Are We Hypocrites at Home?

“The problem with Christians is that they are all hypocrites.”

Chances are very high that you have heard those words spoken to or around you at some point in your life.  A common complaint of many, many unbelievers is that Christians say one thing and do another; they talk a talk but don’t walk the walk.  This persuasion is so prevalent that David Kinnamen, President of Barna Group, actually surveyed 718 self-identified Christians to determine if this idea was indeed true.  Sadly he discovered that over half of the participants identified themselves as having actions or attitudes more like the hypocritical Pharisees of the Bible than those of Jesus Christ.

The challenge for us as parents and ministers is to consider; how do we model authenticity and consistency while still acknowledging we are all sinners who at times fall into sin?

We all mess up.  We act in ways that are selfish and un-Christlike.  And in those moments, we can appear hypocritical, especially to the kids who are watching us and learning from us what it is to be a follower of Christ.

Consistency in what we teach and how we live is critical to creating an atmosphere of authenticity both at home and at church. 

Who we are and how we are living should flow seamlessly between those worlds without friction or tension.  What we do in one place, we should be able to just as freely do in another place and our faith should reach beyond the walls of church into the everyday life we live.

Consider these five “church” activities that we engage in easily and freely at church but not as often in the home:

1. Worship – Every Sunday without fail, voices are raised in song in churches around the world, praising and worshiping the Lord through “songs, hymns and spiritual songs.”  Have you ever considered hosting a worship service with your family at home?  Worship through song isn’t limited only to the w
alls of a church
, in fact Paul says we are to to always be “singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.”

child-praying2. Prayer – Whether it be a pastoral prayer or the communal recitation of the Lord’s prayer, we have no problem engaging in spoken prayer in a church setting; do we do the same in our homes?  The Lord’s Prayer is a great way for you to begin praying with your kids and creating that seamless flow between church and home.

3. Offering – Every week, the plate is passed and our tithes and offerings are given to the Lord.  But we don’t have to limit our giving to the church offering plate.  Maybe your family could support a missionary or sponsor a child or provide meals for families in need.  The cheerful heart of giving isn’t only for church.

4. Bible reading – If the only time your child sees you open the Bible (or pull up the app on your phone or tablet) is in the church building, the model they see is one where the Bible is only for church not for life.  But the writer of Psalms says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  The Scripture is for everywhere, every day.

5. Fellowship – Let’s face it; a big reason for going to church is to see  friends.  I had someone tell me the only time they saw their friends was on Sunday morning.  It’s really hard for your kids to see the community and family that is the body of Christ if they only see people for 1 hour a week, 4 times a month.  Invite people over, build relationships and enjoy fellowship all week long.

When kids see consistency in who we are and what we do at church and who we are and what we do at home, it will be easier for them to respond to the idea that all Christians are hypocrites by simply pointing to… YOU.

Could there be a higher compliment than to hear your son or daughter say in truth, “Not all Christians are hypocrites.  My parents are just Christians.. all the time”? 

When we are consistent, we are authentic, and when we are authentic, we are modeling the truth of Jesus to the next generation.

Ministers: What are some “home” activities that we could pull into the church setting to enhance consistency on our end? For example, shared meals, family devotions, movie night?


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.

Advertisements

Four Imperfect Moments to Disciple your Kids

We were all sitting on the couch, anxiously awaiting Daddy’s return home so we could eat dinner, when she turned around and said, “What if you are having a hard time forgiving someone?”

I looked at her and about a million thoughts when through my mind, the first of which was, “Now? Right now? kidquestionsWhen dinner’s on the table and your little brother is melting down and Daddy is running late and now is when you want to have this talk?”

My first instinct was to delay, tell her we’d talk later because there wasn’t time now. My second thought was to deflect, tell her Daddy would chat about that when he got home. My final response was discussion; talk to her in the middle of the moment, maybe not in-depth and maybe not full disclosure, but enough to engage her and promise a future conversation.

Look , we only have, for most, 18 years with our kids and of those, only 10 or so where they are capable of philosophical and faith-forming questions and conversations.

In that brief time, we are given a few perfect moments to share our faith and hope with our kids. But in that same time, we are given many, many imperfect moments.

If we are waiting for the perfect moment, we will miss so many chances to pour into our kids.

Consider these moments we tend to encounter every day:

  • Waking up – Those blustery, blunder-filled mornings of chaos are often perfect times for kids to ask burning questions. Engage them!
  • Driving Anywhere (especially if you’re in a hurry) – Your mind is on the destination and getting there as quickly as possible; they want to know how God can count all their hair. Talk to them!
  • Eating Meals (but particularly in public places) – Table manners aside, when your child brings up a sensitive topic at the table of all places, your first instinct might be to duck and hide. Acknowledge them!
  • Going to bed – They may just want to stay up later, but if they have opened the door to discuss God’s love, walk on through. Converse with them!

