“Please Enjoy the Remainder of the Service in Our Lobby”

Last week, Christian comedian John Crist posted a picture on his Instagram account that he had been tagged in. It was a card that someone had been handed at a church they recently visited that said,

“Thank you for being committed to being in church with your child. In order to allow those seated near you to engage in the message, please enjoy the remainder of the service in our lobby…A Connection Team Member will assist you.” 

lobbyA full thread of comments ranging from the sad and angry to the agreeable and affirming filled in below the image.  If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know which response best fit me, suffice it to say, I was saddened that this particular church had decided to address the topic of having children in the service with a blanket “No.”

As an advocate for a both/and approach to youth and children’s ministry, one that acknowledges the need for age appropriate teachings and activities but also the need for corporate times of worship and relationships, I can see merits on both sides of this issue.

But I think that it’s also important to address assumptions that are not based in facts but in one’s own experience or surface observation. So much of what influences us, shapes us, molds us and forms us doesn’t come in obvious ways, but in consistent and silent messages that tell us who we are, what we mean, and why where are here.

The subtext of the card above matters for these very reasons.

This card very clearly says that there are some people who are welcome in the corporate assembly and some people who are not.

This card lets parents know that they are not welcome to have their child attend service with them.

This card lets children know that there’s no place for them in the corporate gathering of the congregation.

It also lets children and their parents know that they are expected to be a distracting detriment to the service and that their proper place is outside the doors, not inside.

And these messages matter… a lot.

Because regardless of what one thinks about children and youth being included in the corporate assembly, we can’t deny the fact that when we read the stories of those who have chosen to leave the institutional church and in some cases their faith, these are the messages they heard and they repeat back as part of their reason for leaving.

A quick internet search will show you that some of the biggest reasons that people leave the church is because they express doubts, have questions but are given pat answers, don’t have a relationship with the church, and feel lonely and distant from God.  (A brief reminder here – the church IS the body of Christ; we are literally “God” to the world and to each other in the world today, so if distance is felt, that is very much on us.)

One of the most common complaints I hear about including children and youth in the corporate gathering is that they don’t get anything out of it. People will share their own stories about how church was so boring and all they did was waste time coloring or crawling around the pews.

My first response to them is, “But look, you remember. You remember being in church. You remember seeing the people and hearing the voices and watching the way the service unfolded. It’s part of your forever memory.” 

And that’s part of the bigger picture. Children remember.

So what if we used that time when they are in church to do something more; to connect to that memory in meaningful ways? Rather than leaving them with negative impressions, why don’t we work to ensure positive ones? Sure, there will be some “boring” moments, but what if they also remember…

…that lady who always asked me how school was going and came to my tee ball games

…that man who always had the lollipop that he gave to mom for me and told me how glad he was to see me

…that young adult who sat with me and colored every week and helped me to memorize the Bible verse

…my mom holding me and letting me lay my head in her lap as we listened to the sermon

…my pastor who always told a story or mentioned the kids at least once in the sermon so we understood what was going on.

…that older lady who always told me every week that she loved me and was praying for me

You see, children remember LOVE.

kidsinchurchThis is integral to their growing up years. How they perceive love and how they see love acted out around them speaks volumes. In an article by Psychology Today, we (adults) are reminded to “be creating moments with our children that will reinforce their connection of love with us, but also encouraging and modeling the moral mindset towards love one ought to have.” 

What better place to do that than at church?  And what better place than with the full congregation, all ages and generations, modeling love?

This should not only be the message of our subtext, it should be our overt, out loud, very explicit message – You are loved and you are welcome! When we reduce our corporate gatherings to a sermon or to a worship time or to a service, we miss the much bigger picture. Our corporate assembly is when we have the opportunity to be Jesus to each other, to show love to each other, to sit and stand with each other, to hug each other and to hear each other. And those things are remembered. Love is etched on our hearts.

So what brings people back to church?

In his article, Four Reasons I Came Back to Church, Christian Piatt gives four reasons: Community, having a voice, finding deeper meaning and a sense of belonging. The subtext of these reasons is simple to deduce:  I was welcomed to be part of something bigger, something meaningful, somewhere where I was truly wanted and my voice was valued and I knew I belonged. 

We can send that message now. We don’t have to wait for them to leave and hopefully come back.  And we don’t have to write it on a card; we can live it through our lives.

We can welcome our children.


