Fidget Spinner Theology: It’s not that simple

Fidget Spinners. Bottle Flipping. Slime, Oobleck, Gack – whatever you want to call it.

These are The Things. The things our kids and middle schoolers go crazy for. Tomorrow it will be something else. The Things come out of nowhere, blow up into a craze overnight, and then quietly retreat to some back corner where only adults who haven’t caught on to the fact that these have come and gone continue to do them so they can be “relevant.” (I’ve been accused of this on occasion by my very own middle schoolers)

fidget-spinner-2412989_1920It took one, maybe two months, after the fidget spinner craze hit my house before I started seeing fidget spinner Bible lessons pop up on my Facebook feed. One more week and suddenly buying fidget spinners in bulk with church logos on them to hand out at VBS, Kids Church, visiting families, etc. was all the rage.

So, what’s wrong with that?  We want to be relevant, right?  We want to reach kids “where they are” and be relatable. And fidget spinners are fun, so why not?

Well, herein lies the danger and the tension.

Sometimes in our desire to be those things for the generations that, well, aren’t ours, we work hard to fit the message we are trying to share with them into what they can relate to.  We look for ways to “tell the story” using these objects that they are using for fun.  But often to do that we need to modify or simplify our theology in order to make it “fit.” And in doing that, we can accidentally end up teaching incorrect theology and in some cases heresy in order to make it accessible to kids and youth. (For more on how this specifically relates to fidget spinners, check out this article entitled “No, the Trinity is Not Like Fidget Spinner“)

The reality is, the story of Scripture and the truth of who God is, is not that simple. It can’t be squished into the next passing craze or middle school trend.  And it makes God, (our great, big, incredible, awesome God) very, very small.  Easy to explain away. Simple to put in a back pocket.

Oh, Christina, you’re taking this way too seriously. It’s just a fun and relatable way to talk to kids. It’s not about teaching theology or interpreting Scripture. It’s just simple fun.

But, it’s not.

It is teaching theology.
It is interpreting Scripture.

For the children we are teaching, it is those things.

This is their time to learn. These are the lessons they are going to tuck away in their hearts and learn to interpret the world and the church and the Bible by. It’s these simple lessons that take root in a child’s heart. And if we are the ones teaching them, we need to take that very seriously.

If we are going to use an object lesson, which is basically how most children’s and youth curriculums are framed, it is so important that we do a few other things too.

  1. We preface our object lesson with a statement that this example is a way for us to start thinking but it is not the whole story. For that we need to look deeper at Scripture and the teachings of Christ, at what’s been handed down to us from those who have gone before us in the faith, and at what the Holy Spirit is teaching us through one another in the body of Christ.
  2. We open up the Bible and we read it together. We ask questions and we seek out answers. An object lesson can be a great way to spur on discussion, but as the full lesson, it lacks depth and often theology.
  3. We never forget to expose our children to the wonder and awe that is the mystery of our God, a mystery that we will never fully comprehend and a depth of love we will never truly fathom. We remind them and us that He is bigger than anything we could ever comprehend and that is exactly what makes Him God and what gives us a lifetime and an eternity to spend getting to know Him.

Object lessons that grab attention and spur on discussion are useful tools in talking with our children, youth, and young adults…but they can’t be the full lesson. They can’t be the “takeaway” or the thing that sticks.

We’ve got a BIG God to give them. Let’s give them a BIG God to believe in.

For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Marking the “Christian” box and Making Disciples are Not the Same Thing

Recently, Pew Research released their latest findings regarding the religious landscape in America. The numbers weren’t shocking, if you keep up on those types of things.

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Roughly 70% of Americans affiliate with the Christian faith, 23% claim no religion, and the final 7% affiliate with other world religions. Ho-hum, let’s move on…we’re still a Christian nation.

But here’s the rub. These statistics are just that. They are surface numbers. The label “Christian” is a box to check off on a list of religious choices.

Here’s what the summary doesn’t tell us.

  • Only 17% of people ages 18-29 identify as Christian compared to 35% of the same age group who identify as Unaffiliated.
  • 30% of Christians are parents of children under 18 which is nearly equal to Unaffiliated parents who come in at 26%.
  • 27% of Unaffiliated persons express an “absolutely certain” belief in God, 22% are fairly certain there is a God and 13% say their religion is very important in their lives.
  • More members of the Unaffiliated group feel a sense of wonder and awe about the universe weekly than do Christians (47% compared to 45%)
  • 47% of Christians say they seldom or never participate in prayer, scripture study or religious education groups among Christians
  • 43% of Christians say their religion guides their understanding of right and wrong. 41% say their own common sense does this (compare this to 57% of Unaffiliated – not that different).
  • 59% of Christians say that what is right and wrong depends on the situation; there are no absolutes. 78% of Unaffiliated identifiers agree.
  • 33% of Christians seldom or never read the Bible and 18% don’t believe it is the Word of God.

