Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

As the New Year begins to glow on the horizon, I cannot help but become quite reflective. I’m not big into making resolutions or setting goals for the upcoming year, but each year I find myself searching my heart and asking God for His direction for the upcoming year. And each year, He whispers something to my heart for me to hold onto throughout the year to come.

This year, the whisper came at church on Sunday, in the form of a Scripture, that I know will soon hold deep meanings of grace for me all year. The verse was Isaiah 30:12 which states, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” This promise means a lot to me as this year will be a year of seeking direction and asking for guidance as my husband and I grow closer to graduating from seminary and our family goes into full-time ministry.

As I’ve gone through this week, I’ve prayed that when the voice behind us comes, we will hear it; that our ears will be attuned to hearing it no matter when or how it comes our way.

oldyoungholdhandsAnd to that end, I can’t help but consider the traditional New Year’s song Auld Lang Syne. The lyrics ask, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” I’ve always found this an unusual question to be asking at the dawn of a new year, and yet, it is the one that tends to be considered.

People are often desperate for a new start. Whether the year they leave behind is full of joy or sorrow, it seems like everyone grasps onto this new year with a sense of hope and expectation. Goals are set. Resolutions are made. Hopes are verbalized. Statements like, “This year I will..” or “It’s not going to be like last year.”

And sometimes in the middle of grasping for something new, we cast aside the old or question if those things should “be forgot.”  

But we all know that the reality is, for most, those goals, resolutions and hopes lose steam after a few weeks or months and whatever sense of newness and starting over we might feel tends to grow into the everyday living that defines our life. And often, the old things, the ones we questioned or cast aside, become the very things that give us direction, insight, and understanding into our daily living.

I notice this often when it comes to the church. As churches, ministers and believers, we never want to stop growing, to embrace the new things God is doing and to continue moving forward with Him. But I’ve seen us, in our embrace of the future, forget the importance of the past.

We segregated our ages, so that old and young rarely interact.

We segregate our services, so that contemporary and traditional rarely worship together.

We segregate our friendships and relationships, so that we are often surrounded by those who share our common experiences but not those who have more or less experience to teach us or motivate us.

Should old acquaintance be forgot?  I really don’t think they should.

oldfriends

I think they should be cultivated. I think we should intentionally reach out to those older than us and develop relationships that can help both of us learn together.

As parents, I think it is important that we help our children develop relationships with adults who will encourage, mentor and join us in discipling our kids in the faith.

As ministers, I think it’s important that we do all we can to help generations come together in worship and experience congregational life together. To, in a sense, “take of cup of kindness yet” and live and experience everyday life in community and in Christ.

Going back to my own whisper from God about hearing a voice giving direction for our future, I would not be surprised if that voice in part comes from some “old acquaintances,” men and women of faith that have known us a long time and/or known Christ a long time who can speak truth and wisdom into our lives. By no means do I want to forget them! Rather I want to embrace them, to grow with them, and to cultivate a relationship with them that allows God to speak His truth and guidance into ours.

I’ve seen a meme going around social media that says, “God didn’t say to follow other Christians; He said to follow Him.”  And while this may be true on the surface, God didn’t stop there. He called us to community. He commanded the old to teach the young. He told the parents to disciple the children. He called a community not individuals. Paul even said to follow him as he followed Christ.

This year, no matter what goals you have, personally, ministerially, or relationally, don’t forget the old acquaintances God has put in your path. In fact, perhaps the new thing could be cultivating the old thing, helping the young to grow with the old and finding ways to build bridges instead of walls. There is much to be learned from those who have gone before us, both in our lifetime and in many years past. Much to be gained from reading their stories, listening to their hearts, and gleaning from their experiences.

For Auld Lang Syne.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Advertisements

Top Five: Year in Review

Friends, what a blessing it has been to share this past year with you. Your encouragement, excitement and support has been a blessing to me as I’ve had the opportunity to share my heart with all of you regarding children, families and the body of Christ.

