“We Have One”

Please help me in welcoming Blake Caldwell as a guest blogger. In this post Blake shares his thoughts as part of the Family Ministry Blog Tour. Check out all the posts HERE.
“We have one!” That’s the answer I got while being interviewed for a kids pastor position I eventually took at Faith Community Church in L.A. 

 Back it up a little…they were asking me what my thoughts were on Family Ministry.  I paused, only briefly, (this was almost nine years ago) and then I answered.  “You know, I really don’t know”.  Perhaps not the best answer for an interview, but it was exactly where I was at in the process. I loved their follow up phrase, which turned out to be more of an admission than an answer  “We’re not sure what it is either (family ministry), and we have one (a family pastor).”  Thank goodness we are further along than this!

 Perspective check…I have been doing kidmin for 24 years now.  The family ministry phenomenon had come around just shortly on the heels of the “what in the world is this pre-teen / tween thing!  (Back then the initial conversation was centered more around what to call it than what it really was).

 My good friend Gregg Johnson @ J12 discovered what I consider an incredible model for the tween phenomenon.  Jesus at twelve.  After all Jesus was one at one time – a tween!  Jesus first recorded words in scripture were, “I must be about my father’s business,” at age twelve in the temple. Gregg took the time to question, explore and imagine what this verse means and as a result has developed a model for tween ministry in the spirit of Jesus at twelve, which is sweeping the nation.  It was a process, and a worthwhile one.

 One weakness of our fast food culture is we want answers now, or at least a GPS to direct us to the bottom line. Better yet, an app.  We are not real comfortable with asking questions or process.  But I am convinced that God wants and allows us the liberty to explore and discover inside his word.  He is confident in our failing forward, which helps move us forward. We can often learn more through the process than if we were simply handed the answers.  The tweenager thing was not a surprise to God, and family ministry isn’t either.  Jesus was part of one – a family. 

 When we realize this we can extrapolate a lot of Jesus family upbringing based on Jewish family, culture and tradition.  We can explore and imagine what the creator of the universe would have been like as a son and a sibling. What did his mom and dad do for and with him to guide and direct him spiritually?  They were coming from the temple, weren’t they?  What was life like with his brothers and sisters? 

 The scandal of particularity (God entering time in a certain race, point in time, limitations, the incarnation etc.) places him into a traditional nuclear family. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.  I think it is dynamic!  It is both a picture of what family ministry can be as well as a representation of how we are to be in the family of God as well.  There are tons of implications here if only we take the time to explore them, ask questions and learn to apply our discoveries inside our own individual ministry contexts.

 Technology and social media have launched a dynamism that has allowed us all to share, interact and learn together.  Ministry models have become foundations for conversations, which have given us confidence to diversify, tweak and create hybrids, increasing ministry and ministry effectiveness across the country – family ministry included. This blog tour is an excellent example of this. However I find that the strength here is not in defining what family ministry is, the real strength lies in the dynamic relationships we can develop out of this conversation, as well as the exchange of ideas, and the sparking / birth of new ideas.

 What family ministry is, is better found in asking, “What are you doing to help reach, strengthen and partner with families?”  Exploring, engaging and interacting with others allows us to realize we are not alone, we all have something to contribute, and we are all called to the same task at hand. I don’t think anyone has a corner on this market.  We all have a something to contribute!

 Iron sharpens iron only when it comes together on angles.  We all sharpen each other as we share about family ministry from our own ministry perspectives. As we interact and explore what each of us is doing we can all learn, grow, explore and implement. I am engaged in such conversations already with others as we seek to see what a Sunday morning family service would really look like (no kids church for perhaps one of our morning services).  What family small groups would look like throughout the week (AWANA @ Home)?  What a streamed service would look like for families (online services for the family).  And how a family VBS would revolutionize our community (EPIC Family VBS, or FAM JAM).  I believe the answers for this and other family ministry potential lies in our collective communication.

I really don’t think there is one definition, but many!

