“Who are you? What breaks your heart?”
Today was not the first time I have heard Andy Stanley ask this question. And today was not the first time tears have streamed down my face as I think about what what breaks my heart. But this is the first time I will share it with you.
My heart breaks that after students graduate high school, 65% will walk away from church, many never to return. And my heart breaks that many won’t even know they left because they had never met them, worshiped with them, or even knew their name.
My heart breaks that even though the vast majority of a child’s life will be spent in or around their home, their interaction with parents will be limited by the ever-present screen and the faith formation that IS happening is often unintentional and consequential.
My heart breaks that for many years children have been marginalized in churches as too young to participate in worship and too immature to understand theology and too distracting to be with adults so we segregate them away and forgot Jesus’ command to welcome and not hinder them.
And my heart breaks that I am only a small voice with little influence and little to no impact on the Church.
But in the midst of my heartbreak, my tears, my burden, I am reminded today that ” God uses broken-hearted leaders who don’t talk themselves out of action because they are only cupbearers, mere servants” ( Andy Stanley).
Refocus Ministry was born out of a broken heart. Every time I see a young adult walk away I think, “Where did we miss it? Who knows his name? Who will miss her heart? Did their parents feel equipped and supported? Did they know that they are a needed and important part of the body? Or did they just see themselves as a distraction, a ministry, a project or a program? Will they ever return?” And my heart breaks.
Last night was the first main session at Orange Conference 2015 and we were introduced to the theme – It’s Just a Phase, so don’t miss it! The idea behind this is that we have a chance to impact the next generation at each stage of their growth by Embracing (preschool), Engaging (elementary), Affirming (middle school), and Mobilizing (high school). Tearjerking videos of kids growing up and scary statistics of all the things they would face in that process where shared and my mommy heart cringed and my ministry heart broke.
Then Jim Burns from HomeWord ministries stood up and said these words, “Love every child like they are wired for love. They are looking for love somewhere. Let them find it in you.” And a little later Jon Acuff shared, “It’s not a question about if kids are going to talk about their identity. The question is who are they talking to. Be that someone.”
My last few blogs I have encouraged you to BE ALL THERE when you are talking to your kids. I cannot drive this heart home enough. I’m a parent and I know; it is easy in the rush of life to brush aside the 437 question your 4 year old asks on average each day or disregard the tantrum of tween angst your 11 year old is throwing because you suggested that deoderant should be a daily ritual not a optional luxury. As a minister, I know that it is hard to deal with the child who constantly seems bent on making sure you don’t get through the lesson or the preschooler who feels like church is the best place to trying their new climbing/jumping skills.
But, all of those things, as frustrating as they are, boil down to one thing- your kids are looking for love and identity and they will find it somewhere; that place should be US. They should know that they are needed members of Christ’s body because we are welcoming them into that role. They need to know that unconditional love is found in Christ, in His body the church, and in you.
Because I’m not okay with losing another generation. I’m not okay with 65% walking away. I’m not okay with marginalization. I’m not okay with not knowing their names. I’m not okay with parents who feel underequipped, under-resourced and under-supported. I’m not okay with kids finding “love” in all the wrong places.
It breaks my heart.
And I might only be one small voice but I serve one big God and I believe His heart is breaking too.
Lets change this! Seriously, let’s commit to fighting for the next generations. Let’s answer the hard questions, take the time to build relationships and equip our homes. I think it’s worth it, don’t you? Let it break your heart and let that broken heart stir you to intentional action, in your home and In your church. Because they need us to rise up and fight for their souls before they concede defeat.
Break our heart Lord, for what breaks yours.
“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14
- What is Orange?
For those of you not familiar with Orange, here’s a quick history. In 2009, Reggie Joiner released a book called “Think Orange” where he detailed the need to support the home as the place of primary faith formation and the parents as lead disciplers in their kids’ lives and for the church to partner with them by equipping, resourcing, and praying for them. In his analogy, the church stood for yellow, the bright light of Christ and the home represented red, the warm heart of Christ. Together, they make Orange, a complete picture of Christ and His love. Orange Conference grew out of that movement.
About the author
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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.