The Best of 2017

Friends, another year has come and gone. THANK YOU for all of the interactions we had over 2017, whether we met at a conference, corresponded over email or messenger, shared a lunch or just shared a heart for kids, family, and generational discipleship. This year ReFocus Ministry added a record number of followers and welcomed many new friends to our ReFocus Family and Intergen Facebook group.  It blesses me so much that so many ministers and parents have a heart for raising up the next generations through intentional discipleship and legacy leaving.

As I’ve done each year, I wanted to leave you with the top five posts from 2017. These posts generated the most views, shares, and “likes” on Facebook, which tells me that these are the things we are passionate about when it comes to children, youth, the church and the home.  Once again, thank you for inviting me to be a part of your journey!

What Happens When You Replace Pews with Coloring Tables?  Youaremylight

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. And here is what happened.

The Distraction During Worship

When we talk about distraction during worship or at church, it’s not unusual to hear the topic of children come up, because, let’s be honest, children can be distracting. But let’s also be clear, they are not a distraction. They are members of the body of Christ and the only group of people that Jesus specifically instructs us to welcome.

Why I’m not Mad at Disney

So there it is. The Controversy. In the live action version of Beauty in the Beauty, there is a nod to Same Sex Attraction (SSA). You can go look up the details if you haven’t heard about it yet, but if you haven’t, I’d be shocked.  I have a few people ask me for my take on this. Specifically, I had someone ask me “Doesn’t it just make you so mad?” And, I had to look at them and say, “No, not at all.” And here’s why.

Frustrated about Kids in Church? Something’s Gotta Change child-1439468_1920

A wise person once shared with my husband that “Frustration is the difference between expectation and reality.”  He went on to say, “If you are frustrated, you will need to either change your expectation or you will need to change your reality.” The church tried changing the reality with unforeseen consequences. So what if we changed our expectations?

Do Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids to Worship

“It’s not about making sure we use strategies to keep kids occupied and from being a distraction. That’s important, but its not about that.

It’s not about changing the way we do our service or sing our songs or preach our sermons. That’s important, but it’s not about that.

It’s not even about making Scripture come alive and building intergenerational relationships and encouraging mentoring. That is so very important, but it’s not about that.

What it is about is simply this:

He took a little child whom he placed 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 does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:36,37″


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

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Christmas Isn’t Over

Sharing a post from a few years ago as a reminder that even if December 25 is past, Christmas is never truly over. God is always with us. And our faithful journey through Advent was only a part of our journey with Christ. Let’s invite our kids into our lifelong celebration. Let’s make discipleship our way of celebrating Christmas, God with Us, all year long!

r e F o c u s

“It’s not as fun until you share it!”

This comment was made by my daughter ogift-boxn the afternoon of Christmas.  The morning had been filled with opening gifts, eating Jesus’ birthday cake, playing with new toys, watching new videos, and being with the family.  PJs were worn all day, the house was a hot Christmas mess, and our food consisted of nothing but snacks and sweets.

In the middle of this moment, after the second movie had been watched, my daughter decides it would be a great time to invite people over and to gather her friends into our home.

Normally, I have an open-door policy for friends coming over and I am the first to invite people into our space.  But all I could think was, “This place is wrecked and I have to pack for our trip to PA tomorrow; there’s no way we can have people…

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God is Not Bored with Us

“Do it again!”

boys-286158_1920The cry of every child who sees a funny faces, watches a “magic” trick, listens to a silly voice, snuggles with mommy, plays with daddy, swings with grandma, and rides a bike with grandpa.  I can’t tell you how many times we watched the same episode of Dora with our middle child or read the same book with our oldest.  And at Christmas, we do a lot of the same things we’ve always done. But let’s be honest…sometimes the repetition can get…boring?

Tell me you understand this weariness.

I love my kids, but I should not be able to quote every line of Dora’s exciting plan to find Grandma’s house or Dr. Suess description of uniquely colored food.  And as much as I love Christmas…  Well, you get the picture.

It gets old.  It gets monotonous.  It’s…boring.

But I once read a thought from G. K. Chesterton, celebrated theologian, author, and philosopher of the 20th century, that changed my perception of this repetition forever. His words challenged me to look at God, my kids, and eternity in a whole new light and consider my own walk of faith.  He writes:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. (AMEN!)

For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. (Oh…)

It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. (...Wow…)

For me, this one of of those #mindblown moments…

The words forced me to look back on those times that had so bored my grown-up mind and think about my kids…and yes, sure enough, each repetitious moment, each repeated action, brought the same reaction – the joy of seeing it and hearing for the very first time.

