Is Your Children’s Ministry Outwardly Focused

In church world we often lament at the inward focus of many churches. We complain at how little churches are doing to reach out into the community. We hypothesize that the decline in many churches is due, at least in part, to the inward focus. Christians and non-Christians alike point to the selfishness that is apparent in our lack of community involvement. As I communicate with other children’s ministry leaders I hear the same complaint. This had me thinking that perhaps many of our children’s ministries are just as guilty of this as the church in whole. So this bring the question, is your children’s ministry outwardly focused?

What is outward focused? In most churches there are many different programs, ministries and services. Some of these programs are aimed at helping those that are already in the church. Others are focused on reaching and/or helping those that are not yet in the church. Having an outward focus means that a given church has some of these programs that are aimed at people outside the church. Some would even go so far as to say that having an outward focus means that you have more programs, ministries, and services aimed outside the church than you do aimed inside. I’m not sure that I would go that far.

How do I know? If we are not careful it can be easy to lie to ourselves and say that we are outwardly focused. So, how can we know for sure if we are. Take some time and consider you different programs, ministries, services and events. Look closely at these things. Who do they benefit most, people inside the church or people outside? If people inside the church benefit more than that thing is inwardly focused, even if that is not your goal.

Some things that we intend to be outwardly focused end up being inward. For instance consider a fall festival type event. Many churches do these types of events around Halloween and even at other times of the year. These are usually intended to be outwardly focused events, aimed at bringing people in from the community to connect with them and, hopefully, share the gospel. But, what often sometimes is that the event is more attended by people in the church than by outsiders. When this happens he event BECOMES inwardly focused regardless of what the intent was. Now, this can be a great time of fellowship for the people of your church and for that reason is not, necessarily a bad thing. However, at that point it is not really an outwardly focused event.

So, what? The question that every leader is asking when they read a post like this is, “What does this have to do with my ministry and how can I apply it?” Well, as mentioned above, take some time to consider your current programs, ministries, services and events. Look at them closely to determine if they are outward or inward in their focus. After you have evaluated everything that you are currently doing, ask if you are doing enough to reach the community. Is your ministry outwardly focused enough. If not, then the question becomes, what can you do about it? Here are some ideas that might help.

  • Think about what your doing. Consider if some of the things you are already doing could or should be steered in a direction that would make them more outwardly focused. How can you turn something that you are already doing into more of a community outreach/service type of thing?
  • Look at what the community is already doing. Find ways that you can be involved in events that your local community is already putting on. This allows them to plan it and promote it and all you have to do is show up and do your thing. If this is a regular, monthly event then attend it a couple times, with a few other people. Look for ways that God could use you while your there. If this is a yearly event, then look for people in your church that have attended it and are familiar with it and ask them to help you plan for it.
  • Drive around. Take some time and drive around your community. Look for things like parks where you could go and do things like back yard Bible clubs, or even VBS. Look for neighborhoods that have lots of kids. These may be great places for you to do sidewalk Sunday schools or something similar. Look for places that people, especially kids, are already gathering. Look for ways that you can minster to the people that are already gathered there.

Hopefully these few ideas will get your creative juices flowing. The bottom line is to get out into the community and FIND ways to connect with people, to serve them, and to share the gospel with them.

Matt Norman

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Preparing For Deployment

The town I live in has a very active Army National Guard station. Because of this it is common to see military men and women in uniform. Recently this got me thinking about their training and how it relates to the church. In the National Guard they train regularly. They do this not knowing when, or even IF they will be deployed. They know that they need to be prepared to leave at any moment. They need to constantly be ready for deployment.  The same is true in the church.

Deployed to what? The military never knows what sort of mission they will be sent out on. The church, however, has a mission that was given to us nearly 2000 years ago. We call this mission The Great Commission. In it Jesus instructs us to “go make disciples of all nations.” This is our mission. This is what we are being deployed to.

Are you ready for deployment? For a military person this question is basically asking, are you prepared to carry out the mission you are being assigned? For the church the question is the same. We know the mission so the question is, are you ready to carry it out? So, ask yourself “Am I ready to go and make disciples?”

Why does it matter? When Jesus said, “Go make disciples” it could be more accurately translated, “As you go…” In other words as you go about your daily life. As you go to the grocery store. As you go to get gas. As you go out to eat. This is why it is important that you always be prepared for the mission, because the mission happens every day. You never know when an opportunity will arise to share the gospel or to show the love of Jesus. For this reason, you must always be prepared.

