5 Ministry Areas for Growth in 2015

icerinkImagine that the floor in your house is an ice rink.  The furniture is held in place because it is frozen into the ice.  You’ve had some friends tell you that your life would be more efficient and more functional if you moved a few pieces around but it takes a lot of work to move things, even a little bit.  But then you hear of a warming trend headed your way.  For a few brief moments, the ice will melt and even though it will be messy, it will allow for you to move things to new places much more easily than before.  However, you know you have a short window before things start to freeze again so you strategically plan your moves, make the most of the opportunity, and wade through the mess to bring about change.

This is not my story or my analogy.  I “borrowed” it from Dr. Marilyn Elliot, Vice President of Community Formation for Asbury Theological Seminary.  She shared this story with a group of incoming students and families that I happened to be a part of in what is famously known on campus as the “transition talk.”  She compared times of transition to the experience above saying that even though things are messy, transition provides us the opportunity to make changes to our life and our routine that are often hard to change in “normal” life.

With the dawning of the New Year, the ground in our lives is a little less “frozen.”  The atmosphere of celebrating new beginnings, reevaluating present actions, and leaving behind past mistakes allows us to move things around a bit in our own lives, our families and our ministries.

Below are 5 family ministry areas that can be encouraged as we look at how to grow our homes and ministries throughout the next year.

1.  Intentional Modeling – All the good intentions in the world cannot take the place of real-life action. We need to seek to see God in the everyday and talk about it with our kids, our volunteers, our church families, and our community so that they too will have the opportunity to do the same.  If we are encouraging someone to do something with their kids or spouse or ministry,we want to make sure we are actively doing the same, with intention and purpose.mustard-seed

2. Faith Focus – I’ve always been amazed how God will take our mustard seed of faith and grow it to one that can move mountains when we place our trust in Him.  We can walk in that kind of faith as we approach growing our family ministry at church and discipling kids at home; faith that says, “I’m not sure how this is going to work God, but I’m putting my trust in You and moving forward.”

3. Failing Forward – I hate failing. It bothers me; I don’t like it.  But I know that I do it and when I do, I have the choice to let it drag me down or push me forward.  This year we can let our failures be springboards forward, lessons we learn that lead us closer to God and His call on our lives rather than weights that pull us down.  And we can celebrate with others when they do the same by extending grace and mercy and cheering them on as they learn.

4. Baby Steps – Lots of times the reason I fail is because I try to run before I walk.  Transition and change are not things that can be rushed.  Praying and planning are important parts of the process.  Whether it be the weekend away with Mom I’m planning with my oldest daughter or the parent seminars I’m starting at church; each change needs to be approached with care and prayer and baby steps of change.

5. Sincere Celebration – Over the past year, I have become acutely aware of the power of celebration in our lives.  The joy in the eyes of others when you stop to celebrate their good grade, their act of kindness, their new tooth, their achieved goal is surprising. I believe we need celebration just like we need love. Studies show that living a life of celebration and gratitude leads to longer lives, better sleep, greater health and stronger relationships.  We need to stop in the middle of our busy lives and recognize the goodness around us.  God is in the good, in the light, in the joy and we need more of it!

What about you?

What needs moved around in your life or your family or your ministry?  Is this the year you start moving towards more intentional discipleship focus at home?  Perhaps you’ve been toying around with the idea of small groups or wanting to start a kids bible study?  Maybe intergenerational worship is your heart or parent ministry or family devotions?  Whatever it is that God has been showing you might need to “move” around, the New Year might provide just the right thaw to get things going.

I’d love to hear where God is taking you in 2015 and look forward to journeying with you.

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What’s Your Resolution Flavor?

resolutionsResolution.  Popular word at this time of year.  People are resolving all kinds of things.  To eat healthier, lose weight, and exercise more.  To spend more time with family, less time on social media, and more time outside.  To talk to faraway friends, visit faraway lands, and meet faraway goals.  To get closer to God, be more intentional in parenting, and more involved at church.

