The Power of a Moment: Where Discipleship Happens

Last night, I glanced out the window and saw the tell-tale pink glow of the promise of an amazing sunset. I absolutely LOVE the sky and love all the things that happen there from storm clouds swirling to sunsets waning. In fact, one of my neighbors stopped me once to say, “I love how you are always looking up!” And I do. I love the sky.

So, in true form, I bounded from the couch and ran out the door, camera (okay, fine, phone) in hand. The sky was an orange-pink color as the setting sun bounced off the low-hanging clouds. As the sun went lower, the clouds changed from light orange to bright orange to dark pink. The whole sky rippled with the colors of sunset, changing the whole atmosphere into a magical pink paradise.

And then, it was over. The clouds returned to their gray color. The sun sunk below the horizon. The dim light of twilight took over. The awe-inspiring show of beauty and light was over just minutes before it started, captured only in a few photos and the swelling of my joy-filled heart.

Go ahead and grab your phone. Take a few minutes and glance through the moments you’ve captured there.

A birthday party?  A visit with a friend? A few silly selfies with your kids?  That time when you snuck in and got a picture of your little one sleeping?  A couple of cameos just for fun?

 

My guess is these were fleeting moments too.

Times where you grabbed the phone to capture a full heart in a still picture.

The thing about Time is that it doesn’t stop moving forward. As one kidmin conference noted a couple of years ago “It’s just a phase…so don’t miss it.”

That sunset I saw will never happen again. I could have glanced outside and said, “Oh look, a sunset” and moved on. I could have taken a picture and posted it on Instagram to prove I was there. Or, I could have done what I did – reveled in the moment. Fleeting though it was, it filled my soul.

Our moments with our children are likewise fleeting. Even those pictures on our phones can be deceiving, because being present and being there are two different things. I think the missionary Jim Elliot put it best when he said, “Wherever you are, be all there.

Discipleship happens in the moments, not the photographs.

It happens in the stolen minutes before bed, the shared meal around the table, the movie night in the living room, the car ride to practice, the quick hug before the school day begins.

It happens when we invite Christ into these precious times. These passing moments can be soul-filling if we let them be, not just for us, but for our kids. The opportunity to be “all there” presents itself all the time, the soft glow of family calling us back to each other, for moments that can bring us awe.

When I look at this picture of sunset, I don’t just see a beautiful sky or a gorgeous sunset. I feel the moment in my heart. I feel the awe. And that’s because I was truly there. img_5315

What do we feel as we scroll through those pics on our phone?  Why not grab your child and go through it with them?  Feel the awe of the moments together. And make that determination to be “all there” no matter how fleeting the time may be


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

A Hard Week in Kidmin

“It’s been a hard week.”

What does that mean?

This week, I’ve seen many posts from my children’s and family pastor friends that start out with “It was a hard day…”  What constitutes “hard” may be different for each one but, nonetheless, a shared experience. What makes their “hard” day different from other hard days is that most of the time what is hard impacts the heart, not the body. It weighs on the soul, not the schedule. It pulls at their very core, not just their calendar.

On a weekly basis, people who work with children and youth, whether in ministry or in another field, face the realities of such things as neglect, abuse, and isolation. We see children who are broken before they even have a chance to grow. Spirits that are crushed before they even have a chance to soar.

We hear them repeat words they’ve heard about themselves and their self worth and our hearts break.

We see them lash out in anger and act in self-defense, mirroring the behaviors they see modeled for them by adults around them.

We hear them lament that they can’t see their parents, who are in jail, or are scared to see their parents, who are at home.

We hold them as they cry. We try to speak words of life and love to counteract the words of death and hate.

And sometimes, it’s not the big things.

Sometimes it’s the little girl terrified of not doing well on her standardized test, somehow not measuring up to some standard that has been imposed on her to receive funding for her school.

It’s the little boy who is heartbroken that he didn’t make the team or get to play or hit the ball. It’s the pre-teen who is convinced she’ll never be pretty enough or smart enough to fit in at middle school or the teenage guy who hides in video games because he’s not into sports and that’s all the other guys his age want to talk about.

And most of us, we have families of our own, children of our own who carry their own struggles. And our heart widens to hold not only their burdens, but also the ones of the children we serve.  We even call them “our kids.”

Because it’s who we are.

It’s how God made us. It’s written in our hearts. 