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLea

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“Family Ministry” when Kids Come Alone

I’ve heard some concerned discussion lately regarding family ministry especially as it pertains to reaching children who do not have engaged caregivers or believing parents in their home.

Specifically the concern is, if our ministry at church is focused on families, what happens to kids that don’t have a believing family or Christian home life? Are we just going to turn them away or not provide for their spiritual needs?

It’s a legitimate concern and one that deserves addressing, especially if a church is looking to transition from one that has been primarily focused on age-specific ministry to one that is more focused on reaching the family unit as a whole.  And to be honest, there is no easy answer but here are some things to consider as we approach this topic.

Reach for Home

More than likely, some kids will get dropped off who do not have parents that attend the church.  But, that does not preclude us from reaching out to their home.

It is important for us to recognize this need to welcome children who aren’t in “church families” in a way that is both accepting and embracing, providing for their needs spiritually, physically and emotionally while they are with us (Ideas for how to do that, click here).

But it is equally as important to recognize that we are sending them back to a home that will have profound formational effects on their faith and to not further our reach by extending our arm of welcome to the home is to miss an opportunity for “going and making disciples.”

Some ways we can do that:

  • Provide Parent/Caregiver Workshops or Seminars, free to the public, without an overt spiritual focus.  For example, host a Social Media workshop that open to the whole community, and focused on the internet and kids, not necessarily religious in nature.  Our faith will be discussed but the topic is one that all parents have questions about.
  • Provide Activities for the Whole Family.  A lot of parents/caregivers look for free, fun things to do with their kids.  Fall Festivals, Family VBS, and Summer Movie Nights are examples of ways to engage the home.
  • Visit with the parents/caregivers – Drop by, say hi, get contact information, introduce yourself, offer resources, tell them what you are doing, bring a pie.  Show caregivers that your faith community is excited about serving them in their home even if they don’t come to church.  And express your desire to serve not only their kids but them as well.

Of course there is no guarantee that this will lead to anything beyond what is already happening.. but it might.  What you do for one, do for all.  If the church family is getting a handout, a parent letter, an invitation, make sure the others families do too.

Connect the church to the home as much as possible.

Embrace Family

Sometimes when we think “family” we get a picture in our head of a Dad, Mom, two kids, a dog, maybe a cat and a cute Cape Cod with white shutters.  That’s really not an accurate picture of “family” today.  Family has grown to mean many things.  Sometimes family isn’t even people we are related to by blood.  Sometimes Grandma is Mom or Uncle is Dad or family friend is Aunt.

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One main goal of “family ministry” is to minister to the family as a whole.  It is important then to find out how family is being defined by those being ministered to and the needs that their unique situation gives rise to.  For more on this, check out this blog on “The ‘Family’ in Family Ministry” and consider ways that we can reach the families we serve.

Encourage Faith

Even atheists believe something; they believe that there is nothing. It takes faith to believe anything so everyone has faith.

Our job as Christian family ministers is to equip the home to be a place of faith formation in Christ.  However, that can be complicated if the leaders in a home don’t believe in Christ.  That doesn’t mean you don’t equip or resource them anyway.  Providing materials, information, and training for faith formation at home is key to an effective family ministry.  Those who desire what is offered will transform their homes into places of discipleship.  Those who choose not to use the tools given are still being given them and that in and of itself makes a difference in the home.

God is the ultimate home builder; we are vessels of His grace and love.

Finally, I feel like it is important to point out that while we need to be aware of this potential area of concern, there is another glaring fact we cannot ignore that the family unit itself is a mission field for the church today.  Ministering to families is important.  Missionaries to other countries or inner cities or specific age groups train to reach a specific group of people in that context.

If we look at families in that same light, as a mission field in need of missionaries to bring the good news of the gospel to their homes, I believe we could see a revolution in the church of children and youth who graduate ready to serve Christ in their homes, church and community; discipled in the faith and grounded in their love for Christ because of their intentional faith formation they experienced at home and intergenerational relationships at church.

There is no cookie cutter family ministry model.

There are no easy answers for the concerns that arrive.

But there is a call by God for us to partner with and minister to parents as they raise their children and to offer them a broader community that will support and encourage them along the way.  And if that is a call from God, then we know He will provide all we need to reach each and every family He sends our way.


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

NextGen and Discipleship: Whose Job Is it?