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions.  I’m all for setting goals but let’s be honest, whenever anyone declares a New Year’s resolution, don’t we almost tongue-in-cheek assume that within a short amount of time, they are going to “break it?”  We joke about how soon the diet will be left behind, the exercise reduced to minimal effort, and the time with family stolen by “other things.”  There’s almost an assumption that these resolutions can and will be broken at some point and it’s expected that failure is the norm.. and it’s okay.

So, yeah, not a huge fan of teaching that ideal to our kids and supporting that in each other.

But resolution has many more flavors than just resolving to do something.

 For instance, one definition of resolution is “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict or problem”  We have some problems in the American church.  We are losing generations.  We are divided by race and denomination.  We are divided within our churches by age and worship preferences.

What if this year our resolution looked a little different?  What if it was breaking down of some walls and reaching across boundaries to create solutions and finding answers?  How can we “seek peace and pursue it” within our own walls with our family, our church body, and our community?

But resolution has more flavors that that.  Another definition (and honestly my favorite one) is “the ability to show an image windingroadclearly and with a lot of detail.”  As life takes it down its curvy road, it can be easy for us to lose clarity.  Things cloud our vision.  Hurts, worries, distractions, confusion – all of these things can blur our view and distort truth.  We need clarity.  We need resolution.

Perhaps as you look at your life you can see places where you just don’t know which direction to go, which path to walk, which road to travel.  You know that changes need to happen but you are so far from making a real New Year’s resolution because before you can resolve you need resolution in the form of clarity, vision, and purpose.

One of my favorite Scriptures is found in James where he writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  Then later on James tells us about that wisdom is “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Resolution – clarity, wisdom, the end of conflict, the sowing of peace, the harvest of righteousness.  And the final definition, resolution; the answer or solution to something.

If you are a minister helping to transition your church to a family-focused ministry, you will need resolution to meet the various needs you will find as you move forward.  Establishing a ministry that equips and resources parents for discipleship in the home will require answers and solutions and therefore resolution.  If you are a parent looking to be more intentional at faith formation within your home, you will find that often you will need resolution to questions asked by your children and dumped in your lap by life.

But this kind of resolution, the kind that answers questions and solves problems, the kind that provides clarity and is dependent on wisdom from above, the kind that ends conflict and pursues peace, is not easily broken.  This kind of resolution has long-lasting, far-reaching effects that changes landscapes, environments and communities for generations.  It changes hearts and homes for eternity.

So if New Year’s resolutions are something that you do, why not choose one of the kinds that can’t be broken by January 31.  As for me and my house, we resolve to serve the Lord… in His wisdom, with clarity and peace by His grace.  Happy New Year!

Share, It’s More Fun that Way!

“It’s not as fun until you share it!”

This comment was made by my daughter ogift-boxn the afternoon of Christmas.  The morning had been filled with opening gifts, eating Jesus’ birthday cake, playing with new toys, watching new videos, and being with the family.  PJs were worn all day, the house was a hot Christmas mess, and our food consisted of nothing but snacks and sweets.

In the middle of this moment, after the second movie had been watched, my daughter decides it would be a great time to invite people over and to gather her friends into our home.

Normally, I have an open-door policy for friends coming over and I am the first to invite people into our space.  But all I could think was, “This place is wrecked and I have to pack for our trip to PA tomorrow; there’s no way we can have people over right now.”  She must have read the expression on my face before I could say anything because then next thing she said is, “Please Mom, Christmas presents aren’t as much fun until you share them!”

Her words gave me pause.  Because I’ve been given a wonderful present.

I’ve been given Emmanuel, God with us.  I’m talking about a faith that is an anchor to my soul and mercies that are new every morning.  I’ve been given unconditional love, unmistakable grace and unbelievable peace..