Doctor’s office waiting for your appointment?

Standing in line at an amusement park?

Stuck in a checkout behind that lady with a hundred coupons and matching ads (that might be me –sorry)?

At the playground? In the middle of the night? On a field trip? While you’re in the dressing room?

Imperfect moments, each and every one and yet, if you can grasp them and if you can use them, you will be able to “impress” deeply upon your child the Emmanuel nature of the God that we serve; the God who is always with us, ever-present, and always desirous of our time and attention.

And listen, we are as imperfect as the moments we are presented. We are going to have days where we say, “Sorry, I missed it. You asked, I deflected. You inquired, I digressed. But I’m here now, let’s talk.”  But that brings its own beautiful lesson in itself.

Paul tells us in Ephesians to “make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” That doesn’t just apply to our workplace, our social circles or our friends and neighbors.

That applies to our family and our children.

That applies to the imperfect moments.    Seize them!

*Looking for a great resource to help you be ready to seize the imperfect moments?  Check out the book “Trust us, They’ll Ask” from Group Publishing.  My husband and I both have appreciated the ideas and answers this book has provided as we try to provide biblical and thoughtful answers to our kids.


If you enjoyed this article, check out ReFocus Ministry for more ideas on faith formation at home and transitioning church ministry toward a family focus, or “like” us on Facebook for even more resources.

Don’t FREEZE out Your Ministry: 3 Ways to Thaw

I am freezing!

If you live anywhere in the contiguous United States you probably are too. It’s so cold that… Yeah, people are starting to say that every time you see them. Pipes are freezing, schools are closing, and heating bills are rocketing.

frozenfountain

Photo Credit: Michael Chanley

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with freezing cold temperatures but they can bring some unfortunate side effects. They can also afford some of the most beautiful ones, like this picture taken by a friend in Louisville where the temperature dropped so fast, the fountain looks like Elsa herself used her magic touch.

The theme of Frozen works well for a movie but the effects of frozen don’t coincide well with ministry. It’s not unusual to find ourselves in a place where we are “stuck” in something – a routine, a way do doing things, a program or an attitude. We hear things like, “We’ve always done it that way” or “That program has worked for ____ years” or “It is what it is; don’t fix what ain’t broke.”

It is important, in both our homes and our churches, that we don’t allow the beauty of something to disguise its negative effects.

 Frozen ministry or “stuck” programming fails to recognize that our children and youth, our culture and economy, are in a constant state of metamorphosis whose needs change as different events frame worldviews. A classic example is the age-segregated model of “silo” ministries where generations don’t interact with each other.   While the model appears to “work” because age groups get to be together, the negative effects of compartmentalization, lack of intergenerational relationships, and division in the church can’t be ignored.

If you see that there are ways that perhaps you’ve gotten stuck in a frozen practice or ministry, here are three ways to warm things up and start a thaw.

  1. Review your programs/activities every 2-3 years – Three years ago you started monthly faith talks with your kids on Sunday nights and they were great! Now, you find that they aren’t participating like they used to. Trying to force things back to “how they were” isn’t going to work. Consider what has changed (school needs for Monday morning, tired from the weekend, content needs revamped?) and critically review what is in place. This is especially true for churches – just because something worked well in 2010 doesn’t mean it does in 2015.
  2. Talk to your participants – Our tendency when we find something works is to plug in and start steaming ahead. We get into our routine and we know what to do when. But if we aren’t communicating with those we are working with or serving, we run the risk of freezing them out… literally. Need some questions to get the conversation started? Check out this great article by Carey Niewhof entitled “7 Leadership Conversations Every Church Team Should Have in 2015”
  3. Let go of the Beautiful Things – This is so hard. When we have seen good things come from something we have done, it can be hard to… “Let it Go!” Don’t let the good things of the past keep you from grasping the GREAT things of the future. Be brutally honest about the changes that have happened since you started and be willing to recognize you may need to change too.

I love how Christ modeled this concept of warmth and fluidity in his ministry. In one day, he could be eating with “sinners” and dining with Pharisees without skipping a beat. His words spoke right into hearts and his teachings appropriate to each situation. He wasn’t afraid of change, even rapid change, and he never appears frozen by location, community, or circumstance.

If you are stuck inside today, why not take a few minutes to see if there are any frozen areas in your life and ministry? Ask some tough question and start a thaw. As the song says, “Greater things are yet to come.”

