Parents, It’s Not “Your” Job to Disciple Children

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of posts directed at Christian parents that go something like this:

The Church gets 40 hours/year, the Schools get 2,000 hours/year, Parents get 3,000 hours/year – It’s YOUR job to disciple your children.

family-1266188_1920There is definitely truth in that statement. The hours listed aren’t far off from what research shows us. The influence that parents/caregivers have on their children cannot be understated and the home is primarily the place of faith formation for all of us. But I’m afraid when this is our approach to beginning the discussion with parents/caregivers about their responsibility of leading discipleship in the home, we do both the parents and kids, but more importantly, the body of Christ a huge disservice.

Let me explain.

There is one verse that we often use to demonstrate the mandate in Scripture for parents/caregivers to disciple their kids: Deuteronomy 6:7 – Impress these commandments on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  I love this verse because it shows the most everyday, most ordinary moments and tells us in those very ordinary times to talk about our extraordinary God.

But I fear that in shining the spotlight so often on this verse and directing our focus of discipleship exclusively to parents/caregivers, we miss something of great importance, something that changes everything about the command.

This command wasn’t given to parents.
It was given to the community of faith.

The charge to talk about these commandments, to impress them on the children, to disciple the next generation in faith what given to the entire gathered assembly and never once were parents singled out and told that discipleship was their responsibility. On the contrary, the command was clearly given in the presence of everyone (Hear, O Israel) and deemed by God through Moses as applicable to the whole assembly. So much so, it is repeated, nearly word for word in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 again in an address to the whole congregation.

So what does this mean?

Parents, it is not exclusively “your” job to disciple your children.

Church, it IS corporately our job to disciple our children.

So, yes, if you are a parent and you are a believer, of course, it is your job to disciple your kids, especially since you have the most time with them and the most influence on them!

But, Church, please hear this, parents are not supposed to be doing this alone. This isn’t a command devoid of community. This isn’t a mandate that applies only to parents/caregivers and their children. This is a command given to all of us, every single member of the community of faith, to all of our children, not just those who live in our house. 

When viewed in this light, some of our common excuses fail.

We can’t say, “I gave my time serving with in Sunday School and youth group when my kids were young. It’s their turn now.”

We can’t say, “Well, they aren’t my kids. It’s not up to me to talk to them about God.”

We can’t say, “It’s not my responsibility.”

I mean, we can say those things, but if we do, we are willfully choosing to ignore the commands that God gave, not to parents alone, but to all of us to pour into, engage with, impress upon, and walk with the youngest generations.

I truly believe it is time for us to release some of the burden we’ve put on the backs of parents by repeatedly telling them, “This is your job” by changing just one letter and a whole way of understanding and instead saying, “This is OUR job.”

No parent should ever feel alone in this calling. Not in the dynamic the God has given us.

They should feel the support, nurture and equipping of an entire faith community surrounding them and ministering to them and their children.

The children in our church should be known (by name) not just by their parents and a few close friends, but the congregation, the community of faith, who are committed to helping them grow in their faith.

The covenant of the congregation, spoken often at baptism or confirmation, in which the congregation pledges to walking with the child and helping them grow in their faith needs to become more than just “what we say” and turn into “what we do.”

The ministries to children and youth in any church should not be lacking in volunteers or servants on mission because the entire church is called and has verbally confirmed their commitment to disciple these young people in the faith.

To place the responsibility squarely on parents without recognizing the responsibility of the church to walk hand-in-hand with them skews the command of God to “impress these commandments on your children.”

Church, it is time we step up and relinquish our excuses. It is time we read the Scripture as it was given; to the whole assembly in community as a unit. It is time we seek to not only support and equip parents but to join them, hand-in-hand, and be part of the work of discipleship.


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.

D6 Days: A Free Online Family Ministry Conference

Friends,

When I started this blog in November 2014, I did so with great trepidation and a whole lot of hope. My heart was to provide a place for churches and homes looking to transition to a more home-based, intergenerational ministry focus to find the tools and encouragement needed for that to succeed. My desire has always been to help ministers and parents find a place where they feel equipped, supported and nurtured as they lead children and youth in relationships of discipleship and mentorship.

But I wanted to do this because I had been gifted in similar ways by other ministers who had gone before me; ministers who had poured into me encouragement and vision and excitement for this thing called family and intergenerational ministry.

d6imageI realize that not all of us can afford the time or the money it takes to go to a conference and soak up that kind of amazing insight and teaching. Which is why I am so excited to share with you about D6 Family’s online family ministry conference, D6 Days, coming up this Monday and Tuesday (May 2 & 3).

