When Your Kids Cry: Practical Discipleship In Disappointment

I couldn’t really make out the conversation, but I could tell that something was going on, something…unpleasant.  Soon I heard sniffles and sobs, next stomping feet and then a door slamming.  I gave myself a quick “mom” pep talk (you know, the one that goes – You’re the big person, you’re the mom, you gotta handle this one...) and shot a quick prayer to heaven (you know, the one that goes – Please…help?) and headed in the direction of the tears.

As it turns out the offender in this case was my computer.  Not so much my computer as the spelling program running on it that she had to complete for school.  Not so much the spelling program as the voice inside her head telling her she was stupid because she couldn’t spell a particular word right.  And not so much the voice as the fact that she believed it.

Isn’t that the worst feeling, parents?

Hearing your child, who you love and you think is pretty great, believing that they are less than who you know they are? They didn’t make the team or their friends left them out or they didn’t pass the test and they start hearing that voice and believing it. And knowing that even if you speak truth in that moment, they will brush it off saying, “You have to say that; you’re my mom.”

Ugh.  I hate it.

I hate that the same internal voice I struggle with and the same lies I hear (and you hear), that voice that preys on my inadequacies and exploits my weaknesses and accentuates my flaws, is now talking to my beautiful, frustrated daughter.  It makes me angry and sad and feeling helpless all at once.

So what are we to do?

And how in these very difficult moments can we disciple our kids in truth?

Here’s some advice I’ve been given from those who have come before me; simple ways to invite Jesus into the moments where hurt is raw and real and anxious thoughts threaten to overwhelm their tiny hearts.

Love them

mom-comforting-childJust love them.  Don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to argue with it.  Just pick them up and love them. Be Jesus to them – the Jesus who says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

One thing that has really helped me with this is understanding my children’s love languages. For this one, touch is her love language.  As big as she is, nothing makes life better than to curl up on Mommy’s lap, lay her head on my chest and I stroke her hair and just snuggle.  It’s not as cute and comfortable as it was years ago, but that moment of touch is more healing and more soothing to her soul than all the words in the world.

For more information on discovering your child’s love language, check out Love Language profiles from Gary Chapman here

Speak truth

Speak truth and life to them throughout their days so that when you speak into the moment, it carries more weight. The best way to combat a lie is with the truth, but often when we are feeling overwhelmed and anxious, the truth seems more mocking than comforting.  But if throughout the day we are consistently affirming and calling out our kids’ giftings and uniqueness, they will have more tools in their arsenal to defend themselves against the lies.

This idea of speaking life into your child and helping them see their identity in Christ isn’t a once-and-done deal.  This article from Focus on the Family gives great practical activities for each age level to help you talk to your child about how God made them unique and special, and open the door for deeper conversations as they grow.

Watch yourself

What words are coming out of your mouth about…yourself?  Do you talk down about yourself in front of your kids?  Is negative self-talk a regular occurrence in your own life?

Look, I’m going to be totally transparent here and say, yes, this is a struggle for me.  And my sensitive child hears it even when I don’t.  She points it out and tells me not to say that because it hurts her.  Why then am I surprised when she reacts in the same way when she is struggling?  Discipleship happens, all the time, even when we are not being intentional about it… so, watch yourself, and don’t allow those lies to define you either. Speak the truth in love, even to yourself.

I read this blog post once about a typo, and it really spoke to me personally about negative self-talk and personal condemnation. It’s fun, like the author, but it drives home a good point if this is something you struggle with. 

Tonight, as I snuggled with my daughter, I could feel her relax against me. She was content to just be; safe in her mom’s arms and at peace.  I told her how Paul in the Bible said that when we were anxious, we should talk to God about it, with thankfulness for the good things we have and with honesty in asking for his help.  So we did, together.  She was thankful for friends. She asked for help with spelling. I was thankful grace and asked for help with parenting.  We invited Jesus into our moment and He came with his peace.

Discipleship at home doesn’t always look like dinner conversations and intentional talks and God-moments captured.

Sometimes it looks like snuggle time on the couch after tears have worn us out and hearts have been a little broken.  

But those times are just as formational in teaching our children about who this God is that loves us unconditionally, creates us with purpose, and calls us His own.

Invite Him into every space and welcome Him into your 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.

No Rest for the Weary

Environments are not passive wrappings, but are rather, active processes which are invisible.” – Marshall McLuhan

Take a second and look around you.  What do you see?  Really take it in.  Pay attention to the feelings that you experience as you look around.

