The Aftermath of Easter

Our front yard is littered with pieces of broken plastic eggs. Our trash can is full of shiny aluminum wrappers. There’s pieces of brightly colored “grass” in various places around the house. The fridge is full of leftover ham and mashed potatoes. And the Christ candle is not flickering with light. Let’s not even talk about what my office at church looks like.

The aftermath of Easter.

Just a reminder, He is still risen. He’s just as risen today as He was yesterday.

But our attention wanders. I mean, for the last forty days, we were in a season of Lent, looking towards one thing – Easter. The celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  And now, Easter is past. We have moved on.  But, He hasn’t.

You see, He is the same; yesterday, today, and forever.

He is risen indeed every single day. 

Yesterday, I heard children running around saying, “He is risen!” just because they knew an adult would answer “He is risen indeed!”  It was so fun for them. When my girls were little, we even had them yelling this during our Easter egg hunts. We told them just like the eggs were hidden, Christ was hidden in the tomb, but He didn’t stay there, so when they found an egg, they should yell, “He is risen!”  I could always find my girls during public Easter egg hunts as they shouted excitedly with each egg they found.

Easter flower crossAll that to say, I think it is vitally important that we keep the excitement of our risen Savior alive for our children. If we just continue on now, since Easter is past, without continuing to acknowledge the incredible miracle that is our salvation, we lose the chance to keep their excitement piqued and attitude expectant, not about eggs but about Jesus.

So what are some ways we can celebrate Christ’s resurrection in the every day?

Talk About It 

Don’t save the story of Christ’s resurrection for just one day. Celebrate it throughout the year. Talk about the HOPE we have because our Savior lives. Thank the Lord aloud that He is always with us and can never die. Bring it up whenever there is a God Moment with your child – consistently remind them that we serve a risen Lord. Bookend your Faith Talks with the resurrection truth.

Thank Him for this miracle at the dinner table, before bedtime, in the car, and when you get up in the morning. Make the resurrection part of the family vocabulary just like saying “Amen” and the end of a prayer or “Dear God” at the beginning.

Celebrate It

Who’s to say the only day we can celebrate the resurrection is Easter Sunday?  Do you know that in many Christian traditions, Sunday is a weekly day of this celebration?  What if we looked at Sunday as our mini Easter celebration every week?  What if we were intentional about reminding each other that on the first day of the week, Christ rose from the dead, so we gather to celebrate (not “go to church”)?

When our kids ask, “Why do we have to go church?’ instead of saying, “We get to go to church” and explaining our freedoms in this country (all good things) we said, “Because when they nailed Jesus to the cross, He didn’t stay there. He made a way for us to live with God forever in peace and love for all eternity. He rose from the dead!  And we gather to celebrate that amazing miracle every Sunday. We get to throw a Jesus party every week!  He’s alive and that is worth celebrating!!”

Live It

One of the greatest truths of our faith is that Christ’s resurrection means we have undying hope in the fact that we have all of eternity with God and with one another. Peter says it this way: In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4).

There are times in this life that we can feel tempted to be hopeless. The stressors of life, things like bills and budgets, calendars and schedules, loss and grief, can cause us to lean towards hopelessness.  But because of Easter, we are never truly without hope. And if that’s all we can say in the difficult times, if all we can do is re-state what we shouted on Easter Sunday, that “He is risen!” then let us do that so our children see and hear that our hope is anchored deep, deeper than this world, deeper than these trials. Our hope is in the resurrection, anchored in eternity, deeply in the heart of God. 

What if the aftermath of Easter was just a continuation of a celebration, rather the culmination of one?  Even after the eggs are gone, the chocolate is consumed, the flowers fade…we still celebrate because He. IS. Risen!


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

Let Them Feel: Experiencing Good Friday with Children

Two years ago on Good Friday, I awoke to the sounds of thunder, lightning and torrential downpours.  My phone was lighting up with flood alerts and I could hear what sounded like a small river in the gutter outside my window.