This is the environment that our children are growing up in

When we do the deeper digging, we find out that in terms of spiritual discipleship and maturity, there’s really not a huge difference between those who are Unaffiliated with a religion and those who identify as Christian. Our differences come into play in other areas like political affiliation, views on social issues and the government’s role, and belief in an afterlife. But when it comes to things like believing in a God, participating in a faith community, making moral decisions, and even reading the Bible… we’re not all that different.

And if we look at who is raising the next generation…we are equally sharing that load; Christian and Unaffiliated.

There is our “why.”

Why do we keep emphasizing the importance of discipleship in the home?

Why do we keep talking about the need for generational discipleship in the church?

Why do we continue to encourage parents to engage with the kids around the ideas of faith and community and the Church to get outside of times and location and be that faith community for them?

Why do we send home devotionals from Sunday School, provide Scriptures for discussion, encourage participation in worship and learning for all ages, equip parents for the work of discipleship at home, and invest hours of prayer into the generations to come?

Because we should be different.

Our active involvement in our faith should look different than those who say they don’t identify with a religion. Our numbers shouldn’t even be close.

And if they are, we shouldn’t be surprised when in the next few years, perhaps just one generation, we see those numbers flip.

This is not ho-hum. It is past time for us to wake up.

Church, it is time to stop investing in building the next building and time to start investing in building the next generation and nurturing, supporting and equipping their parents for the work of discipleship.

Parents, it is past time for us to own our own spiritual walk and discipleship so that we can help our children grown and be discipled; to commit to growing our own faith through being actively engaged in our faith community, involved in spiritual disciplines like the reading of Scripture and serving the community, and dedicated to being Christ-followers.

This isn’t intended to be a fear tactic or a doomsday post. It’s certainly not intended to be a “run away, secluded yourself, hide the kids” post. I’m not into that kind of stuff. My heart truly was for this simply to be a reality check; an understanding that passing on our faith is more than our kids just claiming the label of “Christian.”

It’s a life modeled after Christ, engaged with His body, and doing His work in the world today. And that is what makes us different. Let’s do that.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

“You can say anything, but kids will copy what you do”

The other day I watched a young mother talking with some friends and behind her, unbekownst to her, her young daughter was watching her and imitating her hand gestures. I don’t think anyone but me saw it and I almost laughed out loud but I realized that this little one wasn’t trying to be rude or making fun of her mom; she was learning. My bet is that in a few years, this little girl will be having conversations of her own and her little hands will be flying around as she talks just like her mom.

Recently the New York Times posted an article that was about how to raise young men who respect women and the pull quote they used for the article was from a sociologist who said, “You can say anything but kids will copy what you do” (Dan Clawson, University of Massachusetts).

I don’t think we can overemphasize this enough.


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To put it in perspective first consider this: The single most powerful influence in a child’s life is by far their parents/caregivers.  

Second, consider this: One of the greatest indicators of church retention of young people is the existence of caring intergenerational relationships between adults and youth.

Finally, we read this from Paul: Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus (I Cor. 4:15-17a)

Paul compares himself to a father, a parent, and tells the church in Corinth to imitate him as children do their parents and then, to seal the deal, sends his spiritual son Timothy, who has learned how to imitate his “way of life” to the people of Corinth so they can learn how to imitate as well.

Another word we use in Christian circles is discipleship. 

Now let’s bring this full circle.  Sociologists say that what we say doesn’t matter as much as what we do. As parents and Christian adults in the church we have powerful influence over our kids and youth just by being present in their life. And our church “father” Paul has exampled for us that we should be telling our children to imitate us.

So my question is… are we worthy of being imitated?

I wish you could see how long I had to pause and sit and reflect on this question. I wish you would stop for a second and do the same.

Are our actions and reactions, our way of communicating and listening, our relationship with Christ and the church, worthy of being imitated by our children?

I’ve had some adults tell me that they don’t want children with the adults on Sunday morning because kids don’t get anything out of the sermon. But the sermon is only one very small part of church!  There is so much to imitate at that time. They are watching us.

In fact my husband pointed out this morning that in the early church, imitation was intricately woven into the traditions even more so at the time than the Bible. What we call the Bible today were letters from church leaders to the growing church back then. But the actions, thing like communion, the laying on of hands, baptism…all of these things were taught to and imitated by the church as a means of active participation in the faith.

So the bigger question is, if the children aren’t engaged with the service, why?  