D6 Days is an opportunity for you to hear from some of the leading ministers it the areas of family, children’s, youth, and next gen ministries on topics ranging from cross-cultural ministry to marriage from the comfort and convenience of your own home or office. And the best part about it is that it is free.

Even if you can only tune in for a few of the sessions, please do.

Follow the d6daysonline conversation on Facebook and Twitter. Join in the discussion with other parents and ministers all over the world. I truly believe you will blessed just as I have been by the things that are shared and the encouragement that is offered.  I will be joining the group in Nashville for D6 Days, live tweeting, blogging, and answering questions along with a team of people dedicated to serving you.

If you are interested in more information or to register, click here. For a full schedule of all the speakers and sessions, click here.

It has been an absolute blessing to be able to share my heart on this blog with so many of you. I truly do believe this would be a blessing to you as well. Feel free to shoot me a message any time with questions, ideas, or just to say HI!  I’m always looking for topics that you are wanting ideas and suggestions for in regard to transitioning towards family and intergen ministry, so send those my way too.

I hope to “see” you at D6 days!  Keep serving Him!

Christina


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 Shaming Needs to Stop

Please, let’s just stop. I’m asking us as a friend. I’m asking us as a fellow Christian. And I’m asking us as a human being; please stop using social media as a place to shame, dishonor, and ridicule people. Our kids deserve better examples from us of what it means to be in this world but not of it. (If you aren’t sure what I mean by “public shaming”, click here)

As I scrolled down through my Facebook feed this morning, as with many mornings, my heart broke as I saw my timeline filled with posts from my fellow brother and sisters in Christ using this platform as a way to express passive-aggressive (and sometimes downright aggressive) disapproval of other people.

Whether it is in regards to politics or just something that somebody is doing that, for whatever reason, we just don’t like, it appears that we feel like social media is an acceptable place to be rude, snarky, sarcastic and just plain mean to each other.

If anyone feels they are being targeted by this, please don’t. I don’t even know who posted some of the things that are coming to mind this morning, but I know I’ve seen things shared multiple times that do not in any way seem to me to reflect the love of Christ, the fellowship of His sufferings, and the testimony of His grace – the things we are supposed to be communicating with the world.

There are better ways, much more productive ways, of channeling disapproval.

If we feel the youth of today are an immodest, misbehaving, selfish, uneducated generation, let’s not post a meme about it… let’s find a way to serve them. Become a mentor. Be part of their community. I know for a fact each local church needs children and youth volunteers (guarantee it – just go and ask). Use that as the platform for change by living a life of true love and sacrifice and modeling how to live product and selfless lives that honor others.

A million memes on Facebook with a snarky comment about how kids can whip and nae-nae but can’t say the Lord’s Prayer will do absolutely nothing but hurt them and others. DO something.Say the Lord’s Prayer for them and then with them as you lead them in love. 

If we feel that the political party  is wrong about something, let’s recognize that calling the them names on Facebook, making fun of their educational level, lashing out at them in sarcastic and hateful ways, and creating an atmosphere that supports violence and division, will only lead to no good, for us or them. If we really care that much about our party or our candidate, we can share why without having to denigrate others at the same time. We can spend more time on what we consider good and less time using social media to rail against others in rude and inconsiderate ways about what we think is bad.

Listen, before we post, let’s simply consider this: “Would I like someone to say this about me?”  If you wouldn’t, then don’t post it!  Don’t call people names (that would stop half the posts right there!). Don’t undermine people’s character because they don’t agree with you. Address issues without attacking people.

If we are unhappy with legitimate social issues in society, things that range from concerns about education to society’s addiction to technology, again, let’s actively do something about it. We have influence on actual people; children and youth that are in our churches, our communities, our world. Befriend them. Build a relationship with them.

Let’s bring them the love of Jesus and let our lives model for them what it is to live in the world and not of it. Then when we share our concerns, they may actually be heard, rather than just cause a reaction of shame or anger as social media memes tend to do.

And for the other issues, the ones we just like to get upset about for one reason or another – something rubbed us wrong or we just don’t like the way someone did something – bring it to the right place first; not the public sphere as a reaction to correct those who did wrong, but to the Father in heaven and ask if there is any wicked way in you (Ps. 51).

girlsocialmeidaMy daughter will turn 13 this year. She will be old enough for a Facebook account. And I will let her have one because I think I’ve raised her with some character tools that will help her use social media in a healthy way. BUT I would never allow her to use social media as a place to make rude or snarky comments about her friends.

