When You've Been Writing For 8 Years And Your Blog Still Sucks

Any person with basic mathematical skills will work this out when they read my stats. A blog’s stats are like Microsoft Excel to an accountant, they measure and tell the story of the site. They help the owner of a blog calculate how well they’re doing.

Well, my stats tell me that my blog sucks.

I’m not even sure if I should tell you my stats. I don’t see this as a done thing in the blogosphere. Everyone is so secret about it.

Here goes.

  • So far this year I’ve had 2000 post or page views. The most views in a year was 2016, at just over 2500.
  • The most views are directly to my homepage. In terms of the most viewed post, the winner is an obscure post about Christian persecution in the Middle East from 2014.
  • I have 97 people who follow this blog through WordPress or via email.

So as I was saying, my blog sucks.

There are days I want to blow it up. To detonate it and send it into internet oblivion. To see it gone from the history of the web forever. I then wonder whether anyone else would like to see this happen too.

But then there are days where I just want to keep plugging away. To keep trying to publish regularly. To write things and let the world have them. To create and put out into the world thoughts, reflections, and understandings that might have an impact on someone.

And so I don’t and won’t blow it up right now. I won’t hit the switch. I won’t delete my words from the interwebs.

I’ll keep going.

I’ll keep posting.

I’ll keep writing.

Because at the end of the day I have seen improvement. I enjoy the writing process and putting things out there for others to consider. I am pleased with some of what I have written. It’s not about the stats but my own growth in my writing.

But, yeah, my blog still sucks.


This post is a free writing exercise in response to The Daily Post topic ‘Detonate‘.