The Shameful Art of Public Shaming

I’m not sure when public shaming became the new vogue passive-aggressive way to express to others one’s disapproval of who they are, how they act, or what they do but it has. I don’t care if you are scrolling through Facebook, glancing through Twitter, or listening to a PRESIDENTIAL (come on folks…really!?) debate, public shaming is the new “thumbs down” from society.

Reteengirlscently, I saw a picture posted of a few teen girls who were taking selfies in the bleachers at a baseball game, with captions that ranged from “Is this what society has become?” to “Why even bother coming to the game? All you care about is yourself!”  Wide-sweeping judgment of these young ladies, who reminded me of my own daughters, spread like wildfire across the internet, earning them a place of “shame fame” (yes, that’s an actual term nowadays) and the public scorn of the social media world.

Of course, once the whole story came out, it was clear that we had overstepped a bit. In truth, the girls were participating in a selfie challenge hosted by the baseball game to win free tickets. In reality, they were only doing what EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON in the stadium was doing in that moment. And these young ladies showed their huber by using their “shame fame” to raise awareness about domestic abuse and donated their free tickets to a domestic abuse shelter. But that story has received only minimal coverage while the original photo continues to be posted, and judged, and they continue to be publicly shamed.

So what do I mean by “public shaming?”  

To be clear, I’m not referring to sharing with others what personal beliefs about God, your political stances, or your concern for society, in a respectful and thoughtful manner that invites dialogue and further conversation. On the contrary, I think that is exactly what we should be teaching our children. It’s what I hope to accomplish when I blog, when I talk with others about my beliefs, and when I share an article or start a conversation on social media. That’s healthy interaction even if what you are saying is potentially controversial.

I’m talking about something far less inviting and far more harmful.

A photograph of a single moment with a caption loaded with accusation and disapproval of a generation or person with no regard to their entire being.

A meme maliciously making fun of a political party, a group of people, or a way of life with the intention of saying, “Look how wrong/stupid/ridiculous they are and how right/smart/perfect I (and others like me) are.”

Sweeping judgments made about entire societies, classes, races, and peer groups based on single observations or just something another person doesn’t like.

Mean-spirited in nature. Out to prove a point and walk away. Taking the art of bullying to a whole new level.

People’s lives have been ruined because of this; absolutely destroyed because of one mistake, thoughtless misstep, or simply doing something that someone else finds abhorrent or objectionable. And often, later, when the whole story comes out, we find out…oops, we were wrong. What was so self-righteously declared “wrong” was actually “right” or at least not wrong and those lives destroyed on social media, network media, and people media are forever ruined.

You know, Paul had his own public forum. In Acts 17, Paul sat in Athens, in the public square, under the shadow of the Parthenon, temple to the goddess Athena, surrounded by “a city that was full of idols,” in a place where “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest idea.”

I cannot help but see the comparison to our social media platforms today. Is that not our public square, full of idols, where people spend their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest idea?

So we must ask, how does Paul act in this situation? As God’s messenger to the Gentiles, this was exactly the group he had been sent to with the gospel. Surely, he in this situation, he went in guns ablazing right?

Nope, not at all.

Paul was “greatly distressed,” but when he spoke to the people gathered there, he did so with utmost respect and in a conversational tone. He quoted their own authors, referred to their own gods, observed that they were “very religious” and invited them into a longer conversation. When the some in the crowd sneered at him, he didn’t lash out at them, but he left the public forum and continued speaking with those who wanted to hear more. Some of the people there ended up becoming believers; some did not.  Paul moved on to Corinth but left a legacy of Christianity that remains to this day.

Personally, I think we as Christians have a lot to learn from Paul in this instance.

What if we modeled this behavior for our children in the interactions we have in our public forum?

What if we observed people’s desire for “more” in this life and invited them into a conversation about where we have found it, instead of posting an article lambasting them for being wrong or a meme that passes judgement on them from afar?

What if we invited thoughtful discussion instead of public shaming?

And what if, instead of battling things out in 144 characters or less, we took the conversation to a new level of actual discourse and when some sneer, invite the ones who want to know more to continue the conversation in another arena?

I often share that as adults we must realize that everything we do, even the unintentional and accidental things, are teaching our children what are good, right, and normal ways of acting and interacting.

Social media has the potential to be a place of great discipleship for our children, a place where we can teach them respectful and generous ways of living out our faith.