That is why when we see a victory, we shout it from the rooftops. That is why when a child says a prayer, takes a step, shows some growth, gives a hug, smiles for real, trusts a volunteer, comes to church, sings a song, chooses life…we rejoice.

blur-1867402_1920We may seem overly emotional to some. Others may not understand why the little victories seem so big and important to us.

But it’s because those little victories mean that we are making a small difference for that child.

We are showing them the other side of life; the side of joy and peace and hope and love. The side of life that offers them a future and a hope. That gives each child meaning and purpose and a name. 

We do that, every day, not just on Sunday. We do that with every prayer, every hug, every program we plan, every service we hold. It’s not just something we put off and clock out of at the end of the day. It is who we are.

So, if you hear a youth pastor, children’s minister, family pastor, or minister say that it’s been a hard day, pray for them. Pray for the children. Pray for the families. And if you, your children and/or your family have been ministered to by anything they’ve done, a program they sponsored, a lesson they taught, a story they shared, a resource they offered…anything at all….let them know. It will mean more to them than you could possibly imagine.

Fellow ministers, He knows. He holds all the burdens. He offers life. He knows what the hard days mean. He knows how to carry our pain. I’m praying for and with you.


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

The Aftermath of Easter

Our front yard is littered with pieces of broken plastic eggs. Our trash can is full of shiny aluminum wrappers. There’s pieces of brightly colored “grass” in various places around the house. The fridge is full of leftover ham and mashed potatoes. And the Christ candle is not flickering with light. Let’s not even talk about what my office at church looks like.

The aftermath of Easter.

Just a reminder, He is still risen. He’s just as risen today as He was yesterday.

But our attention wanders. I mean, for the last forty days, we were in a season of Lent, looking towards one thing – Easter. The celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  And now, Easter is past. We have moved on.  But, He hasn’t.

You see, He is the same; yesterday, today, and forever.

He is risen indeed every single day. 

Yesterday, I heard children running around saying, “He is risen!” just because they knew an adult would answer “He is risen indeed!”  It was so fun for them. When my girls were little, we even had them yelling this during our Easter egg hunts. We told them just like the eggs were hidden, Christ was hidden in the tomb, but He didn’t stay there, so when they found an egg, they should yell, “He is risen!”  I could always find my girls during public Easter egg hunts as they shouted excitedly with each egg they found.

Easter flower crossAll that to say, I think it is vitally important that we keep the excitement of our risen Savior alive for our children. If we just continue on now, since Easter is past, without continuing to acknowledge the incredible miracle that is our salvation, we lose the chance to keep their excitement piqued and attitude expectant, not about eggs but about Jesus.

So what are some ways we can celebrate Christ’s resurrection in the every day?

Talk About It 

Don’t save the story of Christ’s resurrection for just one day. Celebrate it throughout the year. Talk about the HOPE we have because our Savior lives. Thank the Lord aloud that He is always with us and can never die. Bring it up whenever there is a God Moment with your child – consistently remind them that we serve a risen Lord. Bookend your Faith Talks with the resurrection truth.

Thank Him for this miracle at the dinner table, before bedtime, in the car, and when you get up in the morning. Make the resurrection part of the family vocabulary just like saying “Amen” and the end of a prayer or “Dear God” at the beginning.

Celebrate It

Who’s to say the only day we can celebrate the resurrection is Easter Sunday?  Do you know that in many Christian traditions, Sunday is a weekly day of this celebration?  What if we looked at Sunday as our mini Easter celebration every week?  What if we were intentional about reminding each other that on the first day of the week, Christ rose from the dead, so we gather to celebrate (not “go to church”)?

When our kids ask, “Why do we have to go church?’ instead of saying, “We get to go to church” and explaining our freedoms in this country (all good things) we said, “Because when they nailed Jesus to the cross, He didn’t stay there. He made a way for us to live with God forever in peace and love for all eternity. He rose from the dead!  And we gather to celebrate that amazing miracle every Sunday. We get to throw a Jesus party every week!  He’s alive and that is worth celebrating!!”

Live It

One of the greatest truths of our faith is that Christ’s resurrection means we have undying hope in the fact that we have all of eternity with God and with one another. Peter says it this way: In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4).

There are times in this life that we can feel tempted to be hopeless. The stressors of life, things like bills and budgets, calendars and schedules, loss and grief, can cause us to lean towards hopelessness.  But because of Easter, we are never truly without hope. And if that’s all we can say in the difficult times, if all we can do is re-state what we shouted on Easter Sunday, that “He is risen!” then let us do that so our children see and hear that our hope is anchored deep, deeper than this world, deeper than these trials. Our hope is in the resurrection, anchored in eternity, deeply in the heart of God. 

