Why Do We Go To Church?

Why do we go to church?

Seems like a simple question.   One that kids like to ask a lot. I’ve heard parents and Sunday school teachers and pastors give all kinds of answers. “We are here to worship God.” “We are here to learn about God.” “We are here to learn how to be better Christians.”

During our kids church time, we have a short liturgy we go through with the kids each week. Our worship leader, Mr. Adam, will ask, “Who are you?” and the kids reply, “I am a child of God.” Then he’ll say, “Who are we?” and they reply, “We are the body of Christ.” And to end, Mr. Adam asks, “Why are we here?”

So, why are we here?

If individually we are children of God and collectively we are the body of Christ, why do we gather on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, or any other time in the week for “church”? What is the purpose of our gathering?

If we go to Acts 2:42, we get a really cool picture of what the “first church” looked like through these four activities.

  1. Devoted to the Apostle’s Teachings – Keep in mind, there really wasn’t a “Bible” yet so when the early church gathered, what they heard shared was the teachings from the disciples; stories from when they walked with Christ and words of encouragement and teaching from the apostles themselves.
  1. To fellowship – Yes, they used that word back then too!! In this case, it is more literally referring to “community” or “joint participation” not so much coffee hour, donuts and time with friends (although that can be a delicious part of it!).
  1. To the breaking of bread – It is generally believed that the breaking of bread here refers to communion, which interestingly is the same word as the one used for fellowship above. It’s the idea of the body of Christ being one, participating in one holy communion and united by one Holy Spirit.
  1. To prayer – The people of the early church gathered to talk to God and listen to God together. That was part of what “church” looked like for them as they came together as the body of Christ.

Lots of similarities to today.

But then, a lot of differences too.

For instance, there is a strong emphasis on “together.” Community, communion, fellowship – no matter how you break down these words, it was about the whole body of Christ in “joint participation” together. It wasn’t about a person coming and being fed or another person coming and have a great experience in worship. There’s no emphasis on the individual at all. The emphasis is the body of Christ.

Sometimes though, when we come to church that does not seem to be our emphasis. I hear a lot about individual preferences, personal needs, and unique desires expressed regarding reasons for attending church. And as a family minister, I hear a lot of these things expressed specifically when we talk about including children in the corporate worship service.   Because kids will distract from those things. They will by the very nature of their budding personalities and growing maturity keep us from being able to get those things out of church.

Kids are distracting but they are not a distraction.

Let’s be clear on this; children are not a distraction.

They might be distracting. No wait, they are distracting.

But they are not a distraction.

They are members of the body of Christ. They are part of the community of faith. They are in fellowship with the church of God. And they are the only group of people Jesus specifically instructed us to welcome.

I get that they can be distracting when they keep us from getting what we want out of church. But is that what church is supposed to be about?  Or is church supposed to be a place where we come, together, to learn the apostle’s teachings, fellowship, break bread and pray?

As I’ve watched kids in church, I’ve seen two things.  I have seen children lead the call to worship, lead the congregation in song, kneel and pray at the altar, and affirm their faith with the whole church. I’ve also seen them drawing pictures on random bulletin inserts, turning around to see what others were doing, fidgeting and squirming, and, well, being distracting.

The tradeoff seems worth it to me.

They are members of Christ’s body. The body of Christ is built up by them. If church is about US and not “me”, then most certainly, there must be times when WE are all together.  Kids don’t come expecting to get anything but they come ready to give. Every chance they have to actively participate, they will. Not reluctantly or under coercion; if they have are given a chance to be involved, they excitedly do just that.

I think we need to give them more chances.

If not for them, then most certainly for us. Because without them, our fellowship is incomplete. Our body is not whole. We are not in communion. As the old hymn says, “We are the church together.”

Does that mean we will need to seek other times to grow personally without that distraction? Yes, it does. It also means as a community we should provide those times for one another. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough – it is an absolutely imperative part of communion that we seek to serve one another, not just a few volunteers each week, but the the entire body of Christ.

Focusing on one, while neglecting the other, is not church. Church is Christ’s body. Church is communion. Church is joint participation. Church is US.

Who am I? I am a child of God.

Who are we? We are the body of Christ

Why are we here? We are here to know more of God and His covenant of love to US.

All of us.


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.

