Home Discipleship 101: Why HOME Discipleship?

It occurred to me that the title of this series might seem strange to some. Seems like it would make more sense to call it FAMILY discipleship or PARENT discipleship? My initial inclination was to call it something like that. But, then I remember something that I learned from a good friend and fellow children’s minister, Linda Jacobs. Linda has a passion for ministering to children of divorce. One of the things she has taught me is that FAMILY may not mean the same thing to everybody. When we refer to family we run the risk of leaving out some people. Consider this:

  • Single parent homes: If you are the child  of a single parent sitting in a room where many of the other kids have both parents in the home, then talk of family could make you feel excluded.
  • Grandparents parenting: There are a growing number of grandparents raising their grandkids.
  • Kids with other family: Some kids are living with aunts and uncles for any number of reasons.
  • Adoption: I hate to think that some adopted kids would feel this way, but when we talk about family they may look around at there peers and feel a disconnect because they are different.
  • Foster care: These kids may not even be with ANY family member. They are certainly going to assume that you are not talking to/about them when you talk about family, especially if they come from a bad family situation.

BUT, nearly everyone can identify with HOME. I have been in Alabama only a few months and i’m living in a borrowed house. Yet when I leave work to go to that house I say I’m going HOME and I feel like I am going HOME. For this reason I chose to call this series HOME Discipleship. I want anyone who reads this to know that YOU can disciple the kids that are in your home, whether they are yours or not and regardless of why or how they came to be with you.

Matt Norman

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4 Steps For Being Prepared to Address Criticism

I just read a great post by my kidmin Friend Lynda Freeman. You can read her post HERE. She asked the question, “What Do You Do With Potential ‘Controversies’ in Christmas.” I encourage you to read her great post. Here is my reply.

As I read Lynda’s post my first thought was that this is not simply a Christmas time issue. This is something that ministry leaders need to consider year round. For me the key is to be prepared. Here are some ways that you can help make sure you are ready to deal with potential controversies as mentioned in Lynda’s post.
1.) Pray. We need to remember that while God has called us to lead the ministry, He is to be our leader. So we need to constantly be seeking his guidance through prayer. The people that God calls to ministry are gifted. This is a great thing, but it can cause us to rely more on our own abilities than on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that the plans we make have been covered in prayer and are guided by the Holy Spirit can give us the confidence needed to address concerns.
2.) Planning. Take the time to consider what you are doing and why. Pray for a vision, develop that vision and share it. THEN, ensure that the things you chose to do, or not do, in your ministry fall within that vision. Have a solid reason for WHY you make the choices you make in your ministry.
3.) Preparation. Being prepared can go a long way towards silencing critics. When you decide to do something make sure that when it happens, you are prepared for it. Certainly there are always last minute things that come up. But, you should be prepared enough that the entire even/program doesn’t look like a last minute thing.
4.)Posture. Ok, honestly I was searching for another P word here. What I really want to say is, BE CONFIDENT. Even when you don’t feel confident you need to appear it. One thing I used to tell young nurses when I trained them was that when they were in a room with a patient they always had to appear is they new what they were doing, even when they didn’t. I’m certainly not telling you to lie or pretend that you know something you don’t. But, if you appear scared or uncertain, then you WILL face more criticism and questioning.
At the end of the each of these is just a piece or the puzzle, and there may be more. The bottom line is to be prepared to answer peoples questions and concerns. Consider why and why not about each thing you decide to do or not do. Recently at my church we relaunched children’s church. As we were approaching the date I was asked about why I was doing it the way I was doing it. In that moment I did not answer well. I was not prepared to answer the question. I KNEW why I was doing it. Through my experience I had learned that certain things work and some don’t. I had also learned that you have to start somewhere. From there you can make changes as you go to get to a product that works. BUT, I had not actually taken the time to really thing about the WHYs behind what we were getting ready to do. I KNEW them, but hadn’t given them enough thought to be able to communicate them to others. We shouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to think about all the potential complaints that people might express, but we should spend enough time thinking about why we do things and how things fit into the vision of the church and ministry that we are ready to answer these questions when they come up… and they WILL come up.
Matt Norman

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I Talk Too Much. You Probably Do Too.

I always end children’s church with a response time. This past Sunday I ran late and had to dismiss the kids before we did the response time. So, I told them if they needed to talk to me that they could hang out afterwards. I had a couple kids take me up on that offer. One in particular stayed after to talk about how she was being bullied. I listened and then I spoke, then she went to Sunday School. After she walked away  I realized, I talk too much.

Quick to listen, slow to speak. John 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” All to often in ministry we are quick to listen, but even quicker to speak. In my desire to help the little girl I mentioned earlier I quickly jumped into talking. In fact I did much more talking than she did. I did more talking than I did listening.

We shouldn’t give them ALL the answers. Certainly there will be times when we need to give them answers. However, far more often we need to let them find the answers. We need to help them find from certain, but let THEM find the answers. I’m currently reading a book called “First Hand”. The writers of this book talk about how, as young adults, they found the faith that they had to be shallow and empty. They go on to share that when they began to explore faith they came to the realization that the faith they had was really borrowed from their parents or from teachers in church. When we give kids all the answers we run the risk of them growing up to be like the authors of this book. Fortunately, these men found a faith that was there own.