What are they watching?  Are we engaged?  Or are we texting, tweeting, or posting?  Are we listening to the sermon, worshiping with the enthusiasm, praying at the altar?  Are we giving them something worthwhile to imitate?

At home, do we read the Bible and talk about the Lord? Do we pray? Do we serve? Do we worship?  Do we give them something to imitate that will sustain them when they are in need?

When we “walk along the road”, are we engaging with our world and our community? Do we pray for those in need?  Do we reach out physically and financially and do we do it in a way that our children can see? What are our reactions to the our neighbors, to the news, to disasters and to blessings?  What do we get excited about?  What do we get angry about?

All of these things matter.

All of these things are discipleship. All of these things will be imitated. We can say anything but our kids will copy what we do.

For, as Paul says later on, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be savedAnd you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1)

The reality is this: We are being imitated.

That is simply how this works. One generation to another.

The challenge is this: To be something worth imitating.

For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

What do YOU want to be when you grow up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This question gets asked of kids a lot!  I never really thought much about this question and subsequent answers until yesterday when a friend of mine posted a inquiring thought of his own.

It read, “I find it interesting that in America when we ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we’re looking for an occupation rather than a quality (i.e. honest, kind, loyal, etc.)”

Makes you think, right?  Even when our kids are little and they answer, they usually immediately offer up an occupation.  So I was curious, why is that? Why do we immediately assume our “what” is somehow connected to our “who”; our identity?

In his article, American Identity Crisis: Are You Your Job?, Joe Robinson points out that “It’s automatic for strangers at any American social setting — right after “nice to meet you” and within the first two minutes of conversation or your citizenship is revoked. “What do you do?” It’s a line that would be considered rude in many lands, but not here, where inquiring minds have to know: What’s your status and how much money are you making?

He goes on to say, “The answer could be “I like to bike” or some other expression of your real identity, but the instinctive response is to go with the very real-appearing but pseudo-identity, the job ID. In a rootless culture with no obvious class markers, the job defines the person and the pecking order. You are what you do.”

water-hose-942973_1920Yikes!  I don’t know about you, but that is certainly not the value or the identity I want myself or my children to have. But realistically, in America, that tends to be our focus. At a recent conference I attended, one of the speakers (Larry Osburne) pointed out that one of the “gods” we serve in America is the “god of potential.”

We see this especially in the areas of sports, academics, and extracurriculars.

Parents are told from the second their child is born about that child’s potential and how to maximize it. The best schools, the best sports teams, the best programs…making sure that their kids have the best chance to have the best future with the best experiences possible; to fully live up to their potential. Whether the goal is a sports scholarship, a cheer championship, highest academic honors or just plain winning at life, parents are willing to sacrifice A LOT to make sure their children can play ball, dance on stage, be in all the classes, attend all the functions and do all the things so they can succeed.

Is it any wonder then when we ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, they give us an occupation, rather than a characteristic?  

So what can we do in our homes and churches to help our children form a core identity that is other than what job they are going to do when they are older?

We can intentionally and repetitively remind them of WHO they are

One of my favorite questions to ask my kids is “Who are you?” to which they inevitably respond, “I am a child of God.” This question got asked at the beginning of every Kids Church at my last church and it found deep root in my children’s hearts.

We can do that for our kids too! And that doesn’t negate their uniqueness and abilities; we are children of God made with different gifts and callings, but we are children of God nonetheless. In the church, we can remind them of the great potential they have to do AMAZING things for God!  We can call out the gifts we see in them and we can find ways for them to use those gifts within the faith community as members of the congregation.

We can redefine the word WHAT for them

When they talk about what they want to be when they grow up, we can remind them of what we want most for them to be – kind, gracious, loving, brave, honorable, loyal, faithful, etc. We can talk about our ultimate calling to be God-followers, lovers of Him and others, and what that looks like as we interact with others.

One moment I think is great to help remind kids about these things is at night before bed. I have prayed the same prayer for each of my kids since they were born, based on what the meaning of their name is. My oldest will tell you that I pray for her to be a woman of noble character, my middle to be a woman of wisdom, and my son to be wholly devoted to God. The other night,my middle child put my son to bed for me – guess what prayer she prayed?  She asked that God would help him to grow into a man of wisdom; the same prayer she’s heard me pray for her for so many years. It’s become WHAT she is. 

We can reinforce WHOSE they are no matter where life takes them

Recently a story has been floating around Facebook of a parent who taught their child to text “X” if they needed their parents to pick them up from an uncomfortable situation. What really stood out to me wasn’t the story but the image that went with it. It was a picture of the phone and the text conversation went like this “Mom, can I go to so-and-so’s house tonight?”  “Sure! Remember WHO you are; remember WHOSE you are”  “Okay, thanks”….. “X”  Why do you think that “X” got texted to Mom?  Because they remembered whose they were.