This year over 150,000 new people visited this blog and shared its posts. Many of you wrote to me and shared testimonies and prayer concerns and amazing resources. Several of you called me, emailed me, or chatted with me about various experiences in your homes and churches. I have been immeasurably blessed to join you in your ministry journey. 

Here are the top 5 blog posts of 2015.

kid-churchTOP POSTMy Kid Doesn’t “Get” Anything Out of Church – This post went viral with over 13,000 shares in the first two days. A number of media outlets picked it up and many of you, parents and ministers, wrote to me afterwards with your own stories.

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

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

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

ChurchandkidThe follow-up to this post, Do Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids into Worship was the second most read and shared blog. This post offers some thoughts on the heart of welcome and a culture of inclusiveness churches can foster for all ages as well as practical ideas to reach children in the larger church context.

In keeping with this same heart, the third most popular blog was It’s Not Fair to Make Kids go to Church which addresses the legitimate concern that church isn’t fair. “It’s not fair to adults who want to listen and participate without distraction.  It’s not fair for parents to have to have their kids sit with them in worship. It’s not fair for the kids to have to sit through something boring and not geared for them.  It’s not fair to the pastor to have to hear kids talking, babies crying, and tween whispering.  It’s not fair to anyone.”  These feelings are understandable but as this post shares, it may not necessarily be God’s heart.

Church is Boring – Have you ever heard these words shared on a Sunday morning?  If so, here’s some thoughts on how to approach the topic of boredom in church.

boredkidA lot of underlying assumptions about why we go to church and what church is supposed to look like and how kids are wired and all that stuff, but I’m just going to tell you my simple reason for why I want my kids participating in worship. Because they are members of the body of Christ.

The last of the top five, Quit Kicking Jesus out of Worship, addresses Jesus’ statement that welcoming a child is welcoming Him and not only Him but the One who sent him. At D6 Family Ministry Conference, Rob Reinow posed a similar question, “What would we do with our kids if Jesus came to Church?”  Each of these posts encourage us to consider if we are providing space for Christ’s heart towards children to be experienced in our corporate worship settings.

As we get ready to enter into 2016, I am excited about how God is moving in churches, children, and families across America.

I’m blessed to be a part of that story with all of you.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

 

Peace on Earth

My favorite Christmas carol of all time was written by a broken man. He had experienced the worst of what this world has to offer. The horrors of war, the pain of seeing families torn apart, and a country divided. His journal read “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays” and “Better to leave these days wrapped in silence.  His hope was lost, his heart was cold.

And in the midst of that heartache, he began to write a poem, a poem that would eventually be set to music and shared for generations to come; a poem that reminds us that there is more to this world than we can see and we serve a God “who is not dead, nor does He sleep.”  The poem goes like this:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

advent-551793_1920Perhaps this past year, you’ve seen some horrors, you’ve experienced
some heartache, you’ve lost some hope. Perhaps the disappointments outweigh the victories and your sorrow outweighs your joy. Take heart from the truth shared here.

Perhaps you’ve had a good year. You’ve seen God’s hope and joy, you’ve experienced joy and celebration.  You have seen the wrong fail and the right prevail. If so, be the voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good will to men.

If you are like me, you’ve seen both this year.

There’s been days of great joy, moments of deep loss; you’ve cried for our world and rejoiced in kindness shown to others.

We are in the midst of a story being played out in the world around us, a story that finds its center in the event we will celebrate at Christmas – the birth of our Savior, of Love Incarnate, the Prince of Peace.

And the story continues in us. But never forget this truth, God is not dead nor does He sleep. He is Immanuel, God with us. As we minister to the church, as we disciple our children, as we share our hope with all who ask for the reason for our joy, we join the story and continue to be the Love of God reaching into the world.

May your Christmas be blessed, rich and full of love.

More than likely, things won’t go according to plan, kids will be kids, and life will be life. But I hope in the middle of whatever happens, your heart will find rest in the Wonder of Christmas and your soul will find peace on earth.

Merry Christmas friends!


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Why I Don’t Like Church Christmas Programs

Is there anything cuter than kids in a Christmas play?  I mean seriously, don’t we just love seeing the kids sharing their songs, saying their lines, quoting their Bible verses and wearing all the Christmassy things?  And, of course, there’s always that “one” kid who unwittingly steals the show with their over-enthusiastic lines or their under-enthusiastic singing.  Or the one who is just a little bit off on the motions or the one who is pretending to conduct in the back row.  I mean, who doesn’t like seeing kids perform in church?

Me.

What?!?  I’m a children’s pastor. Isn’t that against the rules?

You guys, bear with me but, yeah, I usually don’t like them very much at all. I love that the kids talk about Jesus. I do think that they are beyond adorable and I want to hug every single one. But what I don’t like are the many implications that often come with it; things that go unsaid, but speak volumes to children and adults about the place of children in “big church.”

Four Reasons I Don’t Like Christmas Programs

  1. They define the role of Children in Worship – They are performers. They are cute. Everyone likes to “see” them. Everyone wants them on stage.  But children are much more than that. They are active, vital, necessary members of the body of Christ. If they are only invited into worship to “perform” guess what worship/church becomes for them?  A performance. And when they get tired of performing or they aren’t cute anymore, they move on to bigger and better things.
  2. They define the role of the Children’s Pastor – Many or most who work in Children’s ministry, rarely spend much time in “big church.”  The role is unseen; serving downstairs or upstairs making sure children are loved, rooms are covered, volunteers are appreciated, parents are affirmed, janitors are appeased, visitors are welcomed, and families are encouraged. But the only time a children’s minister is seen in church is when he/she bring the children up to put on a show. It creates a very limited view of who children’s ministers are.
  3. They define the role of the Congregation – When the children perform, all the feelings are there! The kids are sweet and cute and the church loves to see them in church. But it is a passive reception; the kids give, the church receives. There are no active, ongoing relationships. Many don’t even know the children’s names. They are the “girl in the red dress that sang so loud” and the “boy in the tie who sat on the steps.”  It creates an environment of “us” and “them” and when the performance is over, everyone returns to their posts.
  4. They define who is and who is not “the Church” – This is the same reason I despise the term “big church.”  There isn’t a big church and little church in God’s kingdom. There’s just church.  We, all of us, old, young and in-between, are all members of God’s body, part of the Church, His Bride. We affirm this at baptism or dedication. The whole congregations commits to being one body. And then, we go our separate ways, big and little, for the year, until it’s time to perform again.

christmaschurchI know that not every church is like this.

Please know that I realize that for some churches the program is more than a performance. For those churches, the children are involved in church all year long as participants and not just performers and the Christmas program is an extension of a greater story. I am beyond blessed to serve in a church like this.

But many of the reports I hear from Christmas programs across the board can be summed up like this, “All year we are invisible, but today…Today we shine.”  And that makes me sad.

What can be done?

Well, for one, we can start making the children part of the larger corporate worship more frequently, giving them a name and voice and relationships rather than just being cute and adorable.

Create space for adults to interact with children on level ground rather than as active performer and passive recipient.

Define roles differently – children as saints of God and adults as children of God; the children’s director as pastor and shepherd of God’s flock not keeper of kids; the congregation as a family of all generations not a division of age groups and ministries.

Christmas programs are in and of themselves not the issue.

I mean, let’s face it, they are part of the regular church experience and, come on, the kids are really cute!

But if that’s all they are, if that is the only time they are seen and the only role they fill, then Christmas programs are the issue. If that’s the only time the children’s minister is a part of corporate worship, it’s an issue. If a culture of “us” and “them” is perpetuated or if children are guests in the service rather than family at the table, then it’s an issue.

Christmas is a time we celebrate Love coming to earth…as a child. Our programming, no matter how cute or adorable it is, should be a continuation of that story through the community and family that is the church.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Who are America’s Parents?

On December 17, Pew Research Center released their newest study regarding parenting in America; the good, the bad, and the rest. Their research 1,807 US parents with children younger than 18, representing a wide swath of social, economic, racial, and religious demographics.

