It’s Not My Job (Entirely)

As a pastor to children and youth I often struggle with what exactly is my job. I believe the great commission calls me to spread the gospel and to make disciples. As a pastor to children and youth I do believe that part of this means reaching children and youth with the gospel. But, I also believe that parents are intended to be the primary disciplers for their children. So, what is my job?

Equip Parents

I do believe that parents are intended to be the primary spiritual leaders for their kids. The truth is some simple math will prove that, in most cases, they ARE the primary influence. On average a kid will attend around 40 weekend services per year. For some students you may add 40 midweek services. For the REALLY plugged in you could add another 40 hours through special events, camps, etc. Total that means we (the church) have about 120 hours per year to influence a kid, for those that are totally plugged in. For most it is less than that. By comparison, parents have around 3000 hours per year.

Obviously parents ARE the primary influence in a kids life. This can be good or bad. As a pastor Ephesians chapter 4 says that part of my job is to equip God’s people. Well, parents are God’s people too. So, if parents have so much greater potential to influence their kids, and I want to have an impact in the lives of children and youth, then I need to work with parents to help them make the most of their 3000 hours.

Equip Leaders

Jesus is God. But, during his time here on earth he was also fully man. Let’s face it. Jesus was a much greater man than I am, or ever will be. While He ministered to thousands, he chose to disciple only 12. If Jesus chose 12, then who am I to think that I can disciple any more than that? So, if I want the kids in my ministry to be discipled, in addition to equipping parents, I need to equip other adults to minister to kids.

Reach the Lost

The great commission is for all of us. We ALL have a personal responsibility to reach lost people. But, as a leader in the church, I also  have a responsibility to set up opportunities for us, as a church, to reach the lost. Even in an ideal world where Christian parents are discipling their children there are many kids and parents out there that have not received salvation. These need to be reached.

Share the Gospel

As hard as it is to believe, there was once a time when people didn’t know that smoking was bad for you. Today people may deny that it is bad for them, but they have heard it. Not that long ago I would have said the same thing in regards to the Gospel, at least in America. While many may deny the Gospel, I would have said that just about everyone in America had been exposed to it. This is not the case today. There are many that have not heard the Gospel, even in America.

So, part of my job is to set up opportunities to share the Gospel. Naturally I have a person obligation to do this, but as a pastor to children/youth I also have a professional one. It is my job and my privilege to plan events and opportunities to tell people that Jesus loves them and died for their sins.

More

Certainly this is not an all inclusive list of all that it means to be a pastor to children or youth. But, I do think that much of the work of the position stems from these things.

Matt Norman

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No Such Thing as Just One

I used to smoke cigarettes. There I said it. Now, it has been many years since I quite. In fact I no longer have any desire to smoke and really don’t even think about it. However, that was not always the case. When I first quit there was a period of time when I thought about it quite often. If I was having a bad day at work, I would think about having a cigarette. If it was a slow day at work and I got bored, I would think about having a cigarette. If I was drinking a cup of coffee, I would think about having a cigarette. I think you get the picture. During this time there was one thought that kept me from going back:

“There is no such thing as one cigarette”

This thought successfully kept me from smoking long enough for me to leave the nasty, unhealthy habit behind. Now, years later I no longer even think about it. I often tell people that are trying to quit that this is one of the keys to success. Maybe this concept applies to more that just smoking. As I think about this I realize that there are many areas of our lives where we tell ourselves, “just one.” This is particularly true in areas of temptation, weakness and self discipline.

  • I’ll skip my quiet time, JUST ONE time.
  • Just one piece of cake.
  • Just one quick look.
  • I’ll sleep in and not exercise, JUST ONE time.
  • It’s just flirting, JUST ONE time.
  • JUST ONE drink.
  • JUST ONE…

You get the idea. When I was smoking this truth helped me keep from smoking cause I knew how easy the one became more than one. It’s the same way with any sin or temptation in our lives. When we submit to “just one”, then we are taking the first step down a slippery slope. What starts as JUST ONE quickly becomes a problem, or even an addiction. Each time we give in to JUST ONE it becomes easier. Each time we give in to JUST ONE it becomes harder to resist.

Maybe you don’t struggle with smoking. Maybe you don’t struggle with drinking. Maybe you don’t struggle with porn or being unfaithful with your spouse. I don’t know what it is you struggle with, BUT, what I do know is that you have struggles. Whatever it is that you struggle with remember these words, there is no such thing as just one.

Matt Norman

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HELP, My Little Boy (or girl) is a PRETEEN!

