Monday, 15 December 2014

Cute, Inspiring and Pretty Clever

Every year St Paul's Church Auckland produce some awesome videos exploring the message of Christmas. I hope they produce this year  but last year's videos (and the ones from previous years) are worth a look,

"SPANK (St Paul's Arts 'n' Kids) produced a news style presentation of the nativity.

"SPAM (St Paul's Arts & Media) is a collective of individuals exploring arts and media and how it relates to contemporary expressions of spirituality and faith."

Last year's video is called 766 Christmases and explores Christmas through the eyes of some older church members. Check out their YouTube channel: 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Nativity Factor

The Nativity Factor is a short film competition from ITN Productions and Jerusalem Productions, which asks entrants to tell the story of the Nativity in a new and creative way. The competition has run for the last four years and previously offered a prize of 5000 pounds.

This year "in an effort to reach a wider audience and bring The Nativity Factor community closer together during the Christmas season"  they added a new twist to the competition.

"Instead of submitting individual short films, contestants submitted themselves to take part in a professionally produced short film. The winners joined professionals in the filmmaking field for a weekend in London, where they received the mentoring experience of a lifetime."

They have produced two great films this year focussing on the message given by the angels.

The first, called "The Audition" is clearly targeted for an older audience. It is kind of confronting in the starkness of the story telling but it has a powerful ending.

The second film #Nativity is quirky but still delivers a great message.

Check them out:

Monday, 8 December 2014

What do young people think?

Australia's largest annual 'temperature check' of teenagers has been released.

The Mission Australia Youth Survey contain much interesting and useful information about what is happening in the lives of young Australians.

“Mission Australia’s 13th national Youth Survey tested the views of almost 14,000 young people between the ages of 15-19.”

Some of the highlights identified by Mission Australia are:
  • Around 80% of young people ranked education and hard work as the top two factors they believe will influence their career opportunities in the future
  • Almost 50% of young people believe where they live will affect the career opportunities available
  • More than 1 in 3 young people aged 15-19 are currently looking for work (including part-time/casual)
  • More than 70 per cent of young people ranked owning their own home as a key aspiration, and most felt this was also achievable despite falling rates of home ownership in Australia.
  • Only 54% of males plan to go to university, compared with more than 70% of females
  • 1 in 5 young people indicated strong concerns about family conflict and depression, while concern about mental health, alcohol and drugs has continued to rise for the past two years.

What stands out for you in the Mission Australia Survey?

Check out the full survey here

Thursday, 13 November 2014

More Advent and Christmas Videos

Here are more Advent and Christmas Youtube Videos you might find of use. They were produced by the Catholic Diocese of Sydney. Their Youtube channel is called xt3. Check them out.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Innovation in School Ministry

The latest edition of Experiri is out!

Experiri is a quarterly newsletter presenting stories of innovation in school ministry from Australia and beyond. Each edition provides single page profiles of innovative strategies that have been developed in response to challenges or emerging issues for chaplains or others in the school, including Heads and Religious Educators.

It can be found, along with previous editions, on the Anglican Schools Commission Queensland website at

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Aussie Advent

What has snow got to do with Advent and Christmas in Australia? Very little! And yet many Australians continue with the imagery used in the northern hemisphere.

In one of our most popular blog posts ever Jon Kemp pointed towards a New Zealand resource that connects the Southern Cross with the Advent Candles. 

I wonder how you might bring a southern hemisphere flavour to Advent and Christmas this year, if that is where you reside?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Advent: In your face!

It is that time of year when those in school ministry start thinking about how they will unpack Christmas and Advent. I posted these videos last year and they are well worth a look. They help to challenge the stale image we have in our minds about the birth of Jesus and cut through to the starkness of the story.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Public Face of God

This year the Church of England has released a number of interesting and useful reports. 

