Fidget Spinner Theology: It’s not that simple

Fidget Spinners. Bottle Flipping. Slime, Oobleck, Gack – whatever you want to call it.

These are The Things. The things our kids and middle schoolers go crazy for. Tomorrow it will be something else. The Things come out of nowhere, blow up into a craze overnight, and then quietly retreat to some back corner where only adults who haven’t caught on to the fact that these have come and gone continue to do them so they can be “relevant.” (I’ve been accused of this on occasion by my very own middle schoolers)

fidget-spinner-2412989_1920It took one, maybe two months, after the fidget spinner craze hit my house before I started seeing fidget spinner Bible lessons pop up on my Facebook feed. One more week and suddenly buying fidget spinners in bulk with church logos on them to hand out at VBS, Kids Church, visiting families, etc. was all the rage.

So, what’s wrong with that?  We want to be relevant, right?  We want to reach kids “where they are” and be relatable. And fidget spinners are fun, so why not?

Well, herein lies the danger and the tension.

Sometimes in our desire to be those things for the generations that, well, aren’t ours, we work hard to fit the message we are trying to share with them into what they can relate to.  We look for ways to “tell the story” using these objects that they are using for fun.  But often to do that we need to modify or simplify our theology in order to make it “fit.” And in doing that, we can accidentally end up teaching incorrect theology and in some cases heresy in order to make it accessible to kids and youth. (For more on how this specifically relates to fidget spinners, check out this article entitled “No, the Trinity is Not Like Fidget Spinner“)

The reality is, the story of Scripture and the truth of who God is, is not that simple. It can’t be squished into the next passing craze or middle school trend.  And it makes God, (our great, big, incredible, awesome God) very, very small.  Easy to explain away. Simple to put in a back pocket.

Oh, Christina, you’re taking this way too seriously. It’s just a fun and relatable way to talk to kids. It’s not about teaching theology or interpreting Scripture. It’s just simple fun.

But, it’s not.

It is teaching theology.
It is interpreting Scripture.

For the children we are teaching, it is those things.

This is their time to learn. These are the lessons they are going to tuck away in their hearts and learn to interpret the world and the church and the Bible by. It’s these simple lessons that take root in a child’s heart. And if we are the ones teaching them, we need to take that very seriously.

If we are going to use an object lesson, which is basically how most children’s and youth curriculums are framed, it is so important that we do a few other things too.

  1. We preface our object lesson with a statement that this example is a way for us to start thinking but it is not the whole story. For that we need to look deeper at Scripture and the teachings of Christ, at what’s been handed down to us from those who have gone before us in the faith, and at what the Holy Spirit is teaching us through one another in the body of Christ.
  2. We open up the Bible and we read it together. We ask questions and we seek out answers. An object lesson can be a great way to spur on discussion, but as the full lesson, it lacks depth and often theology.
  3. We never forget to expose our children to the wonder and awe that is the mystery of our God, a mystery that we will never fully comprehend and a depth of love we will never truly fathom. We remind them and us that He is bigger than anything we could ever comprehend and that is exactly what makes Him God and what gives us a lifetime and an eternity to spend getting to know Him.

Object lessons that grab attention and spur on discussion are useful tools in talking with our children, youth, and young adults…but they can’t be the full lesson. They can’t be the “takeaway” or the thing that sticks.

We’ve got a BIG God to give them. Let’s give them a BIG God to believe in.

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

Marking the “Christian” box and Making Disciples are Not the Same Thing

Recently, Pew Research released their latest findings regarding the religious landscape in America. The numbers weren’t shocking, if you keep up on those types of things.

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Roughly 70% of Americans affiliate with the Christian faith, 23% claim no religion, and the final 7% affiliate with other world religions. Ho-hum, let’s move on…we’re still a Christian nation.

But here’s the rub. These statistics are just that. They are surface numbers. The label “Christian” is a box to check off on a list of religious choices.

Here’s what the summary doesn’t tell us.

  • Only 17% of people ages 18-29 identify as Christian compared to 35% of the same age group who identify as Unaffiliated.
  • 30% of Christians are parents of children under 18 which is nearly equal to Unaffiliated parents who come in at 26%.
  • 27% of Unaffiliated persons express an “absolutely certain” belief in God, 22% are fairly certain there is a God and 13% say their religion is very important in their lives.
  • More members of the Unaffiliated group feel a sense of wonder and awe about the universe weekly than do Christians (47% compared to 45%)
  • 47% of Christians say they seldom or never participate in prayer, scripture study or religious education groups among Christians
  • 43% of Christians say their religion guides their understanding of right and wrong. 41% say their own common sense does this (compare this to 57% of Unaffiliated – not that different).
  • 59% of Christians say that what is right and wrong depends on the situation; there are no absolutes. 78% of Unaffiliated identifiers agree.
  • 33% of Christians seldom or never read the Bible and 18% don’t believe it is the Word of God.

