It’s Time to Go Back (to School, that is)

We are starting back to school tomorrow and we are not alone!  In many places around the country, schools are gearing up to re-start sometime in the next month. For churches that often means a re-boot as well as they move from summer mode into fall programming and the start of a new academic year. With that can come a whole range of “new” things!  Kids promote to the next class, new volunteers come on to serve or they begin serving in a new capacity, and parents begin to navigate  new experiences with new teachers, new schools, and new grade levels for their kids.

education-908512_1920At the church I last served in, I was able to put together a time of commissioning and blessing over these groups as the new school year kicked off.  The entire time of blessing takes about 5 minutes and can be a way for your whole church to come together and let the kids, parents, and volunteers know that they are being held up and prayer and sent out as God’s lights of love as the academic year begins.

Feel free to adapt this script to your own church’s service and needs, and blessings to all as we encounter all the “new” things!


An All-Church Blessing for Parents, Children and Volunteers

Purpose – To recognize kids who are promoting to new classes/small groups, to pray over kids, parents and volunteers at the start of a new academic year

Children’s Pastor/Family Minister – We are excited to be able to celebrate with you the growth of our kids and families this year and recognize them as they promote to new classes and small groups within this ministry and some to youth group. But before we bring up the kids, can I ask all of our ministry volunteers to please stand and make their way to the center aisle?

(as volunteers are moving)

It is a blessing to serve with this group of people. The love they show our kids and the grace with which they serve is a testimony of the love of Christ in their lives and to the children. So, I’d like to not only say thank you, but briefly pray for you as you serve this upcoming year! Church, will you join me?

(PRAYER – Lord be with and bless these who serve. In their service, give the strength and by your Spirit give them grace. May the love they give be retuned to them in greater numbers and may your joy fill their hearts)

Volunteers if you will please line each side of the center aisle and get your high five hands ready, we will bring in our kids!!

(If you have some fun music, you could use this here. This is based on our structure with small groups. It can be adapted to fit whatever age groups, classes, or sections a church has for their programs. It can also be done as one large group which will reduce the amount of time needed for this commissioning and blessing.)

Joining us for the very first time as they are just starting school, we give you our preschoolers!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

Moving up into the elementary room, we are excited to recognize our new Kindergarten/First Grade small group!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

Not too far ahead of them, we want to recognize our “middle kids” our 2nd/3rd grade small group!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

And finally, our oldest group, and probably the most excited, our 4th/5th grade small group!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

Last, we’d like to recognize our 6th graders who will be moving up to join the youth group this year!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

AT THIS POINT, ALL THE KIDS WILL BE UP FRONT AND THE VOLUNTEERS WILL RETURN TO THEIR SEATS

Pastor or Worship Leader: Church, we are so blessed to have this group of children to welcome into worship and help their parents disciple in the faith. At baptism (or dedication, depending on the church), we commit to helping our kids grow in Christ and today we would like to re-affirm that commitment to them in their presence so that they can hear and know that we are here for them.

(At this time, we read our church’s Congregational Charge read at baptism. More than likely, each church has a similar reading for baptism or dedication. This is a great time to remind the congregation of the commitment they have made to walk with these families and children and a wonderful chance for the children to actually hear the words being said since they are too young to comprehend it the first time is said.)

Pastor – Lord, we thank you for the gift of these children and youth. May we be faithful to serve them and may they walk in your love. Be with this as they go into this new school year and give them the grace they need to learn and grow.

Children’s Pastor/Family Minister– If you are a parent/caregiver of one of the children here, will you please stand where you are? Kids, these people love you more than you could possibly know and they want you to grow in faith and in love. Will you help me to pray for them like we did for you?

DISMISS KIDS TO PARENTS

Children’s Pastor/Family Minister (as kids are going) – Parents we know that the work you do is difficult and while the days are long, the years are short. Please hear this blessing as a prayer for you as you serve God as the faith formers in your home.

“May you love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. May His commandments always be upon your hearts, so that you can impress them on your children. May God give you grace to talk about these things continually, when you’re at home, or on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. When your strength fails, may you walk in His. When you are weary, may His arms carry you. And when the day is done, may you hear His voice saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


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 “Family” in Family Ministry

Who is your family? 

It’s amazing the answers you will get for this.  The definition of family has been changing rapidly in today’s society.  Sometimes family is defined by structure (blood relatives, parents and children). Sometimes family is defined by function like close friends who are like family, caregivers who act as parents, “aunts” and “uncles” who are family friends. My daughter once called the latter our “family of the heart.”