My first thoughts on this dark stormy morning were that it was Good Friday and how appropriate the dark weather was to experience on this day.  My heart went to Mark 15 where we read:

“At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? “”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33,34.37-39)

cross-1375765_1920The sorrow of this day is commemorated at churches all over the world with darkened
services, candlelight vigils, readings from Scripture that cause us to ponder anew the sacrifice made by Christ that day.

There is something palpable about the beauty and mystery of Good Friday.  Sometimes, it is our tendency to shield our children from these dark emotions, from the sadness and the heaviness of the crucifixion.

Don’t.

I realize that they won’t understand it all.  I know that it could make them sad.  I understand that they are young.  But the depth of understanding goes beyond our emotions on this day.

When we allow ourselves to remember the darkness of this day, the sadness of this moment that, if we are truly honest, not one of us completely understands, we create space for God to do a deeper work that our minds can understand.

Children are young.  Cognitively they don‘t understand.  But their hearts are attuned to God’s love.  Their understanding of spiritual things goes deeper than we adults sometimes give them credit for.  Throughout Scripture, we are told that infants praise him, the faith of children is pure, little ones know him, and we should be like them.  In children, the kingdom of God is made manifest so, trust me, they may not understand the theology, but they understand the heart of God and the love that was given.

Ever been outside when a storm rolls away and the sun breaks through? 
Does it ever shine brighter in that moment?

On Good Friday, we experience sadness. But only for a moment.  Because on Sunday we will experience unspeakable joy.  No matter the depth of sorrow we feel on Friday, our rejoicing on Sunday will far exceed those limits.  And if we want our children to truly know the JOY that is Easter, we must let them also experience the sorrow that is Good Friday.

It’s okay for them to feel.  Feel with them.  It’s okay for them to cry.  Cry with them.

BUT, cry with hope.  Feel with expectation.  And Sunday morning, before Easter eggs and bunnies and chocolate and flowers, before dinners and tulips and fancy dresses and suits and ties, before all of that… let them experience the OVERWHELMING, LIFE-CHANGING, HEART-POUNDING Joy of crying out, “He. Is. RISEN!!” 

Rejoice!  Cry out!  Dance a little.  Celebrate with your kids in a way you never have before.  Let joy swell in your hearts and come out as shouts of praise. Let them experience all the wonder and mystery wrapped up in God’s love for us on these three days.  Don’t let it just pass by unnoticed.  Don’t let your fear of their sadness keep them from experiencing the immensity of Easter Joy!!

Make this day a day they will never forget and they will long to experience for years to come.

Make the words of Ps. 30:5 come alive this year: “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning!”

For He IS Risen, just as He said!  He is Risen.. Indeed!!


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

Doing Church Together: Five Ways to Keep the Family Together at Church

A recent article in Children’s Ministry Magazine made the following statement,

“The predominant mind-set in Christian education concerning families has long been that to “strengthen the whole you must strengthen the parts.” But families need more from church life than segregated programs and the occasional all-church activity. Many of our church activities actually pull family members apart from each other.We know something’s wrong with this picture, but sorting out a solution seems complicated.”

I happen to agree. My conversations with children’s ministers and family pastors across the country confirm that many churches are seeking to incorporate times where the family can stay together to worship, grow, and learn about God together in church, but don’t know where to even start. One reason for that is because each church has a unique culture and specific needs so cookie cutter approaches and one-size-fits-all curriculum approaches just don’t work.

But that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. It just means we need to get a little more creative.

If your church is looking for a way to get the family together at church, here are five different approaches that could help make that happen. These ideas come from a variety of different church backgrounds and traditions, so they may not ALL work for your ministry context, but chances are one might strike a chord and you will be able to begin working towards more and more times where the family experiences faith formation together with their faith community.

