While You’re At The Orange Conference

As I write this many people are traveling or finalizing preparations to travel to Atlanta for the Orange Conference. Sadly, I am not among them this year. But, I thought I would share some thoughts for those that are going, to help them get the most out of their experience.

1.) Worship. Many people in children’s ministry seldom have the chance to worship at their home church. This is your opportunity. There will be AMAZING times of worship at the Orange Conference. Take advantage of them. Remember your best ministry comes from the overflow of what God is doing in you. Be refueled.

2.) Meet someone virtual. There will be a great many people there. There will be some people that you may have connected with online, but have never met in person. Make plans to meet up with some of these people. Have lunch with them. Virtual connections are great, but meeting in person can take that relationship to a whole new level.

3.) Meet someone new.  There will be thousands of people there. Most of them you will know. For many of us it can be difficult to talk to people we don’t know. But, having something in common with a person makes it easier. Remember every single person there has a passion for ministry to children and families. You already have a connection. Need something more concrete? Talk to someone standing near one of the exhibition booths, about the booth. Or hang out near the King of Pops stand and ask them which flavor their enjoying. However you decide to do it, meet someone new.

4.) King of Pops. Ok, this may have nothing to do with the conference itself, but every year there is a vendor there called King of Pops. They sell gourmet popsicles. Trust me, you want one of these.

5.) Skip a session. If your church is paying for you to attend, them you may feel obligated to get as much out of it as possible. This is admirable and should be your goal. However, sometimes “getting the most out of it” happens by NOT being in a session. One of the best breakouts I ever had at any conference was one that I skipped. I spent the entire time talking with Amy Dolan. It was a great time of inspiration for me and I made a new friend. I can’t tell you what session I skipped, but I CAN tell you that it was worth it.

Maybe the best thing you can do during this time is rest. This may come in the form of simply sitting in a hallway going over your notes, enjoying a cup of coffee, or sitting outside enjoying King of Pops. Whatever it is take some time to rest.

6.) Take good notes. Attending a conference like this is kinda like drinking water from a fire hose. There will be so much information coming at you that you will never be able to remember everything that you hear. Take good notes. This will give you something to look at when you get home and have time to process it all.

7.) Ask questions. One of the things I LOVE about children’s ministry is that there are no super stars. Certainly there are people that I consider to be Kidmin Superstars. But, they are approachable. You can actually have conversations with them. So, at the end of a session take the time to approach the speaker if you have questions. Connect with the speaker. I have had many of them give me there email addresses and other contact information and offer to answer questions in the future.

8.) Have fun. Ministry to children can be a lot of fun. But, for those of us that lead, the fun comes only after a lot of work. Without us planning and setting up the fun, then the fun doesn’t happen. So, take the time to have fun while you are at the conference. Orange is good about setting up chances for those attending to have fun. One year there were two giant ball pits for US to jump in. One year they had an inflatable jousting arena. There are also usually meet-ups/parties schedule one night for the different age groups. Seek out these opportunities for YOU to have fun that you didn’t have to plan or organize.

I hope that you find this post helpful. I know that you will have an amazing time at the Orange Conference. I can’t make it this year, but I will be there for #OC16. You can count on it.

Matt Norman

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What Is Your Slow Fade?

Casting Crowns has a great song called “Slow Fade”. This song is about how we slowly drift into sin. Seldom does a husband decide to have an affair; rather it is a series of small decisions that slowly lead to the eventual failure. Seldom does a father decide to abandon his children. Rather he makes a series of small decisions; to work late, to go out with his friends, missing his child’s game or performance, etc. As with so many of Casting Crowns songs, there is such truth in this and I find myself convicted when I hear it and thinking, “what am I fading away from or into?”

Where are you now? As this song points out, there are a great many things that we can slowly fade into or away from. Before we can begin to work on this we have to identify where we are now. Are you exactly where you need to be in your relationship with God? What about with your spouse? Your kids? Not sure? Try this: sit down with your Bible. Pray and ask God to reveal to you where you are at in this respect. Spend time reading and continue to pray, asking God to reveal the truth in this. As you read, when you feel like something stands out, write it down. Be careful when you do this, as God will reveal what you ask and it might be uncomfortable, or even painful.