It’s the parent’s job to disciple the children. Have you heard this statement?  Maybe phrased something like this:

The Church gets 40 hours/year, the Schools get 2,000 hours/year, Parents get 3,000 hours/year – It’s YOUR job to disciple your children.

There is definitely some truth in that statement. The hours listed aren’t far off from what research shows us. The influence that parents/caregivers have on their children cannot be understated and the home is primarily the place of faith formation for all of us. But I’m afraid when this is our approach to beginning the discussion with parents/caregivers about their responsibility of leading discipleship in the home, we do both the parents and kids, but more importantly, the body of Christ a huge disservice.

mother-and-daughter-3281388_1920There is one verse that we often use to demonstrate the mandate in Scripture for parents/caregivers to disciple their kids: Deuteronomy 6:7 – Impress these commandments on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

I love this verse because it shows the most everyday, most ordinary moments and tells us in those very ordinary times to talk about our extraordinary God.

But often in shining the spotlight  on this verse and directing our focus of discipleship exclusively to parents/caregivers, we miss something of great importance, something that changes everything about the command.

This command wasn’t given to parents.

It was given to the community of faith.

The charge to talk about these commandments, to impress them on the children, to disciple the next generation in faith what given to the entire gathered assembly and never once were parents singled out and told that discipleship was their responsibility. On the contrary, the command was clearly given in the presence of everyone (Hear, O Israel) and deemed by God through Moses as applicable to the whole assembly. So much so, it is repeated, nearly word for word in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 again in an address to the whole congregation.

So what does this mean?

Parents, it is not exclusively “your” job to disciple your children.

Church, it IS corporately our job to disciple our children.

So, yes, if you are a parent and you are a believer, of course, it is your job to disciple your kids, especially since you have the most time with them and the most influence on them!

But, Church, please hear this, parents are not supposed to be doing this alone. This isn’t a command devoid of community. This isn’t a mandate that applies only to parents/caregivers and their children. This is a command given to all of us, every single member of the community of faith, to all of our children, not just those who live in our house. 

When viewed in this light, some of our common excuses fail.

We can’t say, “I gave my time serving with in Sunday School and youth group when my kids were young. It’s their turn now.”

We can’t say, “Well, they aren’t my kids. It’s not up to me to talk to them about God.”

We can’t say, “It’s not my responsibility.”

I mean, we can say those things, but if we do, we are willfully choosing to ignore the commands that God gave, not to parents alone, but to all of us to pour into, engage with, impress upon, and walk with the youngest generations.

I truly believe it is time for us to release some of the burden we’ve put on the backs of parents by repeatedly telling them, “This is your job” by changing just one letter and a whole way of understanding and instead saying, “This is OUR job.”

No parent should ever feel alone in this calling. Not in the dynamic the God has given us.

They should feel the support, nurture and equipping of an entire faith community surrounding them and ministering to them and their children.

The children in our church should be known (by name) not just by their parents and a few close friends, but the congregation, the community of faith, who are committed to helping them grow in their faith.

The covenant of the congregation, spoken often at baptism or confirmation, in which the congregation pledges to walking with the child and helping them grow in their faith needs to become more than just “what we say” and turn into “what we do.”

The ministries to children and youth in any church should not be lacking in volunteers or servants on mission because the entire church is called and has verbally confirmed their commitment to disciple these young people in the faith.

To place the responsibility squarely on parents without recognizing the responsibility of the church to walk hand-in-hand with them skews the command of God to “impress these commandments on your children.”

Church, it is time we step up and relinquish our excuses. It is time we read the Scripture as it was given; to the whole assembly in community as a unit. It is time we seek to not only support and equip parents but to join them, hand-in-hand, and be part of the work of discipleship.


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

You Can’t Just Put Kids In Church

I mean, you just can’t. Developmentally, kids aren’t ready to be in a worship service. They aren’t going to get anything out of it and they will just be a distraction to the adults.  Besides, they have their own classes that are geared toward their age that are a lot more fun and they get to be with their peers.

Oh, wait….that’s actually not what I meant. But this is exactly what I have heard many people say. And frankly, they have a point. Not because these reasons are correct but because most worship services in America are geared towards one target audience, one that falls somewhere between 25 and 65 and the outliers, those older than 65 and those younger than 25 are left on the fringes.  In that sense, those who believe kids shouldn’t be in worship service for the reasons above have some ground to stand on.

But in reality, there’s a fundamental understanding of church, community and culture that is missed in this approach.

