The “Family” in Family Ministry

Who is your family? 

It’s amazing the answers you will get for this.  The definition of family has been changing rapidly in today’s society.  Sometimes family is defined by structure (blood relatives, parents and children). Sometimes family is defined by function like close friends who are like family, caregivers who act as parents, “aunts” and “uncles” who are family friends. My daughter once called the latter our “family of the heart.”

On the whole, family structures and functions vary widely, but usually these main characteristics remain:

  • there are caregivers and care receivers
  • there are resource providers and resource consumers 
  • there are mutual functions of attachment, bonding, and affection met within the family unit.

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Traditionally, the primary caregivers, resource providers and emotional stabilizers are the parents and the receivers, users, and reciprocators are the children.

When we are looking at ministry to children, we tend to think of age-specific children or youth ministry where the focus tends to be primarily on the child. In family ministry there is a shift in the focus to the parents or caregivers, who, studies show, will have the greatest physical and spiritual impact upon their children in their growing years.

 

This focus on parents is not a new concept.

In his sermon On Family Religion,” John Wesley (1872) puts the responsibility for spiritual discipleship squarely on the shoulders of the parents/caregivers in the home. Wesley recognized the need for parental instruction to prepare parents to carry out the command to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Pr. 22:6).

Over the years, parents and caregivers have shared that at times the church has been inadequate in training parents for this task of of discipleship at home. They don’t feel equipped to transmit their faith in words or model it in deeds. And frankly, without that equipping and support, the idea of discipleship at home can sound a little scary!

There is a great need to provide parents and caregivers with the support and opportunities to put their faith into action at home. 

Jim Merhaut of the Center for Ministry Development shares that “the most effective way to help a child is to help the parent of that child” and encourages the church to “become a trusted resource, a go-to person with good ideas”.

Regardless of “how” a family looks, an effective local church ministry must equip the parents/caregivers and provide space for families to practice their faith together.

The focus of family ministry shouldn’t be so narrow that it excludes families that are structured in a less-traditional format or function in less-traditional ways or so broad that it doesn’t effectively resource or support the leaders in the home.  To be most effective, a church must

  1. Know its families – How are they structured?  Who functions as caregiver?  Who is identified as “family”?
  2. Know their needs – What role does faith play?  Where are caregivers resourced?
  3. Know the community.  – What do families “look like” in the surrounding community? What needs are present?

There’s no “cookie cutter” answer for family ministry because the answers to these questions are different in each context. However, the one similarity that exists and the reason I am so passionate about the heart behind family ministry is this: Parents are the single greatest influence in the faith of their children…period. So if we can join arms with parents; support, equip and encourage parents; we will in fact be reaching the children in the best way possible.

For more information about the importance of equipping parents/caregivers, check out these articles and resources.


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

And This One Thing Makes ALL the Difference

This past year, I had the privilege of taking a Spiritual Formation class that absolutely challenged me, inspired me and wrecked me all at once. There is no way in one blog post I could possibly convey how meaningful that class was for me and how it changed me, but I can share this one lasting impression that will forever color how I look at this world and the people in it.  Especially the little people, the children.

In class we talked a great deal about how we  are being formed by the world around us; circumstances, situations, environments, people, media, clothing…all of it in some way affects and forms us.

But our initial formation, our original intent, only had one influence – our Creator. And our Creator formed us in His image, Imago Dei, in His likeness.

Even as we were uniquely put together to be who we are as an individual, we reflected the One who was putting us together. Each person was first and foremost created by God in His image. That was our initial formation.

Since that first moment though, all those other forming influences have layered on top of that initial formation.  Some influences help that Imago Dei shine though even more brightly. Some influences cover it up making it hard to find.

But that reflection of God, that image of God innately formed in each one of us, never disappears. It’s there, inside each human being. It’s present, within each and every person. It exists, no matter how many layers of formation have been piled on top of it, good and bad. It simply is. We are Imago Dei, the image of God. 

And therein lies the whole thing: How can we not love each and every human being, created in God’s image, reflecting His goodness?  No matter what covers up that initial formation, it is there.

But are we willing to look for it?

Are we willing to look past rough edges and things we just flat out don’t like? Are we willing to search for that imago dei and speak to that place and call it to the light?  Are we willing to see past all the stuff, all the ugly and the sad and the broken, and focus in on that thing that makes us unique in all Creation?

That child who just never, ever listens?portrait-2014329_1920

That girl who won’t talk to anyone?

