Published: Youth Minister, ‘But Now’ You Have Been Included

Over at Rooted Ministry the fifth and final article of a 5-part series I’ve written has been published.

The essence of the series is identity for the youth pastor, centred on the phrase ‘but now’.

You can read the first post here, which looks at being made right with God. The second post focusses on the freedom we have because of the cross. The third post seeks to show how God has broken down barriers in order for us to be part of his family and community. The fourth post highlights our identity in relation to being reconciled to God. And the fifth post is a reminder that we are now included in God’s family.

You can read the whole thing here.

“I am reminded often, when working with teenagers, that there is a tendency in our younger years to withhold mercy toward one another. This, of course, isn’t solely a student problem. This is a humanity problem. But the withholding of mercy toward others, especially school friends and those who we deem “different,” seems particularly evident in teenagers.

In our ministry to students, one aspect of the gospel to emphasise is the fact that the mercy we have received from God through Christ changes our identity to mercy-givers. Following in the example of God, we too are called to offer mercy to others. History’s greatest act of mercy is the mercy offered by Jesus on the cross. And in our lives and the lives of our students, it is he whom we seek to imitate.”

You can read other published pieces here.

Screen Shot 2019-08-23 at 5.23.20 pm.jpg

Published: Billy Graham and Gramps

I’ve been fortunate enough to have my original post about my grandfather and Billy Graham posted on The Gospel Coalition Australia website and in the ‘Baptist’ Magazine of The Baptist Churches of New Zealand. It was a such joy to research and write that I’m really pleased to have it spread a little wider than my own family and circles.

“For the churches there were new people joining congregations all over the city. There was an increased vigour in evangelism and almost a mini-revival.”

You can read it on TGCA here.

You can read it on the NZ ‘Baptist’ here.

Billy Graham Quote

Growing Young – Prioritize Young People (and Families) Everywhere

This is post six 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 , four and five.


A church that confines the involvement of young people to their youth group won’t be a church that young people or emerging adults hang around too long. The whole church needs to be a place where young people and their families can participate.

This chapter in Growing Young makes the case for churches to focus on young people and their families in everything they do. Whether it be the Sunday service, the children’s ministry, the working bee, the missions team, or the cleaning roster. In every area of church life the question to be asked is: How can young people participate? 

yja2so4srtmdlfrskd5t_moulin-fisk

This is not just a superficial or patronising question. Well, it’s not meant to be. It’s a question that needs to be asked by churches and ministry leaders not so more young people come to the program or event but so that young people have active involvement in leading and shaping it.

This question becomes a church culture question: How is the church thinking about the participation of young people and families in the life of the church? 

“How do churches that grow young make youth and emerging adults a greater priority? When they think about budget, strategy, worship planning, programming, community life, theology, and all other aspects of church life, they think about young people. They intentionally pay attention.”

One of the most significant comments in this chapter is about the role of parents in a young person’s faith. It has been and continues to be found that “…parents still carry the most important weight in their kids’ faith development.”

This begs the question: What are we as Pastors and churches doing to encourage the parents to discuss faith within the home? 

Only three days ago I was in a conversation about how churches have a big focus on children’s and youth ministries, as well as a support focus with older people, but those going through the middle season of life, the parents and adults, are basically left to there lonesome.

“Research continues to affirm that the best predictor of a young person’s faith is the faith of their parents. That means the role of ministry leaders who care about kids also must include the care, equipping, and formation of parents and families…According to pastoral leaders, when parents are intentional about faith building outside of church, overall faith maturity and vibrancy within the congregation rises even more.”

It’s a no brainer for those in children’s, youth and family ministry to begin focusing more on the parents than the kids themselves. Continue to work and have programs in these areas but begin the culture shift through encouraging and engaging parents in their role as faith-builders.

So what could this look like in the life of a youth ministry?

  • Send an email or message that talks about what aspect of faith the youth ministry is focussing on at the moment.
  • Give parents a few questions to help them initiate faith conversations in the home.
  • Suggest a reading plan for the family to do together.
  • Run an afternoon tea where all the parents are in the room and they get to chat and find support with others in the same situation.
  • Start talking about how you are a church or ministry that partners with parents.

In regard to the other parts of this chapter, seeking to prioritise young people and families in the church. It might be a good time to review the ministry structure and evaluate where young people are involved and where they are not and what needs to be changed.

I have to say that this mind-shift is something that can take a bit of time. It is a cultural shift for a church focussed on a programmatic approach to children’s and youth ministry with little engagement of parents.


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

Book Review: The Pastor’s Kid

the pastors kid bookMy father is a Pastor.

My grandfather was a Pastor.

My great grandfather was a Pastor too.

When I was a boy I lay on top of my bed one night balling my eyes out.

The reason?

I didn’t want to be a Pastor.

Because of the heritage of my family I thought that to be a ‘Coombs’ meant you had to be a Pastor. I looked down the generations and saw that the first born son turned out to be a Pastor. Something at the age of twelve I didn’t want to be.

