This is Holy Week: Experiencing the Sorrow and the Joy Together

This week as believers, we celebrate highest highs and lowest lows in the pivotal moments of our faith. On Sunday we met Christ with shouts of “Hosanna!” and waved palm branches of praise to welcome him to Jerusalem.

But what we welcomed Him to is actually the beginning of the end; we praised Him into Gethsemane, we ushered him to the mount of Calvary. And even as we shouted with joy on Sunday, our hearts know what this week holds – the Last Supper, Good Friday, the dark silence of Saturday.

easterloveAnd in those lowest lows, we grieve. We are sad. Our shouts are silenced.

But oh, the glory that awaits us. Oh, the joy that is coming. Oh, for Sunday morning with the Light breaks through the darkness, and our shouts return, this time with eternity in the strains, for this time we will shout to a risen Savior; this time to a everlasting Lord; this time “Hosannas” without end.

This is Holy Week.

A few years ago, on Good Friday, I shared these thoughts. This still ring true today

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 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.

Feel every moment of this Holy Week. Feel the joy. Feel the sorrow. Let yourself feel. And in those feelings, let yourself find hope in the Resurrection – for we have this hope, THIS HOPE, as an anchor to our souls.

“The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”


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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Easter is Enough

Today is Palm Sunday. It’s the first day of Holy Week, our celebration of the final week of Christ’s life, his death, and, finally and most gloriously, his resurrection.  It is also most famously known in Christian circles as the week and the Sundays we are most likely to have visitors to church.

Which is amazing! Because this is the week we get to share the most incredible and life-giving message of our faith.

We get to share about Christ’s resurrection. We get to say, “He was dead and then He was alive!  And that same power that raised Him from the dead now lives within us through the Holy Spirit. And that Spirit in us makes us fellow heirs with Him which means now and for all eternity, we get to be called the children of God!

I cannot imagine a more needed, more meaningful, more dynamic message that we could bring to our broken and divided country, filled with hurting and tired people, and weary, worn out families.  And, this week, we have the chance to share that message with more people than we usually do.

So, of course, this is what we are most excited about, yes?  

This is what we are putting our time and our energy and our preparation and prayers into right? And this is what those who visit us will be talking about and contemplating as they leave our church walls this week; this life changing truth of resurrection and hope and peace and God’s unending grace?

Because that is the only thing that truly matters. The only thing that truly needs to be remembered.

Our Easter egg hunts shouldn’t be so fun that the joy of resurrection pales in comparison.

Our gimmicky gadgets that shoot toilet paper, suck up offerings, spray out candy, and light up stages shouldn’t steal the show.

Our bags of candy and Easter dinners and peanut butter eggs and jelly bean lessons shouldn’t be what it remembered and talked about and most memorable about this week, this Sunday, this Easter.

If that is what we leave with…if that is the memory…then friends, we have missed the most beautiful opportunity of sharing the gospel that we have been given. We have missed Easter. 

Can I challenge us to slow down and consider this week that the resurrection is enough?

passion-3111247_1920That if we take the time to join Christ in His final week;

if we embrace Maundy Thursday and the experience of that Last Supper and the conversation that took place around that table as the first communion was celebrated;

if we mourn on Good Friday the death of Jesus on the cross and we contemplate on Holy Saturday the silence of the grave;

and then if we break forth in unfettered celebration and praise on Easter Sunday as we celebrate the ruin of death and the triumph of eternal life in the resurrection;

…if we do all of that, we don’t need to do more.

This is enough. It will fill our souls. It will captivate our hearts. It will be all that people need. It is all that people need.

This is the gospel. This is our message. 

We don’t need to improve it. We don’t need to make it flashier or more memorable. We simply need to offer it, experience it, and share it with as much excitement and passion as we do our Easter Egg Hunts and tee shirt cannons.

Maybe just a bit more.

Because it’s the Resurrection. It’s Easter.

Everything else should pale in comparison. 


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. 

Who’s On Their Team?

The other day I borrowed a movie from the library that my middle daughter had been asking to watch. When she saw it, she immediately asked if two friends could watch it with her. Both of the friends she requested are adults, friends of mine that had intentionally developed relationships with her. Only one was able to stay and watch the movie, but when I came downstairs at one point, my daughter had her head laid on the shoulder of my 24 year old friend as they were enjoying a movie together.

It made my heart so happy.

Sure, I could have watched the movie with her, but the fact that she had other adults in her life that she not only desired to spend time with but who desired to spend time with her as well, meant the world to me.

stickfaithIn 2010, I had the opportunity to read the book “Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids” by Drs. Kara Powell and Chap Clark. This book had a profound effect on how I parented my own children but my biggest takeaway was the idea of The Five.

