About Matt Norman

I am a Christian, husband, father, pastor, church planter, nurse, and freelance writer.

3 Things Wrestling Drunks Taught Me About God

Some of you may know that I spent just shy of 20 years working in a  local emergency room. Some of you may also know that I’m a fairly large man. As you can imagine this often came in handy in the ER. Often times I was just called on to perform feats of strength. Usually helping to move heavy patients. However, there were a great many times when my size and strength were called upon to “deal with” someone who was getting a bit unruly. Sadly, having to wrestle and even restrain someone is sometimes required for their safety, as well as that of the staff and other patients and visitors. Looking back on those experiences, here are 3 things wrestling with drunks taught me about God.

1.) He’s got my back, even when I don’t know He’s there.

I spent a couple years working as the charge nurse in that ER. In those days we had a charge nurse and a co-charge nurse. My partner was named Angela. I remember this one shift we had a particular mouthy patient in bed 6. This bed happened to be near the main nurses station. So, Angel and I had a good view of all his antics. He was quite drunk and not happy about being there. For his own safety, we had a responsible for doing what we could to keep him there until he sobered up.

For at least the third time this man had wondered out of his room and into the passageway. Angela was calmly talking to him, trying to convince him to go back into his room. He continued to yell and cuss, and Angela remained calm. I was very impressed. Then, suddenly, after a few minutes of this he says, “Well, I guess I better go back into my room.” Then he turned around and did just that.

A very shocked and confused watched as he went back to his bed, then she turned around to walk away… and nearly ran into me. You see, what she didn’t know was that I had seen her talking with this man and had walked up behind her. I didn’t say a word, or lay a finger on the patient. I just stood there with my arms folded looking mean and scary.

It’s like that with God. We don’t always know that He is there, but He is. He’s got our backs.

2.) I can be bold when I know that He is there.

As I said, I was often called on to help others deal with unruly patients. As a younger man, I would usually just rush in and take over the experience. Over time I learned that that might not be the best way to handle it. You see, I learned that all I really needed to do was be present. Quite often I would just stand in the doorway… looking mean and scary. I did quite a bit of looking mean and scary. With my face that comes pretty easy.

What I found was that my presence allowed the other nurse to be more bold, because she knew I was there and had her back. She could do what she needed to do because she knew that if I needed to I would step in. The patient usually also knew that I was there to “step in” if I had to.

It’s like that with God. He’s always there. Sometimes we forget. But, if we will remember that He is there, we can be much more bold.

3.) He will take action when the time comes. 

While me standing in the doorway often allowed the other nurse to do what they needed to do without having to get physical with the patient, it didn’t always work out that way. There were many times that I had to take action. Some might dispute this, but it really was for the safety of the patient, as well as the staff and others in the ER. In these cases, I would stand back and observe… looking mean and scary, of course… THEN when the time came, I would come in and take action. In that moment I would do what I had to do to control the situation.

It’s like that with God. He sees our struggles, and when the time is right, He will step in and take action.

In the Mark 6:45-52 we see this. Verse 45 says, “He made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him…” While they were out there on the boat, a violent storm came. To this very day, these sorts of sudden storms are common on this body of water. Verse 48 says, “He saw them being battered as they rowed because the wind was against them.” He saw their struggles. Then in verse 51 He climbed into the boat with them and the wind ceased.

Their journey wasn’t without struggle and I sure they would have liked for Him to do the whole control the weather thing much sooner. But, He’s God, we are not. So, we have to remember that He sees our difficulties and when the time is right He will step in.

So what?

Many of my coworkers quickly came to understand that I was there for them, even when they didn’t know it. I was constantly watching and listening for situations that might require me to at least be visible and to step in when needed.

It’s kinda like that with God. Remember that He has your back, even when you can’t see Him. You can be bold, when you remember that He is there. He WILL step in when the time comes.

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.

Act Like a Fool

I am a complete sucker for those military homecoming videos. You know the ones. Mom or dad, or maybe a son, daughter, or a sibling is in the military and has been away for some time. Sometimes the set up is very elaborate. I’ve seen them done in elementary schools, high schools, college graduations, kid’s sports events, even professional sporting events. The family member has no idea that their loved one, who has been away serving our country, is home and is about to appear. Then, suddenly, the soldier, marine, sailor, or airmen appears. In almost every case the moment the family sees the service man or woman, they forget all propriety and run to them. We should be more like this.

Not cool, man. Not cool.

