Friday Favorites

Here are my a few of my favorite things from this week.

  • Blog Post: “How to Be Awesome” by Jeremy Mavis. This is cool graffic about goals for a small group leader if they want to be “awesome” and have an awesome impact on a kid this year. Of course Jeremy didn’t know that I am already awesome so the post was kinda irrelevant.
  • Blog Post: Sex and Your Kids” . This is a great new ebook about how to talk to your kids about SEX. Right now it is free, but I would grab it quickly as there is no telling how long it will stay that way.
  • Blog Post: “Be Still and Know”. This is my dad’s blog. It is a great reminder that we should take time each and every day to simply stop and experience God.
  • Website: This is a great site for games for your children’s or youth ministry. You can search my age, size of your group, indoor vs outdoor and more.

Ok, this week it is a short list. I will try to do better next week.

Matt N

Matt Norman

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Honesty is Not ALWAYS the Best Policy

In yesterday’s post  I talked about Jesus instructions in Matthew 18 on how we should handle conflict with a brother. Well, today I’m going to tell you when it might be OK to ignore this… sort of.

A few weeks ago a person I know posted something hurtful on my wife’s Facebook wall. I don’t think this person intended to hurt her, but it still hurt. So, I confronted this person. After all Jesus said I should “go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” And that’s exactly what I did. Well, it was a disaster. As a result of this many people that we care about got mad at us and even went so far as to unfriend us on Facebook.

While I did not say anything that I do not believe, I am sorry that I said it. I am sorry because of the pain and conflict that it has caused. I mean these are people that I have loved for over 20 years and here I was certain that they would not be speaking to me for quite some time. I have spent many happy days with these people and now I don’t know if I ever will again.

But, Jesus told me to….

Jesus said, “If a brother sins against you….” The key word here is BROTHER. When Jesus used this word he would have been talking about other Christians, other Christ followers. While the instructions here seem like sound advice for all situations, it is not. Jesus chose to make a distinction here. He clearly states that these instructions are how to handle an offense from a brother, from a fellow follower of Christ. In the story above, the person who had caused this offense against my wife is not a Christian. As such these instructions from Jesus do not apply.

You see, when we read the Bible we have to remember one thing. The Bible was written for believers… Now before you start typing your reply, read on… Instructions on how we should live our lives are in there for US. The gospel is for those that have not trusted in Jesus for their eternal life, but the rest of it is for us. Now, some may argue that because the Gospel is the central theme for the entire Bible, then the entire Bible is for believers and non-believers alike. I agree, but when it comes to instructions on how we should live our lives that stuff is written for believers.

So, if a brother sins against you, then do what Jesus said and “show him his fault.” However, if the person who has sinned against you is not a believer, then the best approach may be to just show them grace and move on.

Matt Norman

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If a Brother Offends You

“Honesty is the Best Policy”

Benjamin Franklin is credited with haven spoken these words. However, I think that the concept goes back a few years earlier than this. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus instructs us on how to handle a brother that sins against you. Jesus tells us that if a brother offends us that we should go to him and “show him his fault, just between the two of you.” This type of response is very rare in our society. This is not shocking because in our pride filled, self centered society such a response would be difficult, even impossible, for most people to manage. What is shocking, however, is how infrequent these words of Jesus are headed within the church. Let me share two stories of when I DID follow Jesus instructions and how it turned out.

A few months ago I was sitting in a meeting of some of the leadership of our church. In the course of the meeting Pastor said some stuff, or rather didn’t say some stuff that I felt like he should say. I won’t go into details as they really don’t matter. The bottom line was that I was offended when he failed to speak up for me in an instance when it would have been inappropriate for me to speak up for myself. I spent the remainder of the meeting silently fuming and waiting for him to speak up.  I left the meeting angry. As I drove home I had multiple conversations with Pastor, in my head. I was planning the conversation that I was going to have with him….later. The more I thought about the situation the angrier I became. Finally I decide that I just needed to call him. So I did. I told him what had happened and how I felt. Before I could even get rolling with the eloquent speech I had planned in my head he cut me short by saying, “Your right, and I’m sorry.” Just like that the conversation was over. We spoke for a few more minutes, but I felt better and he had a better understanding. I did what Jesus commanded and it worked.

Here’s another one. Back in March of this year I traveled to Fort Myers, FL with my family. I was there to attend a children’s ministry conference. My wife has an uncle that lives down there and every year we go down there to spend the weekend with him and his family and I attend this conference on Saturday.  This uncle is great man of God. One of the things I look forward to about this trip is talking with him about God and about our own spiritual journeys. Well, during one of the conversations I said something and he responded with something that was hurtful and offensive. I know he wasn’t trying to hurt me, but that doesn’t change the fact that he did. Well, I said nothing, initially. As we drove the 2.5 hours home I thought more about this, fumed might be more accurate. I let it stew for a while longer after we got home.   Then I thought about the recent experience with Pastor and about what Jesus said in Matthew 18. So, I shot him a private message on Facebook. Well, guess what. It worked he apologized, acknowledged that what he said was out of line and we made up.

