It’s NOT (just) About The Kids

So many times at church and in ministry circles, we talk about how important it is for children that faith is talked about in the home. And it is (very important). But have you ever considered how important it is for YOU, the parent or caregiver, that faith is discussed at home.

Consider these 5 reasons why you need to talk about your faith with your kids

  1. You NEED to experience the narratives of Scripture again for the very first time.

Sure you’ve heard the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den, David and Goliath, and Joshua and Jericho a  hundred times. But you know who hasn’t? Your kids! And you have the privilege of sharing it with them maybe for the first time. Which means, you can show them in each story, how God is working and showing His love, and maybe that’s exactly what you need to hear too.

For a great resource to do this, consider The Jesus Storybook Bible,which has ministered to me at least as much as it has to the kids I’ve read it to.

  1. You NEED to hear how your child hears God speak to them.

I absolutely love asking kids questions about God and hearing their beautiful answers.

So many stories come to mind, but one of the most precious to me was when my own daughter at the ripe old age of 7 asked me if God ever spoke to me. After awkwardly trying to explain the difference between God’s audible voice and His impressions in my heart and how God speaks through the Bible, I finally just shut my mouth and said, “Why, has God spoken to you?” She nodded “Yes” almost nonchalantly so I was forced to ask, “Really, what did He say?” She replied, “Well, when I was painting the other day, He said, ‘I made you to do this.’ I’m pretty sure I’m called to use my art for God.

What a precious moment to me to know God was speaking to my little girl’s heart.  It is so refreshing to hear the pure life that comes out of children when they talk about God.  And in a world that often saps our souls, spiritual refreshment is much needed.

  1. You NEED to remember just how very much God LOVES you

If you are like me, when you talk to your kids about Jesus, you invariably let them know just how much God loves them, how He made them special and given them personalities and giftings that are unique to them, that He has a purpose for their life and a reason for their being, and that He would go to any length to let them know just how much He cares for their soul.

Hey, guess what? That’s true for you too and sometimes we big kids need to remember that is how WE are loved, forever and always.

  1. You NEED to remind yourself that your faith isn’t just a Sunday thing

In this world of “Go, Go, Go!” it is far to easy to compartmentalize our faith as just one more thing we “do” on Sunday mornings and maybe Wednesday nights.

Church becomes a place not the body of Christ. Fellowship becomes Sunday hugs during the greeting time at service not the community of faith. The Bible becomes the appropriate accessory when you walk through the building doors and a decoration to adorn your bookshelf the rest of the week.

Talking with our kids every day about our faith is a poignant reminder that what we are as Christians reaches far beyond the four walls of church and into every crevice of our lives. It is alive, active, and living as long as we are. Sharing that with your kids will fill both of you with meaning and purpose.

  1. You NEED to reflect on God with the faith of a child

Calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus said that. His words, his heart. I truly believe the innocent faith of a child has insights into God’s heart that just can’t see.

Tonight I went to small group with five other couples, four of which were parents. Before the night was over, four of the five families with kids had shared meaningful stories with the group regarding faith conversations they had with their kids that past week. Why? Because their hearts had been touched by their kids faith. They had been drawn into their childlike faith and had a chance to experience Christ again in a new way.

So, yes, while it is true that it is important for kids to experience faith at home, it is also vitally important for you.

The home never ceases to be the primary place of faith formation just because you “grew up.”

You are still being formed to this day so make the most of it and invite Christ into the everyday moments of your family’s life. Because… you NEED it.


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.

Three Intentional Faith-Forming Moments at Home

As we finish up our series on “Growing Deep Roots: Communication for Faith Formation at Home”, we want to look at receiving Christ into our home through the strategies of Faith Talks, God Moments and Celebrations.

These strategies were shared with me by Pastor Brian Haynes at a conference for children’s pastors in 2011 where he outlined these strategies for use in the home. If you would be interested in a deeper look at these strategies, check out his book Shift which is available at Amazon in both paper and ebook form. All the information we will cover comes from the lecture I attended and this book.

Faith TalksTopical, pre-planned (intentional) talks built around Scripture that involve the whole family.