One day, they will be our friends on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram, or join our circle on whatever new frontier of social media awaits. They will have access to all we’ve said, done, and posted.

Let’s be sure that what they see there will teach them to love God and love others.  Public shaming has no place in that way of life. Let’s disciple them well even before they get 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, intergenerational 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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Family Ministry Doesn’t Work

“Here, Mommy, this is for you to use.”

This was one of those conversations where I had been left out of the loop as to what was going on as my son handed me a tissue and a spatula.

“Thanks, buddy,” I replied, “What are these for?”

“For the game!” he answered joyously, boyish anticipation in his eyes as he imagined the next step in our day.

“Hmm,” I said quizzically, “What game?”

His smile quickly disappeared. What did I mean, “What game?”  THE game Mom! THE game that he had come up with in his head and we were going to play together and it was going to be SO. MUCH. FUN!  And all I said as, “What game?”

If you are in children’s, youth, or family planning-620299_1920ministry, there’s a very good chance that you have felt like my son. You spend time in study and prayer in order to best serve God in your ministry setting. You have caught His vision for family ministry, for equipping parents/caregivers as the spiritual leaders in their homes and for creating intergenerational opportunities for children to grow in the faith. You have researched the methods, read all the studies, and realized the goal.

And so you set out…and fall flat.

What went wrong?

You gave parents a really great resource or offered an amazing seminar or created an exciting intergenerational worship experience and in response you got a blank stare, a confused gaze, or an indifferent response.

It seems like after every conference I attend, I get emails and messages 1-3 months later from ministry friends around the country, sometimes the world, saying, “I tried. I really did. But family ministry (or intergen ministry or nextgen ministry) doesn’t work at my church.

My heart goes out to you because I know that sinking feeling. I think at some point in ministry, we all do. But I urge you, don’t give up yet.

Take a step back and consider: Is it possible that you handed your parents a spatula and tissue and told them to play the game?  Could it be that as good as your planning and vision are, the church you serve was never let in on the secret?

In his book Team Up, family minister Phil Bell shares that parents are on information overload, or as he puts it, they live in a world of “promotion dilution.”  This happens when “churches attempt to promote too many events and programs at a given time.”  When we are trying to get everything out in the open, sometimes nothing gets into the heart.  And then, as Phil shares, since “you’re one of thousands of other voices vying for attention and participation of parents,” your message gets lost in the mix. And you end up thinking that family ministry doesn’t work at your church.

(Phil offers some really great practical steps for how to deal with this so go read his book or follow his blog here)

In order for parents to engage intentional discipleship at home, they have to understand the WHY behind it.  They need to know that:

They are called by God to it.
They are the greatest influence in their children’s lives
They are already doing it whether they are intentional about it or not.
They are not alone in their work of discipleship.

And they only way they will know is if you tell them.  Not once, not twice, but over and over and over again. In a myriad of different ways, in a plethora of different platforms; one consistent message creating one specific need. 

In order for the church to engage meaningful intergenerational connections in worship and mentorship, they have to understand the WHY behind it. They need to know that:

They are called by God to it.
They are the greatest influence in young adults choosing to remain in church.
They are already sending messages to kids and youth about belonging.
They are not “lone ranger” Christians but part of a community, a family.

And they only way they will know is if you tell them.  Not once, not twice, but over and over and over again. In a myriad of different ways, in a plethora of different platforms; one consistent message creating one specific need.

“In a world of competing messages, it’s imperative to communicate strategically, simply, and consistently.” – Phil Bell, Team Up

Don’t let the fact that it takes time to turn a ship, deter you from the course.  That vision you’ve received from God is a treasure. The excitement and anticipation you have in your heart about the work God can and will do is the wind in your sails. But there is still a journey ahead; stay the course, turn the ship, and give time for others to catch the vision. Because when they do, your ship will cut through the waters faster than you could have ever made it go on your own.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” Gal. 6:9 ESV


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, intergenerational 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.

Accidental Discipleship: Habits Your Kids Pick Up From You

The other day, my kids and I were sitting at Wendy’s when all of the sudden my oldest sat straight up and said, “We need to pray!”  I know I gave her the strangest look until I heard it. In the distance there were sirens but they were getting closer.  For as long as I can remember, whenever we’ve been driving and I heard sirens or saw an emergency vehicle on the road, I would say, “Kids, hold up, we need to pray!”  On this day, she heard the “call to prayer” before me and instinctively announced that is was time to pray.

dadsonOur kids are watching us, but they are doing more than that; they are
copying us. Like a serious game of “Simon Says” our children are learning from our actions what is normal in life.

