Family Ministry – What Books Should I Read First?

The other day, someone asked me the following questions:

Which books would you recommend as a starting point for someone considering family ministry? And, what book(s) should follow next?

Have you ever wondered the same thing?  

A lot of times it can be hard to figure out where to start when you begin looking at approaching ministry in a way you’ve not experienced before. And this goes for parents as well as ministers in church. When our experience has always been one way and we start thinking about taking things another way, it can be hard to know where to get started.

These are the books and the order to read them that I shared with the person who messaged me. I picked the order based on the questions I most frequently get asked when I’m talking to people who are less familiar with the family ministry world and want to know what family ministry is and how it works. Below you’ll see my recommendations and the question each one answers.

First, What is Family Ministry?

perspectivesSince this question came from someone who is rather unfamiliar with the family ministry landscape, the first book I recommended was Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Even though this book is a bit dated in terms of the statistics used in the beginning, it offers some terrific insights into the types of family ministries that exist and what kind of environments each type works best within.

Each perspective has an opportunity to share why they feel their approach is best and the others have a chance to challenge it and offer their thoughts. This is so helpful to the reader because many, many questions get answered in the exchange and the reader can evaluate what best suits the needs of the faith community and the families they serve. 

Ok, But Why Is It Important?

thinkorangeThe second book I recommended was Think Orange: Imagine the Impact when Church and Family Collide by Reggie Joiner. Now, when most ministry people hear “Orange” they immediately think of the Orange curriculum. But this book is much more than that.

It gives a very basic foundational premise for approaching family ministry through the lens of Scripture and influence and helps ministry leaders begin conversations with their church and families about a change in the approach to discipling children. It underlines the need for a cultural change within the church to take place as part of this approach and gives direction on how to begin affecting that change.

Parents, the chapter on the home and the insert on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a section I go back to frequently and re-read as a reminder of my calling and privilege to share with the children “the heart of Christ.”

How Does It Work?shift

Next, I wanted to move from theological and foundational to more practical and hands-on by pointing him towards Shift: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today by Brian Haynes.   Brian introduces a milestone ministry model that helps churches connect parents to what is happening in the church world (baptism, communion, faith commitment) to what is happening in the home world (birth of baby, adolescence, graduation).

It’s family ministry with an intentional path for the church to journey on together as one in a community effort to disciple children in their faith. It not only puts the responsibility for discipleship in the hands of the parents, but also on the church to serve in a role of supporting, nurturing, and equipping.

What Are Some Practical Ways to Get Started?

Finally,teamup I ended with one of my personal favorites; Team Up: The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.  I’ve linked this to my book review (which has a link to purchase the book) but here’s a bit on why I like this book so much and why I wanted to offer it as my last recommendation.

First, Phil reminds us, at the beginning of the book and throughout, that our primary family ministry is within our own homes, a fact that often gets overlooked and I can easily forget. Each following chapter of the book unfolds a cohesive and practical plan for implementing family ministry. He covers everything from creating a team, casting vision, resourcing and equipping parents, implementing a strategy and identifying a network of partners. It is an invaluable resource if you are looking to begin serving families this way within your church.

So that’s it.  Well, not really. There are many resources available for people who are interested in learning more about how to reach and partner with families in ministry. If you would like a longer list, check out the Books section listed under the Resources for Ministers tab at the top of the website.

And I’d love to know what some of your favorites are and why. What books have been helpful for you as you begin the process of finding ways to connect the church and the home?  Feel free to comment below with a link so we can all have the chance to grow together!


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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

Advertisements

Christmas Love Letters from God: Journey Through Advent to Ephiphany

Around this time of year, parents begin asking me for thoughts on what they can do for Advent with their kids. In the past, I’ve shared ideas for some fun things such as the Christmas Song Scavenger Hunt (We love to do this at a mall during the holiday season and challenge another family to see if they can beat us at finding all the items) and some discipleship-focused things such as celebrating Jesus at Christmas in the everyday.

christmas-love-letters-coverThis year I’m excited to suggest a great book, written by Glenys Nellist, called Christmas Love Letters from God as a way that your family could journey through Advent and into Epiphany together.

