What Happens When You Replace Pews with Coloring Tables?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Is Your Family Ministry a Success?

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

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

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

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

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

What is “Great”?

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

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

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

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

Are people growing closer to Jesus?

Are children being discipled in the faith?

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

Are generations connecting with each other?

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

Jim Collins puts it this way:

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

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

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

Let Him be your litmus test.

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Seven Family Ministry Ideas for Kids Who Come Alone

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

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

alone-1869914_1920

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

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

Welcoming” Families (or families that will welcome)

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

Talk about Home

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

Invite the family 

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

Give him/her a place

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

Know their name

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

Appreciate WHO they are

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

Host Cross-Generational Events

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Guest Blog: Church Planting and Evangelism in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Count the Sheep; Count the Shepherds

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

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

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

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

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

Follow the Gold Veins

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

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

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

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

Get to Know the Missionaries

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

Learn from the missionaries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They learned about the devastation caused by drugs and alcohol.

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

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

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

And all I could think was,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Fidget Spinner Theology: It’s not that simple

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

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

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

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

Well, herein lies the danger and the tension.

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

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

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

But, it’s not.

It is teaching theology.
It is interpreting Scripture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

“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.


mother-937038_1920

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

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

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