For instance, perhaps there’s been some unforgiveness happening around your home. This is a perfect chance for you to say to the family on Monday, “Hey guys on Friday night we are going out for pizza and we’re going to talk about forgiveness. Can each of you find a Bible verse about forgiveness and bring it that night? Susie, since you don’t read yet, can you draw a picture about forgiveness? Mom and I will bring some ideas and questions too.” That, my friends, is a Faith Talk. They require a little bit of work from each family member and guidance from the parents to teach a specific spiritual point. What are some topics your home might benefit from having a faith talk on right now?

God MomentsUnplanned and spontaneous and should only take a moment or two to discuss.

God moments are unplanned and a great example of this is found in, you guessed it, Deuteronomy 6. When you are sitting and you are rising, walking down the road, etc. are perfect opportunities to seize a God moment.

One of my favorite God Moments happened to me when I was driving my girls to school and heard a report on the radio about the tornadoes that tore through Moore, Oklahoma. It really affected my girls and we talked about God’s provision and protection in some pretty candid ways.Their takeaway from that conversation was that they were the hands and feet of Christ and it was up to them to do something for the kids that lost all their toys in the tornado.

Fast forward one month and they had spearheaded a campaign that collected over a ton of new or gently-used toys to send to Moore (free because Fed Ex donated shipping) along with hundreds of hand-written notes that said, “God loves you” and a box full of Bibles. All from one God moment seized.

Don’t underestimate the power of a single God Moment in your child’s life.  My kids still remember that powerful experience and I know it had a huge impact on their faith formation

Celebrations –  Powerful communicators that say, “Something important just happened and WE noticed!”smiley-balloon

We celebrate successes, birthdays, new birth, achievements and new adventures all the time in life. What if we did that in our spiritual life? Celebrations are a great way to say, “We have seen you grow in your faith and we are excited for you!” Celebrations can be big deals like Rites of Passage celebrations for 13 year olds and high school graduates or quick celebrations like a dance party for a son who acted kindly and showed God’s love or for a daughter who wrote a poem that shared spiritual truth.

There are all kinds of things to celebrate! First communion, our salvation experience, first time to serve in church, first time to share a testimony, being gracious to friends, any kind of spiritual growth at all can be and should be celebrated. (For more on the importance of celebration, click here)

And that brings us full circle, from the seed of an acorn to a healthy tree with deep healthy roots.

Our interactions at home and how we communicate the metanarrative of Scripture to our kids will have lasting effects. We are either communicating the importance of our faith or the unimportance of it. Our kids need to see, hear, touch, feel, and taste Jesus and they do that when they are with you. Be their church.


This blog is Part 5 in a five part series on “Growing Deep Roots: Communication for Faith Formation at Home.” 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.

When Words Aren’t Enough: Two Strategies for Communication

It’s time to start the whole “talking” thing.

How many of you find that is when you end up in the most trouble? It’s when you open your mouth, especially in a heated moment, and what comes out just leads to hurt and frustration and lack of communication.

Fear not, you are not alone.

James even spends a great deal of time talking about taming the tongue because it can cause great damage (James 3:1-12). The next two strategies we’ll look at can help us to bridle the tongue and use it to bring about positive change and faith formation even in the heated moments.

Active listening

Part of the conversation we often overlook is the part where we actually don’t talk.  Active listening is a form on intentional listening where the listener gives their full attention to the speaker and then reflects on what they say before responding. As a parent, this type of listening is hard to do in our home where distractions are abundant. Active listening requires you to be fully present with your child.talkingtodad

In our home, if we really need to have an “all there” conversation, we take our child out and have a one-on-one, even if it’s just a walk together. Creating that special environment tells the child, “You are an important part of our plot. Our story needs your input.”

Validation

Now this communication skill does require you to talk, but in a way that puts the other person’s needs first. Validation is a strategy in which you assure the speaker that they have been heard by repeating back to them what they said in a manner that shows you understand what they have communicated.

Let me be clear – validation IS NOT the same thing as agreement. For instance, if your child has been made fun of at the playground and doesn’t “ever want to go back there again” you can validate their concerns “I understand that you were hurt when she made fun of you there and that it will take a lot of courage to go back on that playground again” without agreeing to their terms.

