6 Questions To Ensure Your Ministry Out Lasts You

Recently I had to leave a church and ministry that I loved. As I was preparing to leave I start thinking how I, and the ministry, could have been better prepared for this transition.

I’ve heard it said that you will missed about as long as your fist will leave an imprint in water inside a bucket. Now, I don’t completely agree with this, but the point is that the show WILL go on. Certainly people will remember and miss you. There will be things that you did that will out live you, but someone will stand in the gap and take over where you left off. Still, there are some things that we can and should do to help make this transition as easy and seamless as possible. These will also help to ensure that there is as little momentum lost as possible during the transition.

  • What am I working on NOW? As I prepared to leave I had to take some time to think about the many different things that I was working on. Keep a list of the projects that you are working on so that you can easily hand them over to someone else and report on the progress of each.
  • What do you do regularly? Another thing to consider is the things that you do on a weekly or monthly basis. You may not even think about them anymore, but when you leave someone else is going to have to do them.
  • What are you getting ready for? As a leader there are always things that you have coming up. You may just be gathering information at this stage, but these are things that someone else is going to have to take over after you leave.

(Note: There are a number of project planning and task management apps that can help with these first three. Among my favorites are Asana and Wunderlist, but there are many others)

  • Who are you training to replace you? No I’m not saying that you need to be training the person that is going to take your position when you leave. But, there are some things that you do that someone else should probably be doing. For instance at the church I just left I led children’s church. I planned it, led worship, and did the teaching. My son even ran the sound system. I intended to train others to take parts of this, but never did. So, what things are you doing that you should be training someone else to do?
  • What have you been putting off? We all have those projects that keep getting set on the back burner. Most of these are not pivotal to the survival of the ministry, but can add value. Look at these. Consider if they might need to be given a little greater urgency. Talk with other leaders to see if maybe you are missing the importance of these things.
  • What needs to be finished? If you have seen the movie Up, then you can understand me. I get distracted about as easily as the dog Dug from the movie. For this reason I often have many partially completed projects around. Are there things that you have started that you just need to take a day or two and get finished? You don’t want to hand over any half finished projects to your successor if you can help it.

You may be reading this and thinking that you aren’t planning to leave anytime soon so this does not pertain to you. I would have thought the same thing less than 2 months ago. I was certain that I would be at that church for years to come. However, God had a different plan. The point is, even if everything is going well and God is blessing your ministry, you never know where God is going to lead you next, or when. So, you need to be prepared.

Matt Norman

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What Is Orange Tour?

OT15_TwitterProfile_500x500If your in ministry to children or youth, you have probably heard of the Orange Conference. However, if you may not know about the Orange Tour. Think of the Orange Tour as a mini Orange Conference in a regional version.

Who should attend Orange Tour? There is a common misconception that the only people that should attend the Orange Conference are those that use the “Orange” curriculum. The Orange Conference is put on by the reThink group. It is true that these folks also produce curriculum for preschool, children and youth as well as a number of other resources. However, this does not mean that the Orange Conference, or Orange Tour are exclusive for those that use these products.

Isn’t it just a big sales pitch? For those that use Orange curriculum or products there are opportunities to learn more about these products. There are also opportunities to purchase some of them, often at a discounted rate. However, Neither the Orange Conference, nor the Orange Tour is a sales pitch. If you use the materials they produce there are breakout sessions aimed at helping you get the most to of them. But, there are also sessions aimed simply at helping you do the best you can at reaching and ministering to preschoolers, children and youth.

So, what IS Orange Tour? Big, national conferences can often be hard for people to attend. The cost of the conference, plus travel,lodging and meals can be too much for many people. The Orange Tour is designed to fill the gap for those that can’t afford a big, national conference. There are 14 stops on the schedule for Orange Tour 2015. With this many stops they are able to spread them all over the country. As a result there is a good chance that there is an Orange Tour stop within a reasonable drive of your location. This reduces the cost of travel and, for many, eliminates the need for lodging. The reduced cost also provides an opportunity for more people from a given church to attend.

Ok, that still doesn’t really answer the question of what Orange Tour is. For starters I would recommend checking out the official website at HERE. In the mean time let me give you a brief description…

Imagine some of the top names in ministry to children and youth. Imagine you in a venue with just a couple hundred other people while that person shares some of the lessons that have learned. Imagine a smaller group in a breakout session where you can actually ask questions of some of the brightest and best minds in ministry. That is Orange Tour. Of course there is also the excitement and energy that comes from being with a group of people that are just as passionate about reaching the next generation as you are. That’s the sort of thing that can’t really be explained, but has to simply be experienced.

What questions do you have? As a ministry leader and simply a child of God we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. As a result we all aim to be careful in how we spend money on things like conferences. I know that some may still have questions that I have not answered here. I would recommend that you check out their website. However, I would also invite you to leave me a question in the comments below. I will do all I can to answer your questions from my own personal experience. I also have some direct connections with the people that put on the Orange Conference and produce the curriculum and other materials. What I can’t answer I’d be glad to reach out to them to get answered.

In case you’re curious, I’m planning to attend the Orange Tour stop in Ocala, Florida on November 10th. If you’re in Florida I’d love to see you there. If you are going to be there, let me know. I’d love to meet you in person.

Matt Norman

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Judgement Free Zone

Let’s face it church can be a tough place. We look around and we ourselves that everyone is doing better than we are, that no one there understands our problems. Because of these lies we often will not respond to what God is telling us. Because of these lies we often refuse to walk the aisle and talk to the pastor. Because of these lies we refuse to go the front and kneel in prayer. Because of these lies we refuse to do all of these things and more, even though our spirit screams at us to do them.

We refuse for fear of what the perfect people around us might think. Will they think that there is something wrong with me? Will they no longer want to be my friend? Will they treat me differently? All these questions and more arise and, ultimately, keep us paralyzed in our spot. I’m sure I’m not alone when I share that many times I have felt the need to go up from and pray and have let fear stop me. Many times I have felt the need to kneel right were I stood and pray and have not. Many times I have felt the Holy Spirit urging me in a certain direction and have ignored it for fear of what others might think.

What if there was no judgment? Something that I have often done in children’s church and at camps is to start by telling the kids that this is a judgment free zone. In that place we will not wonder why someone is going up front to pray. We will not laugh at someone who goes up front, asks a question, or shares something. We will not talk with people afterwards about why they went up front, unless we truly care about them and want to help. We will not make fun of someone who sings with passion, but without talent. This is what I tell the kids. The goal is to get them all more comfortable with the idea of responding to the voice of God, to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

The system isn’t perfect. I have seen the “Judgment Free Zone” help. I have seen kids more open to God. However, it is not perfect. Just like anything else in life we have to be reminded. Sometimes I will actually post signs around the room that say “Judgment Free Zone”. It is not perfect, but I have seen some kids step up in ways that they may not have otherwise.

Shouldn’t it all be judgment free? While I have tried to build a judgment free environment in children’s church, does one exist in the rest of the church? Are our Sunday school classes or small groups places where people can be completely transparent and honest? Some of these groups are very good at this, but others are not so good. Certainly most worship centers are not judgment free zones. Pastors may say that in their church everyone is welcome to come up front and pray or to respond to God however they feel led. However, is this really true? What has the pastor done to ensure people that they can respond to God’s calling? What has he done to urge the congregation not to judge? Chances are nothing has been done.

I don’t intend this to be an attack on pastors. I think in most churches there exists an assumption that their environments are judgment free. There is an assumption that people will feel comfortable coming down front to pray, or to kneel and pray where they are, or to otherwise respond to God’s speaking how they feel they need to. However, I can speak from my own experience that I have felt uncomfortable doing these things. I have had moments where I just feel the need to kneel and pray during a worship service, but worried what people would think. After all, I was on staff. What sort of problems could I have that could have me so emotional, or kneeling in the front of the church praying?

So what? What can we really do about this? Well, for starters we can start by talking about it. Maybe this is in a sermon series on the subject. Maybe it is something you encourage your Sunday school classes to discuss. Maybe it is something that you cover on a regular basis during your announcements, at least for a time. Maybe it is something pastor says while moving into the response time. The exact method is not important. What is important is making sure that the people that enter a worship service at your church know that if they hear from God during that service that they can feel comfortable responding to that.

Matt Norman

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“Become as I am”

“I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am – except for these chains.” Acts 26:29 HCSB

This morning as I was reading my Bible I read this verse. It had me wondering how many of us truly embrace Paul’s feelings in this verse.

When it’s easy. Many Christians are willing, even eager, to share the gospel when it is easy. Maybe we invite people to church. Maybe we will teach in Sunday school. Maybe we have a friend or family member that is asking questions and we are more than willing to talk with them. This is all great. We should share the gospel when it’s easy. We should do all of these things. But, what about when it’s difficult.

When it’s difficult. What if we have a friend that is far from God and living a life that shows it? Do we share with them? What if God calls us to go to an area where the Gospel is not so willingly received? What if God calls us to leave the only place we have ever called home and move hundreds of miles away? What if God sends us to a place where we don’t know anyone? What if the people we try to share with hate us, maybe even try to hurt us? What if God calls us to do something that is outside our comfort zone? What if God calls us to reach people we are not comfortable with?

Under these circumstances will we still share the gospel? Will we still show the boldness of Paul when he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel…”? Romans1:16. If we are honest most of us will have to say that we do not share the gospel with much enthusiasm when it is difficult. In fact many of us may not even share it at all.

It’s not too late. We could waste a bunch of time beating ourselves up over missed opportunities. In fact that is what the devil would love for us to do. So long as we are lamenting over our past we are not preparing for our future or sharing the gospel in the present. But, it is not too late. Spend some time in prayer, asking God to show you opportunities to share the gospel. If you don’t feel prepared, then talk with your pastor about learning how to share your faith with others. Practice sharing your faith with friends. Constantly be looking for opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Be careful what you pray for. When you pray for God to give you opportunities to share the gospel, He will. The question is, will you be ready? If you pray for God to use you to spread the gospel, He will. The question is are you willing to go where He says to go and do what He says to do?

“But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher?”

Romans 10:14 HCSB

Matt Norman

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A Letter To The Children of Tallassee

I Love You. I truly love you all. My leaving does not mean that I love you any less. Even though I have been here only a year, I have truly come to love you. I will still love you even though I am gone.

God has a plan. God has a plan for my life and a plan for yours. When I came to Tallassee I thought it would be for longer than one year, but my plans are not important. It is God’s plans that matter. I don’t know why God sent me here for only one year, but that was His plan. God sent me to Tallassee and now He has brought me back to Florida. I don’t know what He has planned for my future or for yours, but I know He has a plan and I can’t wait to see what it is.

Love the next guy. God sent me to care for you all for a certain time. AND, He will send someone else to care for you after I am gone. Love the next person like you have loved me. Please don’t ever feel that to love whoever comes after me in any way betrays me. In fact to not show love to the next person would make it appear that I didn’t teach you how to love. Continue to love me, but love the next person at least as much as you love me.

Remember what I have taught. There were many things that I said and taught during my year in Tallassee. From modesty to respect to salvation through Jesus Christ, you should remember and live by all of these things. I say this not because they are things that I taught, but because these are things that God spoke to us through the Bible.

Don’t be mad at God. There are times in our lives when things don’t go the way we would like for them to go. For me, and for many of you, this is one of those times. During these times it can be easy for us to wonder why God would allow such things to happen and to even get mad at God. It is ok to have questions. It is ok to ask God tough questions. Trust me He can handle it. But, I please don’t be mad at God. I don’t know why this was part of His plan, but I trust that it is. There will come a day when this will make perfect sense. I love you all and I wouldn’t want you to waste any energy or spend time being angry with God.

Live a life worthy of your call. In Ephesians 4:1 Paul urges the people in the church of Ephesus to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” A number of you have chosen to live for Christ during this past year. Even as Paul did, I urge you to live a life worthy of this call that you have received. Live your life for Jesus.

I love you. I can’t express how hard it has been for me to leave you all. I really do love you. In Brother Derek, Brother Barry, Brother Josh and Brother Ron you have leaders that you can turn to when you have questions. You also, of course, can talk to your parents and your Sunday School teachers. But, if you ever need to talk to me know that you can call me anytime. I may be far away, but I am still available. I love you all and can’t wait till the day that I get to see you all again.

Matt Norman

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