One Word We Get Wrong In Family Ministry

Having just returned from a wonderful children’s ministry conference (CM Conference 2017 by CM Connect) I was struck by something that I hear said repeatedly, but erroneously, in regards to family ministry. It’s said with good intention and it’s stated with emphasis, but it misses an important fact that cannot be overlooked.
conceptual-1280533_1280Over recent years there has been a movement in churches towards a more family-focused, intergenerational ministry environment. One major platform proponents of this transition stand on is that “the home should be the primary place of spiritual formation.” Entire curricula, such as Orange from ReThink Group and Faith 5 from Rich Melheim, are predicated upon this premise.
As a family minister, I happen to agree with this viewpoint with one caveat – I do not believe that the home should be the primary place of spiritual formation, I believe it is the primary place of spiritual formation.

The question isn’t should it be that but rather, since the home is where faith is formed, how should that affect how we do church?

Any number of studies, secular or sacred, about the impact of influences during childhood and young adulthood will consistently lead to one conclusion – the parents and/or caregivers have the most lasting impact on worldview and faith formation.

The Sticky Faith group at Fuller Youth Institute have studied the reasons young people walk away from the church, looking for a “silver bullet” for churches and parents to use to keep that from happening.  Their top finding was that time spent talking and living faith in the home was the biggest indicator of a faith that sticks in kids.

According to Jim Burns at HomeWord ministries, kids that talk about their faith at home with mom and dad have a 80% chance of remaining in church once they leave the home.

IF THAT IS TRUE, THAN NO MATTER WHAT, THE HOME, THE PLACE WHERE INTERACTION TAKES PLACE BETWEEN THE CHILD AND THE PARENT/CAREGIVER, IS THE PLACE WHERE FAITH IS FORMED.

Now, it may not be the kind of faith that we as ministers in the church would like to see formed in children. It may be no faith in God at all. But regardless, faith is being formed at home all the time, everywhere, for every child.

So what is our response?

As ministers, we cannot assume that what we share on Sunday will become lived out on Monday unless we are somehow impacting and reaching into the home. We must connect outside the four walls of our church. We must continue beyond the initial engagement of an outreach event. We must recognize that even if our title is still Children’s Pastor, we are also Parent Pastor and Caregiver Counselor and Home Helper. Sunday may be our landing zone, but our work must be done outside home base.

It is no longer a question of whether or not the home should be the primary place for faith formation and spiritual growth. We do not have to wonder if parents should be spiritually leading their kids or discipling them in faith.

These things are. They simply are.

And the question for us is, “What do we do about it?”

(This article was taken in part from an article written by me and  originally published in February 2015 at Children’s Ministry Blog.com.) 


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

“No One Is Listening” and other Millennial Concerns

I’ve seen an article entitled “59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why“shared at least a dozen times over the last few days. As someone who works in ministry with families and children, it breaks my heart…but probably not for the reasons you think.

It breaks my heart because we are doing it again, to another generation, one that doesn’t have a catchy name yet or a voice to describe their concerns.

(Please read the article if you haven’t already, so what comes next makes sense).

What is even more disheartening to me than the fact that we are doing it again, is that this generation mostly has parents in the Millennial generation who, instead of ensuring their kids have a different church experience than they did, seem to be content with things staying the same for their children’s experience.

But where do we think the sense of “no one is listening” started? The “You can’t sit with us” mentality is inherent in many of our church practices that divide generations into siloed groups as soon as they walk into the doors of the church.

Many leading curriculum for children are “values-based” so our children grow tired of hearing about values and mission statements and most churches allocate the smallest budgets to those working with children and youth (both their employees and their working ministry budget) and we wonder why there’s a distrust about the misallocation of funds.

We fail to set up mentoring environments for children, often offering programs without intergenerational connections needed for discipleship, and we talk “about” the children and youth a lot but fail to find ways for them to connect and belong to the larger church body.

We avoid talking to them about the “controversial issues” of the day or even helping their parents to (or parents choose not to attend or seek out the support offered) and we keep the public perception of children’s ministry and youth ministry as primary a childcare or babysitting service that allows adults to go to church.

child-1439468_1920Every time I share these things, I get kickback that kids and youth need age-appropriate spaces to learn and adults/parents need a break from kids and I AGREE! But if we read this article and think that we are going to solve the Millennial problem without addressing the system that got them where they are, we are not being very wise.

We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing and hope it is somehow different for the next generation.

