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

Day 3: Please Don’t Lick the Deodorant

Have you ever felt ill-equipped, under-prepared, and just plain out of your league when it comes to serving in ministry? I think we’ve all had those days where we just wonder, “Am I cut out for this?” And we think, “I just don’t know how to do it all!”

If that’s been an experience that rings a bell with you OR if you just need a really good laugh today, you’ll enjoy this post by my husband, Luke Embree, about a parenting experience that taught him a lot about ministry. Even though this particular article is specific to church planting (our new endeavor) it is applicable across a wide range of ministry positions, including Children’s Ministry and Family Ministry.

“Because, despite my best efforts, it is only the Lord who can call forth light from the darkness, hope from hopelessness, and life from the dead.”

365 Church Planter

“Perhaps I’m not cut out for this whole parenting thing.”

I can remember the first time those words flashed through my mind.  It certainly wouldn’t be the last.

This is a blog about church planting.  But it’s amazing what we can learn from other areas like, for example, parenting.

This particular lesson occurred one night while my wife was out for the evening (always a precarious situation). My first born daughter was just old enough to begin walking.  I was left to, you know, keep the baby safe. No problem right? Right…

So I’m busy typing away at the computer when I notice it… the silence.

Those of you who are parents  know that it’s not the crying that raises the little red flags. It’s the silence.It’s that empty, eery quiet that you long ago left behind. And when you do finally hear it again, it’s not so much peaceful as it is alarming.

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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