Are You Networking or Building Your Fan Base?

applausiSocial media and the internet are potentially powerful tools for ministry. They can connect people that otherwise would never have the opportunity to connect. They can help us, as ministry leaders, to build a network of like-minded people from all over the world. This network can be valuable beyond measure in helping us to become the best leaders possible. It can help us to take our ministries to levels that we could never even imagine. However, there is an inherent danger that exists with social media and the internet, the pursuit of FAME. The danger can be that our activity on social media and other internet venues becomes more about us than about our ministry or our Lord. We have to ask ourselves, “Am I networking or building my fan base?”

It’s a great questions, but how do we know if we have lost our focus on what is important? Go back and review the past couple weeks or months of your posts on Facebook, Twitter, your blog and other outlets. As you review these recent posts ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it about you? Do you find that many of these posts are talking about YOU? Are you talking a lot about what YOUR doing, about YOUR latest project, or YOUR latest success? If you find that many of them are self promoting, then you need to reconsider where your heart is. You may, as I have done, try to justify this self-promotion by saying that you are simply asking people for prayers. While that seems to be super spiritual and may seem like a great idea, the truth is you (and me) are probably just trying to tell as many people as possible about what you are working on. Prayer is important and I encourage you to have people praying for you and for what God is doing in your life, but the truth is there are probably only a relative handful of people that your connected with on social media that you have an actual relationship with. Reach out to those few people and ask for their prayers. I’m not saying you can never use social media to reach out for prayer, but if you are regularly asking for prayer for your latest project via social media, it may be self promotion that you are after, and not prayers. Examine your heart before you post.
  • Are you helping others? Are your posts focused at helping others? Do you ask for more help that you offer? You may think that you don’t have as much to offer as the people you follow on social media. Trust me, the problems that you think are uniquely yours aren’t. I recently wrote a series of posts about my struggle with anxiety. After posting one about having a full blown panic attack I had a coworker that I didn’t even know read my blog tell me that she read this post and her first thought was, “I’m not the only one.” You never know who around you needs to hear about your struggles, and not just your successes.
  • Are you interacting with people? The greatest thing about social media is that it can connect people who would never be able to connect otherwise. I have people that I count as friends from all over the US, at least one in Canada and a couple  in Australia. Only through the internet is this even possible. But, what are you doing with these connections? When you are on social media do you interact with people? Do you have conversations with people? Do you respond to peoples posts? Do you offer encouragement when it is needed? Do you try to make people laugh? Or do you simple use social media to point people to your latest blog post or other project?
  • What is your GOAL with social media? This may be the toughest question on here because it requires self examination and honesty with one’s self. This kind of honesty is never easy. Take a few minutes and really think about why you post what you post. Are you truly trying to help people or do you want people to see you and see (and say) what a great job your doing? Try to be as honest as possible with yourself about this. If you aren’t certain that your motivations are pure, take a break from social media for a while and see how it makes you feel.

As with many of the posts I write this one has as much to do with me as it does with you. I was recently struck by this very question, “Am I networking or building my fan base?” I think that for most of us the motivation starts out pure. However, it can be really easy to lose focus. I think that this question is one we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis. This is true not only of our social media and internet presence, but also within our ministry. When I led worship at my church I had to often remind myself that I was not up there so the people could hear me sing. This was not a concert, but a worship service. I was up there to help facilitate worship during the service. This made me a better worship leader and made the worship services better. A similar examination of your social media and internet practices will help to make you better at what you do as well.

Matt Norman

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My Apology to The Churches I Have Spoken With

As you may know I have been seeking my next ministry position. I felt God leading me to resign my position at my current church. You can read that story HERE. I felt certain that God had me do this in preparation for a full-time ministry position. So, I did just what anyone would do. I updated my resume. I started searching online for open positions that fit my expertise. I reached out to my network to inquire about open positions. Oh, and I prayed a little along the way. As I look back now I realize how foolish I was being. Let me explain.