I’m currently sitting in a hotel lobby, quiet as people begin to wake up and experience the day, drinking a cafe latte and hearing dishes rattle, mumbled conversation, and elevators rising and falling. I feel distant, and a little bit anxious, as these moments make me acutely miss my family and long for the familiarity of home.

Environments matter a lot.  They don’t come right out and yell at us, “Feel this way!” but they are constantly informing us about how we should feel and ways we should act.

So, if we are desirous of calling forth certain actions from ourselves and from our children, it would be a good idea for us to critically consider the environment that we are immersed in and that we create in our communities of faith.

Yesterday I was invited by Rick Lawrence of Simply Youth Ministries to do just that.  My husband often tells me often we are “fish who don’t see the water” meaning we just go about our lives without really noticing the atmosphere we are submerged in, just breathing it in and out as if it were not there.  Rick showed us the water…and I’ll be honest, it wasn’t pretty clear blue waters of the Caribbean…it was muddied, and dirty, and polluted, and frankly, not a nice place to be.

He led us through a diagnosis of the environment our kids are growing up in.  Consider these things carefully, just as you did your surroundings a minute ago, and think about the feelings these elements conjure up in you.

Our kids are living in a marginless world; 8 of 10 teens never turn their cell phone off and most send between 60-100 texts every day.

They are constantly connected and when they disconnect, there is anxiety, probably partially because this constant connection has changed their brain chemistry to be more reactive and less thoughtful.

Our culture is characterized by the ideals of “more, fast, easy, and fun” and parents self-describe themselves with words like worried, fearful, distracted, and overwhelmed.sky-758182_1280

So…how do you feel?

I feel…tired.

So I look to the church.

Surely there where we serve a Savior that says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” we will find a place of refuge, shelter from the Go, Go, Go lifestyle and a place where relationships are fostered with trust and grace.

Surely here we will find a hope, a God who invites us into community and gives strength to the weary.

Surely here our kids can see consistency in a world of variability, welcome in a world that’s too busy for hospitality, margin and space to grow in a world that demands constant connection and endless going.

And what do we find?  And let’s be honest…for just a moment, let’s see the water.

Friends, the number one reason Millennials point to for why they leave the church is not hypocrisy (that was my generation) and not because of new experiences (that was my parents generation).

The number one reason they leave is because they feel like they do not belong.

Our environment has told them that.  Our way of doing church, of segregating the young, of making church an “adult worship service” as I heard one prominent children’s minister describe it recently in a blog, of creating spaces that delight our senses and meet our personal preferences and “needs” is that our upcoming generations do. not. belong.

They’ve decided to swim in different waters.  They are just as disconnected at church as they are in life. There’s no respite, no quiet calm, no gentle acceptance and gracious authority.  They just feel… alone.

And I can see why.  And I think if we are all honest, we see it too.  

We need to change our filter.  Our water needs to be cleaned.  We need to see it so we can change it.  I’m not saying everything we’ve done has been wrong, but something we’ve done has not worked.

More and more, the church needs to become the place where all those things described above – marginless space, disconnectedness, constant separation and constant motion – no longer find a home. 

Imagine instead a place where we come, together, connected to one another as a body whose head is Christ; where we stop as a family, a community, and we breathe in rest and peace, where we replace the cry of “more, fast, fun and easy” with hearts of simple love, welcome, and grace.

If our waters don’t look different, if we are offering more of the “more” and we are not creating space for meaningful relationships that stay grounded in a fluid world, then why are we surprised when our children walk away.  We’ve got to see the water.


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 Time to Tell Our Kids the Truth

Marriage is hard.

Half of all marriages end in divorce, and that’s true, even within the church. Second marriages are even more tenuous.

Happy marriages are treasures, but few and far between.

The reality is…the institution of marriage is falling apart in America.

wedding-559422_1280

Have you ever heard these things?  Ever shared them with someone else?  Ever heard it from the pulpit or shared in a small group or (gulp) read them in a blog post?

If you are like me, the answer to these questions is Yes. These are the messages we often hear about marriage in evangelical Christian circles.  At least these are the messages I’ve always heard.

d6imageUntil this past week at D6 Family Ministry conference. I heard these things there too, but not in the way I’d ever heard them before.  This week, for the first time that I can remember, I heard the truth…the whole truth, shared by one of the foremost marriage researchers and analysts in the country, Shaunti Feldhahn.

