Singing Songs isn’t Worship

Recently, a discussion on a popular Kidmin Facebook group grabbed my attention. The original poster shared her frustrations that Sunday worship time with the kids was a struggle. The kids just weren’t interested in joining the singing, despite her use of fun videos and songs with actions. Despite her many efforts at teaching and motivating kids to participate, they were more apt to play with their fidget spinners then to join in.

The commentary to follow listed everything from suggestions on other songs to use to the evils of fidget spinners (seriously, I could write a whole blog about this and how we major on the minors and minor on the majors, but just read this post about bottle flipping and you’ll get the gist). But I was disheartened as I read through the many suggestions and thoughts about worship to find that only one was able to separate the idea of worship from the action of singing.  In fact, it seemed like the only way that most fellow ministers could have a conversation about worship was to talk about it in the context of song.

If worship were simply singing songs, much of the New Testament wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. For example…

Romans 12:1 (NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.

Hebrews 13:15 (NIV) Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

Continual singing?  That doesn’t make sense. And how can we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice merely through song?  There’s got to be more to the equation.

And as adults, we know that and we understand that. We know that singing is a part of worship (and honestly, it’s only a small part of worship). We should understand that worship is a much bigger thing. It encompasses so much more than just singing a few songs on a Sunday morning.

But is that what we teach our children when we talk about worship?

My husband, a pastor and church planter, recently wrote an article about worship in which he states,

Worship, for us, is a way of life. It is following Jesus into the everyday activities of raising families, working jobs, interacting with neighbors. Simply put, worship is Kingdom building. It’s the intentional act of inviting Heaven to earth; it’s making the ordinary sacred.

Or, as I have often told my kids as I’ve helped them explore worship, “Worship is putting the attention on God and not on us.”

christian-1316207_1920

With that in mind, if faced with a group of kids unenthusiastic about singing or dancing to music or doing actions to songs…maybe expanding the definition of what a worship service is could help them engage in true worship.
If we can help our kids understand that worship is a life lived, words spoken, and hearts focused on giving attention to God, suddenly worship becomes far more than a song or two on Sunday morning. And if a life of worship becomes realized, singing those songs will come from heart that is already overflowing with worship, not just mouthing words or imitating actions.

Some worship ideas that might be used instead of songs.

  1. Art – A lot of kids find art a perfect way to express their feelings. What if each child were offered the chance to draw or paint or sculpt Scripture? That could be a really cool worship service!
  2. Thanksgiving – Giving thanks is one of the ways that the Bible says we worship God. Maybe a chalkboard wall for the kids to write their thanks on or a bunch of post-it notes to fill up a whole wall in the room?
  3. Acts of service – These are the kinds of things that I’ve seen kids get very excited about; being able to do something for others. Consider creating Blessing Bags as a group and praying over them together. Finding ways to serve in and around the church. Writing notes to homebound members or coloring pictures for those who are sick.
  4. Prayer – There are so many ways to pray. You can pray with words. You can pray in silence. You can pray with art and you can pray with action. You can pray together and you can pray apart. You can write out prayers. You can do popcorn prayer. You can connect them to the world through prayer. And prayer always brings attention to God and thus it is worship.
  5. Liturgy – A lot of time we think of liturgy as oft-repeated and dry rhetoric, but the word liturgy actually means “the work of the people.”  It’s a chance to do something communally, whether it be reading Scripture responsively, praying the Lord’s prayer together, taking communion together (so powerful with kids!), washing each other’s feet or just sharing in a spoken word together. To think that they’d be joining in word and practices that have been done by Christians for thousands of years is a very cool concept for children.

And then, what if, after doing all these things, which puts something in their hands besides a fidget spinner, a song of praise was offered up before leaving for the day or for the lesson?  Could that, would that, change the reception of that moment?  Could it maybe then truly be a time of worship, not just a time of singing?

Perhaps. Perhaps if worship truly was more than singing, not theoretically but practically, our children would want to engage more ways of expressing their love for and giving attention to God.


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 church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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

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Something Great to Imitate

“Oh how cute!”

That was my first thought as I saw a young boy, probably three or four, walking behind an adult man, presumably his father, down the street the other day. They were dressed the same, in khaki shorts and a white shirt, and the little guy was imitating the adult’s every move.