If “putting kids in” a worship service means simply placing their bodies in a pew and expecting them to sit for an hour and then being confused when they are bored, or want to talk, or wiggle too much, or (fill in the blank), then we’ve missed what it means to welcome children in worship.

Developmentally, children aren’t ready to sit for an hour without engagement. Children need a “re-set” about every 10-15 minutes to regain their attention.  Changing positions (like standing to sing or going to the altar), hearing their name called (like having the pastor say, “Kids, listen up, this is for you”), being given something tactile to work with (like sermon notes or coloring sheets or even busy bags with quiet activities), or just having the chance to change their focus for just a few minutes.

Actually studies show that “When any human sits for longer than about 20 minutes, the physiology of the brain and body changes, robbing the brain of needed oxygen and glucose, or brain fuel. The brain essentially just falls asleep when we sit for too long. Movement and activity stimulate the neurons that fire in the brain. When we sit, those neurons aren’t firing.” (Source).

Children are not adults, but for some reason, when it comes to church, we expect them to be. We expect that what they “get out” of the service should be the same as what we as adults get out of the service. So we figure, if they can’t understand the sermon and don’t know how to sing the songs and really don’t get what’s going on with communion or prayer, then they aren’t getting anything out of being in church.

But I would offer that since kids are not adults, they get other things out of being in a worship service.

For one, they get to see. They get to see that they are part of something much bigger than themselves and their peers.

Second, they get to be seen.  Adults who don’t volunteer in children’s ministry rarely if ever get to see and interact with children and youth who are consistently separated from the congregation.

Third, they get to experience church. Even if they don’t “understand” it all, they get to have the opportunity to experience worship and liturgy and sacraments and Scripture like the Church has for centuries (More on this here).

microphone-1209816_1920

Because children learn through play, through movement, and through repetition, it is highly likely that they will in fact play, move, and repeat things throughout the service and yes, that can be distracting.

But there is a huge difference between being distracting and being a distraction.

Likewise, age-specific and age-appropriate classes are so important for developmental growth and for cognitive understanding. But that is just one part of our learning and growing process as disciples.

Being a disciple of Jesus means being a part of a community, a family, and it is just as essential for children and youth to have opportunities to interact and worship with their family, both physical and spiritual, as it is for them to have peer relationships and age-specific lessons. It’s a both/and, not an either/or. 

The reality is welcome is much more than just saying, “Sit here and be quiet.”  We would never “welcome” a guest to our home that way. When we want to welcome someone, we find out their needs, we create a space that allows for those needs to be met, and we engage with them in meaningful ways.

We can’t just sit children in a worship service and say, “Well, we tried it and it just doesn’t work.”  It takes intentional time, creativity, and work to ensure that the experience is one that is beneficial for all and not just for some. 

But the benefits or worshiping together and being with one another are so worth this hard work. Honestly, it’s good for everyone, old and young. We need each other. We were made for community (For more on this, check out all the amazing reasons for intergenerational worship here).

If your church is looking for ways to begin to welcome children and youth into corporate worship settings, it is a cultural journey not a program change or a scheduling adjustment. It does take time and education and a lot of grace. But there will be fruit, fruit that we may not see for years as our children are growing, but fruit that will be demonstrated as disciples are made.

I’d love to walk with you if you are beginning this journey!  Feel free to contact me here and share what God is stirring in  your heart. And be blessed; God meets us in His people, from the oldest to the youngest, so He is in this and He is excited about His church.


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

Back-to-School Blessing for Volunteers, Parents, and Kids

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_1920A few years ago, the church I worked at was able to hold a time of commissioning and blessing over these groups as the new school year kicked off and we began to embrace all of these “new” things.  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.”

This post was originally shared on ReFocus Ministry here.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

What Happened at Church Last Sunday?

Guest Blog by Luke Embree, Pastor at Plowshares Brethren in Christ, Lexington, KY.

I witnessed something audacious in church last Sunday.

It took some time for it to sink in but as the service progressed a realization began to dawn on me.

The pastor had forgotten to dismiss the children! 

At least that’s what I assumed had happened.  The senior pastor (who, in his defense, had been off work that week) introduced the morning’s speaker and completely forgot to dismiss the kids.  No one spoke up, no one caught it, and the service marched on.

And all the while an ebullient energy, barely containable, simmered below the surface.  And then the most incredible thing happened: Nothing.