And that’s all wonderful but its not meant to be mine alone.  Even these gifts which are so intimately personal to me are best enjoyed when shared with others.

If you desire for faith to grow in your children, invite them into your journey, even when it is a mess.

Bring them along as you see God work in your life.  Share with them when you experience answered prayer.  Let them serve beside you as you reach out to others.  Welcome them into your realizations of who God is and how much He loves you.  

Because it is much more fun when it is shared.  And because your kids will gain so much life from sharing your spiritual life with you.

Our Christmas evening with shared with another family.  We showed our opened gifts, ate what was left of Jesus’ birthday cake, played with new toys, watched new videos, and enjoyed sharing our Christmas chaos with our friends.  And my daughter was right, it was more fun when shared it.

Share your faith with your kids; as often as you can our as John Wesley put it,

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can.  In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can.  As long as you ever can.”

Share life – it’s more fun that way!

For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Celebrate!! Because it’s that important

treeIf know me, even a little bit, you know I take Christmas pretty seriously.  Everything from the decorating, the gift-giving, the shopping, the baking… I love it all.  Ever single year I make up a new, personalized advent calendar for the kids with all kinds of specific activities that range from hot cocoa nights to “fancy” dinners.  We make gifts for friends, carol to our neighbors, send cards to family, and worship with our church.

Because it is important.

Not because it is Christmas.  That is coincidental.  Because it is life.  And life is meant to be lived and be lived to the fullest.

And any excuse we have to create special, meaningful and intentional times with our family, we should.  Because it is that important.

When we first moved to Kentucky, leaving behind our friends, family, awearefamilynd church in Pennsylvania, we had to walk the road of transition as a family.  It was not easy.  Everything around us was new, different, and unfamiliar.  But you know what wasn’t?  Our home, because our home was not defined by walls and geography and location.  Our home was made up of the people in the walls and things we did together than made us family.  For us that meant things like Fancy Dinner Nights and hiking as a family, Family “meetings” and movie nights, and yes, all of our Christmas traditions and celebrations and crazy, fun activities.

Celebrating life as a family, in the normal routines of everyday family life, create bonds of love, joy, and memories that extend past the walls of any house and into the hearts of each member.  It creates meaning in the moments and excitement in the everyday.

Sometimes, life doesn’t feel celebratory.  Most of the time the drudgery of life just kinda moves you through the motions.  Celebrations have to be manufactured, cultivated, and intention.

But sometimes, life hands you a perfect platform to launch from; a time where the rest of the world gives you space and time to celebrate with intention and exuberance.  Take it.

With everything you have, even though life is busy and things need done and the holiday is commercialized and the work load is demanding.

Seize the moment to make lasting impressions on your kids lives and plant Jesus right in the middle of all of it.

While this kind of intentional, celebratory life is easier to do when the world around you is staged for celebration, it is even more meaningful when you look for reasons to celebrate in the everyday.  Special simple moment or exquisite exciting adventures; each event will leave an impression on your child’s heart that says, “Family is safe, family is exciting, and family is love.”  And when you place Christ at the center of it all through words, actions, and worship, guess what?  God becomes a safe place, an exciting adventure, and love incarnate.

Wherever you may find yourself this holiday season, whether it be at your house or someone else’s, I pray that home will be with you wherever you go.  Gather your little family around you and celebrate together.

Because it’s important… every day.

Blessings to you all this Advent and Christmas season!

Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

5 Ways to Refocus on the Next Generation

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone points out a problem but offers no solution. And I kinda did that.  My last blog post about Millennials leaving the church and the need to refocus on the next generation came out pretty strongly advocating a change in perspective and strategy but offered no new perspective or strategy.

Lest I become what I dislike the most, here are 5 ways the church, and by that I mean you as a member of the body of Christ, can engage and fight for the rising generation of young believers.