'The Public Face of God' is a report into chaplaincy in Anglican Secondary Schools.  Despite the different context some of the findings will be no surprise to chaplains in Anglican Schools in Australia. One interesting finding was how chaplains use their time:

  • mostly on pastoral care, followed by supporting and leading worship and then by leading the schools spiritual life and embodying its ethos
  • missional, pedagogic and prophetic activities are all undertaken but, with some exceptions, are not the main focus of chaplaincy time
  • most do not teach, in contrast to their counterparts in independent schools

It seems to me that a shift is taking place in Australia away from the teaching chaplain to one whose main focus in on pastoral care, worship and Anglican ethos. However, I think a further shift is needed to that of chaplains being truly missional. While a pastoral chaplain may always be needed Anglican Schools could do well with a chaplain whose focus is on the wider school community. Some schools are already employing people in this role, as community chaplain.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby wrote the foreword for this important document. He says:
Less than a year ago I set out my concerns about the terrible impact of homophobic bullying on the lives of young people and I made a public commitment to support our schools in eradicating homophobic stereotyping and bullying.
Church schools begin from the belief that every child is loved by God. This guidance aims to help schools express God’s love by ensuring that they offer a safe and welcoming place for all God’s children. This is a task we are called to share and I know it is one our schools take immensely seriously. I commend this guidance as a contribution to that work.
Both documents can be downloaded here: 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

21st Century Faith Formation

"A connected and networked approach to faith formation." 

Check out John Roberto's website

While much of the language used here refers to congregations there is plenty that would be useful for chaplains seeking to form the faith of staff. I particularly like the trends section.

Also the links page is huge. I will probably spend a month trawling through all of that.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Postcard Radio

"Is Jesus still relevant? Is his value system workable? What does it look like to imitate and follow Jesus in south east Queensland in our time?" These are some of the questions that form the basis for the conversation that is Postcard Radio

I like a lot of what I read on this site. People asking honest questions and trying to make their faith work  in today's world with all its challengess. There are posts related to "A Big Year" but also many thought provoking, challenging and  sensible (this is good) blog posts. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Do not covet your neighbours markers! Buy your own.

This is the most "random" post I have ever made on this blog. It comes with a shout out to all the chaplains that work in Anglican Schools here in Queensland. At the meeting we had the other week I had my 200 pack of coloured felt pens (as we call them here). There was some pretty serious envy and coveting going on. I don't want to encourage that kind of behaviour so I suggest you buy your own. They are one of those things I have always had wherever I have worked and eyes always light up when I crack open the box (no seriously - people like them).

So there are lots of places you can buy them from but if you want to check out some other stuff go to Modern Teaching Aids. I used to love getting their catalogue and having a flick through. I would always discover something I needed but just didn't realise it existed. Teachers often know about these web sites but sometimes chaplains aren't in on the secret. So go there now. Just make sure you have few hours up your sleeve. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Singing the Creed

John Dickson tweeted a request to Hillsong earlier this year asking that they put the Apostle Creed to inspiring music...and they did. You can read a little bit about the creation of this at the Hillsong website. 

I love what they had to say in the opening paragraph:

"Words are powerful. They have the potential to bring us together and the potential to tear us apart. Since the beginning of time, words have carried an incredible amountof weight. In an address to the Canadian Parliament, President John. F. Kennedy declared, “What unites us is far greater than what divides us”. He sought to bring together two countries in agreement; focusing not on their differences, but on that which might bring them together. How much more is this declaration true for those who believe in the name of Jesus? (Matt 18:19-20)"

The video created is excellent and could be useful for worship.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Feeding the body, mind and spirit

 Paul Gooder

Paula Gooder provided amazing keynotes and input at the recent Anglican Schools Australia Conference in Perth. In particular I found her input on spirit, soul, body and mind to be extremely useful in thinking about the difference between the commonly used notion of spirituality  and how Christian's might think of spirituality in terms of the Bible.

Paula has a website with a variety of resources. There are some recordings of recent talks as well as some handouts from different days she has run. I notice that the notes from the University of Gloucestershire Bible and Spirituality Day are along the same lines of what she did in Perth. They are worth a look. I also intend to check out her books. She really was an outstanding presenter and the content was fantastic.