As I went through this process I found myself repeatedly frustrated. It seemed that most positions required a seminary degree, or at least a Bible degree of some sort. Or, they wanted 3-5 years of full-time ministry in a church of a certain size. Each time I came across one of those adds I would get all super spiritual and think how little faith they were displaying in considering only these criteria in their search. As one church after another ignored my resume, without even contacting me I grew ever more frustrated and angry. Several churches did take the time to contact me, only to get part way through the process and cut me loose. In my mind this happened because I didn’t have the credentials that I mentioned before. Through this process I often became very angry at these churches and their people. I was quickly moving towards bitterness because of my experiences. This is where I need to apologize:

To all the people and churches I have communicated with during my search, I’m sorry.

 These churches probably had no idea the degree of frustration and anger I felt, but I did. I was quick to judge them based on how worldly their mindset was and how little faith was involved in their search. I had judged these people that I had never met and knew nothing about as somehow less mature Christians than me. The truth is that many churches take a very worldly approach to searching for new staff. They require things like a seminary degree or previous experience at similar organizations. These are the same kinds of things that corporate America looks for when searching for new staff and leaders. I found this mentality within most search committees to be very frustrating and I judged their faith and maturity based solely on this. Then it hit me:

I was doing the same thing!

You see if I were seeking a position at any other company I would make sure my resume was up to date. I would begin a search for open positions within my specialty. I would reach out to some of the people in my network to see if they knew of any positions that I might be a good fit for. This is a perfectly logical progression if I were searching for a position in a regular company. AND, this is exactly what I did with my search for where God was leading me. The very things I was angry with these churches for, I was doing. The very mindset that I was judging and condemning these churches for, I was also guilty of. I would regularly talk about how God had a plan for me and about how I was trusting him. Then I would come home from work EVERY DAY and check the various church job sites. At least once a week I was sending my resume out, and usually more times than that. Without exaggeration I have probably sent my resume to nearly 100 different churches.

I made the process about ME!

I did all the things that seemed logical when searching for a new ministry position. Even as I talked about how much I was trusting God, I really wasn’t. I was seeking my own direction and hoping that God would bless it. I had selected my own path and then asked God to go ahead of me and make the path clear. How foolish I was. If I truly believe that God has a plan for my life, as I have often said, then maybe I should go to HIM to discover that plan. So, over the past week or so I have taken a new direction in my search for God’s direction. I am done sending out my resume unsolicited, at least for a season. I will still send it to anyone who asks for it, but I’m not checking church job sites. Rather I’m seeking Gods direction. When it comes to my ministry the only thing that I have ever been truly sure of is that God called me to ministry. This I KNOW. However, I have never really known exactly what that was supposed to look like. At each point in my ministry I have followed where God led me. That is how I will progress from here.

My brother once told me, “full time ministry may not look like what you think it looks like.” Having grown up in the church, the son of a pastor in my mind full time ministry looked like what my dad did. It meant working full time for a local church. This may still be God’s plan for me, but it may not be. For now I wait, I pray, and I study to see where God might be pointing me. I will look for what God is doing in and around me and I will seek to get on board with that. I will trust HIM to show me what HIS plan is for my life and my ministry.

Matt Norman

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Football, Leadership and Ministry

football 1I’m know I’m the only one. I am probably the only children’s pastor/worker/ministry leader/business leader that has ever done this, but I am going to share anyway just in case. When I took over our children’s ministry and our children’s church, the Pastor and I had a big vision. After spending some time developing this vision into something I felt like I could communicate clearly, I attacked it like an NFL line backer attacks the quarterback. Pushing aside any lineman that might stand between me and my goal, I gave it my all. This worked great, until…..well, until I got tired.