Validation affirms to the child that they are taking part of the story of what happens to scared-childthem. They are heard and they are valued. In terms of faith formation, kids will ask some very hard questions about God. When someone dies, they will question God’s love. When dad and mom fight, they will wonder about your faith. When there isn’t enough money for Christmas presents, they will question God’s provision.

Validate their concerns. Let them know you understand their doubts and they have been heard. Then guide them to the truths you are growing in. The worst thing you can do is not “hear” them. Children need to know they are taken seriously and their story is heard. Be Jesus to them and invite them into your story.

Ultimately, we must remember, every strategy and skill in the world is not replacement for the unending love and grace of God and here’s the best news of all.

God is FOR us! He wants our roots to go deep and our faith to grow high.

He is FOR our kids! He loves them so much He literally says in Mark that welcoming a child is welcoming Him.

And He is able. We have inabilities and frailties. He does not! He can fill the gaps of our weakness with his grace. And the Bible says that he will write it on their hearts. That’s His job, not ours. Ours is to tell the story of His Love, over and over, every day.


This blog is Part 4 in a series entitled “Growing Deep Roots: Communication for Faith Formation). The last few blogs we’ve looked at making sure our conversation within our home is Real, Relevant and Regular.  We’ve examined the power of story whether it be personal, ancestral or biblical.  And then we explored how we could create a unique family identity using the tools of rituals, routines and roles.  (To review these posts, just click on the links)

For more ideas about practical discipleship at home or how to transition your ministry to one with a greater focus on family, check out 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.

Creating Your Family’s Unique Identity

The last few blogs have looked the “3 R’s” of faith conversations with kids and the power of story in how we communicate.  As we get deeper into creating that place of faith formation at home, we are going to steal an idea from the business world; the idea of creating a “corporate identity.”

Now in the business world, this means that you create an image that shows your business’ personality to the world around them.  hands-598145_1280

For family, this means you create an identity that becomes central to your character and meaning as a unit.  It communicates to the world “This is WHO we are, WHAT we stand for, and HOW we do life.” It becomes your family’s DNA and what your kids look to and say, “This is part of what it is to be an (insert last name here).”

For the purpose of faith formation, we’re going to use this to create an identity for our family using the strategies of rituals, routines and roles.

Rituals – In her book, Family Ministry, Diana Garland defines rituals as “routines with meaning.”  For instance, many families will say a specific grace before dinner or open one present on Christmas Eve and the rest the next morning. The reason behind the action is more meaningful than just regular routine. Perhaps the prayer is one the parents prayed when they were kids or the gift-opening started because Mom wanted the kids to all have matching PJs on Christmas morning.

These rituals becomes things that you talk about when describing your family, especially when the kids share, saying things like, “Oh, my family always…” or “Whenever that happens, our family…”

Ritual is important to God; just look at the description of worship he lays out for the people of Israel in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The repetition of a unique practice can set our family apart and provide context for our child’s faith. If we are intentional in our rituals, we can use them as foundations from with to tell our various stories. For instance, if your family has a ritual of going around the table and sharing something nice about the birthday child, you can share about how Jesus spoke right to people like Nicodemus and Peter because he cares deeply for the individual. Can you think of some “faith” rituals we do at church that we could incorporate into our home?

Routines – Now routines differ from rituals as they are not “special occasion. Our routines are just “what we do” in the everyday. But sometimes it can be important to create spiritual routines that, as Reggie Joiner (2009) says in his book Think Orange, fit with the rhythm of our life. For instance, it can become routine for us to start or end our day with prayer. Maybe our routine is cleaning up dishes together as a family or reading a piece of Scripture at each meal.

These routines should be “expected” at some part of just normal daily life but guess what, to get there, you have to start here, with intentionality and a bit of planning.

Roles – We’re gonna jump back to Deuteronomy 6 for this one. In this passage, who is doing what? Parents are teaching. Kids are listening. They are both walking, laying, sitting. Where is the Sunday school teacher mentioned? How about the church?

In this portion of Scripture, God indicates that the parents have the primary role of spiritual caregiver to the child.