For more articles like this, check out ReFocus Ministry or “like” us on Facebook.

Detoured? So Were They

“Where did the star lead them?”

This question was asked yesterday during our Epiphany Sunday service.  A young voice from the back of the room yelled out what we were all thinking. “Bethlehem!” he exclaimed as a chuckle when through the congregation. “Actually,” the pastor responded, “Jerusalem. The star led them first to Jerusalem where they spoke with Herod.” (check it out at Matthew 2:2).wisemen

I’d never considered this part of the story before.

You might say, I had an epiphany.

You see, the wise men saw an unusual star rise in the East and felt it had enough significance to warrant a costly and timely journey towards its location.  We naturally skip to the end of the story, but in doing so we miss a significant middle portion.

The first place the star led them was not the Messiah.

As a matter of fact, it led them to a corrupt king, intent on securing his reign and filled with evil intention.  But this corrupt king was actually the one who pointed the wise man towards Bethlehem, back towards the rising star and ultimately towards Messiah, Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

God didn’t have to add this little bump in the road.  He could have just led them directly to a stable in a little town in Judea.  But for whatever reason, God sent them on this little detour first.

Ever had a detour? 

Ever been following God’s calling on your life or implementing a plan you really felt His leading in and.. bump… oops… how did we end up here?

Has your “star” taken you to a place that is definitely not what you were looking for?

We usually label these bumps and detours as “failures.”  And sometimes, when that happens, we stop the journey.  We assume we heard wrong, said wrong, and did wrong.  We make the U-turn back to where we started and we analyze how it was we could have been detoured so badly.

But what if it wasn’t a mistake? 

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the wise men arrived at Herod’s palace and said, “This?!?  This is what we came for?” and then turned around and headed home.

But they didn’t.  They said, “We are following a star.  We believe a great king has come.  We aren’t leaving until we get some answers.”

And their persistence paid off.  They were given direction and insight from those who understood the situation better than they did and they saw that star rise again and lead them straight into Emmanuel’s dwelling.

If you find yourself detoured and landing in a place you didn’t anticipate as you lead your ministry, your home or your own life, don’t be so quick to say, “I must not have heard God right.”  Instead, try these three wise moves like our magi did.

  1. Accept where you are, but don’t assume you are staying – When we end up somewhere unexpected, it is tempting to assume we’ve reached the end of our journey and that assumption can lead to a place of resignation.  Maybe you’ve tried integrating a service, but families are complaining that it is not meeting their needs.  Perhaps you’ve tried initiating faith talks with your family, but you are the only one that ends up talking.  Or maybe you’ve started a course of study and your grades aren’t what you had expected or hoped.  Those detours can appear more like periods than commas on your journey.  But what if you…
  2. Pause long enough to take in your surroundings – The voice of failure can be loud, but the quiet voice of the Lord can be overwhelming.  Be still enough to know that He is God.  Then, listen to the other voices.  Ask what needs your families don’t feel are being met, inquire of your family why they don’t feel comfortable participating in faith talks, or consult your fellow students or professors about where you could improve academically.  Often God clarifies His leading in our lives through the people He puts in our path, even the detours.
  3. Let God restore your vision – At some point, after talking to Herod and the scribes and staying for a time in the palace, the wise men had to once again turn their eyes to the sky and lo, and behold, when they did “the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them.”  God resumed the journey, this time with deeper understanding and clarity and this time to the final destination.  Maybe your intergenerational service will take on some new characteristics or your family faith talks might play out differently than you assumed or your academic expectations may need adjusted, but when we follow God’s leading and lift our eyes to Him, He will lead us right into His presence.

A speaker I once heard (Pastor John Stumbo, President of Christian & Missionary Alliance Church) said, “Where you see a period, God sees a comma; He’s not done writing your story yet.”   If you find yourself detoured and wondering how you ended up there, assume it’s a comma and learn from the moment.  He’s not done writing your story yet either.


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.

4 Baby Steps for Discipleship at Home

The other day I had someone say to me, “I love reading your blog and I like your thoughts on discipleship in the home but I don’t even know how to get started.  I don’t think of those things like you do.  Where do I start?”

It’s a good question and one that I have heard expressed many times before.  Comprehension of the need for faith formation at home is often overshadowed by fears of implementation.  How do you “see God in the everyday”?  How do you begin to prepare for a “faith talk”?  What in the world does it mean to “speak a blessing” over your kids?

If you, or the parents you serve, have ever asked these questions or ones like them, take a second and celebrate (in our family, you’d be doing the “Oh Yeah Dance” at this exact moment).  Celebrate! Because asking questions like these show a heart that is already in tune with God’s heart for children and families and even if you feel completely at a loss for “what to do” chances are the very fact you feel that way probably reflects in your parenting and leadership already.

