Frustrated About Kids in Church? Something’s Gotta Change

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.”

As we continue to have conversations about including all generations in corporate worship, I think it might be wise for us to do consider this idea  In the past, the church has chosen to “change the reality.”  When children and youth were seen as distracting or having specialized needs that couldn’t be met in a corporate worship setting, the church changed the reality. We removed them from the space, put them in their own spaces, and separated the generations from one another as much as possible.

However, time has revealed to us some unintended consequences of this age segregation model adopted in the mid-20th century. And it’s not just in the church; our whole culture bought into the idea that separating generations is a good idea…but we were wrong.

Researchers have found that among the unforeseen results of age segregation are things like “negative stereotypes and people feeling isolated from each other” and “features of antisocial behavior and to socialization for competitiveness and aggressiveness.” (source).

In the church, Dr. Kara Powell shares that “A lot of kids aren’t going to both youth group and church on Sundays; they’re just going to youth group. As a result, graduates are telling us that they don’t know how to find a church. After years at the kids’ table, they know what youth group is, but they don’t know what church is.” (source).

Changing our reality doesn’t seem to have worked. In fact, it seems to have really hurt us in the long run. We are losing generations.

So what if instead of that, we changed our expectations?

child-1439468_1920Because we’ve grown up in an era where generations were segregated and separated from one another, we’ve grown to expect church to be a place that is tailored to meet our needs. We expect that we would have a certain experience at church and we expect others to have a similar one. We go to church for certain expected reasons (to worship, to hear a sermon, to grow in our faith, to get re-charged, to be with our friends). And those expectations often fail to be met when we put the generations in one room together.

If we were to change our expectations, what would that look like?  What expectations could we have instead?

Expect the church to be more than Sunday morning

When we look at the church of the New Testament, we find a group of people who are doing life together. They aren’t meeting once a week to have their needs met; they are invested in one another all week long, meeting one another’s needs throughout that time so that there’s not a one shot fix on Sunday morning.

What if our expectation was that there are times for both worship together, all generations, and discipleship apart, meeting the specific developmental needs of each generation?  What if our expectation was both/and not either/or?

Expect children to be children

There is no way a five-year-old is going to come to church to “get something” out of the sermon.  And because of that, it’s easy to say that kids don’t get anything out of church. But we are putting adult expectations on non-adults.

What if we adjusted those expectations so that children could be children?  They will “get something” out of church, but it likely won’t be the same things adults will (For more on that, click here). 

Expect the church to be family

Sociologists have said “in contemporary Western societies, which are marked by widespread institutional, spatial, and cultural age segregation, only the family surviv(es) as an age-integrated institution.” (source)  But the church, as seen in Scripture, is to be like a family; one body with many parts, but one body nonetheless.

If we expect our church to be like family then we would expect to hear the littles crying, the bigs talking, the older sharing and the younger learning. We would expect to be together. 

I can’t help but wonder if we shifted our expectations to ones like these, would our Sunday mornings (and Wednesday nights and Friday afternoons) begin to look and feel different to us?  Would we begin to see church as something more than a once-a-week re-charge and more of a communal way of living where we do life together?  And would our children and  youth and our seniors and elderly all know that they have a place at our family table? And, perhaps, would we be a little less frustrated when we hear a child cry in service, laugh during a sermon, wiggle and squirm at the doxology, run up to the altar for communion or dance during the worship service?

Perhaps.  Perhaps it is time to change our expectations.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

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The Distraction During Worship

Why do we go to church?

Seems like a simple question.   One that kids like to ask a lot. I’ve heard parents and Sunday school teachers and pastors give all kinds of answers. “We are here to worship God.” “We are here to learn about God.” “We are here to learn how to be better Christians.”

In my last church, during our kids church time, we have a short liturgy we go through with the kids each week. Our worship leader would ask, “Who are you?” and the kids reply, “I am a child of God.” Then he’d say, “Who are we?” and they’d reply, “We are the body of Christ.” And to end, he’d ask, “Why are we here?”

So, why are we here?

If individually we are children of God and collectively we are the body of Christ, why do we gather on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, or any other time in the week for “church”? What is the purpose of our gathering?

