When One-Size-Fits-All Doesn’t

file0001034197368I once knew a couple getting ready to celebrate their anniversary. The husband had cooked up an elaborate plan to surprise his wife. He took her on a hike and when they reached a certain spot, he had a table ready and a meal to share right there in the middle of the woods. A few years later, my husband and I went out to eat with that same couple and the wife made a comment about how much she enjoyed going to eat out a restaurant, “not like that time we ate dinner in the woods” as she teasingly elbowed her now sheepish husband.

I couldn’t help but laugh. We had all remarked about how sweet her husband was and how he did such a romantic thing, and here she didn’t even like it. As a young married couple we learned a valuable lesson that day; if we really want to say “I love you” we better find out what our better half loves.

Sometimes it’s tempting to look around at other families or other ministries and think, “Wow, what they are doing is so cool! I’m gonna do that for my family/ministry!  But it’s really, really important to make sure that what you are doing is what you should be doing for the ones you love and serve. The coolest, most innovative, eye-catching One Sizeresource in the world won’t be worth much if it doesn’t meet the need that exists.

One-size-fits-all just doesn’t apply to ministry or families.

Before you run ahead, prayerfully consider the following:

  1. Is this the best option for my family/ministry? There are a lot of amazing ministry tools available today, many of them for free and many of them highly recommended. But it is important to make sure that the needs your family has or your ministry has are being met by whatever resource you use. Otherwise, your energy bears no fruit. (To consider different types of family ministry models, click here)
  1. Will this take us deeper in Christ? If you are going to put time or money into doing something for your family or ministry, make sure that the end result is that you walk away closer to Jesus and each other. That might mean to take a trip to the movies as a family or hold a lock-in at the church for your tweens but make sure it’s meeting our greatest need of all – the need for Christ in our lives.
  1. Will it have positive lasting results? Whether we intend to or not, we are always leaving lasting impressions on our kids at home and at church. If we are planning to move ahead with a devotional, a curriculum, a change in rhythms and routines at home or a transition to a new ministry focus at church, it will leave lasting impressions on the children involved. Strive to ensure that those impressions are ones of a loving God, a caring family and an involved church.
  1. Have I sought input from the ones I wish to serve? Sometimes we do all the research, ask other parents, talk to other ministers, and then charge ahead with our “dinner in the woods.” But if we haven’t asked those we serve how they feel about something, what we see as a blessing, they might see in a different light. Ask for their thoughts. Seek out their opinions. You may still choose to move ahead, but it will probably be with a more informed slant and a plan to address any disappointment that may be expressed.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list and ultimately, we can do our best and still fail at time (thus the beautiful gift that is GRACE).   However, if we take a moment and step back to consider these things, we have a much better chance of blessing the ones we love and desire to serve.

For more on Parenting from Grace or Transitional Ministry, check of ReFocus Ministry or “like” us on Facebook.

Home on Purpose

Continued sermon series from Brian Haynes – if you are working with family ministry, you have to check out this series!

Brian Haynes

Do you ever feel like your life is so crazy that you are just surviving at home when you really want more? Most of us need to re-define success as we think about living out our faith at home. If you are like me you want to be more intentional, more purposeful, in your efforts to disciple the children growing up in your home. Take 30 minutes and consider what the Bible has to say about how we live, true success, and home on purpose.

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4 Ways to Disciple Kids in Faith not FEAR

What’s a parent to do? There’s a crisis around every corner. Measles outbreaks. Scary social media apps. Drugs in candy. Kids caught up in crime. Sex on TV. Violence in video games. Bullies at school.

It can be disheartening.scared-child

As I read through my facebook feed tonight while my husband and I watched an episode of Blue Bloods, I saw all of these things addressed in less than an hour. And my soul felt weary.   Because sleeping above me, in two bedrooms, are three children that look to me to guide them through this mess and help them arrive safely to adulthood, with faith intact and heart secure.

It can be overwhelming.

So what can we do? One danger that Christian parents can run into is “reacting to” the situation. When this happens, we run the risk of parenting from a place of fear, rather than a place of faith. Dr. Tim Kimmel, found and director of Family Matters, shares that

“if we aren’t careful, the Christian life we teach our kids will end up becoming ‘sin management’ and ‘image control,’ instead of the true work of the cross.”

In other words, we worry more about them doing the right thing and being safe than we do about teaching them the transformative powers of faith in Christ.