This is not to say the faith community is not important. They very much are. In fact, if you read all of Deuteronomy and look at faith practices in Jewish celebrations, you’ll find the children very much involved. But primarily, the parents are the purveyor of faith information to their children. A concern of many ministers today is that because of age-segregated classes at church, parents have abdicated that role and their children look to the church solely for spiritual guidance. The effect of this is a compartmentalized faith where God is at church but not in the home. As we look at forming our family’s personality, we must be clear to our children about our role in their lives to pass on the faith and that means we must be growing in that faith ourselves. Communicating roles is important to shaping our corporate identity and telling our stories.

Perhaps as you were reading this, some ideas popped into your head about the rituals, routines, and roles in your home that help form your family’s identity.  If so, take some time to write them down and then, through prayer and counsel, consider how you can intentionally “invite Christ” into the middle of them. 

  • Can you add prayer or blessing to your routine? 
  • Can you point to Christ’s love in the center of one of your family’s rituals?
  • Is there a place for you to take on a bigger role as spiritual caregiver in your child’s life? 

Asking these questions of ourselves in the home, ensure that we are creating an environment that is focused on faith formation, spiritual discipleship, and intentional love.  The best kind of family identity I can think of.


This blog is Part 3 in a five part series on “Growing Deep Roots: Communication for Faith Formation at Home.” 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.

Bringing Ash Wednesday Home

The celebration of Ash Wednesday and the observance of Lent was not a part of my experience growing up, but over the past few years, I’ve grown appreciative of this time in the liturgical year to reflect, to repent, and to realign myself with God. And, I tell you, I’ve always loved Easter but it has so much more meaning and depth when connected to the preceding season of Lent.

Churches across America, even those that traditionally did not celebrate this season, are beginning to involve their congregations more and more in this time of reflection and repentance and it is a wonderful place for families to gather around the the story of God’s great Love and His unending faithfulness to us (For more on that from Family Life Today‘s Barbara Rainey, click here).

The first day of Lent and Ash Wednesday is coming (Wednesday, Feb. 10), but in many areas, so is the snow! If your church service gets cancelled or if your church doesn’t currently have an Ash Wednesday or Lent celebration, but you want to engage your family in the season, here are a few tools to use today/this week in your home that may give you some ideas and some guidance.

1. If you are on Facebook, search for a community activity called ‪#‎picturelent‬ . This online program walks you through Lent with devotions, activities and prayers for the whole 40 days. For more information, check out LEC Family at http://lecfamily.org/lent/. To see the scope and sequence of the entire event, click here

What is Lent? – http://lecfamily.org/daily-devotio…/…/what-is-lent-all-about

2. If videos are more your style,ash-wednesday check out these great though-provoking videos from the Skit Guys.

Prayer for Lent – https://skitguys.com/videos/item/a-prayer-for-lent
Pslams for Lent – https://skitguys.com/vid…/item/psalms-for-lent-ash-wednesday
Preparing for Lent – https://skitguys.com/videos/item/preparing-for-lent

3. Need some coloring pages for your younger kids? Check out the collection at http://www.theclipartwizard.com/lent-coloring-pages.htm

4. Host your own worship service at home with your kids. Here are a list of current worship songs (like those you’d find on K-Love) that have great application to Lent. Consider looking up videos on YouTube and creating a worship list so you can worship as a family.

http://seedbed.com/…/five-new-songs-to-consider-for-worshi…/

If you are more of a hymns family, here are a list of traditional Ash Wednesday hymns you may want to also look up!

http://www.worshipaccompaniment.com/?tag=ash-wednesday

5. There are several online Lenten devotionals you could choose to do as a family. If you do a search online, you will find many from various faith traditions. Here is one that is a collaborative effort from a number of denominations and even comes with a free App so you can keep up on your devices.

6. Likewise there are many online resources for celebrating Lent with your kids. Many of these are particular to a denomination, so an online search will provide you with lots of options.  This page has a huge list of resources including a devotional from Ann Voskamp, Lilly Lewin and multiple crafts and activities for kids and families.

Whether you have traditionally celebrated Lent or not, these resources are worth checking out and considering as a way to invite Christ into your home. At the very least, it will open a chance for discussion with your family about why we celebrate Easter and why Christ’s death and resurrection is such a beautiful picture of God’s love, grace and faithfulness to us!