And that’s on us, parents and Church, to consistently and loving remind our children that they belong to God, and that they belong to His body the Church, and that whose they are matters as much as who they are when it comes to self identity.

Jon Acuff points out in his talks to parents about social media that we simply cannot change the culture around us in terms of technology and, I would say in this case, identity. But what we can do is create and sustain a different culture in our home; one that reflects our values and our identity in Christ.

Let’s be intentional in helping our children find an answer to this question that is much bigger than just a job. Let’s help them discover who, what and whose they are in Christ!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Ducks!! Or, Why BIGGER isn’t always Better

We just got home from Disney World in Orlando, FL. We got to ride Soarin’, a ride that virtually lets you fly all over the world like a bird, three times!  We rode roller coasters, saw incredible shows, went on a safari and saw lions and giraffes and hippos and rhinos. We met princesses and hugged the Mouse himself. We ate amazing food and met amazing people from around the world.

But nothing, literally nothing, elicited more cries of delight from my youngest daughter and her brother than seeing… a duck. No, not Donald Duck. Just regular old, run-of-the-mill, ducks. The kind that hang out in the McDonalds parking lot and beg for your french fries.

duck-2090633_1920But, it wasn’t just my kids, not by a long shot. Every time we passed a family with children who happened to spot the same duck my kids had, I would hear, “Look Mom!! A duck!!!” or “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy… a duck!! Do you see it?”

The adult in me wanted to shake my head and say, “It’s a DUCK. Just a duck. Look around you. You’re at Disney!!  Who cares about a duck?

But, somewhere under that adult veneer, the child in me smiled and said, “Yeah, isn’t that cool? It’s a duck!

My point is…. often times in children’s ministry, we work really hard to deliver the over-the-top, biggest, brightest, most trendy experience because…well, that’s “Disney” right?

We buy super-expensive curriculum with all the latest gadgets and gizmos. We build huge sets that make kids go “Ooo” and “Ahh”. We play the best games and have the best activities and, at the end of the year when we have to report our numbers to the church, we want to say, “We had the biggest and the best!”

But, on a whim, I asked my kids, “What do you remember most about the different VBS’s you’ve gone to over the past few years?”  Guess what they answered. Didn’t hear a word about sets or themes or crafts or songs or even the incredibly cool curriculum. Nope, they told me about…the people. 

They remembered teachers and they remembered friends.

They remembered Mr. Adam and how welcoming he was when they came to a new church.

They remembered being with their friends and laughing together.

They remembered the older couple that greeted them outside one VBS every single morning.

They remembered being with us (Mom and Dad) at the Family VBS we attended.

They remembered all the people. 

So, maybe your kidmin or fammin budget doesn’t let you be BIG when it comes to your ministry experience. Maybe you can’t afford the newest and greatest thing or make the brightest and biggest sets.   Or maybe you can.  Regardless, here’s something I think we adults need to remember.

Don’t focus so much on the Disney that you forget about the ducks.

The kids see the ducks…and they love them.

The kids see the people…and they love them.

I’ve blogged so often about the importance of creating space for intergenerational relationships within the church community and finding ways to connect the generations in meaningful ways. This is why.

Because all the glitz and glamor in the world cannot replace the simple love of one person for another. The people are what really matter.

Creating space for children to experience the connection to a caring adults and to like-minded peers will have much longer lasting and farther reaching effects than any stage, set, story or song could ever have.

So whether your kidmin experience rivals Disney World or not, remember…the kids you are reaching, really, really, really like ducks. Create the experience but focus on the people.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

When a Kidmin Goes to Disney

For those of you that follow me, you know that I’m pretty good about putting out a post every few days, so you may have been wondering what happened this week. Well, this week, thanks to my wonderful in-laws, my family and I are in the bubble that is Walt Disney World in Florida where we are spending our days laughing, eating, riding rides, eating, walking, eating, standing in lines, eating and enjoying each others company (often while eating).

Being in ministry, I couldn’t help but see my time there through that lens and as impressive as the rides, the resort, and the restaurants were, what really stuck out to me was the environment that Disney has striven to create no matter where you are on the property.  From the moment we walked into the hotel and were told “Welcome Home!” to the moment my in-laws stepped off the plane and onto their  “Magical Express” bus, we were in a different place.. a magical place called Disney World.

Disney is marketing to an audience.  It is important to them that we feel like it is worth our time and money to spend both there so they have done a good job at finding out what people want.

And here is the formula I am seeing play out over our week in Florida.