Build Relationships – In as study done by Fuller Youth Institute into what helps young people to “stick” to their faith and adultchildchurch, the top stickiness factor was meaningful relationships with involved adults in the congregation.  Adults that show up to ball games, ask about schoolwork, pray with them about decisions and most importantly, know their name.  Dr. Kara Powell and Dr. Chap Clark in their book Sticky Faith recommend a “sticky web” of 5 adults in each child’s life to solidify connection to the church.

Disciple Parents/Caregivers – The Millennial generation who didn’t leave the church are bringing their kids with them each Sunday and dropping them off at Sunday school just like their parents did when they were little.  Since discipleship in the home was not encouraged and resourced as they were growing up, these parents have a belief that Sunday school and Wednesday nights are enough to instill faith in their kids just like it was for them.  But the truth is, that’s not enough.  Neither is it biblical (see God’s heart for the family through Scripture here).  If we want our kids to grow up knowing that faith is not compartmentalized and only applicable in a church setting, then we need to equip our parents for discipleship in the home.  Just saying, “You should do this” is not enough.  They need training, equipping, mentoring, resources and prayer.

Encourage Service – A recent survey by National Studies of Youth and Religion indicated that when teens were asked about what it meant to be a Christian, they listed actions not beliefs such as “serving at the food pantry, going to church, and helping neighbors in need.”  John Roberto of Lifelong Faith states, “Both children and adults are more likely to have a growing, strong faith when their family serves others together. When parent and child/teen together perform service activities, the child/teen sees the parent’s capability, faith, and values in action. The cross-generational bond takes place not only in the service event, but also in the retelling of the event through the years.”  Combining faith and service creates long-lasting impressions about what it means to “be the church” on our children.

Involve All Generations – Dubbed “intergenerational” or “cross-generational” ministry by family ministers, this aspect of

Excellent resource for building relationships between generations in your church

Excellent resource for building relationships between generations in your church

church encourages the worship and service of all members of the church community to engage in life together.  One unintended consequence of the emergence of Sunday schools and youth groups was creating age-segregated, silo ministries that operate separate from each other and disconnect members from the body.  This can lead to younger generations not knowing where they belong in church once they “graduate” from youth group.  Involving all generations in service, worship, and community creates a landscape of belonging across ages and cultures in the church.

Pray… and then Pray some more – A battle is being waged for the hearts of children.  It is a battle that has been waged for years and years.  Children have been enslaved, sold, neglected, murdered, and targeted since the beginning of time.  We cannot ignore the fact that children are the future and their very souls are being sought after by spiritual forces, media hounds, and cultural foes that will not relent. So we cannot relent.  We cannot turn the discipleship of our children over to this world.  We must fight for their souls, hearts and minds by praying for them, praying with them, and praying over them “without ceasing.”

Whether you are a parent or a minister, I truly believe a concerted effort to engage in these practices and focus our attention on strengthening the home as the primary place of discipleship and the church as a community of mentorship and service will lead to a generation that will stay connected to their faith, regardless of where life takes them.

And it starts the moment they are born, not when they are in youth group or graduating and leaving the church.

What we do today with our infants, toddlers, preschoolers and elementary kids will determine the types of blogs we will be writing 15 years from now.

I pray with all my heart we are not doing postmortem on this generation like we are on the Millennial one.  I pray that instead we are celebrating a resurgence of faith, service and community in our churches worldwide.  That, my friend, is worth fighting for.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more family-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

No One Wins the Blame Game

“Top 5 reasons people are leaving the church”

“Church, why Millennials are leaving you”

“An Open Letter to the Church:  Why I am Done with You.”

While these may not be exactly the titles of the articles I’ve been reading lately, they are quite similar.  Reasons for the decreasing population of twenty- and thirty-somethings has been repeatedly linked to everything from the “showiness” of church to the lack of outward focus and the commercialization of church organization.  And lest you think that this blog post is going to offer yet another reason (and yes, I have my thoughts on the whys as well), be at ease because that is not my intent.