Combining that heart with intentional actions created to draw children into the “mystery” of the faith is a dynamic duo for discipleship at home.

If this is a new arena for your family or those you serve, I encourage you to start with these four small but powerful “baby steps” that begin to shift the focus of the home towards Christ.

family_praying_hands1.  Morning Prayer/Blessing – In Deut 6:4-9, God tells parents to “impress” His commands on the children and provides four times in which to do that. One of those times is “when you rise.”  Mornings can often be rushed, crazy times as everyone is trying to get shoes tied, hair brushed, coffee guzzled and breakfast consumed.  In the middle of it all, take just 30 seconds to stop with each child and pray a simple blessing like, “Lord, be with Grace today. May she know that you are with her, that you love her and that you have called her by name and may she return home full of joy and wisdom.”  You will be setting the tone for the day with those simple words and reminding her just how much she is loved by you and by God.

2. Dinner Discussions – Another time God encourages us to engage with our kids is “when you sit.”  It’s rare to have families in a place where they all sit down together, but sometimes dinner still gives us that opportunity.  To center our conversation during those nights, our family asks four questions:  What was your high today?  What was your low? What mistake did you make?  Where did you see God today?  We have had more “teachable moments” at dinner than we could have ever imagined.  Sometimes we only get two questions in before we begin discussing something related to our faith, God, family or church.  And what’s great is that everyone, even Mom and Dad, gets to participate.carrearview

3.  Drive Time – God tells parents to share with their kids as they “walk along the road.”  This doesn’t happen as much as it did but we do drive along the road an awful lot.  If you have to travel frequently, might I suggest downloading or purchasing some Adventures in Odessey programs from Focus on the Family?  These radio dramas provide a great platform for discussion with  kids and they will love listening to them (you will too – they’re pretty great!).  We have had many conversations with our children brought on by topics discussed in the episode and as an added bonus, the episodes all have Scriptures to go with them so you don’t have to figure it out yourself!

4. Bedtime Blessing – The final time God specifies is “when you lie down.”  Kids are fantastic stallers for bedtime.  Wouldn’t it be great if you got them at their own game and turned their stall time into a time for discussion and blessing?  For young children, check out the Jesus Storybook Bible which tells the stories of Scripture in a unique way and points out where Jesus can be found in every story.  For older kids, before they go to bed, simply ask them if anything is on their mind that they need to talk about before bed so they can sleep well.  It will shock you what they are willing to share in that safe place with you. These moments will be the last thoughts before your cherub slips off to sleep; can you think of a better sendoff?

Once these four practices become habitual for you, you will find it much easier to put Christ in the center of your family activities.  Your kids won’t think it’s “weird” when you take time to schedule a Family Faith Talk because you’ve already invited Jesus to the dinner table.  It won’t feel difficult to turn to Scripture in everyday moments because you’ve been listening to it in the car and reading it before bed.  And before you know it, your baby steps will become faith-forming strides as discipleship happens… at home.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”  Zech 4:10 NLT.  In other words, God loves us and He loves our baby steps.


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.

Reaching Forward with ReFocus in 2015

I am so excited about the direction God is taking ReFocus Ministry and wanted to share with all of you the wonderful opportunities that have opened up.

Since this blog began less than two months ago, nearly 2,000 people have viewed it and close to 90 have shared the posts.  I can sense the excitement and anticipation of fellow ministers and parents as we move our focus for faith formation and discipleship back on the home.  For more about why that is important, click here.cmblogogreen

I was recently given the chance to join the team at http://www.childrensministryblog.com to share my unique perspective on ministry from a family-focused and transitional standpoint.  My first article, Why you shold STOP working on Sundays was published today and is geared towards those of us currently working in ministry.

Over the next few weeks, ReFocus will be joining with a few other teams of bloggers to help launch some great new books and spread the word about some wonderful conferences and training opportunities for those interested in children’s and family ministries.  Keep an eye out, especially if you are currently serving in this context.

I am blessed and excited to share how we are growing and reaching forward.  I hope that you have had the chance to explore our articles and resources here and have found some helpful tools and encouragement as you serve families at church and as you disciple your kids at home.  If you have not done so, be sure to “like” our Facebook page for even more articles and resources for your home and church and follow on Twitter @EmbreeChristina.

If you have any ideas, resources, thoughts, ideas, or opinions about family ministry, discipleship of kids, or faith formation at home, I’d love to hear from you.

Blessings for 2015 and thank you for joining me as we ReFocus together!