For my kids, it is normal to pray when you see an ambulance or fire truck. It’s just what we do.  Recognizing this anew, I realize that my kids have fallen into some other habits of mine too. In fact, if I stop and watch them, I can see myself and my husband in many of their conversations, their actions, their reactions and their routines. Some of these habits are wonderful!  Some of them make me cringe a little bit.

It’s a good reminder that whatever we do, we are teaching and discipling, even if we don’t think we are. If we can find just a few spots to be intentional about creating a healthy, faith-formational habits for our kids to emulate, it can go a long way in establishing some instincts that will, for a lifetime, turn their hearts towards Christ. 

Want some ideas?  I talked with several parents and ministers whose kids I see have some great healthy habits and asked them for some practical thoughts I could pass on to others. Here are three quick ideas that can become habits in and beyond your home.

Pray before Meals

Many people do this anyway although over the past few years I’ve heard more criticism of this practice. Some have told me that it is too “religious” and lacks sincerity so they prefer not to “force their kids” to pray at dinner.  But can I propose this thought?  If you do not treat the prayer as something rote and religious, but you take the time to genuinely stop for a moment and thank God not just for the food you have but also the life and family you’ve been given, your kids will pick that heart behind the prayer up from you.

It’s less about the words and even then action, then the meaning and motivation behind it. Taking a moment to stop, breathe, thank God for his blessings can be done anywhere, but why not before a meal when you are gathered with family and blessed with provision?  And what a great heart habit to pass to your kids right from the start!

Celebrate..often!

One parent told me, “Whenever someone does something well, shows kindness, or has a personal victory, we all stop and cheer for that person.”  Our family calls this our “30 Second Celebration” and we do the “Oh Yeah Dance” as a unit to celebrate with each other.  It’s silly, it’s goofy, and it’s oh-so-important because the habit of affirmation and recognition we are forming means they won’t have to go looking for it somewhere else.

Celebrations bring us back. They connect us to moments that we don’t tend to forget. They provide us a place to point to and say, “That is where I belong.”  Yes, something as simple as congratulating your child for a job well done can create a culture of joy and a habit of encouragement that they will return to throughout life. How awesome would it be if you saw your grown child stop and cheer someone on when they see them doing something well?  Encouragement as a habit? Sounds good to me!

Go to Church

Oh come on now, that’s a given right?  Not so. Today a regular attendee at church is defined by someone who attends church once or twice a month. The number one reason the church attendance is declining in America is because the frequency of attendees is dropping (Source: Thom Ranier). There are a plethora of reasons for this and I’m not going to address those here, but I am going to encourage us to consider this: In Hebrews the author is clear about one habit we shouldn’t pass on to our kids – “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but instead encouraging one another all the more” (Heb. 10:25).

If for some reason you are unable to attend church at the provided times, find some other way to “meet together” with other believers to worship, pray and fellowship so that your children see that it is a habit of yours to spend time growing your faith in community. The Christian walk was never designed to be done alone and modeling that for your kids can give them a solid foundation for their future needs.

John Roberto, editor of Lifelong Faith Journal, shares that “By  normal  processes of  socialization,  and   unless  other  significant  forces  intervene,  more  than  what  parents  might  say they  want as   religious  outcomes  of  their  children,  most  parents likely will  end  up  getting religiously of   their  children  what  they  themselves  are.

On other words…what we as parents DO as believers will speak leaps and bounds more to our kids than what we say. Parents are the greatest influence, the habit formers. Use your power for good.

“Children are great imitators. Give them something great to imitate.”


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.

Back to the Future (and by Future, I mean, Present)

It’s “Back to the Future” day!

backtofuturePictures of Deloreans and hoverboards and clocktowers are filling my Facebook feed. The police officers in Michigan had a good time with it, reporting that they pulled over a silver Delorean for going 88 mph in a 55 mph zone. Lots of people are wondering why we don’t have cars that fly or jackets that shrink or pizzas that rehydrate yet. Some seem legitimately disappointed that these things don’t exist yet; one man said he had waited his whole life since he watched the movie as a kid for this date so he could see all the cool stuff (smh).

Most of us just laugh, recognizing that this kind of imagination is just that…fantasy. For the few whose hopes were unrealistically raised, today is a disappointing day. The future is here…but it looks a lot like the present.

I cannot help but look at my kids and the kids at the church where I serve.  In a very real way, we are providing for them a “Back to the Future” moment each time we teach them, train them, disciple them in their growth as both humans and believers. I’ve heard it said that we are not raising kids; we are raising future adults.  That being said, I wonder what exactly it is we are raising them to.

Every apocalyptic movie I’ve watched over the past decade or two paints a pretty bleak picture of the future.  It’s always either dark and dusty or artificially bright and platinum.  Most people are dead or dying. Disease, war, and pollution have decimated the planet. It’s not a happy place (just check out the 2015 of Back to the Future II).

Not much hope to pass on to the next generation.

Tomorrowland, a movie released by Disney this summer, kinda said the same thing.  Check out this quote by Nix (the villian)

To save civilization, I would show its collapse. How do you think this vision was received? How do you think people responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up like a chocolate eclair! They didn’t fear their demise, they re-packaged it. It could be enjoyed as video-games, as TV shows, books, movies, the entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse and sprinting towards it with gleeful abandon. Meanwhile your earth was crumbling all around you….In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it.

Tomorrowland’s answer was a political and ecological one.  And while I am not opposed to these things, I don’t think it is the only answer.  The reality is that, yes, while bad things are happening, there are also good things, amazing things, miraculous things happening all around us. 

But those things don’t get play on media.  The feel-good movies don’t get the high ratings.  The positive stories don’t get headlines.

They are out there…but buried under piles of negativity.

That means, if we want your kids to see a future that’s not the only future being portrayed by the media and projected to them every single day…we’re gonna have to dig those things out and share them.

We are going to have to show them through our own lives and actions that however seemingly small the action or service is, it can make a difference.  We are going to have to tell them that there is more than one story of the future and assure them that what awaits them doesn’t have to be awful and they have a part to play in that. We are going to need to remind them that they have Jesus and his kingdom doesn’t fade, doesn’t rust, doesn’t end in ruin.  We are going to have to live like that kingdom is available for us “on earth as it is in heaven” as long as we are willing to be a part of it.

And then, when they get to their future, instead of being disappointed or disillusioned, they will simply be living into the reality of the present, being the hands and feet of God in this world, no matter what it looks like, and seeking to welcome God’s kingdom to earth through their very lives.

I’m not talking “pie in the sky” or “head in the sand” theology. I’m talking about the very real fact that God is present, always and forever, and we are never without hope of a better and brighter future because of Him.

This is what I shared a few months back in a blog entitled “Here’s What’s Wrong

But for me, I think I want to change the tone of the conversation.  Instead of starting with the “Here’s what’s wrong” routine, I think I want to start from the “Here’s what’s right” standpoint.  Instead of pointing fingers, I want to extend grace as it has been extended to me.  I want my kids to know what’s right in this world and that all hope is not lost because we serve a God of future and hope. 

Let’s get back to the future…the real future…and give our kids the tools to face whatever may come; good, bad, boring or exciting.  And, if flying cars and rehydrated pizzas are there…well, yay for them!


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.

How We “Broke” The Family

The other day, my husband and I went to a neighbor’s house and one of their electric outlets wasn’t working, a recurring problem with that outlet.  Luke knows a bit about electricity (he’s legitimately certifiable…in a good way) so he grabbed some tools from home and got to work.  Ultimately, he had to trace the problem back to a wire that had become loose and sometimes, but not always, disconnected.  After he re-connected and tightened the wire, ta-da, electricity again!

A recent study released by Search Institute, a research group dedicated to “discovering what kids need to succeed.” suggests that…we’ve got a loose wire in America. Not just a loose one, but in some cases, a completely disconnected one, and unfortunately, the one that has the most power.

The title of their research is “Don’t Forget the Families: The Missing Piece in America’s Effort to Help All Children Succeed” and what it shows is that we have made a big mistake in America – we nixed the family and tried to raise the kids without it.  As they report, “too many institutions and professionals have given up on families, focusing exclusively on the struggles families face and the problems they create. We then put our energy and resources into setting up systems and supports that compensate for the failures we perceive in families.”