This is the environment that our children are growing up in

When we do the deeper digging, we find out that in terms of spiritual discipleship and maturity, there’s really not a huge difference between those who are Unaffiliated with a religion and those who identify as Christian. Our differences come into play in other areas like political affiliation, views on social issues and the government’s role, and belief in an afterlife. But when it comes to things like believing in a God, participating in a faith community, making moral decisions, and even reading the Bible… we’re not all that different.

And if we look at who is raising the next generation…we are equally sharing that load; Christian and Unaffiliated.

There is our “why.”

Why do we keep emphasizing the importance of discipleship in the home?

Why do we keep talking about the need for generational discipleship in the church?

Why do we continue to encourage parents to engage with the kids around the ideas of faith and community and the Church to get outside of times and location and be that faith community for them?

Why do we send home devotionals from Sunday School, provide Scriptures for discussion, encourage participation in worship and learning for all ages, equip parents for the work of discipleship at home, and invest hours of prayer into the generations to come?

Because we should be different.

Our active involvement in our faith should look different than those who say they don’t identify with a religion. Our numbers shouldn’t even be close.

And if they are, we shouldn’t be surprised when in the next few years, perhaps just one generation, we see those numbers flip.

This is not ho-hum. It is past time for us to wake up.

Church, it is time to stop investing in building the next building and time to start investing in building the next generation and nurturing, supporting and equipping their parents for the work of discipleship.

Parents, it is past time for us to own our own spiritual walk and discipleship so that we can help our children grown and be discipled; to commit to growing our own faith through being actively engaged in our faith community, involved in spiritual disciplines like the reading of Scripture and serving the community, and dedicated to being Christ-followers.

This isn’t intended to be a fear tactic or a doomsday post. It’s certainly not intended to be a “run away, secluded yourself, hide the kids” post. I’m not into that kind of stuff. My heart truly was for this simply to be a reality check; an understanding that passing on our faith is more than our kids just claiming the label of “Christian.”

It’s a life modeled after Christ, engaged with His body, and doing His work in the world today. And that is what makes us different. Let’s do that.


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

“You can say anything, but kids will copy what you do”

The other day I watched a young mother talking with some friends and behind her, unbekownst to her, her young daughter was watching her and imitating her hand gestures. I don’t think anyone but me saw it and I almost laughed out loud but I realized that this little one wasn’t trying to be rude or making fun of her mom; she was learning. My bet is that in a few years, this little girl will be having conversations of her own and her little hands will be flying around as she talks just like her mom.

Recently the New York Times posted an article that was about how to raise young men who respect women and the pull quote they used for the article was from a sociologist who said, “You can say anything but kids will copy what you do” (Dan Clawson, University of Massachusetts).

I don’t think we can overemphasize this enough.


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To put it in perspective first consider this: The single most powerful influence in a child’s life is by far their parents/caregivers.  

Second, consider this: One of the greatest indicators of church retention of young people is the existence of caring intergenerational relationships between adults and youth.

Finally, we read this from Paul: Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus (I Cor. 4:15-17a)

Paul compares himself to a father, a parent, and tells the church in Corinth to imitate him as children do their parents and then, to seal the deal, sends his spiritual son Timothy, who has learned how to imitate his “way of life” to the people of Corinth so they can learn how to imitate as well.

Another word we use in Christian circles is discipleship. 

Now let’s bring this full circle.  Sociologists say that what we say doesn’t matter as much as what we do. As parents and Christian adults in the church we have powerful influence over our kids and youth just by being present in their life. And our church “father” Paul has exampled for us that we should be telling our children to imitate us.

So my question is… are we worthy of being imitated?

I wish you could see how long I had to pause and sit and reflect on this question. I wish you would stop for a second and do the same.

Are our actions and reactions, our way of communicating and listening, our relationship with Christ and the church, worthy of being imitated by our children?

I’ve had some adults tell me that they don’t want children with the adults on Sunday morning because kids don’t get anything out of the sermon. But the sermon is only one very small part of church!  There is so much to imitate at that time. They are watching us.