How do you prepare? Soldiers prepare for deployment by training. The same is true for the church. Training for deployment means studying your Bible. Praying. Listening to the voice of the God and obeying. Jesus said that His sheep recognize His voice. This only happens when we talk with Him often and listen to His voice. We also have to be open to the opportunities. Pray to ask God to open your eyes to see the opportunities. Our hearts need to be ready for the mission too. Pray and ask God to soften your heart for the lost.

Bottom line: There are many ways that we can prepare for the mission. My goal, at this time, is not to share all of them. Rather I want to encourage and inspire you to always be ready for deployment. Understand that your never done training for deployment. This is a daily thing that never ends. BUT, the reward is more than worth the work.

Matt Norman

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Preparing Kids For Camp

It’s that time of year. The time that Senior pastors often refer to as the “slow season” but is anything but for those in ministry to children or youth. If your anything like me you are hip deep in preparing for camp. Whether you are taking a group way to a camp run by someone else, building your own camp, or planning a day camp at your church there are some things that you can do to help your kids get the most out of their camp experience.

I LOVE camp. I’ve been part of camps for children or youth for several years. Seldom have I seen any other thing that can have a much of an impact in such a short time. I have seen kids come out of camp COMPLETELY changed and I have seen that change last. There is something powerful about removing a kid from their normal environment, away from their normal influences, that allows them to connect with God at a level that is difficult to attain a home. This is why I love camp and want to do what I can to help kids make the most of it.

Safety.This may not seem like a logical way to prepare kids for a great spiritual experience, but if you can’t make momma feel comfortable about the safety of their little baby, then that child ain’t goin’. Beyond that, if a child is fearful for their safety, then that fear will distract them from God. So, do all you can to ensure their safety. This can mean picking the right chaperons, picking the right camp, taking the right supplies. Even something as minor as a sun burn can be a major distraction for a kid. Sure, they should bring sun screen, but they are kids and are likely to forget. So, bring some for them.

Prayer. Certainly you need to be praying for your campers. But, you don’t need to be the only one. Consider recruiting prayer warriors within your church. Put together a prayer calendar and ask people to commit to praying for the kids every day for a month prior to leaving for camp. Assign specific adults to pray for specific adults. Consider creating a prayer calendar to help parents pray for their own kids in the month prior to camp. Encourage the kids that are going to pray for their own camp experience. Create a prayer calendar for them as well. Invite kids that are not going to camp to pray for their friends who are going. Make a prayer calendar for them too. I think you get the idea that there are many ways that your church can be praying for the kids you are taking to camp.

Spiritually. I’ve noticed that when you take kids to camp it takes them a couple days before they start “plugging in”. Taking some steps prior to going to camp to prepare the hearts of your kids can help to shorten this time.

  • Pre-camp devotions: The camp I’m taking my kids to actually provides some preamp devotions. If you are taking you kids to a camp put on by someone else, check with them and see if they have something similar. If you are building your own camp, then consider writing some devise for the kids for before camp.
  • Prayer: I know I already talked about this, but IF your kids will spend some time in prayer they will not be able to help but be in a better place when you get ready to go to camp.
  • Discipleship: If you are taking kids to camp then you already have one or two that you praying don’t give you any trouble. There’s that one kids that you are really worried about. There is time to do something about that. Take time now to disciple those kids. Spend some time with them. Build that relationship and encourage them.
  • Chaperons: Hopefully you already have your chaperons lined up. I know that situations come up that have you running around at the last minute trying to arrange chaperons, but if you can get them ahead of time then work to connect the kids with the chaperon that will be responsible for them. Create opportunities for your kids to connect with their chaperon. Encourage your chaperons to build those relationships. This will increase their influence with those kids when camp comes.

Excitement: Camp is fun. For this reason you shouldn’t have to work too hard to get your kids excited about going. But, you should also work to get them excited about God working in their lives during that time. Talk about the kinds of things God might do. Tell stories of how you’ve seen God work in kids through camp. Even better, have a kid or youth give testimony to how God worked in them at camp.

Bottom line: At the end of the day we all want to see God work in our kids through camp. If we didn’t then we wouldn’t bother taking them. This being true it is worth the time and effort to make some plans to help your kids prepare for camp.

What are some ways that you help your kids get ready for camp?


Matt Norman

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Do You REALLY Believe In Prayer?

We often talk about and teach the importance of prayer. If you went back and read my old posts you would see prayer and it’s importance in many of my writings. Still I have to ask the question, do I REALLY believe in the power and importance of prayer?

Is prayer important? Throughout the New Testament we read about Jesus taking time to pray. In fact, the night before He was arrested He spent hours in prayer. Clearly the example of Jesus shows that prayer is important.

Is prayer powerful? In Joshua chapter 10 we read where Joshua prays and the sun stops moving in the sky, giving them  the time they needed to defeat their enemy. Clearly prayer is powerful?

