When the Parents Aren’t THE Parents

In yesterday’s post I talked about the fact that parents ARE the primary spiritual voice in a child’s life and how we should be helping them to make the most of this voice. However, as I got ready to publish that post I started thinking about my recent posts about the modern family(Ministering to Modern Family, What is Modern Family?). This got me thinking that maybe I should address yesterdays post in regards to the modern family.

Well, I am not going to define modern family. I already took a shot at that in the post mentioned above. What I do want to do is help to raise an awareness that family may not look like what we think it does,  or what we think it should. The basic principles that I mentioned in yesterday’s post will apply to any situation, but we do need to be intentional about considering the other forms that family takes.

Single Parents: There are unique challenges presented by having only one parent as the primary person raising their children. When you write materials, teach classes, plan events, or look for resources be sure to keep the single parent in mind.

Blended families: The rules that apply to two parents raising their own biological children don’t all apply when one of the parents is not biological. For me this is an area that I know little about as my parents are still married, my wife’s parents are still married and my wife and I are still married. This being true, we need to spend time with these parents. Learn from them what their unique needs are, then look for ways that you can equip, encourage, and empower these parents to make the most of their voice in the lives of their children.

Grandparents raising grand kids: Our world has changed a lot in the past 20-30 years. For this reason raising children is much different then when grandparents were raising their kids. Their are challenges that kids and parents face these days that didn’t even exist when these grandparents were raising their own kids.

Same Sex Parents: There may not be any of these families in your church, but there is a good chance that they are in your community. These families present a parenting perspective that most of us have never even dealt with. Personally, I have no idea how to approach this one, but we need to be intentional about including these families in our thought process as we plan and prepare.

Cohabitating Parents: There is a good chance that you have some of these in your church right now. Have you ever taken the time to consider the unique challenges that this family situation  presents when it comes to discipling their children?

Adoptive Families: A child adopted by a married couple comes the closest to typical of the ones listed here. This is so long as they are of the same race or ethnicity. However, even if they are, there exist unique challenges that parents raising their biological children may not face.

In our churches and in our communities there are families that don’t fit into what we would say is the Biblical ideal. This is to be expected because our churches are made up of people that are struggling to live according to the Biblical ideal. Our natural human tendency is to gravitate towards people that are like us. For me that means married, white, parents. Knowing this I need to be intentional to seek out the families in my church that don’t look like me.  I must be constantly thinking about how to connect with and minister to the families that are like the ones listed above. As I seek to equip, encourage and empower parents I need to be aware of the fact that not all families look like mine. At the same time, all families need Jesus and all parents need to be equipped.

Keep these families in mind when you are planning, writing, and searching our resources.

Matt Norman

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Parents ARE Primary!

There is a lot of talk these days about the fact that parents should be the primary spiritual leaders for their family. I believe that the Bible is very clear on this (See Deuteronomy 6). There are discussions, meetings and brainstorming sessions in churches all over the country on how we can get parents to do their job. Churches everywhere are reforming their ministries to children and youth in order to try to give back this responsibility. The church these days is all about giving the parents responsibility back to them.

I think it is great that we focus on giving this responsibility back to parents. It’s great for us to talk about parents BECOMING the primary spiritual leaders for their kids. I love that we, as the church, are looking at ways to get them to do what the Bible has told them to do. However, there is something that we need to realize.


The question we should be asking isn’t how we get parents to BECOME the primary spiritual voice for their kid, but rather how we can help them to make the most of this voice. As the children’s pastor at my church my kids are there pretty much every time the doors are open. But, even they are only there for 2-3 hours per week. That’s only 100-150 hours per year and that’s for the kid that is RELLY plugged in. By comparison kid’s will spend around 1400 hours in school in a year. Parents get on average of 3000 hours per year with there kids. Looking at these numbers it is obvious that parents ARE the primary spiritual voice for their kids.

As you can see the question isn’t how can we get parent to BECOME the primary spiritual voice for their kids. They already are!

  • This is true for the Christian parent working hard to help their child move closer to Christ and it is true for the parent far from God, leading their child in a different direction.
  • This is true for the parent diligently and intentionally working to disciple their children and it is true for the parent that brings their kids to church hoping that we will do the job for them.
  • Inside the church and outside of the church. Christian and non-Christian. Active member and pew warmer. Every person that is raising children is already the primary spiritual voice in the lives of this kids.

So, the question is no longer how to help parents BECOME the primary spiritual voice in their kids lives, but how to help them make the most of this voice.  How a parent uses this voice, or doesn’t use it, will have much more impact on their kids lives than anything we do in the church. For this reason we need to plan programs, create materials, and find resources that equip, encourage, and empower parents to use their voice to have a positive impact on their children.

Matt Norman

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Margin = Ministry: Time

In yesterday’s post I talked about the how financial margin can allow you to do more ministry and to do ministry better. Today I want to look at how having margin in your TIME can help you do more ministry and do that ministry better.

  • Sabbath: In the beginning God created everything. After 6 days, he rested. Now, God is all powerful. Somehow I don’t think he NEEDED to rest. He did it to show us the importance of margin in our time. Having margin in your time will allow you to get rest.
  • Energy: If you are in ministry, then I don’t need to tell you this, but ministry is hard work. If we want to do more ministry and do it better, then we need to have margin. This will allow us to get the rest we need so that we can have the energy we need to do the hard work of ministry.
  • Emergencies: The truth of ministry is that it is not a 9-5 job. It is an available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at a moments notice for whatever comes up kinda job. If you don’t have margin in your time, then you may not be available at a crucial moment when a person in your church needs you.
  • Creativity: Margin will give you more time to think about the things going on in your ministry. Plus with the added rest mentioned earlier will put you in better condition to be creative with the extra time you have.