So why is it okay to do that to strangers, or youth, or parents, or Democrats, or Republicans, or random people that we’ve never met?  It’s not.

It’s not right to use shame as a tool to make our point.

And if that’s the only tool in our social media belt, could I challenge and encourage us to take some time to really consider what it is that we believe about God, His love for the world and all the people in it, and then think about how we can make lasting changes by serving others rather than shaming them.

I understand that might mean we post some pretty straightforward and thoughtful things on Facebook that share our heart in loving and honorable ways. It might mean we take a direct stand on some issues because that’s what we feel called to do.

But let’s do it with a heart of love and use the tools of grace and humility rather than the weapons of shame and condemnation.

And let’s show our kids that they can do the same when it’s their turn.


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.

 

Family Ministry is not “Family” Ministry

When you hear the words “family ministry” what comes to mind?  What did you picture in your head as you heard those words?  Many people tell me that when they think of family ministry, the first thing they picture is, well, a family – Dad, mom, kids… you get the idea.

americanfamiliesBut if I were to ask them (and you) to picture your family, what comes to mind? For some , that original picture doesn’t change much, but for the majority (at least according to the research and data) it looks a lot different.

For some there is only one parent in the picture; for others, step-parents and siblings enter the scene. Some have grandparents acting as caregivers or grandparents living in the home. Some have adopted family members and include people that are in no way related by blood, but considered family members nonetheless.

You see, language matters.   If the term “family ministry” feels limiting, it is, but only to the extent that we limit it. Our own understanding of family has been and is being shaped by how our own experience is informing it.  It can be a difficult translation though over into an area that, for whatever reason, is defined by images of “traditional” family units. As a result, those who “come alone” or those who don’t fit the image can often feel unwelcome or disenfranchised by the idea of family ministry.

So what can we do?  I think there are a few things we can all do that would go a long way in helping the Church more effectively minister to the families in our faith community and surrounding community.

Recognize that the term “family” is fluid – When planning your events and creating your context for serving families, be intentional about ensuring that your programming is flexible to reach a wide range of families. If you are prepared to minister to parents who come alone, parents who come with different children each week due to shared custody, multi-ethnic families, multi-generation families, news will spread that your ministry truly is to families, not just one type of family.

Language matters – I’m not necessarily against using the term “family” because all of those groups, no matter how different they look from the traditional image of family we all seem to embrace, would still describe themselves as a family. But by adding in terms like “parent/caregiver” and expressly inviting participation from grandparents or single parents, the door is swung open wider so that more feel welcomed to participate.

Image matters – If every piece of promotional material shows a traditional family then that is who it appears the ministry is targeting. But if the materials and programming show a variety of different family groups gathering or participating in your events, then again, the welcome becomes a little wider.

The church is a family – Yes, we say this a lot, but does our family ministry embrace this concept? Are there ways for generations to connect in worship, relationship, and community that extends past Sundays and Wednesdays and into homes and community?  Family ministry should embrace the whole church in its scope of ministry. 

Recognizing all that family ministry can and should be for our church and our community takes time and effort. There’s no curriculum in the world that can correctly assess the unique dynamic and needs presented by your ministry context.

Begin by simply taking a look at where you are and think about where you’d like to be. If family ministry for your church is limited due to language or imagery or by lack of available options for those outside the traditional mold, then begin to take steps to remedy it. Expand your focus and embrace the wider vision of family ministry can be!

silhouette-74876_1920While I am in no way a proponent of a “cookie-cutter” model for any ministry area, including children and family ministry, I do think there are some key markers of family ministry that we should seek to incorporate in our context, whatever the unique needs of our community are. For a full discussion on this click here, but for a snapshot, here are the five markers of family ministry that I find all effective family ministries exhibit.

  1. Focus – The focus of the church becomes centered on the home rather than the organization and the entire congregation joins in celebrating parents/caregivers as shepherds to the next generation.
  2. Function –  Rather than being program-focused, family ministry “represents a fundamentally different way of doing church” (Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, editor of Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views). Every area of the church participates and is involved in family ministry regardless of age, ministry, or worship service.
  3. Family as foundation– While this characteristic might seem obvious, it becomes less so when we pose the question, “What makes family family?” Family ministry consistently recognizes the family, no matter what it looks like, as the normative place for discipleship of children and supports and resources as needed.
  4. Formational – Family ministry has as its heart a commitment to passing the faith from one generation to another through the platform of the home supported by the church.
  5. Fun – That’s right, fun! This is my own thing. I don’t have research and studies to back me up on this but I’m just putting it out there that if family ministry is not fun, if it is a chore for the church, a duty for the parents, and a drudgery for the kids, then it has failed in its role.  Family ministry should bring inspiration and joy to the entire church body and life and health to the home.

