Is Your Ministry Keeping You From Ministering?

Matt Norman —  October 20, 2010

At first glance this may seem like a strange question. I mean we minister through our ministry, right? Well track with me for a minute while I become a bit vulnerable. I just finished watching some old episodes of the TV show Undercover Boss. The gist of the show is to take the CEO of a major corporation and put him or her in a series of line level positions to allow him to get a better appreciation for the people that keep the company running. In each of the cases that I watched, the CEO went into the experience thinking that it would be about one thing and ended it with a completely different focus. At the end of the experience each of these CEOs realized that what really mattered and what made their companies great was people. Nearly every one of them said that is was people that mattered. This almost seems like a no brainer in ministry, but I think it needs to be said. As I concluded the last episode I realized that my focus was not really where it needed to be. I was not focused on people.

I love people yet somehow I let doing my ministry keep me from ministering to people. As a part time, volunteer, or bi-vocational children’s worker this can be an easy trap to fall into. I mean there is just so much work to do and often the expectations are not greatly decreased simply because we are not full-time. For me In my attempt to build a great children’s ministry I got so focused on tasks that I lost sight of people. As I think about Jesus’ ministry I realize that there is no mention of the running of his ministry. There were details that had to be addressed, He and the disciples had to eat, they had to sleep and they had to give some thought to where they were going to go next. Despite all of the details that would clearly have had to be taken care of, there is very little mention of any of them. In fact the only time that we read anything about these day to day things is when Jesus used them to teach a lesson, or to minister to people. Jesus’ focus was never on the things he had to do. Rather his focus was on PEOPLE.

I enjoy writing my own material for kid’s church. I think that it provides me with the opportunity to better meet the needs of the children in my ministry. By writing my own material I can focus on what works for my kids, and I can address those areas that they are struggling with. Using purchased material gives me less opportunity to do that, or so I thought. We’ll talk more about how wrong I was in a minute, but for now let me finish this thought. Anyway, for the reasons listed here, along with the money savings, I have worked hard to write my own material. Recently a friend in children’s ministry asked me how I found the time to write my own material while working a full-time job outside the church. Well, it turns out I had the time because I was ignoring what really mattered. As I think about it now, the only child in my children’s ministry that I have any level of relationship with is my own son.

Now back to how wrong I was about purchased materials not allowing me to meet the immediate needs of the children in my ministry. Well, as I said I was very wrong about this. My desire with wanting to write my own material was to be able to meet the children in my ministry where they are, deal with the issues that they are facing right now. Well, how can I do that if I don’t know any of them? Of all the children in my ministry, the only ones whose homes I have been in are those whose parents I am friends with. How can I ever hope to address the needs of these kids if I have no idea what they are? Can’t I have a bigger impact on these kids by being a part of their lives? I still plan to write my own materials someday, and it will still be for the reasons that I wanted to before. However, this may just have to wait until I am full-time. In the mean time I will just continue to use purchased materials and will spend the time I used to spend writing getting to know the kids.

So, I have to ask the question again; is your ministry keeping you from ministering? Now that you know where I am coming from with this, let me know what your thoughts are on this. Oh and Wayne, I guess that article on how to find the time to write your own material while still meeting all the other demands of a volunteer, part time, or bi-vocational children’s worker will have to wait until I figure it out myself.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Matt, we’ll wait.  Thanks for your transparency and willingness to write about your own struggles with this issue.  I’m guessing that many of our readers, as volunteer and bi-vocational children’s ministers, struggle mightily with forming relationships with the kids we minister to.  I would venture to guess that even many full-time children’s pastors face those same struggles.  I hope that people will use the comments section to your article to discuss how they have found balance in this area.

Matt Norman

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Matt is married to his high school sweetheart Kim and together they have two wonderful kids. Matt is a part time children’s pastor at The Rock of Winter Haven, in the appropriately named town of Winter Haven, Florida. In his spare time Matt is an avid automotive enthusiast and a self confessed computer nerd and tech junkie.

2 responses to Is Your Ministry Keeping You From Ministering?

  1. Matt,
    I absolutely love your transparency in communicating an issue that we all struggle with from time to time. I think at one point or another we have all gotten caught up in the busyness of ministry instead of the heart of ministry itself – the people we are serving.
    Thank you for sharing your heart!

  2. Agree! Agree! Agree! This is my biggest struggle. Not only do I neglect time with my volunteers, but I also neglect time with the kids because there is always “one more thing to do”. My obsessive need for “being productive” is often my biggest downfall. It’s such a struggle for me to “be in the moment”.