This was one of many unique challenges I can remember growing up as a Pastor’s kid (PK). Granted, this was more a phenomenon of our family’s rich Christian tradition. Yet, there are other challenges of living with the forever abbreviated title of ‘PK’ that others don’t face. And these challenges are the reason I find the book, ‘The Pastor’s Kid’ by Barnabas Piper an excellent book.

Piper has recently published this book about PKs for PKs, Pastors and churches. A book that “describes the unique challenges PKs have faced being the children of ministers”.

Throughout the book Piper seeks to serve individuals and churches by highlighting the challenges that come from being a child with a Pastor as parent. Through his own experience as a PK, and conversations with others, Piper gives insight into these challenges. As he puts it,

“The constant pressure to be something, do something, and believe something creates enormous confusion for PKs. And one of the main confusions is about who we are…”

After all, nobody chooses to be a PK, you’re either born into it or brought into it through the calling of your parents.

On one hand it is a privilege. The constant meeting of new people from different parts of the world. The hearing of what God is doing in different countries and places. The unconscious absorption of biblical teaching. And the community of people that you’re surrounded by. All these things provide the PK with tremendous opportunity to hear about God, what He has done, and what He continues to do.

On the other hand, it is a situation where the fishbowl of the local church can strangle the life out of you. Where there is an ambivalence to the truth because you’ve heard the stories so often. Church becomes a place where everyone knows of you, but no one actually knows you. Where expectations are laid on thick, from parents to congregation. And, of course, where you get to see the ugliness of sinners dealing with sinners from the front row.

Therefore, PKs turn out differently as they seek to find themselves within the life of the church and the world around them. Some stay within the faith, following in the steps of their parents. Others rebel, leaving the church behind for a life apart from God. And others end up finding God and their place in the world in a way that is their own.

Piper rightly highlights the need for grace for the PK, as they seek to grow from within the all-encompassing nature of church ministry. Grace that is experienced and shown, not just told. Grace that recognises that legalism and rules won’t help. Grace that recognises the PK has their own journey of faith-discovery and self-discovery. Grace that is therefore holistic, unassuming, respectful and full of hope for the PK as a person. Grace that comes from Jesus Christ, shown through the Pastor and the church.

A PK isn’t anyone special. They are as special as everyone else. But they do have unique challenges.

This book is a great conversation starter for you and your family. I’d strongly recommend you buy this book – read it and talk about it. It’ll help you as a PK. It’ll help you as a Pastor. And it’ll help you as a church member.


This book review was also posted on the Baptist Union of Victoria’s ‘Witness Blog’ on the 22/09/2014. 

Just Put It Down

I sat there at the table feeding my 8-month-old daughter porridge. Spoonful after spoonful I dutifully delivered to her the breakfast she was seeking to devour. She was enjoying it and I was enjoying feeding her. She sat there in her highchair, smiling away and looking at me intently, waiting for the next spoonful.

Photo: Anthro Brown Bag

At that point I naturally went towards my phone. This wasn’t to receive a call or check my messages. No, this was to open up my camera app and start putting those priceless smiles and eyes into digital format. After all, I had to capture the moment.

After taking about 10 photos, all very similar of course, I began to think something wasn’t quite right.

Here I was, sitting at the table with my living in-the-flesh daughter directly in front of me, both of us enjoying our time together and the connection we were obviously having in sharing breakfast.

But instead of simply enjoying the moment, I decided to objectify it.

I decided to take this precious moment and stick it in digital format, rather than continue to be mesmerised by my lovely girl. I decided to interrupt breakfast, interrupt our smiling and cooing and eating, and inject some foreign device into the middle of our eyesight all for the sake of capturing another moment on camera.

I don’t think that’s the way I’m meant to be living. I don’t think that’s the way we’re meant to be living.

The wife and I were travelling in Jordan once and we came upon a fellow-traveller who joined us for a desert safari trip for a few hours. He’d been travelling around the country a while and had decided not to take a camera with him. Instead, he asked us (and others he came across) to email him one photo when we were back home and when we had the chance. He didn’t want to be constantly taking photos of what he was seeing, he wanted to enjoy what was in front of him.

I’ve been taken by this idea ever since that trip. It’s counter-intuitive, almost counter-cultural.

Somehow we’ve become OK with interrupting the precious, special, fabulous, emotional (insert your adjective here) moments rather than get taken away with them. We’ve stopped enjoying life because we’re always trying to capture it.

This realisation won’t stop me from taking photos of my daughter, no, I’ll still want to take 10 photos in one hit. I’ll still want to interrupt great moments to video or digitise her for posterity. But what I will do is begin to think through it a bit more. Learn to live in the moment rather than watch it from the sideline. I want to keep engaged. I want to stay focussed for as long as possible. It seems I need to teach myself to just put the phone down. Just put it down.

What about you? Do you do a similar thing? Had similar thoughts? It’d be great to hear from you below.