We’ve got to find ways to break outside our siloed molds and reach across the generational gap and learn to worship, commune, grow, discuss and live together if we don’t want another article like this one written in the future.

I’ve read a lot of comments that say, “It’s like this for every generation.” Perhaps there are some similar frustrations, but not every generation has only 4% that claim to believe the Bible and a 59% dropout rate for church.

It won’t change unless we do (which is another critique offered in the article – failing to adapt). It’s not the culture’s fault (another critique); it is ours. And we need to own it and start thinking outside the Millennial box to their children and the generation that is following in their footsteps.  We need to end the Millennial postmortem and look to the next generation.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

When the Disciples Disciple: Letting Kids Live Out Their Faith

It was Sunday night. School the next day so 7:30 bedtime for the little man. But we also had company and I didn’t want to leave her hanging. I got him dressed for bed and asked one of his older sisters to read him his Bible story before bed. With minimal grumbling she came over and I headed out the door.

And then I paused.

I’m so glad I paused.siblings-929939_1920

“Okay buddy, what story did you read the last time?” she asked

“Hmm, I don’t remember.”

“Here, look at the pictures,” she replied.

“Oh, yeah!! It was about how God was born!”

“That’s right. You read about Jesus being born. Do you know why He did that?  Because He loves you SO much! Did you know that Jesus loves you?  He really, really does!”

Be still, my mommy heart. 

We hear it all the time. I say it all the time. Our ministry as parents and caregivers in the home is to disciple our children in the faith. To help them find and form their faith; to help them know and experience the love of God.

But it’s not so they can just have their own personal experience. It’s so that after they’ve been discipled, they can disciple others. It’s so they can express their faith experience and give it away to others, just as they’ve had it given to them.

It’s so they can say, “Do you know Jesus loves you?  He really, really does!”

As a teacher, I would always tell my students the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. There is something about putting what we’ve learned into action that really makes it stick. The same it true when it comes to our faith. Our experience becomes so much more “sticky” when we share it when someone else.

So, it got me thinking – how can I help my own kids grow their faith in this way?  How can I give them some experience that will let them pass on what they’ve learned?  

Here are four ways that I considered – I’d love to hear what is happening in your home!

Switch Roles – Open-ended questions are our friend. Inviting children to share a story almost always leads to one. I tried this out on my oldest. I simply asked, “When’s the last time you really felt God talk to you?” At first she deflected but after thinking about it she shared an experience where she felt God personally interacting with her. I let her talk. “Tell me about it.  How did that make you feel? What are some ways you think we can connect with God?  What’s your advice for me?” I was the disciple…the student became the teacher. It was..pretty great.

Connect the Generations – If there is one thing I’ve become more and more convinced of it is that children need to interact with those older and younger than they are. Having an older child pray with, read to, or play alongside of a younger child opens the door for discipleship to happen. Having a younger child draw pictures for, sing songs to, or act out a Bible story in front of an older child or person gives them space to re-tell what they are learning about God. We really need each other if a fuller image of God is to be grasped by all.

Set them up for Success – Create space for children to live out what they are learning. Find ways to serve in the community and in the home and make the opportunity available to them. When you read a portion of Scripture or talk about our relationship with God, offer them ways that they can live it out. Give them the chance to interact with others in a way that it puts flesh on the theology. Some ideas would be to clean up your neighborhood or local park, serving a neighbor or friend, or cleaning for a sibling (that will test love like nothing else; ask me how I know).

Be Intentional – After hearing the conversation between my son and daughter, I’ve decided to be more intentional about asking my girls to read with him and talk to him about God. How cool would it be when he is older for him to remember these foundational truths of God and His love to have come from his sisters?  And the unique bond that would create between them?  Even younger kids can do this just by giving space for them to say “Jesus loves you” to one another. Be creative but be intentional.

life-862967_1920As I walked back downstairs that night, the words of John rang in my heart – “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 Jn 1:4).  True discipleship begets disciples that disciple and so on. Legacy-making takes faith from one generation to the other through the act of continued discipleship. We pour into them and they pour into others. Our work of discipleship doesn’t end with just our children; it goes on for generations to come.

Let’s give our kids the chance to start building on that legacy even now when they are young. And let’s let them pour back into us as they come to know and live into the love of Christ in their own lives. This is exciting stuff!!  We are part of something bigger and so are our children!  Let’s live it like its meant to be lived – fully and abundantly, for all eternity!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

If We Are Supposed to Disciple our Kids at Home, Do We Even Need to Go to Church?