You may recall that a while back I reviewed Glenys’ book Little Love Letters from God. I love her books because they do something many children’s Bible stories fail to do – they put children right in the middle of The Story. For those who have read my blog before, you know I really believe that the stories of the Bible find their greatest impact when they are told in the context of the larger story, the metanarrative of Scripture (read more about that here).

Why? Because understanding that these moments and events don’t stand alone but are part of a bigger picture gives them meaning and let’s us know that our story has a place in that bigger picture too.

In Christmas Love Letters from God, Glenys has done the same thing again by taking the familiar and beloved stories from Christmas and including at the end of each one, a personalized “love letter” to your child(ren) from God.

They get to read things like, “I’m so glad Joseph said yes to me…Never be afraid to say yes to me. When you hear those quiet whispers in your heart….remember that just like I helped Joseph, I will help you too” and “I gave my Son, Jesus, to Mary and it made me feel wonderful…because…Jesus wasn’t just for her. Jesus was my gift to the whole world and that includes you.”  And the letters always end with “With Love, God.”

My son loves reading these books and hearing God’s letters that are written to him. And he loves entering into the story in a very real and tangible way.

But what I love the best about this particular book is that the chapters line up perfectly with the Sundays of Advent and take us right up through Epiphany.

If you were to take one chapter each Sunday of Advent, Christmas Day, the two following Sundays which gets you to Epiphany, you will have journeyed together with love letters from God through this very special time of year.

  • Sunday, November 27 – Start with Isaiah’s Good News and hear about the Light that is coming into the world.
  • Sunday, December 4 – Join Mary’s Song of thanksgiving and think of how we sing Christmas carols of joy today.
  • Sunday, December 11 – Read about Joseph’s Dream and the plan God had for Joseph to be Jesus’ daddy and the plans He has for us.
  • Sunday, December 18 – As Mary and Joseph travel  Bethlehem’s Road, remember together it was God who was leading them all the way.
  • Sunday, December 25 – Celebrate together on Christmas morning the Jesus Joy of our Savior’s birth, the perfect gift, our very best present.
  • Sunday, January 1 – Consider that the story doesn’t end but invite your children to join the Shepherd’s Surprise that God had chosen to tell them great things, just like He does for us.
  • Sunday, January 8 – As you finish the season, with the story of the Wise Men’s Wonder, you’ll get to remind your children that the greatest gift they can give to Jesus is their heart. What a wonderful way to start the new year together!

Not only is this book engaging and grounded in Scriptures, it is also beautifully illustrated – one you will bring out every Christmas even once your children are grown. I am so excited to start reading this with my own family (Caleb has already had a sneak peek or two…He’s pretty excited) throughout the entire Advent and Epiphany Season.

Interested in getting a copy for yourself or your church?

author-photoThe author, Glenys, and Zonderkidz are offering a free copy of Christmas Love Letters from God. To be eligible to enter, you must live in the US and have a street address (no PO boxes).  To be entered in our drawing, follow this link and scroll to the form at the bottom of the page. In the comment section please write “Little Love Letters” and make sure we have a way to contact you for mailing information.

Winner will be chosen on Sunday, November 13, 2016.

The book is also available for purchase through Zondervan or Amazon (as well as a number other retailers). To hear more about the book, check out these videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjKR8EQZIMo and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E-W_cxXzlI


For more information about

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

About the author

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

Book Review: Little Love Letters from God

“Mommy!! Can I read my book?”

Whenever I hear my little guy yell this, I know exactly what book he is talking about.  There are a lot of things he likes about this book. He likes the pictures. He likes the stories. He likes that there is a flap to lift up on each page (because, come on, you guys, who doesn’t like that?). But what he really likes is that his name is in every. single. story. And it’s not just his name, but it is his name spoken by God – a letter writtenlittleloveletters just to him from God.

The book Little Love Letters from God, written by Glenys Nellist, does something many children’s Bible stories fail to do – it puts children right in the middle of The Story. For those who have read my blog before, you know I really believe that the stories of the Bible find their greatest impact when they are told in the context of the larger story, the metanarrative of Scripture (read more about that here).