If we go to Acts 2:42, we get a really cool picture of what the “first church” looked like through these four activities.

  1. Devoted to the Apostle’s Teachings – Keep in mind, there really wasn’t a “Bible” yet so when the early church gathered, what they heard shared was the teachings from the disciples; stories from when they walked with Christ and words of encouragement and teaching from the apostles themselves.
  1. To fellowship – Yes, they used that word back then too!! In this case, it is more literally referring to “community” or “joint participation” not so much coffee hour, donuts and time with friends.
  1. To the breaking of bread – It is generally believed that the breaking of bread here refers to communion, which interestingly is the same word as the one used for fellowship above. It’s the idea of the body of Christ being one, participating in one holy communion and united by one Holy Spirit.
  1. To prayer – The people of the early church gathered to talk to God and listen to God together. That was part of what “church” looked like for them as they came together as the body of Christ.
Lots of similarities to today.
But then, a lot of differences too.

For instance, there is a strong emphasis on “together.” Community, communion, fellowship – no matter how you break down these words, it was about the whole body of Christ in “joint participation” together. It wasn’t about a person coming and being fed or another person coming and have a great experience in worship. There’s no emphasis on the individual at all. The emphasis is the body of Christ.

Sometimes though, when it comes to church that does not seem to be the emphasis. Often we hear a lot about individual preferences, personal needs, and unique desires expressed regarding reasons for attending church. We can often hear a lot of these sentiments expressed specifically when we talk about including children in times of corporate worship.   Because kids will distract from those things.

be-quiet-in-church

To be clear; children are not a distraction.

They might be distracting. No wait, they are distracting.

But they are not distraction.

They are members of the body of Christ. They are part of the community of faith.

And they are the only group of people Jesus specifically instructed us to welcome.

As I’ve watched kids in church, I’ve seen two things.

I have seen children lead the call to worship, lead the congregation in song, kneel and pray at the altar, and affirm their faith with the whole church.

I’ve also seen them drawing pictures on random bulletin inserts, turning around to see what others were doing, fidgeting and squirming, and, well, being distracting.

The tradeoff seems worth it to me.

They are members of Christ’s body. The body of Christ is built up by them. If church is about WE and not “me”, then most certainly, there must be times when WE are all together.

Kids don’t come expecting to get anything but they come ready to give. Every chance they have to actively participate, they will. Not reluctantly or under coercion; if they have are given a chance to be involved, they excitedly do just that.

What if we give them more chances?

If not for them, then most certainly for us. Because without them, our fellowship is incomplete. Our body is not whole. We may be distracted from what church is really all about – communion, joint participation, togetherness, being the body of Christ.

Does that mean we will need to seek other times to grow personally without that distraction? Yes, it does. It also means as a community we should seek to provide those times for one another. Because that is also what church is. It’s both/and, not either/or. It’s all of us together seeking for the good of the other. So..

Who am I? I am a child of God.

Who are we? We are the body of Christ

Why are we here? We are here to know more of God and His covenant of love to US.

All of us.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

Intergenerational Worship is NOT…

A children’s pastor recently spoke to the larger church community about the important role they play in influencing young people to remain in the church as they grow.

She explained that research has shown that having the opportunity to worship with those of different generations than their own actually helps them to feel more a part of their faith community and build relationships outside of their own peer group. And she shared that at some point in the future the children and youth would be invited to be part of the larger corporate worship experience of the whole church rather than always being separated at that time.

She was met with mixed reactions.

But one person in particular was concerned enough about this turn of events that he/she wrote the children’s pastor a letter. In it he/she expressed that “90% of the church” was happy with the way things were now and if she wanted to have the children and youth worship in the sanctuary, maybe she could start a service on Friday or Saturday night for them to go to that was more the style that they would like. And maybe if she did that “some other adults” would go to and, ba-da-bing.. the problem would be solved.

Actually.. therein lies the problem.

What the children’s pastor said and what this member of the congregation heard were two very different things.

Lenses of tradition, personal preference, and familiarity often cloud the conversation when we talk about any kind of change at church, but especially when we talk about bringing together generations for times of worship in a corporate worship setting.   It may be helpful that begin by explaining what this time of worship is NOT so that it can set the stage for what it is intended to be.