Not because I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening to the church today.  Not because I disagree with the other bloggers and articles that choose to address the topic head on.  Not because I think the situation doesn’t deserve attention or has legitimate evidence behind it.

My issue is this: No one is winning when all we do is pass blame.

When we blame the institution, we negate all the good that comes with it too.  When we blame the system, we ignore the legitimate reasons the system was put in the place.  When we blame big churches, we miss the big things those churches are doing for the Lord.  When we blame denominations, we disregard entire segments of the church who are serving Jesus.

The reality is that Millenials are leaving the church.  But there is another generation quickly coming into adulthood (don’t know if we have a catchy name for them yet) and if we spend all of our time, energy, and study on figuring out what reforms we need to get those Millenials back, we could very easily neglect the generation following closely behind.

As my website name indicates, I firmly believe we need to refocus.  I’m less concerned with the size of church building and their multiple worship formats as I am about how they are discipling the next generation.

What is church to our kids, the ones inside the walls of the church right now?  Is it a place you go or is it a life you live as a member of Christ’s body?

What is faith to our kids?  Is it a denominational label you wear with pride or hope realized in serving as the hands and feet of Jesus?

Who is God to our kids? Is He a Santa Claus type being in the sky who loves you and wants to give you things or is He the Triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator and Lord of All?

Are we so busy discovering what’s wrong with the church that we neglect to instill in our children what is right with the church?

crossI’m done chasing Millenials. I’m done blaming the church. I’m done dissecting and analyzing and judging and criticizing. Because I have three children who are growing up quickly and they don’t need to hear what is wrong with God’s body; they need to hear what is right about Jesus.  They need me to live Jesus in front of them, share Jesus everyday with them, and be Jesus to the world around them.  Whether I am walking into a multi-million dollar facility on Sunday morning or into a living room in someone’s home, they need to see, hear, touch, and know Jesus, not what is wrong with the church next door.

We can either spend the next few years dissecting the wrongs of the church or we can choose today, that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Let’s choose to invest in parents/caregivers so they can pour Jesus into their kids.  Let’s invest in our church, no matter what it looks like, so our children grow up in a community of fellow believers.

It’s time to stop the blame game and start living church like it’s for real and not a game.

Because no matter what, a new generation is growing quickly, and their souls are not lost yetStart fighting for them now so we don’t have to blame the church later when they leave.  Our God is big enough, strong enough, and amazing enough to cover our mistakes as long as we consistently point our children to Him.


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

No Greater Joy

I found them in the same bed this morning.


My girls, Naomi (8) and Hannah (11) best friends, worst enemies a.k.a. sisters

My girls share a room but have bunk beds.  The whole “sharing a room thing” has not exactly done wonders for their relationship.  Sometimes the fighting is non-stop and the words so mean that I wonder, “Where did I go wrong with these two?”  And then, there are these moments like this morning where it seems like it is all redeemed.

At first I assumed that Hannah, the big sister, had joined her little sister who’d had a nightmare the night before and was scared at bedtime.  But then Naomi whispered to me that it was actually Hannah who had been scared so she invited her up to sleep with her.  As Naomi left the room, Hannah hugged me and said, “I wasn’t scared but I knew she was so I told her I was and asked if I could sleep with her.”  And with a squeeze, she was off.

Oh my goodness!  They LOVE each other!! They really, really do!  Despite the constant bickering and the incessant complaining and the never-ending litany of “she said” or “it wasn’t me” that takes place day in and day out, underneath it all, they both chose to protect, comfort, and love on the other when the chips were down.  Each thought that they were the one who blessed her sister and neither sought to gain recognition for it or embarrass the other. Both went into the day believing that they had laid down their life for their sister.

And both of them were right.

As a mom, I was  blessed to see my girls displaying the attributes of love and self-sacrifice we have so often shared with them and encouraged them to walk in.  I felt like John when he exclaimed in 3 Jn 1:4 that he had “no greater joy than to hear that his children were walking in the truth.”

