I Am Not Josh Duggar

I am not Josh Duggar.

And I think it is important that my kids know that.

This week a blog entitled “I am Josh Duggar” surfaced and made its rounds on social media where the author shares that before we judge Josh Duggar so harshly, we would be wise to consider that “we are ALL sinners. We forget that we ALL fall short of the glory of God. We ALL need a savior, that’s why Jesus came.”

I absolutely agree.

She also challenges the church “to be more open about those ‘super bad sins’ that we struggle with.”  And she encourages us to confess our sins that we keep hidden in the deepest, darkest places and to stop acting like we are perfect.

And I’m not necessarily opposed to that.

But here’s my concern.

The reality is… many believers do not struggle with “super bad sins.”  Many of us are not cheating on our spouse, lying to the world, acting as the self-described biggest hypocrite, and addicted to sexual sin.  Many of us aren’t hiding big dark sins from anyone.  And many of us who do struggle are in loving discipleship relationships with other trusted members of the body of Christ who are holding them accountable for what they do.

How do I know this?

Because I see it all around me, every day.  I’ve worked in churches.  I’m around ministers all the time.  I hear about the struggles.  And while I would never say these hidden sins don’t exist, because they most certainly do, I would say that for many those sins aren’t the issue.

It’s the other ones.  

The ones we “don’t count” that get overlooked and underplayed.  It’s the ones that don’t make headlines or cause shock and dismay.

It’s the things like gossip, and anger, and gluttony, and selfishness, and pride, and deceitfulness.

It’s the choice to put work over family, to put sports above God, to put self before others; the things that happen and we just shrug our shoulders and move on because really, it’s no big deal.

And I can’t help but wonder, what message are we sending to our kids?  That only the big sins count? Only the ones that are so bad you keep them hidden?  Only the ones that cause the most revulsion and criticism in society?

I think it is so important for my kids to know that I am not Josh Dugger…I have not engaged in those “super bad sins.”  

I have not done the things that he has done.

I still need a Savior.  

I still need grace.

I still need discipleship and commitment and I still need believers that I can confess to when I yell at my kids or have a fight with my husband or act selfishly or eat recklessly.  Not because these things are hidden sins, but because they are sins that separate me from God and hinder my relationship with my Savior.cross-106416_1280

It is okay to be a broken sinner; it is not okay to hide our sin and lead a double life. At the end of the day, sin is not about being wrong; it’s about breaking relationships, with God and others.

My kids need to know that the little sins count.  Because they are just as effective at leading us away from Christ and the church and one another as the big sins are, but they are a lot more sneaky.

Like the blogger above, I also think the church needs to be more open about sin, but I don’t think it needs to be the super-bad sins; in fact, I think we major on those a bit too much.  I think we need to be honest and vulnerable about the not-so-bad sins that sneak in and wander freely, sometimes with our approval.

Whatever we do, we must remember, little eyes are watching us and learning from us.  If our reactions of sorrow and sadness only manifest towards these larger sin areas, then yes, they will keep those hidden from us because those are “really bad.”

But if we walk in humility with all sin, acknowledging to them that we shouldn’t have yelled like that, exaggerated like that, reacted like that, and acted like that, then hopefully they will learn that all sin needs our confession and God’s grace.

I am not Josh Duggar.  I am Christina Embree.

And I need Jesus… every day.


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.

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Three Ways to Welcome the Devil into your Home

I recently watched a video that hit me pretty hard…literally.  In it, a family, dressed in all white sits down to watch a movie, in this case, it was Gone with the Wind (1939).  Considered a classic in the cinematic world, this movie was had one unique claim when it came out – it was the first movie in which a curse word was uttered.  In the video I watched, the family was shot with a paint gun pellet to demonstrate that word.  Then, black bags were placed over the family’s heads as time fast-forwarded to today. The movie? The Wolf on Wall Street (2013). The claim to fame? Most curse words ever used in a movie thus far (798).  To demonstrate the the “colorful language” in this film, the family was shot with as many paintballs as there were swear words.  The destruction of their home was graphically evident, and while this video was intended to advertise for a video filtering company, they also sent a very important message to their audience – You are under attack; recognize that!