Here’s some the highlights that stood out to me:

Finances are a huge indicator of how safe a parent feels their child is and their confidence of a positive and successful future for their children. Those with lower-incomes (less than $30,000) tended to rate their neighborhood, schools, and community as “fair” or “poor” and they worry about such things as violence, kidnapping and teenage pregnancy far more than those of higher incomes ($75,000+). (Source)

Parental marital status was also dramatically affected by income levels. While the number of children living with married parents has decreased overall, the greatest percentage are found in the higher-income bracket. Lower income families tend to have more single parents or co-habitating but not married parents in the home. (Source)

American children – including preschoolers – participate in a variety of extracurricular activities. At least half of parents with school-age children say their kids have played sports (73%), participated in religious instruction or youth groups (60%), taken lessons in music, dance or art (54%) or done volunteer work (53%) after school or on the weekends in the 12 months preceding the survey (Source).

Overall, most parents feel like they are doing a good job raising their children, across all genders and socio-economic groups. Millennials rated themselves the highest and moms were more confident than dads. Moms also tended to have a larger network of support and were willing to look for help in a variety of sources (friends, websites, social media sites) than men were. (Source)shadowparent

So, what implications do these things have for those of us serving in ministry?  Dr. Catherine Stonehouse, renowned children’s ministry author and researcher states, “The spiritual formation of children should begin with the spiritual formation of their parents…given the brokenness of our society this is absolutely crucial.”  Therefore, understanding the parents we serve is vitally important to our ministry.

  1. Parents are worried  – The list of concerns varied in intensity depending on socio-economic status, but the worries were there all the same. One common concern across the board was that their child would experience bullying and/or struggle with depression or anxiety.

What can we do?  Practically, we can ensure that our ministry areas are safe by creating environments where volunteers are screened and trained, protocols are in place to ensure proper check-in and check-out, and make sure classrooms are visible and adequately staffed. As ministers, ask parents how you can be praying for their kids and what concerns them. Put the focus back on Christ and help them to “cast all their anxiety” on Him.

2. Families don’t fit molds – I’ve shared before that the idea of “family” has become fluid in our society, in some cases referring to people who aren’t even related to one another. Notice the increased number of cohabitating parents in the survey and this study didn’t even look at others who serve as caregivers such as grandparents, other relatives and even close family friends.

What can we do? Practically, we need to make sure that we know the make-up of the families in our church and community and structure our ministry accordingly. If we are hosting events that only reach one demographic of “family” we may be failing to minister to those outside of that mold. From a spiritual standpoint, we still need to realize that the home is the primary place for faith formation and do our best to equip, support and train the leaders of that space.

3. Everyone is Busy – Parents are busy, kids are busy, preschoolers are busy!  For those of us in ministry, it comes as no surprise that our families have many competing demands on their time. The good news is that after sports, religious activities come in as the second most popular “extracurricular.”

What can we do?  Drop out of the competition, and by that I mean, don’t add more “noise” to the crazy busy lives. Meet families where they are. Provide more than one avenue for involvement in the church. Pray over kids and families who play sports and send them out as the light in this world. Give them tools to use at home or in the car, at bedtime or in the morning (Duet. 6 moments) and offer more than one way to be involved in faith formation at church and home. Some families may be able to do it all; some may choose one or two activities. The goal isn’t to win their time; the goal is to help them experience Jesus in the everyday, not by doing more but by inviting him into every moment.

4. Community is desired – Even though most parents thought they were doing a good job, they still sought out a community to learn from and to experience life with. A community is more than a weekly check-in at a church service. A community does life together. There are good times and there are not so good times but regardless, they are together.

What can we do?  Foster community within your ministry. Encourage interactions between your families and the larger church body. Be intentionally intergenerational. Go out of your way to introduce people to each other, to encourage friendships, to establish mentorship. Make sure people know each other and make sure that when they are not there, they are missed.  Create a space that is safe and welcoming but also authentic and real by creating a space where life is done together.

