A Hard Week in Kidmin

“It’s been a hard week.”

What does that mean?

This week, I’ve seen many posts from my children’s and family pastor friends that start out with “It was a hard day…”  What constitutes “hard” may be different for each one but, nonetheless, a shared experience. What makes their “hard” day different from other hard days is that most of the time what is hard impacts the heart, not the body. It weighs on the soul, not the schedule. It pulls at their very core, not just their calendar.

On a weekly basis, people who work with children and youth, whether in ministry or in another field, face the realities of such things as neglect, abuse, and isolation. We see children who are broken before they even have a chance to grow. Spirits that are crushed before they even have a chance to soar.

We hear them repeat words they’ve heard about themselves and their self worth and our hearts break.

We see them lash out in anger and act in self-defense, mirroring the behaviors they see modeled for them by adults around them.

We hear them lament that they can’t see their parents, who are in jail, or are scared to see their parents, who are at home.

We hold them as they cry. We try to speak words of life and love to counteract the words of death and hate.

And sometimes, it’s not the big things.

Sometimes it’s the little girl terrified of not doing well on her standardized test, somehow not measuring up to some standard that has been imposed on her to receive funding for her school.

It’s the little boy who is heartbroken that he didn’t make the team or get to play or hit the ball. It’s the pre-teen who is convinced she’ll never be pretty enough or smart enough to fit in at middle school or the teenage guy who hides in video games because he’s not into sports and that’s all the other guys his age want to talk about.

And most of us, we have families of our own, children of our own who carry their own struggles. And our heart widens to hold not only their burdens, but also the ones of the children we serve.  We even call them “our kids.”

Because it’s who we are.

It’s how God made us. It’s written in our hearts. 

That is why when we see a victory, we shout it from the rooftops. That is why when a child says a prayer, takes a step, shows some growth, gives a hug, smiles for real, trusts a volunteer, comes to church, sings a song, chooses life…we rejoice.

blur-1867402_1920We may seem overly emotional to some. Others may not understand why the little victories seem so big and important to us.

But it’s because those little victories mean that we are making a small difference for that child.

We are showing them the other side of life; the side of joy and peace and hope and love. The side of life that offers them a future and a hope. That gives each child meaning and purpose and a name. 

We do that, every day, not just on Sunday. We do that with every prayer, every hug, every program we plan, every service we hold. It’s not just something we put off and clock out of at the end of the day. It is who we are.

So, if you hear a youth pastor, children’s minister, family pastor, or minister say that it’s been a hard day, pray for them. Pray for the children. Pray for the families. And if you, your children and/or your family have been ministered to by anything they’ve done, a program they sponsored, a lesson they taught, a story they shared, a resource they offered…anything at all….let them know. It will mean more to them than you could possibly imagine.

Fellow ministers, He knows. He holds all the burdens. He offers life. He knows what the hard days mean. He knows how to carry our pain. I’m praying for and with you.


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

Do You Even Know Me?

Our family was invited to a small community breakfast today with our neighborhood. As we were getting ready to leave, both my oldest and my youngest child asked me the same question: “Will there be anyone there that I know?

What they were really asking was, “Will there be anyone there that knows me?”  They didn’t want to go somewhere where they’d be a stranger, where they’d be unknown. For the one, it’s because she is an authentic introvert, and being around people who don’t know her is hard work. For the other, a full-blown extrovert, it was because he wanted to know that there’d be people to play with and fun to be had. But the motivation was the same.

They wanted to be known. 

homeless-844215_1920This innate desire to be known is within all of us, young or old. In fact, this desire is a big factor into whether or not someone chooses to attend a church. According to Thom Rainer, 49% of people choose a church because they have friends or family in the congregation. Multiple studies outline the importance of calling people by their name when welcoming them into a classroom or… a church.

So, the big question…in a society where about half of the citizenry doesn’t attend church, how do we create a space where people can feel known? Where children experience community? Where the choice to stay is easier than the choice to leave?

I really do think it needs to be more than just opening our doors and saying, “You’re welcome here.” Lifeway Research found that 63% of Americans say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.

