What the Latest Pew Research Offers for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry

This past week the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life released their newest findings on how and why people choose a new house of worship. It is a long report but I highly recommend reading the whole thing if you are someone that is interested in overall ministry within the church.

For those of us who are more specified in our interest, namely children, youth and family, here’s what I would call the Highlight Reel – the information most pertinent to these specific ministries.

1. 65% of young parents rank ministry to kids as playing an important role in choosing a new house of worship

Overall, 56% of adults who have looked for a new congregation say the quality of educational programs available for children was an important factor in their decision. Among those who currently are parents of minor children, however, about two-thirds (65%) say this. – Page 1, Pew Report

What does this mean for us?

It means that what we do matters to families that come and visit our church. In fact, this factor ranked 5th overall in importance, which is impressive considering this survey included those without children and those with grown children as well as parents of school-aged children.

2. The biggest reason to look for a new church (34%) is because of a geographical move not because of problems with their old church (7%). 

About half of Americans have never looked for a new house of worship, perhaps because they are not churchgoers or because they have been members of the same church, synagogue or mosque since childhood…They are also more likely to have lived in the same place all their life. – Page 1, Pew Report

What does this mean for us?

It means that for at least half of the children you begin ministering to at birth will remain with you into adulthood. This is why generational discipleship is SO important. Helping those children and youth establish relationships within the church with people of multiple generations is essential to creating a strong ethic of mentorship and discipleship within the church.

3. The idea of “regular attendance” is a fluid one with most churchgoers BUT many say they attend church MORE now than that have in the past 

More than a quarter of Americans (27%) say they currently attend religious services at least once or twice a month, but that there was once a time in their adult lives when they attended less regularly than they do now. And more than one-in-five adults (22%) say they currently attend religious services infrequently or never (a few times a year, at most), but that there was once a time when they attended more often. – Page 3, Pew Report

What does this mean for us?pewresearch

Perhaps this surprised you as much as it did me. We are always told that church attendance is declining in America so I was shocked to find that most evangelicals would say that they attend more frequently now than they did in the past.

That being said, the idea of attendance is quite fluid because the definition of attending regularly (in this study) is “once or twice a month.”  You read that right. Once or twice a month is now considered regular attendance. That means, for the most part, you will get to interact with those families and kids for 1 to 2 hours a month. That alone shows the importance of reaching families in their home, workplace, schools, and athletic events with support and consistent communication outside the “box” of church. Our time with is important, but it simply doesn’t carry the most weight. The other 167 hours of the week are hugely influential and we need to be there.

4. Roughly 8 in 10 of religious “Nones” or the Unaffiliated were raised with a religious affiliation

There are clear patterns in the reasons “nones” give for disaffiliating, based on how they describe their current religious identity. For example, most of those who now identify as atheists (82%) say a lack of belief spurred them to become unaffiliated. By contrast, fewer than half of respondents who describe their religion as “nothing in particular” (37%) cite lack of belief as the reason they no longer affiliate with a religion. – Page 3, Pew Report

What does that mean for us?

If you are like me, your heart just broke a little. Maybe a lot. This is my why. This is what motivates me every day as I recognize that 80% of those who self-identify as “unaffiliated” were at one time part of a church or community of faith. And, a deeper study will show you, these are primarily coming from evangelical Protestant backgrounds. For more thoughts on this and on what we can do to turn this tide, please read this article regarding last year’s study released on the “Religious Nones” and this response regarding Millennials walking away from faith.

There is a lot more to be gleaned from the research provided by Pew regarding this topic but I hope what was highlighted will help us prayerfully consider who we can use the resources of time and community to help our children, youth, and families grow together as a community of faith.

Creating space for deep and meaningful intergeneration connections that extend beyond the walls of the church and the hour or two a month we might be there together is absolutely critical to helping our young people find their place of belonging within the congregation. 

For more information regarding the current landscape of the church in America, please refer to the following information provided by Pew Research.

The first report on the 2014 Landscape Study, based on a telephone survey of more than 35,000 adults, examined the changing religious composition of the U.S. public and documented the fluidity of religion in the U.S., where roughly one-third of adults now have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. The second report described the religious beliefs, practices and experiences of Americans, as well the social and political views of different religious groups. A third report drew on both the national telephone survey and a supplemental survey of participants in Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel to describe how Americans live out theirreligion in their everyday lives.