Why do we forsake it? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, if I’m not careful, my tendency is to depend on my own abilities as I plan programs, events, and work to lead the ministry God has called me to. So, why do I forsake prayer? The truth is, I never plan to. God has gifted me in certain ways, as He has all whom He calls to lead. Because of this gifting there is a certain amount of leading, planning, etc that I can do without ever having to pray. BUT, what am I missing when I do this?

Can God do more than me? This seems like a dumb question, but when we try to do ministry without prayer the message we are sending is that we can do it without God. Sure, we are gifted and there is a certain amount that we can do without Him. But, how much more could God do in our ministry if we prayed?

Pain is coming. Ministry is hard and, often frustrating. As I write this I find myself somewhat buried under the weight of ministry. As I have thought about the many facets of my ministry and where they are, where they need to go and how we get them there the burden seems to get heavier by the day. It is while I thought through some of this stuff that I realized that prayer is not a regular part of my ministry. HOW ARROGANT have I become that I think I can do this without God? To say that sounds like pure lunacy, but when we work without prayer this is what we are doing. The weight that I have carried lately is a direct result of my lack of prayer. By not spending the time in prayer that I need to I have chosen to carry a burden that was never mine to carry.

Are you building in vain? Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, it’s builders labor in vain.” When we exclude prayer as a regular part of our routine, of how we plan and lead our ministry, then we are building this house that we call ministry in VAIN. Merriam-Webster defines vain as, “having no real value” or “marked by futility or ineffectualness.” It also uses words like idle, worthless, unsuccessful, and useless to describe what vain means. None of these are words I want used to describe the ministry I lead. Without prayer this is exactly the words that will ultimately describe our ministry.

So what? I have often thought and felt that I needed to spend more time in prayer. However, it has never really struck me that without prayer, everything I do is in VAIN. Wow! That’s a punch in the gut. Prayer will certainly not remove all the difficulties or ministry. Ministry is still hard work, but if it simply removed the frustrations that come as a result of my lack of prayer, how great would that be?

So what will I be doing differently? I have been working, for the past few weeks, on getting into a weekly routine. An intentional plan for how I spend my time each week, from day to day. This started as a way to help ensure that I got my daily exercise each morning. Now, I will build on what I have already started and add an intentional time of prayer to this daily routine.

How do you ensure that prayer is a regular part of your life and ministry?


Matt Norman

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What Do These Stones Mean To You?

“Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the arm of the Lord’s covenant.” Joshua 4:6-7

As the Israelites were preparing to cross the Jordan River on dry land, even as their fathers had cross the red sea, God gave them the above command. They were to build an alter. As their children saw this alter and asked about it’s meaning they would have an opportunity to tell the children about the mighty works that God ha performed. As I read this recently I found myself thinking, what “alters” have I erected that remind me of What God has done and give me an opportunity to tell my children and the children in the church about it.

Why is this important? Moses generation saw God send plagues to free them from Egypt. They saw God part the Red Sea. They saw Him bring water from a rock. They received manna when they got hungry and quale when they demanded meat. They saw God work and followed Him. Not perfectly, but they followed.

Joshua’s generation saw God part the Jordan River. They saw the mighty walls of Jericho come tumbling down. They saw God work and followed Him. Not perfectly, but they followed.

Judges 2:10-11 says, “That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.”

This is speaking of the generation that came immediately after Joshua. They quickly forgot the amazing things that God had done in the previous generations. This is why it is important because we are always only a single generation away from he death of Christianity. I understand that God is much bigger than this kind of thing, but in our church and in our country we really are just one generation away from Christianity dying. We must remind our children of the things that God has done.

Setting up stones. In the same way that the Israelites set up stones as a reminder of what God did for them, setting something in our home as a reminder to our own children can really help them know and remember what God has done. Be creative. Make it something that stands out. Make it something that your kids will be curious about when you first put it. Try to make it something that your kids will ask you about again and again.

Keep it real. When you talk about what God has done it is great to talk about the many things God did in the Bible. However, do more than just talk about it. Get out your Bible. Take them to the passages that talk about it. Read it to them. Read it with them. Help them to understand that these are more than just stories. These things really happened. God did these things for these real people and He still works in people’s live today.

Make it personal. In addition to telling the stories from the Bible, tell your kids what God has done in YOUR life. This will help them to see that God is still at work in the world today.

So, what? If I’m honest I haven’t figured out what this will look line in my family or my ministry. But, it is something I am actively working on. So, how will you do this? What are you already doing to help ensure that your kids know what God has done in your lives? What ideas do you have to do this?

Matt Norman

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