But first we have to be that friend and neighbor.

We have to be the church outside of the church. We need to learn names and build community long before we issue invitations and hold programs.

When missionaries go into a foreign country to plant a church, the first thing on their agenda isn’t to invite people to their church. The first thing they do is get to know the people, the culture, the community into which they will be speaking and sharing. They begin friendships. They work with others. They become part of the community.  Then when the invitation is issued, it’s not from a place of duty but of genuine desire to see their friends come to know the love of God.

The church goes before the people come.

Friendships bloom before faith blossoms.

Community is created before congregations grow. 

Jesus models this for us with his ministry. Eating with anyone who would eat with him (like tax collectors and Pharisees, drunkards and prostitutes). Talking to people (like the woman at the well). Knowing who they are (like Nathaniel). Learning their names (like Zaccheus).  Before these people believed in Jesus, He let them know that they belonged with Him.

One of my favorite Scriptures ever is “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). God KNOWS us, truly and fully. We are fully known by Him. And that’s part of how we know we are loved. 

We have that comfort to bring to others. When we truly “see” people, when we truly “hear” children, we bring them closer to the love of Christ for them, the One who knows them fully and loves them wholly.

Church happens long before people “come” to church. It happens at the bus stop, the baseball game, the playground, the gymnastics meet, the walk around the neighborhood, the grocery store.

It starts to happen when we learn someone’s name.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

 

What Does It Mean to “Welcome” a Child?

What does it mean to “welcome” a child?

Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was in the house, He asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had been arguing with each other which of them was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.” Then He had a little child stand among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me, but the One who sent Me.”       Mark 9:33-36

As someone who works with children, I cannot read this passage of Scripture without getting goosebumps.   Honestly, I feel as though I could write endlessly about this beautiful picture of Jesus’ ministry to all ages, but I want to focus on one word in particular: Welcome.

What is welcome?

There has been much written about this word, but I want to share an experience I recently had. A friend texted me; she needed to talk. I opened my home and invited her to lunch. We had a wonderful time together, but at one point she made a comment that it “really felt like” I wanted her there. I asked what she meant and she shared, “You didn’t just open the door and let me in. You cleaned your house, turned on music, lit a candle, set the table, made and served me lunch and dessert, listened when I shared and truly welcomed me into your home.”

To her, there was a difference between me making space for her and me welcoming her.

child-2054256_1920I see that in this “Jesus story” too. I see Him take a child, and have this child stand among the people gathered in the home, and then, very intentionally, take the child in his arms. And after that very intentional moment He says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name, welcomes Me…” (If I were a Psalmist, there would be a “Selah” after that).  

Think about that! Jesus modeled for us something very important. When we talk about welcoming a child, it’s not about just making room for them to be present.

It’s not about just making space.

It’s not even about making sure that there are enough volunteers for the nursery, teachers for the Sunday school, crafts for each attendee, and activity packets for each worship service.

No, Christ’s welcome went beyond that.

It wrapped that child in His very arms.

It said, “You are not only allowed to be here, you are WANTED here!”

It said, “You are not merely present in this space, you are embraced in this space.”

As we consider children in the context of the church and the larger faith community, it would be wise for us to reflect on this moment. We can say, “Children are welcome here” with our words and we can have all the right things in place. We can open the door and say, “Come on in!” But if we don’t combine that with a culture that says “You belong here”, a message of grace and honor, our welcome may fall flat.

It has to be more than just making space for their presence. It needs to be a felt welcome, an embrace.

And what happens if we do that, and by we, I mean all of us – parents, leaders, lay people, seniors, teens, all of us? I mean, just listen to Jesus’ words!! “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me, but the One who sent Me.” We not only welcome that child, we welcome Christ himself and the Father who sent Him. We welcome God!

If your church is looking for some ways to help welcome children more fully into the midst of your congregation, here are some ideas of where to start.

1. Welcome the kids, every week, by name – This may sound redundant, but there is much to be said for a personal greeting from a friendly face and welcome to the service

2. Engage the kids in worship– Kids love to be a part of something.  Give them the opportunity to help lead worship, hand out bulletins, take up the offering, participate in communion, help with the sound/lights, read Scripture, share a testimony – anything that let’s them know they are a vital part of the congregation.