If you keep up with trends in the church, you know that one of the major ones is the decline of regular attendance at Sunday morning worship times. Some studies indicate that a regularly attending family may only be in church once or twice a month.

Additionally, there is a rising recognition that the home is the primary place of spiritual formation and that the parents are the greatest influence of faith in their children and that message gets shared with parents on an increasing basis (just look at my last post).

When considering these facts, it can begin to feel as though the church is becoming…well, inconsequential. Pointless. I mean, if the time at church with the children is so minuscule and the influence so secondary, why do we even go to church?

Does going to church as a family even matter?

Yes. Yes. Yes!  A thousand times…Yes!

You see, right from the start, God intended the faith community to be an integral part of the spiritual growth of children. When Moses shared with parents that they should talk about their faith when they sit at home and when they walk along the road, and when they rise and before they sleep, he did so in the presence of the entire Israelite community (Deut. 4:10). All of Israel was there.

All of Israel heard the commands. They all understood that the responsibility to nurture the following generations. They all understood that if things were going to go well for them and if they would increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey then THEY ALL needed to pass on their faith to their “children and their children after them” (Deut. 6:1).

The parents were never supposed to do it alone.

We were supposed to pass on our faith at home in the midst of a faith community who joined us in our discipleship and supported us in our work of faith formation.

sunday-school-kidsThat’s what the church is supposed to be doing today!  As a faith community, the church is the place where parents find nurture, support, and equipping for the work they are called to do. And those who minister to families and children, whether paid or volunteer, have the unique privilege to be the hands and feet of that partnership.

And that’s why that hour or two, that short period of time each week, is so important.

In 1976, developmentalist John Westerhoff wrote a book entitled Will our Children have Faith? and concluded with this answer: “that depends on whether or not they are embraced and formed within a faith community.” In other words, yes, even though parents have the greatest influence, his studies found that how children are engaged in the church has profound effects on how their faith grows.

 Children need the formative influence of the faith community. They need relationships with each other, with the youth in church and with the adults in church (Dr. Catherine Stonehouse, 2016).

What happens with that time is crucially important for the whole family.

It is worth the time, the effort, and the love necessary in regularly bringing our children to church.

What happens in that hour or two can create for a child a deep sense of belongingpurpose, and meaning within a community that coincides with the values and teachings of their parents and creates relationships that can last long into the future. As parents, taking our kids to church opens the door for us to…

  • Seek for ways to nurture and support connections within the faith community.
  • Create intentional space for intergenerational relationships 
  • Find times for children to join the faith community in worship, in serving, in sharing the story of faith.
  • Find ways to engage the children in their legacy, the legacy of our faith.

My mom often told me in regard to parenting that the days are long but the years are short. When it comes to bringing our children to church, the hours spent there may feel short, but the legacy lasts long. Let’s make the discipleship of our children a both/and not an either/or and give them the riches found in the community of faith known as the body of Christ.

I originally wrote this post to encourage children, youth, and family pastors that their work in the church matters greatly. To read the original version, click here


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

What’s Worse than FoMO and What Can We Do About It?

Fear is a powerful motivator. It’s not a good motivator, but it is a powerful one. And a new kind of fear is motivating a lot of us to leave “church” behind.

It is not a fear of the future, of eternity, of what is to come; rather it is a fear of missing out on the present; of not being in the right place at the right time to experience the best things.

loneliness-1879453_1280The fear of missing out (FoMO) has recently become an area of much interest to
researchers who study people.  Some say that social media has fueled this fear; for example, one researcher stated, “Defined as a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”  Other researchers warn that our fear of missing out “spills over” into our kids. This exchanged between a psychologist and a young boy demonstrates this:

A 10-year-old boy I was working with was terribly unhappy with himself. “Why?” I asked. “Because I don’t always get the best grades,” he replied. “What’s so important about getting the best grades?” I inquired. “If I don’t,” this sweet boy answered, “then I won’t get into the best college.” “And if you don’t get into the best college?” “Then,” with tears in his eyes, he replied, “I’ll miss out on getting the best teachers, the best jobs, the best friends.”

Has this fear of missing out affected the church?

Absolutely. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of church-related blogs, articles and sermon series on FoMO and the spiritual hazards therein. However, I feel like maybe we are missing the mark on how we are addressing this particular phenomenon. I’ve read everything from “Make your church the place people don’t want to miss out on” to “Fear is a sin and you need to stop it” to “Here’s five ways to say NO to FoMO.”

It wasn’t until I read this in a paper written by my husband that things started clicking for me.