In the book, they explains that “Despite the age segregation that exists in our churches and broader culture, each young person is greatly benefited when surrounded by a team of five adults.” In the book, they called this “the new 5:1 ratio” as compared to the normal five kids per adult ratio used in many Sunday school classrooms.

The Power of The Five

So, why is having those five adults so important?

  1. Adults have significant lasting influence on youth.  Studies show that significant, non-parental adults play an important role in adolescent development (Source). Having a healthy, well-rounded world view requires more than just parental input; other supportive adults fill out that role.
  2. It makes their faith bigger than Mom and Dad.  Research has found that children go through three phases of relationship with their parents: First, as children, they adore them. Second, as youth, they question them. Finally, as young adults, they rationalize them. It’s very helpful in each of these stages for children to see that in terms of their faith, their parents weren’t alone in what they believe and passed on to them; that they can see that their faith is something bigger than just their parents’ beliefs and that they are a part of a much wider community.
  3. It provides stability. There is nothing more fragile than the adolescent’s world. Peer groups are prone to change as teens grow and discover their own individual personality. Friendships morph and change. Relationships come and go. Having adults who have already walked that path and are now relatively stable in their faith, their personality, and their life give kids a sense of stability and foundation that they desperately need.

Five adults engaged in intentional communication and meaningful relationships with a young person doesn’t just happen.

color-3207345_1920In fact, in our age-segregated culture, it’s highly unlikely that it will happen at all unless some intentional work is put into ensuring that it does.

And so, that became a goal for Luke and me. We wanted our children to be able to name five adults, other than us, that they knew cared about them, wanted to spend time with them, and had a relationship with them built on mutual respect and trust. We wanted them to have a “team” that they knew were cheering them on, walking with them, and excited to be around them.

In order for that to happen, we had to make sure a few things happened. We had to make sure our kids had the chance to meet and interact with adults. We had to create spaces for intentional interaction to take place. We had to encourage healthy relationships when we saw them beginning to grow. And we had to “let go” of a little bit of our own control over some circumstances to make room for other trusted adults to speak into our children’s lives.

How We Can Help

  1. Create spaces within the church for generations to be together. This is so important and much has been written on the topic, but to simplify, if youth and children never have the chance to interact with adults in a faith community, it will be very difficult for them to build a relationship. Dr. Powell points out that one of the biggest reasons teens say they don’t want to go to church is because they don’t have friends there. By encouraging these intergenerational relationships, you’re not only helping your children’s faith long term, you are giving them a reason to come to church as they grow.
  2. Ask your children to name some adults that they respect and admire. Dr. Powell suggests doing this because this will help you to find the adults that your child is already aware of and wants to be around.
  3. Intentionally introduce your child to trusted adults and find ways to encourage those relationships in comfortable, organic ways. Have the adults over for dinner and invite the kids to play games or watch a movie with all of you afterwards.
  4. Speak highly of those individuals in front of your kids. Let your children know that you love and respect these adults, that you consider them a friend and that you trust them as people who love God and love others.

Every now and then, I’ll ask my kids, “Can you name five adults other than Dad and I that you know care about you and that you trust?”  When they can, I am grateful. When they can’t, I am prayerful, asking the Lord who He would want me to intentionally reach out to for their sake.


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 Sacred Ordinary

It wasn’t much. Just a little note taped to a door. A few simple words. Nothing profound. But that simple note changed everything about the day.

christiseverywhereI walked into a room, like I did every day, but this day I found a note that read, “Christ is everywhere, SO BE HAPPY.” It was from my then 9-year-old daughter. And it couldn’t have come at a better moment as we were praying to know if God was calling us to sell our home and move. It was as though God Himself spoke right to my heart. He was with us; He would always be with us. In the most ordinary place in the most ordinary way, the extraordinary broke through.

The simplest things.

 The sacred in the ordinary.

The holy in the everyday.


stpatsprayer

This was a concept St. Patrick took to heart. His famous prayer (see below) includes the lines “Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising, light of my life.” What could be more ordinary than sleeping, sitting, and rising?  What could be more extraordinary that Christ being there in the midst of those things?

One the best pieces of advice I can offer to both ministers and parents alike is simply this “You don’t need to DO more; you need to invite Christ into what you are already doing.”

So many times we can feel the pressure to do more, to be more, to add more to our lives so that we ensure God has His rightful place in our ministries and in our homes.  But in doing that, we can sometimes miss the point…that Christ is already there, in our midst, just waiting to be invited into our every day.

Jonathan Edwards, an early 18th century theologian, once said, Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by His rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove ineffectual.”

