The Power of a Moment: Where Discipleship Happens

Last night, I glanced out the window and saw the tell-tale pink glow of the promise of an amazing sunset. I absolutely LOVE the sky and love all the things that happen there from storm clouds swirling to sunsets waning. In fact, one of my neighbors stopped me once to say, “I love how you are always looking up!” And I do. I love the sky.

So, in true form, I bounded from the couch and ran out the door, camera (okay, fine, phone) in hand. The sky was an orange-pink color as the setting sun bounced off the low-hanging clouds. As the sun went lower, the clouds changed from light orange to bright orange to dark pink. The whole sky rippled with the colors of sunset, changing the whole atmosphere into a magical pink paradise.

And then, it was over. The clouds returned to their gray color. The sun sunk below the horizon. The dim light of twilight took over. The awe-inspiring show of beauty and light was over just minutes before it started, captured only in a few photos and the swelling of my joy-filled heart.

Go ahead and grab your phone. Take a few minutes and glance through the moments you’ve captured there.

A birthday party?  A visit with a friend? A few silly selfies with your kids?  That time when you snuck in and got a picture of your little one sleeping?  A couple of cameos just for fun?

 

My guess is these were fleeting moments too.

Times where you grabbed the phone to capture a full heart in a still picture.

The thing about Time is that it doesn’t stop moving forward. As one kidmin conference noted a couple of years ago “It’s just a phase…so don’t miss it.”

That sunset I saw will never happen again. I could have glanced outside and said, “Oh look, a sunset” and moved on. I could have taken a picture and posted it on Instagram to prove I was there. Or, I could have done what I did – reveled in the moment. Fleeting though it was, it filled my soul.

Our moments with our children are likewise fleeting. Even those pictures on our phones can be deceiving, because being present and being there are two different things. I think the missionary Jim Elliot put it best when he said, “Wherever you are, be all there.

Discipleship happens in the moments, not the photographs.

It happens in the stolen minutes before bed, the shared meal around the table, the movie night in the living room, the car ride to practice, the quick hug before the school day begins.

It happens when we invite Christ into these precious times. These passing moments can be soul-filling if we let them be, not just for us, but for our kids. The opportunity to be “all there” presents itself all the time, the soft glow of family calling us back to each other, for moments that can bring us awe.

When I look at this picture of sunset, I don’t just see a beautiful sky or a gorgeous sunset. I feel the moment in my heart. I feel the awe. And that’s because I was truly there. img_5315

What do we feel as we scroll through those pics on our phone?  Why not grab your child and go through it with them?  Feel the awe of the moments together. And make that determination to be “all there” no matter how fleeting the time may be


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

A Hard Week in Kidmin

“It’s been a hard week.”

What does that mean?

This week, I’ve seen many posts from my children’s and family pastor friends that start out with “It was a hard day…”  What constitutes “hard” may be different for each one but, nonetheless, a shared experience. What makes their “hard” day different from other hard days is that most of the time what is hard impacts the heart, not the body. It weighs on the soul, not the schedule. It pulls at their very core, not just their calendar.

On a weekly basis, people who work with children and youth, whether in ministry or in another field, face the realities of such things as neglect, abuse, and isolation. We see children who are broken before they even have a chance to grow. Spirits that are crushed before they even have a chance to soar.

We hear them repeat words they’ve heard about themselves and their self worth and our hearts break.

We see them lash out in anger and act in self-defense, mirroring the behaviors they see modeled for them by adults around them.

We hear them lament that they can’t see their parents, who are in jail, or are scared to see their parents, who are at home.

We hold them as they cry. We try to speak words of life and love to counteract the words of death and hate.

And sometimes, it’s not the big things.

Sometimes it’s the little girl terrified of not doing well on her standardized test, somehow not measuring up to some standard that has been imposed on her to receive funding for her school.

It’s the little boy who is heartbroken that he didn’t make the team or get to play or hit the ball. It’s the pre-teen who is convinced she’ll never be pretty enough or smart enough to fit in at middle school or the teenage guy who hides in video games because he’s not into sports and that’s all the other guys his age want to talk about.

And most of us, we have families of our own, children of our own who carry their own struggles. And our heart widens to hold not only their burdens, but also the ones of the children we serve.  We even call them “our kids.”

Because it’s who we are.

It’s how God made us. It’s written in our hearts. 