John Wesley had great success aiding a generation who desired to “flee from the wrath to come”.  Our generation, though, does not fear “the wrath to come”.  The greatest existential fear of our generation is “nothingness”.  They do not fear dying and going to a place of fire and judgment.

Rather, they fear dying and being forgotten.

They fear that they have invested the scant 60-80 years of their lives on little of consequence.  They fear that their work may be futile, their influence limited, and that their relationships, at best, chemically predisposed.

They fear this because that’s the very thing that secularism teaches them.

Here’s the Game Changer

The Fear of Missing Out is really the Fear of Being Nothing.

Meaninglessness, unlike fear, isn’t a state from which we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get over. Meaninglessness can’t be fixed by being the coolest church on the block or the “not-to-be-missed” place to be on Sunday morning. Meaninglessness can’t be solved in five easy steps.

But the antidote to meaninglessness is exactly what we, the body of Christ, have to offer the world today. A place of meaning and purpose. The knowledge that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. That we MEAN something, not just to the world, but to God and to eternity. That we have a part to play, an important part to play, in this beautiful act of grace called the kingdom of God.

We can offer these truths (and many more) to every person we interact with, with every child we minister to.

  1. We were created on purpose – We were created in God’s image with thought and purpose, not haphazardly or by accident. (Gen. 1:26)
  2. We are a work in progress – God is continually molding and shaping us for meaningful purposes so we can always have hope and expectation (Is. 64:8)
  3. We all have a part to play in His Kingdom  – Every piece of the puzzle, every member of the body, every vessel He’s created has a purpose (I Tim. 2:20, I Cor. 12:12-27)
  4. We will leave a legacy behind us – What you are today, Who you are today, will affect the generations to come. Everything you do has meaning. (Pr. 13:22)
  5. Our story is only beginning – This time on earth is only the start of an eternal story that we get to invite others into (Heb. 12:1)
  6. We have been chosen – If it’s not enough to know that we were created with purpose, we were also chosen with purpose to be a part of God’s story (Jn. 15:26)
  7. We have meaning – In Ecclesiastes, the Teacher searches for meaning, high and low, in every conceivable place and finally determines that our meaning can’t be found here – our meaning comes from God. He is the reason we have meaning. (Ecc. 12:12, 13)
If we know these things, truly know them, we will not fear missing out.

We will endeavor to live each day, each moment, each second to the fullest. 

Friends, we don’t need to convince the world that going to church or being a Christian better than “missing out.” We need to tell each person and especially each child that they mean something. Our lives have consequence.

We believe…that God has spoken into this void.  Our story directly intersects with the deepest felt anxieties of our culture.  This is because it begins with Meaning… God spoke Meaning into our chaos and gave order to the world.  (In Jesus) the very Meaning of the world became flesh and spoke value and dignity into every human endeavor, every stage of life, every relationship. – Luke Embree

We have the words of eternal life because we have Jesus (Jn. 6:28)! We know the very meaning of life itself. And that is what our children need to hear most of all. That they have meaning. They have purpose. They will never be forgotten.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Family Ministry When No One Goes to Church

When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything. – G.K. Chesterton

A few years ago I shared the article Leaving Sunday Behind which looked at lagging church attendance and the role of the home and the church in reaching families struck a chord with many of my readers. It does beg the question, if families are not regularly attending corporate worship together anymore, where are they?

As Chesterton says, when we cease to worship God, we don’t cease to worship; rather we replace the object of our worship with something else.

So, we must ask, what is being worshiped today?

A survey done by Faith Communities Today found these top three reasons cited by families regarding the demands on their time that conflicted with regular church attendance.

  1. School or Sports related activities
  2. Work Schedule conflicts
  3. Driving distance/Time and cost

So it’s not that the families were just sitting at home not doing anything, but they had made the decision to choose other demands on their time over attending church on Sunday morning and Wednesday night.

As parents, this should give us pause and help us consider; what are we teaching our children to worship? If these activities that pull families away from church truly are important to individual families, then as Christians it should also be our goal to find alternatives time to commit to corporate worship and fellowship with other believers.

church-188087_1920As ministers, we need to recognize that in a battle against a changing culture, we are going to lose if we don’t recognize that culture is changing.

The constraints of traditional service times will increasingly become inadequate for reaching families in our church and new families we desire to share God’s love with.

We can spend time lamenting this change and dissecting why it happened and if it’s good or bad or neutral, or we can just acknowledge that it is, and we can begin to look for ways to address it head on.