There was no boredom. There was only genuine delight.

We are told in Scripture to have faith like a child.  Jesus surrounded himself with children.  I can’t help but imagine in those moments where He was healing people, the children laughing in delight and saying, “Do it again Jesus!” And I can’t help but imagine Jesus’ pleasure at hearing this.

And I can’t help but think…wouldn’t He like to hear that again, from His children?

Perhaps you’ve grown weary in this calling, as a parent or minister or both? But you can remember a day when the call was new and His Spirit was fresh and you were filled and flowing over.

Do it again, Lord.

Perhaps you have seen your church, your family, racked with pain or sorrow, fear or hurt, worry or dismay, but you can remember times where God’s presence was tangible and His comfort near and His love over all.

Do it again, Lord.

Maybe you remember the excitement of your first commitment to follow Christ and the fellowship you had with God and others, but your love has grown cold and friendships grown old and you have lost your first love.

Do it again, Lord.

And maybe, you’ve experienced healing, seen revival, led others to Christ, lived intentionally in your home, or loved intentionally in your community but are in a dry place without vision.

Do it again, Lord.

And maybe you remember Christmases past that have been wonderful and full of grace but are facing a Christmas this year that feels empty and without hope.

Do it again, Lord.

God isn’t bored with us.

Each outpouring of love, each song of praise, each whispered prayer, and each step of faith for Him is as new and fresh as the one before and the one to come.My mom tells a story of me as a child, waking up from a nap and telling her that “Jesus is ‘cited about us, but we aren’t ‘cited about Him.”  Maybe that childlike faith was speaking the truth of eternity; that God is new and fresh and excited and ready to “do it again” if only we ask.

If you find yourself in a weary place, a dry place, a lonely place, maybe it’s time to exercise that “faith like a child” and look up to your Father and say… “Do it again.”

He delights in His creation. He says “It is good!”  And He delights in us.  He rejoices over us with dancing.  He is NOT bored. “For we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

So…

Do it again, Lord.  Show your glory in this generation.

Let us be the ones who are excited about you. Amen – so be it!

This post was first published on this blog 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 this Blog

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

Stop Looking for Teachable Moments

Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen quite a few people mention that this time in our country is a “teachable moment.” By that they mean, it’s a time for us as parents and ministers to seize the day and ensure that we are intentional about talking to the next generation about what is going on and what our response should be.

I’m all for teaching our children and for being aware of what is happening in our country politically, socially, or otherwise. But I also feel like it is extremely important that we recognize that…

 …every moment is a teachable moment.

Every single moment we are being observed by the next generation. Whether intentional or not, our influence is being absorbed. Our actions, our reactions, our words, our lack of words – all of it is teaching, every moment of it.

child-1073638_1920If we only wait for “teachable moments” to be intentional, we are missing 98% of life. The everyday moments like getting on the bus and watching TV and eating a meal and cleaning the house… these everyday mundane moments are teaching just as much as the big headline-news ones.

How we live our lives and how we treat others and how we react to situations that arise are all being processed by the younger members of our society and they are learning. They are learning how to be citizens. They are learning how to approach life. They are learning how to be adults.

We simply must learn to be intentional; to be acutely aware that as people who are older than other people, we are being watched, legacy is being passed, and worldviews are being formed.

It is not a momentary action. It is a lifelong reality.

And the very best thing for our children or others who are watching is when our unintentional life lines up with our intentional moments and there is consistency not conflict. In other words, when we tell our children to be kind, they know what kindness looks like because they see that in us.   When we tell them that all people are valued for who they are regardless of any factor at all, they need to see that wee approach all people in such a manner. When we say we love God and we desire to follow Him, they need to see that we do, not just on Sunday but every day of the week. Why? Because…

Every moment matters.

Let us live with intention and integrity so that those who are watching and learning from us can have the framework to do the same.


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

The Gift of a Child

I’ve always been drawn to the story of the Little Drummer Boy. Here’s a little boy, who has nothing but a drum. All around the adults, who have money and vocations and big important jobs, are bringing their finest gifts to the newborn King. Their gifts were shiny and pretty and new and all the little boy had was his drum, something a little baby boy could never use. So what was he to do?

He gave what he could. He gave Him a song.

And then Jesus smiled.