In her session with us, Shaunti tackled each of these long-held beliefs one at a time and then challenged us with something so important: We NEED to tell our kids the truth about marriage.  Below are some thoughts from her about “marriage myths” and a challenge to us as parents and ministers to make sure our children and students know the truth, in an age where truth is relative and media driven, instead of found in God and based on reality.

Myths of Marriage that we tell our kids

#1 – 50% divorce rate (Half of all marriages end in divorce)

This statistic was based on a study where the demographers were looking at trends in divorce and concluded it would lead to a 50% divorce rate if it continued.. But THE TRUTH IS divorce rates peaked in 1980 and has been dropping since. They are currently down 30% from that time.

THE TRUTH IS that right now, according to U.S. Census Bureau, 71% of married Americans are still married to their first spouse. The 29% who aren’t still married to their first spouse includes everyone who had a spouse die, including those who were married to their first spouse for 50+ years.

No one knows what the actual rate of divorce rate but it’s probably closer to 25%. Most marriages last a lifetime.

#2 – Rate of Divorce is the same in the church

The study used for this came from George Barna who was actually studying belief systems and specifically excluded church attendance. THE TRUTH IS when church attendance was added in, the divorce rate drops 45-50% LOWER than the average.

Another myth that grew out of the same research is that  second marriages are doomed to fail. THE TRUTH IS actually 65% of second marriages make it for the remainder of the spouse’s lifetime.  (Since, according to Ron Deal, also speaking at D6 Conference, 100 million people are now in blended families, this is good news that we need to know and share with those we know and serve.)

#3 – Most Marriages are “Meh” (not great)

We say things like “Marriage is hard.” This is not the best advertisement for the institution of marriage.   What we mean is marriage takes hard work. We tell kids that marriage is complicated but clearest trend in research is most problems are not caused by the big ticket issues, but in small things that are miscommunicated.

For example things like: Husband isn’t good with words but works 70 hours a week to provide for his family while the wife is feeling abandoned (70% of women would give up the stuff to get more of him). Wife says I love you and does loving things but also criticizes a lot and that’s the most painful thing for a man.

Simple but critical miscommunication over a long period of time is the leading cause of divorce, not the “headliner” issues. 

In an informal survey, peopler were asked, “What percentage of marriages do you think are happy?” Usually 8 out of 10 responders guessed that 30% of marriages are happy.   THE TRUTH IS studies show that somewhere around 80% of marriages are happy, not perfect but happy.

Most people enjoy being married. Even people who were struggling in marriage, if they stuck it out for 5 years, rated their marriage as very happy after that time. It is so important to help people stick it out by telling them the truth.

Divorce looms really large in the eyes of a child, but that is the exception but not the rule. It is our job to make sure that they know that! We must pass along hope for marriages to our kids. Every kid needs to know that doing what the Bible says does matter. Every child needs to understand that marriage is a good thing, a blessed thing, and something that most people cherish, long for, enjoy, and are committed to.  They need to hear from us that marriage is a good thing, a gift from God and a blessing to us, so that they have hope. And frankly, so that we have hope.

We need to tell our children the truth.  

We need to share it from the pulpit, in our small groups, with our own kids, and with our friends.  We need to encourage those we know who are struggling.  We need to speak truth into second marriages and blended families. We need to not allow fear to frame our world and create a self-fulfilling prophecy in the next generation.

Being aware of our culture includes being aware when we’ve been duped…and I admit, I was.  I am excited to speak about marriage to my kids, to give them hope and anticipation of their own future marriages , and to do so with the truth on my side!


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.

If Jesus Came To Church

If Jesus was the guest preacher at your church, what would you do with your kids?

Let that question sink in for a moment.

This question was posed by Rob Reinow to a group of ministers and parents yesterday and I literally watched the reactions go from “Bring them of course!” to “Oh wait…what?” and then “Oh…”

If Jesus was coming to our church, in the flesh, and speaking to us, we would bring our kids.

We wouldn’t just bring our kids – we’d get them as close to the stage as possible.

We’d wait in the longest lines to have a chance to let them meet Him. We, because we love our children, would not put them aside so we got our chance with Jesus. No, each and every one of us said, “I would make sure that my child met Jesus.”

I’m not sure that much more needs said.

But just in case you’re not sure that parents would do that, here’s a testimony from some parents who actually got to live this out.

One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him.

Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.  I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. (Luke 18:15-17)

Phil Vischer shared last night this simple truth: “Do not underestimate how much kids can learn. Do not overestimate how much adults want to learn.” Jesus was able to reach both, with exceptional specificity and unending welcome. He didn’t put age limits on his ministry. He was indignant with those who did.

If Jesus were the guest preacher at your church…He’d want the children there.

And every Sunday, as believers meet all over the world, we can know that He is there, for He says, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there” (Mt. 18:20). There must be times where the children are too.

So…what would you do if Jesus came to your 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.

Putting Faith in Its Place

If you are a parent of a young child, you ptoddler-mealrobably have a plethora of plastic plates in your cupboards, with little compartments for each part of the meal, because if you are a parent, you KNOW that the food can’t touch! My 4 yr. old son is very clear that not only does the food need separated but also, each compartment must be adequately filled.

As I’m sitting here at D6 Family Ministry conference, listening to Ron Hunter share his heart for connecting the church and family, it occurs to me that for many of us, parents and ministers, that is how we approach life.

Because our lives are full, there are no empty compartments, but because life is busy, we do our best to keep everything in its place. We have a compartment for work, a compartment for home and family, a compartment for fun and play, and a compartment for church. Everything neatly fits on its place, rarely touching, and easily organized so our brains can function….with appropriate caffeine intake.

Do you ever feel like you just go through life checking off boxes?

Making sure that you get everything done and collapsing into bed each night so you can do it again?

If you do, than there is a good chance that your walk of faith falls into that same pattern.

It’s not totally your fault.   As Ron Hunter shared this morning, the way church has been “done” facilitates this compartmentalized life.

When you “go to church” the compartments are ready and waiting for your family. Your children go to the red hallway with the highest walls to contain the mess, your youth go to the comfy compartment with couches and loud music, adults go to rooms with coffee and doughnuts according to their age level to enjoy “fellowship” and after a perfunctory gathering of adults and maybe older youth for singing and teaching, all rejoin each other on the way to the car and ….check mark, church is done.

We compartmentalize our faith at church.

It only makes sense that we compartmentalize it in life.

Faith has its place on our plate. It only takes up about 1/168 of our plate (one hour of our 168 weekly hours) but it is there, so we can check it off, and move on to our other compartments. As Ron Hunter shared, “The problem is if we perpetuate 1/168 idea of church for adults, we end up with siloed faith. Parents just do the one hour with God and then they are done.

But that’s NOT how faith works. That’s not what church is supposed to be.

Our faith? That’s what should BE the plate. Our faith should be what holds the rest together. It should be the very foundation of everything we do. It should never get checked off. It should be what we stand on and talk about and incorporate into every other part of our life.

If our faith is the plate, then our family needs to be the gravy that covers everything. With each bite of our work, our play, our home, there needs to be a taste of family in it. Our family cannot be far from our mind, compartmentalized in a certain space and unwelcomed in the rest. We should always be asking, “How can I bless my family and live out my faith in this?” As Pete Wilson speaking at D62015 shared, “We are the same person at work as we are at home…only more tired. If you are not grace-filled at work, then you won’t be at home either.

Compartmentalization works great for preschool lunch.

It doesn’t work for faith and family.

Our faith has got to be something we take with us.

Our church experience needs to be intergenerational and communal.

Our work, our play, our home needs to be a place where faith and family overflow into each and every compartment.

They can never be checked off as done, because, as Paul shares “we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image” (2 Cor. 3:18). Until that day, we are a work in progress. Rest in knowing that God is the One doing the work and give him access to your whole life, 24/7, to do 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.

Kids Just Don’t Belong In Church

“To some extent the presence of children in the worship of the first Christians was a matter of necessity. But Paul’s acceptance of children of the church as ‘belonging to God’ or ‘holy’ suggest were not only there because they had to be. They were there because they belonged there.” – W. E. Strange, Children in the Life of the Early Church

Once when I picked my daughter up from an after-school choir practice, she came skipping out, quite happy, and when she got in the car she said, “Mom, these are my people.  This is where I belong.”  This was in contrast to the previous day when I had picked her up from a different club and her attitude was one more of resignation than exuberance and her words were, “I just don’t fit in there.”

We all have a sense of when we “fit” somewhere and when we don’t.  For instance, if you’ve been on Facebook for the last few weeks, you may have seen the meme of Lucy (of I Love Lucy fame) dancing with some ladies on a television set, woefully out of step, and obviously not “fitting in” captioned with the words ‘Me at Zumba.’  Seriously, it’s like the story of my personal Zumba experience.  I left my one and only Zumba class saying, “Yup, nope… I don’t belong there.”

But there are other places where within mere moments of being there, I just know, this is right, this is where I belong.  It’s not awkward.  I don’t feel unwelcome. It’s not strange or unnatural.

It’s just where I belong.

I’m sure you have figured out where this whole thing is going.  I mean, if the observation made by Dr. Strange in the quote above is accurate, children in the early church weren’t just there out of consequence but because there was a recognition of belonging.  They weren’t just there because the church met in their home, but because they were a needed and necessary part of the body.  

Dr. Strange goes on to point out that in the letters of Paul, he speaks directly to children (Eph. 6:1-4, Col. 3:20).  This is, as he says, remarkable meaning something we should remark on.  Why?

Because these letters were being read aloud in the corporate assembly of the church.

The church in a region would gather together and hear these words being read aloud to them and learning together the words of God.  And guess who Paul assumed would be there?  The children.  And guess who he felt was worthy of being taught specifically in the midst of the larger corporate gathering? Children.

Throughout all of the epistles we see children mentioned, often in regards to their instruction and upbringing at home under the loving discipleship and discipline of their parents.  

But what we don’t see is their omission.

They were (and are) an integral part of the church.  And while a thorough review of church history will reveal a strong emphasis on the raising of children in the home and the passing on of faith from the parents, there is never a dismissal of children from the larger church body and wider community.

If you don’t “fit” somewhere, chances are you won’t go back or stay when you can leave.  

If you don’t feel like you belong, it just makes sense that you will look for a place where you do.  

And if you don’t feel like a part of something, it’s easy to disengage and withdraw even if you are physically present.  

boyatchurchdoorI think we can all acknowledge that for the most part “big church” or our regular church assemblies aren’t places where children feel like they “fit.”  Even churches that are transitioning to more intergenerational approaches can find it difficult to create that feel through programming and atmosphere.


I think perhaps that’s because fundamentally, there’s a cultural expectation that kids won’t be there because for many years they haven’t.

Whenever you try on something new, it’s uncomfortable at first, for everyone.  But I truly think if our approach changes, over time programming and atmosphere won’t matter nearly as much as simply conveying the expectation that, of course, children will be there.  Like Paul’s approach, the assumption will be that they are there, they are listening, and they belong.

And the kids will know it.

And that’s not to say, there shouldn’t be times of age-appropriate ministry, because I think there should be.  And that’s not to say that the main focus of discipleship shouldn’t be the home, because Scripture is clear that it should be.  But, it shouldn’t be a surprise to us or an unexpected distraction when children do join us for corporate worship.  In fact, it should be welcome and expected.  They should just…belong.

Just like my sweet girl intuitively knew that those choir friends were “her people” our church children will know that we are theirs. In their heart, they will know that they are “supposed” to be there; that they belong. And eventually, it won’t be a surprise or distraction to us adults when they are. Because we too will know that they belong there.


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.

God is Not Bored with You

“Do it again!”

The cry of every child who sees a funny faces, watches a “magic” trick, listens to a silly voice, snuggles with mommy, plays with daddy, swings with grandma, and rides a bike with grandpa.  I can’t tell you how many times we watched the same episode of Dora with our middle child or read the same book with our oldest.  Just this morning, my youngest son and I built the same Lego structure for the same Hotwheels cars to race all over in the same pattern we did yesterday.

boys-286179_1280Tell me you understand this weariness.

I love my kids, but I should not be able to quote every line of Dora’s exciting plan to find Grandma’s house or Dr. Suess description of uniquely colored food.  And as much as I love cars…  Well, you get the picture.

It gets old.  It gets monotonous.  It’s…boring.

But yesterday I read a thought from G. K. Chesterton, celebrated theologian, author, and philosopher of the 20th century, that changed my perception of this repetition forever. His words challenged me to look at God, my kids, and eternity in a whole new light and consider my own walk of faith.  He writes:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. (AMEN!)

For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. (Oh…)

It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. (...Wow…)

For me, this one of of those #mindblown moments…

The words forced me to look back on those times that had so bored my grown-up mind and think about my kids…and yes, sure enough, each repetitious moment, each repeated action, brought the same reaction – the joy of seeing it and hearing for the very first time.

There was no boredom. There was only genuine delight.