In fact my husband pointed out this morning that in the early church, imitation was intricately woven into the traditions even more so at the time than the Bible. What we call the Bible today were letters from church leaders to the growing church back then. But the actions, thing like communion, the laying on of hands, baptism…all of these things were taught to and imitated by the church as a means of active participation in the faith.

So the bigger question is, if the children aren’t engaged with the service, why?  

What are they watching?  Are we engaged?  Or are we texting, tweeting, or posting?  Are we listening to the sermon, worshiping with the enthusiasm, praying at the altar?  Are we giving them something worthwhile to imitate?

At home, do we read the Bible and talk about the Lord? Do we pray? Do we serve? Do we worship?  Do we give them something to imitate that will sustain them when they are in need?

When we “walk along the road”, are we engaging with our world and our community? Do we pray for those in need?  Do we reach out physically and financially and do we do it in a way that our children can see? What are our reactions to the our neighbors, to the news, to disasters and to blessings?  What do we get excited about?  What do we get angry about?

All of these things matter.

All of these things are discipleship. All of these things will be imitated. We can say anything but our kids will copy what we do.

For, as Paul says later on, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be savedAnd you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1)

The reality is this: We are being imitated.

That is simply how this works. One generation to another.

The challenge is this: To be something worth imitating.

For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

What do YOU want to be when you grow up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This question gets asked of kids a lot!  I never really thought much about this question and subsequent answers until yesterday when a friend of mine posted a inquiring thought of his own.

It read, “I find it interesting that in America when we ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we’re looking for an occupation rather than a quality (i.e. honest, kind, loyal, etc.)”

Makes you think, right?  Even when our kids are little and they answer, they usually immediately offer up an occupation.  So I was curious, why is that? Why do we immediately assume our “what” is somehow connected to our “who”; our identity?

In his article, American Identity Crisis: Are You Your Job?, Joe Robinson points out that “It’s automatic for strangers at any American social setting — right after “nice to meet you” and within the first two minutes of conversation or your citizenship is revoked. “What do you do?” It’s a line that would be considered rude in many lands, but not here, where inquiring minds have to know: What’s your status and how much money are you making?

He goes on to say, “The answer could be “I like to bike” or some other expression of your real identity, but the instinctive response is to go with the very real-appearing but pseudo-identity, the job ID. In a rootless culture with no obvious class markers, the job defines the person and the pecking order. You are what you do.”

water-hose-942973_1920Yikes!  I don’t know about you, but that is certainly not the value or the identity I want myself or my children to have. But realistically, in America, that tends to be our focus. At a recent conference I attended, one of the speakers (Larry Osburne) pointed out that one of the “gods” we serve in America is the “god of potential.”

We see this especially in the areas of sports, academics, and extracurriculars.

Parents are told from the second their child is born about that child’s potential and how to maximize it. The best schools, the best sports teams, the best programs…making sure that their kids have the best chance to have the best future with the best experiences possible; to fully live up to their potential. Whether the goal is a sports scholarship, a cheer championship, highest academic honors or just plain winning at life, parents are willing to sacrifice A LOT to make sure their children can play ball, dance on stage, be in all the classes, attend all the functions and do all the things so they can succeed.

Is it any wonder then when we ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, they give us an occupation, rather than a characteristic?  

So what can we do in our homes and churches to help our children form a core identity that is other than what job they are going to do when they are older?

We can intentionally and repetitively remind them of WHO they are

One of my favorite questions to ask my kids is “Who are you?” to which they inevitably respond, “I am a child of God.” This question got asked at the beginning of every Kids Church at my last church and it found deep root in my children’s hearts.

We can do that for our kids too! And that doesn’t negate their uniqueness and abilities; we are children of God made with different gifts and callings, but we are children of God nonetheless. In the church, we can remind them of the great potential they have to do AMAZING things for God!  We can call out the gifts we see in them and we can find ways for them to use those gifts within the faith community as members of the congregation.

We can redefine the word WHAT for them

When they talk about what they want to be when they grow up, we can remind them of what we want most for them to be – kind, gracious, loving, brave, honorable, loyal, faithful, etc. We can talk about our ultimate calling to be God-followers, lovers of Him and others, and what that looks like as we interact with others.

One moment I think is great to help remind kids about these things is at night before bed. I have prayed the same prayer for each of my kids since they were born, based on what the meaning of their name is. My oldest will tell you that I pray for her to be a woman of noble character, my middle to be a woman of wisdom, and my son to be wholly devoted to God. The other night,my middle child put my son to bed for me – guess what prayer she prayed?  She asked that God would help him to grow into a man of wisdom; the same prayer she’s heard me pray for her for so many years. It’s become WHAT she is. 

We can reinforce WHOSE they are no matter where life takes them

Recently a story has been floating around Facebook of a parent who taught their child to text “X” if they needed their parents to pick them up from an uncomfortable situation. What really stood out to me wasn’t the story but the image that went with it. It was a picture of the phone and the text conversation went like this “Mom, can I go to so-and-so’s house tonight?”  “Sure! Remember WHO you are; remember WHOSE you are”  “Okay, thanks”….. “X”  Why do you think that “X” got texted to Mom?  Because they remembered whose they were.

And that’s on us, parents and Church, to consistently and loving remind our children that they belong to God, and that they belong to His body the Church, and that whose they are matters as much as who they are when it comes to self identity.

Jon Acuff points out in his talks to parents about social media that we simply cannot change the culture around us in terms of technology and, I would say in this case, identity. But what we can do is create and sustain a different culture in our home; one that reflects our values and our identity in Christ.

Let’s be intentional in helping our children find an answer to this question that is much bigger than just a job. Let’s help them discover who, what and whose they are in Christ!


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

When a Kidmin Goes to Disney

For those of you that follow me, you know that I’m pretty good about putting out a post every few days, so you may have been wondering what happened this week. Well, this week, thanks to my wonderful in-laws, my family and I are in the bubble that is Walt Disney World in Florida where we are spending our days laughing, eating, riding rides, eating, walking, eating, standing in lines, eating and enjoying each others company (often while eating).

Being in ministry, I couldn’t help but see my time there through that lens and as impressive as the rides, the resort, and the restaurants were, what really stuck out to me was the environment that Disney has striven to create no matter where you are on the property.  From the moment we walked into the hotel and were told “Welcome Home!” to the moment my in-laws stepped off the plane and onto their  “Magical Express” bus, we were in a different place.. a magical place called Disney World.

Disney is marketing to an audience.  It is important to them that we feel like it is worth our time and money to spend both there so they have done a good job at finding out what people want.

And here is the formula I am seeing play out over our week in Florida.

1. Families WANT to spend time TOGETHER

Whether you are there with one person or one hundred, Disney wants to make sure familydisneyyou get to spend your time there with the people you love the most.  They provide services like “rider swap” and family dining plans and photographers to take family pictures (for free on your own device if you ask them) and family-friendly shows, rides, and parades that appeal to every age group.

There is no need to separate.  They have made it possible to stay together, to experience “the magic” together, because… they have realized that families want to be together.

Often in churches, we do just the opposite.  We pull families in many different directions during our service hours or throughout the weeks and months with age and gender specific events.  We don’t strive to find ways to help families experience Christ together; rather we focus on the individual needs and age-segregated activities that actually keep families apart.

Walt Disney figured it out years ago when he said, “There needs to be something built where the parents and the children can have fun, together.”  And so he created that place.  Imagine what could happen if we created spaces in church where children and parents could grow in their faith, together.

2. Everyone is on the SAME page.

Since this was our first visit to Disney, we found ourselves having to ask a lot of questions.  A Disney “cast member” was never far from our line of sight and every time we asked a question, they had an answer.  Every. single. time. It was rather uncanny.  The whole staff was aware, involved, and immersed in the culture of Disney.  We talked to everyone from popcorn vendors to street sweepers with the same result.  And nearly everyone ended the conversation by saying, “Have a magical day!”

So imagine with me what that would look like at church.  A new family comes to visit.  They are lost and need to ask a question.  They grab the nearest person to them and not only does that person know the answer, they carry with them the vision of the church in how they respond.

Before leading the visitors to the answer, they cheerfully welcome them.  They provide knowledgeable responses and send them off with a blessing. 

I would want to go back to that church because I would feel truly wanted there, just like we did at Disney.

3. There is always a reason to CELEBRATE!

As we checked in to dinner yesterday, we were asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday. Since my brother-in-law was, we of course said YES (much to his joy). ,  At one point, the whole restaurant was invited to sing “Happy Birthday” to him as he enjoyed his delicious and frankly humongous birthday cupcake.

Around me I could see other pins celebrating everything from family reunions and anniversaries to engagements and honeymoons.  Again, very focused on family and again, very cheerful and welcoming.

I am a huge fan of celebrating.  I feel as though we don’t do nearly enough of it, especially in church.  Of all people, we should be the most celebratory of all. Celebration and recognition can be as small as a pin and a greeting, but it can create an atmosphere of joy and excitement.

What if we intentionally celebrated every baptism, every marriage, every birth, every salvation, every moment of spiritual growth?  What would that teach our kids about what’s important?  What kind of atmosphere would it create in our churches?  There is so much worth celebrating.. and we should!

These are just a few of the many things I am seeing during our trip that I want to add to my ministry experience.

If families want to spend time together, I want to make sure that we are providing the kinds of faith-building times they need to grow in their faith together.

If someone new comes to our church, I want to make sure that my volunteers are ready to greet them with our vision and excitement and leave those people feeling blessed and welcomed.

If I know of something worth celebrating, I want to make sure we celebrate it at every turn with great joy and intentionality.

As for the eating… I’m just gonna have to leave that in Disney’s capable hands.

(This is an updated article from a post first shared when we went to Disney in February 2015. You can read the original here.)


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

The GREATEST Blog Post of ALL TIME! Click here to Find out WHY!

Sensationalism.   You gotta love it right?  

Today I got to see “Six Life-Saving Coin Hacks!” which consisted of using a quarter as a screwdriver and as a means to secure one’s skirt while riding a bike. Thank goodness, my life is saved.  I also was informed that the recipe for cheese-stuffed something or other was, and I quote, “all that was right in the world.” Which was very helpful since I was wondering exactly what all was right in the world.

These ridiculous claims reminded me of a time when my oldest was much younger. Her dad had gone downstairs to use the treadmill and told her not to interrupt his run unless it was very, very important. About 10 minutes in, she came running down the steps, phone in hand, a look of urgency on her face, yelling up a storm. Quickly, he stopped the treadmill only to hear her say, “It’s really, really important Daddy! We may have won a CRUISE!”

Whenever I see these hyped up ads (or fake news stories, as the case may be), I can’t help but shake my head and think, “What are these people thinking?”

And then…then I see the number of likes, shares, clicks and reactions, often numbering in the thousands. Thousands of people read an article that claimed to contain “THE” newly-discovered and unbelievably easy path to permanent weight loss. Thousands reacted to and “clicked Next to find out” what caused that unbelievable sore on a person’s cheek.

So, what are these people thinking?  They are thinking that sensationalism works. That for some reason we are drawn to these ridiculous claims and unbelievable manipulation like a moth to a flame.  And they are right.  Even the New York Times had an article about it this morning (and I was writing mine before they wrote theirs 😉 ).

Now the bigger questions is “Why?”  Why does this work?

I truly think the answer is that it’s simply because we were created by God to believe. We were gifted by our Creator with an imagination, the desire to dream, the gift of faith and innately, deep inside all of us, is the compulsion to believe. The Catholic Church, in their catechism, puts it this way: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.

We were made to experience more…so we look for it!  

And children, bless their hearts, live for it!  

mermaids-1905598_1920Watch a child play. Listen to their stories. Tell them they may have won a cruise or mermaids live around the corner. They are full-fledged bought in to life! And their spirits soar when they learn a new thing or experience a new reality.

But we get older, and we “know better”, and our spirits soar less often. I saw an illusionist recently who put it this way: “I used to do shows and people would say ‘Wow!’; now people just grab their phones and say ‘How?'” Our imagination is jaded. Our belief is held at bay. But somewhere, deep inside of us, we still wonder…and that is why thousands click on sensational links…because they are still looking for more.

Is it any wonder than that Jesus, when asked about the kingdom of God, says this:

Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me. – Mt. 18:3-5

And here’s the thing – the kicker – WE HAVE THE TRUTH!

It’s not sensationalism. It is reality. We have the most incredible, most amazing, most outstanding truth, that is beyond our wildest imaginations and deepest dreams, that is without depth and without end….and we couch it in dry lessons and boring devotions and wonder why our children can’t / don’t engage (and why it’s a pretty common thing to see adults nodding off in church on Sunday morning).

Honestly, we need to just proclaim it. Talk about it. Magnify (make bigger) the Lord! Talk about it when we sit and home and when we walk along the road, when we lay down and when we rise. We need to sit under stars and dream about our great big God. We need to let the Scriptures well up inside of us and share them with each other is all forms of songs, hymns, and spiritual songs, making music in our hearts, worshiping our unfathomable Creator.