Here are some ways we can disciple kids from FAITH and not FEAR:

  1. Acknowledge the world honestly, MAGNIFY the Lord intentionally – Yes, there are bad things that happen in the world. Hiding the truth from your kids will only make them more inquisitive. Talk to them when they ask about things that are scary BUT don’t focus on the scary thing; intentionally shift your focus to how GREAT God is!
  1. Walk by FAITH and not by SIGHTKids watch what you model. If you make decisions out of fear, that will be the model that they learn to make decisions from. If you model decision-making from a place of faith and seeking God, that’s what they will learn to do as well.
  1. Be the HANDS and FEET of Christ – We are confronted with the reality of a fallen world on a daily basis. People who are lost, in need, alone. When we become Christ to those people by serving them and sharing hope and life with them, we show our kids that faith conquers fear every time and we model participation on the life of Christ as the way to approach a Christian life.
  1. PRAY without ceasing – The reality is we cannot protect our kids forever from the results of living in a sinful world. We can parent from faith, we can give them tools for the task, and we can hold their hand for a while, but eventually we have to let go. But, we never have to stop praying, in the morning, at lunch, before bed, while we walk along the road, while we sit in our house. We can always, always pray.

I recently read a blogger (Angela Lakata Cao) who was encouraging us to think outside of our natural instinct to protect and offer our kids the chance to experience things outside their comfort zone. These words challenged me as I hope they will you:

If we are naturally risk averse and then take drastic steps to further avoid uncomfortable people or situations, then how will we reach others for the Gospel? How will my children see beyond these four walls, that there are risks worth taking simply because there is a great Giver who came in the flesh and risked everything

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.

Today’s Worship Do’s and Don’ts for Families

When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything. – G.K. Chesterton

Last week I shared the article Leaving Sunday Behind which looked at lagging church attendance and the role of the home and the church in reaching families struck a chord with many of my readers. It does beg the question, if families are not regularly attending corporate worship together anymore, where are they?

As Chesterton says, when we cease to worship God, we don’t cease to worship; rather we replace the object of our worship with something else. So, we must ask, what is being worshiped today?

A survey done by Faith Communities Today found these top three reasons cited by families regarding the demands on their time that conflicted with regular church attendance.

  1. School or Sports related activities
  2. Work Schedule conflicts
  3. Driving distance/Time and cost

So it’s not that the families were just sitting at home not doing anything, but they had made the decision to choose other demands on their time over attending church on Sunday morning and Wednesday night.

As parents, this should give us pause and help us consider; what are we teaching our children to worship? If these activities that pull families away from church truly are important to individual families, then as Christians it should also be our goal to find alternatives time to commit to corporate worship and fellowship with other believers.

As ministers, we need to recognize that in a battle against a changing culture, we desperately need a change in tactics. The constraints of traditional service times will increasingly become inadequate for reaching families in our church and new families we desire to share God’s love with. We can spend time lamenting this change and dissecting why it happened and if it’s good or bad or neutral, or we can just acknowledge that it is, and we can begin to look for ways to address it head on.

If we use the following findings from Barna Research Group as a frame for how families in our cultures operate, perhaps we can consider some innovative ways to connect the church with the home.

  1. Parents are just as dependent on technology as are teens and tweens.
  2. Most family members, even parents, feel that technology has been a positive influence on their families.
  3. Very few adults or youth take substantial breaks from technology.
  4. Families experience conflict about technology, but not in predictable ways
  5. Few families have experienced—or expect—churches to address technology

And what about the study that found when 1,500 kids were asked what makes a happy family they responded, “Doing things together”? Contrast this with what we traditionally do in our church settings with separate children, youth, adult, and senior adult ministries.barna

Finally consider another study from Barna that asked self-identified Christians why they chose not to attend church where 40% responded “I find God elsewhere” and 35% said “Church is not relevant to me personally.” Additionally, in the past “regular attendance” was defined as those who attended church three or more weekends a month but now families that show up once every 4-6 weeks consider themselves regular attenders.

A lot of people have come up with a lot of ways to address these changing trends. May I offer just this suggestion?

Let us shift of vision from one of attraction to one of “going and making disciples”. Let’s refocus faith formation at home and building relationships between generations. Let’s concentrate on lifting Jesus up so all may be drawn to Him, not necessarily our brand, our building, or our band. Let’s meet families where they are and bring the church to the world instead of trying to get the world to accommodate the church.

And may we all live lives of worship, inside and outside of the building we call church.

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.