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.

Love Beats Fear – Every Time

“The statistics are frightening.”

“Young people are leaving the church in droves.”

“The numbers are scary.”

“The church is dying”

If you are 1. A Christian, 2. Serving in ministry, 3. A parent, or 4. Any combination of all or one of these things…you’ve probably seen or heard these phrases. They catch our eyes. Our stomachs twist. Our hearts race a little. We can feel something. We call that thing…fear.

And, frankly, I’m tired of it.

Fear has this capability of magnifying itself so much that it blinds us to reality.

But isn’t that reality?  Aren’t young people leaving the church? Aren’t the numbers showing a sharp decline in church attendance?  Shouldn’t we be fearful?

If you read my blog at all, you know that, yes, I am well aware that for the past few years the number of people who identify themselves as “Unaffiliated” has increased while the number who identify with evangelical Christianity has decreased.  And yes, I recognize that the consistency of church attendance has greatly affected the numbers that are recorded in church on a given Sunday. And yes, I am concerned about that, which is why I am so passionate about ministering to children through discipleship at home, intergenerational ministry at church, and times of corporate worship within the faith community.

But I am not afraid.

And I don’t think you should be either. And I don’t think that fear is ever the right motivation for us to address the issues that concern us.

Fear has its root in a place of mistrust and uncertainty. It finds footing in places that are shaky and unstable. Fear forces reactions and clouds our judgement.

There’s another way. A better way. A more perfect way.

magnifyloveBecause according to the Bible, perfect love casts out fear.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (I Jn. 4:18).

What if when we heard the bad news, the scary numbers, the terrible situations that cause our hearts to race, instead of reacting in fear, we stopped and we looked for love.

What if we allowed our actions to be fueled by love? What would that look like?

I think it would look a lot more like relationships and not programming.

I think it would be a lot more hand-holding, shoulder-hugging, and knee-bowing than it would head-shaking, shoulder-shrugging, and knees-quaking.

I think love would say, “How can I help?  What can I do? God, who can I love?” instead of “How can our worship style help? What can the pastors do?  God, who can we hire?”

I was convicted of this fear vs. love thing most recently through this story of dear friends of mine, who tell it far better than me, so I’ll let their words reveal God’s love. For background purposes, these friends are seeking to adopt three girls, their nieces, and, as you will read, there was much room for fear, but then…perfect love took over.

These girls have experienced more heartache, more disappointment, and more pain than any seven, eight, and fourteen year old should ever know. And no matter how hard their parents tried, they simply could not provide the kids with a safe and stable living environment. These girls have suffered more heartache and pain at this young age than many people will face in a lifetime. As a result, they were removed from their home in May 2013. Although we all waited in hopeful expectation for their mom and dad to complete their case plans, change their lifestyles, and bring their beautiful children home, after three years they have yet to do so.

We came to realize the full depth of our longing to adopt these three beautiful girls one night in November 2014. Cody was standing in the kitchen making dinner when all of a sudden he held his face in his hands and began to weep. Through tears he said, “I just love them so much, Ash… and… I think God’s calling me to be their father.” What Cody didn’t know is that Ashley had been having a recurring dream for months on-end wherein the two of them welcomed these sweet girls into their family to have and to hold in covenantal relationship. In that moment, it was clear that God had been uniquely and individually preparing our hearts and minds for something extraordinary. He was calling us to truly consider adopting our nieces into our family to raise them as our very own daughters.

These sweet friends of mine still face a long journey before these girls will be with them, in their forever home, but what really struck me was this: Fear raised its head but love was greater. There are a lot of reasons why Cody and Ashley “shouldn’t” do this. Trust me, I’ve seen their struggle. There are a lot of fears. But they have chosen to magnify the love. Faced with scary numbers, a devastating situation, and terrible statistics, they chose to allow love, God’s love, to flood their hearts and they asked the questions: “How can I help?  What can I do? God, who can I love?”

There are a lot of children in our churches and in our communities. A lot. And there are not enough children’s pastors or Sunday School teachers in the world to reach every one. But there is you. Don’t let fear motivate you to react; let love overwhelm you into action. 

