Pastor, There is Value in working in the Community You Serve

The burden of pastoring a church is often heavy. It is a big calling that we feel on our lives. Doing this while also working a job outside the church adds another level of complexity and difficulty that cannot be denied. Speaking from my own, personal experience I can say that sometimes it can be difficult to stay motivated. I hope that this story will encourage and inspire any pastor that still works a job outside the church.

You may or may not know this, but in addition to being a pastor, I am also a registered nurse. After nearly two decades working in the emergency room, I know work with cancer patients. That’s where this story begins.

Many of my patients spend multiple hours in our clinic getting infusions. The particular patient in this story spent 3-4 hours once a week for 6-8 weeks. His wife spent pretty much all of those hours sitting in the recliner next to him. This allowed me plenty of opportunities to talk with them both and to get to know them a little. I remember one time I looked at the wife and could see the fear in her eyes. Her husband was doing quite well, but cancer is scary. I sat down next to them both, held her hand for a moment as she shed just a few tears. A few tears are all she would allow herself. She wanted to be brave and strong for her husband.

In the course of our conversations it came out that I pastored a local church. They told me about their church and I mentioned some folks that I know that also attend that church. She then said that she would like to attend our church sometime, as a show of support. I gave her information about where we met and our service times and didn’t think much more about it.

Her husband completed his treatment and is doing well. A couple of weeks after his last treatment she suddenly walks up to my desk and tells me that her ladies Bible study group was coming to our church that Sunday. I gave her my business card and pointed her to our Facebook page and website for full details. Honestly, I didn’t think any more about it. I’ve had a number of people tell me they were coming, who still haven’t. I’m certain that some of them will, but I trust God with the timing.

Well, the following Sunday four ladies walk into our little church. One of them was the wife I mentioned above. This was her ladies Bible study group. They were actually there! I hugged her and introduced myself and my wife and kids to all of these ladies. We had a great service and I really enjoyed having them there. We chatted a little after the service and they left. Honestly, I didn’t think much more about it at that time.

Over the next couple weeks I had some interactions with a woman on our church Facebook page. She talked about coming to a service soon and even apologized for missing the previous Sunday. I was confused cause her Facebook page said she lived up north. I continued to interact with her, but didn’t think too much about it.

The next Sunday a woman walks into our service. I couldn’t remember her name, but I recognized her as one of the ladies from that group. I asked her to remind me her name and we caught up a little. As we talked she told me that she had only recently moved to this area, from someplace up north, and since had been looking for a church family. She told me what she liked about our church and we talked a little about worship music, etc. I later found that she had also put a check in the offering bucket.

I can’t say for certain how long she will be part of our church family. But, what I can say that she is part of our church now and it happened because of the time I spent working in the community God has called me to serve.

If you are working a job outside the church, especially if it’s in the community God has called you to serve, be on a constant look out for the opportunities to serve people. Try not to worry too much about getting them to come to church. Serve them. Be open. God will take care of the results.

Matt Norman

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I’m Starting a Church

250px-Japanese_Map_symbol_(Church).svgThose that have followed me know that last summer I relocated to central Alabama to serve as Children’s and Preschool minister. After just over a year we had to come back to Florida, due to difficulties related to trying to sell our home. While I was in Alabama, and perhaps a little before, God began to change the sorts of things He was saying to me in my quiet times and Bible study. I became more and more convinced that the next thing God was sending me to was to pastor a church. At the time I figured I would be in Alabama for a few years then return to central Florida to pastor an existing church. Obviously, God had a different plan.

After returning to our home in Florida and taking some time to get settled in I began to focus my prayer and Bible study on seeking God’s direction for the next step in my life and ministry. As I did I began to think that God might be calling me to plant a church. I pushed back against the idea for a number of reasons: it’s scary, it may mean being bi-vocational again, I have no experience or training, I had no idea where to start. In spite of all of these things, the more I prayed and read and studied, the more I became convinced that God was calling me to this.

When I left Alabama I felt that God was calling me back to this area for a specific reason. I felt that He had a plan for me, my family and my ministry in this area that has been home to all of us for most of our lives. I didn’t know just what that plan was, but as I’ve sought answers I have come to believe that God wants me to plant a church in this area. At this time I still don’t know exactly what that is going to look like. I don’t know exactly how that will progress or when we will start holding public worship services. But, I know that this is what God is calling me to.