That is why when we see a victory, we shout it from the rooftops. That is why when a child says a prayer, takes a step, shows some growth, gives a hug, smiles for real, trusts a volunteer, comes to church, sings a song, chooses life…we rejoice.

blur-1867402_1920We may seem overly emotional to some. Others may not understand why the little victories seem so big and important to us.

But it’s because those little victories mean that we are making a small difference for that child.

We are showing them the other side of life; the side of joy and peace and hope and love. The side of life that offers them a future and a hope. That gives each child meaning and purpose and a name. 

We do that, every day, not just on Sunday. We do that with every prayer, every hug, every program we plan, every service we hold. It’s not just something we put off and clock out of at the end of the day. It is who we are.

So, if you hear a youth pastor, children’s minister, family pastor, or minister say that it’s been a hard day, pray for them. Pray for the children. Pray for the families. And if you, your children and/or your family have been ministered to by anything they’ve done, a program they sponsored, a lesson they taught, a story they shared, a resource they offered…anything at all….let them know. It will mean more to them than you could possibly imagine.

Fellow ministers, He knows. He holds all the burdens. He offers life. He knows what the hard days mean. He knows how to carry our pain. I’m praying for and with you.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

The Aftermath of Easter

Our front yard is littered with pieces of broken plastic eggs. Our trash can is full of shiny aluminum wrappers. There’s pieces of brightly colored “grass” in various places around the house. The fridge is full of leftover ham and mashed potatoes. And the Christ candle is not flickering with light. Let’s not even talk about what my office at church looks like.

The aftermath of Easter.

Just a reminder, He is still risen. He’s just as risen today as He was yesterday.

But our attention wanders. I mean, for the last forty days, we were in a season of Lent, looking towards one thing – Easter. The celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  And now, Easter is past. We have moved on.  But, He hasn’t.

You see, He is the same; yesterday, today, and forever.

He is risen indeed every single day. 

Yesterday, I heard children running around saying, “He is risen!” just because they knew an adult would answer “He is risen indeed!”  It was so fun for them. When my girls were little, we even had them yelling this during our Easter egg hunts. We told them just like the eggs were hidden, Christ was hidden in the tomb, but He didn’t stay there, so when they found an egg, they should yell, “He is risen!”  I could always find my girls during public Easter egg hunts as they shouted excitedly with each egg they found.

Easter flower crossAll that to say, I think it is vitally important that we keep the excitement of our risen Savior alive for our children. If we just continue on now, since Easter is past, without continuing to acknowledge the incredible miracle that is our salvation, we lose the chance to keep their excitement piqued and attitude expectant, not about eggs but about Jesus.

So what are some ways we can celebrate Christ’s resurrection in the every day?

Talk About It 

Don’t save the story of Christ’s resurrection for just one day. Celebrate it throughout the year. Talk about the HOPE we have because our Savior lives. Thank the Lord aloud that He is always with us and can never die. Bring it up whenever there is a God Moment with your child – consistently remind them that we serve a risen Lord. Bookend your Faith Talks with the resurrection truth.

Thank Him for this miracle at the dinner table, before bedtime, in the car, and when you get up in the morning. Make the resurrection part of the family vocabulary just like saying “Amen” and the end of a prayer or “Dear God” at the beginning.

Celebrate It

Who’s to say the only day we can celebrate the resurrection is Easter Sunday?  Do you know that in many Christian traditions, Sunday is a weekly day of this celebration?  What if we looked at Sunday as our mini Easter celebration every week?  What if we were intentional about reminding each other that on the first day of the week, Christ rose from the dead, so we gather to celebrate (not “go to church”)?

When our kids ask, “Why do we have to go church?’ instead of saying, “We get to go to church” and explaining our freedoms in this country (all good things) we said, “Because when they nailed Jesus to the cross, He didn’t stay there. He made a way for us to live with God forever in peace and love for all eternity. He rose from the dead!  And we gather to celebrate that amazing miracle every Sunday. We get to throw a Jesus party every week!  He’s alive and that is worth celebrating!!”

Live It

One of the greatest truths of our faith is that Christ’s resurrection means we have undying hope in the fact that we have all of eternity with God and with one another. Peter says it this way: In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4).