What if the aftermath of Easter was just a continuation of a celebration, rather the culmination of one?  Even after the eggs are gone, the chocolate is consumed, the flowers fade…we still celebrate because He. IS. Risen!


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

Let Them Feel: Experiencing Good Friday with Children

Two years ago on Good Friday, I awoke to the sounds of thunder, lightning and torrential downpours.  My phone was lighting up with flood alerts and I could hear what sounded like a small river in the gutter outside my window.

My first thoughts on this dark stormy morning were that it was Good Friday and how appropriate the dark weather was to experience on this day.  My heart went to Mark 15 where we read:

“At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? “”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33,34.37-39)

cross-1375765_1920The sorrow of this day is commemorated at churches all over the world with darkened
services, candlelight vigils, readings from Scripture that cause us to ponder anew the sacrifice made by Christ that day.

There is something palpable about the beauty and mystery of Good Friday.  Sometimes, it is our tendency to shield our children from these dark emotions, from the sadness and the heaviness of the crucifixion.

Don’t.

I realize that they won’t understand it all.  I know that it could make them sad.  I understand that they are young.  But the depth of understanding goes beyond our emotions on this day.

When we allow ourselves to remember the darkness of this day, the sadness of this moment that, if we are truly honest, not one of us completely understands, we create space for God to do a deeper work that our minds can understand.

Children are young.  Cognitively they don‘t understand.  But their hearts are attuned to God’s love.  Their understanding of spiritual things goes deeper than we adults sometimes give them credit for.  Throughout Scripture, we are told that infants praise him, the faith of children is pure, little ones know him, and we should be like them.  In children, the kingdom of God is made manifest so, trust me, they may not understand the theology, but they understand the heart of God and the love that was given.

Ever been outside when a storm rolls away and the sun breaks through? 
Does it ever shine brighter in that moment?

On Good Friday, we experience sadness. But only for a moment.  Because on Sunday we will experience unspeakable joy.  No matter the depth of sorrow we feel on Friday, our rejoicing on Sunday will far exceed those limits.  And if we want our children to truly know the JOY that is Easter, we must let them also experience the sorrow that is Good Friday.

It’s okay for them to feel.  Feel with them.  It’s okay for them to cry.  Cry with them.

BUT, cry with hope.  Feel with expectation.  And Sunday morning, before Easter eggs and bunnies and chocolate and flowers, before dinners and tulips and fancy dresses and suits and ties, before all of that… let them experience the OVERWHELMING, LIFE-CHANGING, HEART-POUNDING Joy of crying out, “He. Is. RISEN!!” 

Rejoice!  Cry out!  Dance a little.  Celebrate with your kids in a way you never have before.  Let joy swell in your hearts and come out as shouts of praise. Let them experience all the wonder and mystery wrapped up in God’s love for us on these three days.  Don’t let it just pass by unnoticed.  Don’t let your fear of their sadness keep them from experiencing the immensity of Easter Joy!!

Make this day a day they will never forget and they will long to experience for years to come.

Make the words of Ps. 30:5 come alive this year: “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning!”

For He IS Risen, just as He said!  He is Risen.. Indeed!!


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

Do You Even Know Me?

Our family was invited to a small community breakfast today with our neighborhood. As we were getting ready to leave, both my oldest and my youngest child asked me the same question: “Will there be anyone there that I know?

What they were really asking was, “Will there be anyone there that knows me?”  They didn’t want to go somewhere where they’d be a stranger, where they’d be unknown. For the one, it’s because she is an authentic introvert, and being around people who don’t know her is hard work. For the other, a full-blown extrovert, it was because he wanted to know that there’d be people to play with and fun to be had. But the motivation was the same.

They wanted to be known. 

homeless-844215_1920This innate desire to be known is within all of us, young or old. In fact, this desire is a big factor into whether or not someone chooses to attend a church. According to Thom Rainer, 49% of people choose a church because they have friends or family in the congregation. Multiple studies outline the importance of calling people by their name when welcoming them into a classroom or… a church.

So, the big question…in a society where about half of the citizenry doesn’t attend church, how do we create a space where people can feel known? Where children experience community? Where the choice to stay is easier than the choice to leave?

I really do think it needs to be more than just opening our doors and saying, “You’re welcome here.” Lifeway Research found that 63% of Americans say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.

But first we have to be that friend and neighbor.

We have to be the church outside of the church. We need to learn names and build community long before we issue invitations and hold programs.