Intergenerational Worship is NOT…

Putting kids in the sanctuary

If the goal was just to put children and youth in the sanctuary, then creating a new service geared to them and separate from the rest of the body would make sense. But that’s exactly the opposite of what intergenerational worship is. The whole point is to create space for all generations, old and young and in-between, to worship together. Creating a new service or maintaining an existing service that targets one specific generation can’t accomplish this goal.

Glorified Kid’s Church

boy-1929539_1920Some people express the concern that if children and youth are welcomed into the service, they’d have to start doing “kids stuff” like singing songs with motions and eating goldfish during the super-short, kid-appropriate sermon.

Intergenerational worship is not old people pretending to be kids or young people trying to act old.

If that happened, it would be a total disservice to the whole point of intergenerational worship which has at its heart a desire to help kids and youth and adults and elderly be a part of the church as it is, whatever that looks like, and to experience all the parts of church that make it unique to their church tradition (such as liturgy, songs, Scripture reading, celebratory practices like baptism and communion, and all the other rhythms that make each worship service unique).

A Disruption

Often a concern raised is that children especially don’t get anything out of church and everyone will be forced to spend their whole service shushing kids. I read an incredible article in The Federalist, of all places, about this, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with parents, caregivers and other congregation members about this concern.

I’m not about to argue that children will get the same thing out of church that adults do; that would be ridiculous. I do think it’s important to consider what kids do get out of church (for more on that, click here) but also just as important to realize that kids are kids. They will wiggle and squirm and giggle and turn, but is that really such a huge issue that we shouldn’t offer times for the whole congregation to worship together?

It didn’t seem to be for Jesus when He “called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.'”

A New Fad

Actually, it’s exactly the opposite.  The segregation of ages within the church is a fairly new practice in American church history. Most of the time it gets traced back to the start of ministries on college campuses on post WWII America where it became apparent that there was a need for age-specific ministry. Churches began to recognize the need to create space to address the developmental concerns of each age group. Through time that progressed into less of a “both/and” model and more of an “either/or” model. In other words, instead of times of both age-specific and intergenerational gatherings, it became one or the other with little to no opportunity or encouragement to do both.

For those who see intergenerational worship as the “newest” fad to come down the block, it is helpful to understand that for thousands of years, the church all worshiped together and only recently have we begun consistently separating the ages. Which makes it very hard to learn from one another as Christ indicated that we should.

So, what is Intergenerational Worship?

Simply put, it is ministry that focuses on connecting multiple generations in faith-forming relationships cultivated through times of corporate worship, intentional discipleship, and ongoing mentorship.

For clarification purposes, please know that I am not opposed to quality Christ-centered, community-focused Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry, but I do have concerns when families and churches are consistently separated from each other and never having time to fellowship together. There is great benefit to all of us when we are given the chance to learn from, worship with, and grow together with one another.

So how can we do that?  The follow-up article is coming soon. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ideas expressed in this one. What are your concerns, ideas, frustrations, and encouragement?  And what ways have you found to connect generations creatively without neglecting the needs of anyone?


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

Those Who Stay: 3 Reasons for NOT Leaving the Church

Whenever I’m faced with a big project, I try to approach it in pieces. I break it down into do-able parts and work my way towards finishing the whole.

When I heard Dr. Richard Ross speak at D6 Conference, I couldn’t help but think that what he shared was basically the same approach, only in the realm of ministry.

youthminthatlastsDr. Ross served as youth minister for 30 years and now is a volunteer with teenagers and parents at Wedgwood Baptist in Fort Worth. He is also a professor to the next generation of youth ministers at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth and his new book, Youth Ministry that Lasts a Lifetime, was just released.  I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Ross at lunch and here are some of the things he shared with me then and from the main stage that really stuck with me.

What made you decide to look at the effectiveness of youth ministry?

Dr. Ross:  We hear a lot about young people who leave the church as they enter into adulthood. We tried replacing parents with the professionals for 60 years. So how’s that going? I decided I wanted to look at the characteristics of young people who stay committed to their faith after high school.

What did you find out?