Can that be true?  Is a family, a home, like a little church?

I can’t help but think about what Jesus said when he spoke to his disciples and said, “Wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there I am with you” (Mt. 18:20). Interestingly, most Christian marriages begin in churches where they are joined together quite literally “in Jesus name.”  So, two people (or more once they have children) gathered together in Christ’s name means that Christ is in their midst..all the time…including in their home, their little church. 

It stands to reason then, that the ordinary and everyday rhythms and routines of the home become extraordinary places for us to welcome, invite, and acknowledge Christ’s presence with us; chief means of grace. 

We don’t have to designate special times to do that; we can do that in the simplest moments of the everyday. Moments like when we rise and when we lie down, when we sit and when we go out. When we are watching television and when we are eating breakfast. When we are crying and when we are celebrating.

In this world of full busy lives, adding one more thing to our plate can feel impossible and overwhelming. Isn’t it wonderful to know that Jesus is already there?  And simply acknowledging that to each other, to our spouse, to our kids, to our guests can take the most ordinary things and make them sacramental, holy unto God?

The next time you are watching television, simply ask your child, “How do you think Jesus would respond in a situation like that?”

The next time you are folding laundry, simply pray for the owner of each sock, shirt, skirt, and shorts.

The next time you are saying goodbye to your spouse, simply grab their hand and pray a quick blessing before they walk out the door.

The next time you are doing the most ordinary, mundane, everyday thing you can imagine, just turn your head and look and see Jesus right beside you.

This St. Patrick’s Day, let’s join him in his prayer of extraordinary ordinary life.

Christ be beside me,
Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me,
King of my heart.

Christ be within me,
Christ be below me,
Christ be above me,
never to part.

Christ on my right hand,
Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me,
shield in the strife.

Christ in my sleeping,
Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising,
light of my life.

Christ be in all hearts thinking about me;
Christ be on all tongues telling of me;
Christ be the vision in eyes that see me;
in ears that hear me, Christ ever 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

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. 

What Have We Got To Lose?

The other day I was conversing with a minister at a local church discussing the fact that they do not have a lot of Millennials and Gen-Xers in their church. “We have two strong areas in our church,” he said, “Seniors and kids 5th grade and under. We just can’t seem to hit the generations in between.”

The church’s solution to this problem up until this point was to focus on reaching those generations. Offering classes they thought those missing generations would like. Playing worship songs and preaching sermon series they thought they’d enjoy. Even adjusting the service time and format in order to appeal more to those generations. Nothing seemed to be working.

So I offered this suggestion. Instead of focusing on the weaknesses, build up the strengths. Find ways to intentionally invest in and connect the oldest generations and the young generations in the church.  Create programming specifically for them. Give them the attention and the focus. Put together opportunities aimed at bringing those two groups together. After all, if the other generations aren’t there anyway, what have you got to lose?

Well, that’s exactly what they decided to do. As a pastoral staff, they began to find ways to enrich and strengthen the connections between their oldest and youngest generations. They found and are still finding ways to do this but more than that, they are finding that as a result of this intentional bolstering of their church’s strongest areas, the entire church is getting healthier and… lo and behold, other generations are beginning to get more involved.

Friends, I know that I beat this drum a lot but, I have to say it again:  We need each other. These walls of division we have created in our churches based on generational lines and age segregation are not doing us any favors. Instead of making us stronger, they have made us weaker.

We are not connected to each other.

We are not in community with one another.

Being in a building at the same time makes us not more connected that a bunch of loose legos in a bin. In order for those legos to build anything, they have got to be joined together.

We are at our very core hardwired to connect. This is actually the title of a study done by the Commission on Children at Risk completed in 2003 that looked specifically at depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, thoughts of suicide, and other serious mental and behavioral problems in young people. Their conclusion?

We are hardwired to connect to other people. We are built for community. We actually need places to be vulnerable and accountable and without those things in place, we begin to disintegrate as an individual.

We are alive in community. A few weeks ago the New York Times posted an article entitled “How Social Isolation is Killing Us.” In it the author states,

“A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones.

One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent. Another analysis that pooled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million people found that socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, and that this effect was largest in middle age.

Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early: Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors. All told, loneliness is as important a risk factor for early death as obesity and smoking.”

We actually draw life from one another. It’s sustains us, not just spiritually, but emotionally and physically.

Why is that?  Because we are created in God’s image!

Recently I heard a researcher onld-2612041_1920 the radio make the statement, “You is always plural. You is never singular.” What he meant by that is for us to even make one unique thought or claim an individual identity, it takes thousands of brain cells all working together to form that one thing.   Even within our own selves, we are a community. Which makes sense, because we are created in the image of a triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Three in One.