Matt Norman

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Where Have I Been

I have often heard senior pastors refer the the summer as “the slow season”. It is all I can do to keep from busting out laughing when I hear this. If you are in children’s or youth ministry then you know what I am talking about. Now in defense of these senior pastors this remark is not a reflection of a collasal disconnect between them and the children’s or youth ministry. I understand that what they are refering to are the areas of the church that affect them more directly. From their pespective overall attendance does tend to be lower in the summer, giving does tend to be lower in the summer. For churches that do sunday school, their is somewhat of a break in the summer. However, for those of us in ministry to children or youth this is the busiest time of the year.

That explains my abscense from the blogosphere. First  there was youth camp that my church hosts where my wife and I, along with two amazing teams, cook food for around 160 campers, counselors and camp workers. Then, the very next day we loaded up the family truckster and headed on a road trip to Atlanta, GA. We spent the night there with a friend. The following morning we toured (briefly) Northpoint church before heading over to Rome, GA to attend the church whose kids I would be preaching to at camp.

(side note: if you are ever in Atlanta take the time to tour Northpoint. You will come away with many ideas and inspiration. Well worth the time)

Next it was on to Pell City, GA to Camp Sonshine wher we would spend the next 7 days in the wonderful world that is camp. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life but, alas, there was no internet.

Anyways, I am now back and with a new schedule at work I hope to be active in the world of blogging.  Stay tuned for some thoughts from camp.

Matt Norman

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What does Family Ministry look like within a Special Needs Ministry?

Today I must apologize to Meaghan Wall. This post was written by her for the Family Ministry Blog Tour. It was scheduled for 1 week ago, and I failed to get it up. I was fortunate to have dinner with Meaghan and others after the Orange Conference. I was impressed with her level of expertise in regards to special needs ministry. As I began planning the Family Ministry Blog Tour I knew that I wanted Meaghan to share her thoughts from the perspective of special needs ministry. With that in mind her is Meaghan Wall’s answer to the question, What is Family Ministry?

I’ve been working as a Special Needs Coordinator for almost six years.  In our church, the Special Needs Ministry is located under the Children’s Ministry umbrella so each year I would attend conferences with the other Children’s Ministry staff.  For several of those years we attended conferences based on Family Ministry.  I would sit through these conferences and attend various Preschool or Elementary breakout sessions wondering what in the world I would be able to take back and apply to the Special Needs Ministry.  After all, everything was geared toward the typical family in the church.  It definitely wasn’t geared towards the special needs family and their needs.

Over the past two years, the inclusion of Special Needs Ministry within Family Ministry has grown.  It is evident that Family Ministry is changing and churches all around are catching the vision.  This is no longer a need simply for the “typical family”; it’s a need of all families.  The Orange Conference, one of the front runners in Family Ministry, took the lead and developed a Special Needs Ministry track at their conference that has really pushed the idea of Family Ministry within the Special Needs Ministry into motion.  They’re giving voice to those who have been asking for ways to connect special needs families.  Below are some ideas that might help you bridge the gap between the “typical” family in Family Ministry and the special needs family.

When working with special needs families, the concept of encouraging and equipping parents to start the conversation of faith within the family is still the same; it just has to be executed a little differently.  You have to keep a few things in mind.  While these are not true of every special needs family, they are good things to remember.

  • Parents of special needs children are pulled in different directions between doctors, therapy, social groups, and support agencies.  They’re not looking for more to do and really don’t want to feel guilted into doing more.
  • Parents of special needs children are used to being on their own because they’ve been forced to fight for everything their child needs.  They’re used to people telling them no or being unwilling to work alongside them.  Partnering with the church for their child’s spiritual development may not be a natural inclination for them.
  • Parents of special needs children have a lot on their own plates.  You have to make their role attainable and show them how it really comes naturally in the way they’re already interacting with their child.

