Friday Favorites: Cruisin’

As this posts publishes I am on a cruise ship somewhere in the Atlantic ocean. So, it only seems appropraite that today’s Friday Favorites be about cruising. This will be my 7th or 8th cruise so, even I can write this ahead of time (I used to make a lot more money before being called into minsitry so there was a lot more money for vacations. No regrets, just stating facts.) Anyways, so here are a few of my favorite things:

  • Food: For many crusie lines there is no additional charge for food. So, see something on the menu that you have never tried before order it along with something that you know you like. Want two of something, order two of them. I will be ordering 2 lobster tails along with my prime rib on Friday night.
  • Relaxation: There is something about being out in the middle of the ocean. The breeze in your hair (or in your face if you happen to have my hair cut), the sun in your face, the ocean water all around. It just a great place to chill.
  • Food: In the mood for  a midnight snack? Go for it.
  • People Watching: Ok, before you say a word I know you do it too. You think the mall is a good place for people watching, you should try a cruise ship.
  • Food: Did I mention the food?

Anyways, I hope you are having a great day and, as you read this, I hope that I am having a great day too.

Matt Norman

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Orange Conference Registration Opens Today

Well, today’s the day. Registration for the Orange Conference starts today. You can check out all the available details HERE. Do what you can to attend, you will not be disappointed. You can check out some of my own experiences from this years Conference in these posts.

Register today, start raising money and meet me in Atlanta in April. When you get there, send me a message via Twitter and I’ll get you a cup of coffee and let’s talk.
Matt Norman

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Too Busy Ministering to Minister?

Recently I had one of those self realization moments. It happened during a completely innocent conversation. I was talking with one of the people at my church and they asked the inevitable question, ” How are you doing?” Well, I gave the same answer that I was in the habit of giving,

“Busy, but good.”

That was when it hit me. I was almost always answering this question with a similar answer. The content may have changed a little, but the main point was always that I was BUSY. Now, what I was saying was definately true. As a volunteer children’s pastor with a family of four and working a full time job outside of the church I am busy. However, in that moment I meant no harm, but I know realize that I may have actually been hurting my ministry. For me it was simply small talk.  However, for the other person I fear that it may have sounded like,

“I’m too busy for you.”

That is the last thing I would ever want to communicate to ANYONE, but it doesn’t change the fact that I was.

So, are you doing or saying anything that might be telling the people around you that you are too busy, too tired, too important, or too anything else to minister to them?

Matt Norman

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Why I Came Back

Yesterday I posted about the much talked about exodus that happens from the church after people graduate from high school. There are many different numbers tossed around and many theories as to why this happens. I went on to share some of my story of how I fell away from the church as a young adult myself. I also promised to share why I believe I came back.

Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment was. The person asking the question was trying to trip Jesus up but he, unknowingly, gave Jesus an opportunity to simply life for all those that would choose to follow Him. Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. Jesus then went a step further and said that the second commandment was like it, “love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on these two things. In essence he was summarizing much of the Old Testament in these two short sentences.

So, what does this have to do with why I came back to church?

Through my many different experiences in the church, both good and bad, there was something that got planted in me that just didn’t go away. Throughout my childhood and youth and even into the period of time that I was away from church, I always loved God. Obviously when I was away from the church I was not loving him “with all my heart, soul and mind” but the love was still there. The other thing that I always had throughout my childhood and on to this very day was a genuine love for people. When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” I really did love them. Now, I was not great at this for many years and I still have a lot to learn, but I really did love others.

The last thing that was ingrained in me was a desire to serve. Even as a preteen and through my teenage years I served in the church. I remember helping with the offering as a preteen. As a child I remember going around after Lord’s Supper and picking up all the cups. On into my teenage years I helped found a puppet ministry that went on to win awards at puppet competitions and is, today, extremely well known in our area.

We could take time to analyze the programs that existed in the churches I grew up in. We could closely examine the relationships that I had with other people while growing up, but at the end of the day, the bottom line is that at some point during my childhood implanted in me was a love for God, a love for people, and a desire to serve.

What are you doing in your ministry to help kids learn to Love God, Love Others and Serve with Joy?

Matt Norman

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Post High School Exodus

Everywhere you look there articles, blog posts and research reports talking about the number of kids that leave the church after graduating high school. Depending on where you I have seen this number be anywhere from 20% – 30% to as high as 85%. This is a pretty high disparity in numbers.

Well, let me start by saying that being concerned with this is admirable. However, we can become so distracted by what a kid MIGHT  do in the future that we fail to minister to them NOW. When we do this we, in essence, are creating exactly what we so desire to avoid. So, what do the numbers really me?

It depends on how you look at it: Currently I work full time as an ER nurse in addition to my position as children’s pastor at my church. In my ER there is a radio that the ambulances use to call us when they are bringing in a patient. On a  number of occasions I have jokingly told people that if we stopped talking to the box, the ambulances would stop coming. You see, I had observed that every time the box spoke we talked back to it. And every time we talked to the box and ambulance would show up with a patient. Therefore, if we stopped talking to the box, then the ambulances would stop showing up. Of course this rational is completely ridiculous. No matter what we do with that radio, the ambulance is going to come.

What does this have to do with ministry to children and youth?

Well, there is a tendency to take this sort of approach when looking at some of this research. It’s something like this:

  • “The report shows that of the people that stayed in church, 75% of them were connected with more than one adult in the church. Therefore, we must seek to have more adults involved in our children’s/youth ministries.” This is a good thing, but I’m not sure that it is the ULTIMATE solution.
  • “According to the report, the people that stated in church spent most of their time in church worshiping with adults. Therefore, we must abolish all generational ministries and combine them into one worship service.” Ok, there is some value it combined worship opportunities, but it will not ENSURE that every child the comes through our ministries will stay in church.
  • “Based on the results of the latest study, 98% of those that stayed in church always wore black socks when attending. Therefore, the church should supply black socks for all attendees.”

Obviously some of this is meant in jest, but you get the point. I know that many people leave the church when they graduate from high school. I know because I did. However, I also know that many of them return, just as I did. In fact not only did I return, but God then called me into ministry.

Growing up I was in churches that had “age-segregated environments” and have also spent my share of time in the “main” worship service. In fact, I came to salvation in an adult service. I was in a church where there were adults, not related to me, that loved me dearly and invested in me. I was also in a church where many of the adults made it very clear, although never spoken, that they only tolerated my presence. And even their tolerance was only because my dad was the pastor.

Clearly spending lots of time in the adults service did not prevent me from leaving the church when I graduated. Clearly having adults that invested in me didn’t prevent me from leaving the church. Likewise I would say that being in the age-segregated environments and being treated with something less that love did not CAUSE me to leave the church.

So what DID I leave the church. For me it was much simpler than all that. Life just got busy. I was 21 years old married, going to college, living in a new town, had just built a house; life was just busy.

Ok, enough rambling for today. Come back tomorrow when I share the pieces of my childhood/youth that brought me back to the church.

Matt Norman

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