But I don’t think we do.

In fact, sometimes I think we forget that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).

Worse than that, sometimes I think we unwittingly invite him right into our homes without even realizing we have opened the door.

As parents, we create the atmosphere for faith formation in our home, and just as we must be intentional about welcoming Christ into our everyday, we must be just as intentional about inviting sin to stay away.

welcome-mat

Here are three ways to welcome “the lion” into your home.

Do not monitor television/movies

As already discussed, the television has become a transmitter of culture and our culture is not one that seeks to honor God and create an atmosphere in your home that disciples your children in the faith.

 I’m not saying “Don’t watch TV!”  I’m saying be careful what you watch, when you watch it (appropriate age and maturity), and what messages you attach to it.  For instance, if you choose to watch a movie with themes that you don’t want welcomed into your home, be sure to share that with your kids!  Don’t just let that scene or language pass by without addressing it.

One of the best ways to disciple your children is by helping them process culture through Scripture and form their Christian worldview and television/movies provide a platform for that experience.  For more thoughts on how to use a Family Movie Night for discipleship, click here.

Do not regulate Social Media

If television/media transmit culture, then social media helps define it.  Whether its the scrolling headlines of Facebook, the glaring images of Instagram, or the 144 word sound bites from Twitter, social media clothes the fantasy of television in the reality of life.

It always amazes me when I get a friend request from someone younger than 13 (Facebook’s age limit).  Remember, Facebook isn’t concerned in the least with discipling your child in the faith, but even they set an age limit on who can use their website.  How much more judicious should we be in how and what types of social media we invite into our homes?

If you are looking for some very good reads on this topic, I highly recommend Jon Acuff’s social media blogs for www.parentcue.org. He offers sound advice that addresses concerns without creating a fear-based approach.  For more thoughts on parenting from grace and not fear, click here.

Don’t nurture the right relationships

Having moved a few years ago, Luke and I realized our kids were going to need to form new friendship and that we could have a profound impact on who was invited in to their lives, simply by how we helped to cultivate those relationships.  Very intentionally, we set our kids up with pen pals from their future home, and as the friendships grew, we watered them with our prayers, invitations to dinner and sleepovers, and creating space for our children to be in our home with their friends.  As a result, we have confidence in the friendships our children are engaged in and we see them as part of the faith formation of our kids.

Just as important is the development of your own relationships with other believers.

It is imperative that your children see modeled for them Christian friendships that are built on God’s love, times of prayer and fellowship, and a sharing of faith together.

If you invite Christ into the middle of your friendships and you show that for your kids through actions of hospitality, prayer, and sacrificial love, they will learn what true friendship is and will seek that type of relationship for themselves.  For more thoughts on modeling relationship for your children, click here

If we are intentional about welcoming Jesus into our home and acutely aware of the other things we invite in, we have a much better chance at creating an atmosphere conducive to discipleship.  

But if we only do one and forget the other, we create a confusing space for our kids.  If we welcome Jesus and, well, everything else, a sense of relativism and apathy is fostered.  If we judiciously monitor culture but don’t intentionally welcome Christ, an atmosphere of fear and judgement can result.

But if we do both, there is intentional space for our kids to grow as Christ did, “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52)


Looking for ways to invite Jesus into your Home instead?  This page is packed with lots of practical ideas to invite Christ into your family’s everyday.

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.

There’s Something Amazing; Don’t Miss It!!

Yesterday, I got to firerainbowsee a “fire rainbow.”  If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, either did I.  It’s basically a rainbow that appear like a cloud in the sky, just kinda floating there, being beautiful.  I was on my way to lunch when, being the weather geek that I am, I looked up at the sky.  And there it was.

At first I was incredulous – what was I looking at? But then, out came the camera as I thought, “No one is going to believe me!”  All around me, cars were driving, people were walking, and no one was looking up.  Here was this totally amazing, beautiful, unbelievable thing happening right in front of them, but they didn’t see it at all! 