So what does that mean?family_cutouts

We tried to “fix” the shortcomings we’ve perceived in families by, well, replacing the family with things like school, and sports, and therapy, and youth programs and … church.

Yes, church.

As a society we collectively decided that “many families are dysfunctional and even hopeless. Changes in family structure and family life have led some observers, advocates, and the public to characterize the state of families today as bad and getting worse.”  The solution? Remove the “power” from the family and replace it with other more stable things.

The problem with that is, we forgot that we are hard-wired to be a part of a family, and no matter how many institutions we create to vie for power in our hearts, our family consistently remains the most influential. 

“In reality, there is little evidence that families have lost their power in the lives of children and youth—even though many families do face major challenges.[A] University of Virginia study found that most parents are quite happy with their own families (Bowman et al., 2012).

A 2010 survey of 2,691 U.S. adults by the Pew Research Center similarly found that 76% said their family is the most important element of their lives, and 75% said they are very satisfied with their family (Taylor, 2010)…

Longitudinal evidence suggests that it is more accurate to describe families as changing, not declining… family influence remained strong… levels of maternal engagement remained strong.

Conclusion? Families still matter greatly, and families can and do tend to perform well those functions that are particularly relevant to the lives of children, even in different social and historical contexts, household arrangements, and living conditions (Bengstan, et al, p. 15).”

What does that mean to us in the Church?

Parents/caregivers are the single most important influence in a child’s life. Period. No amount of programming, support, systems or institutions can change that.  We are hard-wired to exist within families by the very One who wired our system in the first place.

And thus the call to parents to disciple their kids in the faith all through Scripture. Because God knew what researchers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to tell us in a pages-long report on the success of children:

We propose focusing family engagement on reinforcing families’ central role in helping children and youth develop character strengths through which they discover who they are, their power to shape their own development, and why they matter in their families, communities, and world 

In the church, we call that…discipleship.

And it is time we give the power back to the place it belongs. It means we “shift the how of engaging families: from emphasizing the tactical ways families reinforce what happens in schools or programs (or church!) to supporting families in building developmental relationships.

For the last few years, many ministers in the Church have been sharing the theological reasons for a shift towards family ministry or ministry that focuses on equipping the home as the primary place for faith formation.  And in some cases, they have been met with resistance by those, who like the study points out, see the changing face of the family and the imperfections therein and say, “We just can’t turn this important job of teaching kids about God over to parents…what could happen?”

 But now, this study, aimed at the larger society and having nothing to do with faith or religion or church, is saying we must “refocus family engagement for greater reach and impact based on the perspectives, priorities, and strengths of families.”

It is time, Church.  

We need to rewire, reconnect, reengage and refocus on the home. Family, no matter what it looks like or how messy it feels to dive into, is where it is at. The power has always resided there.  The influence has always been strongest there.  The fact is, families were wired that way from the start by the One who said, “Impress these commandments upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road; when you lie down and when you rise.”

It’s time to fix the disconnect and turn our attention, our energy, our desire to see children follow Christ towards the home and equip the leaders there to do what they are wired to do…go and make disciples at home.


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.

“Church” Is Not “Christian”

It’s not enough.  It simply isn’t. It never was.

God never intended for our life of faith to be relegated to a special building at a certain time on a recurring day. He never once commanded us to “Stay and make friends.”  The explicit command was to “Go and make disciples.”

churchpeopleAnd yet, it seems like for many, the defining characteristic that sets them apart as Christian, whether to themselves or the world around them, is that they go to church.  Don’t get me wrong; I am not against church.  On the contrary I feel that the gathering together of believers is essential to a growing faith.  However, I do not think it should be what characterizes one as being Christian, as though attendance alone is indicative of what being a follower of Christ is.

When church attendance is what we equate with Christian discipleship, we run a few risks.

First, it becomes very easy to compartmentalize our faith, to treat it as something we check off the list like grocery shopping or soccer practice, instead of a transformational lifelong process that grows the love of Christ in us.

Second, it can be deceptive to those who are learning from us what Christianity truly is, like for instance, our children.

Third, it signals to the world that it is perfectly fine to restrict Jesus to a specified place and not bring it into the public arena.

Finally, it creates a defeatist atmosphere where if our kids leave “church” we say they’ve walked away from “the faith” as though the two are one; a disheartening prospect both for the one who is leaving church (because now they are faithless) and for the one watching them leave (because now they are hopeless).