I love football! I remember watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play. One of the players caught an interception and ran it all the way back, 91 yards, for a touchdown. This was a very exciting play to watch. The Bucs took the lead, and this player took the bench. This worked out ok, because there was another player there to take his place while he recovered from his long sprint. When I took over the children’s ministry I hit it with the same energy as this player running for the end zone. The problem was there was no one to stand in for me while I recovered, and I couldn’t run full speed towards the end zone for an indefinite period of time. It was like the end zone kept moving and no matter how fast I ran or how hard I worked, it never got closer. This led to a lot of stress and frustration

This is a trap that many of us fall into. For me it was something that my pastor said that ultimately saved me from it. Isn’t it cool how men and women of God can minister to you without even trying; and often without even knowing it. Isn’t it great how God will give you the words you need, when you need them the most? Anyways, we were at an evangelism training event at a local church.  As we stood around talking with different pastors before the event started, we spoke with one in particular that shared how he was somewhat frustrated by the amount of stuff that needed to be done and the slowness with which progress seemed to come. My pastor looked at him and said the words that changed my ministry forever. He told this pastor that he was in it for the long haul; that he planned to die at this church. He said once you put it in a long term perspective, the pressure to get things done quickly goes away.

You don’t have to die at your church. But for me, that changed everything. I am in this for the long haul. I would rather build a ministry with a firm foundation that can outlast me, even it does seem to move slower, than to build it quickly and give it a weak foundation. This is not to say that I don’t want it to build as quickly as I can, but the focus is now one of slow and steady progress.

So, what can I do about this?

  • Are you in it for the long haul? Take time to consider what matters most to you. Are you more concerned with next Sunday’s lesson or building a ministry that will be healthy 10 years from now?
  • SLOW DOWN!! The goal is not to get everything done THIS WEEK. Work hard. That is a given and is necessary, but don’t try to get too much done too quickly.
  • Become committed to steady improvement. The thing that help me the most to over come this and actually helped the ministry more was a commitment to steady improvement. My goal with each service, event, everything we do is to be a little better the next time we do it than we were the last time we did it.
  • Evaluate everything. Take time each week to evaluate that weekends worship service. Take 5 minutes at the end of the service to ask at least one leader in your ministry how they felt things went.
  • Ask for input. Ask the members of your team for ideas and input. Then USE SOME OF THEM. I’m not saying that you have to use all of them, but if you don’t use some of them, then you will frustrate your team members.
  • Pray. Recently I have been reminded that WE CAN NOT DO THIS WITHOUT GOD. If we don’t depend on God, then our natural tendency (at least for me) is to run out ahead of him. Trust me, this doesn’t work.
  • Take time off. I’ve been listening to a series that Perry Noble preached a couple years ago. In it he talks about his own struggles with depression. He talks how keeping an unrealistic pace helped lead him into depression. He then shares the words that a friend told him. Perry said, “People are going to hell and satan never takes a day off.” His friend then looked at him and said, “I’m not sure HE should be your example.” God worked hard for 6 days and then took time off. So should we.

At the end of the day the main thing is to plan for next week, but build for ministry for 10 years from now.

Matt Norman

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Greatest Parenting Struggles: Complacency

By permission @Mnormancarguy has graciously allowed me to jump on board with a series of posts called GPS, Helping Parents Find Their Way. So, without further ado, here is my first jump into this conversation.

During my first ask of the big question* I got this response: My greatest struggle in parenting is “complacency

I was intrigued by the parent’s comment.  And like a fly that kept on buzzing around my head this word, complacency, would not leave me alone. As I began to catch the fly, I began to realize why the thought was sticking with me …

I get complacent. I rest on my actions as a parent. After all, I’m good enough, right?

The Struggle

For so many reasons, parents get bogged down. We get discouraged. We get lazy. Our commitment wanes. Yet, complacency has nothing to do with commitment, energy, time, or even productivity. Complacency, by definition, is “satisfaction with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better.” Another way to look at complacency is “a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with … one’s achievements.”  In short, pride.

Now let me stop here.

I don’t want to burden you with guilt, or worse, shame.  If you’re reading this, I am going to assume you are a parent who wants to make things better. BUT, doing more is NOT the answer.  It actually has nothing to do with action at all.  Let me explain.