For more information about

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

About the author

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

Advertisements

Christmas for the Whole Church

I get a lot of requests for Christmas programs that are intergenerational and focused on bringing the whole church together, while still being appropriate for kids to lead and participate in. One year, after searching for a while, I decided to write my own, and just see what happened.   We ended up having a very moving and memorable all-church experience around the story of God’s Love played out at Christmas. I’m sharing this in the hopes that it will help others experience the same thing this year at your church.

Because the original program included videos and music our church paid for, I am unable to share the full scripting here, although I can provide links to the music and videos for your own purchasing if desired. IF YOU USE THIS SCRIPT, PLEASE PURCHASE WHATEVER VIDEOS OR MUSIC YOU MIGHT DECIDE TO USE. The rest of the script, which I have written, is free for your use but please honor those who have copyrighted their materials for purchase.

The idea for this program came out of the idea of “Cardboard Testimonies” where people share their testimony in short phrases on a piece of cardboard. For instance, the first side might read “Lost in Sin” and the other side could read “Found in Love.”  As you read through the script, you’ll see how this is utilized to share the story of Christmas and, even more, the metanarrative of God’s ongoing story of Love and rescue for all of us!

Cardboard testimonies – A Christmas Celebration

  • Narrator 1, 2christmaschurch
  • Joseph – Doubter/Believer
  • Mary – Too Young/Chosen by God
  • Shepherds – Nobodies/God’s Somebodies (2)
  • Wise Men – Wise/Humble (3)
  • Scripture Reader
  • Children to sing

 MATERIALS NEEDED – Cardboard signs, both prepared as described and empty, and extra sharpies. Costumes can be used for children if the church desires.

Narrator 1  – It’s that time of year again. Can you feel it? (wrap arms around self) Can you smell it? (take a deep breath and then look over a plate of cookies) Mmmmm, can you taste it? (takes a small bite) This is one of my very favorite times of year. I love the sights, the sounds, and the stories that make it so special. But my favorite story is the one we as Christians celebrate as we light our tree, share our gifts and sing our songs. Of course, I am talking about the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Narrator 2 – Like so many stories in the Bible, there is so much for us to learn from how God interacted with the people He used. Today, we want to look a little deeper at the story we all know and love and just see if we can catch of glimpse of Christmas here today.

Let’s start with Joseph, Jesus’ father here on earth

(Lights dim, spotlight on center stage, Joseph enters hold up large sign “Doubter.”

Joseph: I couldn’t believe it when I heard her say it. “I’m going to have a baby, God’s son, and he will save the world.” We weren’t married yet. I wasn’t ready to be a father. And she said she talked to angels. Doesn’t that sound crazy to you? But then, it happened. In a dream I talked to an angel too. I heard him say that everything Mary said was true. That I was going to be the father to God’s own Son. And in that moment my heart changed (flip the sign to other side “Believer”) and I became the first of many believers in my son, Jesus, the Messiah.

(Video – Joseph song: Music available to purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Josephs-Song/dp/B002CGLYD2 and video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BARVAg0gl6w&list=RDBARVAg0gl6w , Joseph leaves)

(Mary enters, holding up sign that reads “Too Young”)

Mary: Hi, my name is Mary. I’m still not used to getting up in front of people but I am learning. I’ll never forget the day the angel told me I was to be Jesus’ mother. Me? But, I was so young, really just a child. I was engaged to be married but not for a while and I couldn’t understand why God would choose me. But He did. Not because of my age or my abilities but because I was willing and I was available. (flip sign, other side reads “Chosen by God”). I was chosen and by His Love , I was blessed to be the mother of God’s only son.

(Song: Mary, Did You Know? Music available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IB4DTFU/ref=dm_ws_tlw_trk9. We had two of our youth play the piano and sing for this part.  Mary exits)

(Two shepherds enter, carrying 1 big sign that says Nobodies. The two should be struggling, arguing a bit on how best to carry the sign before they get situated)

Shepherd #1 – Ahem, hello, sorry ‘bout that. Um, ahem, yeah… we are shepherds. (said definitively and then stop expectantly)

Shepherd #2, shaking his head – And…? Never mind, I’ll tell them. We are shepherds and around these parts we don’t get much, yah know, R-E-S-P-E-C-T because well, see, we don’t have a lot of schooling and mostly we’re just out in the field all day watching sheep.