So how can you take this concept of family ministry and bring it into a Special Needs Ministry?  It really is simple.  It’s more about being intentional about what you do in the ministry and how you involve the parents.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Allow the parents to watch as the Bible lesson and songs are being taught to the kids.  This allows them to see how others are teaching and to learn the songs along with their children.  (We allow the parents to stand at the door, out of the kids’ view, and watch our Bible story and music time.  Since everyone who enters our classroom must be background checked, we do not allow the parents to physically enter the room.)
  • Send home a list of intentional questions and activities parents can do with their children throughout the week.  Make it simple and practical.  (Remind parents that you can talk to your children about faith issues even if you’re not sitting down doing a Bible study.  Show them how moments in the car, therapy sessions, or personal care times can be used to talk about faith.)
  • Encourage parents to be participating in something that is developing their own faith aside from that of their child.  This might be encouraging them to join a Bible study, a support group, or maybe even a book study with others.

All of this sounds very simple but needs to be intentional on our part as ministry leaders.  It’s really easy to simply provide childcare; however, it takes a lot more work and planning to invest in the spiritual development of the children and families we serve.  I encourage you to take baby steps and work towards the latter.  It’s definitely worth the investment.


Meaghan Wall

Special Needs Coordinator

Stonebriar Community Church


(For more information and resources for Special Needs Ministry, visit www.theinclusivechurch.com)





Matt Norman

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Family Ministry: Are you a Rock Star or a Tour Guide?

Today’s post is a guest post by my ministry friend Jeremy Lee. Here is his answer to the question, “What is Family Ministry?”


“Family Ministry” dances dangerously on the fine line of terms that everyone uses and no one understands.

In the Christian Community it hangs out with terms like “missional”, “relevant”, and “emergent”.

That is why Matt Norman’s Family Ministry Blog Tour makes sense.  It’s a chance to wade through the miry meanings of the term to glean helpful, practical, and real methods to impact families.

Family Ministry happens when ministers choose to be tour guides.

As a minister you can either be a rock star or a tour guide.

It’s tempting to be the rock star.  It’s not very hard either.  You are talented enough to plan a dynamic ministry, you are smart enough to write powerful sermons, and you are just goofy enough to plan the craziest games.

It is in you to command the attention of every one of your pubescent parishioners, and be the spiritual leader that they look to for guidance.

Everyone will cheer you for being the rock star.

You might even get a raise to be a ministry rock star.

But you were called by God to be a tour guide.

You have the great honor of standing alongside a student and their parents through the childhood and adolescent journey.  A great tour guide knows how to show the way, set up an adventure, and sit back to watch the action unfold.

Four years ago, I came across a strategic approach for parents to pass down their faith to their teenagers.  It came from watching the way God taught families to pass down faith in the Old Testament. I realized He focused on using symbols and ceremonies.

I created a Rite of Passage Experience for each grade that parents can lead their teenager through.  I worked hard to make it powerful without being overwhelming.

Here they are:

6th Graders- Preparation for Adolescense
7th Graders- Blessing Ceremony
8th Graders- Purity Weekend
9th Graders- Driving Contract
10th Graders- Money Matters
11th Graders- Family Tree
12 Grade- Manhood or Womanhood Ceremony

Just a few weeks ago, I put it all online for other ministries to be able to use.  You can see it all at www.parentministry.net

When you decide to be a tour guide, parents will become the spiritual rock stars, not you.  The home will become the center of spiritual activity, not the church.  And you will lead not just the students God has entrusted to you, but their families as well.

If you want to transform a student then help their parents build a Christian home that strategically passes down their faith.

Jeremy Lee (@gojeremylee) encourages parents of teenagers every day at www.parentzilla.com. He also loves student ministers, so he created www.parentministry.net and is developing www.uthmin.net


Matt Norman

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What is Family Ministry by Ethan Davis.

Today I am opening up my blog to Ethan Davis for his answer to the question, What is family ministry?  I hope you enjoy his post as much as I have.

Family Ministry & the Über Question … What?!?