I encourage you to take some time and read the full report. It really does give a great deal of insight into the families, parents and children we are serving. I’d love to hear what stood out to you and how that can help us be more effective ministers to the body of Christ and the communities we serve by commenting below.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Let a Child Lead You

“The first testimony of Christ in this world came from an unborn child.”

When I read this the other day, it stopped me dead in my tracks for a moment. Think about that for just a second. Consider this miraculous story:

A barren woman is pregnant. This shouldn’t be. And yet she is. This woman, the wife of a priest, is beyond childbearing years and yet she is in her sixth month of pregnancy.

A virgin is pregnant. This shouldn’t be. And yet she is. This woman, daughter of a common man, has not yet reached childbearing years and yet she is in her first trimester.

The first woman’s husband cannot speak. The second woman’s betrothed cannot cope. Both, in their own way, are alone. Both, in their own way, need to hear from God that they are not alone.

He had sent angels, but the angels are silent.

He had sent signs, but the signs are silence as well.

But, as God so often does, He used a child. And not just any child, an unborn child, still in his mother’s womb, still forming but not yet fully formed, still hidden and not yet fully known.

A kick, a leap, a jump for joy as this unborn child beheld the other, his Savior, his Lord. The first mother instantly understood the testimony, instantly knew the truth and instantly proclaimed aloud, “You are blessed, mother of my Lord.” The second mother instantly felt relief, seeing her pregnant cousin, hearing the confirmation, knowing that God with us was within her.

A little child will lead them. 

Ah Church, never underestimate what your children have to bring you. Never underestimate their testimony of truth. Even in the womb, they can see things that you and I cannot. Their pure and simple faith bring to us great joy, if we will lend an ear and give them a voice.

The other day my husband texted me this message as told to him by our son: Four-year-old Christology – Jesus is Lord. First, he was a superhero, then he was a baby.

First, he was a superhero, God Almighty, the Great I Am. Then he was a baby, a fragile man, a little lower than the angels.

A little child will lead them. 

He could have come fully grown. He came as a child.

He could have come as a man among men. He came as a helpless babe.

He could have been strong and mighty…a superhero. He came as a baby.

And when he was grown, he welcomed the young, the helpless, the children into his presence with open arms and with great joy.

Listen to the children as they speak to you of Christ. Let their faith fuel yours. Let their leaps of joy confirm to you that indeed, Christ has come into the world. Let the contentment they experience as you hold them in your arms be the contentment you feel as you are held in His.

This Christmas, let a little child lead you, right into the loving arms of Immanuel, God with us, Superhero wrapped in swaddling clothes.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Get Ready! The Kids Are Coming!

I wrote this a while back, but it really ministered to me this week as I reflected on our Christmas program last Sunday. Many churches are inviting the children into their services this month for Christmas. Take a few moments and “feel” the room when they are there. Yes, it is wiggly, squirmy, and chattery…but it is also very much alive

It was 2:30 pm.  I had about 30 minutes to get a walk in before the kids got home from school.  The sky was blue, the air was crisp, the sun was shining and I joyfully headed out the door.  The neighborhood was quiet.  You could hear hammers in the distance working on the church that is renovating on the next hill.  Birds were chirping, cars were still, and Kalas Village (my neighborhood) looked dormant like it was experiencing a lazy afternoon nap.

As I returned from my walk at 3:00 pm all I could think was, “Get ready Kalas.  The busses are coming!”runningkids

Ten minutes later, it looked like a switch got turned on.  The quiet streets were suddenly alive.  Chirping birds were replaced by shouting, laughing, chattering children running, jumping, and skipping down the street. Doors of houses flew open, backpacks were deposited, snacks consumed, homework done… well, maybe… and the kids were back out again.

Within the next 30 minutes the playground at the Community House swelled with moving bodies.  A game of softball, a game of 4 Square and a bunch of kids jumping rope took over the asphalt slabs where one day hopefully tennis courts and a basketball court will stand.  Young kiddos played closer to home on bikes, trikes, scooters, and strollers.  The Village had indeed awakened.  Life was evident.