If we use the following findings from Barna Research Group as a frame for how families in our cultures operate, perhaps we can consider some innovative ways to connect the church with the home.

  1. Parents are just as dependent on technology as are teens and tweens.
  2. Most family members, even parents, feel that technology has been a positive influence on their families.
  3. Very few adults or youth take substantial breaks from technology.
  4. Families experience conflict about technology, but not in predictable ways
  5. Few families have experienced—or expect—churches to address technology

And what about the study that found when 1,500 kids were asked what makes a happy family they responded, “Doing things together”? Contrast this with what we traditionally do in our church settings with separate children, youth, adult, and senior adult ministries.barna

Finally consider another study from Barna that asked self-identified Christians why they chose not to attend church where 40% responded “I find God elsewhere” and 35% said “Church is not relevant to me personally.” Additionally, in the past “regular attendance” was defined as those who attended church three or more weekends a month but now families that show up once every 4-6 weeks consider themselves regular attenders.

A lot of people have come up with a lot of ways to address these changing trends. May I offer just this suggestion?

Let us shift of vision from one of attraction to one of “going and making disciples”.

Let’s refocus faith formation at home and building relationships between generations.

Let’s concentrate on lifting Jesus up so all may be drawn to Him, not necessarily our brand, our building, or our band.

Let’s meet families where they are and bring the church to the world instead of trying to get the world to accommodate the church.

And may we all live lives of worship, inside and outside of the building we call church.

Article originally posted January 25, 2015. 


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

God is Amazing, Being a Christian is Awesome, and Other Things We Forget to Say

“Why do we make being a Christian sound like the worst thing ever?”

A legitimate question. It was posed to me the other day by someone who had been on Twitter and was reading through the titles of several Christian blog posts. Most had something to do with the fact that Christianity will make you uncomfortable, will cost you everything, isn’t about you, etc.

“It’d be nice” she said, “To read a blog post that talks about how great being a Christian and knowing God’s love actually is.”

She’s right. I think it would be nice to read that.  So why are so many blog posts tilted the other direction?  And, as parents and ministers, what kind of messages are we sending to the next generation about what it means to be a Christian?

Well, let’s start with the first. Why are so many Christians calling out the church and other Christians on so many things in their blog posts?  And, look, I’m putting myself there too. I’ve published more that one post directed at the church in a way that challenges what is being done.

I think it’s partly because it’s easier to point out a wrong that it is to affirm a right.

I mean, who is going to read a blog post that says, “Keep it up!” or “Just a reminder: God still loves you” as opposed to “Stop acting like a Christian and be one!” and “Worship isn’t about you: Stop making it!”  Both could be accurate…but which one will you read?

Also, I think it’s human nature to point out the wrong in someone else. In the oft-quoted (and oft-misquoted) Scripture passage that starts with”Do not judge…” Jesus meets this tendency head on with his own challenge,”Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” (Mt 7:3)

And even if what is being shared is spot-on, not judgement but true concern and heartfelt conviction, I think it’s worth considering the next question.

What is the Christianity we are representing to our children and to the world around us?

You guys!!  Let’s review quickly the foundation of our faith

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

God LOVED us SO MUCH, He gave of Himself, wholly and completely, so that we can have eternal, abundant, overflowing LIFE forever!!

That’s the center. That’s the creamy goodness inside the chocolate shell. That’s the best part!

Yes, being a Christian can at times mean being uncomfortable. It can mean that we choose to lay aside our selfish desires and seek the good of others. It can mean that we don’t get what we want sometimes.

But that is not what being a Christian is.

audience-868074_1920Being a Christian is experiencing the wonder and awe of knowing that we are loved by God himself with such an overwhelming, all-encompassing love that He gave up everything for us and because of that we get to walk in freedom, in love, in abundant life, every single day, not just while we are here on earth, but for all eternity!!

Yes, I’m excited about that! Because friends, our world is hurting and hopeless. My kids hear sad things all the time on the news and in the headlines and from their friends. And we?

We have been given the gift, the absolute best present ever, of abundant life. Of hope and light and freedom!

I want that truth to echo in their hearts so loudly and so clearly that when things get uncomfortable, when they are called to love others more than self, when they don’t get what they want, those things are minuscule compared to the overwhelming sense of promise and hope they find in Christ and the love, life, and relationship they find in His body, the church.

Being a Christian is an exciting adventure, a chance to participate in the greatest story every to unfold, to be a part of God’s eternal plan. It’s not a headline that grabs attention or gets people to read the blog posts. But it is the good news we were sent to proclaim!