There are times in this life that we can feel tempted to be hopeless. The stressors of life, things like bills and budgets, calendars and schedules, loss and grief, can cause us to lean towards hopelessness.  But because of Easter, we are never truly without hope. And if that’s all we can say in the difficult times, if all we can do is re-state what we shouted on Easter Sunday, that “He is risen!” then let us do that so our children see and hear that our hope is anchored deep, deeper than this world, deeper than these trials. Our hope is in the resurrection, anchored in eternity, deeply in the heart of God. 

What if the aftermath of Easter was just a continuation of a celebration, rather the culmination of one?  Even after the eggs are gone, the chocolate is consumed, the flowers fade…we still celebrate because He. IS. Risen!


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 this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

Let Them Feel: Experiencing Good Friday with Children

Two years ago on Good Friday, I awoke to the sounds of thunder, lightning and torrential downpours.  My phone was lighting up with flood alerts and I could hear what sounded like a small river in the gutter outside my window.

My first thoughts on this dark stormy morning were that it was Good Friday and how appropriate the dark weather was to experience on this day.  My heart went to Mark 15 where we read:

“At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? “”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33,34.37-39)

cross-1375765_1920The sorrow of this day is commemorated at churches all over the world with darkened
services, candlelight vigils, readings from Scripture that cause us to ponder anew the sacrifice made by Christ that day.

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

Don’t.

I realize that they won’t understand it all.  I know that it could make them sad.  I understand that they are young.  But the depth of understanding goes beyond our emotions on this day.

When we allow ourselves to remember the darkness of this day, the sadness of this moment that, if we are truly honest, not one of us completely understands, we create space for God to do a deeper work that our minds can understand.

Children are young.  Cognitively they don‘t understand.  But their hearts are attuned to God’s love.  Their understanding of spiritual things goes deeper than we adults sometimes give them credit for.  Throughout Scripture, we are told that infants praise him, the faith of children is pure, little ones know him, and we should be like them.  In children, the kingdom of God is made manifest so, trust me, they may not understand the theology, but they understand the heart of God and the love that was given.

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

On Good Friday, we experience sadness. But only for a moment.  Because on Sunday we will experience unspeakable joy.  No matter the depth of sorrow we feel on Friday, our rejoicing on Sunday will far exceed those limits.  And if we want our children to truly know the JOY that is Easter, we must let them also experience the sorrow that is Good Friday.

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

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

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

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

Make the words of Ps. 30:5 come alive this year: “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning!”

For He IS Risen, just as He said!  He is Risen.. Indeed!!


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 this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

Do You Even Know Me?

Our family was invited to a small community breakfast today with our neighborhood. As we were getting ready to leave, both my oldest and my youngest child asked me the same question: “Will there be anyone there that I know?

What they were really asking was, “Will there be anyone there that knows me?”  They didn’t want to go somewhere where they’d be a stranger, where they’d be unknown. For the one, it’s because she is an authentic introvert, and being around people who don’t know her is hard work. For the other, a full-blown extrovert, it was because he wanted to know that there’d be people to play with and fun to be had. But the motivation was the same.

They wanted to be known. 

homeless-844215_1920This innate desire to be known is within all of us, young or old. In fact, this desire is a big factor into whether or not someone chooses to attend a church. According to Thom Rainer, 49% of people choose a church because they have friends or family in the congregation. Multiple studies outline the importance of calling people by their name when welcoming them into a classroom or… a church.

So, the big question…in a society where about half of the citizenry doesn’t attend church, how do we create a space where people can feel known? Where children experience community? Where the choice to stay is easier than the choice to leave?

I really do think it needs to be more than just opening our doors and saying, “You’re welcome here.” Lifeway Research found that 63% of Americans say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.

But first we have to be that friend and neighbor.

We have to be the church outside of the church. We need to learn names and build community long before we issue invitations and hold programs.

When missionaries go into a foreign country to plant a church, the first thing on their agenda isn’t to invite people to their church. The first thing they do is get to know the people, the culture, the community into which they will be speaking and sharing. They begin friendships. They work with others. They become part of the community.  Then when the invitation is issued, it’s not from a place of duty but of genuine desire to see their friends come to know the love of God.

The church goes before the people come.

Friendships bloom before faith blossoms.

Community is created before congregations grow. 

Jesus models this for us with his ministry. Eating with anyone who would eat with him (like tax collectors and Pharisees, drunkards and prostitutes). Talking to people (like the woman at the well). Knowing who they are (like Nathaniel). Learning their names (like Zaccheus).  Before these people believed in Jesus, He let them know that they belonged with Him.

One of my favorite Scriptures ever is “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). God KNOWS us, truly and fully. We are fully known by Him. And that’s part of how we know we are loved. 

We have that comfort to bring to others. When we truly “see” people, when we truly “hear” children, we bring them closer to the love of Christ for them, the One who knows them fully and loves them wholly.

Church happens long before people “come” to church. It happens at the bus stop, the baseball game, the playground, the gymnastics meet, the walk around the neighborhood, the grocery store.

It starts to happen when we learn someone’s name.


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 this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

 

What Does It Mean to “Welcome” a Child?

What does it mean to “welcome” a child?

Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was in the house, He asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had been arguing with each other which of them was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.” Then He had a little child stand among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me, but the One who sent Me.”       Mark 9:33-36

As someone who works with children, I cannot read this passage of Scripture without getting goosebumps.   Honestly, I feel as though I could write endlessly about this beautiful picture of Jesus’ ministry to all ages, but I want to focus on one word in particular: Welcome.

What is welcome?

There has been much written about this word, but I want to share an experience I recently had. A friend texted me; she needed to talk. I opened my home and invited her to lunch. We had a wonderful time together, but at one point she made a comment that it “really felt like” I wanted her there. I asked what she meant and she shared, “You didn’t just open the door and let me in. You cleaned your house, turned on music, lit a candle, set the table, made and served me lunch and dessert, listened when I shared and truly welcomed me into your home.”

To her, there was a difference between me making space for her and me welcoming her.

child-2054256_1920I see that in this “Jesus story” too. I see Him take a child, and have this child stand among the people gathered in the home, and then, very intentionally, take the child in his arms. And after that very intentional moment He says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name, welcomes Me…” (If I were a Psalmist, there would be a “Selah” after that).  

Think about that! Jesus modeled for us something very important. When we talk about welcoming a child, it’s not about just making room for them to be present.

It’s not about just making space.

It’s not even about making sure that there are enough volunteers for the nursery, teachers for the Sunday school, crafts for each attendee, and activity packets for each worship service.

No, Christ’s welcome went beyond that.

It wrapped that child in His very arms.

It said, “You are not only allowed to be here, you are WANTED here!”

It said, “You are not merely present in this space, you are embraced in this space.”

As we consider children in the context of the church and the larger faith community, it would be wise for us to reflect on this moment. We can say, “Children are welcome here” with our words and we can have all the right things in place. We can open the door and say, “Come on in!” But if we don’t combine that with a culture that says “You belong here”, a message of grace and honor, our welcome may fall flat.

It has to be more than just making space for their presence. It needs to be a felt welcome, an embrace.

And what happens if we do that, and by we, I mean all of us – parents, leaders, lay people, seniors, teens, all of us? I mean, just listen to Jesus’ words!! “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me, but the One who sent Me.” We not only welcome that child, we welcome Christ himself and the Father who sent Him. We welcome God!

If your church is looking for some ways to help welcome children more fully into the midst of your congregation, here are some ideas of where to start.

1. Welcome the kids, every week, by name – This may sound redundant, but there is much to be said for a personal greeting from a friendly face and welcome to the service

2. Engage the kids in worship– Kids love to be a part of something.  Give them the opportunity to help lead worship, hand out bulletins, take up the offering, participate in communion, help with the sound/lights, read Scripture, share a testimony – anything that let’s them know they are a vital part of the congregation.

3. Reaffirm your covenant– When children are baptized or dedicated in churches, often the church will recite or affirm a covenant with them to walk with them as a community of faith.  Every now and then, let the kids hear you re-affirm that out loud and with your actions.

4. Engage the congregation– If having kids in service is new to your church, give the congregation fair warning, provide a time for them to meet the kids (put faces with names and parents with kids) and encourage a time of fellowship for all before adding the kids to the service.  Some churches start with once and month and grow from there.

5. Give kids a voice– You’d be surprised how much we can learn from children but often we still follow the “Kids should be seen and not heard” rule. Give kids an avenue to share what God is speaking to them by affirming to them that they can and do hear from God and giving them a space to share that.  A bulletin board where they can hang a picture they drew in service or a note they wrote about what they learned can create a space where the whole church can hear and affirm their hearts for God.

(List adapted from Practical Ways to Welcome Kids to Church posted here. This article first appeared at d6family.com on 4.4.17)


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 this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed