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

What Happens When You Replace Pews with Coloring Tables?

I often have people ask me if I could give examples of how churches are finding creative ways to allow for intergenerational worship within their faith community. I’m always on the lookout for stories I can share that might strike a chord with someone and help them as they seek to find more ways to bring generations together within the church.

As soon as I read this account, I knew I had to share it because it is the perfect blend of simplicity, grace, and creativity that so many are searching for. Many thanks to Mike Woods of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church for his willingness to share his experience with all of us!


This summer we took out a couple of pews in the back of church, long wooden benches that are designed for fifty minute sitting sessions. Unfortunately worship usually lasts an hour. We replaced the pews with coloring tables. They were an immediate hit. No signs were needed as to why the tables were there.

Their presence just said WELCOME to a certain segment of the communion of saints.

One week later we heard Jesus’ story of this crazy farmer who threw seeds everywhere. A nine year old came to the communion table and with pride handed me her very accurate time lapse drawing of the life cycle of a seed that she wanted me to share with the congregation to make us all better people. I did.

The next week I was talking to a grown up about grown up things after church when I felt this tug my sleeve. The little one tugging was excited to show me something with such excitement that she forgot to wipe the ample supply of pumpkin bar off her hand so it now adorns my sleeve at the elbow.

She too needed to show what she had drawn during worship. We had heard Jesus’ story of the wheat and the weeds. I thought I was helpful when I said to consider that the kingdom of heaven like it is God’s holy ecosystem where weeds are necessary, like mosquitoes are necessary but in the end God knows what God is doing. Seemingly opposite things can co-exist in God’s church – sort of like Viking fans and Packer fans worshipping together.

Well she took all this in and produced a work of art that included a puppy, playing with a kitty, who was playing with a mouse who was playing with the puppy … a beloved community of play. She was probably five years old but a very good theologian. The stain would come out in the wash the next day but I am still thinking about that drawing.

GreenweedsThat same morning I came face to face with a three year old artist and his interpreter (mom). I saw a series of colorful slashings on his eight and a half by eleven canvas. I was told the larger blue scribbles are the wheat. The contrasting green slashes are the weeds. Both sets of plants seemed to be thriving. Yup, I thought, the wheat was good seed, unimpeded by weeds. God will use the wheat to make blue bread and the green weeds God can bundle up to build the fire to bake the bread.

When I asked about the bonus picture on the back of the paper of a rhinoceros and its horn and a wheel. The interpreter just shrugged her shoulders.

YouaremylightI like the piece on my door where a five year old wrote: “You are My light” from the bottom of her paper up, so that the word “light” was like a crescendo on top of the pile of letters. It does make sense if you think about it.

drawingpeopleSpeaking of light – another five year old showed me her drawing of red clouds, a yellow sun, green grass and two stick people with skinny arms touching one another and a beam of yellow glowing between those arms. What is this yellow here I asked. She looked at me with all the confidence in the world and said, “That’s friendship!” Is not friendship the stuff of light, and necessary for life as yellow sunlight?

Then there is the toddler who makes her own kind of music every time the congregation sings a hymn. She grabs a songbook like everyone else but she only knows one song so far in her short life. So with conviction and gusto she belts out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star every single time! Last Sunday for our last song the whole congregation, a couple hundred strong, sang in one voice, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star … because her daddy is serving in the military in Saudi Arabia and he wanted to let his daughter know it’s okay to sing her own song.

Because when churches use the word “we,” we always mean one more.

 

MikeWoodGuest Blogger: Mike Wood serves at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Crescent, MN. I first read his story on Facebook and it was also published in the Houston County News in his hometown.

What are some ways that your church has creatively made space for all ages to worship together? Send your stories, pictures, and short bio to christina.m.embree@gmail.com and perhaps we will be able to share your testimony on the ReFocus 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 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

Is Your Family Ministry a Success?

I was part of an interesting discussion the other day with some family pastors, one of which posed this question: “What does family ministry look like? How can you tell if you are doing a good job?”

It’s a good question and, as was oft-repeated at my church staff meetings, you “grow what you measure” so  how do you know if the family ministry at your church is successful? What measuring stick is there to check off and line up to so that you know can rest assured you are accomplishing the work of the ministry?

target-1955257_1920Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, a book with principles to help businesses succeed and thrive, recognized that many in non-profit, social services sector were trying to use his principles within the context and running into a problem. You see, in business, you measure success monetarily and through numbers. Profit and growth = success.

But in non-profits and especially ministry settings, more money and more people doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve succeeded. Non-profits have different goals and ones that aren’t as easily measured. So, he decided to write a short monograph called Good to Great and the Social Sectors: When business thinking is not the answer.

I’m not going to go into all five of his indicators (although the monograph is definitely worth checking out) but I want to look at the first one:  Defining “Great”.

