KMC 14 Closing Session Notes

Sally Lloyd-Jones

“I’m gonna write a children’s book. How hard can it be.”

“As a writer our job is to tell the story, not to tell you what to think about it.”

The power of a story is not in the summing up or the drilling down or turning it into a lesson. The power is in the story.

When we sum up the story we leave no room for God.

If they are asking questions, then you’ve done it right. We should worry less about giving all the answers and work to raise the right questions.

Focus more on telling the story and then trust in God to do the rest.

What kids need is to be invited into the story.

Matt Norman

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Kids Ministry Conference 2014 closing thoughts

Well, as I write this I sit in my hotel room packed and ready to check out. The conference is over and it’s time to begin to try to process some of what I have experienced this week. So, what are my thoughts this morning?

I love people. By far my favorite part of every conference I attend is the people. I love connecting, in person, with people that I have previously connected with online. I love meeting kidmin leaders that I have not met before. I love the opportunity to connect with big name ministry people such as Jim Wideman, Jeffrey Reed and others. Even if there was nothing else of value at the conference this would make it good.

I love kidmin people. It’s amazing to me how people that are famous around the country and maybe even the world are so approachable. That has always been my experience with kidmin leaders. Even the biggest names are willing and even eager to have a conversation with you. I’m not sure that this type of connectivity exists in any other type of work, or even in other areas of ministry.

The content was GREAT.  As you would expect from a company like LifeWay, the content was at a very high level. From the general sessions to the breakouts every bit of it was helpful, informative and inspirational.

Transformed. This was the theme for the conference. Jeffrey Reed introduced this theme by talking about the three key points that LifeWay focuses on in their pursuit of transformed lives.

  • Heart Transforming
  • Kingdom Expanding
  • Culture Shaping

It’s not about the curriculum. Certainly there were references to LifeWay’s children’s curriculum, but the content in the general sessions and breakouts alike was simply about ministering to children. We often think that we can/should only attend a conference out on by a curriculum publisher if we use their curriculum. I can’t speak for all of them, but I can say that LifeWay’s Kids Ministry Conference is of great value REGARDLESS of what curriculum you use.

Will I go back? Next years conference is a year away and I can’t say for certain if I will come back or not. However, I can confidently saying that I would recommend this conference to anybody. If God works it out for me to return next year, I hope to see you there.

Check out the KMC14 tab at the top of my page for links to all for my notes from this conference. I am traveling today, but I will get them up there as soon as I get home. Stay tuned.

Matt Norman

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Orange is the New Black, or Something Like That

Apparently there is a hugely popular show that called “Orange is the New Black.” I know almost nothing about it. And, I don’t intend to talk about it here. But, I do want to talk about Orange. Many in children’s ministry have at least heard of this movement that is called Orange. However, many have not. Still others have heard of it, but may not understand what it is all about.

It’s not about a curriculum. If you talk to some children’s ministry people they will refer to Orange as a curriculum. True there is a company called reThink(LINK) that produces curriculum for preschool, children and youth. They also happen to be the company from which the book that started the Orange movement came from. One of the founders of reThink is Reggie Joiner. He is also the author of a book called “Think Orange”. (LINK) BUT, the concept of Orange and the movement that it has become are not directly connected to the curriculum.

It ain’t nothing new. The basic principle that the foundation of the Orange movement is a partnership between the church and the family aimed at having a greater impact in the lives of children and youth. This is not a new concept. When I was a child my Sunday School teachers worked with my parents with a common goal of impacting my life. However, this was not a formal part of the strategy of the church. At that point it was just something that some teachers did. It came down to a matter of teachers that had a natural leaning in that direction did it and those that did not, probably didn’t.

So, what’s the big deal. The big deal is this. When the church and the family work together they can have a greater impact than either one working alone to influence children. This is a pretty big deal to me. After all, it’s why I do what I do. It’s why I get up in the morning. It’s the thing that draws me out of the house and into the community or into the office.

Ok, but what’s Orange got to do with it? Well, Orange is simply a clever way to illustrate this relationship between church and family. The Bible states that we (the Church) are the LIGHT of the world. So, yellow represents the church (yellow = light). Red is used to represent the home/family as this is the center of love in a child’s life. When you add yellow and red, you get something completely different. The same is true when you combine the influence of family and the influence of the church. You get something that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. The potential impact in a child’s life when these two come together is far greater than the two could get on their own or even if they were both working to impact the child, but not partnering.

Forget about the curriculum. Over the past couple years I have become very familiar with the folks at reThink (Orange). I have used their curriculum and probably will again. BUT, more important than their curriculum these are people that really want to help you reach kids. There are some curriculum companies that are in it for the business. Sure they are run by Christians and their goal may even be to expand the kingdom, but at the end of the day the dollar matters more. Don’t believe me try this. Call that curriculum company, explain to them that your church LOVES their materials, but can’t afford to pay for them this year. Tell them that you really believe that you will be able to next year, but simply can’t this year. See what they do next. Now, I have not actually done this with any other curriculum company, but I did with Orange and their response was a bit overwhelming in it’s generosity. I say all that to say this.

Forget about the curriculum.

You don’t have to use their curriculum to be ORANGE. You don’t have to do go to their conference to be ORANGE. You don’t have to buy anything, know anybody or anything else. In fact if you’re a church leader and have a desire to partner with parents then you are already ORANGE. If you are a parent and have a desire to partner with the church to have a greater impact on your kids, then you are already ORANGE.

You see, ORANGE is not about what many people think it is about. It is simply about church and family working together to have a greater impact in the lives of preschoolers, children and youth than either can have on their own. So, let me ask you:

Are you ORANGE?

Matt Norman

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Ministers Need People Too

I remember a song from a few years ago called “People Who Need People”. Sung by Barbara Streisand this song states that “people who need people are the luckiest people of all.” A sweet sentiment for a song, but the truth is that we ALL need people. Some of us may need people more, or less than others. Some times in our lives we need people more than at other times. But anyone who says they don’t need people is lying, either to themselves or to you and they are probably hurting.

Ministers are people too. Maybe it’s because of the positions that we hold. Maybe it’s people of people are just so used to sharing their junk with us. Whatever the reason, it can be easy to forget that ministers are people. If people need people and ministers are people than it’s safe to assume that MINISTERS NEED PEOPLE TOO. This can be easy for us to forget when we think about the ministers around us, but as ministers it can be easy for us to forget too.

Physician heal thyself. Jesus said these words while being rejected in his home town. (1) Unfortunately, this is often where ministers find themselves. We often think that we can take care of ourselves. If we just spend more time in prayer, Bible reading, Bible study. IF we just have a better or more quiet time. Maybe take a sabbatical. Sometimes we think if we do these things, then we can take care of our own problems and don’t really need to talk to anyone else about them. If we can just get closer to God, then we don’t need to be close to people. While all of the practices are good and the WILL change your life and help you get through tough times, you still need people.

The other side of this that sometimes the people around us forget that we are people too. It can be so easy for people in the church to become some involved with their own concerns that they never give any thought to the ministers in their church. Or maybe they are busy ministering themselves to other church members. Either way, many church members never even stop to think that the very person who is always there where the church member needs something may, at times, need someone to.

What’s a minister to do? Well for starters stop thinking that you DON’T need people. Get over yourself and admit to yourself and the people around you that you DON’T have it all together and that you could benefit from someone to talk with. Be strong when the circumstances require it, but be willing to be vulnerable every now and then. Let some people in. Stop thinking that you can carry the weight yourself. It was never meant to be that way. From the story of creation to the nature of the Trinity the Bible is filled with evidence of our need for community. As ministers we are not somehow excluded from this need.

What’s a church member to do? Consider for a moment what your life, your family, or church might be like if the ministers around you were not longer able to minister. Some reading this may be thinking that if this guy was not there, then someone else would come along to take his place. If you are thinking that, then shame on you. You have bigger issues than we are going to fix in this post. For there rest of you I would imagine that this thought causes some concern, maybe even pain. As I look back on my life I can say that I’m not sure what might have happened in/to my life if the ministers around me had come to a point where they could no longer minister. The sad truth is that year after year there are many ministers that find themselves no longer able to minister. In some cases this is their own fault because they refused to be vulnerable. They refused to let anyone get close enough to really know the pain or darkness that might exist inside. However, for many others it was the fact that nobody was willing to be that person for the minister. Certainly if you were to ask church people if they would be willing to “be there” for their pastor or other ministers in they church during tough time most would say yes. However, how many of them actually pursue such relationships with their ministers? How many church people ever inquire about the emotional or spiritual wellbeing of the ministers around them. In my experience as a minister, a preachers kid and a church member I can say that very few are willing to do this.

So what?!? Regardless of which side of this you are on, whether minister or church member, remember that ministers ARE PEOPLE TOO. As such we need people around us that care enough about us to notice when we’re hurting. To care enough to ask how we’re doing. To push past the easy answers we may give to get to what we may really be feeling. To be willing to listen, even when the conversation is hard and the topic maybe even harder.

Ministers remember that you need people like this. Don’t push them away. Don’t ward them off with pat answers that only thinly vail what you are really feeling. Be willing to be open with a few. In the end it will make you stronger and a better minister.

Footnotes:
1.) Luke 4:23

Matt Norman

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