Family Worship Sundays 

Many churches have begun offering times of Family Worship, often once a month or on fifth Sundays, where the family stays together and worships as a unit. These Sundays should not be confused with Children’s Sundays or times where kids perform for the church. While these are special times for the church as well, they are more focused on children than they are families.

A Family Sunday will incorporate ways for the family to experience worship togethersuch as communion, prayers said aloud with the whole church, worship songs that everyone know and can sing to, a sermon that is appropriate for all ages and elements of the service that invite participation of parents/caregivers and children such as Scripture readings by families and prayer as families. For ideas on how to include families in worship on Sunday, check out jensfrontporch.org .

Family Worship Experiences 

There are a few subtle difference between a Family Worship Sunday, where the family joins with the whole congregation in a regular worship service time, and Family Worship Experiences where families are specifically targeted and ministered to. Often these experiences take place at a time other than Sunday morning and incorporate a variety of interactive activities, worship, and teaching.

Some great examples can be found at www.dandibell.com and if you want a group to come in to host, Seeds Family Worship has one they do in connection with Phil Vischer and What’s in the Bible? with Buck Denver.

Family Faith Formation 

familybiblereadingFor some, inviting the family to stay together takes place best in a mid-week experience. This is what a church I served at did and we had a lot of fun using these nights to explore the Bible together. We wrote our own curriculum in 5-week blocks based on what families have indicated they want to learn. Each family sat in chairs in a circle and explored Scripture, did activities, and participated in a time of affirmation and blessing each night. Our topics included Prayer, Salvation, The Bible, God as Creator, and Service.

Kids absolutely loved spending this time with their parents. Of all the programs we had at church, this one got the highest praise from children.

Family Activities 

If your church isn’t ready yet to host a Family Sunday or Family Worship Experience, one idea is to begin hosting Family Activities on a monthly basis. These activities should have as their central theme the idea of having family spend time together either with/around the larger faith community, around service to the larger community, or around worship and the Word as a family unit. Putting these focuses on a rotating basis can help your families begin to spend intentional time together around the topics of faith, community, and outreach.

For instance, one month you could host a Family Game Night at church (time with faith community), and the next offer an activity that families can do at home that include a Faith Talk and time in God’s word (time with worship/Word), and then the next month offer a service experience in the community that families can do together (outreach). By offering a variety of ways for families to come together around the themes of faith, community, and service, you can begin to cultivate times of faith formation for the whole family to engage in together.

Family Service Projects 

What better way to bring the family together than in an opportunity to serve Christ and others as a unit?  There are many ways to engage the family in service. Check with your local food pantries and Salvation Army to see if there are ways families can work together stocking shelves or organizing donations. Many local soup kitchens or churches who serve meals will welcome family groups to serve together. Check also with local mission and ministries that serve the poor, homeless or other marginalized groups to see how families can offer assistance.

Engaging the family in the act of serving together can be one of the most transformational and meaningful ways to connect faith with everyday life and create bonds in the family that last long after their time of serving has ended.


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

Engaging Children in Worship

The other day, my son and I were at a community center that had, as part of the building, a small room called the “Children’s Chapel.” Inside the room were a few instruments (mostly drums), a number of boxes that had Bible stories inside of them, and several benches with chairs. When we went in the room, my son asked if he could play the drum. I agreed, but I reminded him that this space was sacred, which meant is was set aside to tell God that we love Him and for us to hear from God, so if he played the drum, it had to be for Jesus.

That was all the instruction he needed. He understood the space was set aside for holy purposes. In a few moments, he was joined by two young girls and together they held church. No really, they did. They used the drums there to make up songs to sing to God. His song lyrics said, “Oh God, I love you with all of my heart. You made me and take care of me. You love me and I love you.” One of the girls sang, “You are high in heaven but you made me and my friends and my mom and my dad and my sisters. And I praise you and I love you. You are great and amazing.

Then my son pulled out one of the story boxes and proceeded to tell me the story of the Good Samaritan that he had learned in small group at church today. Then together we explored the story of the Good Shepherd and talked about all the ways Jesus was our Good Shepherd.

It was a beautiful unexpected time.

It was church, in all of its fullness.

The worship was pure and from the heart. The preaching was convicting and interactive. And the faith like a child was evident in all.

I am becoming more and more convinced that children need spaces like this where they can explore who and what God is to them, unscripted and unhindered.

church-1499312_1920They hear a lot. They have the chance to listen to stories and sermons, hear songs and hymns, and do lessons and games. But this unhindered space with no direction other than, “Do whatever you want, but do it for Jesus” opened the door for these young children to worship Jesus in their own words, tell the stories as they understood them, and learn in a way that enraptured their hearts.

How can we create space for children to explore God in unhindered ways?

We can give them permission

Kids have a lot of structure in their lives. Rules as school. Responsibilities at home. Ways of behaving that are expected. But if we give them permission to have freedom in expressing their worship of God, it opens the door for them to experience more.

Ideas for how to do that? Give them a blank piece of paper and tell them they can draw whatever they want for Jesus. Offer them an instrument and invite them to write or sing Jesus a song. See if your church has a felt board you could use, and let them re-tell the stories they’ve heard.

We can give them space

As believers, we know that we can worship God anywhere at any time. But it can be helpful if we create space for those special moments in our homes.

Maybe there’s a corner in your home, a part of a bedroom or office, a wall that could be turned into a prayer wall or a worship space. Fill it with items like instruments, paper and crayons, notebooks and journals that are set aside for worship, for listening and for prayer. And model it for them by spending some sacred time yourself, worshiping God unhindered, in your home.

We can give them awe

Nothing draws us into a story more than mystery. We love to be drawn into the unknown. And nothing is more mysterious and full of awe than our God. Sometimes our Bible stories made to be accessible to children can unwittingly remove that sense of awe and make God nothing more than a superhero or really great adult. But God is so much more.

Take a look at the night sky and wonder together about a God who calls each star by name. Watch a thunderstorm and wonder about a God who can calm the storm by just using His voice. Imagine together what the moment of Creation was like or how the earth shook when Jesus rose from the grave. Invite your children into the mystery and let them experience the awe of our awesome God!

In Matthew 18: 1-3, the crowd asked Jesus, “Who will be greatest in the kingdom of God?” Jesus responds by placing a child in front of all of them and basically says “Whoever knows me like this little one.” In Luke 18: 15-17, people are bringing children to Jesus and the disciples try to send them away, as The Message puts it, “Jesus called them back. “Let these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.

There is something to a child’s unhindered faith that we, the adults, need as much as they do. Let’s give them space to explore and worship their Jesus so we can get to know our Jesus better.

This blog was originally written for the D6 Family blog, March 7, 2017 and can be accessed here.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Bringing Ash Wednesday Home

The celebration of Ash Wednesday and the observance of Lent was not a part of my experience growing up, but over the past few years, I’ve grown to appreciate this time in the liturgical year to reflect, to repent, and to realign myself with God. And, I tell you, I’ve always loved Easter but it has so much more meaning and depth when connected to the preceding season of Lent.

Churches across America, even those that traditionally did not celebrate this season, are beginning to involve their congregations more and more in this time of reflection and repentance and it is a wonderful place for families to gather around the the story of God’s great Love and His unending faithfulness to us (For more on that from Family Life Today‘s Barbara Rainey, click here).

The first day of Lent and Ash Wednesday is coming (Wednesday, March 1, 2017). If your church doesn’t currently have an Ash Wednesday or Lent celebration (or if it gets snowed out), but you want to engage your family in the season, here are a few tools to use today/this week in your home that may give you some ideas and some guidance.