1. Families WANT to spend time TOGETHER

Whether you are there with one person or one hundred, Disney wants to make sure familydisneyyou get to spend your time there with the people you love the most.  They provide services like “rider swap” and family dining plans and photographers to take family pictures (for free on your own device if you ask them) and family-friendly shows, rides, and parades that appeal to every age group.

There is no need to separate.  They have made it possible to stay together, to experience “the magic” together, because… they have realized that families want to be together.

Often in churches, we do just the opposite.  We pull families in many different directions during our service hours or throughout the weeks and months with age and gender specific events.  We don’t strive to find ways to help families experience Christ together; rather we focus on the individual needs and age-segregated activities that actually keep families apart.

Walt Disney figured it out years ago when he said, “There needs to be something built where the parents and the children can have fun, together.”  And so he created that place.  Imagine what could happen if we created spaces in church where children and parents could grow in their faith, together.

2. Everyone is on the SAME page.

Since this was our first visit to Disney, we found ourselves having to ask a lot of questions.  A Disney “cast member” was never far from our line of sight and every time we asked a question, they had an answer.  Every. single. time. It was rather uncanny.  The whole staff was aware, involved, and immersed in the culture of Disney.  We talked to everyone from popcorn vendors to street sweepers with the same result.  And nearly everyone ended the conversation by saying, “Have a magical day!”

So imagine with me what that would look like at church.  A new family comes to visit.  They are lost and need to ask a question.  They grab the nearest person to them and not only does that person know the answer, they carry with them the vision of the church in how they respond.

Before leading the visitors to the answer, they cheerfully welcome them.  They provide knowledgeable responses and send them off with a blessing. 

I would want to go back to that church because I would feel truly wanted there, just like we did at Disney.

3. There is always a reason to CELEBRATE!

As we checked in to dinner yesterday, we were asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday. Since my brother-in-law was, we of course said YES (much to his joy). ,  At one point, the whole restaurant was invited to sing “Happy Birthday” to him as he enjoyed his delicious and frankly humongous birthday cupcake.

Around me I could see other pins celebrating everything from family reunions and anniversaries to engagements and honeymoons.  Again, very focused on family and again, very cheerful and welcoming.

I am a huge fan of celebrating.  I feel as though we don’t do nearly enough of it, especially in church.  Of all people, we should be the most celebratory of all. Celebration and recognition can be as small as a pin and a greeting, but it can create an atmosphere of joy and excitement.

What if we intentionally celebrated every baptism, every marriage, every birth, every salvation, every moment of spiritual growth?  What would that teach our kids about what’s important?  What kind of atmosphere would it create in our churches?  There is so much worth celebrating.. and we should!

These are just a few of the many things I am seeing during our trip that I want to add to my ministry experience.

If families want to spend time together, I want to make sure that we are providing the kinds of faith-building times they need to grow in their faith together.

If someone new comes to our church, I want to make sure that my volunteers are ready to greet them with our vision and excitement and leave those people feeling blessed and welcomed.

If I know of something worth celebrating, I want to make sure we celebrate it at every turn with great joy and intentionality.

As for the eating… I’m just gonna have to leave that in Disney’s capable hands.

(This is an updated article from a post first shared when we went to Disney in February 2015. You can read the original 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 church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

The GREATEST Blog Post of ALL TIME! Click here to Find out WHY!

Sensationalism.   You gotta love it right?  

Today I got to see “Six Life-Saving Coin Hacks!” which consisted of using a quarter as a screwdriver and as a means to secure one’s skirt while riding a bike. Thank goodness, my life is saved.  I also was informed that the recipe for cheese-stuffed something or other was, and I quote, “all that was right in the world.” Which was very helpful since I was wondering exactly what all was right in the world.

These ridiculous claims reminded me of a time when my oldest was much younger. Her dad had gone downstairs to use the treadmill and told her not to interrupt his run unless it was very, very important. About 10 minutes in, she came running down the steps, phone in hand, a look of urgency on her face, yelling up a storm. Quickly, he stopped the treadmill only to hear her say, “It’s really, really important Daddy! We may have won a CRUISE!”

Whenever I see these hyped up ads (or fake news stories, as the case may be), I can’t help but shake my head and think, “What are these people thinking?”

And then…then I see the number of likes, shares, clicks and reactions, often numbering in the thousands. Thousands of people read an article that claimed to contain “THE” newly-discovered and unbelievably easy path to permanent weight loss. Thousands reacted to and “clicked Next to find out” what caused that unbelievable sore on a person’s cheek.

So, what are these people thinking?  They are thinking that sensationalism works. That for some reason we are drawn to these ridiculous claims and unbelievable manipulation like a moth to a flame.  And they are right.  Even the New York Times had an article about it this morning (and I was writing mine before they wrote theirs 😉 ).

Now the bigger questions is “Why?”  Why does this work?

I truly think the answer is that it’s simply because we were created by God to believe. We were gifted by our Creator with an imagination, the desire to dream, the gift of faith and innately, deep inside all of us, is the compulsion to believe. The Catholic Church, in their catechism, puts it this way: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.

We were made to experience more…so we look for it!  

And children, bless their hearts, live for it!  

mermaids-1905598_1920Watch a child play. Listen to their stories. Tell them they may have won a cruise or mermaids live around the corner. They are full-fledged bought in to life! And their spirits soar when they learn a new thing or experience a new reality.

But we get older, and we “know better”, and our spirits soar less often. I saw an illusionist recently who put it this way: “I used to do shows and people would say ‘Wow!’; now people just grab their phones and say ‘How?'” Our imagination is jaded. Our belief is held at bay. But somewhere, deep inside of us, we still wonder…and that is why thousands click on sensational links…because they are still looking for more.

Is it any wonder than that Jesus, when asked about the kingdom of God, says this:

Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me. – Mt. 18:3-5

And here’s the thing – the kicker – WE HAVE THE TRUTH!

It’s not sensationalism. It is reality. We have the most incredible, most amazing, most outstanding truth, that is beyond our wildest imaginations and deepest dreams, that is without depth and without end….and we couch it in dry lessons and boring devotions and wonder why our children can’t / don’t engage (and why it’s a pretty common thing to see adults nodding off in church on Sunday morning).

Honestly, we need to just proclaim it. Talk about it. Magnify (make bigger) the Lord! Talk about it when we sit and home and when we walk along the road, when we lay down and when we rise. We need to sit under stars and dream about our great big God. We need to let the Scriptures well up inside of us and share them with each other is all forms of songs, hymns, and spiritual songs, making music in our hearts, worshiping our unfathomable Creator.

Like David, we need to say:

I’m ready, God, so ready; ready from head to toe, Ready to sing, ready to raise a tune:  “Wake up, soul! Wake up, harp! Wake up, lute! Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!” I’m thanking you, God, out loud in the streets,  singing your praises in town and country.  The deeper your love, the higher it goes; every cloud is a flag to your faithfulness. (Ps. 57:7-10, MSG)

Because, all sensationalism aside, we really do have the life-saving truth that truly is all that is right in 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

Summer’s Dilemma: Church or Family?

Last day of school!!!

Ours is Friday; I bet yours is soon or you’ve already had it.  The official start to summer is here.  Summer vacation means sleeping in, sunny days, water sports, sandy beaches, campfires, parades, and plenty of time with family and friends.

It also means that church attendance in the United States plummets.

Like seriously takes a nosedive.  Attendance becomes sporadic and spotty.  When school lets out for the summer, it seems like church does too.  The response of the church has been to cut programming (no Wednesday nights for the summer anyone?) and plan “fun events” like picnics and Vacation Bible School.

As a parent, I get it.  All year long our calendar is held captive by the school calendar that informs when we can go away and for how long.  Seeing extended family is difficult when you have two days to travel.  And spending quality time together can suffer.  So planning vacations and day trips during the summer months makes sense.

As a minister, I’ve dreaded it.  It’s hard.  You develop relationships with kids and you have really cool things going like small groups and prayer teams and discipleship, and then, you don’t see them but off and on for weeks.  And then there is Vacation Bible School; don’t even get me started on that.  The sheer amount of time and effort that is put into pulling off a “successful” VBS event takes all the energy you have, so the regular programming starts to suffer.

I’ve seen so many posts recently from children’s pastors around the country utterly discouraged by this attendance reality and frustrated and what seems like a lack of commitment and concern.  On the other hand, I’ve seen equally as many posts from parents excited about the cool things they have planned this summer to do as a family and the memories they are looking forward to making.

So who’s right?  What’s more important?  Family or church?

And therein, I believe, lies the problem.  Because of the “way” we do church (Sunday morning, Wednesday night and/or separate ministries for the family members), if someone misses one of these times, it leaves a gap; a sizable gap.  But families who want to spend these summer months together don’t want to come to a place where once again they are separated and unable to be with each other. So it becomes a choice – do I want to be with my family OR do I want to go to church?

Ugh.  Those choices kinda stink.

What ends up happening then is that when the opportunity arises by default of the summer school schedule to spend that quantity of quality time together, the choice becomes clear –family.  And when the default schedule makes finding that quantity of quality time together more difficult – church.

choosefamily

(Hemera Technologies/Getty Images)

But I don’t think either of those reflect God’s heart for family or for church.