May your Lenten season be one full of knowing all those attributes deeper and more personally then you have ever experienced before. Blessings friends!


 

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.

 

The Power Of Story in Faith Formation

The deeper our roots go, the deeper our faith can grow. One great way to deepen both is through the gift of story.

Storytelling is part of the human experience.  Before we had written text, traditions and faith were passed down orally through the generations in the form of story.. In a book called Family: The Forming Center, Marjorie Thompson says that we can connect our faith through story with the use of three forms of story.

  • Personal stories are about us, things that happened to us in our lifetime.  My kids absolutely love it when my husband and I share stories about “when we were kids.”  These stories are even more powerful when we connect them to how God has been real in our lives.
  • Ancestral stories about generations before us.  The Bible says we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witness,” heroes of the faith that have gone before us and left us a legacy in the form of lives lived and lives given for Christ.  I’ll never forget the first time my mom gave me a book by Corrie Ten Boom and I read about the powerful life lived by this Holocaust survivor who loved others and God so much she literally impacted millions of lives.  In fact, her impact on my life continues to this day.
  • Biblical stories about the characters in God’s Word. In the superhero-saturated environment kids are growing up in, why not help your kids explore the men and women of God in the pages of the Bible?  These faithful witnesses were far from perfect and yet God used them to change the world and even change our lives.

Why the emphasis on story?

Well, if we want to step back and look at the Bible broadly, to examine what Dr. Scottie May of Wheaton calls the “metanarrative” of Scripture, we are going to see a grand and beautiful rescue story . For kids, I use just 4 symbols to tell the story. The first symbol is a red heart, second is a black lightening bold, third is a brown cross, and finally another red heart. From that emerges this simple but beautiful story:

We had a perfect love relationship with God, sin separated us from the love and God used the cross and the sacrifice of His son to bring about a perfect love relationship with him again if we so desire.

I know that we debate the details of this story and we create denominations based on interpretations and translations and alliterations BUT this metanarrative is THE STORY that encompasses the Bible and this is the story we need to connect our kids to in meaningful everyday ways.

It’s not enough that kids know God is love; they must know that love is active and drawing them to Him in everyday, normal life because that is where faith and action live together.

And it is up for us to tell them the most beautiful love story of all time.


If you would like a good resource to use with kids in your home to tell that central story over and over again using the supporting stories found in Scripture, I recommend The Jesus Storybook, which shows the kids Jesus in every story of the Bible and relates the rescue plan through each one. It’s available at Amazon in both paper and ebook forms.

This blog is Part 2 in a series called “Growing Deep Roots: Communication for Faith Formation at Home.” For more ideas on practical discipleship at home or transitioning your ministry to a more family-focused approached, check out ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

The Three R’s of Faith Conversations with Kids

I’m sure we have all talked to our kids at some point about how the mighty oak tree grows from the humble little acorn. We know that tall mighty trees that grow healthy and strong have tacorn-456205_1280o have equally strong roots to sustain that growth.

Our children’s faith is much the same way.

The tiny seeds of faith we plant, when rooted deeply in Christ, can grow into a strong active faith for their whole life.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God commands the parents of the people of Israel to:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates

Those activities take place in our home as part of our daily life.

We don’t have to go somewhere special or engage in higher learning to tell our children about Jesus. In the next few blogs, we’ll explore some ways that make it easier for us to give and for our kids to receive through different types of communication.

For the roots we grow to be strong enough to have a lasting legacy, we must make sure our communication follows the 3 R’s – Real, Relevant and Regular.

REAL – We need to ensure that our own faith life matches the stories we share with our kids. A “do as I say, not as I do”prayerhandsdad style will not build strong roots. Kids are smart; they’ll figure that out. We must have an active faith of our own to share out of.

RELEVANT – Don’t just have your kids memorize Bible verses without context. Connect the Word to the world around them and show them God in the everyday. As different situations arise in the culture around us, don’t shy away from engaging in questions and discussions. Rather, make it a point to share how God is at work in the world today!