1. If you are on Facebook, search for a community activity called ‪#‎picturelent‬ . This online program walks you through Lent with devotions, activities and prayers for the whole 40 days. For more information, check out LEC Family at http://lecfamily.org/lent/. To see the scope and sequence of the entire event, click here

What is Lent? – http://lecfamily.org/daily-devotio…/…/what-is-lent-all-about

2. If videos are more your style,ash-wednesday check out these great though-provoking videos from the Skit Guys.

Prayer for Lent – https://skitguys.com/videos/item/a-prayer-for-lent
Pslams for Lent – https://skitguys.com/vid…/item/psalms-for-lent-ash-wednesday
Preparing for Lent – https://skitguys.com/videos/item/preparing-for-lent

3. Need some coloring pages for your younger kids? Check out the collection at http://www.theclipartwizard.com/lent-coloring-pages.htm

4. Host your own worship service at home with your kids. Here are a list of current worship songs (like those you’d find on K-Love) that have great application to Lent. Consider looking up videos on YouTube and creating a worship list so you can worship as a family.

http://seedbed.com/…/five-new-songs-to-consider-for-worshi…/

If you are more of a hymns family, here are a list of traditional Ash Wednesday hymns you may want to also look up!

http://www.worshipaccompaniment.com/?tag=ash-wednesday

5. There are several online Lenten devotionals you could choose to do as a family. If you do a search online, you will find many from various faith traditions. Here is one that is a collaborative effort from a number of denominations and even comes with a free App so you can keep up on your devices.

6. Likewise there are many online resources for celebrating Lent with your kids. Many of these are particular to a denomination, so an online search will provide you with lots of options.  This page has a huge list of resources including a devotional from Ann Voskamp, Lilly Lewin and multiple crafts and activities for kids and families.

Whether you have traditionally celebrated Lent or not, these resources are worth checking out and considering as a way to invite Christ into your home. At the very least, it will open a chance for discussion with your family about why we celebrate Easter and why Christ’s death and resurrection is such a beautiful picture of God’s love, grace and faithfulness to us!

May your Lenten season be one full of knowing all those attributes deeper and more personally then you have ever experienced before. Blessings friends!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

“No One Is Listening” and other Millennial Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Family Ministry When No One Goes to Church

When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything. – G.K. Chesterton

A few years ago I shared the article Leaving Sunday Behind which looked at lagging church attendance and the role of the home and the church in reaching families struck a chord with many of my readers. It does beg the question, if families are not regularly attending corporate worship together anymore, where are they?

As Chesterton says, when we cease to worship God, we don’t cease to worship; rather we replace the object of our worship with something else.

So, we must ask, what is being worshiped today?

A survey done by Faith Communities Today found these top three reasons cited by families regarding the demands on their time that conflicted with regular church attendance.

  1. School or Sports related activities
  2. Work Schedule conflicts
  3. Driving distance/Time and cost

So it’s not that the families were just sitting at home not doing anything, but they had made the decision to choose other demands on their time over attending church on Sunday morning and Wednesday night.

As parents, this should give us pause and help us consider; what are we teaching our children to worship? If these activities that pull families away from church truly are important to individual families, then as Christians it should also be our goal to find alternatives time to commit to corporate worship and fellowship with other believers.

church-188087_1920As ministers, we need to recognize that in a battle against a changing culture, we are going to lose if we don’t recognize that culture is changing.

The constraints of traditional service times will increasingly become inadequate for reaching families in our church and new families we desire to share God’s love with.

We can spend time lamenting this change and dissecting why it happened and if it’s good or bad or neutral, or we can just acknowledge that it is, and we can begin to look for ways to address it head on.

If we use the following findings from Barna Research Group as a frame for how families in our cultures operate, perhaps we can consider some innovative ways to connect the church with the home.