And then I noticed the cigarette in the man’s hand and the pretend cigarette in the child’s hand as they both lifted to their mouth to take a puff as they walked.

My heart sank.

Now, I’m not here to make some theological statement about smoking, so please don’t tune out. My heart sank because this little child has already had modeled for him and imitated an unhealthy behavior and that has a profound effect and influence on him.

dad-909510_1920Multiple studies have shown that children learn by imitating adults. Psychologist Mark Nielsen, of the University of Queensland in Australia says that scientists “have been finding this odd effect where children will copy everything that they see an adult demonstrate to them, even if there are clear or obvious reasons why those actions would be irrelevant.

Children don’t know how to differentiate between what is healthy and unhealthy, necessary and unnecessary, and, from a moral and ethical standpoint, what is good and what is bad. They simply learn by imitating. 

Nielson also says, “We see these sorts of behaviors as being a core part of developing this human cultural mind, where we’re so motivated to do things like those around us and be like those around us.”  Think about that. The “human cultural mind.”  So if over the past few weeks, months, years, you’ve said something like, “What is going on in our culture today?” the answer is quite simple: Our children are imitating us, or at least imitating what they think is “us.”

We have a profound and unfathomable influence our our children.

I’m not sure this fact can be emphasized enough. Psychology Today states, “Parents vastly underestimate how closely they are observed and how constantly they are evaluated by their child.” We, as parents and involved adults, have far more influence than any other source -more than peers, more than media, more than celebrities, more than anything. We are literally forming the human cultural mind every. single. day. just by raising our children and ministering to families and kids.

So…let’s give them something worthwhile to imitate!  Or, as some anonymous person once said, “Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.”

Here are five imitable actions you can do in your home, on the road, when you get up and when you go to bed that can help your child develop their cultural mind.

  1. Practice Hospitality – Let our children see us interact with others, as many others as we are capable of, whether that is through inviting them into the home, interacting in public places, serving others in tangible ways, or just making space for others in our family life and prayer life such as sponsoring a child or praying together for others.
  2. Pray (when and where they can see us) – Yes, the Bible does tell us to pray in secret but it also tells us to impress upon our children the commandments of the Lord, one of which is to pray. So pray with them, pray around them, pray often and pray confidently. Model for them where it is we run in times of need and times of praise so they will do the same.
  3. Engage Scripture – It’s one thing to let our children see us reading the Bible, but it is another thing when they see us actual engage the Scripture in conversation and practice. Pray for your enemies. Love the stranger. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those imprisoned. We can DO all these things and let them know the reason we do is because Scripture tells us to.
  4. Love Each Other – Seriously, do it and do it in ways that are imitable. Show affection to your spouse. Hug your children. Make a habit of telling them that they are loved. Show them how to love.
  5. Face the Tough Questions – I think there’s probably nothing more frustrating to a child then seeing a parent or caregiver dodge issues or not answer questions. When things come up that are difficult, it might be easier to ignore it or try to shield our kids and ourselves from it. But what a great practice it would be to acknowledge the hard things in a way that brings them to God and invites His peace into each situation. And what a great thing for our kids to imitate; to see us proactively addressing life’s curveballs with God’s grace and pursuing peace. (Ps. 34:14)

What are some other ways that we can “give them something great to imitate?”  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Let’s do this -let’s change the cultural human mind by giving our kids things to imitate that welcome the kingdom of God into our world.


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 church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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

Gabbie’s Church: A Lesson in Inclusion

When my friend Mary asked me if I would consider sharing her article about her experience with inclusive worship, I didn’t think twice – absolutely I would! In this guest post, Mary shares tells us her story, inviting us to catch a glimpse into how life and ministry changes when you find your child in need of more inclusive environments.

As you read, take time to consider how perhaps your church and your home could be places where all children and all families find a place to belong. Thank you, Mary, for sharing your heart with all of us!

“So what does this mean?”

That’s the only question I could muster when a team of pediatric specialists told me that my 3 year old daughter had what they were sure was something called “Sensory Processing Disorder.” At the time, a myriad of thoughts flooded my brain. I recalled all the fears, tantrums, and meltdowns that had basically controlled the flow of our family for the last 18 months. There were so many “couldn’ts” on our list of activities.

