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.
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.
Very 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
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About the author
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.