So, what’s next? Honestly, I don’t know exactly what comes next. I don’t know what God has planned. One thing I do know is that nearly my entire ministry has progress in unconventional ways. I’m convinced that this new work will be the same. For right now I am diving deeper into study to find what God wants to tell me about this new direction. I am also working to learn more about the area that God is sending me to serve. I am praying and searching for the people that God has selected to be part of the launch team. I’m also beginning to connect with a variety of people that I believe God wants to use to help me reach the people He is sending me to.

How can I help? Certainly as this thing progresses there will be many needs. As of right now I have a few ideas, but I have no way of knowing what all the needs will be as we move forward. But, here are some ways that you can help now:

  • Pray: This one is a no brainer and can seem kind of cliche or even trite. But, I know that without prayer this venture cannot experience success. Here are some specific ways that I would invite you to pray at this time.
    • For me: That God would continue to guide me and show me HIS vision for this church. That God would protect me and help me stay focused.
    • My family: Pray that God would protect them. Pray that this new work would be a blessing to them and not simply a burden. We know it will be hard work, but I pray that it will also be a blessing.
    • The team: I know that God has already chosen a group of people that will serve alongside me to lead this new work. Pray that God would:
      • prepare them.
      • encourage them.
      • help me see them.
      • help me lead them.
    • The people: I know that there are specific people that God is sending us to reach with this new work. Join me in praying for them, that God would:
      • begin to call them to Himself.
      • show us where they are.
      • send people to plant seeds and prepare their spiritual soil.
      • prepare me, and those He has chosen to help me,  to reach these people
    • The Community: My desire is that this new work would have a real connection with the community. This will occur in a number of different ways. Pray that God would soften the hearts of the people and leaders in the community to welcome us as we seek to connect with and serve them. Also pray that God would show us where He is already at work so that we can join in that.

Want to do more? If you would like to do more than pray, subscribe to our email list using the form below. I will be sending periodic email updates to this list to keep people informed about what God is doing and what our specific needs are. If your interested in some of the needs that I see coming in the next several weeks feel free to email me at mnormancarguy@gmail.com.

Thanks for your willingness to pray for us as we step out in faith to reach this community for Jesus.

Stay tuned. I will continue to post updates on my blog as things progress. Still, the best way to stay up to date will be to subscribe to the mailing list.

 

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Matt Norman

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5 Things Children’s Ministers Wish Their Senior Pastor Knew

Recently I asked a group of children’s ministry leaders on Facebook what sorts of things they wish their Senior Pastor knew. I asked because I believe that God is moving me in that direction and I wanted to make sure never to forget the concerns of my fellow children’s ministers. Here are a few of the responses I received.

1.) Being there whenever the doors are open might not be healthy.

As children’s ministers we are at church a lot. I LOVE it and so do most of my children’s ministry friends. However, there are limits. Many senior pastors are workaholics. Not only is this not healthy for them, but they also tend to hold the people that serve with them to a similar expectation.

There are certainly times when we NEED to be at the church. However, senior pastor give your leaders the freedom to take some time off. If the youth or children’s department has an event on Friday or Saturday, consider allowing the leader to take extra time off that week. If you have midweek activities, be aware that your children’s and youth leaders will probably be at the church from the time they arrive until the end of the midweek programming. Consider allowing them to come in later on that day. Otherwise this turns into a 12 hour day.

2.) It’s difficult to make friends.

As a senior pastor you understand fully the difficultly that exists for ministers in making personal connections. This is just as true with children’s ministers. In fact there are added difficulties for us because we spend so much of our time with children and, therefore, much less with adults. Do what you can to be a friend to us. If nothing else, be someone we can go to with our struggles both from ministry and life.

I’m certain that most senior pastors would say that they maintain an open door policy. Most would say that their staff can come to them about anything. I am also sure that these things are actually true. However, what have you, as a senior pastor, done to foster that relationship? What have you done to create a connection with your staff that could lead to them feeling comfortable talking to you?

3.) My ministry matters too.

It can be the opinion of church members that children’s or youth ministry is little more than recreation or babysitting. Certainly there are things that children’s and youth ministry leaders can do to fight this believe. However, there is nothing more powerful than the support of the senior pastor to help church members see how important these ministries are. Talk positively about the children’s and youth ministries. Talk about it from the pulpit. Talk about it in other environments as well.

It can also be the opinion of other ministry leaders that their ministry is more important or of greater value than the children’s or youth ministries. The truth is that every ministry is important. Help the leaders of other ministries see that while their ministry is important so are these others.