Nothing went wrong, nothing exploded, no one walked out in offense, no one disrupted the sermon, nothing fell apart.  The parents cared for their children, their neighbors showed grace and patience, and the preacher shared his message unabated.

Rather than dismissing the kids, they had a prepared a place for the kids within the worship service. The children were engaged members of the congregation and the intentionality of the whole thing was refreshing.  Why did it work so well?

The church staff, the speaker, and the whole congregation had taken steps to ensure that the kids weren’t just distracted but engaged.

The morning’s worship list included some songs geared toward the very young and (let’s be honest) they were fun for the adults too.  They included ways for a person’s whole body to participate in worship, an easy and effective way to diffuse some of the wiggles in young and old alike.

The speaker’s message was on the missionary journeys of Paul and it opened with a retelling of these journeys in a big way.

Rather than simply reading a manuscript, a couple of young people dressed in cartoonish robes and long beards to act out the speaker’s retelling.  Their performance, which included some goofy gags and play-on words, provided an entertaining visual that aided his story and our comprehension of his material.

The speaker then went on to share reflections about Paul supported by several long readings from his epistles.  But rather than read these passages himself, the minister paused to allow another young person, dressed in the similar costume, to read the passages as he scribbled with a long quill from his writing desk, situated to the left of the platform throughout the sermon.  The break in the minister’s sermon, punctuated by this young man’s recitation, added diversity to the message and a convenient change of voice for our listening ears.


IMG-5332During the sermon, three young people drew pictures inspired by his message.  These pictures were periodically projected onto a large screen behind the pastor, accenting his points with visual design.  The effect of combining visual aids with spoken word helped to keep our attention while the presence of young people sharing their gifts and helping to tell the stories of our faith inspired us all.

If it was the intention of the church’s staff to engage the whole congregation with a creative and informative exposition of Scripture, then the service was a tremendous success.

As I look back now I suppose it was actually a very small thing, not dismissing the children during the service.  But it communicated some very big ideas.  I’d like to share just three:

Children are valuable members of the community of faith

First, it stated that our kids make important contributions to our church’s life and community.  They are not distractions that need to be managed.  They are people who want to be with their parents and fellow members of our community.  Not only that, they have the capacity to listen, to learn, and to participate in worship if given the chance.  But it will take intentionality on our part to develop services that include them well.

Young people can lead

Second, over the course of 60 minutes, the young people within the congregation were affirmed and empowered as active members and ministers within the Body of Christ.  We learned that they, too, have gifts that creatively and effectively add value to our understanding of God and his Word.

Ministry is a team effort

Finally, it was refreshing to watch an entire community take on the mantle of teaching, encouraging, and ministering to one another.  Rather than elevating one person to the role of “Minister,” the community rose up to care for the people of God. Yes, this very gifted pastor deserves credit for organizing and preparing the service.  But his leadership also communicated a very important truth: the gifts and graces of Christianity are best experienced together

As I look ahead to this coming Sunday I’m curious how we might carry these insights into our own times of corporate worship.  How might these ideas be expressed in churches across our nation? There are no easy answers but they are answers that are worth seeking out because, together, we are the body of 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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

Passing It On: Generational Discipleship in Church

What do we mean when we talk about “generational discipleship”? It’s a term that I am hearing more and more frequently and it’s one that I myself use often in this blog.

Simply put, generational discipleship is the passing on of our faith from one generation to another.  

In Scripture, it is the model we are given for how we instill within our children and grandchildren the faith that our parents and grandparents shared with us and we do so within the context of relationship, mentorship, and community.

baton-passThere are examples of generational discipleship all through Scripture.

The most oft-quoted verse about generational discipleship is probably Deuteronomy 6:4-9 where we are told to impress the commands of the Lord upon our children and to talk about them when sit and when we walk and when we lie down and when we get up…so basically, all of the time. And this command is given within the full assembly of Israel to all the people so not just to parents but to the larger faith community.

We see this idea of generational discipleship play out in Scripture through so many intergenerational and familial relationships. Some examples include but are certainly not limited to…

  • Eli and Samuel (I Samuel 3)
  • Timothy and his mother and grandmother AND Timothy and Paul (2 Tim. 1:5)
  • Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2)
  • Naomi and Ruth (The book of Ruth)
  • Moses and Joshua (Deut. 31)
  • Mordecai and Esther (The book of Esther)

So how does generational discipleship play out in a faith community?

In 2017, The Journal of Intergenerational Relationships published an article whose findings explained that intergenerational relationships create essential learning environments for all generations.  In other words, if generations are going to interact with each other in meaningful ways, there are some key essentials that need to be in place.

Specifically they find that three things are necessary for intergenerational learning

  1. There must be space to learn about one’s own generation with other generations
  2. All generations must act as learners and teachers at the same time
  3. The learning must motivate participants towards in a particular way.

Often when our churches gather, these dynamics are either not in place at all or are difficult to find. Putting multiple generations into a place where they can interact in meaningful ways can be challenging because of differences in likes, dislikes, development and experience.

As a result, many churches opt for an environment that segregates the generations from one another and promotes learning within one age range rather than between the generations.  It’s much more difficult to create an intentional space for both to give and receive.

While these things are challenging, they are not impossible to overcome. It might be easier in the short term to maintain age-specific environments, but it is clear that in the long run, generational discipleship will be hampered by the lack of meaningful intergenerational relationships and interactions.

So what can we do?

There’s no silver bullet that will magically erase these challenges or suddenly make it easier to engage generations in learning and living together, but there are some avenues to explore that will create the space for growth.

  1. Stated Purpose – If you desire to put generations together for anything from corporate worship to shared meals, be sure and let everyone know the purpose behind your action. Give a stated reason for creating a multi-generational space and repeat it often so everyone is on the same page.
  2. Be Creative in Connection – Connecting different generations doesn’t have to look the same and connecting same generations. It’s unlikely that a second-grader is going to go out for coffee with a senior citizen. But what if the oldest Sunday School class showed up to cheer on the kids in tee ball in soccer?  What if the teenagers worked alongside their parents in serving their community together?  What if intergenerational prayer partners were connected to each other?  There are a lot of ways to interact with each other in meaningful ways!
  3. Give Generations a Voice – There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have nothing to give or that you are not heard.  If we step back and notice that our church lay leadership, committees, service groups, etc. all reflect only one or two generations and those groups are the ones casting vision, leading, and guiding the church, then there are multiple other generations that may not be feeling heard. Creating intentional space for all generations within your leadership structure can help flip that “top-down” mentality on it’s head and ensure that all generations have the space to give and to receive, to teach and to learn, so that all can grow together.

Since the separation of ages and the perception of differences mirrors that of our society, it’s easy for us to think “that’s just the way it is.”  But it’s important to note that it wasn’t that way for centuries. And equally as important to note that the impact on the church is a substantial one. Why?  Because our faith is primarily passed from one generation to another.

That is generational discipleship.


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

Devices Are Not The Enemy

When I was young, my dad once shared with me that often times growing up, I would hear two sides to a story. Like a pendulum, opinions on things would swing from one side to another, but the truth usually lie somewhere in the middle. Decades later, a mentor to my husband shared the same thing (only in Latin, which sounds cooler): “Veritas en medio est” which means “The truth is in the middle.”

The latest wave of “sides” that I’ve seen has been in regard to the use of electronic devices by children, youth, young adults… everyone.  There are facts and statistics that seem to “support” each side of the pendulum on this one.

boy with phoneI know parents who are adamantly opposed to any form of device ever being used by their child, citing everything from biological research that devices literally harm the brain to social concerns regarding the availability of kids to access mature content at the push of a button or be vulnerable to bullying without a safe place to escape (all legitimate concerns).

I know other parents who lean towards embracing devices, citing other research that shows that kids who use devices at a young age are better at problem solving, are more socially conscious, and learn basic academic skills earlier.

Oh my goodness, how in the world are we supposed to navigate this?  Well, I’m going to follow the advice of my mentors here and encourage us to consider that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Devices are not the enemy.

They are devices.  We control them. We can even turn them off.

As parents, we control the access to them within our home. We can turn off the wifi. We can take away devices. We can monitor what our kids have access to.

We can also use them constructively. We can create space that invites our kids to learn with us how to responsibly use devices. We can model healthy behavior. We can create a culture in our home that helps our kids responsibly use devices.

Ultimately, devices aren’t the issue. We are.

Whether we are the parent that says, “No devices, end of story” or the parent that says, “All the devices, let’d dive in,” the reality is simply this – we are in charge of the narrative. And since, I suspect, most of us tend to be somewhere in the middle, aware of both the dangers and the benefits and doing our best to walk the wire and do the right thing, ultimately the issue is … us.

Jon Acuff has a great series on technology and kids and one of his primary takeaways is this: “You can’t stop a changing culture, but you can control the culture in your home.”  In other words, as parents, we can’t stop the fact that devices are becoming more and more integrated in our society. We can’t.

Even if we choose to remove all devices from our home, the reality is if we walk outside of our home at any time and choose to interact at all with the world, we are going to find a reliance on devices is part of that culture.   But what we can do is create a culture inside our own home that puts devices in their proper place.

We can respect the device as what it is – a tool, a social platform, a learning resource, an object with an off/on switch – and we can establish ways of interacting with said device that help our kids and youth to develop healthy habits that will help them when they walk out of our home.

But it’s even bigger than that.

We can establish a culture in our home of kindness, a culture that says we treat others as Christ would and that extends into our social media networks.

We can establish a culture of self control and moderation, a culture that says we don’t need to over indulge or become obsessed with anything and that can extend to our use of devices.

We can establish a culture that says we honor Christ first, a culture that is first of all focused on Christ-centered relationships and community and that can encompass how and where we use devices.

We can create a culture that becomes so much a part of our home that when anything new is introduced into it, that new thing is screened by the culture and put in its proper place, and that includes devices.

Doing that will take work,  a lot of work. It’s not an offhanded thing. Creating a culture in our homes requires actual and intentional thought and time.  It requires stated expectations and shared values. And those don’t happen overnight.

Creating that culture is as much a part of the discipleship process as reading the Bible, praying with our children, and serving our community.

Discipleship at home isn’t about adding more to our already busy lives; it’s about welcoming Christ into every aspect of our lives, including technology. It’s about finding ways to intentionally invite Jesus into our devices, not in some “super spiritual” Jesus juke kind of a way, but in a recognition that like every other part of our lives, this one needs His grace as well.

There are articles upon articles out there that will give ideas galore about how to actively engage your child in healthy ways with devices. Articles about how to make it more safe. Ideas on intentional conversations you should have with your children. I recommend reading them. But I also recommend this; don’t let fear or apathy control the decisions that we make in regard to devices.

We have the exciting opportunity to help our children experience life within the safe space of our home with the guiding principles of our culture through the grace of Christ.

With that before us, let’s not let devices steal the spotlight.

Instead, let’s prayerfully consider how these objects can be best experienced in our children’s lives in ways that prepare them for the future and engage them with discipleship within our homes.

(This article is the third in a series on social media, technology and discipleship. To read the first and second, click on the links)


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

The Question of Relevance, Discipleship and Kids

One of my favorite television shows is Sherlock. I love his character, based on the book kid, but fleshed out in the show by actor Benedict Cumberbatch. One if the concepts that Sherlock employs as he is attempting to solve a case is his “mind palace”  the basic premise is this: We are barraged with an onslaught of information all day long, some seemingly relevant and most not so much. Sherlock says that he has trained his mind to put all the information into “rooms” in his mind that he can access in the future as needed.

The reality is, most of us just tend to forget information that our mind seems irrelevant and focus only on things that are messaged as important, necessary or relevant to our life, likes, and lifestyle. 

When it comes to discipleship, there is a lot of discussion about making the Bible “relevant” to children and youth.

Bible-and-PhoneThere are those who say that the Bible is inherently relevant so it doesn’t need our help; we just need to teach the Bible (or at least our denominational understanding of the Bible because, let’s face it, there are different interpretations even within that context).

There are others that say while yes, the truths of the Bible are timeless, the message needs to be framed in more culturally accessible forms, ranging from live-action videos and pop music styles to video games and social media messaging.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I am not a fan of the either/or approach to just about anything. I think a both/and approach that takes into consideration social context, spiritual formation and physical development is the best way to be truly relevant, not just in the present, but well into the future.

So how can we, as parents and ministers, help our children and youth create a faith “mind palace” where the truths of the gospel and Christ’s love can take up residence and be recalled as they grow and as there is need?

 

Creative repetition

Have you ever noticed how your young children will watch the same movie or series over and over and over again?  Believe it or not, what we can find mind-numbingly repetitive, they actually like!

My favorite quote from G.K. Chesterton states, “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.”

That’s not to say we should make things boring, but we shouldn’t be afraid to share the same story with them in a bunch of different ways, especially in ways that reflect the world around them. My son and I have read through a total of three children’s Bibles and we are getting ready to start a third. It’s the same message every time, but each time, he gets something more from it, just like we do as we read God’s Word.