Like David, we need to say:

I’m ready, God, so ready; ready from head to toe, Ready to sing, ready to raise a tune:  “Wake up, soul! Wake up, harp! Wake up, lute! Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!” I’m thanking you, God, out loud in the streets,  singing your praises in town and country.  The deeper your love, the higher it goes; every cloud is a flag to your faithfulness. (Ps. 57:7-10, MSG)

Because, all sensationalism aside, we really do have the life-saving truth that truly is all that is right in the 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 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. 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

Summer’s Dilemma: Church or Family?

Last day of school!!!

Ours is Friday; I bet yours is soon or you’ve already had it.  The official start to summer is here.  Summer vacation means sleeping in, sunny days, water sports, sandy beaches, campfires, parades, and plenty of time with family and friends.

It also means that church attendance in the United States plummets.

Like seriously takes a nosedive.  Attendance becomes sporadic and spotty.  When school lets out for the summer, it seems like church does too.  The response of the church has been to cut programming (no Wednesday nights for the summer anyone?) and plan “fun events” like picnics and Vacation Bible School.

As a parent, I get it.  All year long our calendar is held captive by the school calendar that informs when we can go away and for how long.  Seeing extended family is difficult when you have two days to travel.  And spending quality time together can suffer.  So planning vacations and day trips during the summer months makes sense.

As a minister, I’ve dreaded it.  It’s hard.  You develop relationships with kids and you have really cool things going like small groups and prayer teams and discipleship, and then, you don’t see them but off and on for weeks.  And then there is Vacation Bible School; don’t even get me started on that.  The sheer amount of time and effort that is put into pulling off a “successful” VBS event takes all the energy you have, so the regular programming starts to suffer.

I’ve seen so many posts recently from children’s pastors around the country utterly discouraged by this attendance reality and frustrated and what seems like a lack of commitment and concern.  On the other hand, I’ve seen equally as many posts from parents excited about the cool things they have planned this summer to do as a family and the memories they are looking forward to making.

So who’s right?  What’s more important?  Family or church?

And therein, I believe, lies the problem.  Because of the “way” we do church (Sunday morning, Wednesday night and/or separate ministries for the family members), if someone misses one of these times, it leaves a gap; a sizable gap.  But families who want to spend these summer months together don’t want to come to a place where once again they are separated and unable to be with each other. So it becomes a choice – do I want to be with my family OR do I want to go to church?

Ugh.  Those choices kinda stink.

What ends up happening then is that when the opportunity arises by default of the summer school schedule to spend that quantity of quality time together, the choice becomes clear –family.  And when the default schedule makes finding that quantity of quality time together more difficult – church.

choosefamily

(Hemera Technologies/Getty Images)

But I don’t think either of those reflect God’s heart for family or for church.

In fact, I think that it creates a tension where the two are opposed to each other rather than being in partnership with one another.  Where there should be mutual edification, there is instead unhealthy competition.

And let me be clear, this also takes place with sports, especially travel ball, and academics, especially academic teams, and friends, especially non-churchgoing friends.

And I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this.

Church isn’t supposed to be a building or a program or a set time in the week.  And family isn’t supposed to be vacations and softball games and straight As on report cards. 

Those things might be a part of what church and family are, but they are not supposed to define them.

The Bible is clear that what brings us together isn’t things and it isn’t programs and it isn’t activities.  What unites us is the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:17) and what holds us together is love (John 14:34-35). We are not supposed to make a habit of skipping out on our times of meeting with other believers, but we are supposed to be encouraging on another all the more (Heb. 10:25).  We (ministers explicitly) are also encouraged to ensure our homes are in order before taking care of the church and to love, honor, respect, and obey within our families (I Tim. 3:5).

It sounds to me like “church” looks less like meeting on Sunday and more like being in relationship with one another in and outside of a building and all week long, not just on Sunday.

It also looks like we are committed to one another in love and service so we strive to be together and not make a habit of letting things come between us, even good things and fun things and “family” things.

Ultimately I think it means we adopt of philosophy of “church” that is less about “ME” and more about “WE” – that we view the decisions we make not out of a cost-benefit analysis about what works best for us, but rather from a Kingdom mindset of what is best for Him.  Sometimes, this may mean you take your family on vacation.  Sometimes, it may mean you skip a game.  Sometimes it may mean that you meet outside of a building or on a different night.  Sometimes it may mean you cancel a program.

But IF it is about the kingdom of God and not about what works best with our schedules or our plans, it will bear fruitIt will grow God’s kingdom in our families, our churches and our communities.

It won’t send a message that “church” is a choice that we can take or leave but that “church” is a life we choose to live in relationship with others.  And it won’t send a message that family is somehow less spiritual or less important but that family is an extension of the church in the broader community and in the home.

It’s not supposed to be a competition.

And whether we’ve made it that or the pace of modern world has made it that, I think it’s up to us, each and every one, to step back and see if we’ve adopted that mindset in any way.  Families, are you being the church in loving relationships, committed to the “WE” of God’s kingdom in the choices you make?  Ministers, are you supporting the family in partnering relationship, committed to the “WE” of God’s kingdom in the ministry you serve?

It can’t be about one or the other.  It has to be about ONE and no other.

“Be very careful then how you live – not as unwise, but as wise…understand what the Lord’s will is.” Eph 5:15,17

This article was first published on ReFocus, May 28, 2015. 


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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. 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

Discipleship When the World Revolves Around You

I got an email this morning from a missionary in India. He asked for prayer for some pastors going to share the gospel in some “radicalized” villages because the last time they went, 12 people were injured when they shared.

So, of course, they are going back.

self-confidence-2076792_1920I got this email as I was on my computer, looking at Amazon. Not just any Amazon, MY Amazon. My Amazon looks different from your Amazon. Mine is filled with things that I am interested in, things that I have considered buying or my kids have considered buying. I got to this webpage via MY Google homepage where I logged into MY Google account which was customized with MY calendar and MY web searches. And, of course, MY Netflix was on in the background with a show list customized just for…you guessed it…ME.

It’s a very comfortable space, this hyper-individualized world of mine.

And it seems like every time I turn around, someone else is willing to make my life even more comfortable, with more options to make everything just the way I want it.

It is into this American world of hyper-individualization that we are faced with the task of sharing the gospel, making disciples, and raising up the next generation.

So, we hyper-individualize our gospel. “What works for you?” we ask. “How can we make you comfortable?” we inquire.

And, to an extent, that is fine. That’s the vernacular of the day. That’s how we can be heard.

But sometimes I think this hyper-individualized approach is more about US than it is about spreading the gospel. It’s about making sure WE stay comfortable and our life doesn’t get rocked too much.

If we are honest, we like Amazon Church and Netflix sermons. We kinda enjoy when our seats are comfy and the surroundings are familiar.

And the world of creating community? Well, that’s not always so comfortable. The task of reaching multiple generations?  Not that simple. The intentionality of raising disciples? That takes work..and commitment…and a breakdown of individualism.

We have to walk into a space and not see US written all over the people who are there and in the songs that are sung and in the words that are spoken. In fact, we shouldn’t really see ourselves at all. We should see the Body of Christ. We should see Jesus.

And that is why those missionaries are going back. Back to a place that is more uncomfortable that most of us will ever realize. Back to rejection. Back to a situation that brings more risk than comfort, more pain than promise. Because they see the Body of Christ in those villages; people who have yet to know that they are loved by God and called to be part of His kingdom.

Let’s help our kids push the barriers a bit, friends. Their whole life will be built for comfort. Everything will literally revolve around them. It will be for us to push them outside the comfort zone and into the action. To challenge them to serve others. To seek to build God’s kingdom before their own. To break out of the hyper-individualized world they live in and lay down their life for others.

And guess how we help them?

We break out ourselves. We can’t change the fact that this American world will try to cater to our every whim and surround us with comfort. We can make the choice to do uncomfortable things; to talk to more people, to serve in our free time, to give up our creature comforts in order to reach the next generation for Christ. To be less about us, and more about Him.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Phil 2:1-4, MSG)


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 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. 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

Day 3: Please Don’t Lick the Deodorant

Have you ever felt ill-equipped, under-prepared, and just plain out of your league when it comes to serving in ministry? I think we’ve all had those days where we just wonder, “Am I cut out for this?” And we think, “I just don’t know how to do it all!”

If that’s been an experience that rings a bell with you OR if you just need a really good laugh today, you’ll enjoy this post by my husband, Luke Embree, about a parenting experience that taught him a lot about ministry. Even though this particular article is specific to church planting (our new endeavor) it is applicable across a wide range of ministry positions, including Children’s Ministry and Family Ministry.

“Because, despite my best efforts, it is only the Lord who can call forth light from the darkness, hope from hopelessness, and life from the dead.”

365 Church Planter

“Perhaps I’m not cut out for this whole parenting thing.”

I can remember the first time those words flashed through my mind.  It certainly wouldn’t be the last.

This is a blog about church planting.  But it’s amazing what we can learn from other areas like, for example, parenting.