REGULAR – Taking a look at Deuteronomy 6 again we can see that God intends for us to be in daily conversation with our kids about theological truths. We don’t have to teach an entire sermon but we do need to proclaim His truths throughout the day.

If we are intentional about making sure our communication with kids is real, relevant, and regular, we will make a much greater impact when we begin to speak.  The idea isn’t to be perfect communicators; the idea is to be effective communicators, and for kids nothing is more effective that seeing adults who are living what they preach, attuned to their needs, and committed to an ongoing conversation with them about God.


This blog is Part 1 in a five part series on “Growing Deep Roots: Communication for Faith Formation at Home.” 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.

Parents: Stop Protecting Your Kids, Start Fighting For Them

The other day I shared a blog about Fifty Shades of Grey and kids.  In it I shared a few anecdotal stories about some kids who were “accidentally” exposed to Fifty Shades through commercials, one on TV and one on YouTube. Both of these kids were with their parents and neither were watching distasteful things (well, unless you don’t like basketball games and cats that swim).

The rest of the blog went on to encourage parents to be vigilant, to be aware of the culture we are living in today and to be ready and prepared to engage with their kids with things like Fifty Shades erupt on the scene.

I was honestly saddened when, in one place the blog was shared, the conversation in the comments neither addressed the main point nor engaged the topic of the article, but rather focused on these two initial events. Some of the comments included statements like, “IMO, I don’t think you should ever watch commercials” and “We just make a point of never watching YouTube” and a variety of other ways that these two kids and others could be protected from the culture around them.

So…why does this make me sad?

Because, frankly, our children cannot be protected from the culture around them.

Because even if we create a perfect bubble of cultural protection and your kids never watch TV, use technology, shop at a grocery store, board a school bus, attend school, or speak with anyone who does any of those things, one day they will grow up and more than likely, they will experience all of that.

children-403582_1280Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t establish standards for our own home and regulate what we allow into our family’s space. Our kids have had a lot of “things” they didn’t get to do or watch because of our parenting choices.

But, making the assumption that the protective practices that we’ve put in place are somehow going to shield our children from the reality of the culture that surrounds them is setting all of us up for a great big fall.

If the takeaway from my last blog post was, “Well, I just won’t let my kids watch commercials and then the problem is solved,” I’m sad to say that the whole point was missed.

Parents, YOU MUST ENGAGE!

You must be aware and you must be ready for the questions that inevitably one day will come. I don’t care if you are the most protective parent you know, ONE DAY, the questions will come. The culture will be there waiting at every turn and one day, it will break through. We need to parent from faith, not fear.

Fight for your kids.

Go on the offensive. Don’t hide from the reality that they will one day face. Rather, begin even now to equip them for the life they will lead. Give them tools of critical thinking in light of a Christian worldview.

Bring Jesus into the living room when the family watches a movie. Talk about what is God-pleasing and what is not. Use the Bible as the sword of truth and use it to speak into situations that make us cringe. (Here’s some resources to help you get started)

Disciple your children in what it is to be a follower of Christ in this world today. And sure, if you want to turn off the TV in your house during commercials or not watch YouTube videos as a rule, that’s fine. But don’t think for once that you’ve successfully averted the world that is crouching at your door.

Never assume you’ve covered all the bases unless you truly have, by being aware, being prepared and being vigilant.

Again, I’m not saying we have to like what’s out there and I’m not saying we have to engage with what’s out there, but I am saying we have to be aware of what’s out there and we have to be engaged with our children in an ongoing conversation about faith, Christ, and the world today. To do less than that is to leave the next generation at a serious disadvantage and easy pickings for “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”


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.

What do Christian Grey and Kids have in Common?

Nothing. That is the answer. Those two things should have absolutely nothing in common at all.

But sadly, in reality, they do.

Because the other day, my friend was watching a basketball game with her 7 yr. old son and he repeatedly asked her, “Mom, what’s dominant?” because a certain commercial was shown on nearly every single break.

Because my 9 yr. old daughter was watching funny cat videos with me on facebook and what pops up but the sound of a moaning woman and a picture of handcufkideyescoveredfs and a confused look of fear mixed with intrigue crossed her face and said, “What’s that?”

Because our obsession with this movie, those for it and those against it, is not relegated to areas of adult conversation and safe zones for kids. It is spilling out into their worlds and introducing them to things far beyond the grasp of their immature minds and forcing them to deal with conflicting feelings and questions at far too young an age.

And that makes me mad. Probably makes you mad too if you are reading my blog and interested in things like discipleship at home and faith formation.

But it also makes me determined.

Because frankly, no matter how against 50 Shades I am, no matter how many blogs get written about it and Facebook statuses get shared about it and how indignant people feel about it, whether a feminist or a Christian or just a concerned citizen, the reality is that it is there.. it is releasing on Saturday… and there is absolutely nothing that will change that.

So what are we to do as ministers and parents raising our children in this reality?

We fight back. We arm ourselves with well-thought out and prayerful answers. We don’t expect that they won’t see it or encounter it, rather we anticipate that they will and we go on the offensive. We magnify God with our answers, not sin. We glorify our Creator, not the sinful actions of the created. And we do not let the world form “reality” for our kids; we take charge and we meet it head on.

And while Christian Grey and 50 Shades are the “thing” right now, there will always be another thing to take its place. So, be on guard, be vigilant, be prepared, be involved. Know what is going on in the world your kids are growing up in, even if you hate it, and even if you wish it wasn’t like that. Because reality is going to hit them smack in the face when and where you least expect it and you are the only thing that stands between them and the message they are receiving from TV, movies, videos, games, friends, and culture. You are the single most important influence on your kid’s life and worldview, so get ready to fight for them with all you’ve got!

I’m not one to just leave people hanging. Here are some great resources for you to use while you arm yourselves for the fight of your and their life. But ultimately, it will come down to you, seeking God, modeling a godly life of service and grace, and being involved with your kids intentionally and with purpose.

  • For answering tough questions, check out “Trust us, They’ll Ask” from Group Publishing. This book gives answers to some of the hardest questions your kids will ask from a biblical perspective and appropriate to the ages of preschoolers, elementary, and middle school+.
  • For the latest trending videos, music, Facebook topics, styles, gossip, etc, check out www.mashable.com . Look, I’m telling you up front – you probably won’t like what you see. It’s not about that. It’s about staying informed and involved and being ahead of the game before the inevitable eventually happens.

Ideas on how to handle the current 50 Shades issue?

  1. For preschoolers, re-direct by saying something like, “Hmm, that sounds/looks sad doesn’t it? Mommy and Daddy aren’t sad when we love each other. We love each other with the love of Jesus. His love is the best love of all! How do you know Jesus loves you?”
  1. For elementary kids, be honest without being revealing. For instance, you might say, “That a movie that is coming out right now. A lot of adults really don’t like it because it has some sad stuff in it. We can talk about that more when you’re older but for now just know, whatever you see there isn’t really true or good; it’s just a movie. What is real and good is Jesus and the love He has given us and our family. Does that help?” Often that will be enough to reset the conversation. If they continue to press, reiterate that it is something from a movie and it’s not real; that God and you are real and that’s just a made up story.
  1. For middle schoolers and high schoolers who more than likely have heard about more than you might realize at school or from friends, before you dive into the conversation, begin by asking them what they already know about it. For instance, you may say, “Hmm, I’m glad you brought that up. What do you think? What have you heard about it?” Take cues from them about how much they already think they know, and answer appropriately with honesty and grace. Pray a lot friends and I do believe God will give you wisdom in the moment.

Most of all, I encourage you to take this moment in time and use it to bolster your own faith and your commitment to raising your kids in the faith. It will take effort, tears, time, and prayer. It is not an easy task, but it is a task to which we are called and therefore, we are equipped to do by the grace and power of Christ. “No weapon formed against us shall prosper” not even the weapons of lust, fear, and Christian Grey. Stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong (1 Cor. 16:13)

NOTE FROM AUTHOR

After reading some of the comments following the initial posting of this blog on facebook, I’ve written a follow up post that you can read here.  Blessings, Christina


If you are interested in more ideas for Practical Discipleship at Home or transitioning to a family-focused ministry at church, check out ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page for even more resources.

What I learned about Ministry at Disney

For those of you that follow me, you know that I’m pretty good about putting out a post every few days, so you may have been wondering what happened last week. Well, last week, thanks to my wonderful in-laws, my family and I were sucked into the bubble that is Walt Disney World in Florida where we spent our days laughing, eating, riding rides, eating, walking, eating, standing in lines, eating and enjoying each others company (often while eating).

Being in ministry, I couldn’t help but see my time there through that lens and as impreskidsdisneysive as the rides, the resort, and the restaurants were, what really stuck out to me was the environment that Disney has striven to create no matter where you are on the property.  From the moment we stepped off the plane and onto our “Magical Express” bus to the second we exited said bus on our last day, we were in a different place.. a magical place called Disney World.

Disney is marketing to an audience.  It is important to them that we feel like it is worth our time and money to spend both there so they have done a good job at finding out what people want.

And here is the formula I saw play out over our week in Florida.

1. Families WANT to spend time TOGETHER

Whether you are there with one person or one hundred, Disney wants to make sure you get to spend your time there with the people you love the most.  They provide services like “rider swap” and family dining plans and photographers to take family pictures (for free on your own device if you ask them) and family-friendly shows, rides, and parades that appeal to every age group.

There is no need to separate.  They have made it possible to stay together, to experience “the magic” together, because… they have realized that families want to be together.

Often in churches, we do just the opposite.  We pull families in many different directions during our service hours or throughout the weeks and months with age and gender specific events.  We don’t strive to find ways to help families experience Christ together; rather we focus on the individual needs and age-segregated activities that actually keep families apart.

Walt Disney figured it out years ago when he said, “There needs to be something built where the parents and the children can have fun, together.”  And so he created that place.  Imagine what could happen if we created spaces in church where children and parents could grow in their faith, together.

2. Everyone is on the SAME page.

Since this was our first visit to Disney, we found ourselves having to ask a lot of questions.  A Disney “cast member” was never far from our line of sight and every time we asked a question, they had an answer.  Every. single. time. It was rather uncanny.  T

he whole staff was aware, involved, and immersed in the culture of Disney.  We talked to everyone from popcorn vendors to street sweepers with the same result.  And nearly everyone ended the conversation by saying, “Have a magical day!”

So imagine with me what that would look like at church.  A new family comes to visit.  They are lost and need to ask a question.  They grab the nearest person to them and not only does that person know the answer, they carry with them the vision of the church in how they respond.

Before leading the visitors to the answer, they cheerfully welcome them.  They provide knowledgeable responses and send them off with a blessing. 

I would want to go back to that church because I would feel truly wanted there, just like we did at Disney.

3. There is always a reason to CELEBRATE!

We arrived late on Saturday night.  As we checked in, I was handed a pin that said, “Happy Birthday!” as my birthday happened to be during our trip.  From that time forward, nearly every cast member who saw the pin, wished me (and my mother-in-law who was also celebrating a birthday) a very happy birthday.  I was given multiple cupcakes at every restaurant we ate at.  My son happily carried around my birthday balloons.

Around me I could see other pins celebrating everything from family reunions and anniversaries to engagements and honeymoons.  Again, very focused on family and again, very cheerful and welcoming.

I am a huge fan of celebrating.  I feel as though we don’t do nearly enough of it, especially in church.  Of all people, we should be the most celebratory of all.  Celebration and recognition can be as small as a pin and a greeting, but it can create an atmosphere of joy and excitement.

What if we intentionally celebrated every baptism, every marriage, every birth, every salvation, every moment of spiritual growth?  What would that teach our kids about what’s important?  What kind of atmosphere would it create in our churches?  There is so much worth celebrating.. and we should!

These are just a few of the many things I saw during our trip that I want to add to my ministry experience.

If families want to spend time together, I want to make sure that we are providing the kinds of faith-building times they need to grow in their faith together.

If someone new comes to our church, I want to make sure that my volunteers are ready to greet them with our vision and excitement and leave those people feeling blessed and welcomed.

If I know of something worth celebrating, I want to make sure we celebrate it at every turn with great joy and intentionality.

As for the eating… I’m just gonna have to leave that in Disney’s capable hands.

Have a BLESSED day!


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.