  1. Parents are just as dependent on technology as are teens and tweens.
  2. Most family members, even parents, feel that technology has been a positive influence on their families.
  3. Very few adults or youth take substantial breaks from technology.
  4. Families experience conflict about technology, but not in predictable ways
  5. Few families have experienced—or expect—churches to address technology

And what about the study that found when 1,500 kids were asked what makes a happy family they responded, “Doing things together”? Contrast this with what we traditionally do in our church settings with separate children, youth, adult, and senior adult ministries.barna

Finally consider another study from Barna that asked self-identified Christians why they chose not to attend church where 40% responded “I find God elsewhere” and 35% said “Church is not relevant to me personally.” Additionally, in the past “regular attendance” was defined as those who attended church three or more weekends a month but now families that show up once every 4-6 weeks consider themselves regular attenders.

A lot of people have come up with a lot of ways to address these changing trends. May I offer just this suggestion?

Let us shift of vision from one of attraction to one of “going and making disciples”.

Let’s refocus faith formation at home and building relationships between generations.

Let’s concentrate on lifting Jesus up so all may be drawn to Him, not necessarily our brand, our building, or our band.

Let’s meet families where they are and bring the church to the world instead of trying to get the world to accommodate the church.

And may we all live lives of worship, inside and outside of the building we call church.

Article originally posted January 25, 2015. 


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

The Star Didn’t Lead Them to Jesus

“Where did the star lead them?”

This question was asked three years ago during our Epiphany Sunday service.  A young voice from the back of the room yelled out what we were all thinking. “Bethlehem!” he exclaimed as a chuckle when through the congregation. “Actually,” the pastor responded, “Jerusalem. The star led them first to Jerusalem where they spoke with Herod.” (check it out at Matthew 2:2).

I’d never considered this part of the story before.

You might say, I had an epiphany.

And I’ve shared this exact story for the last three years at Epiphany because each year, I need the reminder as God shines His Star in my life.

camels-1150075_1920You see, the wise men saw an unusual star rise in the East and felt it had enough significance to warrant a costly and timely journey towards its location.  We naturally skip to the end of the story, but in doing so we miss a significant middle portion.

The first place the star led them was not the Messiah.

As a matter of fact, it led them to a corrupt king, intent on securing his reign and filled with evil intention.  But this corrupt king was actually the one who pointed the wise man towards Bethlehem, back towards the rising star and ultimately towards Messiah, Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

God didn’t have to add this little bump in the road.  He could have just led them directly to a stable in a little town in Judea.  But for whatever reason, God sent them on this little detour first.

Ever had a detour? 

Ever been following God’s calling on your life or implementing a plan you really felt His leading in and.. bump… oops… how did we end up here?

Has your “star” taken you to a place that is definitely not what you were looking for?

We usually label these bumps and detours as “failures.”  And sometimes, when that happens, we stop the journey.  We assume we heard wrong, said wrong, and did wrong.  We make the U-turn back to where we started and we analyze how it was we could have been detoured so badly.

But what if it wasn’t a mistake? 

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the wise men arrived at Herod’s palace and said, “This?!?  This is what we came for?” and then turned around and headed home.

But they didn’t.  They said, “We are following a star.  We believe a great king has come.  We aren’t leaving until we get some answers.”

And their persistence paid off.  They were given direction and insight from those who understood the situation better than they did and they saw that star rise again and lead them straight into Emmanuel’s dwelling.

If you find yourself detoured and landing in a place you didn’t anticipate as you lead your ministry, your home or your own life, don’t be so quick to say, “I must not have heard God right.”  Instead, try these three wise moves like our magi did.

  1. Accept where you are, but don’t assume you are staying – When we end up somewhere unexpected, it is tempting to assume we’ve reached the end of our journey and that assumption can lead to a place of resignation.  Maybe you’ve tried integrating a service, but families are complaining that it is not meeting their needs.  Perhaps you’ve tried initiating faith talks with your family, but you are the only one that ends up talking.  Or maybe you’ve started a course of study and your grades aren’t what you had expected or hoped.  Those detours can appear more like periods than commas on your journey.  But what if you…
  2. Pause long enough to take in your surroundings – The voice of failure can be loud, but the quiet voice of the Lord can be overwhelming.  Be still enough to know that He is God.  Then, listen to the other voices.  Ask what needs your families don’t feel are being met, inquire of your family why they don’t feel comfortable participating in faith talks, or consult your fellow students or professors about where you could improve academically.  Often God clarifies His leading in our lives through the people He puts in our path, even the detours.
  3. Let God restore your vision – At some point, after talking to Herod and the scribes and staying for a time in the palace, the wise men had to once again turn their eyes to the sky and lo, and behold, when they did “the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them.”  God resumed the journey, this time with deeper understanding and clarity and this time to the final destination.  Maybe your intergenerational service will take on some new characteristics or your family faith talks might play out differently than you assumed or your academic expectations may need adjusted, but when we follow God’s leading and lift our eyes to Him, He will lead us right into His presence.