Why? Because understanding that these moments and events don’t stand alone but are part of a bigger picture gives them meaning and let’s us know that our story has a place in that bigger picture too.

Helping kids connect the God who created them, loves them, redeems them, and shares eternity with them to the oft-heard stories of the Bible like Creation, Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath and Baby Jesus teaches them that these stories are more than that; they are means of grace to reveal to us the greatness and goodness of our God.

In Little Love Letters from God, Glenys drives this home by not just sharing the story, but then including a “letter” from God after each one that is personalized to the child (you fill their name in the blank) and affirms who God is to them based on the story they just read.

Children get a chance to not just hear the story, but to hear from the God of the story.

For example, after Jonah’s story, we read this “letter” from God:

Dear ___________, Wherever you are, I will listen to you too! Love always, God.

And after reading about the feeding of the 5,000, we open this “letter”:

Dear _____________, Whenever you are kind like that little boy that makes Jesus smile. With Lots of Love, God

Photo on 2-21-16 at 5.21 PM

Caleb with “his” book

My son lights up every time he lifts the flap and I read his letter from God. Hearing the Bible stories in this way makes them become much more than just stories. It becomes a way for him to know this God who is talking right to him.   We can never read just one story. Every single time we have to read the whole book…every story, every letter. And he’s gotten to the point where each time I read him the letter, he cheerfully shouts out “God!” at the end.

When it comes to engaging toddlers with the Bible, letting them hear their name as if spoken by God, can be an amazing tool. I know a lot of parents who struggle finding books for this age group so I am glad to be able to share about this one. (The author has also written a book for younger elementary-aged kids called Love Letters from God as well; similar concept only written for older children.)

Book Giveaway!

If you’d like to own this book, the publisher is giving one away to one of my readers. If you are chosen, you will receive a copy of Little Love Letters from God sent to your home.

To be entered in our drawing, follow this link and scroll to the form at the bottom of the page. In the comment section please write “Little Love Letters” and make sure we have a way to contact you for mailing information.

Winner will be chosen on February 29, 2016.


For more information about

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

About the author

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

Book Review: Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony

So often in parenting, there is an emphasis on raising “good” well-behaved kids who follow God. You feel that pressure, right? To make sure your kids behave in church, don’t act up in public, and show “proper” respect to elders. Because so often it feels like these outward behaviors reflect back on you and how good of a parent you are or how “Christian” you are, or so it seems.

Michelle Anthony turns that whole concept around with her book Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today’s Families. Instead of addressing behavioral techniques or teaching parents how to mitigate ongoing discipline issues, she uses this book to encourage parenting that emphasizes raising God-followers first, whose lives produce good fruit and godly behavior as a result.

spiritualparentingIn the book, Michelle takes the reader on a journey through a series of “environments” that parents will raise their kids in and through and offers down to earth practical tips on how parents can help children grow spiritually through nurture, discipline, and discipleship.The first three environments (storytelling, identity and faith community) focus on big-picture identity and God’s big plan while the next several focus on the actions taken from that foundation (such as service, responsibility, love and respect, course correction). The final two environments of knowing and modeling encourage parents to help their children to find their own faith.

The spiritual life and formation of the parent is central to everything she shares. Throughout the book, Michelle gives so much encouragement to parents to make sure that they are growing and deepening their own faith as they lead their children in spiritual matters.

Of all the books I’ve read on parenting, this one has been the most useful in understanding how to incorporate faith into the nitty-gritty everyday moments of life within the home and family.

Michelle shares multiple stories from her own experiences, both of success and failure, and uses them to demonstrate how to parent from a spiritual focus. There were so many great moments in the book, tidbits I tucked back for my own parenting future, and there’s no way I can cover all the stories she shares. But if you, like me, are looking for “real-life” scenarios, like your teenager throwing party when you are out of town or your son being the only one to stand up and not smoke pot at school or your family living into their faith by serving each other and their community…the regular and real stuff, then this book will be just the encouragement you need.