And I just have to believe we can do better than this, Church.

I have to believe that our kids deserve to see a faith that is much more intimate, much more vibrant, much more alive than church attendance on Sunday morning.  Because, truly it’s not enough.

Our kids need us.  They need us (parents, ministers, other adults) to live out their faith in front of them every. single. day.  They need us to pray with strangers, love the unloveable, serve the family of God, talk about Jesus in the car, sing to God at home, read the Bible in our beds, thank God for His blessings in the public and private places…they need us to be Christians, to do the “Jesus thing” all the time, not when we are in the appropriate locale.

And our kids need to do it.  They need to physically touch their faith. To hold it in their hands and use it. The New York Times recently ran an article that talked about how important it was for families and children to do “hard work” together. The author said,

“It’s easy to get caught up in moving all the individuals in our family around like pieces on a game board and forget that there is more to our lives together than finding a way to get everyone suitably fed and attired and delivered to the right place at the right time. When we work together on jobs that matter to the adults or to the family, (as opposed to jobs that are primarily focused on children and their needs) children see that they are a valuable part of something bigger than they are, and parents can see that their children can and want to contribute to that.

Now consider this:

When Fuller Institute surveyed 500 youth group graduates about what they wished they’d had more of in youth group, guess what showed up 2nd and 3rd on the list (after “more time for deep conversations”) – Mission trips and Service projects. 

Research done by Diane Garland suggests there is great power in “family members serving together instead of separately” in attaching kids to their faith.

One major conclusion made by the Sticky Faith team is that “service is more likely to stick when it’s not an event but a process.”

(Source: The Sticky Faith Guide for your family by Dr. Kara Powell). 

Not an event. Not alone. Not an afterthought.

Linking faith to service, to doing, to going has to be more than a missions trip, a one-time thing, a moment. It needs to be…well, it needs to be how we live our lives.  Not that every day we will do a service project as a family or go on a missions trip with our child…but every day we need to incorporate action into our faith in ways that show our children that while church is important, it is never enough – simply attending a meeting is not what makes us Christian.

We are Christians because we follow Christ.  And where did Christ go?  Out, to seek and save the lost. He washed feet, hugged children, ate meals, took boat rides, walked a lot, and he also went to the temple…but he was always “in church.”  We are his body, alive by the Holy Spirit…that’s what makes us Christian.

Let’s go be that church
and let’s make sure our kids are right beside us.

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.

Practical Discipleship Before They Are #Being13

“I don’t like dealing with things face to face because its really easy to hide behind your phone but face to face, like, you have to deal with the other person.”

“A lot of people follow me that I don’t know. There’s actually a lot of people who I have no idea who they are but I let them follow me because the more the merrier.”

“I would rather not eat for a week than have my phone taken away”

If you’ve read the study or the article by CNN entitled “#Being13” you know that these are quotes from teenagers that participated in a study conducted to discover social media trends of young teens. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a look, especially if you have children in your home or church (fair warning: there’s language in the full study). Shortly after the release of the study, a follow up blog “5 Takeaways on CNN’s Study of 13 year olds” was written to help parents make sense of all the information.

After you’ve read CNN’s article (and you’re sufficiently shaken), go read the follow-up so you can calm down…and then come back here for some practical tips while your kids are still kids.girl-908168_1280

Okay… are you ready?  Sure? Take a deep breath and let’s go…

Moms, Dads, Ministers… you cannot fight changing culture.

More than likely those elementary kids you love on today will be living into this reality in the near future.  Toddler’s intelligible babble will be tomorrow’s emoticons.  The change to a digital society stops for no man..or parent..or child.  It’s happening.

BUT

Moms, Dads, Ministers…you CAN fight for unchanging truth.

You can give your kids the unchanging foundation of Christ to build on no matter what come into their life in the future. No matter what screen they end up behind, no matter what digital relationships they find themselves in.  Even now, when they are very young, you can give them the tools, the gifts, the foundation they need to enter this digital world and not lose themselves.

Here’s a few practical ways you can do just that.

Help your kids create face-to-face relationships with real people.

That might sounds pretty basic, but the results of this study shows that it is not.  Encourage healthy friendships by welcoming your kid’s friends into your home and life.  Be aware of who they are hanging around with at school and preschool even when they are young. Host the playdates. Get to know the other parents.