When missionaries go into a foreign country to plant a church, the first thing on their agenda isn’t to invite people to their church. The first thing they do is get to know the people, the culture, the community into which they will be speaking and sharing. They begin friendships. They work with others. They become part of the community.  Then when the invitation is issued, it’s not from a place of duty but of genuine desire to see their friends come to know the love of God.

The church goes before the people come.

Friendships bloom before faith blossoms.

Community is created before congregations grow. 

Jesus models this for us with his ministry. Eating with anyone who would eat with him (like tax collectors and Pharisees, drunkards and prostitutes). Talking to people (like the woman at the well). Knowing who they are (like Nathaniel). Learning their names (like Zaccheus).  Before these people believed in Jesus, He let them know that they belonged with Him.

One of my favorite Scriptures ever is “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). God KNOWS us, truly and fully. We are fully known by Him. And that’s part of how we know we are loved. 

We have that comfort to bring to others. When we truly “see” people, when we truly “hear” children, we bring them closer to the love of Christ for them, the One who knows them fully and loves them wholly.

Church happens long before people “come” to church. It happens at the bus stop, the baseball game, the playground, the gymnastics meet, the walk around the neighborhood, the grocery store.

It starts to happen when we learn someone’s name.


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

 

What Does It Mean to “Welcome” a Child?

What does it mean to “welcome” a child?

Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was in the house, He asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had been arguing with each other which of them was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.” Then He had a little child stand among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me, but the One who sent Me.”       Mark 9:33-36

As someone who works with children, I cannot read this passage of Scripture without getting goosebumps.   Honestly, I feel as though I could write endlessly about this beautiful picture of Jesus’ ministry to all ages, but I want to focus on one word in particular: Welcome.

What is welcome?

There has been much written about this word, but I want to share an experience I recently had. A friend texted me; she needed to talk. I opened my home and invited her to lunch. We had a wonderful time together, but at one point she made a comment that it “really felt like” I wanted her there. I asked what she meant and she shared, “You didn’t just open the door and let me in. You cleaned your house, turned on music, lit a candle, set the table, made and served me lunch and dessert, listened when I shared and truly welcomed me into your home.”

To her, there was a difference between me making space for her and me welcoming her.

child-2054256_1920I see that in this “Jesus story” too. I see Him take a child, and have this child stand among the people gathered in the home, and then, very intentionally, take the child in his arms. And after that very intentional moment He says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name, welcomes Me…” (If I were a Psalmist, there would be a “Selah” after that).  

Think about that! Jesus modeled for us something very important. When we talk about welcoming a child, it’s not about just making room for them to be present.

It’s not about just making space.

It’s not even about making sure that there are enough volunteers for the nursery, teachers for the Sunday school, crafts for each attendee, and activity packets for each worship service.

No, Christ’s welcome went beyond that.

It wrapped that child in His very arms.

It said, “You are not only allowed to be here, you are WANTED here!”

It said, “You are not merely present in this space, you are embraced in this space.”

As we consider children in the context of the church and the larger faith community, it would be wise for us to reflect on this moment. We can say, “Children are welcome here” with our words and we can have all the right things in place. We can open the door and say, “Come on in!” But if we don’t combine that with a culture that says “You belong here”, a message of grace and honor, our welcome may fall flat.

It has to be more than just making space for their presence. It needs to be a felt welcome, an embrace.

And what happens if we do that, and by we, I mean all of us – parents, leaders, lay people, seniors, teens, all of us? I mean, just listen to Jesus’ words!! “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me, but the One who sent Me.” We not only welcome that child, we welcome Christ himself and the Father who sent Him. We welcome God!

If your church is looking for some ways to help welcome children more fully into the midst of your congregation, here are some ideas of where to start.

1. Welcome the kids, every week, by name – This may sound redundant, but there is much to be said for a personal greeting from a friendly face and welcome to the service

2. Engage the kids in worship– Kids love to be a part of something.  Give them the opportunity to help lead worship, hand out bulletins, take up the offering, participate in communion, help with the sound/lights, read Scripture, share a testimony – anything that let’s them know they are a vital part of the congregation.

3. Reaffirm your covenant– When children are baptized or dedicated in churches, often the church will recite or affirm a covenant with them to walk with them as a community of faith.  Every now and then, let the kids hear you re-affirm that out loud and with your actions.