And the best news is…the Kindle version is on sale right now for .99 (click here). You will not regret this purchase. I’d love to hear what stood out to you once you’ve read it – feel free to comment below and share your insights!


For more information about

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

About the author

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

 

Book Review: Team Up! by Phil Bell

teamupI’ve been putting off writing this book review for a month. Not because I’ve been dreading it. Certainly not; to the contrary, this was perhaps one of the best books I’ve read for churches that are transitioning into family ministry. If anything, the reason I’ve hesitated is because I’m not sure I can do it justice. So, if what I say below doesn’t entice you to GO. GET THIS BOOK. READ IT. then feel free to ignore what I say and just do as I do (Go. Get the book. Read it!) .

Author Phil Bell starts out the book sharing a bit of his own testimony and experience in family ministry. As he shares, he answers some of the questions I know that many of us have when it comes to how family ministry looks and feels within a church setting. Questions like, “What is family ministry?” and “What if parents don’t want to partner with me?” and “But how can I give parents practical help?”  If you are in children’s or family ministry, you’ve probably asked at least one of these questions. This book can give you some amazing answers.

Phil begins with a look at where family ministry starts – at home. And not just any home – your home. Without this foundation in place, the ministry that happens lacks content. “The way you invest in your own family will significantly affect the fruit of your ministry” (p. 25). Throughout the book, Phil reminds us to keep an eye on our home and how our ministry activity is affecting our family.

From that point, each chapter of the book unfolds a cohesive and practical plan for implementing family ministry in your church. He covers everything from creating a team, casting vision, resourcing and equipping parents, implementing a strategy and identifying a network of partners. A few highlights that stood out to me…

Chapter 5 – Communicate strategically

Phil introduces us to his concept of “promotion dilution” which is basically the bombardment of parents by hundreds to thousands of messages every week from a variety of sources until it all becomes a diluted blur. In church it happens when we attempt to promote too many events and programs at a given time. He shares, “In our charge to promote everything we’re doing, nothing really gets highlighted.”

This really hit home for me both as a parent and a minister! So how do you get your message through the blur?  The book offers so many ideas on how to get heard but the one that stuck out to me? “Say multiple things in multiple ways.”  Don’t expect your singular email or your solitary text to reach parents. If you want to be heard, use multiple avenues to say what you want to say in different ways. After reading this, I actually decided to start doing short training videos week for my volunteers and found I reached a much larger audience and had a lot more interaction than all my emails, texts and Facebook messages.

Chapter 7- Equip Disengage Parents

This is a tough one. How are you supposed to help parents disciple their kids at home if the parents you serve are disengaged and completely unconnected to you? Instead of skirting the issue, Phil addresses this concern straight on.  He offers a lot of great hints and tips about how to help the conversation you start at church to continue at home, but the key is in his summary, “The biggest hurdle to equipping parents is getting them to show up, and to clear that hurdle we have to put their – not our – needs first.”

This is exceptional advice and something that as ministers its sometimes hard to remember when we are juggling meetings, volunteer schedules, and room decor. But taking the time to really find out where the parents of our kids are coming from can actually make the journey from church to home a reality rather than just a hope.

Chapter 11 – Building a Network of Partners

If the above seems a bit overwhelming, take heart, the final chapter of the book reminds us that we are not alone. With amazing preciseness, Phil helps us identify people in our community and our church that can help us create a web of support for the families and parents in our church.

I found this final chapter to be the perfect way to tie up this book. All of the advice and ideas make the most sense in practical ministry when they are done within community.  As a minister, it is sometimes easy to feel like I’m alone in sharing with and ministering to parents in discipleship and faith formation at home. But Phil points out, “Many of the parents you and I minister to are working as hard as they can to give their kids the best they can. But they’re also feeling as though they’re going it alone.”  Building community is the answer for both of us.

This is the first book I’ve read in a long time that felt like it was written to me. I feel like I was being poured into by a minister and friend and I know it will end up being a go-to resource for years to come. Get your highlighters ready, grab your copy, and join me in exploring this thing we call “family ministry.”


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

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