In addition to children, help your kids find healthy relationships with other trusted adults in the church. Sticky Faith recommends a ratio of 5 adults/child in order to build a “sticky web” of relationships. Make face-to-face relationships a priority in your home.

Teach your kids how to have a conversation.

Remember when your “baby” said his/her first word and you just couldn’t believe he/she was talking?  Talking and conversing are not the same, and social media is a great place for talking but a terrible place for conversation.  Words are often blurted out without adequate thought given to the person on the other end of the screen.  But a conversation, when you are engaged with another person emotionally and intimately, takes awareness of the other person and thought given to the words you speak.

Take your kids out on dates and have conversations. Ask questions, listen for answers, participate in the dance that is dialogue. (Hint: Cheesecake Factory does awesome dates for parents with kids and even gives you conversation starters at the table! Chick-Fil-A regularly does date nights for parents and kids as well).

Disciple them through your own social media.

As your children grow and as it is appropriate, let them sit with you as you scroll through Facebook or look at pictures on Instagram.  The truth is, not everything about social media is bad. Let them see that.  But the truth also is that there are things that aren’t great. Walk them through that too.

Explain that sometimes images pop up that aren’t godly, words are said that aren’t holy, and lives are flattened to a screen view that doesn’t reflect reality. Point them to truth in all things. (Jon Acuff has some amazing blogs at www.parentcue.org on social media; they are worth your time to read, trust me!).

Be brutally honest about your own social media habits.

Listen, I am in no way anti-social media.  I accept that it has become a major cultural trend and something I need to be involved in and aware of as my children grow. But at some point, we (and I’m talking to me here!) can cross a line where social media can begin to define us and how we process life.  We need to ask ourselves the hard questions. If the thoughts of the 13 year olds above sounded familiar to us because we’ve thought them, we need to consider what we are teaching our kids about the importance of social media in our lives.

Do you want to know the coolest thing that the study found?  I mean, the absolute best thing about the whole study.  Something that needs said over and over again until we believe it, we know it, we accept it, and we live into it…

Parents, you are the single greatest influence in your child’s life.

Period. End of story. You.

What the study actually showed was “parents that tried to keep a close eye on their child’s social media accounts had a profound effect on their child’s psychological well-being. Parent monitoring effectively erased the negative effects of online conflicts.

Effectively erased the negative effects.”

Parents did that.  Just by being involved.  Just by being active.  Just by being..the parent.

Don’t let fear frame how you approach social media with your kids.  Let the wisdom from heaven that is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17); let that wisdom guide you.  #Being13 can be an incredible time of growth for the kids you love and God has given us all we need to get them ready for it by His grace and 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.

Your Kids are Smarter than You

Have you guys seen Brain Games on Netflix yet?  My kids are so into it. They love playing the games and trying to figure out the answers.  And, as so often demonstrated on the show, usually Caleb, age 4, beats us all.  He figures out the pictorial teasers faster than any of us. On the show, they explain this phenomenon in a number of different scenarios but it really comes down to this: Kid’s brains don’t know their boundaries yet so they are free to think “outside the lines” and experience unlimited possibilities.

On one show in particular, they showed a group of adults a nondescript picture of circles and sticks.  When asked what it was a picture of, adults could come up with one or two things (three at the most) that it could be.

Kids?  Oh my goodness, they didn’t stop.  Their interpretations of the picture went on and on and on, and some of their ideas of what it could be were downright hilarious.  My favorite was that it was popcorn with chopsticks for picking it up.  An adult would never think of this because… we don’t eat popcorn with chopsticks. But a child? A child doesn’t know that “rule” so they can imagine freely.

So what in the world does this have to do with all the stuff I blog about?  Things like intentional discipleship at home and kids participating in church and intergenerational relationships and meaningful mentorship.

child-109157_1280In short…everything. It. is. everything.

It is why we need children interacting with us.

It is why we must point our kids to Jesus.

It is the very foundation of why Jesus tells us, adults, that we need to have childlike faith.

Kids don’t have to “be taught” faith. It comes naturally to them. Because their minds aren’t bound by natural laws or societal norms, they are able to believe just about anything.

And don’t think for a second that advertisers and educators don’t know that.  Just look at commercials, books, toys, and shows targeted to children.  They invite them into imagination and integration.  They encourage interaction so that the fantasy of play and television are incorporated seamlessly into their reality.  And any messages they want to attach to that interaction is also embraced.

But we have an incredible part to play in this time of growth.  We have the chance to introduce them to the ultimate reality, beyond even their imagination, and give the Creator of all a name for them to call on… the name of Jesus.

Scottie May, professor at Wheaton, once shared with a class I was in that “We don’t need to teach children who God is, we just need to give a name to the one they already know exists.”  Children “see” beyond this world because their brain doesn’t restrict them to their senses.

As Dr. May went on to share, “Children don’t need taught that there is a God.  They know that innately.  What they need taught is that there isn’t one and that is what the world is about doing.” (For more on kids innately believing in God, click here)

Is it any wonder then that by the age of 9, a child’s basic moral foundation is in place? And by age 12, a lasting determination about the personal significance of Christ’s death and resurrection has been determined? (SOURCE: Barna.org)  The childhood years are where fantasy and imagination become their lasting reality.

Children don’t question God’s ability to heal.  They expect it. They don’t wonder if God is big enough to do what needs done.  They know He is. They don’t think God is distant and removed. They hear Him whisper in their sleep, they see Him in the clouds, they join Him in music and experience Him in laughter.  They feel Him in your embrace and know Him through your worship.

When we disciple our young kids and give a name to the mystery they know in their hearts exist, we have the unique chance to learn from them.

Watch a child dance in abandon! What can we learn about a God that dances over us?

Watch a child pray with pure trust. What can we learn about faith in our Father?

Watch a child comfort a sad friend. What can we learn about the Comforter that Jesus sent to us?

Oh, to have faith like a child.  Oh, to nurture that faith in our children.  To give them the place to put their faith so it can grow, no matter how much their brain changes and limits their imagination.  

It’s why we need them. It’s why they need us.  God knew what He was doing when He created family and church as community.

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ. What does this mean? It means, first, that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ. It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time and united for eternity

-Detrich Bonhoeffer, 1954, Living Together


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.

#IAmAChristian

IamchristianIn the aftermath of the tragedy in Oregon, as it became widely known that people were shot and killed because they professed faith in Jesus Christ and proclaimed themselves to be Christians, the hashtag #IamAChristian began flooding social media.

Presidential candidates held up signs.  Celebrities hashtagged their posts. Lots of tweets challenging people to consider what they would say if they were asked to stand up for their faith or be killed.

And then I read this in my Facebook feed:

“U can tweet ‪#‎IAmAChristian‬ & say you’d sacrifice your life for The One who gave Himself for U, but what about your everyday life Sun. Mon…”

Ouch right?

And more to the point…he’s right.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the hashtag, but when it comes to being a Christian in our everyday life and discipling our kids as to what that means, we need to be careful we don’t try to hashtag our life.

While I am ever so amazed at those people who were willing to acknowledge themselves as Christ-followers in the face of imminent death and I would like to think that in the same situation, I too would say, “Yes, I am a Christian” it’s important that also take a more significant look at our lives in the everyday moments of life and ask, “Am I a Christian right here, right now?”

When the guys cuts us off in traffic and our kids are in the back seat?

When the bills are mounting and the paychecks are dwindling and the job’s uncertain?

When the kids are fighting and the baby is crying and the teenager is rolling his eyes?

When your spouse is late and dinner is cold and you’re tired or hangry or both?

When your Bible sits unopened, your prayers have grown cold, and your worship has become rote and routine?

Discipleship doesn’t happen in the crisis moments.  The results of discipleship are manifest then.

Discipleship happens in the everyday moments of ordinary life.

Those seemingly insignificant times where stuff happens and our children watch to see how we respond and where we turn for help and grace. As days turn to weeks and weeks to turn to years, our consistent behavior of following Christ will speak louder than any hashtag ever trending on Facebook.

It’s truly not about doing more “stuff.”  It’s not about “being more Christian” or joining more “church” activities or adding “holy” programs to our life. It’s about inviting and welcoming Jesus into every moment of our day, into each instance of our life, and showing by our everyday example what it means to live #IamAChristian. 

I cannot help but think that the parents and churches of those students who gave their lives for their faith must have done that.  Probably not perfectly, because none of us are perfect, but probably enough to show those few that it was worth the price they’d eventually pay.

And I can think of no better way to honor them than, by God’s infinite grace, living lives that each and every day proclaim without shame or fear that we are Christians; that we follow Christ.


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.