The family minister in me could not help but wonder…

Is this what happened to the church when we removed the kids from the midst of the congregation?  When we, with all good intention, moved them and their energy and their laughter and their tears to more appropriate locations that better suited their age and needs?

Is it possible that we unintentionally put the church to sleep?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that every church that has Sunday school or Kids Church is asleep.  I happen to be a big believer in KidMin and in youth ministry.  What I am saying is that maybe, just maybe, we’ve taken it a little too far.

Because let’s be honest, don’t we love to see children praying at the altar?

Aren’t we blessed when they share in communion?

Or we hear that enthusiastic albeit quite loud “Amen!” at the end of the pastor’s prayer?

Kids are loud.  They are full of energy.  They laugh at inappropriate times.  What they call a whisper is a few decibels under what we call an explosion.  They run when they should walk.  They fidget when they should sit still.  They ask questions and sing loudly (off key) and cry for no reason at all.

“Then Jesus put a little child among them.  Taking the child in His arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me, welcomes not only Me, but also my Father who sent me.”

It does beg the question, have we welcomed Christ and the Father in this way into our churches, into our services and into our sacred spaces?  I’m pretty sure kids in Jesus’ day acted a lot like, well, kids.  And yet, He tells us that if we welcome these messy, loud, and often sticky kids on his behalf, or as other translations say, in His name, it is just like welcoming Him and welcoming the Father.

It was lovely to walk in the quiet of the day.  I enjoyed the moment.  It was also wonderful to hear the sounds of life echo through my home until dusk.  I’m willing to bet we need both in our lives to truly experience life.  And I’m also willing to bet, we need both in the church too.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

One Day, Your Child Will Google You

My heart is heavy. This blog was never intended to be a place where I brought my personal concerns. Its intent from the beginning was to encourage the Church in its ministry to children, families and the corporate body and to help equip and resource parents/caregivers as they disciple their children at home. I never viewed it as a place to share my own opinions on society, politics, or world affairs.

But my worlds have collided.

Because, even as I have blogged about in the past, there is no neat and tidy division of sacred and secular, in spite of how we often live. There are no neat little lines that keep our spiritual walk from spilling over into our physical world. To the contrary, we are Christians, everywhere, all the time. As members of Christ’s body, as His ambassadors on earth, as His light in this world, His witness in the present, we don’t get to take time off, leave the calling at church, or decide we can take a break from being a believer. It just doesn’t work that way.

And because of that, and because my heart breaks for the generation that we are currently raising, and because I can no longer remain silent as I see what is happening on social media, on television, and in conversations, I feel I must share this simple reminder.

One day, your child will google you.

baby-84627_1920They will plug your name into a search engine and read what you have written, tweeted, blogged, and commented. Your “social” footprint will leave a legacy that they will one day find.  Mine will too. That’s a big reason why I am writing this today.

Because I want to be acutely aware of what I am leaving for them to find. I want to measure my words in a way that proclaims love and not hate, trust and not fear, grace and not judgment, hope and not despair. I want them to see that in times of uncertainty, I didn’t turn on my fellow man, but I loved that as God so loved the world and gave.

I’m not saying you have to agree with me politically or even socially. But if we are believers, Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ and the reflection of His love here on earth, than we do have to agree with Him.  Our lives should not be dualistic. It shouldn’t be difficult for others to see similarities between us and Jesus.

The same Jesus who said, “Love your enemy. Do good to those that hate you.” Or as The Message puts it…

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

The rhetoric I am hearing today from candidates like Donald Trump and leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. does not sound like this. The hate-filled, fear-filled, shame-filled posts on social media do not sound like this. The cheering that takes place when things like waterboarding, torture, exile, killing, death and discrimination doesn’t sound like this. It doesn’t sound like this at all.

And while I am only adding my voice to the voice of many others who are denouncing the hateful words being said by leaders both in the church and outside of the church, I am choosing to add it for one main reason.

Because of my kids. Because they are watching.