On the whole, family structures and functions vary widely, but usually these main characteristics remain:

  • there are caregivers and care receivers
  • there are resource providers and resource consumers 
  • there are mutual functions of attachment, bonding, and affection met within the family unit.

family-932245_1920

Traditionally, the primary caregivers, resource providers and emotional stabilizers are the parents and the receivers, users, and reciprocators are the children.

When we are looking at ministry to children, we tend to think of age-specific children or youth ministry where the focus tends to be primarily on the child. In family ministry there is a shift in the focus to the parents or caregivers, who, studies show, will have the greatest physical and spiritual impact upon their children in their growing years.

 

This focus on parents is not a new concept.

In his sermon On Family Religion,” John Wesley (1872) puts the responsibility for spiritual discipleship squarely on the shoulders of the parents/caregivers in the home. Wesley recognized the need for parental instruction to prepare parents to carry out the command to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Pr. 22:6).

Over the years, parents and caregivers have shared that at times the church has been inadequate in training parents for this task of of discipleship at home. They don’t feel equipped to transmit their faith in words or model it in deeds. And frankly, without that equipping and support, the idea of discipleship at home can sound a little scary!

There is a great need to provide parents and caregivers with the support and opportunities to put their faith into action at home. 

Jim Merhaut of the Center for Ministry Development shares that “the most effective way to help a child is to help the parent of that child” and encourages the church to “become a trusted resource, a go-to person with good ideas”.

Regardless of “how” a family looks, an effective local church ministry must equip the parents/caregivers and provide space for families to practice their faith together.

The focus of family ministry shouldn’t be so narrow that it excludes families that are structured in a less-traditional format or function in less-traditional ways or so broad that it doesn’t effectively resource or support the leaders in the home.  To be most effective, a church must

  1. Know its families – How are they structured?  Who functions as caregiver?  Who is identified as “family”?
  2. Know their needs – What role does faith play?  Where are caregivers resourced?
  3. Know the community.  – What do families “look like” in the surrounding community? What needs are present?

There’s no “cookie cutter” answer for family ministry because the answers to these questions are different in each context. However, the one similarity that exists and the reason I am so passionate about the heart behind family ministry is this: Parents are the single greatest influence in the faith of their children…period. So if we can join arms with parents; support, equip and encourage parents; we will in fact be reaching the children in the best way possible.

For more information about the importance of equipping parents/caregivers, check out these articles and resources.


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

And This One Thing Makes ALL the Difference

This past year, I had the privilege of taking a Spiritual Formation class that absolutely challenged me, inspired me and wrecked me all at once. There is no way in one blog post I could possibly convey how meaningful that class was for me and how it changed me, but I can share this one lasting impression that will forever color how I look at this world and the people in it.  Especially the little people, the children.

In class we talked a great deal about how we  are being formed by the world around us; circumstances, situations, environments, people, media, clothing…all of it in some way affects and forms us.

But our initial formation, our original intent, only had one influence – our Creator. And our Creator formed us in His image, Imago Dei, in His likeness.

Even as we were uniquely put together to be who we are as an individual, we reflected the One who was putting us together. Each person was first and foremost created by God in His image. That was our initial formation.

Since that first moment though, all those other forming influences have layered on top of that initial formation.  Some influences help that Imago Dei shine though even more brightly. Some influences cover it up making it hard to find.

But that reflection of God, that image of God innately formed in each one of us, never disappears. It’s there, inside each human being. It’s present, within each and every person. It exists, no matter how many layers of formation have been piled on top of it, good and bad. It simply is. We are Imago Dei, the image of God. 

And therein lies the whole thing: How can we not love each and every human being, created in God’s image, reflecting His goodness?  No matter what covers up that initial formation, it is there.

But are we willing to look for it?

Are we willing to look past rough edges and things we just flat out don’t like? Are we willing to search for that imago dei and speak to that place and call it to the light?  Are we willing to see past all the stuff, all the ugly and the sad and the broken, and focus in on that thing that makes us unique in all Creation?

That child who just never, ever listens?portrait-2014329_1920

That girl who won’t talk to anyone?

That boy who is too violent?

That adult who doesn’t look the way you feel comfortable?  Who says the things you totally disagree with? Who blatantly walks in rebellion and rejects everything you believe?

Within all of these, there is Imago Dei.

Reggie Joiner, author of Think Orange and creator of the Orange curriculum, put it this way:

Every kid doesn’t think the same, but every kid has ability to reason.
Every kid doesn’t feel the same, but every kid wants to be loved.
Every kid doesn’t enjoy life the same, but every kid likes to have fun.

That’s because every kid has one thing in common. Every kid is made in the image of God. It should seem obvious. Humans are radically different from every other living, breathing creature. They have the stamp of God’s image. Stop for a moment and think about what that really means for your kid, and every other kid.