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Practical Holy Week: Telling Your Kids the Story

Starting this Sunday, the church across the world will begin a celebration of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.  This week is arguably the most important on the Christian calendar, representing for believers that pivotal moment with death was swallowed up in victory!  It is the very foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

However your church or your family celebrates Easter, this time of year is the perfect time to tell your kids THE STORY of all stories.  The great story of Scripture, God’s Great Rescue Plan! 

This Sunday I will be sharing the following message with our families in church but there is no reason you can’t do the same in your home.  Invite your kids into the greatest story of all times and let them be drawn into the wonder and mystery that is our faith.

“The Story”

Props: 2 red hearts, one black lightening bolt, one brown cross.  (I cut mine out of construction paper)photo

Gather your family together and pick one parent to be the story teller.  Everyone else will help with the props.

Okay you guys, I need your help today to tell a story. And this isn’t just any story; this is THE STORY. The story of all time! And you get to be a part of it!! So, who wants to be my first helper?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

All great stories have a great first line. Usually we say “Once upon a time” but… How about we start it this way… In the beginning, God created… EVERYTHING! He created the earth and the sky, the bugs and the fish, the trees and the flowers, and then he created us. And when he did, he looked at us and said, “Man (because there was only a man at first) I love you!” And Man looked at God and said, “God, I love you too!” And everything was perfect.

(Choose child to hold Black Lightening Bolt)

Then one day, something terrible happened. Everything was perfect. God loved Man and Man loved God and all was well until… Well, as you know, every story has to have an evil villain so we are going to call our evil villain.. SIN. (refer to black lighting bolt).   Sin snuck right into that perfect world, being the sneaky villain that it is and it BAM! Came right between God and Man!! God still loved man very much but man choose Sin over God. Things were not perfect any more. It was a very sad time. Man was sad and started doing sad things, more and more sad things, and SIN kept pushing Man further and further away from God.

But God… he’s the good guy in our story… God still loved Man very much. He knew that Sin was out there trying to steal Man’s love and even before Man had chosen Sin, God had a plan in place to bring Man back to Him. God did something absolutely amazing, like a total SUPERHERO move!

(Choose child to hold Brown Cross)

God did an amazing thing. He decided to leave His place in heaven where he was safe and come to earth as a Man, and Man called Jesus, and fight the evil villain. It was an epic battle.   Jesus told the villain he couldn’t’ win, that he would defeat him, and Sin fought by telling Man to do evil things until one day, one very sad day, Man put Jesus on the cross because of Sin. Man killed Jesus. It seemed like all hope was lost.

Now, we’ve watched some great Superhero shows right?   Those shows, they are basically getting their story line from THE STORY, so you probably know what’s going to happen. Because in those movies, when the superhero looks totally defeated by the villain, what happens? (Kids might say things like the superhero comes back to life, or gets stronger, or beats the bad guy)

That’s right!! Sin isn’t strong enough to beat Jesus. Just when we think all hope is lost TA-DA, the grave opens and JESUS ISN’T THERE because He is Risen!! Sin is defeated!!!! God Wins!!!  Oh, wait, but what about Man?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

Because Jesus beat Sin on the Cross, Man has an amazing opportunity. If we want to, we can have that perfect love relationship with God again. Sin cannot stop us from loving God and it could never stop God from loving us. We can go to God anytime we want because of Jesus’ victory on the cross and say, “God, I choose to love you and hate Sin. Jesus, you’re my superhero!”

(Have the kids lay all the signs out on the floor in a row)

Now, you may ask, why I told this story today. Because right now, on Palm Sunday, we are right in the middle of the story. We are right here.

(Point between lightening bolt and cross)

This week we will remember the moments that led up to Jesus being put on the cross by Man because of Sin. We will remember some sad things. On Maundy Thursday, we will remember the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. On Good Friday, we will remember Jesus dying on the cross. I don’t know about you guys but I always cry at that part in superheroes, you know, when the superhero gets hurt and you wonder if He’s going to be okay. And I will probably cry this week too as we get to that part of our story.

BUT… and this is so important

Next Sunday we will celebrate the BIGGEST SUPERHERO VICTOR OF ALL TIME!! Next Sunday we will remember that SIN was defeated! That our HERO came back to life and SAVED the DAY! And that we can be in the perfect love relationship with God again.