No greater joy.

Think about that.  That’s a pretty big statement.  There’s a lot of things that bring us joy, but John says there is “no greater joy” than to see his children walking in the truth of the Lord.  And I get it.

Because for all the weariness I feel when my kids misbehave, there’s no comparison to when I see them step out in willing obedience.  And for the frustration I feel when they fight with each other, there aren’t words to describe the blessing I feel when I see them serve each other in love.  And despite the condemnation I sometimes walk in when my children don’t seem to “get it”, I can’t even begin to share the joy I feel when their actions and words demonstrate their genuine spiritual growth and desire to follow Christ.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why God has given us as parents and caregivers the unique responsibility andbible privilege of being the ones who form their faith, disciple their hearts, and pass on the truth of God to their lives.  Because as painful as it can be to deal with them when they “miss it”, there is no greater joy to experience than when they “get it.”  Our opportunity to participate in the formation of Christ means we get to see the good along with the bad and the ugly.  We have the chance to grab hold of the beauty of those good moments and redeem those not-so-good ones with discipleship and mercy.

As I was writing this, my girls came walking up the sidewalk together from the bus.  I could see them chatting together as they strolled, excitedly sharing about the gifts they bought at the school fair today.  But I could also see the love they both experienced from the other the night before still affecting their relationship today.  I know they will squabble again (probably as soon as they head up the steps to clean their room), but these moments remind me that there is “no greater joy” than when they are walking in truth.

In the weary times, in the stretching times, in the times where we just think they are never going to get it, may that joy spur us on and may we celebrate those moments with them as they grow.

Great leaders aren’t great at everything

“Your fully developed strengths will always be better for your ministry that your marginally improved weaknesses.” – Andy Stanley, Catalyst Conference 2010, Less is More

Yesterday, I had the chance to listen to this talk by Andy Stanley on effective leadership within the church.  To leader-hibegin, Andy covered two great myths of leadership; 1. Great leaders are great at everything and 2. In order to be great at everything, I need to focus on my weakness and wing it with my strengths.  As he continued his talk, Andy pointed out that in reality, great leaders are great because they focus on their strengths and they delegate their weaknesses.  In other words, what they do well, they do very well, and what they don’t do well, they trust others who are gifted in those areas to excel.  His encouragement was to identify what your strengths are, focus on them to develop them fully, and acknowledge your weakness by trusting others.

As the director of family ministry at my church, I found this advice to be both relevant and freeing.  When I first started in children’s ministry, I used to have people come up to me all the time and say, “You must be really good with kids!” But the truth is, I’m not really that great with kids.  “What?!?  But that’s your job!  And kids love you!”  God’s grace, friends, truly it is God’s grace.  And as for that being my job, I once heard Jeremy Lee of Parentministry.net break down the interaction time of a person in youth ministry this way: 30% parents, 30% volunteers, 30% church staff and 10% kids.  This holds true for my job as well.  Most of my interaction takes place with adults and most of my job is administrative and ministerial in practice, areas that happen to be my strengths.

But then there is Miss Nancy.  Where I was weak, she was so strong.  She connected with kids in a way I was never able to.  She drew them into the stories, engaged them in the love of Christ, and held their sticky hands and squirmy bodies in her arms of love.  She filled the gap, so well in fact, that I could not help but stand in awe of her ability to take 25 kids from screaming, running chaos to quiet, eyes-wide-open awe as she spoke to them the Word of God.

Parents, in much the same way, your home can be similar to a church setting.

“Every family ought to be a little Church, consecrated to Christ and wholly influenced and governed by His rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are like to prove ineffectual.” – Jonathan Edwards

As leaders in the home, parents/caregivers need to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and rather than cofamily-867mpeting with their spouse in leading the home, compliment each other by serving in their gifts.  Sometimes this even varies from child to child.  In our home, I am much better at communicating with our oldest than my husband is but he connects better with our middle child than I do.  He is amazing with the kids one-on-one and I do best when I have them all together like at the dinner table.  He can unfold Scripture in a captivating way and I am better at the everyday application.  Together, we are an effective team with our strengths and weakness buoying each other.  If you are a single parent, consider other adults or family members who you can partner with in the areas where you struggle.  As members of the body of Christ, we don’t ever have to go it alone.