I remember one particular video. Actually I’ve seen several like it. It involves a high school or college guy playing sports. It seems like a game or practice, just like any other. Until the player across from him removes his football helmet, or catchers mask, or mascot head and reveals that it’s actually dad inside. In that moment this big, bad guy, this athlete cares nothing about what his friends might think. All that matters is that his dad is there. I’ve seen these big, athletic young men run and hug their dads, with tears running down their face. How often have YOU seen a high school or college age guy so willing to cry in front of his friends?

Daddy’s girl

I remember another one where a girl was a cheerleader. I can’t remember if it was high school or college, but you get the picture. She was in the middle of a routine. They were standing in formation when suddenly dad appeared. Even though she was supposed to be standing in formation, she no longer cared. She was willing to face the consequences of breaking formation. Heck, she may not have even been thinking about it. In that moment all that mattered was being with her father.

Momma’s boy

This isn’t just about dads either. I remember one where a young African-American guy was practicing with his high school basketball team when mom walked into the gym. He COMPLETELY LOST IT. He ran over to the padded wall behind the goal, then fell to the floor crying. Mom came over to him, encouraging him to get up, but he was so overwhelmed with emotion he simply had to sit there and let it out for a moment. After a couple minutes he did get up and hug his mother, still with tears on his face.

Husbands, siblings, children and more

This is not all just about moms and dads. I’ve seen similar video of siblings, husbands, or children coming home. In every instance the unsuspecting family member forgets all about appearances. All that matters is that this loved one has returned to them. The emotion is often overwhelming. I remember scenes of wives, with kids running along behind her, running across football fields to jump into the arms of her husband… literally jump into his arms. I’ve seen younger brothers collapse to the floor, over whelmed by emotion at seeing their older brother or sister. It never cease to amaze me the number of such videos that I have seen.

So, what?

I’ve been in church my entire life. One thing that I have noticed is how seldom people are willing to act, or appear foolish in church. The people in the stories I shared above, and hundreds more like them, give us an example of what it looks like to totally abandon propriety, even if only for a moment. These folks are so overwhelmed being in the presence of their loved one that they forget all about the limitations that they normally put on their own behavior. They act like fools, and they don’t care what anybody thinks.

Maybe we, in the church, need to act like fools more often. We come into the presence of God, but do we act like it. Are we so comfortable or complacent in our relationship with Jesus that we no longer get excited about being in His presence? When was the last time you got so excited about Jesus that you were willing to look foolish? Have you EVER been that excited about Jesus?

Maybe the reason that more people are not coming to church is because we don’t even seem to want to be there. We, who claim to now Christ, who claim to have a personal relationship with Him, are not excited about being with Him. If we don’t seem excited about it, why should anybody else be?

In the videos I talked about above, the only people running to the new appeared serviceman or woman are the family. The other members of the team are not running towards him or her. The people in the crowd are not running towards him or her. they don’t do that because THEY are not the ones with the personal connection. This is not their loved one, so why would they run towards them? But, the family can’t help but respond.

They make me cry. There I said it. These videos always make me cry. I’m a big cry baby. Many people are moved by these videos. I am so moved by the responses of the families that I cry. I get excited for them. I get excited with them. What if we became so excited about being with Jesus that we were willing to act or appear foolish? Would people around us be moved by our display of love for Jesus? Maybe.

I would encourage you to enter church with the expectation of encountering Jesus. Then be willing to become excited when you encounter Him. Be willing to get so excited that you can’t help but show it. Become so excited that you don’t care what people think. Become so excited that others can see it and are moved by it.

Don’t be afraid to appear foolish for the sake of Jesus.

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.

4 Tips For Helping Kids Serve in Kid’s Church… Adults too.

Last week I shared 5 Ways That Kids Can Serve in Kid’s Church. Having kids serve can be GREAT. However, we need to make sure that they are prepared, or it can be a source of great frustration for us and the child. So, here are 4 tips for helping kids serve in kid’s church, or church in general.

1.) Train them

Keep in mind that for most of your kids this will be their first time serving in church. You wouldn’t put any other person in any other environment to work doing something they had never done without proper training. Nor should we ask anyone to serve in church without training them first. Seek to answer these questions as you train them:

  • Who: Who will they be serving? Who will they be serving with? Who are they accountable to?
  • What: What are they supposed to be doing? What tools are available to them? What are your expectations of them?
  • When: When should they arrive? When are they to do whatever it is they are to do within the service? When are some other times that you would like them there for practices, etc?
  • Where:Where should they be before the service? Where should they be during the service? Where should they go went it’s time to do their thing? Where should they go when they are done doing their thing?
  • How: How do they do the thing you are asking them to do? How do they advance the slides in the presentation? How do they turn up the volume on that one mic? How should they greet new kids?
  • Why: This may be the most important question you seek to help these kids answer. They may have a wide variety of reasons that they want to serve. Help them to see that while many of their reasons for serving are ok, their real reason for serving is for the benefit of others. We serve because Jesus served. We serve because Jesus died for us. We serve because we want to love our neighbors.

2.) Watch them 

This one may go without saying. As children’s ministry leaders we are constantly watching the kids in our care. However, this goes beyond this. When a child is serving you need to watch so that you can see how well they are doing. Celebrate them publicly when they do a good job. Offer gentle correction and instruction when needed. Remember the point is not simply to make a show of cute little children serving. Rather it is to actually help these kids grow through the experience. Some of my greatest times of growth have come through serving.

3.) Be patient

Remember that these are children. Certainly we want them to do a great job, but we must remember that they are children. Being children comes with a certain amount of silliness and a certain lack of focus at times. Keep in mind that for many kids this will be the first time that they have ever served in church. Most people wouldn’t be willing to give them the chance. Trust me, most of those kids want to do a good job, if for no other reason that to please you. So, be patient with them.

4.) Let them be bad at it

I remember early in my ministry there were certain things that I had a hard time letting other people do. Teaching was one of those things. You see, I had a certain way that I thought it should be done and I just knew that others would be able to do it my way. Well, the truth is that my way was just my way, not THE way. So, I started letting others teach. Were they as good as me their first time out? No, they were not. But, they learned and grew… just like I had. Let these kids be bad at the jobs you are giving them. Then, guide them and teach them till they are better at it. You may find that some of these kids are actually better at some of these things that some of the adults you might have serving with you.

Bottom line

At some point someone took a chance with you. They gave you the chance to do something you had never done before… and to be bad at it. Maybe they trained you, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they watched you and offered correction and instruction as needed. Maybe they were patient with you as you learned. If they didn’t do these things, then I bet you wish they had. Kid’s can be the church of today, if we let them… and help them.

These tips can also apply to the adults serving in your ministry. If you take these steps with the adults serving in your ministry you may find that they stay longer and that you others are more likely to come onboard.

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.

5 Ways That Kids Can Serve in Kid’s Church

There is a common saying that says, “Children are the church of tomorrow.”

I HATE that saying.

The truth is that they can be the church of today, if we’ll let them. Everything that I think of when I think of being the church, they can do: salvation, worship, serving, leading, Spiritual growth, prayer. I see nothing in this lis that kids can do/be, if we will just give them the chance. It will mean setting up specific opportunities for children to be the church, but if we take the time to do this, it will be worth it. We have to remember that kids are not just little adults. They think, worship, and learn differently than we do. So, let’s set up opportunities for kids to BE the church that are design for them. With that in mind, here are 5 ways that kids can serve in kid’s church.

1.) Audio/Video: It was kind of a running joke in the 80’s that if you needed the clock set on a VCR, get a kid to do it. The truth is that they are usually pretty good with this tech stuff. For this reason running the A/V system is a great place for kids to serve. For most of my time leading children’s church  I had 4th of 5th graders that ran the computer for me. Running a powerpoint or other presentation software is simple, regardless of the age. With a little training I’ve even found that they could do a good job managing the soundboard.

2.) Worship Team: As an adult it is possible to get kids engaged in worship. But, it requires a lot more work than kids seeing their friends up there. Take time to teach them the motions. Be willing to let them be bad at it. Heck, even let them be a little goofy up there. Remember that the goal is to get them involved in the worship and for them to help get their friends more involved.

3.) Greeters: It’s great for new kids that come into your church to be greeted by friendly adults. It’s even better for them to be greeted and welcome by other kids. Train some kids to be greeters. Help them see he importance of it and show them what it looks like to do it well. Heck, they could even be placed at the front of the church with the grown up greeters.

4.) Buddies: Being the new kid in any situation can be difficult. This is no different in church. Train some kids to be “buddies” to the new kids. When a new kid shows up, assign them to their buddy. The buddy will then spend the day with the new kid. The goal is to make them feel comfortable from the beginning by giving them someone they can kinda feel like they know. It also gives them confidence that they will know where to go and what to do because their buddy will show them.

5.) Mentors: I remember a few years ago Craig Groeschel saying that at Life.Church, they have 5th graders mentoring kindergarteners. He said, “What 5th grader thinks that he can mentor a kindergartener? The one who has been told he can.” No matter how good a leader you are, no matter how cool you are, no matter how good you are with kids, the older kids will always be the ones that the younger kids look up to. How powerful could it be to disciple some older kids, and train them to disciple/mentor younger kids.

Bottom line: Ultimately the goal is to let kids BE the church. I’m convinced that part of the reason that so many leave church after high school is because they never really felt like they were part of it to begin with. Let’s allow them to be the church today.

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.

5 Questions to Help Teach Your Kids Responsibility

Some time ago I asked my Facebook friends what their greatest parenting struggles were. This post is a response to one of those responses.

Laura wrote: “Knowing when to keep the reigns tight or let them step out on their own a little is another issue we struggle with.”

As much as we don’t want to admit it, our kids are growing up. Sometimes it seems like they get taller while they sleep. Even more importantly, they are growing in maturity. Some are doing this slower than others, but they are growing up. The struggle that Laura mentions is something even parent has to struggle with. This comes down to a question of responsibility. The amount to freedom you give them has to be in direct proportion to how responsible they are. It would be great if I could come up with a list of responsibilities and the right age at which they can handle them. If I could to that, I could write a book and travel around the world doing seminars. The problem is that every child is different, every family is different. Still, I think there are some thing she can explore that can help us answer this questions. So, here are five questions to help you teach your kids responsibility.

1.) What are their current responsibilities? Before we can talk about where are going we have to know where we are starting. If your answer to this question is “none”, then you may not be looking at it correctly. Are they expected to make their bed? To keep their room clean? In my house, my son has been feeding the dogs for the past few years. He’s 16 now and his sister is 9. Recently we passed down that responsibility to our daughter. This is, off course, in addition to things like keeping her room clean. Our son also has to take out the trash and do the dishes. He also is responsible for doing his home work. He’s in some pretty advanced classes. So, he often has quite a bit of home work. These are the sorts of things that your kids are probably already responsible for. Consider these. Make a list, even if only in your mind.

2.) How are they doing with these? Back when my son was still responsible for feeding the dogs, he would often forget. I explained to him the importance of him remembering this for himself. I explained that there was nothing wrong with using tools to help him remember. So, he set an alarm on his phone to remind him. My daughter does not have a phone, but she did set an alarm on her iPad. Once you’ve listed the current responsibilities your kids have, give some thought to how well they are doing with them. My son gets home from school before either my wife or I do. So, we expect him to get started on his homework when he gets home. He does a great job with this.

3.) Talk with them about it. Ok, this is not a question. More like an instruction, but it’s still good. After you’ve outlined the responsibilities and examined how well they are doing with them, you need to talk about it. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Point out the responsibilities they currently have.
  • Tell them what they are doing well with.
  • Help them to see the areas that they could improve on.
  • Show them some tools or ideas that can help them be successful with their current responsibilities.
  • Make sure they know that they can come to you for help in fulfilling these responsibilities.

4.) Did they grow after your talk? Now that you have helped your child see areas that they can improve and have given them some tools to help them do that, re-evaluate. Did they grow after your talk? Are they doing a better job now? If so, let them know. This is huge. They want to make you happy and giving them this reassurance will go a long way towards helping them really own their responsibilities. If they haven’t grown as much as you would like, talk with them again.

5.) What are some responsibilities you can give them next? From the beginning of this process, be thinking about what you can give them next. The goal isn’t to give them all the chores you don’t like doing, but to teach them responsibility. I’ll the first to admit that I like not having to take the trash out. But, that’s not the point. Consider what you will give them next, even before you think they are ready for it. Then, as they seem to be mastering their current responsibilities start training them for the next one. Finally, when the time is right, turn it over to them.

6.) Be nice! Ok, this is not a question either and it’s number 6. Consider it a bonus. Who doesn’t like getting a bonus. Anyways, be nice. Remember that you love these frustrating smaller versions of you. Remember that the goal is to help them grow, not to break their spirit. Trust me, if you are too hard on them they will actually end up moving backwards.

I hope this helps. I’d love to hear your stories of how you used these steps to teach your kids responsibility and how that went.

Matt Norman

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. To ensure that you never miss a post subscribe using the space on the right side of the screen.