This morning in church surrounded by adults that knew all the right words and ways to act and songs to sing, a little boy scribbled on a piece of paper.  And with no pomp or circumstance, that little boy walked right up to our altar, right in the middle of the worship service, and laid his scribble right next to the Advent wreath and communion elements. His mom started forward to remove it until the pastor (my husband) signaled her to leave it there.

He gave what he could. He gave Him a scribble.

And then, I really do think, Jesus smiled.

In that same service, my son made me a ring out of pipe cleaners. Someone saw it later and said it looked like I was wearing a muppet on my hand. But that ring, that meant the world to Caleb in that moment because he had made it and he had given it to me.

child-577010_1920The gift of a child is given with all sincerity.  See, for a child, when they create something, a song, a scribble, a ring, they genuinely give a part of themselves to it.

That’s why we hang these things on refrigerator doors and send through the mail and keep folders of treasures we just can’t bear to throw out.

So often, as adults, we come to church thinking about what we can receive. A word from the Lord. A moment of peace or inspiration. A break. A renewal. And it can be easy to look at our children and think that is true of them too.  But I wonder what would happen if we came asking what we could give. Even more than that, what if we asked our kids what they wanted to give at church on Sunday.

A song? A ring? A scribble?  What if we opened our altars to whatever a child brings to give?  Or our offering plates to things other than the shiny?  And our stages to songs that may not be the most beautiful but probably the most heartfelt?

Every time I hear the Little Drummer Boy song, I hear the accompaniment of some really amazing drum lines or drum riffs.  But it was a poor little boy. I have a little boy. When he plays the drum, it does not sound like the drums on that song.

And then Jesus smiled.

As those who bring our children to the Savior, the adults with the big important jobs, how can we begin to make room for the gifts of children?  How can we be like Mary in the song and “nod” to the kids? I truly believe it will make Jesus smile.


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

Why I Don’t Like Church Christmas Programs

Is there anything cuter than kids in a Christmas play?  I mean seriously, don’t we just love seeing the kids sharing their songs, saying their lines, quoting their Bible verses and wearing all the Christmassy things?  And, of course, there’s always that “one” kid who unwittingly steals the show with their over-enthusiastic lines or their under-enthusiastic singing.  Or the one who is just a little bit off on the motions or the one who is pretending to conduct in the back row.  I mean, who doesn’t like seeing kids perform in church?

Me.

What?!?  I’m a children’s pastor. Isn’t that against the rules?

You guys, bear with me but, yeah, I usually don’t like them very much at all. I love that the kids talk about Jesus. I do think that they are beyond adorable and I want to hug every single one. But what I don’t like are the many implications that often come with it; things that go unsaid, but speak volumes to children and adults about the place of children in “big church.”

Four Reasons I Don’t Like Christmas Programs

  1. They define the role of Children in Worship – They are performers. They are cute. Everyone likes to “see” them. Everyone wants them on stage.  But children are much more than that. They are active, vital, necessary members of the body of Christ. If they are only invited into worship to “perform” guess what worship/church becomes for them?  A performance. And when they get tired of performing or they aren’t cute anymore, they move on to bigger and better things.
  2. They define the role of the Children’s Pastor – Many or most who work in Children’s ministry, rarely spend much time in “big church.”  The role is unseen; serving downstairs or upstairs making sure children are loved, rooms are covered, volunteers are appreciated, parents are affirmed, janitors are appeased, visitors are welcomed, and families are encouraged. But the only time a children’s minister is seen in church is when he/she bring the children up to put on a show. It creates a very limited view of who children’s ministers are.
  3. They define the role of the Congregation – When the children perform, all the feelings are there! The kids are sweet and cute and the church loves to see them in church. But it is a passive reception; the kids give, the church receives. There are no active, ongoing relationships. Many don’t even know the children’s names. They are the “girl in the red dress that sang so loud” and the “boy in the tie who sat on the steps.”  It creates an environment of “us” and “them” and when the performance is over, everyone returns to their posts.
  4. They define who is and who is not “the Church” – This is the same reason I despise the term “big church.”  There isn’t a big church and little church in God’s kingdom. There’s just church.  We, all of us, old, young and in-between, are all members of God’s body, part of the Church, His Bride. We affirm this at baptism or dedication. The whole congregations commits to being one body. And then, we go our separate ways, big and little, for the year, until it’s time to perform again.

I know that not every church is like this.

christmaschurchPlease know that I realize that for some churches the program is more than a performance. For those churches, the children are involved in church all year long as participants and not just performers and the Christmas program is an extension of a greater story. I am beyond blessed to serve in a church like this.

But many of the reports I hear from Christmas programs across the board can be summed up like this, “All year we are invisible, but today…Today we shine.”  And that makes me sad.

What can be done?

Well, for one, we can start making the children part of the larger corporate worship more frequently, giving them a name and voice and relationships rather than just being cute and adorable.

Create space for adults to interact with children on level ground rather than as active performer and passive recipient.

Define roles differently – children as saints of God and adults as children of God; the children’s director as pastor and shepherd of God’s flock not keeper of kids; the congregation as a family of all generations not a division of age groups and ministries.

Christmas programs are in and of themselves not the issue.

I mean, let’s face it, they are part of the regular church experience and, come on, the kids are really cute!

But if that’s all they are, if that is the only time they are seen and the only role they fill, then Christmas programs are the issue. If that’s the only time the children’s minister is a part of corporate worship, it’s an issue. If a culture of “us” and “them” is perpetuated or if children are guests in the service rather than family at the table, then it’s an issue.

Christmas is a time we celebrate Love coming to earth…as a child. Our programming, no matter how cute or adorable it is, should be a continuation of that story through the community and family that is the church.

This post was originally published in December 2015


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

What if all the “What If’s” Happened?

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to be a part of many conversations about intergenerational worship and generational discipleship.  Most conversations inevitably end up in a series of questions that usually start with “What if…”

For example, if we talk about including children in the corporate worship time the “What if’s” include…

  • What if the kids talk or “whisper loudly”?
  • What if they cry or whine or whimper or wail?
  • What if they are bored?
  • What if they wiggle, squirm, move around, have to pee, get up and walk around?
  • What if they are distracting to the adults, to their parents, to the older generation?

Or if we talk about holding an event that is open to all generations, the “What if’s” are more like this:

  • What if the generations don’t talk to each other or can’t relate to each other?
  • What if the time, place, topic, etc. doesn’t work for this group or that group?

And if we talk about including the children and youth in serving within the church community, the “What if’s” are more along the lines of…

  • What if they don’t show up or work hard?
  • What if they are irresponsible or do things incorrectly?
  • What if there are not enough adults to volunteer to supervise them so they just get in the way?
  • What if someone gets upset because they want it done a certain way or they think it’s their role in the church?
So, okay, let’s talk about it. What if all the “What if’s” happened?  
what-if

Would it wreck the church? Would there be irreversible damage?  Would there be no recourse but to just say, “It’s over. Throw in the towel. Intergenerational ministry just doesn’t work?”

Are the risks really so great that if all of the greatest fears happened, if all of the “What if’s” came true, it’d be too much to even try?

Even if we know, because of research and studies, both secular and religious, that the results of intergenerational ministry and relationships include things like reduced “dropout” of young people once they graduate of high school, increased spiritual growth for the entire church, a mature faith in young adults, a sense of belonging and meaning for children, and a stronger community of faith across the board.

What if ALL the “What if’s” happened BUT so did all the other things?

Young people remained in the faith and in the church after they graduate high school as opposed to the current trend of rapid decline in both.

The entire church experienced overall spiritual growth and vibrancy in the congregational community was heightened (or as the researchers at Fuller Youth Institute put it, “Warm intergenerational relationships grow everyone young.”)

College students had a mature and well-developed faith that was able to carry them through their college years and into healthy marriages and parenting roles.

Children recognized themselves as part of the larger faith community, not separate or somehow lesser than, but genuinely a needed and necessary piece of the church as a whole.

The church grew stronger together, sharing not only a building during a certain period of time each week, but worship and relationship and creativity and fellowship that even carried over to life outside the walls.

Would it be worth it then… to hear some cries, to watch some wigglers, to have to hear music we didn’t necessarily like or see something done differently than it was before? Would it be worth some distraction, an interruption, some inconvenience or some sacrifice?

What if all the “What if’s” happened…and we decided beforehand that it was okay because it was, most certainly, worth it.

Because, my experience has been, and other attest, that all of these “What if’s” don’t usually happen and certainly don’t usually happen all at once. And there are ways to help make sure that if they do, there are tools and structures and support in place to ensure that they don’t cause irreparable damage.

And in the end, is really a risk… or just a stretch?  

Just a willingness to be a little uncomfortable in order to grow, to learn, to experience something that may seem new to us, but is actually the way things were for centuries; the way our faith was passed to us – from one generation to another (Ps. 145:4).

What if… 


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed