Do We Know Their Names?

Do you know the names of the names that you minister to?

This question was posed to a group of children’s pastors last night at CMConnect Children’s Ministry Conference in Corydon, IN by family pastor Brad Tate. It was a simple question really: Do you know the names of the next circle?

In other words, if I am a small group leader, and I have seven kids in my group that I minister to, it is assumed that I know those kids names. But do I know the names that surround that child? Do I know Mom, Dad, brother, sister? Do I know their teacher’s name, their coach, their grandparents? Or is my connection with them limited to one name –theirs.

I was convicted by this question. I think it is an important one to ask.

Because knowing the names of those that surround the ones we minister to says a lot. It says that we are interested in more than just the one hour that we see them on Sunday. It says that we are aware of the fact that their lives are full of people and influences and events that are bigger than them.

Knowing the names that surround the names of those we minister to says relationship, says care, says love and belonging. It says, “You, all of you, is important.”

How do I know this? Well, as Brad demonstrated last night, we know the names of the names of the ones we love. Think about your best friend. Do you know their parent’s name? Their kids? Their siblings? Their pets? Of course, because we know them…all of them. And we know that these other names, these other people, have a profound influence on the ones we love.

How does this translate to the larger faith community?

Simply this – if we don’t know the names, they will go to wherever the names will be known.

If we don’t know the names, they will seek belonging and knowing somewhere else. Because that need to be known and loved is in each of us and we will seek it out if we are not experiencing it.

boy-1205255_1920In many churches, it is not unusual for the older generations to not know the names of the younger generations and vice versa. It’s not even unusual for the adults who sit next to each other in a given service to know each other’s names.

Could you imagine what would happen if each person committed to know the names of the names…maybe not of every single person but maybe five, or ten or even twenty? To know the names of the names. To be able to greet by name and ask about family members by name and to acknowledge the importance of the names to that person.

I’ve often heard it is said (and probably said myself) how important it is to know a child’s name; the power in that and the love that they experience. Can you imagine how that would compound if we knew the names of the names? And the message that would send to every child, every parent, every grandparent, every person who walked through your church doors?

Messages like, “Welcome! You belong. You are important. You are known.”


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.

The Silence of Saturday

 

I woke up this morning and my house was silent. That’s atypical in my house. A certain four-year old usually thinks Saturdays are the best days to come remind me that “It’s morning time!” and that he is ready to eat some cereal. But today, it was quiet. I first I was grateful then I had a mini panic attack…because silence and four-year olds don’t usually pair well together.

I peeked in the bedroom and quickly found the reason for the silence. His older sister had invited him to her top bunk and they were quietly watching cartoons together. The silence was a mirage. It seemed quiet but the truth is, someone had distracted the noise maker and the morning appeared to remain silent.

crosstombToday is the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I don’t know if it has an official name, but I always think of it as Silent Saturday. On this day, God was quiet.  The disciples had fled and scattered into hiding. Jesus’ body lay hidden in a tomb.

The storms of Good Friday had ceased and silence remained.

For all anyone knew, that silence was an eternal one.

Since the disciples didn’t understand his teaching of his resurrection, the gaping silence was to be without end.   They did not even have the hope of eternity that we have today when we lose those we love. It was an impenetrable silence. 

And this morning as I reflected on these two things, my silent house and the silence of that day, I thought about some times in Scripture where the silence was broken.

I thought about Josiah, king at the age of eight, worshiper at the age of 16, and by the age of 20, destroyer of temples to foreign gods and repairer of God’s holy temple.

I thought about Miriam who silently followed a baby in a basket down the Nile and when he was discovered by a princess, bravely broke the silence to speak up for her brother; an act that not only spared her brother but eventually saved her entire nation.

I thought about David, a shepherd boy, who took on a giant with a sling and a stone, while the men of Israel hid in fear.

I thought of a boy named Samuel who repeatedly woke the priest Eli up in the night, not without cause, but because God was speaking to him and giving him words of truth to share.

I thought about how God has “taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.” (Ps. 8:2)

I thought about Jesus’ words to the disciples when he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mt. 18:1-5).

And after thinking about all these things, I thought I might encourage all of us on this day of silence, to seek out the voice of a child.  Sit with them. Ask them about what Jesus means to them. Ask them about the love of God. Ask them about what God looks like and then ask them if they ever hear God speak.

And listen.