Before we sought Him, He sought us. He never leaves us. Never forsakes us. He meets our deepest needs. He calms our deepest fears. He’s an ever present help in time of need. We are never on our own again. We are never without hope. Never without an advocate, a friend, an ally, or hope.

We have all this and more because we have Jesus!  

And that is what our churches, our children and this world need to hear, over and over again, proclaimed through our words, our worship, our actions and our lives.

Please hear me, I fully understand the need for us as Christians to be challenged in our faith, to not grow complacent and to keep growing.

But I think it is equally important, maybe even more important, that we continually affirm the good, reiterate the truth of God’s love, and proclaim to one another, to the world, and to our children just how incredibly blessed we are to be part of the family of God!

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25The Message (MSG)


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

2016 In Review: Top Five Read and Shared Posts

Friends, what a blessing it has been to share this past year with you. Your encouragement, excitement and support has been a blessing to me as I’ve had the opportunity to share my heart with all of you regarding children, families and the body of Christ.

This year over 500,000 new people visited this blog and shared its posts. Many of you wrote to me and shared testimonies and prayer concerns and amazing resources. Several of you called me, emailed me, or chatted with me about various experiences in your homes and churches. I have been immeasurably blessed to join you in your ministry journey. 

Here are the top 5 blog posts of 2016.

stopbullyingIt is NOT Okay – This blog was first shared in March 2016 during the intense political presidential campaign and was read on Day 1 by more than 300,000 people. While the campaign is over, many of the concerns I shared in this post still exist and I continue to pray that we can find ways to tell our children in no uncertain terms that many of the words and behaviors being exhibited by leaders in our country are not okay.

“I can no longer hide behind the flag of “I don’t want to be political” rather I have to state the obvious and say, “This is not about politics. This is about human decency and I, for the sake of my children and all future generations who are seeing these things, must say, ‘I am not okay with this because this is NOT okay.'”

kidsinchurchWhy My Kids Weren’t At Kids Church – Inspired by a mom who shared with me why her kids weren’t in Kids Church one Sunday, this post looks at the larger experience of the Sunday morning church service. This post continues to be read and shared daily and has led to some wonderful discussion with many of you as we’ve explored this topic more together!

“The church experience is much bigger than a sermon.Big or little, child or adult, the sermon is only part of the whole experience. Not understanding the sermon in no way negates the rest of the experience.”

kid-churchMy Kid Doesn’t “Get” Anything Out of Church – For the second year in the row, this post has struck a chord with people across the world. It has been read and shared in over 120 countries.

“One common concern I often hear from parents and other adult church members about including children in the corporate worship setting is that kids won’t “get” anything out of the worship or the sermon. From an adult perspective, there are certain things we want to walk away from church with such as a sense of having been in God’s presence or having learned something that will help us grow in our faith. We presumably come to church for a reason and it is easy for us to assume those same reasons apply to our kids.  But they probably don’t.”

bottles-60478_1920What’s with the Flipping Bottle?   – Remember that short-lived craze where kids across America were flipping bottles to see if they would land upright?  Here were my thoughts on the phenomenon and what we as adults could learn from the kids and the flipping bottle. Over 7,000 of you read and shared this post, helping it rise to the third most popular for the year.

“Have you seen your kids or others flipping bottles? Does it drive you nuts?  If so, you’re not alone…but, are we sending the best message to our kids?”

ChurchandkidDo Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids to Church – Making its appearance for the second year, this post continues to be read and shared in countries across to the world. The heart of this article is to explore what we mean when we say “welcome” to children in the corporate worship and fellowship of the larger faith community and has sparked numerous conversations, discussions and future posts.

 “It’s not about making sure we use strategies to keep kids occupied and from being a distraction.  That’s important, but its not about that.”

God has just blessed me so much with this opportunity to share life and ministry with all of you. Thank you for welcoming me into your conversations, your churches and your homes. I’m so looking forward to what 2017 holds for ReFocus Ministry and the work of children and family ministry across the world!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

A Little Disruption

When it comes to children being present in the congregational worship service, there are many thoughts and opinions out there. Some say children should be separate from adults, in their own space, learning at the their own level. Some say children should be fully integrated, learning and worshiping with the adults at every level. And then, in-between the two, is every possible combination of separation and integration one can think of.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I fall squarely in the middle – I’m a big believer in the “both/and” approach.

I think it is vitally important for children to have the opportunity to worship and be in community with the larger congregation and it is also important to have space for children to learn and grow at their developmental level.

Both of these scenarios present unique opportunities and challenges; both require us to adjust, reflect, and serve each other and the children; both have a part to play in raising the next generation; and both require the entire community to embrace their role as disciplers – as legacy-leavers – as faith formers.

The following post was not written by me, but by a fellow mom and pastor’s wife who found herself in a situation that caused her to question and consider the importance of children being welcomed into worship. She shares, not to rant or vent, but rather to spur on conversation about the “whys” of having space in our congregational worship for disruption.

The Children Matter!

Julie Choi

I wasn’t going to say anything about this, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like I have to speak up. This is important. A few weeks ago, at church, my son and I were in service and he was walking around the back. He was excited to be there and excited to see his friends. A woman turned around and whispered to someone else, “She needs to control her child.” I’m not just saying this to defend my son, but I don’t think he was being too disruptive. I think he was being three.
Let me tell you something about my son…and my daughter…and all children. They are not a disruption! Did you hear me? Let me say it again. My child, no child is a disruption and if you think they are – oh my, you have another thing coming. My son, my daughter, and children out there in the world are world changers. They are the future. They are bright lights in our cynical and sometimes dark world. They are curious. They are eager to learn. They are gifts from God Himself.
church-595701_1920After this “incident” I took it upon myself to read a few articles and found out that there is a church in South Carolina that actually does not permit children into their main service. The doors get locked after the sermon starts.  Another church in Chicago put out a statement, “We make it a priority on creating an environment that helps people worship without distractions during the service. By providing a variety of venues where people may view services, no one has to miss the message, regardless of their circumstances. We rarely have issues with disruptions during the service, but if one arises, the Guest Ministry team assess the situation and takes appropriate next steps, which could mean respectfully suggestion one of the alternative viewing options.
Wait, what?! They’re going to “respectfully” suggest you get out? In church? Ok, so quick question? If a child is crying or being loud in service that’s disruptive, but what if an elderly person has a heart attack mid-service? Is that a disruption? If someone walks into service late are they disrupting the service? But wait…aren’t we supposed to bear each others burdens and understand one anther’s shortcomings as a church family?

Listen folks. I’m not writing this in anger. Honest! This isn’t some angry mom rant. If you know me, you know I am all about manners. My kids will say “thank you, please, sorry, yes ma’am, no ma’am” and if my daughter cries in service, I’ll quietly and quickly walk out to calm her down before coming back. But all that energy spent on “avoiding disruptions” seems like such a waste of time.

An article I read offered the following thoughts:

“I’m not sure God cares all that much about disruptions (he has a long history of disrupting things himself). But also because I think God’s more concerned with us welcoming folks into his house – and extending love and grace – than he is about making sure people mind their p’s and q’s perfectly while they’re here. It seems these churches we hear about that shuttle disrupters out of a service care more about the comfort of the people in the pews than they do about the glory of God….But I have found the Holy Spirit to be wonderfully disruptive, sometimes upsetting our plans and timing, and to be faithful,…”

Look I get it. Sometimes, people just want to pay full attention to the sermon, but life is not without “disruption”. But to say that a child is the disruption. That just rubs me the wrong way. Moms are so worried in church as it is. They don’t need someone to turn around and look at them with an angry glare or judgement.

For me, I can deal with that, but imagine that had happened to a new mom that was visiting the church? Imagine that happened to a mom who isn’t as secure. She might never return! Serious question: WHY is there even a debate about this? WHY is this a controversial topic? WHY is this a sensitive issue? Sure, I could send my kid to “children’s church”, but what if I want to worship as a family? I want my son and daughter in the service to hear their dad preach, to use the moment as a teachable moment, to pray with them, sing with them.
Another blogger wrote in her own personal blog,

“I see them learning. In the midst of the cries, whines, and giggles, in the midst of the crinkling of pretzel bags and the growing pile of crumbs I see a little girl who insists on going two pews up to share peace with someone she’s never met. I hear a little boy slurping (quite loudly) every last drop of his communion wine out of the cup determined not to miss a drop of Jesus. I watch a child excitedly color a cross and point to the one in the front of the sanctuary.  I hear the echoes of Amens just a few seconds after the rest of the community says it together. I watch a boy just learning to read try to sound out the words in the worship book or count his way to Hymn 672. Even on weeks when I can’t see my own children learning because, well, it’s one of those mornings, I can see your children learning.”

It matters. This matters! I wholeheartedly believe in family worship services. I can’t change the world. I can’t change someone else’s mind, especially once it’s made up, but this is my rather puny attempt to get people thinking. It matters. Children matter.