That boy who is too violent?

That adult who doesn’t look the way you feel comfortable?  Who says the things you totally disagree with? Who blatantly walks in rebellion and rejects everything you believe?

Within all of these, there is Imago Dei.

Reggie Joiner, author of Think Orange and creator of the Orange curriculum, put it this way:

Every kid doesn’t think the same, but every kid has ability to reason.
Every kid doesn’t feel the same, but every kid wants to be loved.
Every kid doesn’t enjoy life the same, but every kid likes to have fun.

That’s because every kid has one thing in common. Every kid is made in the image of God. It should seem obvious. Humans are radically different from every other living, breathing creature. They have the stamp of God’s image. Stop for a moment and think about what that really means for your kid, and every other kid.

If they are created in the image of God, then they have a divine capacity . . .
to believe, imagine and love,
to care relate and trust,
to reason, improve, and lead.
That’s a lot of potential. (source)

With that in mind, how can we not extend grace? How can it not break our heart when we see people, regardless of the layers of formation that we might not like, treated as less than, maligned, alienated, alone? How can we not seek to see each and every person the way God does, as a reflection of Him?

Friends, it is so easy to look only surface level and see what we don’t like and walk away. I did it for years. It is easy. But if we dig, even just the tiniest little bit – if we truly look in a person’s eyes and remember WHO they really are – if we work to see that image of God within them – then those words we read in Scripture make a lot of sense and we will want to live it out.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him (Jn. 3:16, 17, NLT)

That doesn’t mean with have to agree with every formational influence and action that is in a life; it means we always talk to, look for, and extend grace to that reflection of God in them. And we call it out, as much as we can. We look for it with intention and celebrate when we experience it together. And we listen to God’s call back to our own initial formation as a reflection of God. Grace becomes a whole new experience in this light and we can pass that on to all we come in contact with.

And that… that is ministry. That is what it is all about. 


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

Star Wars, Light Sabers and Redemption: Four Practical Discipleship Ideas for Parents

We have recently moved into a new home, which is why you’ve heard a bit less from me than normal. That being said, each of our kids were given a small budget from which they could draw to “decorate” and refurnish their new bedrooms. Our youngest son went with a Star Wars theme because… he’s six and light sabers.  To complete the ensemble of the Star Wars sheets and Star Wars comforter and hanging light sabers, we also put a sticker above his bed that says “The Force is strong with this one.”

Our first night in our home, I hung the sticker above his bed, he shouted with glee and then.. redemption happened. Now, I’m not sure what the writers of the Star Wars series intended the “Force” to be (some analogous spiritual thing devoid of religious affiliation but representing good and evil that could be tapped into by humanity and alien species perhaps?) but in the Embree household, that’s not what the Force is.

Me – Did you see the sign over your bed? What do you think “the Force” is?

C – I dunno. Like the power to do stuff.

Me – Good and bad stuff?star-wars-1004714_1920

C – Good stuff.

Me – Hmm, who helps us do good stuff?

C – Oh.. God. God helps us to do good stuff.

Me – Does He have power?

C – Yes, even more power than anyone.

Me – So what do you think your sign means?

C – That God is with me!

Me – Even more than that, God is STRONG with you. He fights for you. He give you power to love others and to love Him. He is all the power you will ever need.

C – Whoa!

Me – Right?  And you know what, that sign is right. The Force is strong with you. God is always with you. All the time. Every day. And you have that power to do good.

C – Awesome!

Redemption.

To redeem. To “change for the better”. To “get or win back.”

Author N. T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope says, “people who believe in the resurrection, in God making a whole new world in which everything will be set right at last, are unstoppably motivated to work for that new world in the present.

In other words, we are about the act of redemption. 

We are practicing resurrection every day in the world around us.

We are taking everyday things and making them holy by intentionally and consistently inviting Christ into that space.

And this is huge for children. They are surrounded by stories of good and evil and we, as believers, are engaged in the ultimate battle of good and evil.  Kids are constantly faced with intentional messages that seek to form and frame their worldview while we have the ultimate truth to offer them. So why not beat the world at its own game and redeem the space by practicing redemption?

Here are some ways we can redeem the time and space in our home.