This particular lesson occurred one night while my wife was out for the evening (always a precarious situation). My first born daughter was just old enough to begin walking.  I was left to, you know, keep the baby safe. No problem right? Right…

So I’m busy typing away at the computer when I notice it… the silence.

Those of you who are parents  know that it’s not the crying that raises the little red flags. It’s the silence.It’s that empty, eery quiet that you long ago left behind. And when you do finally hear it again, it’s not so much peaceful as it is alarming.

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Did We Create the Nones?

A few years ago (May 12, 2015) the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life released the findings from its latest study.  As expected, this release brought about a flurry of blog posts focused mainly on the decline of Millennials in the church. If you follow my blog you know my thoughts on that one, but if you are unfamiliar, feel free to read the article End the Millennial Postmortem here.

As my husband and I look towards church planting and we are praying about how to best reach the current generations, I felt compelled to re-read and re-share these thoughts (originally shared 2 years ago).

I purposely steered clear of reading the study until the buzz died down and I could read without other voices in my head telling me what to see.  I wanted to see for myself this abject decline of the church and the overwhelming gap left by Millennials who have chosen to walk away from organized religion in the form of “church.”  And, as everyone warned, I saw it.

I saw that for Evangelical Protestants and Mainline Protestants only 16/17% of their population was made up of 18-29 year olds.  I saw that these percentages matched those of the Catholic church and the Jehovah’s Witness.

But I saw something more disturbing than that.

I saw that those were the ONLY religions were showing the lowest percentages.  In contrast, 34% of Buddhist were in the 18-29 age group, 34% of Hindus, and a whopping 44% of Muslims (almost half, think about that!).  The only other category that could even come close to competing with those was the new religion of “Unaffiliated” which, for the first time in Pew history, hit a high of 35%.

What’s going on?!?

It’s not that suddenly 18-29 year olds don’t associate with religion.  44% of the Muslims surveyed were Millennials!

It’s not that 18-29 year olds don’t believe in God.  Of all the survey respondents who identified as Unaffiliated or “religious nones” only 3.1 % identified themselves as atheist.

I think it’s simply that they are… Unaffiliated.

The religion that has seen the biggest drop? Christianity.   And the area with fastest growth?  Unaffiliated.

That word just makes me sad.  If you look up the definition for “unaffiliated” you’ll read things like, “not associated with another or others” and “not connected” and ” not a part of.”  I think if we look at the multiple studies that have been done on why there’s been a decline in the attendance of 18-29 year olds in church, they put it this way; “We don’t belong.”  There’s a sense that there simply is not place for them any more.  

They had a place a kids in the children’s department and they had a place as youth in the youth department but as high-school graduates, they are met with a way of worship with which they are unfamiliar, a group of people they have little to no relationship with, and a myriad of other opportunities outside the church building walls that are screaming, “You BELONG Here!”

They are…Unaffiliated.

And in the words of one of the most noted Millennial bloggers, their generation is “struggling to find a faith community in which we feel we belong.”

I look at my teenager and I pray, “Lord, let her know her voice is important.  The church needs her smile, her songs, her prayers and her love.  Let her understand that she doesn’t need to search because she belongs.”

And I cannot help by look at my daughter, getting ready to enter middle school, and think, “What about you?  Do you feel like you belong in church? Do you feel like you are a needed part of the body of Christ? Do you know that you are necessary?”

And I look at my “baby” my son whose name means “wholly devoted” and I hold him and ask him, “Who loves you?” and he says, “Jesus loves me” and I say, “Always and forever…you belong.”

Because if you feel like you don’t belong, if you feel like you aren’t needed, it’s very easy to become…Unaffiliated.

And that’s on us, Church.

IMG_3631So find the kids in your pews.  Find the little ones in Sunday School.  Find the middle schoolers in your youth room and your high schoolers in the worship band.  Find them, welcome them, engage with them, invite them, listen to them, and make sure that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are members of Christ’s body and they most certainly belong.

And more than that, let’s make sure our actions matches our words.

Give them the chance to serve in ministry.  Let them share what God is speaking to them.  Let them lead you in worship and read to you the Scriptures. Incorporate them into the very fabric of your local body until not just they, but you, know that without them, you’d be incomplete.

Until each generation is convinced that they are exactly where they belong…in the body of Christ.  Connected to Jesus and one another in the bond of love and community; not alone, not disconnected, not removed…a part of a larger whole… Affiliated.

For the follow up to this post, click here: Millennials are NOT Leaving Their Faith


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 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. 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