Friday, 22 August 2014

What's up with Alan Watts?

Entrancing. Seductive. Incisive. (Sophistry!). I have to say I am fascinated by the phenomenon of Alan Watts videos on youtube. You may have never heard of Alan Watts but there is some chance you may have seen a video on Youtube with his authoritative, calm and yet somewhat urgent voice in the background to some mesmerising images. I find the videos compelling, his voice and ideas intriguing. I agree with some of what he says, I passionately disagree with some of what he says. I suggest you Google him but here is my disclaimer: They aren't Christian videos and his words, the images, are seductive. They aren't made by him, people have taken his lectures and created a kind of Alan Watts genre video. He started out as an episcopalian and ended up a Buddhist. They could be useful for starting class discussions or chapel but...well use at your own risk. There is a chance anything you say after his videos might seem...bland? Are there any videos out there explaining the Gospel like this?

Here are a few:

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Innovation in School Ministry

Experiri is a quarterly newsletter presenting stories of innovation in school ministry from Australia and beyond. Each edition provides single page profiles of innovative strategies that have been developed in response to challenges or emerging issues for chaplains or others in the school, including Heads and Religious Educators.

It can be found, along with previous editions, on the Anglican Schools Commission Queensland website at

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

"Spirituality" - Weasel word or glittering generality

I love the word "spirituality". I am also kind of uncomfortable with it.

I am uncomfortable for two reasons. Firstly I feel like it is the word I use to talk about religious and faith stuff in a way that is palatable to people who don't really like religion (the r word). I don't feel guilty about this, after all I am just trying to keep lines of communication open. But when this is combined with my second reason for feeling uncomfortable, I have some questions. 

My second  discomfort has to do with defining spirituality. Spirituality is one of those words that can mean a lot of stuff. It is a warm word that people have some vague positive feelings about (or do they?). We often talk about and around its territory but rarely do we tie it down. Even when we do, we tie it to more fuzzy or unclear concepts. One popular way of describing it, is to say it is about the relationships we have with God, others, our self and creation. But what about these relationships? How we feel about them?  How important they are? What we think about them? I guess the answer would be yes! 

A list of things covered by a definition of spirituality might include:
  • Beliefs and ideas about existential questions – including purpose of life, human identity
  • Self-view /personal identity/self-knowledge
  • Inner feelings
  • Feelings of awe, wonder, mystery, transcendence
  • Relationships/community
  • Creativity – imagination, inspiration, intuition, insight etc.
  • Personal values
  • Understanding of self, society – a sense of self awareness.

I love all of these things. I think they are important. I think we should explore them with young people. But are they the sum of spirituality?

Let me change tack here. What if by using the word spirituality we are not communicating what we think we are? Ten or more years ago everyone in my 'religious' world seemed pretty excited by the idea that people said: I am spiritual but not religious. This seemed ok with us. We didn't want to be 'religious' either (depending on how you define the word) and we thought we had a lot of stuff about spirituality to share. But what if "I am spiritual but not religious" actually meant "I want to find my own path, please go away person with religious agenda". Could people representing organised religion using the word spirituality a lot change the meaning of the word or how people feel about it? 

In 2010 (and for eight years prior)  the Mission Australia Youth Survey had a question asking young people to rank what they valued from a list of ten things. They were: family relationships, friendships, physical and mental health, school or study satisfaction, being independent, feeling needed and valued, getting a job, spirituality/faith, financial security, making a difference in the community.

The data (which apparently was pretty consistent for nine years) was aggregated and included items ranked one, two or three by respondents.

Only 13.6% of young people in 2010 had spirituality/faith in the top three positions. Below it were financial security at 13.5% and making a difference in the community at 6.2%. Getting a job was above it at 16%.

I am sure there are lots of ways to look at this data but it certainly didn't seem to indicate that young people valued spirituality. Or did it? What if they just don't like the word? Or know what it means? 

I  do think spirituality is an inherent part of human beings. While I don't think we will ever define it well, I do think we need to think about how we engage young people with what spirituality is about. Using spirituality effectively as a 'weasel word' or 'glittering generality' may have a limited life. I don't think there is any research on can you do some for me?

Ask the young people around you what they think about the word spirituality? Is it a positive word? Do they like it or not? Ask them if they are spiritual? And what this means?

What do you think they will say?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Are Australians spiritually hungry?

A lot of different ideas about spirituality in this article in the Sydney Morning Herald last December.

I love this quote from David Tacey:

"We are such a radically secular culture, so materialist, that to talk about the transcendent is almost un-Australian"

Do you agree with this?

Read more:

Friday, 18 July 2014

Formed Faith: Education for Everyone

'The Formed Faith website is a place to share ideas, resources, events, programs and anything else that will support parishes and individuals in the growth of their Christian faith.  It's been developed by the good people at Ministry Education for the Anglican Church Southern Queensland but if you're from elsewhere feel free to stop by and have a look around!'

Faith education for staff in Anglican schools is an important element in the development of Christian ethos. The resources and opportunities being created and promoted by Jonathan Sargeant, the new lay education officer for the Anglican Church Southern Queensland, will provide another source of support for chaplains in this area. Check it out!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Christian values in schools

The National Society which is responsible for resourcing and supporting Church of England and Church of Wales schools identified 15 values they see as important in Christian education. Their Christian Values for Schools website outlines these values and provides a range of resources for exploring them in schools.

Each value is outlined and has a theological background with Biblical references to support its meaning. Their are accompanying questions, cameos and videos to further assist those wishing to instil the value in the areas of ethos, worship, curriculum and leadership.''

In the resources section there are training units to help school introduce the values and implement them in their context.These includes notes and well made powerpoint presentations.

Although this material all comes from a British perspective much of it could very easily be adapted and used for not only Anglican schools but Christian schools in Australia.

This is a best of "a few smallish fish" originally posted by Stephen Harrison

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

What's in the Bible?

Another great resource suggestion by Andrew L! 

What's in the Bible a DVD series comes from the creator of  VeggieTales®, Phil Vischer. It is designed to walk kids and families through the entire Bible. At this stage DVDs 1-6 go from Genesis through to 2 Chronicles with more to come. There is also a curriculum attached to the videos.

This material is clearly geared for young students, but just like Veggie Tales, older students may also find it amusing if presented in the right way. The videos are certainly well made, engaging and fun.

There is a blog attached to the website with lots of interesting content. Of particular note (for next year)  are the posts about doing Lent with children. 

This is a best of "a few smallish fish" originally posted by Stephen Harrison

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ministry with young people: Tons of free resources!

Looking for a website with “tons of free resources", try The source for youth ministry

This website is jam packed full of all sorts of helpful resources for youth ministry including: games, team builders, activity ideas, movie reviews, youth culture windows and much much more.

One of the things I love about this website is the selection that goes into much of the material. Many websites are full of stuff you can’t use. This site has a lot of good material

Although this site emerges from an American context it still contains a lot of useful resources but like anything there is stuff here you will probably hate and disagree with. 

One part of the website of particular value is the youth culture window that explores issues  dealing with young people, youth culture and faith.

This is a best of "a few smallish fish" originally posted by Stephen Harrison

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A video for every book of the Bible

Students these days are so visually oriented, mere words don't cut the mustard.

Bibledex features short and quirky videos on every book of the Bible presented by theology experts (so they claim).  There are varying styles and lengths but a treasure trove of possibilities, growing all the time, is on offer.

There are even videos for themes and particular bible verses.

It's well worth a browse.  It's highly likely you'll find yourself  bookmarking the site for further use.

You can find it here

This is a best of "a few smallish fish" originally posted by Jonathan Sargeant

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Laughter: Important Chaplaincy Tool

How important is laughter? Does it fit with the good news of the Gospel? Did Jesus like to laugh? When people think about church, do they feel it would be a joyful place where laughter would be welcome? How come children laugh so much more than adults?

All these questions could form the basis of dozens of blog posts...but I will give them one. Actually I probably won't answer any of them except the first...and even then...

I was once told, after having won a preaching prize, that it would have been better if I had cut out the was frivolous. Better? For who? Certainly not the people listening. I like to give a serious and challenging message and to do so I need to use humour. With adults you could get away with using no humour...but with children and young people? It is like having a toolbox without a hammer or screwdriver.

In my opinion If you are working with children and young people (and adults) using wholesome humour and providing opportunities for laughs should be a priority for a whole lot of reasons.
  • laughing makes people feel good 
  • it helps keep people focused on your message
  • it helps people connect with what you are saying
  • it breaks down barriers people have to hearing
  • it helps people remember what you said
  • it provides light and shade
  • people like to laugh

I am sure there are peer reviewed papers or weighty tomes somewhere extolling the virtue of a good laugh. But who needs them? See the first and last on the list above. People like to laugh and there are plenty of great ways to do it. Sure it can be risky and frightening and you can fall flat on your face...but it is worth the risk. If you can't be humorous yourself use other people's humour. 

So. Here is a video. I saw this today at a school assembly. Thank you to the student who showed it. The thing I really love about this is that it is giving a simple message in a fun, creative and funny way. People are more likely to hear a message if they also get to laugh while hearing it. 

So watch and can make your school community laugh while sharing the good news with them. Share below some of the ways you have done this.

Kid's President: 20 things we should say more often

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Innovation in School Ministry

The latest edition of Experiri is out!

Experiri is a quarterly newsletter presenting stories of innovation in school ministry from 
Australia and beyond. Each edition provides single page profiles of innovative strategies that have been developed in response to challenges or emerging issues for chaplains or others in the school, including Heads and Religious Educators.

 It can be found, along with previous editions, on the Anglican Schools Commission Queensland website at

Monday, 26 May 2014

Anglicans on Pentecost

Pentecost is Coming! While looking for some video resources for Pentecost I came across this video posted by Lambeth Palace last year. It may or may not be something you would use with students (it is long and heavy on speaking) but it has a great message about the meaning of Pentecost. While you are on Youtube it is worth checking out some of the other videos posted under the LambethPalace account. More food for thought than useful resource though. Enjoy.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Week of Prayer for Reconciliation

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) provides Australia with a nationwide focus on reconciliation. The dates (27th May and 3rd June) commemorate the significant anniversaries of the 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo Decision. 

It is a time for all  "Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements and to explore how each of us can join the national reconciliation effort".

The theme for this year is: Lets walk the talk.

There are lots of resources, events and fact sheets on-line:

This week is also celebrated as the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation and this year will be the 21st Anniversary.

ABM's reconciliation prayer resources can be found here: 

If you are in Queensland you might like attend one of Queensland Churches Together Indigenous Peoples Partnership (CTIPP)Reconciliation services.

You might also be interested in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland's Social Responsibilities Committee's Christian study guide aboutConstitutional reform to recognise Australia’s First Peoples.

(Thanks to Jen Basham and the Social Responsibilities Committee for these links)

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Climate Change and Christian Mission

One of the Anglican Marks of Mission is to "strive to safegaurd the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth". With this in mind, ABM has produced an educational supplement focussed on climate change. It has links to some useful resources including story and video and ties it all into the work ABM is doing with the Millennium Development Goals.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Are Australians still reading the Bible?

McCrindle Research has just released a report titled "Bible Reading Not Dead in Australia". It uses Australian data from along with ABS, NCLS and McCrindle survey data to paint a picture of Australian engagement with the Bible.

Some interesting facts they throw out as a summary include:

1. Less than  half of all Australians own a Bible.

2. The "Sermon of the Mount" is Australia's most accessed Bible passage.

3. Online reading exceeds hard-copy reading. If each of the Bibles Australian adults personally own were read even 6 times per year, there would still be more Bible reading conducted online.

Sadly they note that:

"Australians are less engaged with their Bible reading than residents of the US and residents  of the UK. The Top 10 online Bible-reading cities in the US have an average of 14.2 page views per resident and the Top 10 in the UK an average of 11.5 page views per resident, compared to Australia’s Top 10 cities that average just 2.1 page views per resident."

Is Australia the most secular nation on earth? The report may be titled "Bible Reading Not Dead in Australia" but it doesn't seem to that alive either when compared with other places.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Easter on Video

I love seeing the creative ways people present the Easter story through video. It is getting to that time of year, so here are some of my new favourites.

An Easter Story

This video is wonderful and has a beautiful comic touch. To me it reveals the real humanity of Jesus followers. I particularly like the quote: Well, everyone's faster than Peter. This one is made by Invision Media and sold by Worship House Media

Hyper Pixels Media also have some interesting Easter videos.

Easter Video - Resurrection

I like the dramatic intensity of this one. The graphics are in a very particular style that I am not overly fond of but I love how the music is like an action film preview.


...and I had to throw in the Jesus social media video. This one always affects me.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Making Holy Week A Little Holier

"Holy Week - that's like your grand final." A teacher I used to work with would say this as Easter approached every year. And she was right. Holy Week should be the highpoint of the year for Christians. It should be significant, different and powerful. 

Growing up I loved how my church celebrated Holy Week. It began with donkey rides around the church on Palm Sunday and from there walked liturgically with Jesus through his last week: death, resurrection, the works. It was done with energy and feeling and it had a huge impact on me. I always remember feeling the desolation when the altar and sanctuary were stripped bare while reading Psalm 22.

I think many churches do Holy Week in a more contemporary, but less powerful way these days. Why can't we have both?

I found an article about Making Holy Week a Little Holier at Clayfire Media. There are lots of interesting ideas there...and some things that Anglican Churches used to do. It draws on a range of traditions and styles. There might be something new you like here but it also might encourage you to dig deeper into the liturgical history of your own church to make Holy Week just that bit holier this year.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Journey Box Media

Journey Box Media  have some interesting videos that could be used for Easter worship services. Many have a beautiful and gentle quality to them. Others pack a punch. Not the End is one of my favourites.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Jesus in the wilderness

Check out this beautiful little video of cartoons of Jesus in the wilderness.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A mission shaped Lent

Lent provides us with an opportunity to renew our focus on God. There are so many different things that people do to help them pray, reflect and act during this season leading up to Easter. If you haven't thought what you might do over the next forty days (starting this Wednesday) why not check out the amazing Lent App that the Anglican Board of Mission has developed.
In their own words:
ABM is excited to announce its new Lent Smartphone App!
The ABM “Lent 2014” App provides you with a reflection, prayer and action for every day of Lent, starting today!
This Lent you are invited to travel (virtually) around the world with ABM exploring the many facets of mission: reconciliation, building amity, loving our neighbour, embracing kindness, loving justice and walking a way of peace.
Over the 40 days of Lent the App will introduce you to some of ABM’s partners and how they are involved in making God’s love known upon earth, and what you can do to join them in mission.

Download the ABM Lent 2014 Smartphone App in the Apple and Android stores:

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Praying in Colour

Prayer is so much more than words spoken or written, when it flows from the heart of a person. Educators know that there are many ways that people learn, experience the world and express themselves. This is also true of prayer. 

Personally I just can't keep my mind still enough to pray inside my head for any length of time. I need to write something down. Other people might find it helpful to sing or walk while they pray. Much depends on who we are and how we like to express ourselves. 

One of my mini passions has been to help young people see that there are many different ways to pray. For this reason I really love this web page that I discovered only yesterday (you discover cool things when you hang out with junior school religious educators). 

Praying in Color provides a clever way to help people pray while being colourful and creative. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Animation Chefs

Chaplains are increasingly trying to use technology to communicate with students during worship and religious education. One way of doing this is to create your own movies and animation. This once would have required specialist equipment but today it is all at out fingertips and in our pockets. But where can you learn how to use these resources? One place to start is Animation Chefs. They have pod-casts and lessons on how to do all kinds of amazing things. While there target audience is mostly kids it would also be helpful for the chaplain hoping to pick up a tip or two.