This SH– is Awesome

Some may look at this title and say that’s just click bait. Just stick with me for a little bit, you’ll understand.

As you may know I spent a lot of years as a pastor to children. This mean planning events, programs, and worship services for kids. In all of these things something I felt was very important what FUN. No, fun was not the ultimate goal, but it was important. The ultimate goal was to reach kids and families with the Gospel of Jesus and help them grow in that relationship. Still, fun was important aspect. I wanted kids to WANT to come to church. I wanted them to want to bring their friends. I wanted kids dragging their parents into church each week. At the very least I wanted kids not to give their parents a hard time when it came time to get ready for church. I wanted this sh….. stuff to be awesome.

“This SH— is Awesome”: The title of this post is actually a quote. I can’t remember who told me about this, but it’s a true story that happened in a friend’s church. The person who told me this was a fellow children’s pastor. During a service or event of some sort, there was a new kid. We love to have new kids, but it can be really hard for that new kid. It can be a little difficult for us as well. We want the kid to feel welcomed, but sometimes we are so busy just making things happen that we don’t have time, or don’t think we do, to help this new kid feel welcome.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what sort of event this was. Maybe a worship service. Maybe a special event. I just don’t remember. What I do remember is that part way through the program things were going really well. Then, in the middle of everything that is a typical children’s worship service, or event, this new kids yells, “This sh— is awesome.” Clearly this new kids was enjoying himself. How often would a non-church person TRULY enjoy being in church? Sadly, it’s not that often. But, this kids was enjoying it.

Jesus hung out with lost people. The Bible makes it clear that people who do not know Jesus are lost. It also makes it clear that we ALL started out that way. Another thing that is clear, if you read the first four books of the New Testament, is that Jesus hung out with sinners. He attended a wedding where LOTS of drinking was taking place. Then, when the wine ran out, He turned water into wine. So, AFTER people were drunk, He gave them more wine.

In another instance, Jesus attended a big party at the house of a man named Levy, or Matthew, as most people know him. The good church people saw this and asked why Jesus would hang out with “people like that” or with “those people”.  When they asked Jesus’ disciples about this, Jesus answered, “It’s not the righteous that need a doctor, but the sick.” Jesus CHOSE to hang out with lost people because He knew that they needed Him. We should work to bring lost people into the presence of Jesus.

Stop expecting lost people to act “right” in church. A very wise man I once knew often said, “Lost people do lost things.” I remember the first time I heard him say that. It was like a slap in the face. So many “church people” expect people who do not have a relationship with Jesus to behave as if they did. These same “church people” also forget that when they were lost they acted the same way.

We need to learn to welcome lost people into our churches and stop expecting them to act like us. Heck, I’ve know some great “church people”, but I’ve known some that I would NOT want lost people to emulate.

This SHHH…. Stuff should be awesome. Go into some churches and you might think that they forgot that we were created in the image of the one who created everything beautiful. You’d think that they forgot that the one they claim to worship is the same one who created everything beautiful. Sure, some churches have beautiful buildings, but the things they do with it are not so. I’m not saying that we should plan our services or events in such a way that they appeal to lost people. Some churches have done that with success. If God has called you to do that, then do it. However, what I’m saying is that, regardless of our “style”, we should do everything we do as well as we possibly can.

I’m also not saying that we try to take the place of the Holy Spirit. Certainly it’s the job of the Holy Spirit to move people. But, we should be committed to doing all we do with excellence. A pastor I once served with defined excellence as “Doing the best you can with what you have.” It doesn’t mean copying the church down the road and wishing you had all the stuff they had. It means taking the things you DO have and using them to the best of your ability.

How we respond matters. I don’t know how the friend that told me that story responded to this kid. However, it matters how we respond. We often say that “all are welcome” or “come as you are”. When what we really mean is “all are welcome” so long as you act like us, or “come as you are” so long as you look or dress like us. We need to be open to people that act different, look different, and even think different than we do. Then we need to be very careful how we respond when they “don’t know how to behave in church.”

People will notice your side-glances. They will see how you look at them. They will notice the groups that talk with one another, but ignore them. And they will CERTAINLY notice how you respond to their “wrong behavior” or to their awkwardness. Let’s remember that for them this may be a new experience. Let’s remember that they may not know Jesus, and thus don’t have the Holy Spirit. Let’s remember that Jesus hung out with sinners. Let’s remember that it’s a good thing that Jesus did love sinners, cause we wouldn’t stand a chance without Him.

I hope my SHHH… Stuff is awesome.  Now that I have started a church and moved from the role of children’ pastor into that of senior pastor/church planter I hope that people think my church is awesome. We don’t have a fancy set up. We don’t put on a great “show”. We don’t have fancy lights, huge screens, or fog machines. I’m not saying that those things are bad, just that we don’t have them and we have to take care not to make such things the focus. Still, I hope that when people come to the church I pastor, I hope they leave thinking it’s awesome. It is my hope, and prayer, that they will feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and will be moved.

What are you doing to make your SHHH… stuff awesome for new people?

Matt Norman

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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

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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

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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

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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.

DON’T STEAL 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

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