I knew that somewhere between the beginning of 6th grade and graduating from high school my son would change. I didn’t know that it would happen before he got his first report card in the 6TH GRADE. I mean he is still a good kid and all. It’s just that he seems to think that some how, magically he started living by a different set of rules the day he entered 6th grade. Somehow he thinks that since he is a middle schooler now, that the rules are different for him. Now, he’s not rebelling. He’s not being openly defiant. It’s much more subtle than that.

For instance he used to understand that when he was told to do something he had to do it right away. Now he works with his own agenda. He will do what he is told, but he thinks he can delay it and do it when he wants to. Another thing is that he now thinks that everything is negotiable. Where did this notion come from? I am open to talking about stuff with him, but he must FIRST be obedient, THEN we can talk about it if he thinks he has a better way.

So, what can we do about this?

Well, middle school is a tough time for most people. They are trying to prove that they have grown beyond childhood yet they don’t have the knowledge and discipline that a high schooler has gained. I will not claim to be an expert on this as my first born is only just now starting 6th grade. But, here are some things that I know will help:

  • Plan time with him (or her): We are all very busy these days. If we don’t have a plan for spending time with our preteen during this critical transition time, then we will find ourselves looking at a high schooler that we don’t know.
  • Keep the lines of communication open: Talk with your preteen. Talk with them about little stuff and big stuff. Talk with them about stuff that is on their mind or stuff that is on your mind. Talk with them about stuff that they are struggling with. Talk with them about stuff that you are struggling with.
  • Give them some responsibility: Much of the difficulty of middle school comes from a desire to prove that they are no longer children. Give them opportunities to prove this. Then hold them accountable. I’m not just talking about making them mow the lawn or take out the trash. Gaining chores may be an unfortunate reality of getting a little older, but it is not the kind of independence or responsibility that your preteen is seeking. Chores are good, but look for some other way for them to prove themselves as well. 

I’m sure there are many words of wisdom that could be shared. And I am sure that as I work my way through this time with my own son that I will learn a lot and I will share that learning with you. In the mean time I’d love to hear anything that you have learned by going through this transition with your child.

Matt Norman

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Husbands, Be Men WORTHY of Respect

Yesterday I spoke to wives about how the Bible says they should respect their husbands. I told wives that how they behave toward us men is not about US, it is about THEM. If you are a reading this and you have not read the previous posts that I have written to husbands and wives this week, I encourage you to go back and do so. There are links at the bottom of this post to all 3 of the previous posts.

Now, Husbands. The Bible is clear that no matter how WE behave our wives are to respect us and follow us. However, this is not a free pass for us to behave however we want. I have often heard it said that men don’t grow up they just get bigger toys. I have even, half jokingly, said that this was my goal. BUT, here’s the deal; if we want our wives to follow us, we have to grow up a little. The Bible says that our wives are to follow us and respect us, regardless of how we behave or what we do. BUT, we can make it easier on them. We can be men worthy of respect.

From spiritual to financial to fitness/health and more, in each area of your life you need to be the leader for your wife and kids. This is not to say that you have to be a spiritual giant to lead your family in spiritual matters. This doesn’t mean that you have to start training for the Iron Man Triathlon to lead your family in fitness and health. This doesn’t mean that you have to become a millionaire to lead your family financially. Maybe you struggle with a daily quiet time, or with regular prayer. Maybe you struggle with your weight or other health issues. Maybe you are not good at managing money. The idea is to begin to take steps in the right direction, be consistent, and make gradual, continuous improvements. One thing that I have learned in ministry is that gradual, continuous improvements have a much greater impact than occasional big improvements. These big changes are fun and are valuable, but the smaller things will get us further down the road quicker in my experience.

Maybe you have failed spiritually and made choices that have taken you further from God.

Maybe you have failed financially and are struggling under the weight of past bad financial decisions.

Maybe you are over weight and out of shape, suffering from the results of years of bad health/fitness decisions.

Regardless of how you may have failed in the past today you can turn from those old ways. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and new things have come.”(1) It also says,”Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus.”(2) Our past bad decisions are just that, passed. The enemy will continually remind us of our past failures as we try to turn from them and overcome the consequences they create. But, we must ignore his lies and look forward. Imagine the danger that would come in driving your car only looking at the rear view mirror. You would never see the dangers that you are approaching or the progress that you are making. You would never be able to make a wise choice regarding the path you should take. We would never operate our cars this way, but we often live our lives this way.

Stop looking in the rearview mirror of life and move forward. Be the man your wife wants you to be. Be the man YOU want to be. Be a husband worthy of respect.

Husbands, You Gotta LOVE Your Wives.
Wives, Be Easy to Love.
Wives, Please Do Not Give Your Husbands the Respect They Deserve.

Footnote:
1: 2 Corinthians 5:17
2: Romans 8:1

Matt Norman

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