When We Fail: Parenting from Grace

You lost your temper.Woman Exhausted Her Life

You said the wrong thing.

You made your child cry.

You missed a golden opportunity to share about God.

For weary parents who have given their all in a day only to run into one of these “bumps” in the road, the effect can be overwhelming at times.  I’ve sat with moms who just feel like they can’t do it and prayed with dads who feel like they always mess up.  I’ve laid in my own bed at night and lamented my failures in parenting and prayed that somehow God make right where I went wrong.

May I offer to you this bit of encouragement that He has so often offered to me?

He is bigger than your mistakes and in your failures, His grace is made real.

He is stronger than your weary arms and in your weakness, His mercies are found anew.

He is deeper than your tired cries and in your tears, His comfort is encompassing.

He is mightier than your best effort and in your feeble attempts, His love is made known.

You may not see it in those moments when you shake your head and wonder why He ever thought you’d be good at this parenting thing, but He is there.  And as we allow Him to offer His grace and extend His mercies and we accept His comfort and walk in His love, we model for our kids another important part of being a Christian… humility, forgiveness, and unmerited favor.

There will always be bumps in the road.  We will always be learning more of who God is through His mercy in our failings.

But the beautiful thing is that He didn’t choose us to parent because we were perfect; He chose us to parent because He loves us and our children perfectly.

So if today you are feeling the “bump” be encouraged.  The simple act of falling into His arms of grace will teach your children amazing truths about who God is and how much He loves them, bumps and all.

For more thoughts on Discipleship at Home or how to Refocus on Ministry to the Family, check out ReFocus Ministry or “like” us on Facebook.

Four Simple and Fun Ways to Pray with your kids

prayerkidsIf I ask a group of kids to tell me “What is prayer?” inevitably I will get the answer “Talking to God.” And while this is true and often an easy way to explain prayer to kids, prayer is much, much more than that.

As you refocus toward discipleship at home, it is important to give parents/caregivers the tools to incorporate the key elements of the faith in their home.

Here are 4 simple ways to pray that families can explore prayer together at home.

Praying Scripture – A lot of times, people don’t know “what” to pray especially kids. As an exercise, gather your family around and open the Bible to the book of Philippians. Then, have each member try to find TWO verses they can pray for someone else in the family. For your younger kiddos, check out this coloring sheet with verses and let them pick two to color. For older elementary kids, here is a sheet of verses they can print out and use to help with their prayers.

Praying Blessing – The Bible is full of blessings where someone is asking for God’s favor to be on someone else. For fun family activity, do a google search for “Blessings in Scripture” and pick out one for each family member. Write them each down on posterboard (let the youngest kiddos color it to make it beautiful) and commit to praying for each other that way for one week. After a week, sit down and share how it made you feel to hear a blessing prayed over you each day.

Praying Remembrance – Paul tells us to “remember his chains” as we pray and to pray for our brothers and sisters in prison around the world as though we were with them. Go to Operation World’s website and there you will find a list of all the countries in the world and how to pray for them. Find one country per family member where Christians are being persecuted for their faith and commit to praying for those countries as a family. A hands-on activity for this would be to create a paper chain with the names of your countries on it and hang it where you can see and remember throughout the day.

Praying Power – “The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective.” Jesus tells us that with the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains and the greatest evidence of God’s power is a heart transformed. Read the story of Elijah praying for rain found in I Kings 18 and what James shares about it in James 5. Consider together some people who need God’s “rain” in their life and as a family, pray for God’s power to be manifest through transformation.

Praying is much more than talking to God. It’s faith exercised. It’s hearts listening. It’s praise and worship. It’s communion with one another and with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These four simple ways to pray together not only let you expose your kids to a bigger picture of prayer but also to grow together as a family.

For more ideas on Practical Discipleship in the Home or Transitioning to a Family-Focused Ministry, check out ReFocus Ministry or “like” us on Facebook for even more faith formation resources.


Hope and Help When Home is Broken

Brian Haynes continues his look at the home by considering what we can do when our home is broken, by sin or rebellion or by circumstances beyond our control. When there is brokenness, our God the healer steps in and provides when we run to Him. Brian shares 5 ways we can find help and hope when our home is broken.

Brian Haynes

As motivated Christian parents we often think brokenness will never characterize our homes. Many reading this post are likely diligent about investing in their marriages, discipling their children, and leading their families to be missional in every day life. Despite our best efforts, brokenness can quickly invade our homes. Everyone experiences moments or seasons of brokenness; in their marriages, with their children, in their lives. As designed by God, every member of the family is interwoven with the others. When one is broken we all experience the dysfunctional effects of brokenness. Sadly, for some Christians, the first reaction is to hide the issues, adding to the painful schism we never anticipated.