This is just a short list of the advantages of adding a little margin into your schedule. For many of us in ministry this is not something that come naturally for us. For many of us this is something that we would have to be VERY intentional about. This might go so far as actually scheduling down time. You may actually have to put events on your calendar specifically set aside as down time.

I know that this may seem like much ado about nothing, but trust me this will be worth the effort that you put into it. Do this and you will find that your work time is more productive.

Matt Norman

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Margin = Ministry: Money

I was 32 years old when God called me into ministry. My wife and I had great careers and we were making GOOD money. We had new cars and a great house. The one thing we didn’t have was much margin. If you don’t know what I mean by margin, I’m talking about money. Margin is having enough money to pay your bills with some left over. Prior to being called to ministry we mad quite a bit of money, and we managed to spend ALL of it. We operated with the belief that each year we would make more money than the year before. And for about the first 10 years of our marriage this worked out.

Then God called me to ministry.


As we started the journey that would take us from career focused to ministry focused, we quickly found ourselves making around half as much money, and still unable to do ministry full-time. Now, please understand I am not blaming God, or my church or anyone else. I know that this is a direct result of our own bad financial decisions.


Why am I sharing this? Well, for the answer to this question I go back to the title of this post; Margin = Ministry. You see for my wife and I, living without margin is now preventing us from doing the ministry that we would like to do. Had we kept margin in our lives prior to being called into ministry, then we would be in a much better position to do ministry now. Instead our ministry is held back by a mortgage that is too big and a pile of other debts.


So, what does this have to do with you?


If you are not in ministry, then I would encourage you to make choices that will allow you to live with financial margin. My story proves that you never know what God might have planned for you in the future. Don’t let the devil trick into piling on debt for things that you really could live without.


If you are in ministry, then do all you can to have margin. This will give you the freedom to do even more ministry. Not only will margin give you the means to do more ministry, but it will also remove this stress from your life and from your relationships freeing you up, emotionally, to not only do more ministry, but to do it better.


I’d love to hear how you keep financial margin in your life, or what you are doing to move towards it.
Matt Norman

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What is Modern Family

In yesterday’s post I talked about ministering to “modern family”. Today I wanted to look at what exactly modern family was. To start let’s look at the popular TV sitcom with the same name.

  • Jay and Gloria Pritchett: Jay is a divorced man with adult children, now re-married to a much younger women. Together they raise Gloria’s son.
  • Phil and Claire: Claire is a stay at home mom, Phil is a busy real estate agent. They are married and parents to Haley, Alex and Luke.
  • Mitchell and Cameron: Mitchell and Cameron are gay men that live together and, together have adopted a Vietnamese baby.

Looking at the three families represented by this show there is only one that would stand a good of being welcomed and comfortable in most of churches. Most of our ministries are set up to only minister to families like Phil and Claire.

So, what is modern family?

  • Divorce: statistics say that 50% or more of marriages end in divorce. If this is anywhere near true, then we are going to have people in our communities and in our church who have been through or are going through divorce. For those of us that minister to children or youth this means that we WILL be ministering to kids and youth that have been touched by divorce.
  • Blended families: Where there is divorce there will be blended families. These families present some very unique issues in the area of parenting. Many of the rules that apply to parenting kids whose parents are married simply don’t apply to the blended family.
  • Single parents: Whether the result of divorce or of “illegitimacy” all around us are children who live with only one parent. In most cases this one parent is the mom, but there are some single dads out there raising there children.
  • Kids being raised by grandparents: In the communities we serve there are grandparents raising their grandchildren. There are a myriad of reasons that this happens. For some it may be because of the death of one or both of the parents. Maybe one or both of the parents are incarcerated. Maybe the parents have simply turned away from the children. Regardless of the reasons, these grandparents need our help. Their situation presents unique challenges that the “standard” family don’t face.
  • Gay and lesbian parents: Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, gay marriage or  any of the other issues related to this topic, the fact is that gay and lesbian adults are becoming parents all around us. There are a variety of ways that this transpires. For some it starts as a heterosexual marriage that ends in divorce and finds one of the parents in a same-sex relationship raising the children from the previous marriage. In some cases it is through adoption or in-vitro fertilization or even through surrogacy. Regardless of how it happens same-sex parents are a reality in our communities.
  • Teen Parents: Reports say that teen pregnancy is actually on a decline in some areas of our country. However, it still exists. Obviously a teen mother (and father) need the church to be a safe and loving place. This situation leaves us with a teen and parent that needs to be ministered to as well as the child.

I don’t think that anyone in ministry would say that these people need to be intentionally ignored. Yet that is exactly what we have been doing. While we have not made an intentional choice to exclude these families, we have neglected them. I don’t claim to have all the answers to the dilemma of ministering to the modern family. But, I believe the first step is to start talking about it. We can no longer ignore such a large piece of our community. Through this series I hope to give you some resources that can help. I hope to spur thought about this issue. I hope through this to help you and me better minister to ALL families, not just the ones that meet the Biblical ideal.


Matt Norman

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