A faith of their own. The authors of the book I mentioned above only came to a faith of their own by struggling through situations and seeking the answers that were all to often given to them as kids. Having grown up in the church, the sons of a pastor, they knew all the facts. But, when they reached adulthood they began to doubt. This doubt led them into a lifestyle that certainly was not God honoring. My desire is to help kids develop a faith of their own so that they can avoid some of the mistakes that these authors made and the paint they endured.

A faith of my own. When God first called me to ministry I, like the authors mentioned above, realized that my faith, everything I knew and believed, really belonged to someone else. My father was the pastor of the churches I grew up in. I never for a moment doubted that what he and the other teachers in my life taught me was true. But, I needed to experience it for myself. I needed to have the confidence of having actually read what they taught me for myself. I decided in that moment to never teach anything that I had not read for myself. I knew that I needed to develop a faith of my own. Our children also need to develop a faith of there own. This happens with we help them find the answers, instead of always giving them the answer.

So, talk less. When I was studying psychology while getting my nursing degree there was something that they taught us to say that drove me crazy, but is actually pretty good. In fact there were a couple of methods that we were taught that I think can help us talk less, listen more, and actually help the kids in our home or ministry even more. Consider these:

  • How does that make you feel?
  • What I hear you saying is… (followed by repeating what they were saying.)

I seldom used these exact words, but I did use these techniques. The whole idea with these was to get the person talking so that you could learn more about them. It also helped them to work through the problem for themselves. The same can be true as we use these techniques to help kids work through their questions, doubts, and struggles.

Matt Norman

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Santa; Harmless Fantasy or Big Fat Lie?

santa hat_FotorIt’s that time of year again. Go into just about any department store and you will see Christmas stuff. Some lament that it is too early for Christmas stuff, but I LOVE it. I LOVE Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year. I never get sick of Christmas music or Christmas lights. Heck, I have Christmas music on my iPod and will listen to it pretty much any time, year round. I am THAT guy. But, there is a discussion that comes up every year around this time, SANTA. More importantly it’s the discussion of how Christian parents should handle it and how churches should handle it.

He was real. The story of Santa Claus is based, originally, on a real person. Saint Nick was a Christian known for doing kind things around the holidays. From there the story has grown into something that is far from the truth, but is started out harmless enough.

Harmless fantasy. Personally I consider the Santa to be harmless fantasy. When I was a kid we played cops and robbers. We played cowboys and Indians. We would pretend to be race car drivers. We would ride our bikes around the neighborhood pretending that they were motorcycles. AND, we believed in Santa Clause. My parents never felt the need to tell me that I was not a cop or a cowboy. They never corrected me when I pretended my big wheel was a race car or my bicycle a motorcycle. AND they allowed me to believe in Santa Clause. Why? Because they believed, as I do, that all of this was just harmless fantasy. Should parents stop their kids from playing such games for fear that they may get mad at us for letting them believe a lie? I think it is much more important to teach kids the difference between fantasy and reality. 

Are We LYING to our children. Some take the stance that to allow our children to believe in Santa Clause is basically lying to them. In fact I know a man that I respect very much and consider a mentor that says he felt a sense of betrayal when the truth about Santa was revealed. I would certainly never want any child to feel this way, and I hate that this friend ever felt it. But, I would argue that this feeling is pretty rare.  I call my 5 year old daughter princess. Am I lying to her? Is she really a princess? She is not a really a princess, but I don’t, for second, think that she is going to be angry with me when she learns that she is not actually a princes. Nor do I think that she is going to feel betrayed when she learns that Santa is just a fantasy and the guy at the mall just a kind, old man in a red suit.

What should a parent do? I would never seek to tell parents how they should handle this issue. It’s a personal decision that is based on a lot of factors. As parents we each have to know our children. If we think that our children might be ones to walk away with a sense of betrayal over it, then you need to make the decision that is best for your family. That’s the way it is with parenting, we each have to do what we think is best. We each have to go with our personal convictions. 

What should churches do? Regardless of the connection to Saint Nick, Santa Clause as we know him today is a fictional Character. Furthermore, he has no connection with the REAL reason for Christmas. Add to this the fact that some families chose to do Santa and some don’t and I think it is simply something that churches should shy away from. I don’t put up any Santa decorations. I don’t talk about Santa, either for or against, in children’s church, etc. If asked by a parent how I feel about it I will tell them, but I keep it out of what we do. Ultimately, just as parents have to make this decision for their family, ministry leaders have to make this decision for their ministry, but I would recommend simply not talking about it in your children’s ministry events or programs.

Matt Norman

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Home Discipleship 101: Intro

I LOVE ministering to children. I love everything about it, even getting slime poured on my head. Most of all I love the potential impact I can have on these young lives, BUT…

I can’t do it alone.

In fact on my own, no matter how good or how gifted I may or may not be the impact that I can have is nothing compared to what a parent WILL have. Consider this:

· 40 hours – this is the average number of hours the church has to influence a child if they regularly attend on Sunday.
· 80 hours – If the child is REALLY plugged in and also comes on Sunday night or Wednesday night on a regular/semi-regular basis.
· 120 hours – If we add such things as VBS or Kids Camp, then we MIGHT get up to 120 hours PER YEAR. This is only for the kid that is super active in the church.
· 3000 hours – This is the number of hours that parents have to influence their children over the course of a year.

These numbers make it obvious that you ARE the greatest potential influence in your child’s life. This being true I want to do what I can to help you make the most of those hours. Those numbers can be intimidating.

That’s what this series is about.

Each Monday I will post a short blog post aimed at helping you to make the most of the time you have with your children.

Matt Norman

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