If they are created in the image of God, then they have a divine capacity . . .
to believe, imagine and love,
to care relate and trust,
to reason, improve, and lead.
That’s a lot of potential. (source)

With that in mind, how can we not extend grace? How can it not break our heart when we see people, regardless of the layers of formation that we might not like, treated as less than, maligned, alienated, alone? How can we not seek to see each and every person the way God does, as a reflection of Him?

Friends, it is so easy to look only surface level and see what we don’t like and walk away. I did it for years. It is easy. But if we dig, even just the tiniest little bit – if we truly look in a person’s eyes and remember WHO they really are – if we work to see that image of God within them – then those words we read in Scripture make a lot of sense and we will want to live it out.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him (Jn. 3:16, 17, NLT)

That doesn’t mean with have to agree with every formational influence and action that is in a life; it means we always talk to, look for, and extend grace to that reflection of God in them. And we call it out, as much as we can. We look for it with intention and celebrate when we experience it together. And we listen to God’s call back to our own initial formation as a reflection of God. Grace becomes a whole new experience in this light and we can pass that on to all we come in contact with.

And that… that is ministry. That is what it is all about. 


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

Star Wars, Light Sabers and Redemption: Four Practical Discipleship Ideas for Parents

We have recently moved into a new home, which is why you’ve heard a bit less from me than normal. That being said, each of our kids were given a small budget from which they could draw to “decorate” and refurnish their new bedrooms. Our youngest son went with a Star Wars theme because… he’s six and light sabers.  To complete the ensemble of the Star Wars sheets and Star Wars comforter and hanging light sabers, we also put a sticker above his bed that says “The Force is strong with this one.”

Our first night in our home, I hung the sticker above his bed, he shouted with glee and then.. redemption happened. Now, I’m not sure what the writers of the Star Wars series intended the “Force” to be (some analogous spiritual thing devoid of religious affiliation but representing good and evil that could be tapped into by humanity and alien species perhaps?) but in the Embree household, that’s not what the Force is.

Me – Did you see the sign over your bed? What do you think “the Force” is?

C – I dunno. Like the power to do stuff.

Me – Good and bad stuff?star-wars-1004714_1920

C – Good stuff.

Me – Hmm, who helps us do good stuff?

C – Oh.. God. God helps us to do good stuff.

Me – Does He have power?

C – Yes, even more power than anyone.

Me – So what do you think your sign means?

C – That God is with me!

Me – Even more than that, God is STRONG with you. He fights for you. He give you power to love others and to love Him. He is all the power you will ever need.

C – Whoa!

Me – Right?  And you know what, that sign is right. The Force is strong with you. God is always with you. All the time. Every day. And you have that power to do good.

C – Awesome!

Redemption.

To redeem. To “change for the better”. To “get or win back.”

Author N. T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope says, “people who believe in the resurrection, in God making a whole new world in which everything will be set right at last, are unstoppably motivated to work for that new world in the present.

In other words, we are about the act of redemption. 

We are practicing resurrection every day in the world around us.

We are taking everyday things and making them holy by intentionally and consistently inviting Christ into that space.

And this is huge for children. They are surrounded by stories of good and evil and we, as believers, are engaged in the ultimate battle of good and evil.  Kids are constantly faced with intentional messages that seek to form and frame their worldview while we have the ultimate truth to offer them. So why not beat the world at its own game and redeem the space by practicing redemption?

Here are some ways we can redeem the time and space in our home.

  • Watch movies as a family and use them as a framework to discuss a range of spiritual concepts and theological perspectives (See more on how to have your own Family Movie Night discipleship times here).
  • Read stories and look for spiritual overtones or biblical heroes you can introduce while reading. Superhero books for kids have so many themes that mirror the Bible and, as your kids grow, dystopian novels and fantasy books allow for all kinds of exploratory and meaningful conversations. Let them explore all those questions with you!
  • Invite Christ into everyday moments, intentionally, not as an afterthought. Look for ways to incorporate Christ into your rhythms, your meal times, your car rides, your routines. Lots of ideas can be found here BUT the bigger thing is simply this: Be aware and intentional, looking for opportunities to redeem the time or situation.
  • Serve Christ and others together. Find ways to put into practice what you say you believe and how you say you should live. Don’t let Sunday be the only time they see and hear you talk about Jesus or read the Bible or pray. Redeem the time by making space for the living out of your faith and invite them into the journey.

The past week each time I’ve put my son to bed, do you know what he says?  “Mommy, God is strong with me.”  Oh yes, yes He is, my dear son!

And if from this point forward every time he watches a Star Wars movie or hears the words, “The Force is strong with this one”, he thinks that thought, even if only silently, deep in his heart, then redemption has been realized and resurrection has been practiced.


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

Guest Blog: Church Planting and Evangelism in 2017

If you read this blog often, you know that my husband and I have recently accepted a call to plant a church for our denomination (Brethren in Christ) in the Lexington, KY area. We have just begun the journey and my husband has been documenting this experience over at his own blog 365ChurchPlanter covering the first year of our journey. He is actually going to be in Singapore with Dr. Robert Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism, for a week of teaching, preaching and planting this week, and he sent me a blog to post on his site for him.

Now, normally, my blog focuses specifically on children, youth and family ministry with a heart for connecting the church and home and helping parents and churches transition into more intergenerational communities BUT as I read this article from my husband, I realized just how very much we need to hear this too.

Because, when it comes down to it, children’s ministry is the single greatest contributor to bringing new disciples into the fold than any other ministry in the church.  

The vast majority of people who choose to make a commitment to follow Christ, do so before the age of 14 (source). That’s children’s ministry.  The vast majority of young adults who remain in the faith do so because 1. their parents talked about Christ in the home and engaged with them in service and 2. they had other involved adults in their life who encouraged their walk with Christ (source). That’s family ministry and generational discipleship. And all of that is evangelism.

So with that lens, read these words, a conversation between Dr. Coleman and my church planter husband and ask yourself, “How does this effect how I do Kidmin, Fammin, and Next Gen ministries?”

“What would it look like if “The Master Plan of Evangelism” was translated into a book about Church Planting?”

That’s the question that I asked Dr. Robert (Clem) Coleman this afternoon as we sat across from each other awaiting our connecting flight to San Fransisco.

The answer to that question is, no doubt, much longer than could fit into our time between flights.  But Dr. Coleman did offer three pieces of advice on church planting.  And as I hurriedly scrawled them across a discarded napkin I knew I had to share them with you.

Don’t Count the Sheep; Count the Shepherds

Everybody wants measurable results.  This is especially true when it comes to church planting.  Church planting, if nothing more, is a delving into the world of entrepreneurship.  We set goals, we measure progress.

And the old saying remains true: “You measure what you value”.  Thankfully, church plants are moving away from the over-simple metrics of money in the bank and attendance in the pews.  We’re beginning to find ways of measuring actual, personal growth.  At the end of the day, we want to impact people and people are so much more than a number for attendance reporting or a “financial giving unit”.

But Dr. Coleman encouraged me to count more than just the people that our church is reaching.  He said we have to measure the number of people who are dedicating their lives to helping others fall in love with Jesus.

We need to “count the Shepherds and not just the Sheep.”

If we’re only focused on our own personal ministries our impact will never extend beyond our personal circle of influence.  But, if we’re focused on equipping and training leaders to impact their own circles of influence, our reach extends far beyond our limited spheres.  It becomes exponential.

Follow the Gold Veins

Having dropped that little nugget of wisdom Dr Coleman moved to another analogy.  This one had to do with mining.  He said, “When you share the Gospel you need to find that one person, that one home that is receptive to the Gospel in a big way.  Finding that home is like striking gold.

The thing about striking gold, though, is that you don’t normally just find a single nugget.  You find a vein that runs right down and into the earth.  You, then, mine the vein.

People that receive Christ know other people who are receptive to the Gospel.  These people, in turn, know others.  You never know who you may reach through your ministry to just one receptive soul.  By all means, build relationships that include (rather than exclude) their unsaved circles of friends, family, and neighbors.

Don’t just reap a nugget, mine the vein.

Get to Know the Missionaries

This idea is certainly nothing new to those who have dedicated their lives to sharing Christ on the mission fields.  And that is Dr. Coleman’s third piece of advice.

Learn from the missionaries.

The reality is that, in the 21st century, America is a mission field.pedestrians-918471_1920

There are entire communities, cultures, and subcultures (including a growing generation) that have little to no knowledge of God as we know him in the Christian faith.  It’s time that we began approaching evangelism in our own nation the way our missionary sisters and brothers have been approaching it for the last 200 years.

We need to ask the types of questions in Kentucky that a missionary would ask if she were headed to Calcutta.  How can effectively communicate the Gospel?  How might culture and context be used to demonstrate the love of Christ?  What barriers exist?  How can we minister to people where they are rather than expect them to come to us?

These are only a few of the questions missionaries have been asking for decades.  It’s time we take a page from their playbook.