About the Author: Julie Han-Choi is a wife, mom, counselor, and teacher. She and her husband, Pastor Brian Choi are the parents of two beautiful children and one angel baby and are passionate about intergenerational/family worship. Julie’s dream and vision is to start a small, Christian, Montessori-style charter school that offers a “whole child” philosophy. 


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(40)

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

They are ALWAYS learning & We are ALWAYS Teaching

“You know how I learned about tithing?  I was a kid and our family was on a fixed income but every other week, when the paycheck came, I remember seeing my dad and mom sit down at the kitchen table and lay out all the bills. I would watch my dad pull out the checkbook and the first check he wrote was to the church. Before they paid any other bills, he made sure he gave his money to God.”

This is a true story, shared with me by an older woman and a dear friend. Notice what she said. Or more precisely what she didn’t say. She said she learned about tithing from her parents. But not from a devotional or a faith talk. She learned it by watching her parents do something, week after week, living by faith, in front of their children.

Their actions were the lesson. Their consistency was the testimony. And their faith?  That was what talked; that’s what spoke the loudest. 

We know this, right?  We know that our actions speak louder than words. We know that our children are always watching us. We know that the lessons we don’t necessarily plan in advance become the moments that are most defining.

But do we really know it?  Do we know it enough to consider how the rhythms of our life are transforming and forming how our children approach life and view this world? Are there things that our kids would say, “We always do that”?  Things that help create the essence of our homes, the very identity of who we are as families.  I

n a previous post, I wrote:

For family, this means we create an identity that becomes central to our character and meaning as a unit.  It communicates to the world “This is WHO we are, WHAT we stand for, and HOW we do life.” It becomes our family’s DNA and what our kids look to and say, “This is part of what it is to be an (insert last name here).”

Our children are learning life from how we live our life.father-1633655_1920

Our simplest routines, our approach to successes and failures, our kneejerk reactions and our carefully planned schedules – all of it is being watched and processed by our kids.

So what can we do?

Be Aware

I think the first thing we need is just to be aware of what our family’s “always” are. One fun way to find out is to get a posterboard, some markers, and your family and gather around the table to answer this question, “What makes us…US?”  In other words, have your kids tell you what your identity is by drawing it on the posterboard. What the the things we always do and the things we always say and the ways we always act?  Then look at the picture you’ve created. Be aware that these are the avenues through which you are influencing your children. 

When our family did this very thing, one thing that became apparent is that our kids had picked up on besides our faith is our high regard for education, for entertaining guests, for travel, for family time, and for good food. These are areas where they are watching and learning from us, their parents. Being aware of this has helped us to be more aware of our own actions and words in these areas.

Be Intentional

Sometimes, rhythms and routines don’t just naturally happen. Sometimes, we need to intentionally created structure around those things. We can even create a whole language to describe them. For instance, our whole family knows what an “Oh Yeah Dance” is and where it started; we know what is going to happen at a family meeting; and we know what a “Daddy/daughter or Mommy/Son” date is going to look like. We have been intentional in creating these places where learning and loving (discipleship) can take place.

It can be important to create spiritual routines that, as Reggie Joiner (2009) says in his book Think Orange, fit with the rhythm of our life. For instance, it can become routine for us to start or end our day with prayer. Maybe our routine is cleaning up dishes together as a family or reading a piece of Scripture at each meal. These routines should be “expected” at some part of just normal daily life but guess what, to get there, you have to start here, with intentionality and a bit of planning.

Be Redundant

Remember the original story? Every two weeks this woman watched her parents pay bills and write their tithe check. It was a repetitive and recurring lesson. More impacting than that is this command in Deuteronomy 6:7 “talk of them (the commands of the Lord) when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure these are moments that repeat every day. These daily repetitive moments are the times God has given us to lead our children to Him.

The thing about redundancy and repetition is that a lot of learning takes place there. Studies show that “the more something is repeated, the more likely children are to remember it. Repetition in a variety of forms also increases the likelihood of reaching children with different learning styles and provides a more comprehensive understanding of concepts.”  So be boring – be redundant – be the best teacher.

It’s kinda scary, right? Huge responsibility.

But also, pretty cool right? Our kids are growing in their faith and character every day, and we, as parents, have the greatest influence on them – greater by far than their friends, their teachers, and even their TVs. S

o, let’s be aware; let’s be intentional; and even if it seems super boring, let’s be redundant. Because, they are always learning and we are always teaching.


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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