Active participation

Hearing about something and actually doing something are two very different things. Experience trumps description every time and participation in real life makes any abstract concept instantly relevant. So if we are talking about things like serving others and love being more than words, it is important for us to find ways for our children and youth to actually serve and love others. Let them practice what we preach!

There are so many ways that we can help kids and youth to get more involved in actively participating in worship, community and service!  Check out this page for some ideas on how to help kids be more actively plugged into their faith community and this one for ideas on practical ways to disciple kids at home.

Consistent modeling

This is on us. We are the adults, the ones who the children in our faith community and/or family are looking to for the context into which their beliefs are lived out.  Are we giving them a holistic picture of what it means to be a disciple?  Could they look at us and see us loving God and loving others, serving and mentoring, being available to them and to others in our faith community?  Does what we say and what we teach them line up with what they see and how we treat them?

Relevance isn’t just about fitting into today’s culture; it’s also about being connected or closely related to something. If our faith is connected to and/or closely related to our actions, we’ve just made discipleship, Scripture, and faith relevant.

There’s no silver bullet for discipleship.

There’s no super-secret easy way to make sure that faith sticks.

But there are ways to make the things we desire to pass on to them in terms of our faith relevant enough that they will remember them for a lifetime; that somewhere in their mind palace the truths they need to carry them forward will be stored and ready for them to pull out when needed, without all the detective work.

This article is the second in a series on social media, technology, and discipleship. To read the first and the third, click on the links!


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

Why We Need To Be There

On Sunday, I joined with a group from our church to walk through the streets of Lexington for the Lexington Mural Challenge Scavenger Hunt. In Lexington there are over a hundred murals painted on the sides of buildings, in alleys, up and down streets, throughout the city.

Each mural has a story and each story is a part of what makes Lexington the city that it is. 

Our church hosted the walk through the city as part of our Lex Get Together activities aimed at helping people who are new to the city get to know it better and those who are old to the city to learn something new. We figure there’s no better way to get to know a place and the people who live there than to explore it, engage with it, and experience it.

Which is why I have an Instagram account.

twitter-292994_1920You see, I’m the mother of an almost 15 year old. Her “city” is Instagram. Her “streets” are the people she follows. Her “murals” are found in that lovely search feature at the bottom of the screen. And her community is found in the multiple group conversations she is a part of.

Each image has a story and each story is a part of what make her world what it is. 

Realistically, I know this is, like everything is, a phase that she is going through, an experiential stage common to most kids her age. I don’t think that for the rest of her life she will “live” there but for now, it’s where she is interacting with people on a daily basis.

And I need to be there.

I need to be on her streets and in her community. I need to understand viral videos, trending memes, and the language that is spoken. More than that, I need to be aware of the messages that are being given and received, not so that I can control them, but so I can have a conversation about them.

Our church plant recognizes that to minister effectively to those in the city of Lexington we feel called to, it’s important for us to experience the culture and engage with the environment.  Our children and youth are our first ministry but if we are not where they are, if we are not engaged, not experiencing their world, we will have a much more difficult time having conversations that lead to discipleship and faith formation.

I still get made fun of by my girls for being old and not getting things, but that doesn’t deter me from remaining engaged and aware. If I’m willing to walk the streets of a city so I can know it better, I’m definitely willing to scroll through a social media app to know my children better.

Be where your kids are. Be present and aware.

Ask questions like, “Have you seen anything interesting lately?” and “What’s new on Instagram?” For younger children, let them sit with you and see how you interact with people. Teach them healthy ways to engage digitally with you because one day, even if it’s after they leave your home, they will engage.

Establish the culture of loving God and loving others in all areas of life, including the digital one, so that even when you are not there, they will be able to approach technology of godly, responsible ways.

Discipleship at home is more than family devotions and Bible stories before bedtime. It’s intentionally welcoming Christ into every area of our lives and looking for opportunities to grow our faith no matter where we are and helping our children to see Him.

Note: In our home, we have limited the social media world our older kids have access to one location so that it is easier for us to engage and interact. Each family understandably needs to find their own rhythm and guidelines, but whatever those end up being, just make sure that you are there. You can follow me on Instagram @christinaembree.

This article is the first in a series on social media, technology, and discipleship. To read the second and third in the series, click on the link!


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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author.