The numbers aren’t as scary as they appear. The Church is not dying. God is still moving, even among the Unaffiliated, even in those crazy Millennials, and most definitely among the children. Respond with love. Find a child (or two). Develop a relationship. Ask the questions.

Magnify LOVE! And drive out fear.

swoboda

 

If you are interested in helping to support my friends Cody and Ashley Swoboda as God leads them in love to adopt their nieces, you can find more information here and join them in their journey. 

 


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’s Talk About… You Guessed It

Recently, I saw a video that really got under my skin. It portrayed a family coming to church together, sitting down to hear the sermon, and then the pastor opening his Bible and preaching from Song of Solomon. What followed were exaggerated expressions of horror on the parents faces, goofy fascination on the son’s face and wonder and curiosity on the daughter’s face.

The message: Big Church is for Grown Ups. Send the kids to Children’s Church instead.

This video bothered me on so many levels.

First of all, seeing a family come to church to worship together is a beautiful thing and I can’t fathom telling them that they are not welcome to do so.

Second, of the 31,102 verses in the Bible, how often is the pastor going to preach on that one and not give some advance warning to parents about the text? How can we use that as precedence for keeping kids out of corporate worship?

But the final one, the one I had a hard time putting into words, was beautifully captured by my friend and fellow seminarian Mary Trent in this thought-provoking testimony of personal experience with, as she put it, “sex, the Church, and our children.”

I’m blessed to share my space today with her and ask you to carefully consider her words as we seek to bring our children up with healthy and godly views of sexuality and God’s Word.

At one point in our journey, we (the parents), decided that our brood would read the through the Old Testament together. Each family member would get to pick a book and we’d read through it as a family.We made it through some pretty impressive (and arduous) territory. Seriously y’all, we made it through all of the crazy stories where certain maidens “lay” with certain menfolk and they “conceived” a child. The kids didn’t flinch. My goodness! We made it through the awkwardness of Onan in Genesis 38, and still there were no words from the peanut gallery!

My husband and I were utterly amazed that our kids were absorbing the content of these stories. We thought this was a sign both of their maturity and our willingness to openly embrace the topic of human sexuality with our kiddos. We had, after all, been talking with them about S-E-X (in age-appropriate ways) since their curious minds began thinking up interesting questions surrounding the subject. So I (prematurely) gave us a great big pat on the proverbial parenting back and we forged ahead.

Then we hit the book of Esther.

One of our 10-year-old twins chose the book of Esther because she remembered a sermon she’d heard preached when she was but a wee 8 years old. She said, “Ever since then, I wanted to read the whole book.”

The thing is—I remembered that sermon. Its content included talk of sexual image, and appropriate marital relationships. So imagine if you will sweet reader, my reaction when she made her selection. I didn’t look a seminarian. I looked like a terrified mom, shaking in her yoga pants.

It was during the reading of Queen Vashti’s refusal to (ahem) “perform” for her husband and his friends that prompted my then 6 year old to ask, “Why wouldn’t she want to let the men look at how pretty she was Mommy?” My husband and I exchanged a few awkward glances and returned her question with our own. “Why do YOU think Queen Vashti wouldn’t want to show off her beauty?” Before she could answer, one of her sisters chimed in saying, “Maybe she didn’t like being a thing for other men to look at. She probably wanted her husband to love her, respect her, and she maybe didn’t want to share that part of herself with anyone else.” MIC. DROP.

I ran out of the room, away from the conversation. I went to a place where no one in my family could see me cry BIG, HOT, UGLY, tears. Don’t get me wrong; this was a cry of joy and I needed to process this joy in private.

It was the Holy Spirit confirming to me that kids don’t need G-rated sermons and coloring sheets during worship to “occupy their minds on something spiritual while adults get the adult-necessary instruction from a Sunday morning service.”

Can I tell you something?

feet-1042336_1920The subject of sex is something that I have struggled with my. entire. Christian. life. I grew up thinking that sex/sexuality was a thing you put in a drawer and didn’t think about until you got married. It was a forbidden and dirty thought until you said, “I do.” To curb the insatiable sex-crazed teenaged mind, the Church of the 90s-early 2000s (bless its heart), encouraged parents to purchase purity rings and host prom-like events (with Rebecca St. James’ song “Wait for Me” playing in the background), where we, the teens stood in line and signed pledges of abstinence.

Make no mistake. I believe sex is a gift meant to be enjoyed by married couples. I am not mocking the efforts or the intentions of the Church of my youth, but I think it’s a mistake to bench the kids from corporate worship because (oh my goodness) the topic of sex may come up in the sermon.