The Bible is wrought with families committed to God that experience seasons of intense brokenness. As you will recall, Adam and Eve have two boys (among others), Cain and Abel. In a horrific moment of rage Cain murders Abel…

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Leaving Sunday Behind

It’s Sunday at noon.  Churches are sending their congregants away to a new week.  Children have been picked up, crafts and lesson sheets in tow.  Nurseries have been scrubbed down, sound systems turned off, and toys sanitized.  In a few minutes the once bustling church grows quiet as the people resume their lives outside the walls.

And therein lies the challenge. What happens the rest of the week?

And no, I’m not referring to a midweek service.  I’m referring to the part of the week where you aren’t “in church.”

A recent study that looked at church attendance found that for most kids, regular attendance (being at church 3 out of 4 Sundays a month) is no longer a realistic expectation.  In fact, the majority of churched kids only found their way into the church building on average 2 Sundays a month.   That’s 24 hours each year.  That’s one day.  1/365th of their life.  That’s a lot of time not in church.

Simply put, that’s not enough.  This same study show that these kids will spend as many hours engaged in media in two days that they will in church all year.  Youths will be in their classroom 60 times longer than in church and spend over 280 hours participating in sports activities over the course of a year.

Maybe you know all this, maybe not. But whether this is a reminder or a wake-up call, I urge you to consider, are you okay with these numbers?  Are you satisfied that we are preparing the next generation to carry our faith forward?  Are you content that as a church we are doing our best to disciple and mentor our youth and kids?

If you are reading this blog, I would guess that you are not okay, satisfied or content.  But you might be lost.  Lost as to what to do.  Lost as to what to say.  Lost as to where to go. Consider these things you can do in order to bring about a real change in the culture of the church and the heart of the home.


Equip Your Parents – If the parents/caregivers in your congregation grew up with a traditional Sunday School model, they may not have the tools to use for faith formation at home.  Equip them for the call!

Engage the Congregation – Your church will have to move the focus from Sunday and Wednesday nights to times of relationship-building and faith formation outside of the church walls.  The children aren’t in church because often Mom and Dad aren’t in church.  If no one is talking to them on the off weeks, our faith has become compartmentalized to a time and place rather than a way of life.

Encourage Your Leaders – If you have a staff, volunteer or paid, who serve the children and families of your church, take time to thank them for their service and encourage them to consider how they can reach out in love all week long, not just on Sunday.  Write a note, send a text, say a prayer and share a hug so that they can go and do the same.


Get Plugged In – If kids aren’t in church, it’s often because their parents/caregivers aren’t in church.  Maybe you legitimately can’t be there, but if you can’t, you need to find somewhere (a small group, a prayer group, Bible study, or fellowship group) where your kids can see you growing in your faith. You are the single most powerful influence on your kids – what you model, they will follow.

Get Excited – There is nothing more exciting than an active growing life of faith.  It’s more exciting that a good grade, a goal scored, or a tooth lost.  Showing love, being kind, extending patience, choosing obedience and living gratefully should be celebrated and acknowledged.  What makes you excited will tell your kids what is important in life.  What do you cheer loudest for?

Get Together – When a family serves together, prays together, and studies together they also grow together.  Kids link actions to concepts.  If you want your child to grow up as a disciple of Christ, disciple them.  If you want them to be a worshiper, worship with them.  If you want them to pray, then pray with them and if you want them to believe the Bible, share it with them. Do this life of faith together. (Read more at Doing ‘Sunday’ on Monday)

Church may never “look” the same.  Sunday morning and Wednesday night may not be what it was 20 or 30 years ago.  But that doesn’t mean that we must lose the next generation.  Our faith is bigger than our church walls.  It’s time we realize that and we engage with Christ in the everyday.  It’s time for change.

Want more? Check out the links below

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.

Answering the Endless Question: “But.. WHY?!?”

“But, why?”


via istock/thinkstock

“Because you need to.”

“But WHY?”

“Because it’s healthy and because you need to!”


If you’ve ever had this conversation in your life, my guess is that you’ve parented a child old enough to use words.  This basic conversation gets repeated with all three of my kids (3, 8, 11) throughout the day with everything from teeth brushing to veggie eating.  It can get exhausting to explain things over and over again.  The first time I was asked “Why?” I’m sure I took the time to painstakingly explain the health benefits of keeping one’s teeth clean or consuming leafy greens.  But after the first few times, I fell back on the traditional, super-fast, completely ineffective, “Because I said so, just do it already!”