We couldn’t go to the beach because the waves and sand terrified Gabbie. What is more, people often take their dogs to the beach and Gabbie panicked when a canine of any size came into her purview.

We had to avoid public restrooms with automatic flushers and those horrible hand dryers that blow your skin off because someone thought it was wise to power them with jet engines.

Amusement parks were a nightmare because lines, heat, and crowds were so overwhelming.

But of all the “couldn’ts” the hardest one on the list was Sunday worship.

We couldn’t take Gabbie to worship with us because she had a hard time sitting still, never cared for small talk with strangers, and she desperately wanted to be on my hip as I ministered. Of course there were times when Gabbie had to stay with us during worship, and I am forever thankful for the parishioners who offered grace and understanding when this occurred. Nevertheless, I worried constantly.

Truth be told, stress had taken its toll on me, my husband, on Gabbie, and our other five children. It seemed we all had to take turns being the most adequate coper (a word I made up that essentially means: the person who can best deal), so that the rest of us could empty those feelings of frustration, sadness, anger, and fear. Sometimes it felt like the eight of us against the world as we protected Gabbie from critical words and negative body language from those who did not live within the confines of our four walls.

All of these experiences washed over me as the doctor responded, “You have an exceptional child. Gabbie is highly intelligent, perceptive, and her brain takes in an incredible amount of information at a very fast pace. She will likely need some occupational therapy to learn to cope and how to slow down her processing. This will be hard, but the result will be good and well worth the effort.”

Ever the researcher, I took the information, asked for all the handouts, and went immediately to Barnes and Noble to purchase all the books they had on Sensory Processing Disorder.

As I devoured one book after another, I read characteristics that described my child perfectly. I also read staggering statistics that showed how the rate of children with special needs has increased drastically in the last 20 years. According to one U.S. Census study, 54.5 million Americans (about 1 in 5), have some form of a disability or special need. Statistics also tell us that nearly 15% of children ages 3-17 have some sort of developmental disability.[1]

Those numbers were sobering and assuring all at once.

Gabbie wasn’t alone.

And we weren’t alone. It was nice to know that there were people out there on this journey with us—parents and families all just trying to do what was best. But then the Holy Spirit hit me in my gut and I thought, “Where are all of these children in the Church? 15% is a big number.” I thought about how many “special needs” kids I had seen in worship over my 30 years as a church goer and honestly, I counted them on one hand. So so a mom of a newly diagnosed, “special needs” child I felt a fair amount of indignation and shame upon this personal discovery. As a pastor, I was broken.

I was felt this jumbled mix of emotions because the two roles I live into as mom and minister often intersect. As I sat there with my stack of books, articles, and all the wisdom that Google offered, I wondered how I missed “it.” The “it” being the reality that my daughter has a need that cannot be reduced to a “phase” or an “idiosyncrasy” of which she would eventually outgrow.

Just as I began to sink into the perpetual pit of mother guilt, I became very aware of the presence of God and memories of things past came to mind. Specifically, I recalled a time when I was dropping Gabbie off at preschool at another United Methodist Church in our district. I was in a hurry that morning but Gabbie insisted we go through the sanctuary instead of cutting around the building. “Mommy, I have to see my church. I love my church. They love me here.” I couldn’t resist that plea but I was curious as to why Gabbie called the church that housed her preschool,  “her church.” When we entered the sanctuary I inquired and she responded enthusiastically.

“Look! There’s beautiful blue and white things! And the baby Jesus will be born and put right here!” (The sanctuary had been carefully adorned for the season of Advent). I watched my daughter show me “her church,” a place where she was free to look, touch, feel, and tell the story of Jesus without boundaries. A place where someone with an incredible gift with art and design took the time to beautify and bring the scriptures to life with color, fabric, and texture.

It didn’t make sense to me then, but when we got her diagnosis a few months later it hit me as I walked through that same sanctuary after dropping the kids off for school. I looked around and breathed in all that Eastertide had inspired the artist to create in vibrant colors, branches, and butterflies.

For the first time, I understood why this was Gabbie’s church.