In fact, I think that it creates a tension where the two are opposed to each other rather than being in partnership with one another.  Where there should be mutual edification, there is instead unhealthy competition.

And let me be clear, this also takes place with sports, especially travel ball, and academics, especially academic teams, and friends, especially non-churchgoing friends.

And I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this.

Church isn’t supposed to be a building or a program or a set time in the week.  And family isn’t supposed to be vacations and softball games and straight As on report cards. 

Those things might be a part of what church and family are, but they are not supposed to define them.

The Bible is clear that what brings us together isn’t things and it isn’t programs and it isn’t activities.  What unites us is the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:17) and what holds us together is love (John 14:34-35). We are not supposed to make a habit of skipping out on our times of meeting with other believers, but we are supposed to be encouraging on another all the more (Heb. 10:25).  We (ministers explicitly) are also encouraged to ensure our homes are in order before taking care of the church and to love, honor, respect, and obey within our families (I Tim. 3:5).

It sounds to me like “church” looks less like meeting on Sunday and more like being in relationship with one another in and outside of a building and all week long, not just on Sunday.

It also looks like we are committed to one another in love and service so we strive to be together and not make a habit of letting things come between us, even good things and fun things and “family” things.

Ultimately I think it means we adopt of philosophy of “church” that is less about “ME” and more about “WE” – that we view the decisions we make not out of a cost-benefit analysis about what works best for us, but rather from a Kingdom mindset of what is best for Him.  Sometimes, this may mean you take your family on vacation.  Sometimes, it may mean you skip a game.  Sometimes it may mean that you meet outside of a building or on a different night.  Sometimes it may mean you cancel a program.

But IF it is about the kingdom of God and not about what works best with our schedules or our plans, it will bear fruitIt will grow God’s kingdom in our families, our churches and our communities.

It won’t send a message that “church” is a choice that we can take or leave but that “church” is a life we choose to live in relationship with others.  And it won’t send a message that family is somehow less spiritual or less important but that family is an extension of the church in the broader community and in the home.

It’s not supposed to be a competition.

And whether we’ve made it that or the pace of modern world has made it that, I think it’s up to us, each and every one, to step back and see if we’ve adopted that mindset in any way.  Families, are you being the church in loving relationships, committed to the “WE” of God’s kingdom in the choices you make?  Ministers, are you supporting the family in partnering relationship, committed to the “WE” of God’s kingdom in the ministry you serve?

It can’t be about one or the other.  It has to be about ONE and no other.

“Be very careful then how you live – not as unwise, but as wise…understand what the Lord’s will is.” Eph 5:15,17

This article was first published on ReFocus, May 28, 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

Discipleship When the World Revolves Around You

I got an email this morning from a missionary in India. He asked for prayer for some pastors going to share the gospel in some “radicalized” villages because the last time they went, 12 people were injured when they shared.

So, of course, they are going back.

self-confidence-2076792_1920I got this email as I was on my computer, looking at Amazon. Not just any Amazon, MY Amazon. My Amazon looks different from your Amazon. Mine is filled with things that I am interested in, things that I have considered buying or my kids have considered buying. I got to this webpage via MY Google homepage where I logged into MY Google account which was customized with MY calendar and MY web searches. And, of course, MY Netflix was on in the background with a show list customized just for…you guessed it…ME.

It’s a very comfortable space, this hyper-individualized world of mine.

And it seems like every time I turn around, someone else is willing to make my life even more comfortable, with more options to make everything just the way I want it.

It is into this American world of hyper-individualization that we are faced with the task of sharing the gospel, making disciples, and raising up the next generation.

So, we hyper-individualize our gospel. “What works for you?” we ask. “How can we make you comfortable?” we inquire.

And, to an extent, that is fine. That’s the vernacular of the day. That’s how we can be heard.

But sometimes I think this hyper-individualized approach is more about US than it is about spreading the gospel. It’s about making sure WE stay comfortable and our life doesn’t get rocked too much.

If we are honest, we like Amazon Church and Netflix sermons. We kinda enjoy when our seats are comfy and the surroundings are familiar.

And the world of creating community? Well, that’s not always so comfortable. The task of reaching multiple generations?  Not that simple. The intentionality of raising disciples? That takes work..and commitment…and a breakdown of individualism.

We have to walk into a space and not see US written all over the people who are there and in the songs that are sung and in the words that are spoken. In fact, we shouldn’t really see ourselves at all. We should see the Body of Christ. We should see Jesus.