My guess is that that any silence we’ve been experiencing in our own walk with Christ will be sweetly broken by the voice of infants and children telling of His strength, silencing our enemies and the things that oppose or distract us from hearing God’s voice.

On this, the most silent of our holy days, may we take time to listen.


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.

This is Holy Week

This week as believers, we celebrate highest highs and lowest lows in the pivotal moments of our faith. Today we meet Christ with shouts of “Hosanna!” and wave palm branches of praise to welcome him to Jerusalem.

But what we welcome Him to is actually the beginning of the end; we praise Him into Gethsemane, we usher him to the mount of Calvary. And even as we shout with joy today, our hearts know what this week holds – the Last Supper, Good Friday, the dark silence of Saturday.

easterloveAnd in those lowest lows, we grieve. We are sad. Our shouts are silenced.

But oh, the glory that awaits us. Oh, the joy that is coming. Oh, for Sunday morning with the Light breaks through the darkness, and our shouts return, this time with eternity in the strains, for this time we will shout to a risen Savior; this time to a everlasting Lord; this time “Hosannas” without end.

This is Holy Week.

Last year, on Good Friday, I shared these thoughts. This still ring true today

There is something palpable about the beauty and mystery of Good Friday. Sometimes, it is our tendency to shield our children from these dark emotions, from the sadness and the heaviness of the crucifixion.

Don’t.

I realize that they won’t understand it all.  I know that it could make them sad.  I understand that they are young.  But the depth of understanding goes beyond our emotions on this day.  When we allow ourselves to remember the darkness of this day, the sadness of this moment that, if we are truly honest, not one of us completely understands, we create space for God to do a deeper work that our minds can understand.

Children are young.  Cognitively they don‘t understand.  But their hearts are attuned to God’s love.  Their understanding of spiritual things goes deeper than we adults sometimes give them credit for.

Throughout Scripture, we are told that infants praise him, the faith of children is pure, little ones know him, and we should be like them.  In children, the kingdom of God is made manifest so, trust me, they may not understand the theology, but they understand the heart of God and the love that was given.

Ever been outside when a storm rolls away and the sun breaks through? Does it ever shine brighter in that moment?

On Good Friday, we experience sadness. But only for a moment.

Because on Sunday we will experience unspeakable joy.

No matter the depth of sorrow we feel on Friday, our rejoicing on Sunday will far exceed those limits.  And if we want our children to truly know the JOY that is Easter, we must let them also experience the sorrow that is Good Friday.

It’s okay for them to feel.  Feel with them.  It’s okay for them to cry.  Cry with them.

BUT, cry with hope.  Feel with expectation.

And Sunday morning, before eggs and bunnies and chocolate and flowers, before dinners and tulips and fancy dresses and suits and ties, before all of that… let them experience the OVERWHELMING, LIFE-CHANGING, HEART-POUNDING Joy of crying out, “He. Is. RISEN!!” 

Rejoice!  Cry out!  Dance a little.  Celebrate with your kids in a way you never have before.  Let joy swell in your hearts and come out as shouts of praise. Let them experience all the wonder and mystery wrapped up in God’s love for us on these three days.  Don’t let it just pass by unnoticed.  Don’t let your fear of their sadness keep them from experiencing the immensity of Easter Joy!!

Make this day a day they will never forget and they will long to experience for years to come.

Feel every moment of this Holy Week. Feel the joy. Feel the sorrow. Let yourself feel. And in those feelings, let yourself find hope in the Resurrection – for we have this hope, THIS HOPE, as an anchor to our souls.

“The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”


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.

Is Christ Welcome in Church?

Welcome

What does that word mean to you?  When you think about being welcomed somewhere, what does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like?

I grew up Italian, and even if my grandma married in, she was Italian through and through. I’ll never forget showing up at Grandma’s house and hearing, “Come in, how are you? How was the ride? Are you hungry?” while being wrapped up in hugs and ushered into her home. To this day if I smell something that reminds me of her home like a roast cooking on the stove, I feel welcome – I literally feel it.

Welcome was more than just opening the door and allowing me to come inside.

It was enveloping me in love. It was making sure my needs were met. It was serving me with grace and engaging me with intention.