What are you fading FROM? I believe the beginning of a slow fade INTO sin is a slow fade AWAY from God. You see sin cannot exist in the presence of God. As we draw closer to God we move further from our sin. As we lean into the leading of the Holy Spirit we lean away from our sinful nature. This is not to say that temptation never comes or that drawing close to God will make us SIN PROOF. But, it will make the avoidance of sin easier and the temptation less.

What are you fading towards? There are things mentioned in this song that we can fade towards; sexual immorality, child abandonment and more. However, this is just a small sampling of the many things that we can drift towards. The enemy will do all he can to pull you towards the things that represent your greatest weaknesses. Take a moment to look at your life and consider what you might be fading towards. Not where you are, but what direction you are going in and the possible result it could have. Struggling to identify it? Do like we talk about earlier. Ask God to show you.

One step back. The amazing truth of God is that no matter how far we fade away from Him, it is only one step back to Him. Think of it like this: Imagine you are walking. Behind you a close friend is walking. As you walk, with your back to your friend, you are constantly moving away from him (or her). No matter how far or how fast you walk you are never going to get any CLOSER to that friend. However, if you simply stop walking away and turn around you will find that your friend is but one step away. God is that friend. Sometimes we run from Him as fast as we can. Other times it is more of a casual walk. But, no matter how fast, how hard or how far we run, God is still only one step back.

I would encourage you today to go through some of the activities mentioned above. Evaluate where you are, what you are fading from and what you might be fading towards. Then, turn around that take that one step that will bring you back into the arms of God.

Matt Norman

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The Story of King Jesus – Book Review

The Story of King Jesus by Ben Irwin

When I got my copy of this book I couldn’t help but ask myself, if the world needed another kids Bible story book. The answer is YES. I don’t think we can ever have too many too many tools to help parents and those who work with children share the gospel. So, what did I think of THIS one?

Appearance: Ok, normally appearance would factor into my review of a book, but when it comes to a children’s book the illustrations are at least as important as the words that are written. After all, it’s the pictures that are going to grab the child’s interest long before the words do. The illustrations in this book are done by Nick Lee. The style is different from just about any other children’s book I have seen. But, they are still good. Bright colors and somewhat whimsical art make the book interesting and fun.

Content: This is a Bible story book, so the content is the most important factor. In this case the content is solid. There are a couple of things that I’m not sure I completely agree with from a theology or doctrine stand point, but they are very minor and not enough to stop be from endorsing this book, or reading it with my 6 year old daughter or the kids in my church.

Basically this book starts with creation and goes through the Old Testament, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. They then bring us back to today and the current condition of our world. Finally, we end up at the return of Christ and the 1000 year rule on earth.

I think this book does a good job of giving a much abbreviated overview of the history and future of the Bible. As expected in a children’s book or any book intended to be short there are many stories that re simply left out and the ones that are included are mostly just brushed over. This is neither surprising nor is it a problem.

My Impression: Overall I think this is a book that I will enjoy reading to/with my daughter and with the preschoolers in my church. If there is one complaint I could make it would be that the gospel is not quite clear enough. For someone who is comfortable sharing the gospel with children this will be a great tool, but for a parent or even a children’s worker who is not very comfortable doing so, the book might not be that helpful. The book does a great job of telling the story, but connecting the story of the gospel to the individual child is left up to the reader.

This one shortcoming is not even close to enough to make me not recommend this book for anyone that has small children or works with them. I have enjoyed it and I’m sure you will too.

Matt Norman

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Family Friendly Entertainment Guaranteed

As a parent I am always looking for quality entertainment options for my family that is inline with my standards and convictions. In today’s world, this is not easy. That’s why I was so interested in G Movies when I was given the opportunity to review it for my blog. It is that, a family friendly entertainment option.

What is gMovies? Think Netflix with only family friendly, Christian content. In their official release they say the following:

  • Instant access to over 300 Christian movies and TV shows with new titles added monthly.
  • The whole family can enjoy a variety of entertainment including Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Documentaries, Thrillers and more.
  • Stream from iPad, Android or your PC
  • Only $4.99 per month
  • No contract, cancel anytime

So, what do I think?

It’s safe for my kids. I love the fact that I can install this on my kids’ iPads and not worry about what they are watching while using this app. My kids have Netflix on their iPads and I have set it so they can only watch “kid friendly”. The problem is who decides what is kid friendly? Do their standards match mine? One thing I can be certain of is that seldom will the values of most of the shows on Netflix line up with mine. With gMovies I can be certain that they will.

Many options. There is a wide mix of options available on gMovies. From children’s movies and TV shows to Christian documentaries; sci-fi to drama whatever your looking for they have it.

Some are better than others. Ok, I obviously have not watched all 300 plus titles that gMovies offers, but having reviewed at least part of a few this is what I have come up with. The quality of them is good, but not big screen good. Many of the movies look like made for TV movies. This is certainly not a criticism. They are still high quality, entertaining movies just not block busters.

Great Content. Last night I viewed a documentary called Dragons or Dinosaurs. The quality was exceptional and the content was insightful and inspirational. If this is representative of the other, non-fictional offerings on gMovies than it is worth the price.

Great Price. In case you missed it above, the price for this is only $4.99 per month. That’s like a cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop in exchange for entertainment for you and your family for the month. If you or your kids watched just one item on the list during a given month, it would be worth the money.

So, where does that leave us? Try it. Spend the 5 bucks to get a month of the service and check it out. Even better…

Try it for FREE!!!

That’s right. Here is a code that you can use to get 2 free weeks of gMovies. Use the code. Check it out. See for yourself. Click the link below and enter the promo code provided and see what gMovies is all about.


Promo Code: FREETRIAL71

I hope you enjoy it, I sure am.

Matt Norman

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Cheap Bingo Style Tumbler Thing

Ok, not much of a title, but I’m not sure what else to call it. It was fun building it and it worked great when we used it this morning. First let me explain what it is. I have been thinking of a way to choose players for games in a manner that was fair and took any appearance of favoritism out of the picture. Then I started thinking of a Bingo cage. So, I went to my local Lowe’s and proceeded to walk around and see what I could come up with. What you see is the result of that time. In this tumbler I placed 50 plastic ball pit balls that I had numbered 1 – 50. Then I spun it around, opened the hatch and pulled out 1 ball at a time till I had all the players I needed. Here is the final product, then I’ll explain how I made it.

Photo Apr 11, 8 16 32 PM


This is the finished product including a nice cote of bright red paint on the body and blue on the legs.






Photo Apr 11, 8 16 45 PMHere is the hatch that I use to take balls out. I’ll explain how I made it as we get a little further on.







Photo Apr 11, 8 16 40 PM



Here you can see the hatch opened.






Photo Apr 11, 12 33 13 PM Ok, now down to the nitty gritty, as they say. Pictured here are all the raw materials. Here are some of the larger pieces listed. I’ve added individual pictures of the smaller parts below.

1 – 5 gallon bucket, with lid

Approx. 6 feet of 1/2in PVC tubing.




Photo Apr 11, 12 33 34 PM  This is one of those small magnetic closure things for holding cabinets closed. It will be used to hold the hatch closed while spinning of sitting.






Photo Apr 11, 12 33 41 PM These are 90degree PVC elbows. You’ll need these for your legs and your pivot point. 2 of them are required. Make sure that all the fittings are press fit, not threaded.






Photo Apr 11, 12 33 37 PM  Cheap cabinet pull handle. I think this one was like $.97. It’s wooded so it took paint very well.







Photo Apr 11, 12 33 42 PM  This is a dryer vent cover. I liked it because it had a round flange that could go through the hole that was to be cut in the bucket and had a hinged flap which is what I needed.






Photo Apr 11, 12 36 00 PM  Here is what the side of the dryer vent looks like.











Photo Apr 11, 12 42 48 PM  The first step was to remove the shroud type piece from over the flap. This would just be in our way as we try to get balls out of the  hole. I’m using 2″ balls in my tumbler. However, if you are using smaller balls you could, perceivably, keep this part intact and just open the grate to get the balls out. I chose to remove it.








Photo Apr 11, 12 51 51 PM   I goofed here. I didn’t realize that the back of this shroud was actually holding the flap from coming loose. As a result I cut it off and found that the flap would just fall off. So, I had to make a plan B and figure out something that would hold the flap in place. If you are careful and don’t cut off that piece of the shroud that covers the back of the hinge area, you should be good to go. At some point I will probably get a new dryer vent and redo this.



Photo Apr 11, 1 15 14 PM  Next to come off was this metal piece. It came off pretty easily.










Photo Apr 11, 1 15 18 PM  This metal piece is held in place by 4 plastic tabs like this one. Since I wasn’t planning to keep the metal piece, I just bent it so that it could clear the tabs and then pulled it out.






Photo Apr 11, 1 35 37 PM Now I drilled a hole in the end of the bucket. I started with a small drill bit so as to get a good center. The maker of the bucket were nice enough to put a little dimple right int he middle. Once I had a good center hole I used a whole saw that was very close to the size of the PVC pipe.





Photo Apr 11, 1 35 43 PM  Next I used the same process I used to put the hole in the bottom of the bucket and put a whole in the lid.







Photo Apr 11, 1 35 40 PM  Next I cut a round hole in the bucket. This hole is the size of the opening in the dryer vent. The square flange of the vent will cover this hole so it doesn’t have to be exact, but I cut pretty close to allow for a tight fit.





Photo Apr 11, 2 08 05 PM Now to install the flap. Notice that I used my Dremel tool to grind down the sides of the square flange. This allowed the piece to fit more closely.







Photo Apr 11, 2 08 35 PM  Here you can see where the flap assembly is bolted to the bucket. I used the flange itself as a guide for drilling the holes for the bolts.






Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the next step. So, I’ll explain it. If you want me to I’d be more than happy to take a picture of this step on the finished product and post it.

Anyway, the next thing I did was cut a hole right next to the opening in the flap. This hole is for the magnet cabinet closure thing. I then mounted the magnet side of this closure piece to the underside of the flap assembly. The little metal piece that goes with it will later be mounted to the flap itself.

Photo Apr 11, 3 25 57 PM  Now that the magnet closure is attached to the underside of the flange assembly I had to open up the hole to make room for it. this is what the hole looked like when it was done. Then I mounted the flap assembly to the bucket as show above.





Another thing that I forgot to picture, but makes a big difference is in mounting the metal from the magnetic closure to the flap itself. In order to make it sit flat and line up with the magnet I had to get creative. I took a leftover piece of the PVC pipe used for the legs and ground the end to match the contour of the underside of the flap. I then cut it down to size so that it would cause the metal tab to lie flat. Finally, I drilled a hole in the flap and used a short bolt and the PVC spacer to mount the metal plate to the flap.

Photo Apr 11, 8 16 32 PM Again, this is the final product. For the legs and “axle” I cut the “Axle” piece to the approximate length. You want it to go all the way through and stick out a little on both ends. I then put one of the 90degree fittings on one end stuck it through the bucket and marked the other end to trim it down to the right size.

Next I cut the legs to 10 inches each and pressed them into place. This provided plenty of clearance for the flap when spinning the tumbler.



Once I had test fit everything I took the leg and axle off as well as the lid. I assembled the leg/axle assemble apart from the bucket and painted them legs blue and the bucket and lid red. Once everything was dry I put it all back together and off we went.

If you have questions I love to hear them. I can take more pictures if you have something specific you want to see.




Matt Norman

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