And that is why those missionaries are going back. Back to a place that is more uncomfortable that most of us will ever realize. Back to rejection. Back to a situation that brings more risk than comfort, more pain than promise. Because they see the Body of Christ in those villages; people who have yet to know that they are loved by God and called to be part of His kingdom.

Let’s help our kids push the barriers a bit, friends. Their whole life will be built for comfort. Everything will literally revolve around them. It will be for us to push them outside the comfort zone and into the action. To challenge them to serve others. To seek to build God’s kingdom before their own. To break out of the hyper-individualized world they live in and lay down their life for others.

And guess how we help them?

We break out ourselves. We can’t change the fact that this American world will try to cater to our every whim and surround us with comfort. We can make the choice to do uncomfortable things; to talk to more people, to serve in our free time, to give up our creature comforts in order to reach the next generation for Christ. To be less about us, and more about Him.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Phil 2:1-4, 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

Three Ways to Disciple through Endings

Endings are hard.

mural-1347673_1920Today, my sweet church family blessed me with cards, gifts, hugs (so many wonderful hugs) and prayer. Next Sunday, I will say good-bye to the kids and families of my current church as my family begins the new adventure of church planting. It will also be Mother’s Day, a day already burgeoning with emotion. So, I’ve found myself reflecting on the idea of endings and wondering how I could, as both minister and mom, invite Christ into this space and use it for intentional discipleship, not my for my own children, but for those I’ve come to love as “mine” in ministry.

I was drawn to some “endings” in the Bible that I think can be helpful for us as we face a life that is always full of endings and beginnings and as we help our children grow their faith through each fresh experience.

Give Them A Next Thing

Acts 1:9-11   After He had said this, they watched as He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.

I love imagining this scene. It’s almost humorous if you think about it how it could have looked. A bunch of people staring up at the sky and then two guys show up and say, “Um, guys, what are you looking at?”  It seems like in good-byes, our tendency is to stare gazing, torn between remembering and uncertainty about what to do next.

For my kids, I’ve found a good way to help them through these moments is to, as Christ did, give them a next thing. He told them to go to Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Spirit. When we moved, I set my kids up with pen pals in the new neighborhood. Before we moved to Kentucky and left our last church in Pennsylvania, I gave each child 12 stamped envelopes with our new address on them that they handed out to friends so they could get letters for the next year.

Relationships are key to both maturity and discipleship, so finding ways to help children develop new ones and honor previous ones can be a healthy way to help them grow through endings.

Discipleship Moment: Help your children see “the next thing”  If the ending is a goodbye until eternity, read about heaven together. If you are moving to a new place, explore together, even virtually before you move, and get excited about some things you can do together. If changing job, talk about what the new job looks like and list some happy things that will happen because of it. Give them a tomorrow and let them know that you and God are in it. 

The End is Not the End

I Thessalonians 5:23-28   Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this. Brothers and sisters, pray for us too. Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. I call on you solemnly in the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

These were some of Paul’s last “words” to the church and what a beautiful way to say “goodbye.”  He invites ongoing growth and conversation. Rather than focusing on the goodbye, Paul focuses on the continuing work of Christ in the church.

As we face endings in life, it’s important to realize the things that are not ending. The relationships built in Christ, the lessons learned, the bonds created, don’t stop because other things end. It’s important for children to understand that God is always with them and never changing, even if things around them look different or people come and go.

Discipleship Moment:  Take some time and list with your kids all the times they (and you) knew that God was with them. Be specific and tell stories together. Give each child a copy of the list and remind them that God will always be with us, no matter what, and if they start to wonder or forget, they can pull out that list and remember the stories of His faithfulness. There are some wonderful Bible verses about His faithfulness that would be nice to add to the list. 

Okay to Move On, Good To Remember

Joshua 4:5-7  And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

I have always loved this because it tells us two things: It’s okay to move on and it’s good to remember. Joshua uses these stones to basically say, “We are crossing here and leaving one life behind, but that life is part of our story and we are going to not only remember it, but we are going to talk about it with our children.”  While there may be an “ending” it doesn’t mean that we leave behind all that time in our life meant to us.

Discipleship Moment:  Why not actually create memorial stones? Together as a family, grab some sharpies and some river rock (I buy mine at Dollar Tree) and write down the special things about the ending you are about to journey through. Find a decorative vase or bowl to place the stones in and as a family, pray together about the past you are saying good-bye to and the future you are about to embrace. And when people ask about your vase of stones, tell them that God brought you through a Jordan river and these are your memorial stones forever. 

Every ending and every beginning is unique, but God is with us in each one. No matter what endings you are facing, as a family or as a minister, seek to find the ways to show the next generation God’s faithfulness and grace in each one. Because our story is never ending.

“Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”― C.S. LewisThe Last Battle


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