Some guy stopped his truck on a crossroad and saw me staring up at the sky.  I glanced over at him and excitedly told him to get out of his car, that he wouldn’t believe what I was seeing.  For some reason, he did it.  He actually parked his truck, got out and looked up and before I knew it, he had his phone out, taking a picture, and saying, “No one is going to believe this.”  And he thanked me for showing him.

I repeated this same enthusiastic dragging of people out to see this phenomenon at the restaurant, where the server probably thought I was crazy as I pulled her out the door and into the street to look at the sky.  But after she saw it, she thanked me for making her come out and went back in to grab her coworkers.

The whole thing lasted about 5 minutes before the rainbow dissipated and the moment passed.  For the vast majority of people under that “fire rainbow” nothing special had happened.

Most people with their heads down, or eyes straight ahead, or hands hard at work, never saw anything extraordinary or even knew they missed something amazing.  But for me, who looked up and saw it, and for those I shared my excitement with, the day was just a little bit brighter, the moment just a little bit more miraculous, and the atmosphere just a little bit more full of joy.

So many times serving in Children’s Ministry, I feel like this is my job.

I have seen kids do, say, and act in amazing ways.  I’ve watched them pray for one another with more faith that I could ever muster up.  I’ve seen them worship with an abandon I could only hope to experience.  I’ve heard them say things with such conviction that it cuts me to my heart and with such innocence that it spurs me on to walk in grace and truth.

I’ve seen amazing things, miraculous things, phenomenal things come from children.

But, that’s not the norm.  Normally kids are just kids, which is not bad (I mean really, the sky is always beautiful even if there’s not a floating rainbow cloud in it), but it’s also not breathtaking.  Well, not breathtaking in a good way – there are definitely things kids do that will take your breath away.  And because kids are often just average, like us, we tend to “not see” them.

I’ve found this can be especially true in church where sometimes kids are not even in the same space as adults so that they can be seen.  Everyone is just going about doing their thing and the moments get missed.

Sometimes, it just takes one person who “sees it” to tell others to look.

Sometimes, it just takes a glimpse “up” to see something miraculous.

Sometimes, it just takes a few steps out of the comfort zone to find something amazing just outside.

I know sometimes I “look crazy” to my fellow Christians when I get excited about kids in worship and discipleship at home.  I’m that lady on the sidewalk telling you to get out of your car to see something in the sky.  I’m that woman who comes to your counter and tells you to leave the register and come outside to see something cool. But, I can’t help it.  

Because I’m genuinely and honestly excited.  

Because I’ve seen something miraculous.  I’ve seen something amazing. I’ve seen something unbelievable and a picture however beautiful can’t capture it, a video however compelling can’t show it, and a testimony however compelling can’t let you experience it.

But if you “look” you’ll see it.  You’ll see it in the most unexpected moments and the strangest places.

You’ll hear it in little voices singing praises and growing voices shouting His name.

You’ll see it in church, at home, in the car, and at the park – exclamations of “Look what God made!” and “Can we pray for that man?” and “The Bible says Jesus loves us.”

You’ll hear it when they say “Amen” just a little louder than everyone else at church and when they dance just a little more than, well, anyone else in service.

And it will touch your very soul.  I promise. Because, as Jesus tells us, the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

So, even if I sound crazy, I can’t help but say, “Come see this amazing, wonderful thing that God is doing.  Come see the kids!  You won’t regret it!”


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.

It’s NOT (just) About The Kids

Faith formation at home doesn’t stop just because you grow up! When we don’t invite Christ into our everyday, we run the risk of compartmentalizing our faith and teaching our kids that church is 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. Bringing our faith into our home EVERY DAY is as much for us as it is for our kids

r e F o c u s

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…

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Why Intergenerational Worship? And Why Now?

Recently, I’ve been asked to share some of the research and studies that I have used in writing my blogs and developing my heart for family and intergenerational ministry.  The following is a brief overview of some of the top studies, articles, and research I’ve used to formulate my ideas and share my heart with all of you.

The Research behind Intergenerational Worship

One of the first longitudinal studies done on youth in regard to church attendance post high school once the Millennial decline became apparent was done by Fuller Youth Institute in 2006-2010 and they released their findings here. Primarily, their research found three things:

1. While most U.S. churches focus on building strong youth groups, teenagers also need to build relationships with adults of all ages.