4.) I wish you understood my struggles.

The pressures of the senior pastor position are great. In fact I don’t believe that anyone that has not sat in that chair can fully understand these pressures. I have not yet sat in that chair, so I include myself among those that don’t fully understand. That being said, the pressures of ministry at any level are great. Do you, as senior pastor, really understand the pressures that your children’s ministry leaders feel? Do you really know what they are going through? Honestly, in the same way they don’t understand your pressures, unless you are talking to them, you don’t fully understand their pressures either. Even if you think you have a good understanding, talk to them. They need to know you care and understand.

5.) Help me remember why we do this.

Certainly, every church leader should be able to, on some level, motivate themselves. Still, it can be difficult, at times, to get ourselves excited. We often do things and don’t see the results that we thought we would see. When this happens it can be easy for our motivation to slip. Help us to remember why we do what we do. In those times that the weight of ministry start to get us down, help us refocus on what matters.

Thank you Pastor.

We love our pastors. Without you, we cannot do what God has called us to do as children’s or youth ministers. Please don’t read these things as an attack on pastors. We are a team. These things are not said in anger. Chances are these things are not from the children’s ministry leaders at your church. Still, they are representative of how many that minister to children feel. I know you value these people and their ministry. Take some time to let them know.

Matt Norman

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It’s Time To Push Back

“…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail overcome it.” Matthew 16:18
Last week my brother invited me to a special prayer meeting at his church. While many in our country were getting ready for family cookouts, we were gathering to pray. You see there were people in my brother’s church that were going through spiritual warfare and he wanted to do something about it. As we gathered he spoke briefly in way of introduction. He told of the various spiritual attacks that were happening to the people of his church. Then he said that he felt it was time to “push back”. As he said this I was reminded of the verse that is quoted above.
Many people in the church read this verse and take great comfort in it. They are comforted by the fact that the hell can not win against Jesus’ church. However, I think that many miss the point with this verse. We use this verse to make ourselves feel comfortable within our walls. We use them to feel comfortable within lives lived separate from the world. That is not what Jesus is saying in this verse.
Gates are DEFENSIVE.
 
This passage is not talking about Jesus taking care of us as we huddle together in our safe little church buildings. When it talks about gates it is not talking about US being safe from THEIR attacks. Gates are defensive. They are designed to either keep something out, or to keep something in. In many cases it’s both. Think about a pen housing thoroughbred horses. The fence and the gate around that pen. It is certainly designed to keep the horses from wondering off. However, it is also designed to keep people that would seek to steal or harm the horses. THAT is what this verse is talking about. The GATES of hell will not prevail against the Church. This doesn’t mean that their attacks against the church will not be successful. Rather it means that Jesus is promising US an advantage.
Defending against what?
 
If a gate is a for defense, then it implies that there is a pending attack. At the very least it means that there is the possible of an attack. If hell has defensive gates, then what are they defending against? The words of Jesus tell us that the thing that hell is defending agains it US, the Church. When was the last time you knew of a church that posed a significant threat to the gates of hell. We claim to hold the words of the Bible as both sacred and true. We hold the words of Jesus to be even more so. Yet we act as if these gates are impenetrable.
It’s time to push back.
 
If we believe the words of Jesus to be true, then we, as the church, represent a power that the very gates of hell CANNOT prevail against. These are not my words. These are the words of Jesus. In preparation for this post I took some time to look up the original meanings of the words used intros verse. When I looked up when it says that the “gates of hell” it means… “the gates of hell.” When it says “will not prevail against it” it means “will not prevail against it.” Jesus is telling us that we have the power, through Him, to take on hell.
For far too long the church has been satisfied simply sitting in our comfortable, or even not so comfortable, seats in our comfortable buildings and refusing to take the battle to the enemy. We have been satisfied defending our home base. This is NOT what Jesus prescribed in this verse. What Jesus is telling us is that we should be attacking the gates of hell, not hiding from them. I’m not saying that the things we are doing at the church building are wrong. There may be some practices that need to change, but many of these things are good. However, we DO need to get out of the building and into the community. The enemy is attack people all around us and it is happening within the community.
So, what can you do as a Christian, as a church leader or even as a church member to attack the gates of hell? I once heard Perry Noble talk about when he was asked, “What would you do tomorrow if you knew you couldn’t fail?” His answer is that he would start a church. Jesus has promised us that when we attack the gates of hell, we can not fail. My question you is KNOWING that you can not fail, what will you do?
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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