We are told in Scripture to have faith like a child.  Jesus surrounded himself with children.  I can’t help but imagine in those moments where He was healing people, the children laughing in delight and saying, “Do it again Jesus!” And I can’t help but imagine Jesus’ pleasure at hearing this.

And I can’t help but think…wouldn’t He like to hear that again, from His children?

Perhaps you’ve grown weary in this calling, as a parent or minister or both? But you can remember a day when the call was new and His Spirit was fresh and you were filled and flowing over.

Do it again, Lord.

Perhaps you have seen your church, your family, racked with pain or sorrow, fear or hurt, worry or dismay, but you can remember times where God’s presence was tangible and His comfort near and His love over all.

Do it again, Lord.

Maybe you remember the excitement of your first commitment to follow Christ and the fellowship you had with God and others, but your love has grown cold and friendships grown old and you have lost your first love.

Do it again, Lord.

And maybe, you’ve experienced healing, seen revival, led others to Christ, lived intentionally in your home, or loved intentionally in your community but are in a dry place without vision.

Do it again, Lord.

God isn’t bored with you.

Each outpouring of love, each song of praise, each whispered prayer, and each step of faith for Him is as new and fresh as the one before and the one to come.

My mom tells a story of me as a child, waking up from a nap and telling her that “Jesus is ‘cited about us, but we aren’t ‘cited about Him.”  Maybe that childlike faith was speaking the truth of eternity; that God is new and fresh and excited and ready to “do it again” if only we ask.

If you find yourself in a weary place, a dry place, a lonely place, maybe it’s time to exercise that “faith like a child” and look up to your Father and say… “Do it again.”

He delights in His creation. He says “It is good!”  And He delights in us.  He rejoices over us with dancing.  He is NOT bored. “For we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

So…

Do it again, Lord.  Show your glory in this generation.

Let us be the ones who are excited about you. Amen – so be 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.

What Welcome Looks Like: What the Church can Learn from Germany

If you’ve been on social media at all today, you’ve probably seen it.  Within a few short hours of its release, millions watched the video documenting Germany’s welcome of Syrian refugees into their homeland.  Hundreds gathered with signs and banners, singing “Say it loud, say it clear: Refugees are welcome here!” to a crowd of weary, worn people who for the last few months haven’t been welcome anywhere.  As they stepped from the train, they were not met with blank stares or words of frustration, but with cheers and applause and a genuine welcome.

Tears couldn’t help but stream from my face, as I’m guessing they did for so many.

 And I couldn’t help but think, “Now that…that is a welcome.”

I’ve written many times about including children in our corporate worship, creating space for youth to serve in our churches, and welcoming the younger generations into our community of faith.  Of all the blogs I’ve written, these topics seem to strike the deepest chord with parents and ministers alike and more often than not, I get the question, “How?”

I’ve always heard this question as more of a “How to?” and have offered suggestions on ways that church can do that.  But, this morning as I watched these German citizens welcome “the least of these” to their country, I heard the question in a new light…because, my friends, that. is. how.

Without reluctance, but with great joy.germanwelcome

Without frustration, but with cheers and applause.

Without hesitation, but with open arms.

Because for all the practical ideas that can be incorporated into a church, if the heart is not one of welcome, then there is no welcome.  A bag of crayons and a paper to color carry little weight if not accompanied by a heart that says, “We want you here.” A bulletin insert or a children’s moment in the service have little meaning if it’s just a concession made or a tradition upheld.  These things, which are good, do not signal welcome and do not create relationship or foster community.

They are just things.

But names beings spoken.  Hugs being given.  Words like, “I’m so glad you are here” and “We need you” and “We are excited that you are worshiping with us today” spoken in the midst of great need to a group of people that are often pushed aside, disregarded, and unwelcome…those are not things; those are open arms and cheers and applause and joy and welcome.

I’m not saying that every time a child or youth walks through our church doors we need to bust out signs and sing songs of welcome (although – wow – wouldn’t that be cool?) but I am saying that our hearts need to be doing that so our actions demonstrate it.

Because of all the places in this whole world that children and youth should feel like they belong, shouldn’t it be the church?  Instead of walking away and saying, “I don’t belong there” as so many millennials have, shouldn’t they know that is where they belong most?

Our welcome should not be our last line of defense against them being a distraction but rather our first line of defense against a world that wants to capture their hearts.

Our place should be THE place they run to knowing our arms are open and our space is theirs.

It should be as if we are welcoming Christ, and indeed the Father, himself into our space.