Parents, our iPad, smartphone-loving kids are being bombarded with images and advertisements that sear the world’s image of sexuality into their minds and hearts. Even if you have a browsing filter or don’t allow your kids to watch TV or surf the net, they will encounter this mistaken message from their peers.

Please hear me. Your kids need to know about God’s sexual standards. I am suggesting that yes; we the parents talk about sex with our kids. But I am also suggesting that we don’t separate sex from the Church and that we don’t separate our kids from the topic of sex when it comes up in the Church. It is sometimes (always), awkward. It is sometimes (always), going to incite eye-rolling and red faces, but the conversation is necessary and it needs to happen both at home and within the community of Christ-followers.

I am so proud that my kids and their friends are growing up in this exciting time of the Church! We hear a lot of what we do wrong, but I think we also do a lot of things right.

Bringing our kids to worship, allowing them to take in the information, and trusting the Holy Spirit to plant the seeds of wisdom and understanding in their hungry souls is definitely something to celebrate.

Because of the Church’s faithfulness to embrace all things and speak with honesty and truth, my daughters have a much healthier understanding of sex and sexual identity than I ever did.


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.

More Church Won’t Help Our Kids

I’m just gonna put this out there.

Going to church isn’t the answer.

This past week I’ve seen a number of posts and articles that, for all intents and purposes, drop the reason for young adults leaving the evangelical Protestant church on the fact that they are attending church for less time then they spend playing sports or going to school.  Once such post read something like this:

Why do young adults drop out of church?
1) Kids go to school 30 hours per week and get taught ideas that are opposed to biblical truth
2) Then they spend another 30 hours per week watching TV, playing video games, or connecting on social media.
3) Meanwhile, time spent weekly in the church classroom: 45 minutes.

Another article circulating this week came from the a satirical Christian website that poked fun at parents who wondered why their daughter has left the church when they made it a priority to bring her whenever there wasn’t a sports schedule conflict.

In both of these posts and in a few others I read this week, the proposed solution to the problem of people leaving the church when they are older was to make them go to church more often when they are young.

I could not disagree more with that sentiment.

If the foundation of our faith rests in consistent church attendance, then we have missed the mark on what it is to be the church.  

If we expect that Sunday school teachers and youth group leaders to have so much influence as to negate the effects of living in a world that beats to a different drum, we are sadly misguided as to what church is intended to be.

Let’s be realistic. More time does not necessarily equal more influence. And even if it did, how many more hours would be needed?  If the numbers listed above of 30 hours for school and 30 hours for entertainment are correct, does that mean kids need to be in church 60 hours?  Or is there an acceptable percentage? 10% would be 6 hours. Would that be enough?

church-pews-1190461_1920I realize I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, but I think we need to recognize something. Realistically, more time in a church building is not the answer to diminishing returns to church from post-graduates. And, even though this is even harder to swallow, more time doing the things we do inside a church building isn’t the answer either. If it was, there would be a direct correlation to involvement in youth group and Wednesday night programming and young people remaining in church….and there’s not.

There are some reasons why I think this.

  1. Every study that has been done, secular or religious, regarding the influencers of faith formation on children rank the home or the parents/guardians as the overwhelming primary source of formation (For more on this, click here)
  2. Studies done on why young adults choose to remain in church is not linked directly to time spent there but directly to relationships fostered there, especially intergenerational relationships outside of their peer group and the adults that work directly in age-segregated ministry. (For more on this, click here)
  3. Another major factor in church retention is involvement serving within the church and in the community, particular with younger generations and in family groups. (Check out Sticky Faith for some great research on this)

I’m not against going to church. Frankly, I’d be out of a job if everyone stopped attending. But I’m aware that “church” isn’t a place and if becomes a place, we have already lost the next generation. Church isn’t Sunday morning or Wednesday night or choir practice or a really cool youth group. And more time logged in that place will not change anything. It can’t. We simply can’t compete.

So what if we were serious about looking at church differently.

What if Sunday morning and Wednesday night and choir practice and really cool youth groups were launching pads instead of destinations?

What if we were intentional about equipping and sending so that not being in church looked more like being the church than missing church?

What if we talked to each other all week long, at soccer practices and bus stops, at lunch tables and school concerts?

What if we taught our kids, our youth, our parents, our church that church is who we are not what we do and that being a Christian isn’t a box we mark on Sundays or on a Pew Research survey, but a transformation of our reality because of the grace of God and connection to Christ’s body?

