My Blogging Year – A Retrospective

How do you summarise a year?

I suppose you could use a one-word expletive, which I notice a number of my Facebook friends have used to describe 2016. But, there are a number of factors that make up a year with its various highs and lows. The variables of family, friends, work, hobbies, recreation, health and fitness, and more, make up much of what we call life. Each of these areas we may be able to summarise, but to tie them all together is difficult.

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Over at The Daily Post there is the challenge to summarise my blogging year. And upon reflection there are a few insights we can glean.

First, I had six good months and six poor months of posting content. I obviously don’t like winter very much nor am I inspired during these months. I posted often in the January to March period but soon dropped off before taking up publishing again from October through December.*

Second, the main topic I posted about was ‘youth ministry’. Of the top five most read posts three of them were on the topic of youth ministry. This isn’t too much of a surprise considering I was intentional in what I was to post about this year. Youth ministry was one area I wanted to write more about and this is clear through the posts I’ve written in 2016. The other factor would be the change of ministry role, becoming Associate Pastor for Youth and Young Adults at the start of the year. These things seem to point toward a youth ministry passion and this is being seen in what I write about.

Here are my top five posts:

  1. The Ageing Youth Pastor
  2. Starting Fresh As A Youth Pastor
  3. Why Every Youth Pastor Should Watch ‘Spotlight’
  4. ‘N’ As A Social Media Movement
  5. I’ve Never Been To Aleppo

Third, there was a 30% increase in traffic to the blog in the past 12 months. This has been encouraging and positive. You do expect an increase when you’re coming off such a low base though. 🙂

Fourth, the top five countries where readers come from are: Australia, USA, Brazil, New Zealand and the UK. Four of them are not surprising. One of them is. You can probably guess which one.

Fifth, each New Year that passes brings with it a good opportunity to reflect on the worthiness of writing and blogging. I’m one of those people who enjoy reflecting on events, conversations, experiences and time-periods. Blogging is no different. And while some people are against New Year resolutions, believing that January 1st is only another day, I do find it helpful to reflect and set goals for the next 12 months. These goals don’t need to be anything complicated, but they do need to be specific. My choice to write more about youth ministry seems to have been achieved as I’ve seen a few things here gain some traction with readers. It’s also helped me think through the topics in more depth.

For 2017, consistency will be the key and the main goal for this blog. I seek to me more intentional about writing topics and will also aim at writing at least one decent piece per week. 

If you’re a blogger (or perhaps there’s something in your life you need to be more intentional about) then what would be your main goal for your blog in 2017?

*Another factor here may well be the birth of our second child. Probably can’t discount that variable either! 

Growing Young – Growing Young In Your Context

This is post eight in a series of reflections on the book Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover And Love Your Church. For an introduction to the series please read part one and continue reading the reflections in part two, three , fourfivesix and seven.


The final chapter!

To conclude Growing Young the authors provide a chapter designed to help churches, pastors, parents, families, and anyone interested apply the research to their own context.

Having made my way through the chapters it’s become clear that different churches will apply this in different ways. Every church I know of would agree that they seek to grow young people in faith and number. The decline in young adults continuing on in the faith has been dramatic over the past 20 years and many churches are grasping at straws, willing to try anything to hold on to the young people they have. Yet, if anyone reading this work comes to the conclusion that it’s an easy task then they haven’t understood the research or church culture. The process to reverse this trend and begin growing faithful young adults will require years of constancy and faithfulness.

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In this final chapter Growing Young gives a broad process to help you or your church work improve its engagement of young people. There are five steps, outlined below:

First, listen.

Start conversations with everyone in the church. Listen. Listen to the kids, the young people, the leaders, the families, the parents, the young adults, the older people, the community, the whole congregation. Everyone. Go ask questions about how the church should or could engage with young people. You might see the problem clearly, others might not. You might understand the need and urgency, others might not. You might believe there is a massive problem, others might not. Begin with conversation.

Second, tell stories of future hope.

There will be no movement without a vision for the future. After listening and conversing with others the problem and challenge of growing young will appear. With this in the forefront of people’s mind it will be time to form a way forward. Begin by telling stories of what could be. Begin dreaming. Begin by white-boarding ideas. Let these dreams, ideas, and possibilities form into stories for the future. All good stories have a moment where there is a problem to overcome. Pitch the problem, pitch the solution. Tell stories of the future hope that could be.

Third, list the challenges.

There are going to be heaps of challenges. There is the problem that the church you’re in may not be growing young but the bigger challenges will come when you begin to move forward in seeking cultural change. The challenges that will occur will be to do with worship style, lack of interest, lack of volunteers and leaders, a large generation gap, and a lack of resources. These and more will make the task a tough one. But it is patience and persistence, all part of the journey itself, which will help to bring about change.

Fourth, experiment at the margins.

Someone once said, “To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” Churches are often risk adverse. In order to grow young as a congregation risk will need to be taken. The place and way to start this is with those on the margins of the church. Those ministries and programs not seen as the backbone of the church is where the possibilities begin. Is there a ministry that could use a little bit of risk-taking? Is there something that young people could takeover or drive themselves? In the listening phase was there something found that the young people could be directing?

Fifth, be patient.

I was at an event last week with some experienced pastors and church leaders from around the state. During my conversation with one elder statesman of the Victorian church I asked how long he thought a certain cultural change might take to implement in a local church. He responded with the sides of his mouth upturned and a glint in his eye, “Oh, you’ll probably see fruit at around the 20-year mark”. And that’s what it seems to take in the church of God. It is long-haul ministry and long-term thinking that will bring about faithful expressions of discipleship and maturity of faith. Pray hard, preach hard, and be patient, realising it is God doing the growth.


Here are the links to the series of reflections on the book:

  1. Growing Young
  2. Growing Young – Keychain Leadership
  3. Growing Young – Empathise With Today’s Young People
  4. Growing Young – Take Jesus’ Message Seriously
  5. Growing Young – Fuel A Warm Community
  6. Growing Young – Prioritise Young People (And Families) Everywhere
  7. Growing Young – Be The Best Neighbours
  8. Growing Young – Growing Young In Your Context
  9. Growing Young – Final Reflections