Shepherd #1 – But that’s important!! Because if someone didn’t watch the sheep, they’d run off or get eaten and things!!

Shepherd #2 – Yeah, I know that, but lots of other folks just think we’re stinky and silly. BUT not God, oh no, not Him. He done sent us a whole slew of angels, singing and telling us that the Messiah had been born.

Shepherd #1 – That’s right. At first we were scared but then we was just excited. We was the first to know!! (they flip the sign, easily and not clumsily this time) and we were the very first ones to tell others that Jesus has been born.

Shepherd #2 – We may not speak the best or read real well, but God trusted us to announce the arrival of His Son. I say that makes us Somebody in His book! (they high five)

(Video: Skit Guys, First Christmas Shepherd available for purchase at http://skitguys.com/videos/item/first-christmas-shepherd)

(Wise men enter, stoically, the middle one holding a sign reading “Wise”)

Wiseman #1 – Good evening. It is our privilege and joy to share with you this evening the events that occurred upon our visit to Bethlehem around the arrival of the baby named Jesus of Nazareth.

Wiseman #2 – Our charts and graphs as well as our astrological studies had led us to the exact location of the child’s birth. We had brought with us valuable gifts to present to Him as our studies had revealed that he would indeed be a king, a king of kings to be exact.

Wiseman #3 – Imagine our surprise when all of our wisdom and charts and graphs and maps led us to a tiny cave behind an inn in the town of Bethelehem. (all kneel as the middle one flips the sign to reveal the word HUMBLE) We bowed before the king of the world on a dirt floor and dirty hay and never have we been so fulfilled in all our lives.

Scripture Reading  – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (Jn. 1:1-5)

(At this time, all the kids will come out and sing “Here I am to Worship”, music available to purchase at http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0081209)

There are no spoken kid parts at this time but they will have stage presence as part of this section

Narrator 1: You see, there’s so much more to the story than just a manger and a birth. Lives were changed. People were transformed. Let’s take a look one more time at how these people so long ago were changed.

All characters go line up in the front platform, holding their broken signs facing out.

Narrator 2: See, each person needed God in some way. They all felt confused, insecure, insignificant, unworthy and self-sufficient. But the love of God transformed them (Actors flip signs) He changed their lives, their minds, and their hearts. He made them into believers and helped them understand they were chosen children of God. He made each of them “somebody” and gave them hearts of humility.

Actors exit right, lining up against the side wall of the sanctuary holding their “new” signs above their head to be seen by the congregation.

Narrator 1: Yes, these people long ago were transformed and the impact of our Savior’s birth continues to this day. Jesus’ love still has the power to change us, each one of us. The story continues even with us…

At this time, a few adult members of the congregation will come out one by one and in the spotlight with their “cardboard” testimony. If anyone is willing, you could give them time to share their testimony.

Narrator 2: Perhaps some of the rest of you have experienced this kind of love in your life. Perhaps you too have a story to share. (Preplanned volunteers line up on left side of church) If so we will invite you now to make your way to one of the three stations where blank signs and markers are available for you to make your own sign.

Narrator 1: While the music continues to play, make your way to the far side aisle and we will help you come one by one to the front to share your sign. You don’t need to talk, just share your sign with us. This may very well be the best Christmas card you could send. You may now go to the 3 stations at the back.

Music to play. We used “Oh How He Loves Us” by David Crowder. Preplanned volunteers will begin filing onto stage to show their sign. As congregants line up, prompter 2 will tell each one to go as the current testimonial is stepping down. There is no set time limit for this. It will depend on the size of your church and the move of the Holy Spirit. Our testimony time lasted about 10-15 minutes. The music played on a loop during that time. 

Pastor/Director: Maybe today, you didn’t have a sign to show or a card to write. That’s okay because the very best news of Christmas is that the story never ends. If today you felt a desire to allow God to re-write your story and you would like to pray with someone, we invite you after the service to make your way to the corner of the sanctuary at the cross where we have friends who would like to pray with you waiting.

Now, in the spirit of celebration, thanking God through Jesus Christ for His magnificent gift of love, let us come to the table set before us and share in communion with Christ and one another (Continue with communion liturgy).

Whole congregation sings: O Come all ye Faithful, Joy to the World (or music of your choice. We followed this Christmas program with a church-wide holiday dinner)


For more information about

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

About the author

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

Why We Need to Stop Picking Sides in KidMin

“Whose side are you on?”

This seems to be the question of the hour.  Whether we are talking about politics or sports, social movements or educational standards, white or wheat…it seems like everywhere I go, I’m being asked to take a side. If I choose not to, for whatever reason, I get told by some that I am wishy-washy and lukewarm and by others that I’m uninformed or uneducated on the topic.

The problem is that I find I am far more of a “Both/And” kind of a person than I am an “Either/Or” kind.  Especially when it comes to ministering to kids in the church. Yes, there are sides to be taken there too.

  • Should the kids be included in the corporate worship service or should they be in their own separate place?
  • Should the curriculum focus on the stories of the Bible or the overall concepts of God and biblical living?
  • Should discipleship happen primarily in the home or should Sunday School be the “best hour” of the week?

And there are a myriad of other “sides” that could be thrown in here.

The longer I serve in children’s and family ministry, the more distinct these lines seem to become and, from my perspective, these “sides” seem to stem from two basic approaches when ministering to children.

The first approach is primarily developmental it its focus.

It tends to argue that in order for children to be appropriately taught and engaged with church and faith, it is most important to ensure that age-appropriate and developmentally-appropriate space, materials, and teaching are used in ministering to the kids.

This approach tends to champion things like Kids Church during the adults “big church” time, making Sunday School the highlight of the week, having separate space for different age groups to worship, learn and grow, and curriculum that is focused on developmental markers.

The second approach tends to focus more the concepts of spiritual formation and discipleship.

It claims that faith formation of children transcends the natural developmental processes of growth because it is spiritual in nature and therefore is transforming the heart and soul even if cognitively a child is unable to comprehend every aspect of the teaching.

This approach tends to encourage children remain a part of the larger worship service and emphasizes ministries that connect the generations in meaningful relationships, a focus on the home and the equipping of parents/caregivers as the primary place of faith formation, and the spiritual formation of the child through the passing on of the faith from one generation to another.

lotsofkids

Before we get all up in arms and start picking sides or saying that one side or another has been misrepresented, please hear this:  I’m not saying that these are definitive or even precisely accurate. I’m only saying that in my experience, it seems to me that when I listen to people share their thoughts on ministry to children in the church, they tend to lean one way or another as described above.

As an educator, I can most definitely see the merit of the first approach. The social sciences have shown us that children do learn differently based on their age, their needs, and their development.

As a minister, I can most definitely see the merit of the second approach. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been amazed to see a child speak or act in a way that seems to be far beyond their developmental stage and absolutely light years beyond some adults in spiritual maturity.

So, I cannot pick a side. And, in my opinion, neither should any of us.

Both of these approaches are “right”. Both of them have correctly assessed the needs of children within the church. Both of them have at their heart a desire to see children grow in the faith. Yes, it is true I lean towards one approach (and if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know which one) but I cannot pick one side and say, “This is it.”

It is in the “picking of sides” that we can run into problems.

When we become so focused on the approach we think is right, we can tend to push that way as THE way, and the only way, to do kid’s ministry “right.”

And that is wrong.

The Either/Or approach limits the work that God can do in our lives as well as the lives of the kids and families we serve. It does a disservice to the whole congregation and it creates a box into which we neatly pack our preferred way of doing things.

A Both/And approach is messy. It’s not neat and tidy. It requires creativity and it requires work. It means we have to seek ways of ministering not only at developmentally-appropriate levels but also at generational discipleship levels.

It could mean noisy services where children are a part of the corporate worship AND small groups where kids meet with others their age.

It could mean family worship events AND Sunday School classes broken down by age and developmental levels.

It might mean intergenerational Bible study groups AND a Kids Church hour where children hear the Bible at their level.