I felt wanted. I felt cared for. I felt like I belonged. 

welcome-998360_1920I can think of no better way to describe this feeling than through this video. I’d love it if you’d click this link and watch it, but if you don’t here’s a snapshot: Two Congo boys who have been adopted by an American couple come off the plane and literally run into their new parents arms. The tears, the absolute JOY, the intensity of the welcome… it brings tears to my eyes each time.

Watching it between those tears, I could not help but think of the story of the prodigal son and the welcome he received from his father when he returned home. The tears, the absolute JOY, the intensity of the welcome. 

And I could not help but think of this Scripture

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.

“Welcomes one of these little children.”

And so, I think as the church we should ask, do we welcome the little children?

Are they enveloped in love? Are we serving them with grace and engaging with intention?

Are they welcome everywhere or only in certain spaces?  Are they welcomed by the congregation, known by name, and identified as part of the community?

Do they know that they are wanted, cared for…that they belong?

These are good questions for us to ask, even if the our answer is yes, because Jesus says, if we welcome them, we welcome Him and if we welcome Him, we welcome the one who sent Him.

And no, of course there won’t be a flood of tears each time they walk through the church doors and our finest robes and food for feasting brought out each time they enter, but there should definitely be a sense of “I’m wanted here” and “I’m known here” and “I belong here” each time they come to worship, to fellowship, to learn, to be a part of the church.

Regardless of how each church decides to approach ministry to children and families, welcome should be an overall characteristic of the culture and the heart of our approach to children’s ministry, because by welcoming them, we welcome Christ and not only Christ, but the One who sent him… we welcome the fullness of God into our midst.


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.

 

The Extraordinary Ordinary: St. Patrick’s Prayer

It wasn’t much. Just a little note taped to a door. A few simple words. Nothing profound. But that simple note changed everything about the day.

christiseverywhereI walked into a room, like I did every day, but this day I found a note that read, “Christ is everywhere, SO BE HAPPY.” It was from my then 9-year-old daughter. And it couldn’t have come at a better moment as we were praying to know if God was calling us to sell our home and move. It was as though God Himself spoke right to my heart. He was with us; He would always be with us. In the most ordinary place in the most ordinary way, the extraordinary broke through.

The simplest things.

 The sacred in the ordinary.

The holy in the everyday.

This was a concept St. Patrick took to heart. His famous prayer (see below) includes the lines “Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising, light of my life.” What could be more ordinary than sleeping, sitting, and rising?  What could be more extraordinary that Christ being there in the midst of those things?

One the best pieces of advice I can offer to both ministers and parents alike is simply this “You don’t need to DO more; you need to invite Christ into what you are already doing.”

So many times we can feel the pressure to do more, to be more, to add more to our lives so that we ensure God has His rightful place in our ministries and in our homes.  But in doing that, we can sometimes miss the point…that Christ is already there, in our midst, just waiting to be invited into our every day.

Jonathan Edwards, an early 18th century theologian, once said, Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by His rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove ineffectual.”

Can that be true?  Is a family, a home, like a little church?

I can’t help but think about what Jesus said when he spoke to his disciples and said, “Wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there I am with you” (Mt. 18:20). Interestingly, most Christian marriages begin in churches where they are joined together quite literally “in Jesus name.”  So, two people (or more once they have children) gathered together in Christ’s name means that Christ is in their midst..all the time…including in their home, their little church. 

It stands to reason then, that the ordinary and everyday rhythms and routines of the home become extraordinary places for us to welcome, invite, and acknowledge Christ’s presence with us; chief means of grace. 

We don’t have to designate special times to do that; we can do that in the simplest moments of the everyday. Moments like when we rise and when we lie down, when we sit and when we go out. When we are watching television and when we are eating breakfast. When we are crying and when we are celebrating.

In this world of full busy lives, adding one more thing to our plate can feel impossible and overwhelming. Isn’t it wonderful to know that Jesus is already there?  And simply acknowledging that to each other, to our spouse, to our kids, to our guests can take the most ordinary things and make them sacramental, holy unto God?

The next time you are watching television, simply ask your child, “How do you think Jesus would respond in a situation like that?”

The next time you are folding laundry, simply pray for the owner of each sock, shirt, skirt, and shorts.

The next time you are saying goodbye to your spouse, simply grab their hand and pray a quick blessing before they walk out the door.

The next time you are doing the most ordinary, mundane, everyday thing you can imagine, just turn your head and look and see Jesus right beside you.

This St. Patrick’s Day, let’s join him in his prayer of extraordinary ordinary life.

Christ be beside me,
Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me,
King of my heart.

Christ be within me,
Christ be below me,
Christ be above me,
never to part.

Christ on my right hand,
Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me,
shield in the strife.

Christ in my sleeping,
Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising,
light of my life.

Christ be in all hearts thinking about me;
Christ be on all tongues telling of me;
Christ be the vision in eyes that see me;
in ears that hear me, Christ ever be.


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.

 

 

It’s STILL Not Okay: The Not-So-Golden Rule

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule.

According to Wikipedia, nearly every culture and every religion have some version of this rule.

kindness-1197351_1920Some, like the Bible, state it in positive terms; “Do unto others has you would have them do unto you.

Some state it in negative terms; “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.

Some talk about it like more of a feeling or emotion; “Don’t wish on others what you don’t want to happen to you.

It’s pretty much a universal understanding that we treat people in the way we want to be treated and we don’t treat people in ways we don’t want to be treated.

But here’s the thing. Jesus takes it a step further.

You see, Jesus assumes that people won’t always follow the golden rule. He assumes that there will be times in our lives that people will do exactly the opposite of the golden rule.

They will intentionally hurt us.

They will seek to do things to us that we can safely assume they don’t want done to them.

They will wish harm upon us and speak to us with malice.

They will act in ways that do not fit within the parameters of the golden rule.

So Jesus says, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

 Basically, He says we are called to follow the golden rule even if everyone else is breaking it. We are supposed to be different, stand out, reflect Christ to the world around us. 

Many of you read my recent post last week entitled It is Not Okay where I responded to various examples of disruptive, disrespectful and disturbing behavior of the current election cycle. Over a half million people read the post, with many sharing it on Facebook and Twitter, and many responding in comments, messages and emails. The responses I received over the past week from across the United States and the world ranged from support, encouragement, and agreement to nothing short of hate, disgust and anger.

But the ones that most broke my heart were the ones that started with “I agree with you but…” and ended up saying something along the lines of “the only reason they acted that way is because they were baited.” In other words, the attitudes, actions, and behaviors I said were not okay, actually were okay because someone else did it first.

Basically the opposite of the Golden Rule.

More like the not-so-golden rule of “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”

A rule that Jesus destroyed when He said, You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

In that original article, I asked repeatedly, “What are we teaching our children?”  Based on the many, many responses I received, I can say these appear to be the things we are passing on to the next generation.

  1. If someone hurts you, you have every right to hurt them back. After all, they deserve it. An eye for an eye…
  2. If you disagree with someone about anything for any reason, you can express that disagreement in any way you want. After all, free speech and everything…
  3. If someone is being hurt, disrespected, treated abusively, bullied, or made fun of, the best thing to to do is to find out what they did to deserve it first, before stepping in to defend them or stop the behavior.  A tooth for a tooth.

If we are teaching our children that behaviors of aggression and bullying are allowable in certain circumstances, then why are we surprised when they grow up and violence and anger become the language of choice?  

So what does that mean for us? What should be we be teaching our children?

It means if someone hits us, we can’t hit them back.

It means if someone insults us, we don’t insult them back.

If someone steals from us, we don’t steal back.

If every manner of evil is done to us… it is still not okay for us to do the same to them.  

Period. End of story. It is still not okay. 

Christ has given His Church an ethic of Love to live by. He models for us a walk that puts others first and relentlessly pursues peace. If we are teaching our children anything other than that, we need to take a step back and really examine Christ’s words. As I shared last week…

Love God. Love Others. 
Simple as that. Anything else is not okay.

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.

Practical Holy Week: Telling Your Kids the Story

As we are coming up on the celebration of Easter and all the activities of Holy Week, many of you may be looking for a new or different way to share The Story with the kids and families of your church or home. Using just four symbols, this narrative repackages The Story in a way that invites us to become a part of it and experience again the sorrow and victory that is Easter.

Last year, I used this as the children’s sermon for Palm Sunday and afterwards, many adults shared with me it brought the story of Easter to life once again for them. In the following weeks, I was able to print out this narrative and create a kit with the symbols to send home with our families so they could re-tell it again and again. Hopefully this will be a helpful tool for you as well as you share with the kids in your home or church. Comment below if you use it – I love hearing about all the creative ways God uses this story to bring His Story to life!

r e F o c u s

Starting this Sunday, the church across the world will begin a celebration of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.  This week is arguably the most important on the Christian calendar, representing for believers that pivotal moment with death was swallowed up in victory!  It is the very foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

However your church or your family celebrates Easter, this time of year is the perfect time to tell your kids THE STORY of all stories.  The great story of Scripture, God’s Great Rescue Plan! 

This Sunday I will be sharing the following message with our families in church but there is no reason you can’t do the same in your home.  Invite your kids into the greatest story of all times and let them be drawn into the wonder and mystery…

View original post 1,118 more words

It is NOT Okay

I’m sure by this point you’ve seen the video. The one of the young African-American woman being removed from a presidential campaign rally in Louisville, being pushed and prodded by numerous campaign supporters while others pummel her with insults or capture the whole incident on their phone. Not one person, not one, steps in and says, “Hey now, this is a human being. Show a little respect for the human race.”  Not one defends. Not one speaks out. Not one.

And I’ve refrained from posting anything about this here because I didn’t want this blog to be political. I’ve kept this place free from politics and campaigns and opinion on government and court decisions and I was determined to do so, until today.

Because today, I realized, THIS IS NOT POLITICAL. 

It’s not about politics. It’s about humanity.

As I watched that girl get pushed and shoved all I could think was, “What are we teaching our children?”

As I’ve seen presidential candidates make fun of all manner of people – other candidates, people with autism, people of all races and creeds, PEOPLE – HUMAN BEINGS, all I can muster up is, “What are we teaching our children?”

As I’ve heard words of hatred and fear and bigotry pour from mouths that at the same time proclaim Christ and Christianity, I cannot help but want to shout, “What are we teaching our children?”

This is not okay!

This is not okay.

It’s. not. okay.

bullyingstopshereThere are no free passes because these things are attached to politics. There are no circumstances in the world that make these words, these actions, these attitudes morally or ethically right. This country has spent the last several years creating and investing in entire campaigns against bullying in our schools and it is being undone in a single presidential campaign by the very adults who are supposed to be the examples to the kids.

It. is. not. okay. 

Especially for Christians. But universally for everyone. 

It is not okay to physically harm other people because you are angry. I don’t care if you feel your cause is right. It is not okay.

It is not okay to viciously make fun of people. Period. That’s it. There’s absolutely no leeway with that. It’s called bullying. And if you do it in elementary school, you get suspended.  It is not okay. 

It is not okay to express your frustrations with the government and your grievances with the political system by attacking other human beings, threatening people of different races, or intimidating those who disagree with you.  It’s NOT okay to do that!

I realize that my reach is very small. I realize that I am only adding a very small voice to a very large group of people that are saying similar things.  But to remain silent in the face of such outright and flagrant disregard for humanity is to add my voice to those who give assent to the actions. I become like those who hold up their phone and take a video of the brutality, rather than having the courage to step in and say “This is NOT okay!”

I can no longer hide behind the flag of “I don’t want to be political”; rather I have to state the obvious and say, “This is not about politics. This is about human decency and I, for the sake of my children and all future generations who are seeing these things, must say, ‘I am not okay with this because this is NOT okay.'”

stopbullyingLest we fool ourselves into thinking our kids are oblivious, we need to know that our kids
have seen the videos. They’ve seen the ugliness that is being carried out in our country today. They hear the insults and the veiled threats and the disparaging way our soon-to-be leaders are speaking about each other and about other people.

Let’s make sure we tell them, “This is not okay. This is not who we are called to be. This is not normal. This is wrong.”

I’m not here to tell you how to vote.

I’m here to remind you there is a lot more at stake than the political office.

There is an entire generation learning how to approach life and seeing, hearing, and observing despicable things while watching us tape it on our phones.

And whether we realize it or not, we are discipling them by not saying, “This is not okay.” I’ve been convicted that my silence in the one place I have a voice is no longer acceptable. Even if this is only read by a few people, it’s already been read by the ones who matter most to me – my kids. And they know that these behaviors, these words they are hearing, these attitudes they are seeing… these things are not okay. And they never, ever will be.

Love God. Love Others. 
Simple as that. Anything else is not okay.

Read the follow-up post here.

Author’s Note: I am both humbled and amazed by the number of people who have read, shared and commented on this blog. Thank you very much for your encouragement and support. 

Also, a number of commenters have tried to use this blog to purposefully incite discussions that are inflammatory in nature and attempt to use this space to push a political campaign or personal agenda. Those comments will not be approved per the author’s discretion. Healthy conversation is fine and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I don’t want this to be a place where we attack each other or others. Thank you for understanding and respecting that desire. 


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.

 

Easter Scavenger Hunt for the Family

The final weeks leading up to Easter are a wcross-66700_1920onderful time for families to gather around the Bible and consider the life of Christ. I put together this family-oriented scavenger hunt offers for the families at my church so they could spend use this month to engage with Christ while also spending quality time together. After they find each “clue” the family takes a selfie together with the object they found so that by the end, not only do they have fun, faith-filled memories, they have seven new family pictures.

Feel free to use this scavenger hunt with your church and/or family and may we all be blessed as we consider together the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord!

Clue #1 – Birth – Luke 2:6-12

This story begins in a different way

The Baby Jesus was sleeping on Hay

He was the Messiah, God’s Only Son

But His journey began as a quiet, humble one…

With your family, find a barn or manger and take a selfie together beside it. Think about what it meant that Jesus wasn’t born rich or mighty, but as a humble baby, just like us. Talk about why that is important to us as we follow Him.

Clue #2 – Baptism – Matthew 3:13-17

As He grew, he gained respect from God and man

And His calling to save us, He began to understand

He declared He came to set the captives free

And was baptized by John to begin that journey.

John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. See if you can find a stream, a pool, a river, anything with water for your family selfie. Take some time to think about what happened when Jesus was baptized, how God spoke from heaven and what John said about Him.

Clue #3 – Ministry – Matthew 4:18-20

Jesus began to teach all the people

They’d come to hear him, no building or steeple

He’d talk in the mountains and down by the sea

And to those who would listen, He’d say “Come, follow me!”

 Jesus went to places where people were to talk to them about God’s Love. If Jesus were here today, where do you think he would teach? Take a picture of your family in the place you thought of and write down a little explanation of why you picked that place!

Clue #4 – Miracles

Many people came to Jesus in need

Some sick and some lame, some broken indeed

And often Jesus would heal, touch or feed

News of Him spread around Israel with speed

There are many stories of Jesus’ miracles in the Bible. With your family pick your favorite story and read it together. There are several ways to take your family selfie – you can all point to the Scripture reference and take a pic; you can re-enact the story and take a pic; or you can take a video of your family reading or telling the story!

Clue #5 – Last Supper – Matthew 26:20-30

But some of the people did not like God’s Son

And started a plan to get rid of the One

So Jesus gathered his friends for a Passover meal

And shared what would happen; it seemed so unreal

During the Last Supper, Jesus explained that he would die and rise again, but the disciples didn’t understand his words. It was here that Jesus first described communion – the bread representing his body and the juice representing his blood. After this, he left and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before the soldiers came to arrest him. With your family, go find a garden or a patch of flowers. Take your picture together and consider how just a few weeks ago this ground was cold and dead, but today there is hope and new life.   Jesus came that we might have new life and have it for all eternity!

Clue #6 – Crucifixion – Matthew 27:32-56*

Betrayed by a friend, Jesus was arrested

He was tried by a court and his death was requested

On that saddest of days, our Savior did die

But within that dark moment, our salvation did lie

When Jesus died on the cross, his disciples and his friends lost all hope. But God had a bigger plan. A beautiful plan that was way bigger than they could see in that moment. We remember the cross as a place of suffering but also as a place of hope for all eternity. With your family, find a cross and take your picture and talk about how we can have hope in Jesus.

*Parents, this can be a difficult subject to approach with children. You know your kids best and what is the best way to share this part of the story. While I have included the Scripture reference, use your discernment and discretion when you share.

Clue #7 – Resurrection – Luke 24:1-12

Some may think that our story is done.

But they would be wrong! It has only begun!

For after 3 days, Jesus rose from the dead

To give us New Life forever…just as He said!

Our greatest hope comes in knowing that we will get to spend all of eternity with Jesus and with all who follow him! We don’t have to be slaves to sin. Jesus can help us to live with joy and life now. That is what Easter is all about! Take a picture of your family celebrating with GREAT JOY that Jesus is ALIVE!

Want a fun and unique way to tell The Story of Scripture with a perfect set-up for Easter? Check out this re-telling using just four simple but memorable symbols to tell the story


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.