  • Watch movies as a family and use them as a framework to discuss a range of spiritual concepts and theological perspectives (See more on how to have your own Family Movie Night discipleship times here).
  • Read stories and look for spiritual overtones or biblical heroes you can introduce while reading. Superhero books for kids have so many themes that mirror the Bible and, as your kids grow, dystopian novels and fantasy books allow for all kinds of exploratory and meaningful conversations. Let them explore all those questions with you!
  • Invite Christ into everyday moments, intentionally, not as an afterthought. Look for ways to incorporate Christ into your rhythms, your meal times, your car rides, your routines. Lots of ideas can be found here BUT the bigger thing is simply this: Be aware and intentional, looking for opportunities to redeem the time or situation.
  • Serve Christ and others together. Find ways to put into practice what you say you believe and how you say you should live. Don’t let Sunday be the only time they see and hear you talk about Jesus or read the Bible or pray. Redeem the time by making space for the living out of your faith and invite them into the journey.

The past week each time I’ve put my son to bed, do you know what he says?  “Mommy, God is strong with me.”  Oh yes, yes He is, my dear son!

And if from this point forward every time he watches a Star Wars movie or hears the words, “The Force is strong with this one”, he thinks that thought, even if only silently, deep in his heart, then redemption has been realized and resurrection has been practiced.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They learned about the devastation caused by drugs and alcohol.

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

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

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

And all I could think was,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the environment that our children are growing up in

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

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

There is our “why.”

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

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

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

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

Because we should be different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

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

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

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

I don’t think we can overemphasize this enough.


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

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

Sensationalism.   You gotta love it right?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And children, bless their hearts, live for it!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like David, we need to say:

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Discipleship When the World Revolves Around You

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

So, of course, they are going back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And guess how we help them?

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Three Ways to Disciple through Endings

Endings are hard.

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

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

Give Them A Next Thing

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

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

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

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

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

The End is Not the End

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

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

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

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

Okay to Move On, Good To Remember

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

The Power of a Moment: Where Discipleship Happens

Last night, I glanced out the window and saw the tell-tale pink glow of the promise of an amazing sunset. I absolutely LOVE the sky and love all the things that happen there from storm clouds swirling to sunsets waning. In fact, one of my neighbors stopped me once to say, “I love how you are always looking up!” And I do. I love the sky.

So, in true form, I bounded from the couch and ran out the door, camera (okay, fine, phone) in hand. The sky was an orange-pink color as the setting sun bounced off the low-hanging clouds. As the sun went lower, the clouds changed from light orange to bright orange to dark pink. The whole sky rippled with the colors of sunset, changing the whole atmosphere into a magical pink paradise.

And then, it was over. The clouds returned to their gray color. The sun sunk below the horizon. The dim light of twilight took over. The awe-inspiring show of beauty and light was over just minutes before it started, captured only in a few photos and the swelling of my joy-filled heart.

Go ahead and grab your phone. Take a few minutes and glance through the moments you’ve captured there.

A birthday party?  A visit with a friend? A few silly selfies with your kids?  That time when you snuck in and got a picture of your little one sleeping?  A couple of cameos just for fun?

 

My guess is these were fleeting moments too.

Times where you grabbed the phone to capture a full heart in a still picture.

The thing about Time is that it doesn’t stop moving forward. As one kidmin conference noted a couple of years ago “It’s just a phase…so don’t miss it.”

That sunset I saw will never happen again. I could have glanced outside and said, “Oh look, a sunset” and moved on. I could have taken a picture and posted it on Instagram to prove I was there. Or, I could have done what I did – reveled in the moment. Fleeting though it was, it filled my soul.

Our moments with our children are likewise fleeting. Even those pictures on our phones can be deceiving, because being present and being there are two different things. I think the missionary Jim Elliot put it best when he said, “Wherever you are, be all there.

Discipleship happens in the moments, not the photographs.

It happens in the stolen minutes before bed, the shared meal around the table, the movie night in the living room, the car ride to practice, the quick hug before the school day begins.

It happens when we invite Christ into these precious times. These passing moments can be soul-filling if we let them be, not just for us, but for our kids. The opportunity to be “all there” presents itself all the time, the soft glow of family calling us back to each other, for moments that can bring us awe.

When I look at this picture of sunset, I don’t just see a beautiful sky or a gorgeous sunset. I feel the moment in my heart. I feel the awe. And that’s because I was truly there. img_5315

What do we feel as we scroll through those pics on our phone?  Why not grab your child and go through it with them?  Feel the awe of the moments together. And make that determination to be “all there” no matter how fleeting the time may be


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