Dr. Ross: There were three major factors to young people remaining in the church.

First, they had spiritually alive parents. Spiritually lethargic parents create spiritually lethargic children. Spiritually alive parents are not pew sitters. They are all in!

Second, the young people who remained had a relationship with the larger congregation outside of specialized ministry (such as children’s or youth ministry). Young adults who have little love for the bride will eventually walk away from the groom but teenagers who spend their time with all generations in the church tend to stay in church. Giving teenagers a love for the church comes in two pieces: relationships and ministry.

Which leads to the final factor;  there needs to be “Bible-drenched age-appropriate ministry” that helps youth live out their faith in the world today.

How do you suggest the church approach ministry to kids and youth with these factors in mind?

Dr. Ross: The ultimate goal is families that love God, love people, and make disciples of all people.  The way to do that is to get out of the “event business” and into effective ministry. I suggest a new model for approaching ministry – Ministry in Thirds. Would we be willing to give one third of our calendar, budget and energy to each of the three factors?

One third of these resources would be spent focusing on helping parents to be spiritually alive and active by resourcing them, supporting them, and equipping them for the work of discipleship.

One third of the resources would be focused on engaging our youth with the whole congregation and finding ways to build relationships in the larger faith community.

And one third would be spent on our age-specific ministry area such as youth groups and children’s ministry.

Where can we start if we want to move in this direction?

Dr. Ross: So much of what we do is focused on our events and programs and those take a lot of time and energy.  But when you get yourself out of the event business you discover you have hours every week you can give to the families.  Children are like wet cement. We can leave impressions on them when they are young. We need to let them be active in the church as soon as possible.

Don’t wait to allow kids and teenagers to serve until they are adults. They become dry cement.  Find ways to let them serve while they are young.

bonding-1985863_1920I’ve been blogging at ReFocus Ministry for almost three years now. During that time, my heart has been to offer a “Both/And” approach towards ministry to children and youth that included BOTH age-specific ministry AND intergenerational ministry in the larger church community and homes.  As I listened this week to Dr. Ross and Dr. Bengtson share about their research which consistently pointed to the need for these intergenerational relationships in the church and home, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I’m not crazy. This really does work!”

Friends, we need one another. All ages, all generations, the whole body of Christ. As one D6 attendee shared with me, “All saints doing ministry, all the time, everywhere.”  There are no limits to God’s kingdom work. He can and will use all of us, youngest to oldest, to bring about “His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

 

 

An Army of Grandparents Unleashed

Since 1900, the average life span of an American has increased by 33 years.

33 years.

Why does this matter in ministry? More specifically how does this matter to family ministry?

I heard this interesting fact this week at D6 Conference in Dallas (where, consequentially, I also ate the best guacamole and queso I’ve ever had in my life). In the past, a fact such as this one would have passed me by, receiving only a cursory acknowledgement and a brief reflection on the advances in medicine we’ve experienced in that time. But this week when I heard that, I couldn’t get it off my mind.

It’s probably because I didn’t just hear that. I heard something other things that caused my “family ministry” ears to perk up.

I heard that in a 45 years longitudinal study of 360 families, grandparents were found to have a “higher than anticipated” influence on the faith of their grandchildren, second only to the parents of the child.

I heard that the degree of that influence a grandparent had in a person’s life did not decline with time but actually in some instances, it actually increased.

I heard that about 8% of children today are being raised by their grandparents and that there are more years of shared life with grandchildren than any time before.

I learned that if grandparents talked about their faith with their grandchildren face-to-face more than once a week OR went on family vacations with their grandchildren once a year that those grandchildren had a significantly higher chance of remaining in the faith than those who did not and led to an increase in grandchildren talking with others about faith struggles in their life.

I learned that “when grandparents consistently modeled their faith, their grandchildren tending to share that faith”

And I realized that there is a veritable ARMY of grandparents out there who are poised to help form the faith of the next generation of believers; to join parents in the beautiful privilege of discipling children an youth; to pass on the legacy of faith that has sustained them throughout their life onto their grandchildren who are just beginning theirs.

grandparents-1969824_1920And what’s even more amazing than that is that, according to developmental theorists, that’s exactly what God has instilled in them to do. According to Eric Erikson’s generativity theory, as people enter into the “post-kids, post-work” stage of life, they tend to start looking for ways to pass on to others what they have learned and experienced. If they can’t find that outlet, they will tend to enter a stage of “stagnation” where, for lack of a better word, they can get grumpy. In other words, people in this stage need to pass something on their legacy in some fashion to others.

This is where we find our implication for ministry, because friends, if there is anything that needs to be passed on, it is our faith!

Close your eyes with me and picture the grandparents in your life, in your church, in your community. Do you see them? Do you see the army of disciplers in front of you, just waiting to be unleashed? Do you number in their ranks?

If you, like me, have been taken by these facts and statistics, you might ask, as I did, “What next? How do I bring this army to life?”

Here are some practical ways forward that I gleaned from my experience at D6.

  1. Research – Take some time to look deeper into these facts stated above. The first few came from a study done by Dr. Vern Bengtson and can be found in his book Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down across Generations. The other information came from my friend and colleague, Matthew Deprez of the Fuller Youth Institute and the research he is currently doing on grandparents. You can find information about Erikson’s generativity theory here.
  2. Resource – I cannot say enough about the Legacy Coalition and the work they do resourcing grandparents for this important work of discipling their grandchildren. Take time to look over their website, read their blog, and hear the stories of how God is using grandparents in ministry to their families and community.
  3. Relay – I often tell family ministers that they need to be sure to continually let parents know just how influential they are to their children’s faith. I humbly submit that we need to do exactly the same for grandparents, building them up and encouraging them in the work of discipleship by reminding them often of just how important they are to the faith formation of their grandchildren.

I am excited. I am so excited. For years, we’ve known that grandparents had influence but now that we know just how much, we can truly understand just what this generation can do for our families. And that, my friends, is really good news.

We’ve been given 33 more years. Let’s use it to shape the faith of future generations. 

grandparents-1927320_1920


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

D6 Conference 2017: Recap and Resources

Friends, D6 2017 was amazing.

The presence of God was tangible. The fellowship of His people was encouraging. The information shared was enlightening. And the food…the food was amazing (Got to hand it to you, Texas…your food trucks and Tex-Mex were top of the line!)

21687845_1474699655918887_7092711647640165701_nI had the privilege of getting to share my heart for family ministry in several arenas and had such a great time getting to know ministers from around the world. Of all the things that happened at this conference, by far these moments were my favorite:

Hearing the stories of the work that God is doing on churches across the globe and praying with each other about everything from hurricanes to ministry transitions.

One of the major takeaways for me was this:  God is at work. He is moving in and through His people. His heart is being put into action and His Church is listening for Him to speak to and through them. It can get hard to see this when often what we hear about the Church often sounds divisive and disheartening.  But friends, that was not my experience this week. My experience was one of grace, excitement and anticipation of the work God is doing in the world.

As promised to many, here the links to the resources I mentioned in my sessions and/or conversations. Thank you for letting me part of your ministry journey!  I hope that the seeds that were planted bear much fruit for God’s kingdom and you are encouraged to know that you are not alone.

From Main Stage presentation:

I mentioned that the first time I heard about the ideas of family ministry came from Pastor Brian Haynes at a similar conference. His book Shift:What it Takes to Finally Reach Families was a huge part of that for me. His other books, The Legacy Path: Discover Intentional Spiritual Parenting and Relentless Parenting , which he wrote with his wife Angela, are great follow-ups that I also recommend.

For ideas on ways to invite Christ into the everyday, be sure to check out the Practical Discipleship at Home page on this site that includes creative suggestions ranging from how to make Family Movie Night a discipleship moment to ways to pray with our kids.

From “When Family Ministry Doesn’t Work” Breakout:

To access the slides from this session, go to https://prezi.com/x6nby-dvuhyt/family-ministry/ and for ideas to help you tap into your church’s vision, mission and values, be sure to check out the Church Health Assessment offered from Randall House in conjunction with Ron Hunter’s book, The DNA of D6.

Check out the Family Ministry page on this site for a variety of resources that can help you as you transition to family ministry and be sure to check out the following articles: Practical Ways to Embrace Kids who Come Alone, A Few Verses about Family Ministry (remember, that bibical basis is so important!) and Transformational Homes: A Four Part Series on the Importance of Faith at Home.

From “When Generations Collide” Breakout:

To access the slides from this session, go to https://prezi.com/rexxyfkp-fdv/when-generations-collide/  and for a synopsis of the conversation we had, check out “Why Intergenerational Worship? And Why Now?”

We talked a bit about the Pray for Me Campaign that hooks kids in your church up with three prayer partners of various generations. For more information on that program, check out www.prayformecampaign.com and Tony Souder’s book “Pray For Me.

For more ideas on how to bring generations together within your faith community, check out to following posts:

From the (AWESOME) Family Ministry Connect Group:

We talked a lot about the research presented by both Dr. Vern Bengtson and Dr. Richard Ross. Click on their names for links to both of their books and remember, I’d love to continue our conversations. Be sure to contact me if you want to keep talking. I so enjoyed our time of debriefing together. Also, for those of you that were there the second night, the cheese made it 🙂

Friends, I truly hope that the relationships that were started this weekend, the times of prayer and the fruitful conversations will continue. Thank you for letting me be a part of it!  God is doing something awesome – let’s not miss it!!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

 

A Distinctly Different Welcome

This past Thursday, I had the chance to sit with some members of our church plant leadership team and discuss some upcoming events.  Our church plant is in its very beginning stages, so things like “kids ministry” and “family ministry” don’t really exist in more traditional formats.  But here’s what does exist; a culture of welcome for all ages. 

How do I know that?  Because when we were planning these events and the topic of children was brought up, we didn’t shy away from the topic or try to figure out how to work around it. We wrestled through the developmental realities of having children in the service and worked together to come up with ideas that would allow the children to remain with their parents if so desired.

I used the word “wrestled” on purpose because I think it is important to acknowledge that this isn’t a topic that easily approached. There are real concerns and issues when we talk about making space for all ages in a worship service.  And different churches reach different conclusions based on their families and their needs. If you read my blog, you know that I prefer a “Both/And” approach where children are able to be in worship and relationship with adults AND receive time where they get some age-appropriate teaching and time with peers.

But I digress, because what I really wanted to point out was this:

Regardless of the decision we arrived at, the approach was one of intentional welcome. It wasn’t an afterthought, it was a forethought. And the thought wasn’t, “How do we deal with them?” it was “How do we welcome them?”

And I think that is ultimately the underlying culture that must be in place if we are to have any kind of effective ministry to children, youth, and families, no matter what it “looks” like at a given church. Actually, I think how we welcome children and youth directly effects the overall health of the church and the experience of the Lord’s presence in our midst.

Jesus tells us in Mark 9:37, “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.”

Think about that. Whoever welcomes a child, welcomes Christ, but not only Christ, but the one who sent him (the Father).

Our welcome of children into our midst ushers in the very presence of God. That’s pretty fundamental to the idea of church.

church-2564560_1920A culture of welcome speaks volumes, not just to the children who are being welcomed, but to the parents who bring them and to the community around them. In a world that is increasingly segregated by age, each generation being “sent” to its appropriate place, the church is different – it requires no separation; rather integration and relationships are modeled for us through Scripture and commended by our Savior.

It is distinctly different from what is happening in the world today and as such, it requires some intentional wrestling on our part.

Overcommunicate the welcome. Make it so apparent that there is no question.

Through words. Through visible things such as coloring tables and busy bags. Through relationships that span generations. Through grace extended to one another when generations collide. Through wrestling with the constraints and fighting for a culture of welcome. Through love.

Realistically, there are no easy answers to creating space for intergenerational worship and a culture of welcome for all ages. But there are answers worth fighting for, worth wrestling with. And whatever answers we find, may we always remember that “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (the little children)” and strive to embrace the children God brings into our faith communities.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

“But, What Can We Do To Help?”

Several years ago (2013) a series of tornados ripped through Oklahoma causing extensive amounts of damage and leaving many without homes, cars, and possessions. Stories about the tornados were all over the news and headlines so inevitably  my daughters, ages 9 and 7, heard all about it. As you might suspect, there were lots of questions and concerns expressed, but on the way into school one morning, the conversation turned this direction:

Hannah:  So all these people who lost their homes, where are they going to live?