3. Reaffirm your covenant– When children are baptized or dedicated in churches, often the church will recite or affirm a covenant with them to walk with them as a community of faith.  Every now and then, let the kids hear you re-affirm that out loud and with your actions.

4. Engage the congregation– If having kids in service is new to your church, give the congregation fair warning, provide a time for them to meet the kids (put faces with names and parents with kids) and encourage a time of fellowship for all before adding the kids to the service.  Some churches start with once and month and grow from there.

5. Give kids a voice– You’d be surprised how much we can learn from children but often we still follow the “Kids should be seen and not heard” rule. Give kids an avenue to share what God is speaking to them by affirming to them that they can and do hear from God and giving them a space to share that.  A bulletin board where they can hang a picture they drew in service or a note they wrote about what they learned can create a space where the whole church can hear and affirm their hearts for God.

(List adapted from Practical Ways to Welcome Kids to Church posted here. This article first appeared at d6family.com on 4.4.17)


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

One Word We Get Wrong In Family Ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is our response?

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

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

These things are. They simply are.

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Lone Ranger Kidmin?

I think this is something I hear more than anything else when I talk to weary children’s ministers and family pastors and youth directors: “I feel so alone.”  It’s an awful feeling, right?  There is nothing to compare it to. Everything feels like an upward battle. You feel exposed and weak and there’s no safety or place to find rest.

Yesterday at CM Conference 2017 by CMConnect, Heidi Hensley told us why.  Simply put she said, “We are designed to be with one another. We aren’t designed to be around each other. We are designed to be in community with one another.”

alone-1869997_1920God made us to be with others. He made others to be with us.

So when we are alone or feel alone, it is an awful feeling, because we were made for more.  I spoke to Heidi ahead of time and asked her what she wanted people to walk away with from the time with and she responded, “A stronger desire and understanding for the need for community and connection with one another.”  That’s exactly what happened. I’m going to just let you read my notes because what she shares from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 shows us just how we were designed to work, live, grow and thrive with one another.

When you are at work

“Two are better than one because they have a better return for their labor” Ecc. 4:9

Whenever we work together, we reap the benefits of the labor together. We realize that it’s not about it. When we work alone, it’s easy to identify “I did that” but when “we” do that, it’s about God.

When we fall down

“If either of them falls down, the other can help the other up. But pity anyone who fails and has no one to help them up.” Ecc. 4:10

Pay attention to your warning lights. More importantly, pay attention to who sees your warning lights going off and that you are close enough to listen to if they point it out? You need people in your life who know your weak spots and see your warning lights going off.

When you get cold

“Also if two lie down together they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” Ecc. 4:11

How can we stay on fire for God without people in our circle who are keeping us warm? And how can those around us stay on fire if we are silent? Look around the “playground” and see who is falling and who is hurt. Look around your church and the churches around you and see who needs encouragement.

When you go to battle

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves” Ecc 4:12a

Sometimes when you think you about to land, a crash landing is coming. When soldiers get in formation for battle, they literally cover each other’s back. They don’t turn around. Their faces are out and weapons we ready. They absolutely trust one another and believe they are being looked out for from the other. We shouldn’t have to turn around and ask to be covered; that should be what is happening. We need to surround ourselves with prayer warriors, accountability partners, and trusted friends.

“A cord of three strands is not easily broken” Ecc. 4:12b

Where do we find relationships like this? When we get close to Jesus, we get close to people. And the closer we get to Jesus, the closer we are able to get to other people.

This isn’t a to-do list.

Heidi was quick to tell us that she wasn’t telling us to run out the doors and set up an accountability group or a secret Facebook page for trusted friends or any number of things. She challenged us to do what this quote says: “I went out to find a friend, and they were nowhere. I went out to be a friend, and they were everywhere.”

There’s a real reason why lone ranger kidmin doesn’t work.

Because we, the people doing the ministry, need each other. We need teams and we need a community. We were never meant to go it alone. How can we help each other find that safe place, where backs are covered, and trust is implicit?  I’d love to know your thoughts!!

P.S. Parents weren’t supposed to go it alone either! Parents are called to pass on our faith at home in the midst of a faith community who joined us in our discipleship and supported us in our work of faith formation. It’s an US not a THEM when it comes to discipleship in the home. Click here for more on 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 family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

“No One Is Listening” and other Millennial Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Sometimes, Church is Confusing

The more I’ve worked in the “church world,” the more aware I have become that this whole “raising up the next generation” and “growing the Kingdom of God” thing is really a team effort. And by team effort, I mean, it involves all. the .people…not just the ones who get paid or do a specific job or raise the children.

Recently, I had a parent share with me one of their struggles with raising their kids in the faith. It wasn’t that they had a hard time talking to their kids about God or the Bible or even the tough issues of the day. It wasn’t that their church didn’t have a good ministry to kids and youth or that they felt left out of what was happening there. It wasn’t even that they were too busy or they were too tired or they were too ill-equipped.

Their struggle was simply this – there’s too much going on.

The church they attend is what we tend to refer to as “siloed.”  The children go one place on Sunday morning, the youth another, and the adults another. The children have one lesson, the youth have another, and the adults another. The children have their group of friends, the youth have theirs and the adults have theirs. A ne’er the two shall meet…at least within the church context.

mistake-1966448_1920So besides all the separate events, lessons, and friendship, there is also the struggle of trying to have a unified conversation. Because in their youngest child’s eyes, the children’s pastor is her pastor. Their teen sees the youth pastor as his pastor and, of course, the parents see the senior pastor as their pastor. It is…confusing.

They all go to the same church, but in a very real sense, they go to three separate churches. 

Now, this isn’t a post to discuss the pros and cons of this approach (although I’d be happy to hash that out at some other time), rather this is a wake-up call for those of us who serve in ministry to consider – what message are we giving to families?

And by that I mean, do we work as a team to keep one vision, one mission, and one message in front of families so that they can unite around one faith community and join in one mission?

Or do we tend to focus on our own area, making sure that we take care of our “congregants” and our curriculum/sermon (totally looking at myself now too!)?

I know there are some churches out there that do this fabulously! But some of us struggle with this disconnect. It’s not that the staff doesn’t want to work together; it’s that most of our materials, trainings, and curriculum are set-up on a way that leads to a division rather than a coming together.

So what can we do?

  1. Be Intentional about being a TEAM  – Talk to one another about what each area is doing and find ways to connect with the others. Go serve in one another’s “spaces”. Learn each other’s “language” and find ways to have a common message or voice.
  2. Be Intentional about being ONE church – Even if your church expresses itself in multiple ways, seek to create a single mission/vision that the church can built itself around. Use that singularity to help fuel all the expressions.
  3. Be Intentional about holding ONE conversation – There are a lot of ways to do this. Curriculum like D6 2Gen and Group’s Faithweavers that have the whole church look at one Scripture. Create units based around certain themes or Scriptures that the whole church walks through together. Offer special Bible study or small groups through the year that the church does together.
  4. Be Intentional about learning TOGETHER – So many training opportunities and conferences are built around specialty areas and not applicable to the whole team. That’s one reason I love D6 Conference. It’s for the WHOLE team. There’s something for everyone and more importantly, something for the group as a whole, to learn together and vision together.* Find ways to grow together so that vision gets instilled across the entire team.

As much as I love children and family ministry (and I do!), I am realizing more and more that if we are going to effectively raise the next generation in the faith and grow the kingdom of God, we are going to have to strive to create a space that emphasizes community on mission together, with one heart, one vision, one conversation that continues throughout the week, at home, at school, and at church.

*If you are considering finding a way for your team to grow today, I highly recommend D6 Conference. Check it out and let me know if you have any questions. If you decide to attend (yay!), when you register, use the code “RefocusD6” to receive $20 off each registration. And…I’ll see you there!!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

 

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

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

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

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

Does going to church as a family even matter?