If you are serving in ministry, especially if you are refocusing your church from traditional children’s ministry to a family ministry model, it is imperative for you to know your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your volunteers and staff.

Your greatest chance at success will be when each person is operating in their strengths instead of trying to survive in their weaknesses.

Below, I’ve linked a few online resources to help you and your team to discover your strengths and how to best move forward with each person thriving in their gifts.

Great leaders, as Andy Stanley points out, are not well-rounded.  They are not great at everything.  But great leaders lead well-rounded organizations, churches and families that reflect their strengths and not their weaknesses.  The greatest leaders lead people to Christ by acknowledge that in their weakness, He is strong and by recognizing His strength is often found in the members of the body of Christ, like the one beside you now.

Resources for Your Team

  • One popular resource for personality and strengths testing is the Myers Briggs Personality test.  There are many websites where this is available, some free and some for a small fee.  This one is free and I have seen it used by groups I have been a part of in order to build strong teams.
  • Strengthfinder 2.0 is a book and accompanying test that will help you and your team discover not only what your strengths are but how to interact with others on your team.  There is a cost associated with this test but it is highly effective at leading your team forward.
  • Leading from your Strengths from Ministry Insights is an in-depth, highly effective tool for discovering your strengths and weakness.  It is a longer test and costs more money, but it provides perhaps the most detailed results from a comprehensive and user-friendly resources.

Intended Purposes

This morning I put my son in the bath tub.  It was not because he needed a bath, mind you.  It was because my house needed one.  Basically, I put him in the tub so I could accomplish all the housework I cannot get done when he is, well, not confined to a play pen of water, toys, and fun.  So, I cranked up the bubbles, threw in a bunch of plastic dinosaurs, and proceeded to scrub countertops, mop floors, make beds, clean toilets and put away laundry while he giggled and roared his morning away.  I daresay he was in there for an hour or so, at least the temperature of the water and the pruniness of his little fingers would indicate that period of time.

Sometimes, especially when we are working with kids, we don’t always use things for their intended purpose.  For instance,71qJtDmLQ0L._SL1500_ we all know that toilet paper rolls are not for holding unused paper; on the contrary, they are for crafts of all kinds.  Popsicle sticks are not devices for holding sweet treats but actually critical necessities for making picture frames.  And cottonballs… they have a whole plethora of uses like snowman bodies, sheep wool, and the ever-popular, paintbrush.  For some reason, we have no problem taking these tangible items, misusing them for a good reason, and engaging children with our invention.

I have to laugh as I think back over my life and wonder sometimes if God sees me in much the same way.  I had a pretty clear vision of what my purpose was about 15 years ago and it had nothing to do with full-time ministry.  My degree was in secondary education, my passion was history, and my preferred age group was high school seniors.  Sometimes I feel like God picked me up, look at his “popsicle stick” and said, “Hmm, you’d make a great picture frame/family minister.”

I still often feel like a popsicle stick in a cherry wood frame world, but I also know because God saw past my “intended purpose,” my degree, my preferences, my ideas of who I was, and used me for his “intended purposes” of ministry and discipleship, others have had a chance to grow closer to Jesus.

popsicle-stick-picture-frameWhether you are a parent who wonders sometimes, “Who thought it was a good idea to let me  raise these children?!?” or a minister who thinks, “I don’t have the gift to answer this call,” can I encourage you to look past yourself and let God be creative with you?  Ultimately the point isn’t that we have the prettiest frame, but that our frame has meaning and purpose and was designed by the Creator.  God can take us and use us in more ways than we can imagine if we just allow Him to stretch us outside of our perceived strengths and weaknesses.   In ministry, be wiling to let God lead you outside tradition or curriculum in order to reach hearts and engage families in ways you can’t see right now.  As parents, trust that God is the one painting the big picture and be intentional about hearing and sharing His voice in the everyday.