This church was truly a sanctuary for her to be herself. Here, Gabbie was free to girl-354579_1920run to the feet of Jesus as described in the Gospels (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:16-17). Here, is where she could go to Jesus without being scolded for her loud and excited volume.

Here, is where she could witness, touch, and experience God’s creation without inhibition.

The mother in me felt a wave of mercy and grace wash over my worn and weary soul, and I sat in the front pew of that church and wept heavily for what felt like hours.

When I got up and left that day, I left with a new perspective. As a mother, I was free from the fake guilt and shame that the enemy tried to hurl on my life. As a minister however, I was forced to consider the 15% of children who need to have a church where they can really worship as part of the Body. Where they can be active participants no matter their age or ability. Where they can be included and understood rather than segregated and shushed. Where people with incredible and unique gifts can offer themselves to the worship service in such a way that their efforts are not belittled or deemed a frivolity.

Walking through “Gabbie’s church” with an open heart and mind allowed me to see that it is possible to be completely inclusive of individuals and families with special needs. It also convicted me on this: we in the Church MUST strive to do better for these precious souls. The truth is they are exceptional human beings who have a lot to teach us if we will listen.  While this will require time, education, and energy, I believe that by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit the Church will be greatly blessed by such effort.

Mary

Guest Blogger Bio:  My sweet friend, Mary Trent, is a minister in the United Methodist Church, mother to six beautiful girls including Gabbie, and a gifted writer. She  holds an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary where we met had the chance to live together for three years in seminary housing. So you can add to that list, a great friend and neighbor. 


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 church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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

It’s Time to Go Back (to School, that is)

We are starting back to school tomorrow and we are not alone!  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_1920At the church I last served in, I was able to put together a time of commissioning and blessing over these groups as the new school year kicked off.  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 this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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 Happens When You Replace Pews with Coloring Tables?

I often have people ask me if I could give examples of how churches are finding creative ways to allow for intergenerational worship within their faith community. I’m always on the lookout for stories I can share that might strike a chord with someone and help them as they seek to find more ways to bring generations together within the church.

As soon as I read this account, I knew I had to share it because it is the perfect blend of simplicity, grace, and creativity that so many are searching for. Many thanks to Mike Woods of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church for his willingness to share his experience with all of us!


This summer we took out a couple of pews in the back of church, long wooden benches that are designed for fifty minute sitting sessions. Unfortunately worship usually lasts an hour. We replaced the pews with coloring tables. They were an immediate hit. No signs were needed as to why the tables were there.

Their presence just said WELCOME to a certain segment of the communion of saints.

One week later we heard Jesus’ story of this crazy farmer who threw seeds everywhere. A nine year old came to the communion table and with pride handed me her very accurate time lapse drawing of the life cycle of a seed that she wanted me to share with the congregation to make us all better people. I did.

The next week I was talking to a grown up about grown up things after church when I felt this tug my sleeve. The little one tugging was excited to show me something with such excitement that she forgot to wipe the ample supply of pumpkin bar off her hand so it now adorns my sleeve at the elbow.

She too needed to show what she had drawn during worship. We had heard Jesus’ story of the wheat and the weeds. I thought I was helpful when I said to consider that the kingdom of heaven like it is God’s holy ecosystem where weeds are necessary, like mosquitoes are necessary but in the end God knows what God is doing. Seemingly opposite things can co-exist in God’s church – sort of like Viking fans and Packer fans worshipping together.

Well she took all this in and produced a work of art that included a puppy, playing with a kitty, who was playing with a mouse who was playing with the puppy … a beloved community of play. She was probably five years old but a very good theologian. The stain would come out in the wash the next day but I am still thinking about that drawing.

GreenweedsThat same morning I came face to face with a three year old artist and his interpreter (mom). I saw a series of colorful slashings on his eight and a half by eleven canvas. I was told the larger blue scribbles are the wheat. The contrasting green slashes are the weeds. Both sets of plants seemed to be thriving. Yup, I thought, the wheat was good seed, unimpeded by weeds. God will use the wheat to make blue bread and the green weeds God can bundle up to build the fire to bake the bread.

When I asked about the bonus picture on the back of the paper of a rhinoceros and its horn and a wheel. The interpreter just shrugged her shoulders.