2. Churches and families overestimate youth group graduates’ readiness for the struggles ahead with dire consequences for the faith

3. While teaching young people the “dos” and “don’ts” of Christian living is important, an overemphasis on behaviors can sabotage faith long-term.

Further research showed that while there was no “silver bullet” churches that encouraged intergenerational connections and worship and youth that felt involved and connected to the larger church had a much greater chance of remaining in church post high school. (The findings can be found here).

stickfaithDr. Kara Powell and Dr. Chap Clark, authors of Sticky Faith, were among those who first influenced me to understand the of importance for intergenerational worship. In this article, Kara Powell clearly demonstrates the need for and support of corporate worship, stating ” Of the many youth group participation variables we examined, involvement in intergenerational worship and relationships had one of the most robust correlations with faith maturity.

Both the findings of Barna Research Group and the most recent Pew Research support the idea that Millennials often leave church because they have no connection to the larger church body, no relationships with adults outside of specialized ministry areas, and no sense of belonging in corporate worship since they’ve never or rarely attended. You can find the links to this research in the following article.

In 2010 Lifelong Faith also released a study that showed 6 key factors in young adults remaining religious (affiliated with church and Christianity) – the first three applied directly to the family but the next three to the church, specifically supportive non-parent adults and personal religious experiences in the larger church, not just in youth group or children’s church. Read more here.

In 2017, The Journal of Intergenerational Relationships explained that intergenerational relationships create essential learning environments for all generations. Specifically they find that three things are necessary for intergenerational learning, 1. There must be space to learn about one’s own generation with other generations, 2. All generations must act as learners and teachers at the same time, and 3. The learning must motivate participants towards in a particular way. (Source)

The Reasons for Intergenerational Worship

For clarification purposes, please know that I am not opposed to quality Christ-centered, community-focused Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry, but I am concerned when families and churches are consistently separated from each other and never having time to fellowship together. As my friend Matt Deprez shares, “(I) believe in age-appropriate ministries with intergenerational opportunities.” There are many benefits to children participating in corporate worship we can’t necessarily quantify as I share here.

Additionally, it’s not just about the kids – WE, the adults, need them. Christ tells us that we must “be like children.” Matt. 18:3. But, how can we learn from them if the adult church community is never or rarely around them as I share here?

Intergenerational worship a multi-faceted issue.

Excellent resource for building relationships between generations in your church

Excellent resource for building relationships between generations in your church

Much more could be shared in terms of research and the need for corporate worship and community and what church looks like when intergenerational ministry is emphasized. Check out the book Join Generations by Matthew Deprez for some more great information on this topic.  

And every church has its own unique culture and needs to consider.  There’s no cookie-cutter model.  However I do believe that there is a bigger vision needed that includes children in worship with adults at some point and allows for relationships to be fostered between the generations, even those who don’t volunteer in kids ministry.

Some have shared with me their concern that churches are losing families and that this cannot “simply be fixed” by any one thing such as intergenerational worship.  I agree and that’s why I am a huge advocate for the equipping of parents for discipleship at home and equipping the church to be their biggest cheerleaders, constant partner, and strong support as they do so.

Most church services today are designed to reach one target audience – adults and generally, older adults.  In order to be churches that welcome children, some things might have to change; there might have to be a new “normal.”

I feel however that times of communal worship and fellowship, where kids and youth can see these things modeled for them and where church members who aren’t involved in kids ministry can see them, grow with them, and know their name is an important part of that plan.

The Heart Behind Intergenerational Worship

While I don’t feel like there’s a cookie-cutter answer for every church and there are some churches that are able to foster intergenerational connectivity without including kids and youth in the worship service, I believe corporate, communal worship is one important and overlooked tool God has given us for reaching the next generation.

Jesus modeled this inclusion of children in the larger context throughout his ministry as demonstrated in these verses where he drew the kids into his teaching time and welcomed them in his presence. family-clip-art

At the very least, intergenerational worship gives families more time to spend TOGETHER which is an endangered moment in this day and age.  One study of 4,000 families showed that on average they spent 49 minutes actually together (not in front of a screen, separated due to activities, in different rooms of a house) in a day. 49 minutes.  A more recent study from 2013 lowers that time to a mere 36 minutes per day. We could more than double that with one worship service spent together.

What better time for families to BE together than when they are worshipping God and spending time with fellow believers?

What better place to participate together in learning, growing, and discipleship than in the house of worship in the midst of the congregation?

In a world that is consistently pulling families apart, shouldn’t church be the very place we create space to put them together?

There are no easy answers.  

I don’t think there should be.  Being the church wasn’t supposed to be “easy.”

Each of us, parents and ministers, must weigh out before the Lord what is His will, using the Bible as our guide and His Spirit as our witness.  But, given what I’ve seen and the research I’ve read, I feel it is imperative that we, the Church, welcome the children into our midst as integrated members of Christ’s body and intentionally create space for them in our communal worship.

Because, as the kids at my church say each Sunday, together WE are the body of Christ.


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)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, 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

It’s Not Fair to Make Kids Go to Church

“It’s not fair!”

Recently, I had a conversation with someone that contained this theme throughout our discussion.  In short it was shared that,

Intergenerational worship is not fair.  It’s not fair to adults who want to listen and participate without distraction.  It’s not fair for parents to have to have their kids sit with them in worship. It’s not fair for the kids to have to sit through something boring and not geared for them.  It’s not fair to the pastor to have to hear kids talking, babies crying, and tween whispering.  It’s not fair to anyone.  Why are you advocating for something that is unfair to so many people?

I agree.  It’s not fair.

Never said it was.

Never said it was easy.  Never said it was comfortable. Never said it was simple.

Never said it wouldn’t take effort, intentionality, and hard work. Never said it wouldn’t mean that adults, parents, kids, pastors, and the church family at large wouldn’t have to sacrifice their own desires, wants, and expectations for Sunday morning, Wednesday nights or church in general.

I just don’t think the kingdom of God is about what’s “fair.”

I think God is more concerned about what is best; what is best for His will, His kingdom, and His church.

The author of Psalm 73 (a psalm that in my very scholarly opinion could have been titled, “It’s not fair!”) shared a very similar frustration.  He says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  He goes on to share quite emphatically that it just wasn’t fair that these guys were doing so great while he saw the people of God suffering. He shares, “I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply, until I entered the sanctuary of God and I understood their destiny.”

He saw the end.  The finale.  The conclusion.  And seeing that changed everything. He saw with bigger vision; eyes that saw past the moment and into the future.  He saw and understood that standing in a moment, with all of its seeming unfair frustrations, was only a small part of the picture.

And with that God-sized vision, he says, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant, I was a brute beast before you. Yet, I am with you. You hold me by my right hand. You guide me in your counsel.

We, as in, we the Church, need a God-sized vision.

IMG_3631We have to look ahead, not even to the finale, but to 20 years from now when our children no longer have a place to go away from us and not be distractions, but to when they find their own place to go away from us and explore other distractions.  We have to understand there’s a bigger story than our uncomfortable Sunday morning, namely, the devastating decline in younger generations remaining in the Christian faith and instead declaring themselves as “Nones.”  It is imperative that we allow our church experience to be greater than what we can “get out of” a Sunday morning to what we can “put into” the larger kingdom of God.

And again, I share, I am not “against” times where kids and adults are separate and have activities that are specifically designed to help them grow in their faith, appropriate to their age and maturity, BUT I am opposed to a model that never or rarely allows generations to interact in corporate worship, communal celebration, and intentional discipleship on a regular basis.  Because it may not “be fair” in the moment, but moments are fleeting; consequences are lasting.

I think we all need to do a better job of extending grace to one another in the corporate context.  I think we could do a better job at welcoming kids into worship so they are engaged instead of bored.  And I think, based on everything I’ve read from people far wiser, more learned, and better experienced than me, that it is worth the effort to do so and not worth the risk to choose to remain unchanged.