Two Faces, One Problem

Pride light creates action out of angst. This type of behavior produces extreme productivity therefore, somewhat socially acceptable. Although there may be a happy facade, over time cracks begin to show, strains develop, and relationships break.

Pride dark creates inaction out of entitlement. This behavior is driven from a “I deserve” place. And at some level this behavior is also socially acceptable. (I cannot stand advertisements and commercials that say “you deserve this new car, candy bar, etc. etc.”) Over time, this state also creates strain and breaks relationships as well.

I describe the extremes to illustrate how both sides of the pride continuum can be harmful. Some people get this far and leave a wake of broken relationships. Don’t be quick to judge because everyone feels the struggle of walking too far one direction or the other.  Regardless of angst or entitlement, both states are driven by attempting to seek fulfillment. Good thing is you can do something about it …

The Narrow Road

Both pride light and pride dark have a warning flag – negative emotion. Negative emotion is not necessarily a bad thing.  These emotions can serve as a warning light that something needs to change.  So when you feel the pang of entitlement or angst ask yourself some questions.

Who am I?

Now, not every bump in the road requires this question.  But, I have found that when pride rises up it usually is tied to me forgetting who I am and who I want to be.  When I forget who I am I begin to have an over inflated view of self.

Who’s am I?

Everyone worships something. What have your set your life on? When you forget who’s you are you begin to have a deflated view of what you worship.

What feeds your angst/entitlement?

Editor’s Note:

Thanks to Ethan Davis for his enthusiasm for the GPS series. Thanks also for writing a great post. Check out his blog HERE

Matt Norman

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Today followers of Jesus are known as Christians. However, this was not always the case. In the early days of the church they were known as “Followers of THE WAY” or “People of THE WAY.” This goes back to Jesus saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” (1) Later we became known as Christians.

My wife and I love road trips. When ever we are going somewhere the question that inevitably comes up is, “do you know the way.” This is a perfectly reasonable question. After all, if you don’t know the way, your chances of reaching your destination are greatly decreased. While this seems perfectly reasonable when planning a trip, we often don’t do the same thing when planning the course of our lives.

When planning a road trip we know what the destination is. However, in life we often don’t know what the destination is. We often don’t know what God has planned for us, but we do know THE WAY. So, you may be asking, “if I don’t know where I’m going, how can I know the way to get there?” Well, for humans this would be a good question, but we are not talking about humans here, we are talking about GOD!

You see, Jesus said that he was THE WAY. If you believe in THE WAY. If you trust THE WAY. If you know THE WAY, you don’t need to know the destination. You can just follow THE WAY and enjoy the destination when you get there. BUT, this is hard. If you don’t believe me try this little experiment:

  • Get in the car with your spouse or some other person that you trust.
  • Ask them to take you somewhere you have never been. Be sure to tell them not to tell you where you are going.
  • Instruct this person to only give you direction as it is required. When it is time to turn, they will tell you which way to turn, but there will not be any advanced notice that a turn is coming up. Just enough notice to allow you to safely navigate the turn.

Try this and see how difficult this is. See how uncomfortable it is. We like to know where we are going. There is comfort that comes with knowing THE WAY. As we are driving and don’t know THE WAY or the destination every road that we approach represents a possible change in direction. But, since we don’t know, then we find ourselves approaching each new road with a bit of apprehension. Choosing to follow Jesus, can feel this way at first.

Jesus’ plan is perfect. I love my wife and I trust her to give me good directions. However, I still like to have some sense of where we are going. As much as I trust her, she is human and thus is prone to mistakes. Jesus does not make mistakes. Furthermore, He has had a plan for your life since before you were even born. Not just a plan, but a PERFECT plan. If you will submit to Jesus and follow his lead he will guide you down the path to his perfect plan.

What does this look like? If I am honest I’d have to say that I don’t have this figured out just yet. I am at the beginning of this journey. This is not to say that I have never followed Jesus, but it has not always been my standard. I am still figuring this out and I invite you to join me on this journey. I realize that many of you are probably much better at this than I am. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what this looks like in your life.

1.) John 14:6

Matt Norman

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