My challenge, to myself and to others who are being asked to “pick a side”, is to take a serious look at our ministry to kids and see if we’ve adopted an either/or point of view. Have we excluded the good offered by one approach simply because we are defending the good of the other approach? Is there room for both?  If we look at the full spectrum of ministry within our church, is there space for both approaches to be realized and embraced?  If so, that’s great! If not, could there be?

Both/And may appear to some to be wishy-washy or compromising, but in this case, I truly believe it is wisdom. I’d love to hear how your church is finding ways to incorporate both approaches in its ministry to children and families. It might be messy, but sometimes, the best ministry is just that.


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

Gifts Grandparents Give

My daughter’s 13th birthday is coming up…soon. Which means I’ll be the mom of a teenager (a fact worthy of its own blog post) but it also means I’m supposed to be planning an epic birthday party. The thing is, she already planned it. And what struck me as I read through her extensive, all-day, very detailed plan, was her request for dinner: Great-Grandma’s Spaghetti and Meatballs. 

There are a few things that have gotten passed through the generations and this particular recipe is one of them. My great-grandmother showed my grandmother how to make it and my grandmother showed my mother and they showed me and now I’ll pass it on to my kids. To me, it’s Grandma’s Spaghetti which is funny because to my grandmother it was Nonni’s Spaghetti (her mother-in-law). But one thing doesn’t change – the amazing, delicious, recipe that has to cook for two days and is hands-down the best spaghetti and meatballs on the planet.

cafe-845527_1920Psalm 145:4 tells of a different kind of thing getting passed from one generation to another. “One generation commends His works to another; they tell of His mighty acts.”  

Testimonies of faith, passed from one generation to the next, through stories, through conversation, through example.  

The thing about the recipe that my grandmother passed to me is that it took time. She couldn’t just write it down, because frankly, some of the steps included eyeballing spices in the palm of her hand or taste-testing at certain times to make sure the ingredients were blending.

It took a relationship. 

And when I make that particular dish, I can still hear her voice in my head telling me to “stir that gently or you’ll break up the meatballs” or to “cut that smaller; you don’t want a mouthful of garlic!” I can also hear her singing. I can remember stories she told me. I can feel her hugs. She passed a whole lot more than just a recipe to me. She passed on a lifetime of stories and of love. 

Generational discipleship is about more than just passing on testimonies of faith.

Yes, those things are the reason for the conversation. But in telling the stories, we are also passing on and receiving a lot more. Relationships are forged. Time is spent. Love is modeled. Laughter ensues. Hugs are given.

We both find out that we belong – we belong in the place of giving and we belong in the place of receiving.

We find out who we are as we pass on and receive the stories of hope and grace that have forged our identities.

A fellow seminarian was so curious about this “passing on” of the faith from one generation to another, especially from grandparents to grandchildren, that he is actually using this as the foundation of his Master’s thesis.  As we talked, I realized I wanted to be a part of finding out what this looks like. Why? Because I know how important my grandparents were in shaping me and I want grandparents and older generations to know just how much of an impact they have on children and youth.

If you’d like to be a part of this research, I invite you to read the information below sent by my friend Matthew Deprez. If you want to be a part of shaping the lives of the next generation, in addition to taking the survey, I invite you to build a relationship with a grandchild or other young person as you pass on your favorite recipe or show them the perfect golf stroke.

In other words, use what you have to pass on as a vessel to pass on a whole lot more. Forge relationships and mold identities by doing just as we’ve been commissioned, by commending His works to the next generation and telling of His mighty acts!

From my friend, Matthew Deprez
As part of a Capstone/Thesis project I am working on through Wesley Seminary, I am hoping to identify how grandparents shape the faith formation of their grandchildren. After a lengthy Literature Review that has taken over a year to complete, we are finally ready to begin our first wave of unique research that will be conducted through a brief study, which you can access here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/grandparentstudy.
I’ll be collecting these responses no later than August 25th and anticipate this survey only taking between 5 – 10 minutes to complete. As a way of saying thank you for your time, I will be randomly giving away a $50 Amazon gift card to an individual who completes the survey. (Details in the survey link).  
Thank you for your willingness to be part of this exciting study. My desire is to expand our understanding of the grandparent-grandchild relationship for the sake of future generation’s faith formation, and ultimately Kingdom-building that extends well beyond this academic project.

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

Five Ways to say Welcome

Yesterday was my kids’ first day back to school. My husband and I went on a breakfast date. I attended chapel at my husband’s seminary. My house was quiet for 7 hours. And, if I’m honest, it was nice.

But as the time grew closer for my kids to get home, I grew more and more antsy. I wanted to know how their day went. I wanted to give them hugs and look in their eyes and see if they were really okay. I wanted to welcome them back into the quiet space, knowing full well it wouldn’t be quiet any more, but desiring even more their presence.  So, I made them smoothies and soft pretzels and waited by the door to say, “Welcome home!”

Later, after the noise returned and the excitement wore off and the normal routine of our evening ensued, I thought, “Hmm, what was I so excited about?” But before bed, as I was tucking my youngest in, he said something along the lines of , “I can’t wait to come home tomorrow.”

And isn’t that what I really wanted?

I wanted my kids to want to come home. To come back to this place we share, to the noise and the mess, to the warmth and the love. I wanted them to walk through that door and immediately know they were wanted, they were missed, and they were loved.

They were welcomed.

hand-1549132_1920What if we translated this kind of “welcome home” into our church setting? I’m not saying we hand a smoothie and soft pretzel to each child that walks through the door, although that would be delicious. But what if we thought, “How can I let this child who is coming to worship service, to Sunday school, to Kids Church, to small group, know that they are wanted, missed, and loved?” 

Here are five ideas that other ministers have shared with me for us to consider how we can say, “Welcome” each and every time we open the door to a returning child.

Say Their Name

Nothing says, “I know you” better to a child than simply saying their name when you see them. One little girl recently began attending our church and when I saw her on the second Sunday she was there I welcomed her by name. She literally stopped in her tracks, looked up at me and said, “How do you know my name?”  I said, “Well, your mom told me last week and I remembered.”  She responded with a simple but surprised, “Wow!”  But later, she made sure to say good bye to me…by name.

Get on their Level

Once, a fellow minister at a conference, had all of us get down on our knees and “walk” around the room at half our size to see what the room looked like from a shorter vantage point.  Tables at eye-level, ceilings far above our heads, signs and screens where we couldn’t read them; all of those experiences were helpful in understanding how a child feels. But nothing was more impacting than when half the adults were told to stand back up. Suddenly, those tall people became quite intimidating. Simply kneeling down so eye-to-eye contact is possible can remove that barrier and say, “I’m glad you are here!”

Ask a Question

A friend of mine told me that her trick to welcoming kids to the worship service is to make sure she has a question to ask about something they are involved in. For instance, if they play soccer, she’ll ask if they had a game and how it went. If they are in school, she’ll ask about their classes or how their tests went. She said, “I don’t need to know specifics, I just need to know basics, and they fill in the rest.”  She’s also careful not to ask “yes” or “no” questions but ones where they can talk. Showing interest in someone says, “I want you here!” in very real ways. 

Listen to the Answer

We’ve all been there. Someone asks a question, to be polite, and when we answer, we can see they have completely lost interest. That does not feel welcoming at all. Making the choice to not only ask a question but really listen to the answer tells the child that they are valuable enough for your time and attention. And with a child, that answer could be long and confusing, but listening means that there is genuine care. And that is welcome.

Pray for Them

I am convinced that we consistently underestimate the power of prayer as an agent for developing meaningful relationships in the community of faith, especially between generations. Praying for someone consistently is investing in someone intentionally. Through prayer, genuine care and concern for the other is developed and that shows in each interaction and each conversation. My church launched a prayer campaign last year that linked each child with three prayer partners for the school year. I watched my own children develop relationships with these caring adults that not only filled a need in their lives for positive adult role models but also made them feel genuinely welcomed and wanted at church.  

Wouldn’t it be great if at the end of a Sunday a child could say to their parents, “I can’t wait to go back church next week?” I think when we create that place of welcome, that desire can be a real possibility. And I think it can last long beyond childhood into youth, young adulthood, until they have their own children to welcome into church.

What are some ways that you say “Welcome” to children in your faith community? 

Looking for practical ways to Welcome Kids into Worship? Click here!


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

Back-to-School Blessing for Volunteers, Parents, and Kids

In many places around the country, schools are gearing up to re-start sometime in the next month. For churches that often means a re-boot as well as they move from summer mode into fall programming and the start of a new academic year. With that can come a whole range of “new” things!  Kids promote to the next class, new volunteers come on to serve or they begin serving in a new capacity, and parents begin to navigate  new experiences with new teachers, new schools, and new grade levels for their kids.

education-908512_1920Last year, our church was able to hold a time of commissioning and blessing over these groups as the new school year kicked off and we began to embrace all of these “new” things.  The entire time of blessing takes about 5 minutes and can be a way for your whole church to come together and let the kids, parents, and volunteers know that they are being held up and prayer and sent out as God’s lights of love as the academic year begins.

Feel free to adapt this script to your own church’s service and needs, and blessings to all as we encounter all the “new” things!


An All-Church Blessing for Parents, Children and Volunteers

Purpose – To recognize kids who are promoting to new classes/small groups, to pray over kids, parents and volunteers at the start of a new academic year

Children’s Pastor/Family Minister – We are excited to be able to celebrate with you the growth of our kids and families this year and recognize them as they promote to new classes and small groups within this ministry and some to youth group. But before we bring up the kids, can I ask all of our ministry volunteers to please stand and make their way to the center aisle?

(as volunteers are moving)

It is a blessing to serve with this group of people. The love they show our kids and the grace with which they serve is a testimony of the love of Christ in their lives and to the children. So, I’d like to not only say thank you, but briefly pray for you as you serve this upcoming year! Church, will you join me?

(PRAYER – Lord be with and bless these who serve. In their service, give the strength and by your Spirit give them grace. May the love they give be retuned to them in greater numbers and may your joy fill their hearts)

Volunteers if you will please line each side of the center aisle and get your high five hands ready, we will bring in our kids!!

(If you have some fun music, you could use this here. This is based on our structure with small groups. It can be adapted to fit whatever age groups, classes, or sections a church has for their programs. It can also be done as one large group which will reduce the amount of time needed for this commissioning and blessing.)

Joining us for the very first time as they are just starting school, we give you our preschoolers!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

Moving up into the elementary room, we are excited to recognize our new Kindergarten/First Grade small group!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

Not too far ahead of them, we want to recognize our “middle kids” our 2nd/3rd grade small group!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

And finally, our oldest group, and probably the most excited, our 4th/5th grade small group!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

Last, we’d like to recognize our 6th graders who will be moving up to join the youth group this year!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

AT THIS POINT, ALL THE KIDS WILL BE UP FRONT AND THE VOLUNTEERS WILL RETURN TO THEIR SEATS

Pastor or Worship Leader: Church, we are so blessed to have this group of children to welcome into worship and help their parents disciple in the faith. At baptism (or dedication, depending on the church), we commit to helping our kids grow in Christ and today we would like to re-affirm that commitment to them in their presence so that they can hear and know that we are here for them.

(At this time, we read our church’s Congregational Charge read at baptism. More than likely, each church has a similar reading for baptism or dedication. This is a great time to remind the congregation of the commitment they have made to walk with these families and children and a wonderful chance for the children to actually hear the words being said since they are too young to comprehend it the first time is said.)

Pastor – Lord, we thank you for the gift of these children and youth. May we be faithful to serve them and may they walk in your love. Be with this as they go into this new school year and give them the grace they need to learn and grow.

Children’s Pastor/Family Minister– If you are a parent/caregiver of one of the children here, will you please stand where you are? Kids, these people love you more than you could possibly know and they want you to grow in faith and in love. Will you help me to pray for them like we did for you?

DISMISS KIDS TO PARENTS

Children’s Pastor/Family Minister (as kids are going) – Parents we know that the work you do is difficult and while the days are long, the years are short. Please hear this blessing as a prayer for you as you serve God as the faith formers in your home.

“May you love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. May His commandments always be upon your hearts, so that you can impress them on your children. May God give you grace to talk about these things continually, when you’re at home, or on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. When your strength fails, may you walk in His. When you are weary, may His arms carry you. And when the day is done, may you hear His voice saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


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