What is “Great”?

Great is better than good. It’s a step beyond just doing well and into success. And, unlike the business sector, it’s often not quantifiable (like numbers and income) but qualifiable, a quality or outcome.

And that’s important…because it breaks the cookie cutter mentality of ministry and acknowledges a very key component: Each church is different and therefore each definition of “great” or of success is going to be different.

In the discussion with the other family ministers this week, I wrote:

I’m not sure there is a one-size-fits-all answer for this. Every church has its own culture, its own unique community both within and without. “Success” in one place may look very different from another.

Are people growing closer to Jesus?

Are children being discipled in the faith?

Are parents and caregivers being nurtured, equipped and supported so they can disciple their kids at home?

Are generations connecting with each other?

How that looks and plays out may be different for each church but if these questions are being asked consistently, there’s a good chance that the job is being done well.

Jim Collins puts it this way:

What matters is not finding the perfect indicator, but settling upon a consistent and intelligent method of assessing your output results, and then tracking your trajectory with rigor. What do you mean by great performance? Have you established a baseline? Are you improving? If not, why not? How can you improve even faster towards your audacious goals? (p. 8)

I’m becoming convinced there simply is no across-the-board litmus test that can be used to test the success of a ministry. There are certainly tools that can help us grow, learn, and improve, but those tools can’t define success for us.

That will come in one way. Prayerfully and consistently coming before Christ, as a church or ministry team, and asking Him, “What is our mission from You for this community and this congregation?”

Let Him be your litmus test.

Don’t look to the church next door or down the street. Don’t let a matrix that worked for Church A determine the calling of Church B. Learn from others but don’t try to be just like the others. God has many, many people to reach in this world and He will use all of us if we let Him.

Numbers are fine. Higher attendance is great. Seeing kids learning about God in their home from parents/caregivers who feel supported, equipped and nurtured by their church is incredible. Helping generations connect with one another in intentional relationships designed to help disciple and mentor the youngest generations is invaluable.

But only God can show you and your team how that is “successful” in your context. If we are consistently allowing Him to guide us and lead us, then there’s a pretty good chance that we are succeeding in the things that matter most.


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

Seven Family Ministry Ideas for Kids Who Come Alone

When we serve in family ministry, our goal is to equip and resource the home in ways that promote faith formation and spiritual discipleship primarily by parents and caregivers.

But what happens when a child comes to your church and doesn’t have a home life that is conducive to that model?

alone-1869914_1920

In addition to doing our best to engage the family and minister to the parents as noted here, we also want to make sure our church is an environment that is prepared to be welcoming and inviting to everyone.

Here are some practical ways your family ministry can minister to family-less kids.

Welcoming” Families (or families that will welcome)

Before events that will likely bring more kids into your church, approach a few families and ask them if they’d be willing to “adopt” a child for the activities that day or week.  If your church has intergenerational services where kids attend, find families or even grandparents that will welcome the child to worship with them.

Talk about Home

Just because a child’s caregivers aren’t there at church, doesn’t mean you can’t talk about home with that child.  In fact, they may want and need support if they are trying to live out their faith at home without support.  Give them that space to share. As a fellow minister once challenged me, “Know the names of the names they know.” In other words, know the names of the people who are in their lives, not just their name.

Invite the family 

If you are having a picnic or get together, make sure to invite the whole family.  A word of caution – it can be hard on that child to have to constantly hand deliver invites or handouts that their parents might not want or show appreciation for.  If at all possible, make the contact yourself so that the child isn’t in an awkward position.

Give him/her a place

There’s nothing worse than feeling out of place and awkward.  But there’s nothing better than feeling like you are a necessary part of something.  There are lots of roles that need filled in preparing and completing a worship service.  Finding a place for that child to serve can give a strong sense of self-worth. (younger kids can help hand out bulletins, help with greeting, be your “right hand man”; older kids can read Scripture, help with sound/lights, participate on worship teams, help collect communion)

Know their name

Being greeted each week by name says “You are welcome here. We want you here and we are excited that you are part of our church family!”

Appreciate WHO they are

Don’t let their identity be “The kid who comes without his/her parents.”  They are a beautiful and unique child of God.  A colleague of mine shared this with me about his own experience: “Once upon a time, when I was one of those kids (at church sans family), I appreciated being taken seriously on my own, not as a spare part (like so many singles do!)” 

Host Cross-Generational Events

Instead of all events being focused on family groups, host events where all generations mingle and fellowship regardless of age or relationship.  One family minister I know has round tables and the simple rules are 1. You can’t sit with anyone you are related to and 2. You can’t sit with anyone your age.  Her church has grown to love these times of intentional intergenerational connection and no one feels singled out.

Many thanks to the Family Pastors on Facebook who sent me these suggestions to share. Original post June 2016


For more information about

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

About 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

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 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