4. Engage the congregation– If having kids in service is new to your church, give the congregation fair warning, provide a time for them to meet the kids (put faces with names and parents with kids) and encourage a time of fellowship for all before adding the kids to the service.  Some churches start with once and month and grow from there.

5. Give kids a voice– You’d be surprised how much we can learn from children but often we still follow the “Kids should be seen and not heard” rule. Give kids an avenue to share what God is speaking to them by affirming to them that they can and do hear from God and giving them a space to share that.  A bulletin board where they can hang a picture they drew in service or a note they wrote about what they learned can create a space where the whole church can hear and affirm their hearts for God.

(List adapted from Practical Ways to Welcome Kids to Church posted here. This article first appeared at d6family.com on 4.4.17)


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

Practical Holy Week: Telling Your Kids the Story

Starting soon, the church across the world will begin a celebration of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.  This week is arguably the most important on the Christian calendar, representing for believers that pivotal moment with death was swallowed up in victory!  It is the very foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

However your church or your family celebrates Easter, this time of year is the perfect time to tell your kids THE STORY of all stories.  The great story of Scripture, God’s Great Rescue Plan! 

A couple of years ago, I shared the following message with our families in church but there is no reason you can’t do the same in your home.  Invite your kids into the greatest story of all times and let them be drawn into the wonder and mystery that is our faith.

“The Story”

Props: 2 red hearts, one black lightening bolt, one brown cross.  (I cut mine out of construction paper)photo

Gather your family together and pick one parent to be the story teller.  Everyone else will help with the props.

Okay you guys, I need your help today to tell a story. And this isn’t just any story; this is THE STORY. The story of all time! And you get to be a part of it!! So, who wants to be my first helper?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

All great stories have a great first line. Usually we say “Once upon a time” but… How about we start it this way… In the beginning, God created… EVERYTHING! He created the earth and the sky, the bugs and the fish, the trees and the flowers, and then he created us. And when he did, he looked at us and said, “Man (because there was only a man at first) I love you!” And Man looked at God and said, “God, I love you too!” And everything was perfect.

(Choose child to hold Black Lightening Bolt)

Then one day, something terrible happened. Everything was perfect. God loved Man and Man loved God and all was well until… Well, as you know, every story has to have an evil villain so we are going to call our evil villain.. SIN. (refer to black lighting bolt).   Sin snuck right into that perfect world, being the sneaky villain that it is and it BAM! Came right between God and Man!! God still loved man very much but man choose Sin over God. Things were not perfect any more. It was a very sad time. Man was sad and started doing sad things, more and more sad things, and SIN kept pushing Man further and further away from God.

But God… he’s the good guy in our story… God still loved Man very much. He knew that Sin was out there trying to steal Man’s love and even before Man had chosen Sin, God had a plan in place to bring Man back to Him. God did something absolutely amazing, like a total SUPERHERO move!

(Choose child to hold Brown Cross)

God did an amazing thing. He decided to leave His place in heaven where he was safe and come to earth as a Man, and Man called Jesus, and fight the evil villain. It was an epic battle.   Jesus told the villain he couldn’t’ win, that he would defeat him, and Sin fought by telling Man to do evil things until one day, one very sad day, Man put Jesus on the cross because of Sin. Man killed Jesus. It seemed like all hope was lost.

Now, we’ve watched some great Superhero shows right?   Those shows, they are basically getting their story line from THE STORY, so you probably know what’s going to happen. Because in those movies, when the superhero looks totally defeated by the villain, what happens? (Kids might say things like the superhero comes back to life, or gets stronger, or beats the bad guy)

That’s right!! Sin isn’t strong enough to beat Jesus. Just when we think all hope is lost TA-DA, the grave opens and JESUS ISN’T THERE because He is Risen!! Sin is defeated!!!! God Wins!!!  Oh, wait, but what about Man?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

Because Jesus beat Sin on the Cross, Man has an amazing opportunity. If we want to, we can have that perfect love relationship with God again. Sin cannot stop us from loving God and it could never stop God from loving us. We can go to God anytime we want because of Jesus’ victory on the cross and say, “God, I choose to love you and hate Sin. Jesus, you’re my superhero!”

(Have the kids lay all the signs out on the floor in a row)

Now, you may ask, why I told this story today. Because right now, on Palm Sunday, we are right in the middle of the story. We are right here.

(Point between lightening bolt and cross)

This week we will remember the moments that led up to Jesus being put on the cross by Man because of Sin. We will remember some sad things. On Maundy Thursday, we will remember the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. On Good Friday, we will remember Jesus dying on the cross. I don’t know about you guys but I always cry at that part in superheroes, you know, when the superhero gets hurt and you wonder if He’s going to be okay. And I will probably cry this week too as we get to that part of our story.

BUT… and this is so important

Next Sunday we will celebrate the BIGGEST SUPERHERO VICTOR OF ALL TIME!! Next Sunday we will remember that SIN was defeated! That our HERO came back to life and SAVED the DAY! And that we can be in the perfect love relationship with God again.

So this week , as you go about your days and you think about the Story, take time to remember. You might even cry. But know this, The Story doesn’t end in sadness. It ends with a LOVE SO BIG it wins every time! And you get to be a part of that story!!

This story may spark some great conversation in your home.  You might want to prepare ahead of time to answer questions about how they can choose that perfect love relationship with God, what is Sin, and other questions about salvation and God’s love.  The Story provides the perfect way to get into some amazing conversations with your kids and Holy Week is a great place to springboard those Faith Talks!

Many blessings to all of you as you prepare to celebrate with one another and the entire Body of Christ!

(This article originally appeared on March 27, 2015 on this blog)


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

Doing Church Together: Five Ways to Keep the Family Together at Church

A recent article in Children’s Ministry Magazine made the following statement,

“The predominant mind-set in Christian education concerning families has long been that to “strengthen the whole you must strengthen the parts.” But families need more from church life than segregated programs and the occasional all-church activity. Many of our church activities actually pull family members apart from each other.We know something’s wrong with this picture, but sorting out a solution seems complicated.”

I happen to agree. My conversations with children’s ministers and family pastors across the country confirm that many churches are seeking to incorporate times where the family can stay together to worship, grow, and learn about God together in church, but don’t know where to even start. One reason for that is because each church has a unique culture and specific needs so cookie cutter approaches and one-size-fits-all curriculum approaches just don’t work.

But that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. It just means we need to get a little more creative.

If your church is looking for a way to get the family together at church, here are five different approaches that could help make that happen. These ideas come from a variety of different church backgrounds and traditions, so they may not ALL work for your ministry context, but chances are one might strike a chord and you will be able to begin working towards more and more times where the family experiences faith formation together with their faith community.

Family Worship Sundays 

Many churches have begun offering times of Family Worship, often once a month or on fifth Sundays, where the family stays together and worships as a unit. These Sundays should not be confused with Children’s Sundays or times where kids perform for the church. While these are special times for the church as well, they are more focused on children than they are families.

A Family Sunday will incorporate ways for the family to experience worship togethersuch as communion, prayers said aloud with the whole church, worship songs that everyone know and can sing to, a sermon that is appropriate for all ages and elements of the service that invite participation of parents/caregivers and children such as Scripture readings by families and prayer as families. For ideas on how to include families in worship on Sunday, check out jensfrontporch.org .

Family Worship Experiences 

There are a few subtle difference between a Family Worship Sunday, where the family joins with the whole congregation in a regular worship service time, and Family Worship Experiences where families are specifically targeted and ministered to. Often these experiences take place at a time other than Sunday morning and incorporate a variety of interactive activities, worship, and teaching.

Some great examples can be found at www.dandibell.com and if you want a group to come in to host, Seeds Family Worship has one they do in connection with Phil Vischer and What’s in the Bible? with Buck Denver.

Family Faith Formation 

familybiblereadingFor some, inviting the family to stay together takes place best in a mid-week experience. This is what a church I served at did and we had a lot of fun using these nights to explore the Bible together. We wrote our own curriculum in 5-week blocks based on what families have indicated they want to learn. Each family sat in chairs in a circle and explored Scripture, did activities, and participated in a time of affirmation and blessing each night. Our topics included Prayer, Salvation, The Bible, God as Creator, and Service.

Kids absolutely loved spending this time with their parents. Of all the programs we had at church, this one got the highest praise from children.

Family Activities 

If your church isn’t ready yet to host a Family Sunday or Family Worship Experience, one idea is to begin hosting Family Activities on a monthly basis. These activities should have as their central theme the idea of having family spend time together either with/around the larger faith community, around service to the larger community, or around worship and the Word as a family unit. Putting these focuses on a rotating basis can help your families begin to spend intentional time together around the topics of faith, community, and outreach.

For instance, one month you could host a Family Game Night at church (time with faith community), and the next offer an activity that families can do at home that include a Faith Talk and time in God’s word (time with worship/Word), and then the next month offer a service experience in the community that families can do together (outreach). By offering a variety of ways for families to come together around the themes of faith, community, and service, you can begin to cultivate times of faith formation for the whole family to engage in together.

Family Service Projects 

What better way to bring the family together than in an opportunity to serve Christ and others as a unit?  There are many ways to engage the family in service. Check with your local food pantries and Salvation Army to see if there are ways families can work together stocking shelves or organizing donations. Many local soup kitchens or churches who serve meals will welcome family groups to serve together. Check also with local mission and ministries that serve the poor, homeless or other marginalized groups to see how families can offer assistance.

Engaging the family in the act of serving together can be one of the most transformational and meaningful ways to connect faith with everyday life and create bonds in the family that last long after their time of serving has ended.


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

What We Remember About Easter

The other day, my daughter and I were reminiscing about Easter celebrations past, specifically about our Easter egg hunts. I used to wake up early on Sunday morning and hide eggs throughout the woods behind our house and then, after the kids woke up, they’d go outside and find them. And each time they found an egg, they would yell out, “He is risen!” as loud as they could, a reminder that when the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning, they found it empty because Jesus had risen.

Now that she’s older, she finds it funny that she used to yell that, but I’m really glad she did. Because now, for the rest of her life, she’s going to associate something as secular as an Easter egg hunt with something as sacred as the resurrection of our Savior. She’ll never just see Easter eggs; she’ll always see an empty tomb!

easter-1237603_1920A lot time of times when we talk about discipleship at home, parents say to me, “I don’t know how to do devotions with my kids” or “I don’t know what to say about Jesus.” My answer for them is simply this; don’t look at discipleship as having to do something more, rather as a chance to invite Christ into what you are already doing.  And on Easter Sunday, it is very likely your family will engage in some predictable behaviors. So here are some ideas on how you can take what you are already doing and welcome Christ into your Easter celebration!

So, to find out what memories really stick with us as we grow, I turned to my friends on Facebook and asked, “What do you remember about Easter as a kid?”  Here are some of their answers along with some ideas on how to make these memories ones that are filled with Jesus.

Dressing up for Easter Sunday

A lot of my friends mentioned that they remembered dressing up for Easter and getting new clothes, new hats, and new shoes on for their trip into church and taking lots of pictures.

But here’s a fun way one mom turned it into a discipleship moment: “My mom each year got us a new dress to represent new life in Christ.”  Many years later, this woman still remembers the deeper meaning of her Easter clothes!

Eating delicious food

So many brought up Easter dinner, Easter desserts and yummy Easter treats. Here are some ways my friends and their parents turned the food into a lasting memory of the real meaning of Easter.

I used to make empty tomb cookies with my boys on the Saturday night before Easter morning. You put them in the preheated oven. Seal the oven door with tape and turn the oven off. There are Bible verses that go along with the ingredients like vinegar and the verse about Jesus being given sour wine on the cross. The next morning when the oven is unsealed, we would pull out the ” tombs” and break them open. They were hollow and empty, like Christ’s tomb. (Wanna try?  Here’s the recipe and readings.)

Easter dinner!!! Some of the best fellowship is had over food. And I come from a tradition of providing hospitality to another family for Easter dinner each year.

Going to Church

Okay, so this one seems like a no-brainer. Of course going to church would stick with kids, right?  Quite a few of my friends mentioned that, while they did go to church, that wasn’t what stuck with them, or if it did, it was a negative memory, not a positive one. Here’s an example:

Waking up to get the Easter basket wondering what would be inside and after church doing an egg hunt. Sadly I do not remember much of the point of the day, just the traditions surrounding the bunny

So, how can we help it to be positive and more meaningful?

I think this is the simplest answer of all. Be excited about it. Be excited about Easter. Be excited about the opportunity to go to church and celebrate the risen Savior. Our excitement will make these memories stand out as what is most meaningful about this day!  For those who remembered their Easter church experience positively, what made it that way was the excitement shown by their parents and others who were in church.

My Dad was really big on going to the sunrise service and our church did it at a park so it was almost always horribly cold. But I remember always being glad we did it, because it was beautiful. Then we would go to the big service at church. I remember everyone being so excited and so happy for the day. It has definitely always been a joyous celebratory day.

Singing “Christ Arose” and “He Lives” are happy memories and those songs still make me cry. Hearing a choir lady sing “He could have called ten thousand angels” as Jesus was hanging on the cross always made me cry thinking of His sacrifice. I just teared up writing this.

The memories that were remembered where the ones that were happy, where there was joy and excitement. And we get to do that! We get to share our joy over the resurrection with our children. We get to invite them into a celebration like no other, a joy with no compare, an excitement that will last a lifetime.

So, don’t fret about adding something new to the celebration. Just invite the risen Christ and all the joy He brings into what you are already doing! Happy Easter friends.

He is Risen!


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

Easter Photo Scavenger Hunt for Families

Since we are getting close to Easter, I wanted to share this photo scavenger hunt again. We’ve all got our smart phones in hand; why not put them to good use and use them to tell our children the story of Easter?

easterloveI put together this family-oriented scavenger hunt offers for the families at my church so they could use it to help their kids engage with Christ while also spending quality time together. After they find each “clue” the family takes a selfie together with the object they found so that by the end, not only do they have fun, faith-filled memories, they have seven new family pictures.

Feel free to use this scavenger hunt with your church and/or family and may we all be blessed as we consider together the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord!

Clue #1 – Birth – Luke 2:6-12

This story begins in a different way

The Baby Jesus was sleeping on Hay

He was the Messiah, God’s Only Son

But His journey began as a quiet, humble one…

With your family, find a barn or manger and take a selfie together beside it. Think about what it meant that Jesus wasn’t born rich or mighty, but as a humble baby, just like us. Talk about why that is important to us as we follow Him.

Clue #2 – Baptism – Matthew 3:13-17

As He grew, he gained respect from God and man

And His calling to save us, He began to understand

He declared He came to set the captives free

And was baptized by John to begin that journey.

John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. See if you can find a stream, a pool, a river, anything with water for your family selfie. Take some time to think about what happened when Jesus was baptized, how God spoke from heaven and what John said about Him.

Clue #3 – Ministry – Matthew 4:18-20

Jesus began to teach all the people

They’d come to hear him, no building or steeple

He’d talk in the mountains and down by the sea

And to those who would listen, He’d say “Come, follow me!”

 Jesus went to places where people were to talk to them about God’s Love. If Jesus were here today, where do you think he would teach? Take a picture of your family in the place you thought of and write down a little explanation of why you picked that place!

Clue #4 – Miracles

Many people came to Jesus in need

Some sick and some lame, some broken indeed

And often Jesus would heal, touch or feed

News of Him spread around Israel with speed

There are many stories of Jesus’ miracles in the Bible. With your family pick your favorite story and read it together. There are several ways to take your family selfie – you can all point to the Scripture reference and take a pic; you can re-enact the story and take a pic; or you can take a video of your family reading or telling the story!

Clue #5 – Last Supper – Matthew 26:20-30

But some of the people did not like God’s Son

And started a plan to get rid of the One

So Jesus gathered his friends for a Passover meal

And shared what would happen; it seemed so unreal

During the Last Supper, Jesus explained that he would die and rise again, but the disciples didn’t understand his words. It was here that Jesus first described communion – the bread representing his body and the juice representing his blood. After this, he left and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before the soldiers came to arrest him. With your family, go find a garden or a patch of flowers. Take your picture together and consider how just a few weeks ago this ground was cold and dead, but today there is hope and new life.   Jesus came that we might have new life and have it for all eternity!

Clue #6 – Crucifixion – Matthew 27:32-56*

Betrayed by a friend, Jesus was arrested

He was tried by a court and his death was requested

On that saddest of days, our Savior did die

But within that dark moment, our salvation did lie

When Jesus died on the cross, his disciples and his friends lost all hope. But God had a bigger plan. A beautiful plan that was way bigger than they could see in that moment. We remember the cross as a place of suffering but also as a place of hope for all eternity. With your family, find a cross and take your picture and talk about how we can have hope in Jesus.

*Parents, this can be a difficult subject to approach with children. You know your kids best and what is the best way to share this part of the story. While I have included the Scripture reference, use your discernment and discretion when you share.

Clue #7 – Resurrection – Luke 24:1-12

Some may think that our story is done.

But they would be wrong! It has only begun!

For after 3 days, Jesus rose from the dead

To give us New Life forever…just as He said!

Our greatest hope comes in knowing that we will get to spend all of eternity with Jesus and with all who follow him! We don’t have to be slaves to sin. Jesus can help us to live with joy and life now. That is what Easter is all about! Take a picture of your family celebrating with GREAT JOY that Jesus is ALIVE!

Want a fun and unique way to tell The Story of Scripture with a perfect set-up for Easter? Check out this re-telling using just four simple but memorable symbols to tell the story


For more information about

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

About the author

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