From the Mouths of Babes

The night started like any other. The flurry of activity; getting my son from school, figuring out what to do for dinner and still managing to get to church in time to help set up for Wednesday night activities. While it started normal enough, it did not end that way.

The trip home seemed like any other. Kim and I were chatting about miscellaneous stuff while our son did his thing in the back seat and our 3 year old daughter was happily talking to herself, while we basically ignored her. Then it happened. For a brief instant my wife heard what my daughter was saying. She was reciting the pledge to the Bible.

You see Wednesday nights for us is Awana night and my daughter is a Puggle this year. Awana night starts with opening ceremonies that include the Pledge of Allegience to the American Flag, Awana Flag and then the pledge to the Bible.This is where my daughter had picked up the pledge to the Bible.

Now, I know that my daughter at 3 years old does not fully understand the pledge. She doesn’t know what it means to make the Bible “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” She doesn’t know what it means to “hide it’s words in my heart so that I may not sin against God.” But, the point is she is already “hiding it’s words in her heart” and someday this will help her to not sin against God.

Sometimes we may not think that the things we do are making an impact. However, for me this is proof that the things we do are sinking in for the kids we minister to. She may not understand what these things mean, but they are “hidden in her heart” and when the time comes they will be there for the Holy Spirit to use when she needs them and for that I am thankful.

Matt Norman

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Pray For New Skin

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wine skins will be ruined.” Luke 5:37 NIV

When Jesus said this, the people listening would have understood what he meant. See new wine is poured into the wineskin before it has fermented. During the process of fermentation the wine will expand. If it is in a new wineskin that is no problem because the new wineskin is still pliable. However, old wineskins have lost their pliability. Therefore, if you pour new wine into them, they will burst when the wine ferments and expands.

In ministry we often pray for new ideas. We pray for God to inspire us with a new way of doing ministry. We realize that doing the same thing and expecting different results is insane, so we look for something new.

This is a good thing. Even if ministry is going well, we need to constantly be growing as leaders. However, maybe we are praying for the wrong thing. Remembering what Jesus said in the passage above, what would happen if God really did give us new ideas? What would happen if He really did inspire us with a new way of doing ministry? Would we burst, causing all this great, new stuff to run out?

So, today I change my prayer. Today I ask God to give me a new Wineskin. I pray for God to change me before changing my ministry, or giving me new ideas or a new vision.

If you have been praying for new ideas, or a new vision for ministry maybe you have been praying for the wrong thing as well. If you have been praying for this stuff, but are experiencing frustration maybe you are praying for the wrong thing. See God knows that pouring new wine into an old wineskin will ruin the wineskin and will waste the wine. Because of this He will not give you new ideas or a new vision until you have become new.

Today I encourage you to change your prayer. Instead of praying for new ideas or a new vision for ministry, pray for God to make YOU new. Pray for God to remake you into a new wineskin. I am convinced that once He makes you new He will then fill you up.

Try this new prayer and let me know what God does in your life and ministry as a result. I look forward to sharing what God does in and around me and I look forward to hearing your stories too.

Matt Norman

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Pursuing Your Calling: Light of the World

  •   “You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14a

One of my fondest memories of childhood is from Christmas. I remember lying in my bed and looking out into the hall watching as the multicolored lights flashed down the hall. To this day there is something special about a Christmas tree with multicolored lights. The way that the tree lit up the hall outside my bedroom you would have thought that the tree was in the hall, or at least right at the end of it, but it wasn’t. The tree was actually down the hall, around the corner on the other side of the living room.

That’s the funny thing about light. A light that burns bright enough can light not just the room it is in, but can cast light into surrounding rooms as well. It’s almost as if the darkness runs from the light; almost as if the darkness was afraid of the light.

Jesus said that as Christians we are the light of the world. This statement was for all followers of Christ. So, a very basic step toward pursuing your calling would be simply to SHINE. So you may be asking, how do I do that, or what does that look like? Well, let’s take a look at what Jesus said in this passage.

  • “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”

This is speaks especially loudly to those called to ministry. In ministry we are out in the open, much like a city on a hill. Because of this people will notice if our light does not shine. The good news is, if our light does shine it will shine ever brighter and farther.

  • “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put I on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

If you have the Holy Spirit in you, then your light will shine, even as the lamp that has been lit will shine. However, that light can be hidden. If you place a lamp under a bowl, then it light will be hidden. In the same way we can hide our light, usually by actions that prevent people from seeing the light of Jesus shining through us.

  • “In the same way let your light sine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

If our light shines, then people will see our good deeds. However, the goal of people seeing our good deeds is that they would praise God, not us. As a person called to ministry we must take great care that as our light shines that we are constantly pointing people towards Jesus. Make sure that the good deeds we do are ALWAYS for the glory of God.

In pursuing our call, our light will shine. In a dark world, this light will get noticed. We must take care to always remember that what we do is for the Glory of God, not our own glory.

Matt Norman

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Are There Silos Within The Ministry You Lead?

A silo is a tall cylinder found on a farm. This is used to store stuff, and to keep it separate. I have heard a lot of talk about ministry silos within the church. If you’re in ministry, then you know what I am talking about. Maybe you have never called them that, or heard the term, but you have seen it. Ever see a youth pastor and children’s pastor fight over the budget? Or maybe over the use of the bus. This may be the extreme, but this does happen. It can be as simple as the leader of one ministry not being sensitive to the needs of another. To some degree this is only natural. I mean as a Children’s Pastor I believe that children’s ministry is the most important ministry in the church. However, the youth pastor feels the same way about youth ministry, and the worship pastor feels that way about the music ministry. While they are clearly wrong, I think you see my point. Sometimes the leaders of different ministries become so focused on their ministry that they become insensitive towards the others. This is what we can ministry silos.

Well, this is not just something that happens between ministries, if we are not careful this can happen within our own ministries as well. As a children’s pastor, of course, my perspective is that of children’s ministry. As such, I think of these kinds of things as they would look in children’s ministry. However, I believe that this could happen in any ministry.

In children’s ministry there exist many programs. This can include children’s church, Sunday school, midweek programming, VBS, the list goes on and on. In each of these programs there are people serving that are passionate about what they do. In fact sometimes these people can allow their passion for the program they serve in to over shadow the bigger picture. Well meaning, passionate people can become so focused on their program that they forget that there is more to ministry than just that program.

I want the people that I serve with to be passionate. I even want them to be passionate about their program. But, I want them to have a greater love for children that for that program. Here is a little test; as the people on your team if they love children more than they love their program. Naturally most of them will answer that they love children more. Then ask them if you were to end their program how many of them would be back next week to help. Many of them would probably say that they would be back, but the truth is many of them would not. If they would not be willing to help with the new program, then they love their program more than they love children’s ministry. This may seem harsh, but that’s how I see it.

What about if you asked a person to move from one program to another, do you think they would move? Would they be happy about it?

If you have silos within your ministry then I encourage you to take steps to bring everyone together as one children’s ministry team. I would love to hear some of the things that you do to build a sense of team among all of the workers within your children’s ministry.

Matt Norman

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Hey Pastor Matt!!

Recently I was thinking about a time the really meant a lot to me as I moved into children’s ministry. See, a couple years ago we held out first ever Winterfest. It was a lot of fun and a great event, but that is now what made it so meaningful. You see, while I was running around setting things up and looking for the emergency power strip that would mean the different between serving hot apple cider or not, I was reminded why I enjoy being a children’s pastor. During the last minutes leading up to the beginning of the event I went behind the worship center to our storage shed. While I was back there I noticed some kids playing on the playground outside our preschool building. Actually it was a couple of them that spotted me and yelled, “Hey Pastor Matt!” Then the others that were there turned and saw me and also yelled out, “Hey Pastor Matt!” I know it may seem like such a small thing, but it meant so much to me.

You see, these kids live in the neighborhood that borders our property. We have spent time praying for these kids. We have done things to try to establish relationships with these kids. We consider this neighborhood to be a mission field for us. So, to have these kids call me Pastor Matt was a big deal. To have them consider me their pastor is pretty cool. I know that they may not know exactly what all that entails, but it is still cool.

I know that this is just the beginning, but at least it helps me know that we are moving in the right direction.

Matt Norman

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