The Bible says some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer (Heb. 10:25).  If we only apply that to times our church doors are open for service, we are missing the point.

We need a bigger picture of what church is.

We need a bigger vision of what it is that will help keep our kids connected to God’s family after they are grown.

We need a bigger dream of how God is building us together as the body of Christ.

And sure, that might mean we end up spending more time at church, because that’s where relationships are being fostered and life is being lived…but simply adding more time there isn’t the answer.

When we are Christians…when we are the church… everywhere we go; when parents are inviting God into ordinary moments like sports practice and video games; when ministers are connecting and continuing conversations far beyond Sunday and way past church doors; and when the body of Christ shows up all week long, all over the place, habitually being together and encouraging one another more and more… that’s when I believe we will see the church truly grow.


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.

 

When Church is Boring

A friend of mine recently visited my church with her kids. Because of the nature of my job, I wasn’t able to check in with her to see how things went afterwards, but later that night, this popped up in my Facebook feed.

I figured Izzie was worn out during worship today and probably didn’t listen as closely as she normally would. While we did our chores tonight she blew me out of the water when she accurately explained what the Swoon Theory was and even why she didn’t think it was a good argument.

I couldn’t help but smile. Because I sat behind this family during the sermon and I agreed with the mother’s assessment that her children didn’t appear too engaged. The word “bored” may have crossed my mind. Because sometimes… church is boring.

Brutal honesty time.

Sometimes, my kids think church is “boring.”

Not that long ago, my middle child fell asleep on her dad’s lap right in the middle of the 9:30 service.  My oldest makes the most amazing doodles you’ve ever seen during service times and on the rare occasions I can get my youngest to make it through any portion of a service, he spends most of his time touching everything he can get his hands on like hymnals, bulletins, random stranger’s hair…boredkid

So, why in the world do I make such a big deal about having my kids in worship?  Obviously they are bored.  Obviously I am forcing them to do something that they don’t like and probably scarring them for life when it comes to attending services.  Wouldn’t it be better for them to be somewhere else, like with other kids in a different room, where they can have fun and want to come to church?

There’s a lot to unpack in those questions, more than one blog post can cover.  A lot of underlying assumptions about why we go to church and what church is supposed to look like and what kids need and my answers for those questions tend to be a lot more “both/and” then “either/or”, BUT I’m just going to tell you my simple reason for why I want my kids to have the opportunity to participate in corporate worship.

Because they are members of the body of Christ.

It’s simple really.  They have each made declarations of faith, appropriate to their age and understanding, that they love God and want to follow Him.

They are part of the church.  The church needs them.  And they need church.

Okay, you thought I was brutally honest above… check this out.

Sometimes, I think church is boring.  Hey now, so do you!!  Be honest, sometimes we have a really hard time engaging, in some cases, staying awake.  We wish we could curl up on our daddy’s lap and grab a quick cat nap during the sermon.

But most adults I know, especially adults that are desiring to grow in their faith and active in their walk with Christ, would not use the fact that church is “boring” to dissuade them from attending.

Because that’s not why we go to church.

We don’t go to church for an adrenaline rush.  We don’t go to church to be entertained.  We don’t go to church for goosebumps and thrills and chills.  I’m not saying there aren’t times when we have amazing moments where those things might happen, but that is not WHY we go to church.

And that is not WHY my kids go to church.  Sure, I do my best to engage them with the service.  And our church is exploring more ways to welcome and invite kids into active participation in the service.

But even if we do it all perfectly, chances are, there are going to be days where church is boring.  And that’s okay.  Because there are days when school is boring, and home is boring, and life is boring.  If we are never bored, if we are constantly entertained and distracted, how are we ever going to find time to “be still and know that He is God?”

So many times I have parents tell me, “I didn’t think my child was listening to the sermon at all but then later, he said something almost word-for-word that the pastor had shared!” (see the story shared above)

Kids are a lot more perceptive than we give them credit for.

They are learning all. the. time.  They are watching you, listening to you, and imitating you.

The next time your child says, “I don’t want to go to church.  It’s boring!!” and they will because they are kids, give them a hug and say, “I know it can be boring sometimes, but that’s not why we go to church.  We go to church because we are part of the body of Christ. And you are an important part of Christ’s body.  If you aren’t there, a piece is missing.  Who knows?  God might use you today to encourage someone who is sad, to teach someone who is needing to learn, to love someone who needs to be loved.  God might even speak to YOU if you listen closely.  You are special to God and to us, and we need you there!”

