Have You Stopped Ministering?

As many of you know, I resigned my position at my church back in September. Recently it occurred to me that since doing that I have done very little, if any ministry. There will be down times in our ministry and our lives, but we can not allow these times to become times when we stop doing the work that God has called us to.

It’s ok to rest. Ministry is hard work. Whether you do ministry as a full-time vocation, part-time, or as a volunteer there will be times when you simply need to rest. If there comes a point in your life where you find yourself separated from  the daily grind of ministry, take advantage of it and get some rest. Use this time to reconnect with God, your friends and family and yourself. But, don’t stuck in this mode.

Ministry will look different. During this time in your life, ministry will look different from what you are used to. You may have to look a little harder or be more creative, but there are ministry opportunities around you. If, like me, you have stepped down from a leadership position, but are still attending the same church, then I am not suggesting you jump back into the ministry that you just stepped out of. What I am saying is that you need to look for where God wants you to serve during this season of your life.

Serve in your church. Look around the church you are currently attending for areas that need help. I’m not talking about ministries that aren’t doing things the way you would do them. I’m not talking about you swooping in to try and fix a ministry that you just know you could lead better. What I AM talking about is getting back to basics. I’m talking about getting your hands dirty, literally. Talk to whoever takes care of your building or grounds and ask them how you can help. Talk to ministry leaders and ask them if there is anything you can do to help them. Talk with your pastor and see if there are any holes you could fill in the church for a season. Who knows God may reveal your next area of ministry through this season.

Serve outside of your church. Look around your community. What is God already doing that you can be a part of? Consider your friends and coworkers. Is God working in the lives of someone you know? How can you get onboard with what God is already doing there? Bottom line, don’t let your experience in the church limit your view of where ministry can happen. It happens everywhere and you can be a part of it.

Seek Jesus. If you are a leader you will probably be anxious to get back to leading. The temptation can be to seek out opportunities to lead. With all good intentions we spend our quite time seeking the direction that God wants us to take. We pray for God to show us where we are going next. Recently God reminded me that this is not what we are supposed to do.  Rather we should focus on seeking Jesus. Out of our pursuit of Jesus will come the direction we seek.

Waiting is working. It can be tempting to spend our “downtime” simply waiting on direction from God. I remember a few years ago a young man in our church preaching a message on waiting. He pointed out that waiting was actually a very ACTIVE thing. Consider the person that waits on you in a restaurant. Clearly this person is active. If you don’t think so, just ask anyone who has done it. This is how our season of “downtime” should be.

So, have you stopped ministering? If so, what are you doing about it?

Matt Norman

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Preteens and Porn

Let’s face it we live in a society obsessed with SEX. Sex is used to sell everything from underwear to shampoo to cars. It’s nearly impossible to watch any TV show or movie without some sexual innuendo, if not the actual act. Sex is everywhere. As parents of preteens we would prefer to think that this doesn’t effect our kids, but it does. In the midst of this hypersexual society pornography has become easier to get than ever before. I remember as a kid all I knew about porn was that there were some magazines behind the counter wrapped in brown paper. Today full blown, hardcore, pornography is just a few clicks away. As parents we CAN’T IGNORE THIS. We need to be aware of it. We need to take steps to protect our kids. We need to prepare them. AND we need to  prepare ourselves for when they are exposed to PORNOGRAPHY.

Be aware. You may not want to think about it, but your preteen has access to pornography. You can deny it if you like, but it’s true. We have to admit that this problem exists if we are going to be prepared to deal with it. From tablets, to computers, to smart phones they are just a few clicks away from stuff that you would never want them to see. Youtube, Google, Instagram, even Netflix all have stuff that is inappropriate for anyone to view, especially your preteens. Trust me when I say its everywhere and your preteen knows how to find it.

Protect them. Pornography is a problem. It can have a lasting effect on your preteens that can stay with them for the rest of there lives. It can damage their relationships, especially there future marriage. As a parent we want to and need to protect our kids from something so damaging, but how?

  • Smart phone: No preteen (or teen for that matter) needs a smart phone. I know that many preteens have them. In fact there are probably people reading this whose preteens have them. I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone. But, consider this for a minute. With an awareness of the problem and availability of pornography on the internet do you really want your preteen to have complete, unmonitored access to the internet…all the time?
  • Computers: Put computers where they can be monitored. Can you think of one good reason that your child needs a computer in their room? I can’t. I’m sure they would like it that way, but it is not our jobs to make them happy. It IS, however, our job to protect them and do what we know is best for them. So, keep their computer in a common area where you can monitor their activity at any moment.
  • Parental controls: Use of the internet is a privilege, not a right. For this reason we, as parents, have the right and responsibility to control how and when our preteens use the internet. This means putting controls on your wireless network and on your home computers that limit what your preteens have access to. It may even mean putting controls on WHEN your preteen has access to your home network. Remember internet is a privilege.
  • Conversation: This is a tough topic to talk about among adults. It is even harder to talk about with your preteen, but it is vital that you do. This conversation can start as simply as cautioning your preteen that there are things on the internet that they shouldn’t look at or watch. Without getting too specific you can talk with them about the some of the kinds of things that you are talking about. This can begin your preteen thinking a little more about what they view on the internet and through other media sources. This can also lead to more in-depth conversations as your preteen becomes a teen and beyond.

Respond. Finally we have to be prepared in case our preteen does become exposed or is found to have been viewing pornography. However, this is a topic for another post. Stay tuned for more on this topic in a future post.

Matt Norman

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Why I Hate Bible Characters

I grew up in church. As I look back there are certain things that have been common practice for decades, maybe even longer. Some of these things are great, but some I think have done some degree of damage. I know this may sound a little extreme, but stick with me. One of these things is our continuous references to the people of the Bible as “characters”. Here is what I mean:

Is Abraham Lincoln a character? When we teach the Bible we tend to refer to the people of the Bible as “characters”. But, do we do this when we teach history? Do we refer to Abraham Lincoln or George Washington as “characters”? No! We talk about them as if they were real people that actually existed. Why? Because they are real people who actually existed. The people of the Bible were also real people who actually existed. For this reason when we teach the Bible, we need to talk about these people as if they were real, because they were.

The holocaust never happened. Ok, I know it happened and it was one of the worst events in human history. However, that didn’t keep some of my father’s seventh graders from doubting that it ever happened. That’s right, they didn’t believe that the holocaust was real. If kids could believe this about an event that happened less that 100 years ago how much easier would it be for them to believe that events that happened hundreds, even thousands of years ago actually happened. It’s important that we teach in such a way that kids hear and can believe that these people were real.

No more Bible Characters. How can we help this problem? For starters, stop referring to the people of the Bible as characters. This makes them sound fictional without intending to. I know that this can take some adjustment, but I think that the result can be great. As you plan lessons and sermons think about how you will talk about the people that are included in the lesson. Take some time to think about the words you currently use and what words you will use in the future. A short time of intentionality can turn this into something that you do without even thinking about it.

What’s the big deal? You may be asking yourself if this really matters. After all, I was raised in churches that referred to the people of the Bible as characters and I came out ok. Certainly this idea is not going to effect everyone. But, it will effect some. If simply changing the way we talk about the people of the Bible can help a kid grow up knowing that the Bible is true and it’s people are real, then that’s what I want to do.

What are some other common practices of the church that might be harming the way that kids think about Jesus, God, The Bible, church, etc? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Matt Norman

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Leading Mockingjays

Recently I did a post called “Leading Hummingbirds and Eagles.” This post looked at two different kinds of people that might be on your team. I looked at some ways to identify each type and why it was important to know which one you are and which ones are on your team. For this post I am sticking with this bird them, with a twist.

If you have not seen the Hunger Games movies, then you may not completely understand this reference. I recently watched both the first and second movies with my family. In the first one, Hunger Games, We are introduced to a breed of bird called mockingjays. We watch as the star of the movie whistles a tune that is them repeated by the mockingjays. As I watched this I thought about how, as leaders, this relates to the people we lead.

People are not mockingjays. I certainly would not suggest that the people we lead are like the mockingjays in the movie. They do not mindlessly repeat what they hear. Rather they are intelligent and talented people with minds of their own. We should be sure to treat them as such.

They should be saying what we are saying. While we don’t want the people we lead to just mindlessly repeat what we say, we do want them be saying the same kinds of things that we are saying. If we want our people to live out the vision that God has given us, then we need to share it with them often enough that they are able to say it to. If while walking among your team members you hear them saying the same kinds of things that you are saying, then this is a sign of success.

They should also UNDERSTAND what we are saying. There is one danger in the people we lead saying the same things we are saying. There is a chance that they will simply be repeating what they have heard, much like the mockingjay. They could be saying the right things without actually understanding what we are saying. They could also be repeating it without having internalized it. For a time this can be ok, but the long term goal would be for them to understand and internalize the vision.

What now? The goal is to have the people you lead talking the talk, but not simply mindlessly repeating it. To reach this goal you need to talk about the vision as often as you can. This goes beyond just an annual training. This is about regular conversations throughout the year. This is about including bits of the vision in any communications that you do. Basically any chance you have to communicate the vision to your people, do it.

Don’t stop there. Don’t stop at repeating the vision often, help your people understand it. Ask questions that help you gauge their level of understanding. Ensure that your communications are clear and easy to understand. Ask them how they fit into the vision. Ask them how you can help them to understand the vision and their part in it better. Do whatever you can to help them learn, understand and make themselves part of the vision.

Matt Norman

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OC14 – Information Overload

If you have never been to a conference like this, then you probably don’t understand this. However, if you have been to Orange or other, similar events, then you know that trying to take it all in simply is impossible. Imagine someone wrapping your mouth around a water hose and then having someone turn it on. That is kinda what this is like intellectually. That is totally where I am: INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

If you are a children’s or youth leader, then you will also understand this, I LOVE MINISTRY. I am super passionate about helping children come to know Christ and grow in their relationship with him. So, to take 3 – 4 days fully focused on doing an even better job with this is like a dream. To take 3 – 4 sitting with other people who are at least as passionate as I am about this and, in most cases, better at it is like a dream.

But, it can be a lot to take in.

For this reason you may have noticed that I have not posted much (any) this week. Trust me, in the coming weeks I will make up for it. In the mean time you can find all of my notes from the conference HERE. I hope the notes are helpful. If there is anything in the notes that you have questions about please feel free to ask me. I’d love to talk more about any of these topics. Over the course of the next few weeks I will take some time to unpack these notes, to expound on them some, and to give some of my own thoughts on the topics.

If you were unable to make it to the Orange Conference then I hope you find these notes, and the future posts helpful. I would also encourage you to seriously consider coming next year. The tickets are on sale now and at the lowest price they will be. You can check out the pricing for next years conference HERE. If you decide to come, be sure to let me know. I would love to meet in person, it’s one of my favorite things about attending conferences.

Matt Norman

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