Whether you see yourself as a cottonball, popsicle stick, or toilet paper roll, know that your Creator sees much, much more.  He sees a bigger picture.  He has a bigger dream.  And He knows how to make you fit into your eternal intended purpose just by being you.  Step out in faith and let Him do His work in you.

“It’s what you would do”

My 11 yr. old daughter started her own “Mommy’s Helper” business this past summer. The concept was simple: She would come to your house and play with your kids so that you could get some work done around the house.  She charged $1/hour per kid.  And somehow over the course of a few months, she made about $60.  For the first time, she had the money to buy “real” presents for us for Christmas, so she and her Daddy got on Amazon and spent all but $15 of her hard-earned cash.

I was proud of her for not wanting to hoard her money and for choosing to bless others with it instead.  And she still had $15 gift-boxto boot (by the way, I look for ways to use the term “to boot” in my writing so I am very excited right now about this opportunity).

Then on Tuesday, I told the kids I was taking them to Dollar Tree to do their Christmas shopping.  I told Hannah I knew she’d already done hers but she had to come along.  Her eyes lit up. “Oh, yes!” she declared, “Now I can get presents for my friends!”  By the time she finished her list, she had 14 names written down, spending every last dime of money she had worked so hard to earn.  I looked at her and said, “You know honey, your friends aren’t expecting gifts from you.  Don’t you want to keep some of that money for yourself?”  She got a strange look on her face and said, “Is it okay for me to give gifts to them?”  “Yes,” I replied, “I just thought maybe you’d like to keep some of your job money for yourself instead of spending it all on others.”  She shrugged and then said pointedly, “It’s what you would do.”

My heart leapt, sunk, and spun around all at once.  “It’s what you would do.”  I had no response other than to say, “I’m glad that’s how you see me; let’s go get some presents!”

Because honestly, I don’t know if I would have spent ALL my money on presents for others, but I do know that Luke and I have tried wholeheartedly to model generosity to others for our kids.  And I’m not sure I would have made sure that every. single. friend. had a present from me but I am sure that it has been our goal to demonstrate hospitality and love towards others in our home.  And frankly, I’m not convinced that I wouldn’t have taken the out I offered that no one was expecting the present, but I am convinced that as parents we have put a lot of emphasis on never taking the easy way out and doing your best for God and others.

For Hannah this translated into spending her hard-earned cash on gifts for others at Christmas.  This act has brought her much joy as she thought of each friend and family member and how she wanted to bless them.  While we have never modeled this exact behavior to our daughter, she translated our other intentional parenting moments into this action and assumed that it was precisely what we would do in the same situation.

Parents, ministry leaders, involved adults – don’t think that you have to have the exact right words for the exact right moment at the exact right time.  Putting that kind of pressure on yourself will almost definitely guarantee a fail.  We are imperfect people.  Instead, seek to live lives that exemplify Christ in your life.

Be intentional about sharing why you are making a meal for a new family, going for a walk with a friend who is hurting, spending time in prayer with your spouse, pausing in Sunday school class to hug a child, inviting a new family for dinner, cleaning the house for your family, etc.  Tell them in words and deed that these things are being done because you love Jesus.

You will never be able to address every specific situation that your kids will find themselves in, but you can give them a framework to make decisions from, namely, “What Would Mom/Dad/Teacher/Friend Do?”

Hannah has exactly 32 cents to her name right now.  Hannah is happier than I’ve seen her in a long time.  Sure, she wants to keep earning money and she plans to keep working, but even now she’s already got big plans.  After all, the new year is before her and MY birthday is February (to boot)!