Yes. Yes. Yes!  A thousand times…Yes!

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

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

The parents were never supposed to do it alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

They Disagree. But They Still Love Each Other.

Sometimes in the Embree house we have debates. No, that’s not code for “fights.”  It actually is debates. We even time them. Two minutes to make your case, 30 seconds to question, 30 seconds to defend and then switch sides. Each participant gets a 1 minute conclusion.  So, see…actual debates.

I know that sounds a little strange, but hear me out. Somehow, in our home, we have managed to raise two beautiful, strong, intelligent daughters of two very different political persuasions. Now, I’m not sure they realize they have “political persuasions”. I think they just think they have opinions about how life should go. But as parents, we sometimes chuckle when our conservative daughter makes a comment and our more left-leaning daughter gets all fired up.  We’ve debated everything from government subsidies for small-town grocery stores to whether or not education is a fundamental right or a limited privilege. It’s quite interesting to hear their takes on things, without our input.

So, why do we do this?  

Is there a greater purpose being fulfilled by this seemingly academic activity?

We think so and we think it’s something that is vitally important for our children, for us, for all of us to understand.

My girls often disagree. They don’t see the world the same way. They’ve been raised in the same home, with the same parents, and the same life experiences. But, for whatever reason, they have formed unique ways of seeing the world that often clash with the other.

My girls often agree. They both love Jesus. They both love family. They both love chocolate, The Flash, and goofing off when they are supposed to be doing the dishes. And, most importantly, they both love each other.

They disagree. But they still love each other. 

Friends, we are at a time in our country where our children need to learn from us that we, the adults, may disagree but we still love each other.  

They need to see us share our hearts with grace and walk away from conversations saying, “I love you” or “I respect you” or “I see you.”  They need to understand that while it is fine to care about and speak to these issues that face us in the world today, in our country today, in our homes today, on social media today, it is not okay to end the conversation with division, strife, and hate.

You see, we are more than our opinions. If we find that our opinions are robbing us of our peace and joy throughout the day, then we need to examine how we are sharing them with others. Because as Christians, we are called to more.

When I was a kid and fought with my brothers or sister (this time it really was a fight, not a debate), my mom would often make us write this verse.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

As a kid, I thought that meant I couldn’t get mad. As an adult, I think it’s a little more than that. Because this verse is embedded in a much bigger picture that Paul is painting. He’s not saying, “Don’t have convictions. Don’t get upset. Don’t disagree with anyone.”  He’s saying that in every situation, there’s a bigger picture.

Love Above All

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. heart-791047_1920Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” 

We may define what is “good” differently (especially politically), but we must love sincerely. We may not always agree with others but we always honor them and remain devoted to love.  Our zeal should primarily be for serving the Lord, even if other things stir our spirits.

Walk Before Talk

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Opinions are one thing, but we are called to actions of grace and love. We are to be about the work of the kingdom, always, regardless of political climates.  Regardless of what others say or do to us, names that are called, attitudes that are exhibited, we are challenged to not respond in like tone; we are called to respond with grace and love.  That is seeking peace.

Others  Before Self

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

See others, truly see them. Try to understand how and what they are feeling. Don’t think that any of us has the corner on “reality”, rather, seek to understand WHY someone feels the way that they do.

Grace Before Grievance

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

If someone uses language that is filled with vitriol, respond with words seasoned with grace. As far as it depends on us, be kind to other people, even in disagreement.

This passage of Scripture ends by saying, “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  There is only one true good. Jesus tells us that “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19). And we know that God is LOVE.

It is our hope as parents that we are teaching our children that they don’t always have to agree with each other, but they do have to honor each other and love each other. It is also our hope that we are modeling this for them in our interactions with the world around us and with each other. We don’t always succeed at that. We sometimes fail. We sometimes say things that days, months or years later we think, “I wish I’d said that differently.”  But it is our hope and our heart to help our children live in the tension well. To end each conversation on our part with “They disagree. But they still love each other.”


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

Has this fear of missing out affected the church?

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

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

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

Rather, they fear dying and being forgotten.

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

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

Here’s the Game Changer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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