As I write this I’m cruising at an altitude of 10,000 feet on my way to San Fransisco.  I’m still only about half-way to our destination in Singapore.  Likewise, the advice that Dr. Coleman has offered is from a 10,000 foot vantage.  It needs to be brought home, digested, explored.

If there’s anything that he’s learned over his 60+ years in ministry it’s that God reveals himself in remarkable ways when we simply step out in faith.  I’m already beginning to see a much bigger picture than I could have ever conceived on my own.  I can’t wait to discover all that God has planned for us on this trip. 

16711663_10209960873070879_8102631421223727754_nGuest Blogger:
Hi, my name is Luke and I’m a church planter. I’m also a husband to an amazing woman (check out her blog on family and intergen ministry here), a dad to three incredible kids, and an avid collector of books.
If I were to describe myself and my passions I’d have to say, I love God, love people and love bringing them together. I’m a licensed minister with a B.S. in Organizational Leadership from Penn State University and an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary. I’ve been blessed by some remarkable mentors, teachers, and friends. I’ve also had the opportunity to organize outreaches targeting unbelievers, serve in pastoral and parachurch positions, lead mission trips, and much more. But the single greatest thing I bring to church planting is a heart devoted to God’s Kingdom and a posture of absolute reliance upon His Spirit. God will do this work. We all have the privilege of joining Him on the journey. Check out our church plant on Facebook at Plowshares BIC; we’d love to have you join the journey too!

 


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

Let Them Hear The Stories: Drugs, Alcohol, and Grace

Today I got to hear the testimony of a young woman who is a recovering opioid addict and alcoholic.

She shared her whole story, starting with her adoption as a young child because her own mother was an addict to her high school career of good grades and popularity (think homecoming queen); her military career as an army nurse to her return home that eventually led to a life of addition and alcohol abuse.

She told of how she got involved in a relationship with a man who was in and out of worried-girl-413690_1920prison, had two children while she was in and out of jail herself, leading up to a point where she decided, after repeated attempts at rehab, it would be best to just give up custody of her children and go to prison.

Through a number of circumstances, she instead found herself placed into a Christian halfway house where she was required to attend Celebrate Recovery meetings each week and slowly her turnaround began. Today marked two years of sobriety and she and her family (yes, she still has her daughters and the same man in her life) now attend church together and are finding their way in a new life.

I’m not the only one who heard her testimony.  This particular Sunday in this church, the children attended the whole service with their family, all ages. So it wasn’t just adults in the audience hearing this testimony. It was toddlers and preschoolers; it was elementary kids and emerging middle schoolers; it was high schoolers and recent graduates…it was everyone.

I was interested in seeing how the children would respond. My kids (13, 11, and 6), my nieces (7 and 5) were in the pews, most listening intensely. And learning.

They learned about the devastation caused by drugs and alcohol.

They learned about the emptiness of a life of partying and loose living.

They learned that behind every desperate situation is a larger story, that the person they see sitting on a bench with a newborn and a one-year old, alone and destitute, has a story and needs.

They learned about redemption and grace, the power of community and the need for family (even if that family isn’t related by blood), that God uses His church to heal and to hold those who the world rejects, spits out and destroys.

And all I could think was,

“What if they hadn’t been here to hear this story?  What if I just tried to tell them all these things?  That drugs will leave them lonely and hurting. That alcohol abuse offers promises it can’t keep. That there is more to each person than we could ever understand in passing. And that God’s grace, the power of redemption and the role of the body of Christ are very real and very needed in this world and THEY get to be a part of it!”

Because I do tell them all of that. And I’m sure you do too

But nothing could take the place of having all those things confirmed through the power of a story of a life redeemed, the power of testimony.

As parents, I know we want to be cautious in what we expose our children to and at what age we do so, but friends, the world is not so cautious. The media that surrounds us doesn’t care so much about what our kids are exposed to. What better place for them to be exposed than in the church, where the truth of the lie of drugs, alcohol, sex, and popularity are made known alongside the forgiveness, redemption and grace of God.

I think we need more stories not fewer. We need to hear these things.

Parents, if you happen to have one of these stories, tell your kids. Tell them how empty your life was apart of from Christ. If you can, share it in your church. Look for others and let your kids be exposed, from a young age, to stories that demonstrate for them the truths we long for them to understand as they grow.  And churches, don’t be afraid to let those stories be heard, from the pulpit, in the full assembly, as often as God allows those redemption stories to be part of yours!

I know my kids are going to be exposed to these things as they grow. I know that at some point, drugs will be offered, alcohol will be available, popularity will be desired, and sex will be a temptation. I also know that this lady’s story today will be in their heads and hearts as well. And I hope that they will always remember the truths they heard today.


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

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