About Matt Norman

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

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.

Hate Didn’t Kill Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday we paused to recognize one of the greatest men that ever lived. He was not a great politician, though he had a great impact on the laws of our land. He was not a famous celebrity, though he is known by most of the people in America. In fact, many cities in our country have streets named after him. This man was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King made it his life’s work to improve the plight of black people in America. While there is still much work to be done, our country took a great step forward through the work of Dr. King.

Then someone killed him.

It’s natural to say that his death was the result of hate. Perhaps, for some it was an act of hate. It’s certain that there were people that hated Dr. King. In spite of his education and influence, here was a man that many would have thought to be of less value, a lower class citizen, simply because of the color of his skin and he was shaking things up. He was questioning the status quo and had a lot of others doing the same. People don’t like change. The sort of change that challenges their comfortably existence they like even less. This sort of change might even cause some people to hate him.

But, hate didn’t kill Dr. King.

You see, while there were a lot of people who DID hate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr there were many who loved him. There were others  that may have thought that what Dr. King was doing was good and right, but were unwilling or scared to stand beside him. Ultimately, they were indifferent and apathetic towards Dr. King and his mission.

They killed Dr. King.

Good Christian men and women. Pastors and church members. People like me. These are the people that killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They didn’t kill him directly, but they still held some responsibility. In April of last year I was at a conference in Atlanta. During one of the main sessions I had the surprise pleasure of hearing Dr. Bernice A. King speak. She is the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As she spoke she said something that shook me and brought me to tears.

“Hate didn’t kill my father. Indifference and apathy did.”

That’s a bold statement, but it just made sense. Dr. King stood up against things that many people were willing to fight to keep. Certainly there were other’s that stood with him, but there were a great many Christian men and women who did nothing. This is what his daughter meant when she said that indifference and apathy killed her father. We can not know for sure that standing with Dr. King would have prevented his assassination, but if he was doing what was good and right shouldn’t good, Christian men and women have stood with him.

Maybe he would still be here today.

Our country has made so much progress since the time that Dr. King started working to improve the lives of people like him. Still, we have a long way to go. Let’s not make the mistake that our brothers made all those years ago. Let’s stand beside other believers that are working to make lives better. Let’s stand beside and stand up for people who look different from us.

50 years have passes since Dr. King was killed, at least in partly due to indifference and apathy. 50 years from now, let us not be known as indifferent and apathetic, too.

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.

3 of My Favorite Fun Youtube Channels for Use in Kid’s Church

I LOVE children’s church. One thing I always found fun and effective at the start of a service, or in the minutes leading up to it, was a fun video. I know that many other kidmin leaders do the same thing. So, here are 3 of my favorite resources for free children’s service videos… but first a bit of a disclaimer..

The best things in life are NOT free: Youtube is a GREAT resource. The videos are free to view. But, we must remember that they were not free to make and they belong to someone. Some of these videos may contain ads. This can be very distracting and inconvenient in a worship service. One option is to use a youtube downloader to download the videos without the ads. In most cases this is going to violate copyright laws. These videos belong to the people that created them.


If you’re not bothered too much by the ads, then stream away. If you want to remove the ads then you can subscribe to Youtube Red. With this, for just $10 a month you can stream all the videos you want, ad free. I know this then makes the videos not technically free, but at least they are still cheap. Purchasing high quality, fun videos will generally start at $10 each and go up from there. So, this isn’t such a bad option. Even if you only used one video per week, on an average month that’s only $2.50 each.

Now to my list.

How I ranked them: To determine my top 3 video sources I needed to come up with some criteria. I scored each section on a 1-5 star scale. Here are the criteria I used:

  • Family Friendliness: This one’s pretty straight forward. I simply asked the question, would I let my 16 year old son, or my 9 year old daughter watch this?
  • 5th grade boy enjoyability: Older elementary boys can be the hardest to engage and the hardest to please. So, I asked how much I thought an average 5th grade boy would enjoy this. (This is not to say that the girls are not important. I’ve just always found it easier to get the girls plugged in.)
  • Entertainment value: This is a score of overall entertainment value. This is actually a measure of how much I enjoyed it.
  • Quality: It’s amazing how good many of the videos on Youtube are. This is a measure of the actual quality of the work done.

Dude Perfect: You may already be familiar with these guys. If you aren’t, you have got to check them out. These guys are an internet phenomanon. BUT, they started out as just some guys videoing each other as they attempted seemingly impossible trick shots with everything from basketballs, to golf balls, to frisbees and more. Here is how they scored:

  • Family Friendliness: 4 stars – some will find their celebrations to be too over the top. I think that makes it more fun, but some people won’t like it.
  • 5th grade boy enjoyability: 5 stars – Your 5th grade boys will LOVE these videos. They’re probably already watching them at home. Bringing them into your service will definitely gain you some street cred with these boys.
  • Entertainment value:5 stars – Naturally some videos are better than others, but overall I can’t say that I ever watched one I didn’t enjoy.
  • Quality:4 stars – These days these guys are sponsored and their videos are of the highest, professional quality. Some of their early stuff was a little lower quality, at least in the production department. Still great content though.
  • Link:Dude Perfect: https://www.youtube.com/user/corycotton

Bored Shorts: Imagine grown men and women talking, but with children’s voices dubbed over their own. That’s the basis for the Kid’s Snippets videos on this channel and it’s GREAT.

  • Family Friendliness: 5 stars – These are aimed specifically at children and families. So,they are perfect for kids of all age (even me at 42 years old).
  • 5th grade boy enjoyability: 3 stars – Some of your older boys will love them. Some will think that the videos are too “childish” for them.
  • Entertainment value:4 stars – I have seen a couple of their videos that really didn’t do much for me. But, the vast majority of them are super cute and hilarious.
  • Quality:4 stars – The production quality of these videos is top notch.
  • Link: Bored Shorts: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWiyGLXnnRLbHQjICxph3Bw

Nukazooka: I remember the first video I ever saw from this guy. It involved two grown men in a park. They were battling, but with toys. However, it was as if the toys were real. It was kind of a look into the brain of a young boy and it was AWESOME! Here’s his scores:

  • Family Friendliness: 3 stars – While some of his content is great and perfect for kids. Some of his later stuff has gotten much more graphic. Be careful what you use and I wouldn’t reveal the source.
  • 5th grade boy enjoyability: 4 stars – They would probably love the videos that I think are a bit too graphic for kids church, but I wouldn’t show those ones. Still the safer ones would still be fun for your older boys.
  • Entertainment value:4 stars – These are fun videos that will remind your team of their own childhood while spurring on the imagination of your kids.
  • Quality:5 stars – These videos are very high quality. Especially considering much of what you see in them didn’t actually happen, but was computer generated.
  • Link: Nukazooka: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQqi–mpTFtGNim0WCtPH-A

PREVIEW EVERYTHING! One final thought that I can not stress enough, preview everything! Never show anything to children at church that you have not viewed first. To do so would be grossly irresponsible. I don’t care how safe you think the source is or who recommended it, WATCH IT FOR YOURSELF FIRST. You don’t want to have to deal with the potential consequences of showing a video that includes gore, or cussing because you didn’t watch it first.

So, what are your favorite sources for get videos that I may have missed?

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.

3 Things I Learn From The Death of a Young Coworker  

Recently I received news that a woman I had worked with for several years passed away. Her death was unexpected. It’s always shocking to hear that someone you know has died. In this case it was even more shocking cause she was only 39 years old. In a couple months I’ll be 43. She was younger than me and now she is gone.

As is often the case in times like this I found myself reflecting on a variety of things. I thought about my own life, my career, my family, and my relationships. As I did, there were three things that really stood out. Here are 3 things I learned from the death of a young coworker.

1.) Make sure the people you love know it. One thing that we hear over and over again when anyone under the age of about 70, or maybe even 80 dies is that you never know how much time you have. There are people that you care about, people you love. Take time to make sure that they KNOW you love them. Tell them. That’s important. They need to hear it. But, don’t stop there. Your actions will speak love much louder than your words can. When you are gone, it is too late to let those people know you love them. So, make sure they know NOW.

“…we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.” 1 John 3:18

2.) Make time to spend time with people you enjoy being around. After the passing of this young friend and coworker, many of us were left wanting to express our feelings for her and to mourn with others. The family had decided not to have open memorial service, but to keep whatever services they did  have just within the family. I completely respect this decision. However, this left many others that were effected by her death with no outlet for their feelings. This prompted one of our former coworkers to organize a dinner. Nothing fancy, or formal, just an open invitation to a local restaurant to gather and share memories. As I looked forward to this dinner, and while there, I was reminded of just how much I actually enjoyed being with many of these people. Sure, I had left the organization that we had all worked for together, but not because I didn’t want to be with these people. I actually really like these people.

I think we all have people like that in our lives. People that we got to know through work, school, or maybe even through the activities that our children are involved in. People that we genuinely enjoy being around. Chances are some of those people actually enjoy being around you as well. Social media has made it really easy to stay connected with these people. Reach out to them. Plan a time to meet at a local restaurant. Plan a BBQ at your house. Plan to meet at a local park. Whatever it is, make time to spend time with the people you enjoy being around.

3.) Make up with that loved one you’ve been struggling with. I get it, family is tough. Family has a unique ability to hurt us so much deeper than anyone else. The pain is made even worse by the fact that these people are supposed to love us. These are the people we are supposed to be able to count on more than any others. I get all that. BUT, life is simply too short to hold a grudge against a family member. Forgive them. Seek to reconcile that relationship. Try to move on and rebuild that relationship. Make the most of the time you have, because you never know how much time you have left.

I know that your efforts at forgiveness, reconciliation, and rebuilding of these relationships may not be returned or appreciated by that loved one. There is nothing you can do about that. Do your part to salvage and restore that relationship. If they were gone tomorrow you don’t want to have to deal with the weight of knowing that you didn’t do what you could to fix it. When that loved one is no longer around you want to be able to assure yourself that you did what could. You may still mourn the missed opportunities, but at least you tried.

At the end of the day, make sure the people you love know that you love them. Make time to spend time with the people you enjoying being with. Make up with that loved one you’ve been struggling with. None of us knows how much time we have left, or how much time they have left. You will never regret time spent with the people you love and enjoy being with, but you could end up regretting not having done it.

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 Tips For Dealing With Families When Abuse Is Suspected

Earlier this week I wrote about 5 Things to Consider When Abuse is Suspected. One of those considerations was how we handle the family of a child who we think may be suffering abuse or neglect. These cases are ALWAYS emotional. Our natural instinct is to protect the child and, often, to seek justice for that child. If abuse or neglect are happening, then justice is important. But, how should we, as a church, handle the family? Here are 3 tips for dealing with the family when abuse is suspected.

1.) Remember that things may not be as they appear. Anyone who has ever watched a movie about an abusive husband knows that the marks of abuse are often covered up with lies. You may find yourself wondering just how many times a woman can fall. This can be true in child abuse cases as well. For this reason, we are often suspicious when we see thing that don’t seem right. Maybe it’s a kid that seems to have more broken bones than is “normal”. Maybe it’s a bruise in a strange place. Maybe it’s an injury that  doesn’t seem to add up with the story that the child is telling. All of these can spark suspicions of abuse. However, things may not be as they appear.

Even the strangest thing could actually be completely innocent.

Be careful not to jump straight to calling the police or the abuse hotline. Certainly we should be prepared and willing to do that when it is necessary. But, we need to take a moment to pause. Ask the parents about the injury. I DIDN’T say interrogate the family. I said ASK. “Hey, I noticed little Johnny has this bruise. I just wanted to bring it to your attention and see if you knew where it came from.” Be careful how you ask this. Remember that the goal is truly to find out what happened, not to accuse the parents.

2.) Look for circumstances that you may not be aware of, but could help with. Whether what we are seeing is actually abuse, or not is really not ours to determine. Their are people with specific training and who get paid to determine that. However, there are some things we can do to help the family. Maybe this child needs glasses and the family can’t afford them. Maybe there are some safety issues at the house that the family is not aware of to can’t afford to fix. Maybe the family is facing stressors that are causing a normally loving parent to lash out or neglect their child. If abuse or neglect is suspected the number one priority is the safety of the child. Still, I think there is room for us to look into the situation and see where we might be able to help.

3.) Don’t forget that reconciliation is possible. Each state and county is going to have specific rules for how cases of abuse or neglect are handled. In some cases this may mean that the child is permanently removed from the household. However, that is not always the case. In many cases reconciliation is possible. While our first goal has to always be the safety of the child. I think a close second has to be caring of the family. Remember that we have all sinned. We all required reconciliation with God and we all received it. I know this is hard. Regardless of the circumstance, this family needs to know that Jesus loves and them and so does his church. I can’t imagine the difficulty of visiting a convicted child abuser in prison, but if they are part of your church someone probably needs to.

4.) Remember the family may not be guilty and the child is not the only victim. When abuse is discovered it can be easy to condemn the entire family, at least all the adults. “How could you allow such a thing to happen?” “Aren’t YOU responsible for the safety of your children?” Trust me if you are the parent of a child that is discovered to have suffered abuse at the hand of another loved one or a trusted adult, you are already asking yourself these questions and a million more. This is NOT what they need to receive from their church. Truth is, even if the child is being abuse, the family may not be guilty. Even if a family member is involved, it doesn’t mean that the entire family is. In any case, any family member that was not involved in the abuse, is also a victim of it. They may not be suffering directly from it, but they are now going to have to deal with the guilt and shame that come from such revelations. In any case, these families are going to be in desperate need of LOVE. It seems to me that love was is a pretty big deal in the Bible. In fact Jesus only gave three commandments and they ALL revolved around love. Show the family the Jesus’ church is a place of love.

5.) BE NICE! Above all else, and regardless of the fact of the case, be nice. Sadly, Christians tend to forget that we should be nice to one another. And this is not just for people within the church, but for people outside as well. Be nice. Yes, I’m suggesting that you even be nice to the accused abuser. No, I my heart does not feel as if they “deserve” it. Yes, I know how hard that can be. I also know that we none of us deserved the love of God. None of us deserved the sacrifice that God the Father made in sending Jesus to die for our sins. None of us deserved the sacrifice that Jesus willingly made in giving up his life for our sins. Truth is we are all just as guilty as the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah. Our specific sins may be different, but we are still no less deserving of the punishment that God rained on those cities. Remembering this, be nice when you are dealing with all parties involved with suspected child abuse.

As I said in my post earlier this week on 5 Things to Consider When Abuse is Suspected, this is something we hope we never have to deal with. I sincerely pray that your church never has to deal with it. However, it is an unfortunate reality of our broken world and we need to be prepared for it. I hope this post helps you do that.

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.