We are literally created FOR community. There’s no getting away from that very essential part of who we are.

So if that is true, that begs the question, what have we got to lose?  The next generation. The oldest generation. All the generations in between. We have got one another to lose. In a faith that perpetuates itself through generational discipleship and passing the legacy of our faith from one generation to another, we have got the future church to lose.

If we are going to see our churches strengthened, we have to take our focus off the “missing” generations and begin to support, equip, strengthen, nurture, and connect the ones we still have in our communities.

Create space for them to be in relationship with one another, making meaningful connections (not just passing in the hall), engaging in corporate times of worship (not just periodic performances) and life-giving discipleship relationships (not just the sharing of an occasional word of wisdom).

What have we got to lose? Tomorrow. So let’s invest in the generations of today and let’s focus on how we can strengthen their faith and their relationships in ways that will create lifelong faith for generations to come.


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. 

Does Kidmin Even Matter?

If you keep up with trends in children’s ministry, you know that one of the major concerns facing those of us who serve in the church is the decline of regular attendance at Sunday morning worship times. Some studies indicate that a regularly attending child could be present up to four times a month but may only be in church once  or twice a month.

Other studies remind us that in the 168 hours in a week, only one of those will be in church . Additionally, there is a rising recognition that the home is the primary place of spiritual formation and that the parents are the greatest influence of faith in their children.

Lately I’ve seen a new concern rising among those who serve within the realm of children’s ministry; that kids are no longer coming to their Sunday morning programming but instead parents are choosing to keep their children with them in corporate worship. While I, myself, see this trend as a positive thing, I understand the sense of frustration expressed by children’s pastors who are wondering, “Why even bother?” when it comes to their job and their ministry.

When considering these facts, it can begin to feel as though the Sunday morning church and children’s programming is becoming…well, inconsequential. Pointless. I mean, if our time with the children is so minuscule and our influence so secondary, why do we pour so much time, effort, and love into what we do? Why do we sink hours into preparing lessons and recruiting volunteers and coming up with busy bags and sermon notes and way to help kids engage and participate and … all the things?

 Does our time serving the children at church even matter?

Yes. Yes. Yes!  A thousand times…Yes!

You see, right from the start, God intended the faith community to be an integral part of the spiritual growth of children. When Moses shared with parents that they should talk about their faith when they sit at home and when they walk along the road, and when they rise and before they sleep, he did so in the presence of the entire Israelite community (Deut. 4:10).

All of Israel was there.

All of Israel heard the commands. They all understood that the responsibility to nurture the following generations. They all understood that if things were going to go well for them and if they would increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey then THEY ALL needed to pass on their faith to their “children and their children after them” (Deut. 6:1). It’s part of why I see children joining their church family in worship as a positive thing.

The parents were never supposed to do it alone.

They were supposed to pass on their faith at home in the midst of a faith community who joined them in their discipleship and supported them in their work of faith formation.

That’s what the church is supposed to be doing today!  As a faith community, the church is the place where parents find nurture, support, and equipping for the work they are called to do. And we, as those who minister to families and children, whether paid or volunteer, have the unique privilege to be the hands and feet of that partnership.

And that’s why that hour or two, that short period of time each week, is so important. Because it impacts what happens the other 167 hours.

In 1976, developmentalist John Westerhoff wrote a book entitled Will our Children have Faith? and concluded with this answer: “that depends on whether or not they are embraced and formed within a faith community.” In other words, yes, even though parents have the greatest influence, his studies found that how children are engaged in the church has profound effects on how their faith grows.

 Children need the formative influence of the faith community. They need relationships with each other, with the youth in church and with the adults in church (Dr. Catherine Stonehouse, 2016).

What we do with that time then becomes crucially important!

It is worth our time, our effort, and our love.

What happens in that hour or two can create for a child a deep sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning within a community that coincides with the values and teachings of their parents and creates relationships that can last long into the future. And what is done all week long to keep that faith conversation going has far-reaching impact.

Can I encourage you to embrace whatever short time you have with the parents and children of your church with as much enthusiasm and commitment as you can muster?

Seek for ways to nurture, support, and equip their parents.

Create intentional space for both intergenerational and peer relationships to be created and fostered.

Find times for children to join the faith community in worship, in serving, in sharing the story of faith.

Cast a vision of holistic discipleship that involves both the church and the home as integral and necessary parts of a whole.

Just as they were present to hear Moses speak of their future, their Promised Land, find ways to engage the children in their legacy, the legacy of our faith.

My mom often told me in regard to parenting that the days are long but the years are short. When it comes to our ministry to children in church, the hours may feel short, but the legacy lasts long. Use the hours wisely and know that you are ministering far beyond that hour – you are passing a legacy of faith to the children and their children that are to come!

(An earlier shorter version of this article appeared on ReFocus Ministry in January 2017)


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. 

Talking about the Hard Things: Teaching Kids Healthy Disagreement and Discourse

I was recently invited to join a group of ministers in a closed Facebook group whose explicit purpose is to have  discussions about “the hard stuff”, namely, the theological, cultural, and social issues that we are bound to disagree on. The person who started the group noted that in the other ministry groups he was a part of, if a controversial subject got brought up, the conversation either disintegrated into a fight or turned into a wishy-washy “it doesn’t really matter so believe whatever you want” concession, neither of which did he feel was healthy or helpful. He created this group to see if there was a way for people to have a discussion about things they disagree on and still remain mature and respectful towards one another.

Spoiler: They can!  We’ve had some really great discussions over the last few weeks and we definitely don’t agree about everything. But the people in the group trust each other and are willing to say, “This is what I think and here is why” without fear of retribution or of starting a big fight.

The latest question, however, gave me pause. It was basically asked, “How do we teach kids to do this?”  How do we teach the next generation that disagreements don’t necessarily mean dislike and that we can share our thoughts with gentleness and respect in a culture that seems to have no room for healthy public discourse?

As I’ve considered this question, here are my thoughts.

We Embrace It

Look, the reality is that we were created in the image of God and given both a free will and a mind capable of conscious thought. It is inevitable that we are going to disagree on things.  Not only is that okay, it is healthy.  Jesus often disagreed with people who came and asked him questions. He often responded in ways that genuinely upset the people who disagreed with him. He never shied away from a difficult conversation, although he did find creative ways to get at the heart issues rather than the surface ones.

Throughout the Bible, we find conflict and disagreement (Paul and Barnabas, Eunice and Syntyche, Mary and Martha) and we see grace and resolution (Paul and Timothy, Jesus and Nicodemus, Peter and Paul).  It may even be helpful to say to kids, “Look, we aren’t always going to agree, but that doesn’t change my love and respect for you.”

We Model It

Ultimately, as the adults in the proverbial room, we are teaching kids through everything we do, our actions and our reactions, our conversations and our disagreements. How we respond to others, to the media, to government – all of it – is teaching our children what their response should be.

It’s a challenge for me to go back and re-read some of my social media posts or consider the words that I speak in a conversation knowing that these things could very well frame how my child will act and react in similar situations.

We Engage in It

children-763128_1920The home environment is the perfect place to engage in healthy disagreement, because I promise you, there will be times the family will disagree. I’ll never forget one day at dinner when my daughters began to disagree on something and the emotions started to escalate (they were 11 and 9). My husband immediately assessed the situation and set out some ground rules. They were each given two minutes to make their case, one minute to rebut, and thirty seconds to respond to the rebuttal. At the end they had to tell one another that they loved each other. You know what happened?  At the end of the “debate” they still disagreed, but they weren’t angry and frustrated. They were sisters who loved each other and happened to disagree about something.

Don’t shy away from the hard conversations! Teach your children how to engage in healthy ways.

We Address It

The worst thing we can do for our children and youth is not address the elephant in the room because we are concerned about making them uncomfortable. If there is a disagreement on something, I promise you, they are already uncomfortable. The better approach is to say, “I’m sure you’ve heard about (fill in the blank). How are you feeling about that?” and begin a conversation.

This is especially true in our current political and cultural climate when it seems like hot topics are around every corner. In my kids’ school, they watch a five minute news break every morning, so they are not immune to the headlines that we experience. That opens the door for some really great conversation if we choose to engage.

We Practice It

Healthy disagreement and helpful resolution are not easy because we are emotional beings surrounded by other emotional beings. How we address that reality can be compared to how we address any habit or routine that we want to establish – we practice it.

Practice it with our kids, practice it with each other, and practice it with others and when we feel ourselves beginning to cross an emotional line, practice saying, “I think I need to step back for a bit but thank you so much for talking about this with me” and practice the art of the graceful exit.

James puts it “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires” (James 1:19, 20). The gift of understanding, or truly listening, could perhaps be among the greatest gifts we can give our children.

Whether we are talking about a disagreement within a church, a disagreement about politics, or a personal disagreement about preferences or beliefs, the reality is disagreement is part of our lives.  If we don’t give the next generation tools for listening and discussing, the divide in our country, homes and churches will continue to widen. As the old folk song says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”


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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

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