So this week , as you go about your days and you think about the Story, take time to remember. You might even cry. But know this, The Story doesn’t end in sadness. It ends with a LOVE SO BIG it wins every time! And you get to be a part of that story!!

This story may spark some great conversation in your home.  You might want to prepare ahead of time to answer questions about how they can choose that perfect love relationship with God, what is Sin, and other questions about salvation and God’s love.  The Story provides the perfect way to get into some amazing conversations with your kids and Holy Week is a great place to springboard those Faith Talks!

Many blessings to all of you as you prepare to celebrate with one another and the entire Body of Christ!

He is Risen!  Indeed!!


 

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.

 


 

Family Ministry for Kids who Come Alone

I’ve heard a lot of concerned discussion lately regarding family ministry.

Maybe because it’s still perceived as a “new thing” or because people don’t really understand it or the heart behind it.  For whatever reason, there seems to be an almost caustic response from some about moving towards an intergenerational, home-focused ministry platform.

One of the biggest concerns I’ve heard raised was in regard to reaching children who do not have engaged caregivers or believing parents in their home.

Specifically, if our ministry at church is focused on families, what happens to kids that don’t have a believing family or Christian home life? Are we just going to turn them away or not provide for their spiritual needs?

It’s a legitimate concern and one that deserves addressing, especially if a church is looking to transition from one that has been primarily age-focused to one that is more family-focused.  And to be honest, there is no easy answer but here are some things to consider as you approach this topic.

1. Reach for Home – More than likely, some kids will get dropped off who do not have parents that attend the church.  But, that does not preclude us from reaching out to their home.

It is important for us to recognize this need to welcome children who aren’t in “church families” in a way that is both accepting and embracing, providing for their needs spiritually, physically and emotionally while they are with us (Ideas for how to do that, click here). But it is equally as important to recognize that we are sending them back to a home that will have profound formational effects on their faith and to not further our reach by extending our arm of welcome to the home is to miss an opportunity for “going and making disciples.” 

Some ways we can do that:child-217230_1280

  • Provide Parent/Caregiver Workshops or Seminars, free to the public, without an overt spiritual focus.  For example, we are hosting a Social Media workshop this month, open to the whole community, and focused on the internet and our kids, not necessarily religious in nature.  Our faith will be discussed but the topic is one that all parents have questions about.
  • Provide Activities for the Whole Family.  A lot of parents/caregivers look for free, fun things to do with their kids.  Fall Festivals, Family VBS, Summer Movie Nights, etc are all ways to engage the home.
  • Visit with the parents/caregivers – Drop by, say hi, get contact information, introduce yourself, offer resources, tell them what you are doing, bring a pie :).  Show them that you are excited about serving them in their home even if they don’t come to church.  And express your desire to serve not only their kids but them as well.

Of course there is no guarantee that this will lead to anything beyond what is already happening.. but it might.  What you do for one, do for all.  If the church family is getting a handout, a parent letter, an invitation, make sure the others families do too.

Connect the church to the home as much as possible.

2. Embrace Family – Sometimes when we think “family” we get a picture in our head of a Dad, Mom, two kids, a dog, maybe a cat and a cute Cape Cod with white shutters.  That’s really not an accurate picture of “family” today.  Family has grown to mean many things.  Sometimes family isn’t even people we are related to by blood.  Sometimes Grandma is Mom or Uncle is Dad or family friend is Aunt.

One main goal of “family ministry” is to minister to the family as a whole.  It is important then to find out how family is being defined by those you are ministering to and the needs that their unique situation gives rise to.  For more on this, check out this blog on “The ‘Family’ in Family Ministry” and consider ways that you can reach the families you serve.

3. Encourage Faith – Even atheists believe something (they believe that there is nothing). It takes faith to believe anything so everyone has faith.

Our job as Christian family ministers is to equip the home to be a place of faith formation in Christ.  However, that can be complicated if the leaders in a home don’t believe in Christ.  That doesn’t mean you don’t equip or resource them anyway.  Providing materials, information, and training for faith formation at home is key to an effective family ministry.  Those who desire what you have to offer will transform their homes into places of discipleship.  Those who choose not to use the tools you’ve given are still being given them and that in and of itself makes a difference in the home.

God is the ultimate home builder; we are vessels of His grace and love.

Finally, I feel like it is important to point out that while we need to be aware of this potential area of concern, there is another glaring fact we cannot ignore that the family unit itself is a mission field for the church today.  Ministering to families is important.  Missionaries to other countries or inner cities or specific age groups train to reach a specific group of people in that context.

If we look at families in that same light, as a mission field in need of missionaries to bring the good news of the gospel to their homes, I believe we could see a revolution in the church of children and youth who graduate ready to serve Christ in their homes, church and community; discipled in the faith and grounded in their love for Christ because of their intentional faith formation they experienced at home and intergenerational relationships at church.

There is no cookie cutter family ministry model.

There are no easy answers for the concerns that arrive.

But I firmly believe there is a call by God for us to equip the home, minister to parents, engage children in the broader community, and disciple families.  And if that is a call from God, then we know He will provide all we need to reach each and every family He sends our way.


For more information about

Check out 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.

Just Tired

I looked across at her worn weary face.

“You okay?” I asked.

She looked up.  It seemed as if she were searching for a moment to come up with the “right” answer until she finally landed on, “You know, I think I’m just tired.  I really think that’s all.”

I have been there, both with the being tired and the searching for an answer.  It seems at times as Christians we have to have some reason for why we are acting the way we are.  Often our theology tells us there is a root cause or a need for healing that is leading to our tired eyes, our weary glances, our terse outbursts and our spiritual apathy.

But, sometimes… sometimes I think we are just pure and simple tired.

Parenting is exhausting.  Discipling your kids on top of that is even more demanding.  Being intentional TIRED-MOM-facebookday in and day out can be wearying.  Having to be “on” all the time, ready to address behaviors, talk about tough topics, negotiate sibling rivalries and you know, cook dinner, do laundry, date your spouse, clean the house, exercise and bathe… it can get tiring.

I think we need to give ourselves and others space to say, “I know I’m making excuses today and I know that I am being lazy, but it’s not because I’m struggling with anger towards others or bitter towards life or sinning against God, it’s because I am tired.”

The other day a parent wrote me a quick note and you could hear the desperation of someone who wants so badly to raise their kids in a godly home with intentional discipleship and meaningful routines, but who was so tired that even writing me took all the energy they had.  Here’s the gist what I wrote back.  I hope it can encourage you as well, that even when you are tired, God can use you in powerful ways to lead your family to Jesus.

Dear Friend,

Ah, I can hear it in your note.  You are T-I-R-E-D.   You are the one to whom Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”  And on top of being tired, you are weary, labeling yourself as lazy, unworthy, not-good-enough, a bad parent and those labels are weighing on your soul.

But those labels, they just aren’t true.  A lazy parent doesn’t write a note asking for help.  An unworthy parent isn’t worrying about their kid’s spiritual health. A not-good-enough parent doesn’t ask “Where can I do better?”  Those things are markers of love, hope and godly desire.

The only label worth keeping is this one alone – Loved By God.  Even when you are exhausted and tired, you are loved.  Even when you do unlovable things, you are loved.  Even when you make mistakes, you are loved.  And even when your kids seem like more than you can handle, you. are. loved.

And you. are. tired.

Because you. are. human.

But God gives greater grace.  In our weakness, He is strong.

So instead of trying to “add” discipleship to your home, why not just invite Christ into what you are already doing?  If you are eating dinner, why not ask your kids, “What was your high today?  Your low? Where did you see Jesus?”  If you are already putting kids to bed at night, why not say, “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?” and see where that leads?  If you are already driving to a myriad of practices and appointments and grocery stores, why not use that time to pray for others in needs, memorize a couple of verses, listen to a Bible story, do a Faith Talk, or celebrate a God Moment?  And if you are already waking the kids up in the morning, why not do it with a blessing or a song or a prayer?

And know that in those moments, as tired as you are, they will hear LOVE and they will see JESUS.  And may the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, give strength to your mortal body.”

Sometimes, it’s not about repenting or confessing or healing.

Sometimes, its about resting and receiving and relaxing.

It’s about letting go of the high expectations we put on ourselves and replacing them with high expectation on our God.  It’s simply saying, “You know, I think I’m just tired.  I really think that is all.”

I want to share with you this blessing that our families receive during every Family Faith Formation night at our church.  It has become precious to me because it reminds me on the tired days, that Christ is always with me, even when my eyes are closed.

May the light of God shine over you.

May the Holy Spirit fill you.

May the blood of Jesus cover you.

May you sleep in peace.

May you always know just how much the Lord Jesus loves you.

May you learn to see God, even when your eyes are closed.


For more information about

Check out 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.

The Missing Link in Discipleship

I had the privilege of attending an honorary luncheon yesterday for Dr. Robert Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism and former dean of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism.  The purpose of the gathering was to present Dr. Coleman with a book of essays that had been written as a tribute to him by several of the men he had mentored over the past 50 years, men who have gone on to serve Christ all over the world as presidents of seminaries, deans of colleges, leaders of missionary organizations, pastors, teachers, and most of all, Christians.

Sitting there, listening to these testimonies and sharing in that moment with these great people of faith, my heart swelled with gratitude that my husband and I were now counted in that number of mentored believers whose lives had been touched by this humble but passionate man and his wife, Marietta.  As he rose to speak, I was again blessed my his immediate posture of discipleship – he wasn’t there to be honored; he was there to once again challenge us to “Go and make disciples!”

And that’s when he said it.

“Discipleship isn’t hard to understand. Discipling is like raising a child. That’s why everyone can understand the Great Commission.”

What he meant by that was this; discipleship takes time.  It takes patience and longevity.  It takes good times and bad times, perseverance and commitment.  And everyone, even if they are not a parent, has at one time been a child, and everyone can understand the depth of commitment needed to raise children.

I could not help but immediately reflect on the topic of the last few blogs, especially one that gained a lot of traffic in a few short days whose topic was simply why it was important for kids to participate in worship.  Conversations that grew out of the post were varied and diverse but most came to this conclusion:

For the most part, kids don’t have a place within the larger context of the church.

Not that we don’t love them.  We want to give them our best.  We provide beautifully decorated rooms, top-of-the-line video and lights, theologically-correct curriculum, arts and crafts of every kind, and gracious volunteers who give their time to show the love of Christ.  Having a wonderful children’s ministry or youth ministry is a testimony of a church who desires to see children growing in Christ and learning His Word.chain-288193_1280

But, and this is huge, if the children aren’t engaged by the larger congregation through intentional relationship-building that takes time, commitment, perseverance and longevity, then we are missing a key component to the Great Commission. Are we making disciples of our children?

I’ve often heard ministers say that discipleship is a lost art in the church today.  When I heard Dr. Coleman describe discipleship like raising a child, I couldn’t help but wonder if one reason we struggle with discipleship in the church is because we struggle with raising children in the church.  We know to take care of them, entertain them, and hug them.  But I wonder if we, as a church on the whole, not individuals or specific congregations, are stuck when it comes to raising them as disciples in the faith.

And if Dr. Coleman’s assessment is right maybe the reason discipleship is a lost art is because we’ve changed how we view and welcome children to church.  Perhaps as we seek to change our approach to kids and not ask, “How can we make church fun for kids?” but instead, “How can we make disciples of all, even children?”  In a workshop I once attended with Dr. Scottie May of Wheaton she stated,

Give children what they need, not what they want.  Keep the theology high and you will reach their hearts.

As churches, let’s make sure our love for kids isn’t limited to a wing in the church or a great kidmin program.  Let’s make sure that we wrap all that up inside of the greater goal of discipleship through building relationships that cross the lines of age and space and incorporate the whole body in a deeper walk of faith together


For more information about

Check out 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.

Leaving Sunday Behind

Throwback Thursday: Why Sunday’s NOT Enough and what WE can do about it!

r e F o c u s

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…

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Do Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids to Worship

I recently wrote a blog entitled “My kid doesn’t ‘get’ anything out of church.”  In it, I shared that while children might not get the same things out of church that we do, they certainly do get many things out of church.  I also shared that, while I am an advocate for Children’s Ministry (that’s my job after all!), I see the need for times where the whole community of faith comes together and worships as the corporate body.

But, let’s be honest, church as we know it isn’t really designed for that.  Church as we know it is designed for kids to be otherwise engaged, if not for the whole service, at least for the sermon.

So, what can we do about that?

I have received a lot of feedback from a lot of people about a lot of ideas and strategies to address that question.  And I fully intended to write a blog about that very thing, something like, “10 Ways to Engage Kids in Worship.”   But the more I prayed, the more I felt a strong conviction that it’s not about that.

It’s not about making sure we use strategies to keep kids occupied and from being a distraction.  That’s important, but it’s not about that.

It’s not about changing the way we do our service or sing our songs or preach our sermons.  That’s important, but it’s not about that.

It’s not even about making Scripture come alive and building intergenerational relationships and encouraging mentoring.  That is so very important, but it’s not about that.

What it is about is simply this:

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:36,37

There is so much in that moment.  There’s a culture that Jesus is creating.  There’s a deep understanding that He is trying to get across to the people who have gathered about where children fit into His kingdom.  And He doesn’t do it once or twice.  Over and over, Jesus works through and with the children who always seemed to be near Him.

  • To feed 5,000 men, He uses the gifts of a little boy.  (John 6:5-13)
  • To demonstrate how to be great in God’s kingdom, He points to a child. (Mt. 1-4)
  • To explain how to enter the kingdom of God, He says we must be like a child. (Lk. 18:17)
  • He reprimands the disciples for keeping the children from reaching Him. (Mark 10:13-16)
  • He rejoices in the praises of children shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Mt. 21:15-16)
  • He rebukes those who cause “the children who believe in him” to sin. (Mt. 18:6)
  • He declares in no uncertain terms, “Let the little children come to Me and DO NOT hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 19:14)

He heals children.  He holds children.  He includes children.  He uses children.  He appears to really, really like children and it would appear that children really liked him.  They never seemed far from His presence.  They never seemed too young to understand.  Too distracting to be a part.  Too uneducated to comprehend truth.

I can’t imagine Jesus’ church being a place where children are not engaged with His body.  I can’t conceive of His church being one where children and adults grow separately in their own spaces rarely, if ever, sharing in Christ as one.  I can’t believe that Jesus the preacher would be okay with never having the chance to be a part of the lives of the kids.

Even if we add in a cool new bulletin or some crayons for coloring, even if we sing some songs with motions or keep our sermons shorter, even if we offer booster seats and give grace when kids are loud, which are all fine and good strategies for makes space for kids in worship… if we don’t do it from a place of genuine belief in the absolute importance of the community of faith being one, regardless of age, and a place that specifically answers Jesus’ command to “welcome the little children and not hinder them,” than I don’t think it will make the impact we want it to.

It has to be in our hearts.

It has to be the desire of the church.

Collectively, we must say, “We welcome you, with all of your idiosyncrasies and distractions, with your questions and your confusion, with your gifts and your talents, with your hearts and your praise, with your child-like faith we so desperately need, we welcome you!”

And then, I don’t think it will really matter to us if a baby is crying and needs attention or if a little one is bored and needs to color or if a child is fidgeting and needs to move around a little.  After we create and embrace that culture of welcome, we can engage strategies to invite and welcome kids into worship. Because that is when we recognize what Jesus knew and tried to tell us all along – the children are precious in His sight and they see Him for who He is.  We need them as much as they need us.

“And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands upon them.” Mark 10:16

That is what it is about.

For parents that see Sunday as a chance to get a break, I hear you.  I totally get it.  And I do think because we are a community of faith, the church should provide space for that.  For adults who really struggle with distraction when kids are in the service, I understand that it can be difficult.

But what we have to wrestle with is simply this: Jesus said to welcome children, explicitly and specifically, as though He knew we would have the tendency to push them away, to need a break, to not want the distraction.  So, the church, as HIS body, it can’t just be about what we want.

We have to take care of His whole body, the entire church, the full congregation and that includes our children.  If we are to be what He has called us to be, we cannot be it without the youngest generation, for He says “to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”


For more information about

Check out 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.

My kid doesn’t “get” anything out of Church

One common concern I often hear from parents and other adult church members about including children in the corporate worship setting is that kids won’t “get” anything out of the worship or the sermon.  From an adult perspective, there are certain things we want to walk away from church with such as a sense of having been in God’s presence or having learned something that will help us grow in our faith.  We presumably come to church for a reason and it is easy for us to assume those same reasons apply to our kids.

But they probably don’t.

You see your kids are young in their faith.  They don’t understand the desire for fellowship or the beauty of corporate worship or the need for continued learning and growth in their walk with Christ.  They go to church because they follow you to church; they are your disciples and they are learning what being a Christian looks like by watching and emulating you (if I were a psalmist, I’d write a “Selah” after that and encourage to to “stop and think about” that for a moment).

So, parents often express this concern:  kid-church

My kids are only going to church because I make them.  It’s bad enough when they are going to Sunday School where they get to have fun but when they are just sitting in “big church” and they don’t get anything out of it, it seems rather pointless.

I get it, I do!  I have kids and I know that often the worship service is geared towards adults only and not applicable or appropriate for them (future blog for churches in that).  I too have struggled with the fact that they don’t seem to “get” anything out of those corporate times.  But I have also seen and read many studies that show definitively that these times of worship and learning in the midst of the larger congregation are one of the leading reasons for increased “stickiness” of faith in young adults.  Thus, there must be something to it, even if what they get out of church is not the same as what we adults “get” out of attending church service.

So, what is it?  What do little kids “get” out of going to “big church”?

1.  They get SEEN

I have been at churches where I have seen kids dropped off by parents in the Children’s Area as soon as they walk in the door and picked up as it is time to leave.  More than once I’ve heard it said in the hallway, “You have kids?  I had no idea!”  That makes my heart hurt.

It has been shown that one of the most important and meaningful thing for kids is that someone knows their name.  When kids are secluded from the congregation, not only are their names unknown, their faces aren’t even recognized.  They are for the most part a dismissible part of the church and wouldn’t be missed except by a few volunteers and staff members if they never came back… which is often exactly what happens when they are old enough to do so.

2. They get to SEE

One of the main ways that kids learn is through emulation by watching activities and actions and imitating them.  Every church I’ve been to has had its own form of liturgy or way to worship.  Some churches have prayers that are prayed each service. Some celebrate communion.  Some engage in corporate prayer, take up offerings, recite a creed, or have a time for sharing testimonies.  Some use hymnals, some projectors with contemporary praise and worship.  During the service, Scripture is read, Bibles are opened, and the Word comes to life.

All of these things are imperative for kids to be discipled in.  It may seem like they are not “getting” anything out of it, but they are learning and growing in those moments.  They are watching Mom and Dad and other adults they respect and trust show them how to worship. And if they don’t learn from the church, they will learn somewhere else.  The world has plenty of things to worship and are more than willing to teach kids how to do so.

3. They get EXPERIENCE

For a moment, I want you to think back on your own walk of faith.  Do you remember the first time you took communion?  Got baptized? Found a Scripture verse in the Bible by yourself? Put money in the offering plate?  Prayed at the altar?  Maybe even shared in front of church?

For many of us, those things happened in the context of congregational worship.  Now, I bet you did some of those things in Sunday School or Kids Church before you did them with the larger congregation, but I also bet there was something meaningful and affirming about doing it with the whole church. 

When my girls got baptized, they shared their testimony in front of the church and after the baptism, the congregation cheered and hugged them and loved on them in a way that left deep impressions on their hearts of their place in God’s church.  We don’t attend that church anymore since we moved, but the experience of being accepted in the body of Christ has stayed with them.  Having the experience of an entire congregation embracing them gave them a sense of belonging that is not easily forgotten.

It would be naive to think that this is a simple or easy task. 

Kids are… kids.  Churches would be wise to find ways to make it easier to invite kids into worship (like I said, keep an eye out for that blog).  Parents should be prepared for the inevitable eye rolls of boredom or occasional acting out and having to do follow-up after the service to reinforce what was taught.

But I firmly believe these frustrations of the moment are far less painful than the alternative – a generation who is unknown, disengaged, and separated from the larger body of Christ.

By giving our children a place to be seen, to see, and to experience their faith with others, we give them so much more – we give them a foundation for their faith that will leave lasting impressions on their heart.


To read the follow-up blog, Do Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids to Worship, click here.

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.

The Lie of “Not Enough”

The other day at dinner, our family was spending some time talking about Lent.  We had created a Journey Jar in which we placed several objects and we used to them to journey with Christ to the cross.  At this kidslentpoint in our journey we had pulled out a small battery-operated candle and we were talking about Jesus revealing himself as the light of the world.  Referencing Matthew 16:16 where Peter answers Jesus’ question of “Who do you say that I am?” with “You are the Messiah, the Son of God,” the kids and I discussed why it was after this that Jesus turned towards Jerusalem and began to make his final journey to the cross.

In my mind the answer was clear.  Jesus wanted to make sure the disciples knew who He was before all the terrible things that would happen occurred so that they would not lose faith.  As the wise adult I am, I posed the question and waited for my answer.

But my daughter Hannah looked at me and said, “Because he was scared.”

“Peter was scared?” I inquired.

“No, Jesus was scared,” she replied, “He was getting ready to go and die and He needed to hear from Peter who He was and why He was here so He would have the courage to go  to Jerusalem and face death. He needed Peter to remind him that He was the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Mind blown.

Never in a million years would it have occurred to me that Jesus, my Lord and Savior, was scared.

But Hannah, in her tender understanding that Jesus was both fully human and fully God, saw a man who was afraid of the task ahead but willing to give it all because He loved us so much.  She saw sacrificial love and unmitigated grace.  Needless to say, our devotional did more for me that night than for the kids.  I walked away humbled by God’s unending love and blessed to have seen with the faith of a child.

In that moment, I had another choice. 

I could have said, “See, I can’t do this!  I cannot teach my children at home.  I don’t know enough.  I am not smart enough.  I messed up.”  So many parents are afraid to approach the things of God at home because of similar thoughts that infiltrate their mind.  They wonder, “How can I bring God up with my kids?  How can I teach them the Bible?  I haven’t studied this.  I’m not good with words.  It’s just not my gift.”

But the reality is, when you make yourself available to the God of the universe to be used to share Christ with your children, you become part of a larger story.

In those moments where two or three are gather in His Name, He promises to be with us.  Truth is, the conversation may go in a direction you could never have expected, and that’s okay.  You might even have to say, “Hmm, I don’t know.  I’ll have to look that up and get back to you” and that’s okay.  You might even be reduced to tears as you consider some profound thing your eleven-year-old has shared about the depth of God’s love for you, and that’s okay.

Because it’s not the “right” words that brings Christ to life.  It’s not saying it right or doing it right or even reading the Bible right.  None of that really matters all that much.  What matters is that you are willing to open the door with your children to talk about the most important thing in their lives and that you are available to walk the road of faith with them and for them even when it makes you feel uncomfortable. That is enough.

I recently sent an encouraging text out to the parents of my church families who were snowed in once again this winter.  In it I just shared that even though the days are long, the years are short and to take some time that day to enjoy a precious moment or two with their kids.  One dad jokingly wrote back, “Hey it’s Friday.  That’s what Wednesday nights are for.”  To which I responded, “Every day, friend.  Every. Single. Day.”

In the everyday, the normal routine of daily life, our invitation to Christ to join us around the dinner table, during bedtime stories and prayers, as we travel down the road and when we start each new day opens the door, not only for us to share with our kids, but for them to share with us.  And there is no greater ongoing conversation to be had.

Don’t be discouraged if you feel inadequate.  If my daughter is right in her assessment of the Scripture above, even Jesus did at times.  But like Christ, “set your face like flint” and press on in the calling God has given you to disciple your children and lead them in the faith.  He will not leave you or forsake you, and He may even speak of His unending love to you through the ones you lead.


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.

FREE CMConnect Ministry Conference Registrations

You read that right – FREE!

I am excited to share that CMConnect Ministry conference in Louisville, KY has allowed ReFocus Ministry to give away up to 10 FREE conference registrations!  You read that right – absolutely free registrations for up to 10 people.

CMConnect (Children’s Ministry Connect) began as an online community of children’s pastors, created to cmconnectlogofacilitate community across distance and denomination.  It has grown into a larger organization and is excited to host its first conference this year.  Per the conference website,

When an event is born from an online network, you get an enhanced opportunity to connect to one another. You experience genuine community with people who care about you and your ministry… people who care about helping you connect to God. When you are called to serve children, you are called to impact someone’s life for all of eternity. What you do matters and is essential for the health of the Church. It’s about living out your faith and answering a call to serve.

If you are interested in attending this conference, FREE OF CHARGE, simply fill out the form located on the bottom of the About ReFocus page and include your name, email address, and your position at church.  I will forward the information to the conference and they will contact you with registration details. (Please make a note that you are requesting the free conference registration on the form)

For more information about the conference and the speakers, check out the website at http://conference.cmconnect.org/.  I hope to see YOU there!! – Christina


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.