YouaremylightI like the piece on my door where a five year old wrote: “You are My light” from the bottom of her paper up, so that the word “light” was like a crescendo on top of the pile of letters. It does make sense if you think about it.

drawingpeopleSpeaking of light – another five year old showed me her drawing of red clouds, a yellow sun, green grass and two stick people with skinny arms touching one another and a beam of yellow glowing between those arms. What is this yellow here I asked. She looked at me with all the confidence in the world and said, “That’s friendship!” Is not friendship the stuff of light, and necessary for life as yellow sunlight?

Then there is the toddler who makes her own kind of music every time the congregation sings a hymn. She grabs a songbook like everyone else but she only knows one song so far in her short life. So with conviction and gusto she belts out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star every single time! Last Sunday for our last song the whole congregation, a couple hundred strong, sang in one voice, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star … because her daddy is serving in the military in Saudi Arabia and he wanted to let his daughter know it’s okay to sing her own song.

Because when churches use the word “we,” we always mean one more.

 

MikeWoodGuest Blogger: Mike Wood serves at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Crescent, MN. I first read his story on Facebook and it was also published in the Houston County News in his hometown.

What are some ways that your church has creatively made space for all ages to worship together? Send your stories, pictures, and short bio to christina.m.embree@gmail.com and perhaps we will be able to share your testimony on the ReFocus blog.


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 church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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 “Family” in Family Ministry

Who is your family? 

It’s amazing the answers you will get for this.  The definition of family has been changing rapidly in today’s society.  Sometimes family is defined by structure (blood relatives, parents and children). Sometimes family is defined by function like close friends who are like family, caregivers who act as parents, “aunts” and “uncles” who are family friends. My daughter once called the latter our “family of the heart.”

On the whole, family structures and functions vary widely, but usually these main characteristics remain:

  • there are caregivers and care receivers
  • there are resource providers and resource consumers 
  • there are mutual functions of attachment, bonding, and affection met within the family unit.

family-932245_1920

Traditionally, the primary caregivers, resource providers and emotional stabilizers are the parents and the receivers, users, and reciprocators are the children.

When we are looking at ministry to children, we tend to think of age-specific children or youth ministry where the focus tends to be primarily on the child. In family ministry there is a shift in the focus to the parents or caregivers, who, studies show, will have the greatest physical and spiritual impact upon their children in their growing years.

 

This focus on parents is not a new concept.

In his sermon On Family Religion,” John Wesley (1872) puts the responsibility for spiritual discipleship squarely on the shoulders of the parents/caregivers in the home. Wesley recognized the need for parental instruction to prepare parents to carry out the command to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Pr. 22:6).

Over the years, parents and caregivers have shared that at times the church has been inadequate in training parents for this task of of discipleship at home. They don’t feel equipped to transmit their faith in words or model it in deeds. And frankly, without that equipping and support, the idea of discipleship at home can sound a little scary!

There is a great need to provide parents and caregivers with the support and opportunities to put their faith into action at home. 

Jim Merhaut of the Center for Ministry Development shares that “the most effective way to help a child is to help the parent of that child” and encourages the church to “become a trusted resource, a go-to person with good ideas”.

Regardless of “how” a family looks, an effective local church ministry must equip the parents/caregivers and provide space for families to practice their faith together.

The focus of family ministry shouldn’t be so narrow that it excludes families that are structured in a less-traditional format or function in less-traditional ways or so broad that it doesn’t effectively resource or support the leaders in the home.  To be most effective, a church must

  1. Know its families – How are they structured?  Who functions as caregiver?  Who is identified as “family”?
  2. Know their needs – What role does faith play?  Where are caregivers resourced?
  3. Know the community.  – What do families “look like” in the surrounding community? What needs are present?

There’s no “cookie cutter” answer for family ministry because the answers to these questions are different in each context. However, the one similarity that exists and the reason I am so passionate about the heart behind family ministry is this: Parents are the single greatest influence in the faith of their children…period. So if we can join arms with parents; support, equip and encourage parents; we will in fact be reaching the children in the best way possible.

For more information about the importance of equipping parents/caregivers, check out these articles and resources.


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 church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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