And, as needed, remind yourself of that truth as well!

Some Ideas for When Church Is Boring

If you are concerned with bringing your child into worship because you are afraid that he/she will be bored, don’t be.  Being bored is not the worst thing in the world.  But here are some great suggestions for how you can engage with your child during the service so that being bored and being left out don’t have to be the same. 

Kids don’t just have to sit and tolerate services.  They can be invited into the experience and my guess is, if we engage with them during service time, we may just find out that we too get more from the service. (BTW, these ideas were inspired from an insert from Christ Church Parish in Raleigh, NC and a pew card that we use at my church)

  • Sit towards the front where it is easier for your little ones to see and hear what is going on. They tire of looking at the backs of others’ heads.
  • Quietly explain parts of the service and actions of the ministers and whisper the sermon to them in words they can understand.
  • Sing the hymns/songs, pray and voice the responses because children learn the liturgy by watching you!
  • If you have to leave the service, feel free to do so but feel free to come back as well!
  • Let your kids doodle and color in church.  Often when their hands are busy, their minds are engaged with the service more than you realize.

 

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.

Do We Walk Along The Road?

In my last post, Do We Know Their Names?, I challenged us to consider if we not only know the names of the ones we serve, but if we know the names of the ones they love?  Do we know the names of of their next circle, their family and their friends, because knowing those names takes our relationship beyond the Sunday school classroom and into their lives.

I was so convicted by this question, I sat down and began to list out how many of the names I knew. I was so convicted by the answer I found, that I began to ask God to give me some clear direction on how I could get to know the names of the names.

heidiSo God sent Heidi Hensley. 

Heidi is a an amazing Children’s Minister from Bayside Church in Northern California. Over the past 2o years, she has helped to design and lead children’s and family programming across the United States. But the thing I love most about Heidi is that she is 100% Heidi; she’s one of the “realest” people I’ve met. So when she got up to speak at CMConnect Conference, I was excited to hear her story.

Of course, God met me right in the middle of it. 

During her talk, she shared a story about Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Yes, we all know that verse. One of my personal favorites. Moses had gathered the whole assembly of Israel and declared to them that God, their God, is one God and tells them to love Him with all that they have and are and will ever be.

And then he immediately follows with, The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts.Make sure your children learn them. Talk about them when you are at home. Talk about them when you walk along the road. Speak about them when you go to bed. And speak about them when you get up”

I’ve always loved this because I love the ordinary moments God picks to show up in our lives and in our children’s lives. I love that He says “Point to Me in the everyday things, the mundane moments,  the most routine times.

But Heidi then took this verse a bit further.

She shared a story, a hard story, about a time that she saw a young man get taken away from his mother and then later, saw that mother with him again. At first, her instinct was to feel angry. How could she get him back?

But God’s grace overcame and instead she talked to the mother…and she found out the whole story. A hard story. A story of need. A story of pain.  It was in that moment Heidi realized that while she had proclaimed the Lord is one and challenged her kids to love God and love others, she had not walked along the road with this one, this woman who desperately needed the faith community to join her on the journey.

And it was like an arrow through my heart. 

Because I often share that God gave the command to “make sure your children learn” in the midst of the whole assembly, not just parents alone.

He didn’t call out the parents and say, “This discipleship of the kids things is your exclusive job.”

He didn’t clarify roles or put pressure in any one place.

In the midst of the congregation, in a gathering of all ages, He says, “Impress these things upon YOUR children” to the whole faith community. 

So the command to “walk along the road” applies the whole community. It applies to the parents, the ones raising the children, and it applies to the church, the ones supporting the home.

communityVery often, in children’s ministry, we can get focused on those little ones we serve. We pour into them. We want to know about what is going on with them so we can support and encourage them. We want to equip parents for the work of discipleship so we offer trainings and seminars, give handouts and print out articles, and we pray for them and for their homes.

But to join someone on a journey, to walk along their road, requires a bit more than that. It requires us to hear their story, to know their joys and to feel their pains, “to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice.”  I am learning this all to well in this season of ministry. In some instances, I’ve done better with the “walk along the road.”  In some I have completely dropped the ball.

It’s more than knowing the names of the names. It’s joining the journey. It’s being the church. Which means we will cry when they cry. We will laugh when they laugh.

And it’s creating a space where the whole congregation, the entire faith community, is doing that for one another. Relationships will define church and our “job” will look more like life than work. 

The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts. 

Make sure your children learn them. Talk about them when you are at home.

Talk about them when you walk along the road


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.