If you have just tuned into the FamMin (aka Family Ministry) blog tour, we are a group of people who have come together to answer the question “what is family ministry?” We have varied backgrounds in ministry, age, experience,and almost any other qualifier. Bottom line – just a group of people seeking God and following the rabbit trail of a really great question.

To that end, here is my swing at the über question – and because I think being exhaustive is exhausting – I’m going to focus on one small aspect: awareness. Awareness is critical in Family Ministry and moves all types of ministry to higher levels of effectiveness.

Awareness is not something you do, but rather how you go about doing ministry. You can not program awareness. Ministry awareness goes beyond the activity to entertain deeper questions about ministry.

Three areas of awareness …

– Awareness of your own ministry -“Without good direction, people will lose their way …”

Who? What?

I have found that these three little questions generates a lot of conversation, confusion, and possibly conflict. Beware asking these questions (especially “why?”) without the relational capital necessary to sustain a trust building exercise. I have found it better to take it slow, be patient, and stay attuned to the readiness of the person you are asking these questions.

For the leader, don’t put undue pressure on your follower to answer these questions. Remember, you are the leader. You bring to the table clarity out of confusion because you are the leader.

For the follower, don’t press your leader with these questions when they are not ready. Again, think of the question every 3 year old asks over and over and over. “WHY? WHY? WHY?” = annoying.

– Awareness of other ministries -“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought …” Romans

Jen Hatmaker in her book, 7, quotes Shane Clairborne, “I had come to see that the tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor … ” Although this is a great quote and worthy of passing on in it’s own right, I’ve modified it for our FamMin conversation.

I have come to see that the family ministry tragedy is not that ministry staff do not care what’s going on outside their own ministry, but that ministry staff does not know what’s going on outside their own ministry.

– to know is to invest –

Especially if you are a KidMin staff person you have the tremendous burden of laying the foundation of future growth (no pressure). In only a few years your kids leave for youth ministry, student ministry, college, and subsequently adult ministry. Set the stage by preparing well for transitions and the larger ministry mission.

Do not assume anything; just because you have a common mission stated on the wall does not mean that the application is congruent down the hall. (Jim Collins)

Ask those leaders the Who, What, Why of their ministries (without being obnoxious … trust me I’ve tried being obnoxious, doesn’t work). They may not have solid answers and keep in mind that servant leadership involves way more listening than speaking. Look to what Jesus did: ask questions, tell stories, allow room for the disciples to discover.

Awareness of an other’s ministry takes time to invest through listening. Listening well requires a non-anxious presence and patience. These two attributes are cultivated through a process which brings me to my last area of awareness.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”

And now the most difficult awareness to have and yet you spend the most time with this person. Ask yourself the WHO? WHAT? WHY? You might just be surprised by the answers

Who has God called you to be? What has God called you to do in life? this season? right now? Why are you in ministry? Why do you exist?

You may need to pick up the phone right now and call a friend or ministry colleague to discuss these things. You may need to call a therapist because you know you have areas of your life that you feel stuck. You may need to spend some time praying for direction because you don’t even know where to begin with these questions.

I have found that clarity with these questions in my life brings a capacity to ask others the same kinds of questions. The greatest ability to listen without judgment has come when I know that my worth and value come from God and God alone in Who I am, What I do, and Why I do what I do.

Here are some great posts for further reading: http://www.livestransforming.com/http://careynieuwhof.com/2012/05/more-questions-fewer-statements/http://kidmin360.com/2012/07/09/how-have-healthy-childrens-ministry/

Thank you Matt, I’ve loved being apart and reading the FamMin blog tour so far. The contributions have been wonderful and my hope is that this conversation opens doors and spurs on more effective ministry.

Ethan Davis (@davisethan) is the Elementary Director at Park Chapel Christian Church in Greenfield, IN. He loves spending time with his wife Gayle (@davisgayle) and son Sam. He is a graduate of Johnson University (formerly Johnson Bible College) and Indiana Wesleyan University. Some of his many side hobbies include motorcycle riding, golf, anything technology and he is a bit of an information junkie via twitter.

Matt Norman

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