If your child is being disruptive, then yes, take him/her to a place where you can love and discipline out of respect and love for those around you.  If you are easily distracted and unable to concentrate, then for that moment, concentrate on modeling God’s grace and mercy to that “distraction” by inviting them to worship with you. And we can all ask God to help us look past the momentary frustrations to the eternal rewards.  My hunch is, if we willingly do so with joy, if we are a cheerful givers of our right to worship when and how we like and graciously embrace the entire body of Christ, Christ will be found among us.

In fact, I’m sure of it.  Because Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes a child like this one, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, doesn’t welcome me but the One who sent me” (Mark 9:37).  It’s not about what’s fair or not fair.  It’s about what is God’s will.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Jesus


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.

Not Cool at School

We are in the middle of it.  The tears. The stress. Worrying all the time. Frustration.  Lots of questions. And also lots of hopes.  Some excitement. A lot of angst.

That’s right.  Middle school starts in two days. For the first time in the household, we have a middle schooler.  And not surprisingly, it’s been an emotional time.  Moving from top dog in the elementary to bottom rung in the middle school can mess with a tween girl’s mind.  And does a whole different thing to that girl’s mother.

And of course, one of the biggest concerns is whether or not this precious girl of mine will “fit in.”  Will she be made fun of because of her clothes, her hair, her backpack, her locker decorations, her shoes…?

Because the reality is that there are kids out there that will do those things.  Bullying has become one of the most talked about issues facing our kids today.  Schools are not just where they learn about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also about sex, drugs, and alcohol.  And being “cool” is often associated with participation in these things.

As a parent, I’m tempted to shield her, to hold her in close and not let her see and experience that world.

As a Christian, I want her to know that there is a better way, a good way, a blessed way to live that, cool or not, will bring her life and love.

As a minister, I want her to be able to have confidence and courage, to show compassion and to forgive, no matter what comes her way.

I’m sure you get it.  If you are a parent who follows Christ, I’m sure there’s been a time where your heart stuck in your throat as you considered the world thats out there and the things your child will eventually face.  And for each one, there will come a day, where face it they shall.

What are we to do?schoolhallway

Wringing hands.  Worried faces. Sleepless nights.

These things will do them no good.

Withdrawing. Shielding. Hiding.

These will only delay the inevitable.

Since I’m just starting out, I do not speak from personal experience.  But I have listened to those who do and this is what I hear.

  1. Be the SAFE place – We all need a place that we can go to find answers, seek comfort, and feel safe.  Make your home that place for your child.  83% of 10-18 year olds said their parents were the leading influence in their decisions to use alcohol and drugs.  83% is a lot!  In order for us to wield that influence well, it is important that we are a safe place for them to go in order to talk about…well, anything and everything.
  2. Be the REAL place – The whole “cool” thing?  We all know deep inside it’s just a show.  A recent study by a psychology professor in Virginia found that the “cool” kids in middle school ended up with a 45% greater rate of problems ranging from alcohol and drugs to criminal activity.  It’s all show to cover up deeper heart issues.  Encourage your child to be real; who they really are.  Don’t press them to grow up too fast.  Let them mess up and learn grace.  Let them fall and learn mercy.  Give them space to be authentically messy and totally uncool.  And..be real in front of them too.
  3. Be the FUN place – Yup, I said it.  Be fun.  I’m not usually a huge fan of this particular word because sometimes it gets used to overlook discipleship and ignore our call as parents to mentor our kids, but frankly, a fun home is a sticky home and one that your children will want to hang out in.  And invite their friends too.  So find ways to celebrate and laugh together.  Watch movies.  Bake cookies.  Play games.  Shut the computer screen. Turn off the phone.  Be all there.

Jon Acuff once said, “You can’t fight the changing trends, but you can fight for unchanging truth.”  The truth is my child, your child, every child has been made in the image of God with a unique fingerprint of His creativity on their life.  Cool or not, they are incredible, amazing human beings that He loves…even more than we do.

 Fight for that truth.  Out loud.  Let them hear you say it.  Speak life every day into their hearts!  And come what may (what’s that…high school in three years you say?) entrust them into His capable hands.


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.

Where Are We When They Fall?