In both these cases my relationship with these men actually grew stronger because of this conflict and resolving it as Jesus commanded. This is weird because it actually worked the way Jesus said it would. However, Jesus did acknowledge that it will not always work this way and gave us instructions for the next steps to take.

So, if you never gain anything else from reading my blog, gain this: do what Jesus commands in Matthew 18. Come back tomorrow as we learn that honest may not ALWAYS be the best policy.

Matt Norman

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Shiny Plastic People, Part 2

In yestarday’s post I talked about how people in the church tend to smile when they are at church. Often times this leads outsiders to say that Christians are fake and that we pretend that we don’t have any problems when we go to church. At the end of that post I asked how visitors to our churches could find out that we really do have pain and that we are willing to share it. I then promised to give that answer here. So, here is the answer:

Small Groups

Ok, I know that this may be a little to simple, but it is true. People in the church do have pain, and we do share it. However, moping around on a Sunday morning is not the way to do it. Trying to find someone to talk to among 300 in a weekend service is not the way to do it.  I am not trying to convince people that small groups are the way to do church. I am not going to try to tell people that if they are not doing small groups that they are doing  church the wrong way. That’s not the point of that I am saying. Really it isn’t about small groups. Rather it is what happens in small groups:


This is really the key to seeing through the appearant masks that church people where on Sunday morning. This is the key to seeing the pain that we feel. People sometimes say that church people are fake, but I let me ask those people a question. Do you share your pains with strangers? Do you make a habit of talking about your problems with people you just met? By saying that, because we won’t share our hurts with you, that we are fake you are asking us to do this.

If you come into my church on any given weekend I will be so excited to see you. However, we just met and I will not be sharing my struggles and pains with you. I would love the opportunity to get to know you and to establish a relationship that will lead us both to a place where we can share with each other. But, I’m not gonna do it on your first visit to my church. Likewise I don’t think your going to either. There is a level of trust that must be established before this level of intimacy is possible. This level of trust can not be established on your first visit to our church.

So, when you arrive at my church and I smile at you  understand that there are a few reasons why I smile:

  • Church is my favorite place to be.
  • My favorite people are there.
  • I’m happy to see you. I really am glad that you are there and that makes me smile.

There may be more reasons, but I think you get the idea. If you show up in my church and I smile at you please understand that it does not mean that I am hiding my pain. I am not pretending that I don’t have any problems. If you wonder why I smile, see the list above.

Matt Norman

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What is Family Ministry? Guest post by Mark Harris

 First, my name is Mark Harris and I have been a Children’s Pastor / Family Ministry Pastor for over 15 years. I’ve served in small churches and big churches inVancouverCanada,WisconsinandWashingtonState. I have been married to Cheryl for 12 years and we have 3 beautiful children:Preston, age 7, Jamisen, age 5 and, Karissa, almost 4 years old. Second, thank you to Matt for organizing this Family Ministry tour. (you can check out all the posts HERE… Matt)

Now, back to the question: What is Family Ministry all about?  I would argue that Family Ministry is all about Curriculum!! Now, before you agree or disagree, let me tell you a story because what I am saying is probably not what you think I am saying.

When I was in seminary, I was able to take several classes with Eugene Peterson (most known for The Message paraphrase, but his books on pastoral ministry are a MUST READ for those in ministry!).  Anyhow, one class I took was on “The Life of Jacob.”  At the end of the semester, I was asked, “Did my class on Jacob meet your expectations?”  Even I was surprised by my response.  I said something to the effect of, “Yes, it met my expectations but… well… I thought it was going to be a class about JACOB and I found more and more that it was a class about ME… and Jacob’s life was just the launching point into my life.”  The curriculum for the class was formed through the intersection of issues in MY life and what Scripture said about the issues in Jacob’s life. God’s Word impacted my life in practical ways as we explored what Scripture said about Jacob’s life.  Jacob’s life was the launching point into my life.

So what do I mean when I say that Family Ministry is about Curriculum?

In Family Ministry, it is imperative that you know the families in your church and what they are going through and then speak into those lives what scripture says about the issues they are dealing with.  All families deal with, for example, relational, financial and spiritual issues but a single parent family, a blended family or a more traditional family will deal with those issues differently. As you understand the issues specific to the families in your church, you will be able to speak into their lives what Scripture says… and the curriculum for your Family Ministry will be formed.  The “curriculum” will be different for every church.  The curriculum for Family Ministry will be formed from where God’s Word intersects with the lives of the families.  It is where scripture becomes practical for daily life in the lives of those in your congregation.

God’s Word will impact the lives of the families in your congregation when those families embrace what God says about the issues that they wrestle with.  Just as Jacob wrestled with God and thrived, families in your church will also wrestle with God and thrive.


Matt Norman

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