The deed might get done but the only lesson learned is that asking “Why?” repeatedly might make Mom mad.

As we lead our families or serve in ministry, the “Why?” question will come up often. Why do we have to do devotionals as a family?  Why do we have to go to church on Wednesday night?  Why do we have to read our Bible?  Why do we need to have intergrated church service times?  Why? Why? Why?

There might be part of us that wants to say, “Because we need to and God wants us to, so just do it already!”  But that is just as ineffective as the parenting line above.

Here’s a few things we need to recognize about that “Why?” question as we lead families and ministries.

1. Why Questions reveal a Heart

  When your kids ask why they have to eat broccoli, it’s not because they don’t know why.  You’ve explained it and they have heard it.  What they are really saying is, “I hate eating broccoli! Why are you making me do something I don’t like to do?”  If you are getting asked that about the discipleship or faith formation activities in your life, the worst thing you can do is brush that aside.  You are getting a peek into their heart.  For whatever reason, this activity has become one that they dislike.  You may be weary of the “Why?” question but try to hear the heart behind it and ask God for wisdom on how to speak to the heart.

2. Why Questions reveal a Need

Sometimes “Why?” is asked because there is a genuine lack of understanding why it is needed.  I had an older lady in church once sit me down and ask, “Why do our parents keep asking for family-oriented activities and discipleship?”  She was interested in understanding why we were integrating services and holding family faith formation nights instead of kids clubs.  We ended up talking for about 15 minutes about everything from Sunday school to faith talks and by the end, she better understood the need our parents had and WHY we were addressing it they way we were in our church.  Sometimes we think because we’ve explained things once or twice before, our kids or congregation should “get it” but in reality, we must be in a place of consistently explaining and championing the needs we are desiring to meet.

3. Why Questions reveal a Desire

Even if spoken in the all-too-familiar whiny tone of a child being forced to do something ghastly like bathing or cleaning their room, the fact that the question “Why?” is being asked reveals a desire for legitimacy.  Kids want a legitimate reason WHY they should spend their valuable time on such things.  Your family wants a legitimate and meaningful reason to engage in discipleship together.  Your church family wants legitimate reasons for cross-gen services and family ministry programming.

If the only reason you are doing something is because “it’s the right thing to do”, I urge you to take some time and seek the Lord and examine your own heart to ensure what you are doing is what God wants you to be doing.  Doing things just to do things isn’t healthy for you, for your family, or for your church.  Doing things with intention and purpose as you follow the Lord’s leading is the only healthy way for you to grow and to answer the “Why’s” you will be faced with.

One of my favorite parenting verses is Galations 6:9,

“Let us not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up.”

It can get wearying to answer the “Whys” all day long.  It is so much easier to say, “Because I said so” than to engage and converse.  But if we persevere in sharing the answer to the “Whys”, eventually it will bear the fruit of blessing in our lives and in the lives of those we are serving and sharing life with.

And one day, the answers you have shared in love and consistency will be the answers your kids share with their kids, your church members share with new believers, and your family shares with friends around them.

So do not become weary.  WHY, you may ask?  Because there is a bountiful harvest of blessing to come and a God who is walking with you, every step of the way.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to follow Refocus Ministry for more ideas for family ministry in church and at home or “like” us on Facebook for a variety of resources and parenting tools!

The Biblical Importance of Home

Pastor Brian Haynes of Bay Area First Baptist Church near Houston, TX, is sharing a 5-week series on the Home and God’s heart for families. I will be “re-blogging” his blog for the duration of the series because the information he is presenting aligns perfectly with the heart of ReFocus Ministry.
CHILDREN’S MINISTERS: If you are beginning the journey towards a more home-focused ministry, the information Brian gives is invaluable to you! I’ve had the privilege to meet with and study under Brian in the past and his heart and theology had a huge impact on my own journey into family ministry. Be blessed!

Brian Haynes

This week I started a sermon series called “HOME: Experiencing God’s best in real family life.” It’s true that there is no perfect marriage, no perfect parent, no perfect children, no perfect homes. However, we can experience God’s best in the context of our home life. Join me for week 1 of a 5 week series on the home as we begin with, “The Biblical Importance for Home.” I know you will find hope and help for yours.

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