Or as Jesus put it, “Whoever welcomes a child like this one, welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me, does not welcome Me only, but the One who sent Me.” (Mark 9:37)

Our hearts should leap within us when we see a child coming into a place of worship.  Our arms should open wide to embrace them and incorporate them into who we are.  Church, we should be singing, “Say it loud, Say it clear: Children and Youth are welcome here!”

Because that…that is welcome.


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.

Ignoring Kids is Nothing New

There are two sides to every coin.

Two sides to every story.

Two perspectives on every angle.

When it comes to kids in worship, the arena opens even wider.  There are a variety of opinions and beliefs about what is appropriate when it comes to kids participating in church and growing in corporate faith.

For the last several years, children’s ministers like myself from around the world have been encouraging parents in their role as the primary disciplers of their children as outlined in Duet. 6:4-9 and recognize that the church simply cannot replace them as the faith formers for their kids.

In 1888, H. C. Trumbull, professor at Yale, was calling for much the same thing but from another perspective.

 He observed that families that had neglected “family religion” so much that the incoming classes for Christian universities such as Yale and Harvard boasted only 5 confessing Christians and only 1 person who attended communion service.  His plea was to churches to remember that Duet. 6 was not given to parents and families alone but within the context of community and encouraged churches to give priority to the funding of Sunday School and inclusion of children in their worship so parents would be supported at home.boypeekingoutofpew

His conclusion and mine are the same:

We encourage age-appropriate ministry with intergenerational opportunities.

And we both recognize the challenge that presents.  Specifically for the inclusion of children in corporate worship.

But those challenges need not signal defeat.  The advice that Trumbull and the pastors he cites nearly 130 years ago still stands today and, I believe, if heeded will grow the kingdom of God in ways we can’t even imagine.

On Learning From Children

“When I stand in my pulpit and present, as God gives me ability, the gospel message to adult men and women, I do it in the earnest hope that I may win some of them to Christ. But I see many in my audience to whom this same gospel has been faithfully preached for years. They are, it may be, respectful listeners, kind and generous parishioners, and excellent neighbors and citizens. But they have grown up in unbelief, and have become more and more hardened in their unbelief from year to year. And of these, there are some who sit as undisturbed under the most moving appeals of the gospel, even in times of revival, as an impregnable castle wall, defying all the best aimed missiles.

I go now from my pulpit into my children’s training class. What a change! Every eye glistens with attention and responsive interest. The eager, hungry souls feed on the living bread

On Kids in Worship

Children are indeed expected to attend the church services where preaching is a prominent feature, and where it is even counted a means of grace; but the pulpit preacher does not, ordinarily, recognize, as a corollary of this expectation, his corresponding duty to adapt his preaching to the capacities and needs of his children hearers.

Claiming, to start with, that God’s appointed agency for the winning and training of souls is pulpit preaching rather than Bible-school teaching, and that therefore children ought to attend on that appointed agency, the modern church practically deprives those children who do thus attend, of the chief advantage of that agency, by couching the addresses of the pulpit in language which is to the children an unknown tongue.

Whether looked upon as out of Christ or as in Christ, a child has a stronger claim than an adult on the preaching service of a minister of Christ, when the two are brought into practical comparison. If more ministers would preach to the children of their congregation, more of the grown people would understand their ministers.

On How to Practically Welcome Kids in Worship

“Papa, are you going to say anything to-day that I can understand? ‘ asked a little girl of her father— a Massachusetts pastor — as he was setting out for church on a Sabbath morning. This tender appeal touched the loving father’s heart, and he could not answer his daughter nay; he could not say to his child that she must sit in penance through all the long service with never a word designed for her instruction and cheer.

So, as he preached, he said, ‘And now, children, I will say something to you about this.” At once the face of every child in that audience brightened. Sleepy little ones started up ; tired ones took fresh heart.

Looking first at the minister, then at each other, again back to him, they were all eagerness for his message, as though now there was something else for them than to nod and yawn and ache un-cared for; and although the pastor’s following sentences to them were few and simple, doubtless many felt as did the child who had pleaded for this attention when, on her return at noon, she said contentedly, ‘ Papa, I understood all that you said this morning.’

Dear children! Who wouldn’t do as much as this for them in every sermon? — they are gratified so easily.”

Indeed, who wouldn’t do so much?

I can conclude no differently then Trumbull did so many years ago, “Those who realize the distinctive character of Christianity as the religion of children and of the child-like should realize, also, the truth that the extension, the upbuilding, and the establishing of Christ’s Church, must, in the plan of God, be done chiefly by means of work among and with and for the children.


All quotes in this post came from The Sunday School, its orgins, mission, method, and auxilliaries” written by H.C. Trumbull and available free on Google Books.

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.

One of “Those” Days

Tonight was one of “those” nights.  I’m sure your family has them too.  Nights where you are so tired that even the niceties of normal life seem arduous and exhausting.  As we gathered around the dinner table and began our suppertime ritual, I mustered up the words, “So, everyone, what was your high today?”

I was met with a collective groan.

Yup, that’s right.  A groan.  No matter that mom is a blogger for family ministry.  asleepatdinnerNo matter that discipleship in the home is her favorite battlecry.  No matter that dinners together top her list of important times for Faith Talks and God Moments.  Tonight, even the thought of trying to find those “highs and lows” to spark on conversation felt like a chore.

And so…we didn’t do it.

We didn’t ask the questions.  We didn’t have the conversation.

We didn’t do it “right”.

We actually ended up laughing over some ridiculous thing someone said and discussed how good the grilled chicken was and quibbled over whose turn it was to do the dishes and then went our separate ways with nary an intentional word about God or church or the Bible or any of that important stuff I’m always encouraging you to do.

I’m sharing all this because I want you to know that I am not some parenting-genius extraordinaire.  Far from it.  If you don’t believe me, ask my kids.

As much as I love and celebrate intergenerational worship, yesterday, I left my kids home for our church’s praise and prayer night.

The other day, I definitely did not remember to pray for my kids before sending them off to school because the morning was, well, one of “those” mornings.

Oh, friends, as much as I want to be intentional in my parenting, sometimes I’m more accidental.

Sometimes, life crowds out the best of intentions and I’m left thinking, “Hmm, really missed the mark on that one.”  But I was reminded this week about a few crucial things; things that when I consider the larger scope of life take on a much more significant role than my frequent missteps.

Keeping Christ at the center is important, but letting Him infiltrate everything is life-changing.

I heard at least three sermons this week on keeping Christ at that center.  And I affirm every one of them.  But Christ needs to be more than just the center of our lives and our home; He needs to permeate every space, even the tired, weary, exhausted space.

The reality is, our spirit may be willing when it comes to intentional parenting, but our flesh may be weak sometimes.  But if Christ is in each space, even in the tired moments, his Spirit of peace and rest can be found.  That may mean you forego some things, but it doesn’t mean you neglect Jesus.

Welcoming Jesus into your home, doesn’t necessarily mean He’s welcome in your everyday.

We’ve all heard the story of Mary and Martha.  Martha invites Jesus into her home but is too busy and distracted by so many things, that she doesn’t even spend any time with him. Meanwhile her sister is hanging on His every word, spending time with their guest and learning from His teachings.  Martha gets irritated by this and offhandedly mentions it to Jesus (ahem) and Jesus gently shares with her that Mary has chosen wisely and He won’t take that away from her.

Here’s the difference – Martha invited Jesus into her house; Mary invited Jesus into her life.  We can do the same.  We can “Christianize” our home, monitor our media, prominently display Scriptures and Bibles, and welcome Jesus into our house.

But He wants more.

He wants welcomed into the nitty gritty of the every day. He wants to be there when we are too tired to talk and when we are too sad to laugh.  He wants us to be with Him and He wants to be with us.

It’s more than just welcoming Him to a space.  We need to welcome Him into every area of our life.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Learn from the journey.

Let’s be realistic.  This day, tonight’s “less-than-intentional” dinner conversation and that morning when I forgot to pray and that church service that my kids missed…those things are not going to make-or-break us.  They’re just not. My kids aren’t going to look back and say, “Yeah but that one time you forgot to pray…that was what did me in.”

The journey is a lot longer than a day.

Give yourself some grace and grasp the opportunity tomorrow.

If you read this blog at all, you know I am passionate about parents discipling their kids in the faith and kids learning to worship in the larger community.  And it’s not because I am an expert in the field.  I’m still learning too. It’s because I am convinced that the result of those things done with intention and purpose will leave lasting impressions on our kids of God’s love. 

But I’m also passionate about this: God is bigger than our moments, stronger than our greatest weakness, and more gracious than we could ever deserve…and He loves our kids even more than we do.

So when we have one of “those” nights or “those” mornings or even “those” days, we can lean into Him and know, He’s got this.

Rest in His grace.  And trust in His love.


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.