Because one day, they will look me up to see what I did when these words of hate and fear were declared. Did I cheer?  Or did I mourn?  Did I shame others publicly? Or did I love others graciously?  Did I ridicule those I disagree with and make fun of them and belittle them in front of everyone or did I pray for them and honor them as those made in God’s image and loved by Him? Did I live out my God-created identity in a way that pointed everyone to Jesus?

I want to look back at what I have said, I have shared, and I have stood for and know that when my son or daughters read it one day, it will point them to Jesus. Let us not confuse pietism with patriotism; they are not the same. We are called to disciple the next generation in our faith, to create followers of Christ, not patriots of a country or cause.  What legacy are we leaving for them about what and who we are as believers?

As I shared in a blog post once before, we need to consider deeply what we say and do online.

Before we say, post, do, or act… let’s stop first and consider, “What am I teaching my child through this?”  And then react in the way you hope that they will react when they are faced with challenging and confusing situations.  Because they really are watching you and learning what it means to be a Christian in the everyday.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at the ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author
Family(40).jpgChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

 

Telling The WHOLE Story at Christmas

Last night, I had the amazing opportunity to share with a group of local single young mothers through a ministry called Step by Step. The topic was “What Christmas is All About For Your Kids” and the heart was to share with them that Christmas isn’t about gifts but about THE gift and how to make Christmas the most meaningful for your kids.  Most of the moms who attend do not profess to be believers, so that made the topic a little trickier to address.

My heart was that if I were going to share the Christmas story most accurately, the women there needed to hear the bigger story, the metanarrative of Scripture, the whole all-encompassing story of love, hope, and grace that extends over time and that we are a part of today. They needed to hear The Story.  For those who follow my blog, you’ll recognize this from a post I shared during Lent. This is the same story but modified for Christmas.   I shared it with the moms who gathered as if they were their kids and each mom left with a The Story booklet and the four props used during the story.  If you are looking for a new way to tell the whole story of Christmas to your kids or those you serve, perhaps this can be helpful for you as well!

“The Story”

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

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

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

(Choose someone to hold Red Heart)

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

(Choose child to hold Black Lightening Bolt)

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

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

(Choose child to hold Brown Cross)

God did an amazing thing. He decided to leave His place in heaven where he was safe and come to earth as a Man, a Man called Jesus, and fight the evil villain. In that day there was a woman named Mary and man named Joseph that God asked to be Jesus’ parents. They said “Yes!” and Mary gave birth to Jesus. This was the very first Christmas and God gave us the very best present that day. Every birthday needs a party, right? So God sent a whole bunch of angels down to earth to tell some shepherds that Jesus was born, and those shepherds went to see him and then ran out to tell everyone else. God also put a big beautiful star in the sky so that people from very far away would see it and come visit Jesus and bring him presents.

Sin wasn’t happy that Jesus came and tried to get Man to hurt him, but God protected Jesus so He could grow up and fight the evil villain. Jesus talked to a lot of people when he was growing up and told them that one day He would fight Sin once and for all. And then, that day came. It was an epic battle.   Jesus told the villain he couldn’t win, that he would defeat him, and Sin fought by telling Man to do evil things until one day, one very sad day, Man put Jesus on the cross because of Sin. Man killed Jesus. It seemed like all hope was lost.

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

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

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

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

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

Now, you may ask, why I told this story today. Because right now, as we get ready for Christmas, we are right in the middle of the story. We are right here.

(Point between lightening bolt and cross)

We are getting ready to welcome Jesus into the world on Christmas Day by celebrating when He was born. We are getting ready to open the best present of all, God’s love! We will celebrate the BIGGEST SUPERHERO VICTORY OF ALL TIME!! We will remember that SIN was defeated! That our HERO died BUT came back to life and SAVED the DAY! And that we can be in the perfect love relationship with God again.

So this month , as you wait for Christmas and you think about the Story, take time to remember. This story has the happiest ending of all! It ends with a LOVE SO BIG it wins every time! And you get to be a part of that story!!


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author
Family(40).jpgChristina 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