Me: Well, many probably had insurance and after some time, they will rebuild their homes and move back in.

Naomi: But what about the kids?

Me: What about them?

Naomi:  What about all their stuff that they lost?

Hannah:  Yeah, will insurance cover all their toys?

Me: I don’t know, honey. I’m not sure how that works.

At this point I kinda “tuned out” their conversation and started back on the news but in a few minutes they interrupted.

Hannah: Okay, Mom, we figured out what we can do. 

Me:  Hmm, what’s that?

Hannah:  We’re going to hold a Toy Drive and we are going to gather toys and send them to the kids in Oklahoma. 

Naomi:  Yeah, I’m gonna talk to my teacher and my friends and I know they will have toys that they can give and I’ll give away half of my toys. 

Me:  Girls, I love your hearts so much, but it’s just not that simple. 

Hannah:  Yes it is, Mom. It’s that simple. We just have to help them. 

Needless to say, there was no way I could say no to that, and in a few hours after some phone calls to a friend in Oklahoma that put in me in touch with a church in Oklahoma that worked with a great number of kids who had lost everything, we had an official toy drive up and running.

God blessed that Toy Drive.

We sent so many brand-new toys to Oklahoma along with new Bibles for all the kids and Fed Ex even covered the shipping for free. The church sent pictures of the children who were welcomed to the gym and given the chance to get five new toys to replace their lost ones along with Bibles and cards that were written from kids in PA to those in OK who needed some love.  I’m still “friends” on Facebook with those who I’ve never met in person but who helped to make this moment a reality for all the children involved.

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I tell this story because I just bet many of us have heard our children ask the question, “What can we do?” They’ve heard about the hurricanes, the floods, the fires and the families who have lost everything and they wonder what affect they can have on this world. The worst answer we can give is “Nothing.”

If we can give our kids a place, a role, a part to play that lets them know that what they do to help others matters, then we give them much more than that – we give them a way to put their faith into action, to love the least and to reach out to those most in need. 

Now, hear me, I’m not suggesting that we just grab a bunch of stuff and send it to places in need. We’ve all seen the posts on social media about the “help” that is not truly help. Our toy drive was done in conjunction with a church that was reaching a specific group of children in need. There was a lot of communication and preparation to ensure that we didn’t send unneeded help. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything, In fact, there is so much we can do.

Here are just a few ideas that you might be able to involve your kids in when they ask, “What can we do?”

Give Financially

There are many, many relief organizations, most tend to be faith-based” that are doing the work on the ground but they need funds to operate. Check and see if your denomination or church has a group that works in disaster relief and if you choose to support them monetarily, let your kids be a part of that. See if they want to give a dime or a dollar. Let them know where you are sending your money and why. Allow them the opportunity to be discipled in what it is to be a generous giver.

Pray Consistently

Sometimes it’s easy to pray in the moment or at the time where need is the greatest, but what if you decided as a family that you would pray for a year for a region or for those affected by a disaster?  During that time, look for stories to show how God is answering your prayers (If you look, you will find them!). Talk together about how prayer is something always available to us no matter what is going on; our lifeline to God!

Serve Responsibly

Perhaps there is a way that you can be part of a hands-on approach to disaster relief through something like a food or toy drive or by actually going and helping. Churches in the area affected are a good place to start with that. Usually their websites will give you information about what they are doing and how to help and often times there is a number to call if you want to get more details.

This link will take you to a list of organizations that do much of the work described above and offer other ideas on how to get involved. I’m not offering this because I am personally recommending these, but because it’s a place to get started.

The more important thing is that we take the time to be prepared to answer the question, “What can we do?” because eventually they will ask it.  And if we can find a way to answer it that will teach them even a little bit more about what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world today, we’ve helped form their faith that much more and made a lasting impression on their hearts.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

 

Singing Songs isn’t Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some worship ideas that might be used instead of songs.

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

Something Great to Imitate

“Oh how cute!”

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

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

My heart sank.

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

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

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

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

We have a profound and unfathomable influence our our children.

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed