Friday, February 25, 2011

Guest Post :: Replaceable

By: Daniel Norton

I heard Doug Fields speak at Conclave this past fall. Actually, Jeff and I sat right next to him throughout a whole music set and had no idea it was him until he got up to speak. That in itself could be a whole blog on being in the presence of greatness and not even knowing.

But no, I heard him speak and just one thing stuck out to me. “The only ones who canʼt replace you when youʼre gone are your family.” Whoa! Did I just hear that? You mean, students can replace me? My church can hire another Youth Minister, even possibly a better one?

When I was serving in Arlington, I remember most the busyness. We were always running around doing something. Always shopping for something. There was soccer practice on Monday and I was required to be a coach. Tuesdays we had Jeff and Sarah over and it was always an awesome experience, but it did take time. Wednesday was Wednesday...10 hours of pure insanity that left me feeling awesome and completely drained at the same time. Thursday was band practice. We usually ended up with something on Friday and Saturday. Oh yeah, and there was a small group Bible Study in our home one of those days too! But you know what, my family and I were definitely suffering. There were other big factors in there too, but it basically took leaving and working on all the issues outside of “The Ministry” to make our family healthy again.

And you know what? The church did go on. People stepped up and led. The hired another youth minister and now those kids relate to him. It was all true. Iʼm replaceable to everyone but my family. And I think thatʼs the way itʼs supposed to be.

The message that my grandparents would try and teach me was God first, Ministry second and family third. Itʼs the way they lived their life and served in bi-vocational churches. Thatʼs begun to settle wrong with me as Iʼve watched my extended family fall apart. Ministry first didnʼt teach the kids how to serve God, it taught them how to hate the Ministry and even the church. Itʼs funny how a simple priority shift can destroy so much.

These days we do things differently. I confine 75% of my activities to Sundays and Wednesdays, my already full days. Things come up. I teach a guitar lesson now on Tuesdays. I make a practice of attending one game a week during sports season (because games are every night sometimes). We spend most of our evenings at home and eat together as a family almost every chance we get. Now instead of struggling with not giving the time I should to my family (aka. my wife kicked me in the face for being gone all the time), now I find myself feeling bad for not spending so much time with my Iʼm neglecting them. And honestly, if I had to choose one, Iʼd choose “neglecting” my students over neglecting my family any day.

Be His

Daniel Norton is the youth pastor at First Baptist Church, Big Lake TX.  Its a small town, the nearest WalMart is an hour away!  Daniel has been a good friend for many years and is also related to me!  His wife, Mary, is smarter than him...and his 2 kids, Chaz and Hannah, are almost as smart.


  1. You should have mentioned how humble I am, geeze.
    Jeff, thanks for helping my Daniel become the amazing husband, father, friend and pastor he is. I am so grateful for you and Sarah. It's good to still be serving with you, even hundreds of miles apart. Thanks for all you do!

    And Daniel, thanks for serving God in the little things that others will never see and ways that Chaz and Hannah will only appreciate many many years from now. Thanks for fighting for "us", because no one else will. Love you.

  2. Haha.

    Well, we are pretty grateful for you guys too :).