It’s not unusual for me to cry.  My kids think it’s hilarious.  My husband thinks it’s strange.  My friends just shake their head.  But for me, it’s just how I’m wired.

Today I cried watching a video of a little boy crossing a triathlon finish line after he dropped his crutches and fell twice only to rise again while a crowd cheered him on. I watched it more than once.  I cried every time.  Not like, weeping, sobbing, ugly-crying but there was definite tear leakage each time I watched him fall down, get up, fall down, get up, and finally finish.

In this video, the people in the crowd, by and large an adult population, cheered louder each time he fell, yelling encouraging words like, “You can do it Billy!  You’re amazing!  Don’t stop!”  And every time, he muscled his way back up, and continued on his way with determination.  At one point, a man moves in to help him get up but you can see him pull up, stop himself, and give room to Billy to do it himself, using the encouragement of the crowd to keep him going. (View video here)

On my third viewing, as I watched this little boy fall and rise and I heard the crowd cheer loudly, calling out his name, telling him that he would make it, I couldn’t help but reflect on the church today and specifically this verse in Hebrews 12:1,2a

person-692409_640Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith

“So great cloud of witnesses.”

I could go all deep and theological on you and join the many interpreters who have tried to determine exactly who this cloud of witness are but…I’m not.

I’m just going to take it at face value and assume that Paul was referring to a scene much like the one portrayed in the video and say that the cloud of witnesses are those who care very much for the runners in the race and are there to encourage and cheer the runner on.  Whether they be saints of old or Christians of today, whether they be family or friends or fellow believers from all over the world, whether spiritual or physical or a combination of both, they are those souls who are invested in and committed to seeing that runner succeed.

But, from my experience in working with children, I fear that perhaps our kids’ “cloud of witnesses” isn’t quite as encouraging as the crowd Billy had cheering him on.

 Because when Billy fell, they cheered louder, encouraged more, clapped harder, and yelled his name more passionately.  But, often when kids “fall” or youth “fail” in this race of faith, the reaction is often different.  They are hushed.  They are reprimanded.  They are isolated.  And sometimes they are rejected.  

I’ve watched it happen.  I’ve watched pregnant teenagers shamed. I’ve watched angry young men avoided.  I’ve watched children and youth in a variety of religious environments pushed aside because of how they look, act, express themselves, and doubt.  And I’ve watched the cloud of witnesses, at least the ones here on earth, dissipate with head-shaking and mumbling.  I’ve seen others rush in and try to pick them up and finish the race for them without giving them a chance to fight, to persevere, on their own.

My friends, I think we must do better.

We must be our children’s biggest cheerleaders.  Right from the start, we need to say their name and cheer them on.  The race is not an easy one.  They face many obstacles.  We cannot become one of them.

Church, the children need to hear you when they are young and starting out.  They need to walk into church and hear their name spoken and their faith encouraged.

The cloud of witnesses must surround them.

They cannot be set aside or pushed away because they are young and just starting the race and because they stumble a lot and fall down often.  Rather, in those moments, our cheers must be loudest and our affirmation strongest.

When they run around in church because they are three and their mom is busy with an infant and their dad is talking to the pastor, we need to say their name in love and call them back into the race not turn our back in frustration and wonder “Where that child’s parents are?”

When they speak out at the wrong time or are fussy during prayer, we need to say their name in love and invite them to join us again, not sigh inside and wonder why they just can’t sit still.

When they question the pastor’s sermon or wonder about this God we serve, we need say their name in love and embrace their curiosity with grace and encourage them to fix their eyes on Christ as they continue the race.

And when they walk away and turn their back, we must cheer louder! We must speak truth to their hearts, the words they long to hear, that God loves them so much, that He has a plan for their lives, and that He wants to be their friend.

We must be the loudest voice, the strongest voice, the most encouraging voice they hear…or they will remain fallen, unable to rise, because we have given up on them.

It is not enough to simply show them the race, explain the rules, wish them good luck, and walk away.  It is not simply enough to provide a few cheerleaders who graciously volunteer their time on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night to get them to the finish line.

 They need a cloud. They need a crowd.  They need the Church.


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.