A speaker I once heard (Pastor John Stumbo, President of Christian & Missionary Alliance Church) said, “Where you see a period, God sees a comma; He’s not done writing your story yet.”   If you find yourself detoured and wondering how you ended up there, assume it’s a comma and learn from the moment.  He’s not done writing your story yet either.


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

God is Amazing, Being a Christian is Awesome, and Other Things We Forget to Say

“Why do we make being a Christian sound like the worst thing ever?”

A legitimate question. It was posed to me the other day by someone who had been on Twitter and was reading through the titles of several Christian blog posts. Most had something to do with the fact that Christianity will make you uncomfortable, will cost you everything, isn’t about you, etc.

“It’d be nice” she said, “To read a blog post that talks about how great being a Christian and knowing God’s love actually is.”

She’s right. I think it would be nice to read that.  So why are so many blog posts tilted the other direction?  And, as parents and ministers, what kind of messages are we sending to the next generation about what it means to be a Christian?

Well, let’s start with the first. Why are so many Christians calling out the church and other Christians on so many things in their blog posts?  And, look, I’m putting myself there too. I’ve published more that one post directed at the church in a way that challenges what is being done.

I think it’s partly because it’s easier to point out a wrong that it is to affirm a right.

I mean, who is going to read a blog post that says, “Keep it up!” or “Just a reminder: God still loves you” as opposed to “Stop acting like a Christian and be one!” and “Worship isn’t about you: Stop making it!”  Both could be accurate…but which one will you read?

Also, I think it’s human nature to point out the wrong in someone else. In the oft-quoted (and oft-misquoted) Scripture passage that starts with”Do not judge…” Jesus meets this tendency head on with his own challenge,”Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” (Mt 7:3)

And even if what is being shared is spot-on, not judgement but true concern and heartfelt conviction, I think it’s worth considering the next question.

What is the Christianity we are representing to our children and to the world around us?

You guys!!  Let’s review quickly the foundation of our faith

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

God LOVED us SO MUCH, He gave of Himself, wholly and completely, so that we can have eternal, abundant, overflowing LIFE forever!!

That’s the center. That’s the creamy goodness inside the chocolate shell. That’s the best part!

Yes, being a Christian can at times mean being uncomfortable. It can mean that we choose to lay aside our selfish desires and seek the good of others. It can mean that we don’t get what we want sometimes.

But that is not what being a Christian is.

audience-868074_1920Being a Christian is experiencing the wonder and awe of knowing that we are loved by God himself with such an overwhelming, all-encompassing love that He gave up everything for us and because of that we get to walk in freedom, in love, in abundant life, every single day, not just while we are here on earth, but for all eternity!!

Yes, I’m excited about that! Because friends, our world is hurting and hopeless. My kids hear sad things all the time on the news and in the headlines and from their friends. And we?

We have been given the gift, the absolute best present ever, of abundant life. Of hope and light and freedom!

I want that truth to echo in their hearts so loudly and so clearly that when things get uncomfortable, when they are called to love others more than self, when they don’t get what they want, those things are minuscule compared to the overwhelming sense of promise and hope they find in Christ and the love, life, and relationship they find in His body, the church.

Being a Christian is an exciting adventure, a chance to participate in the greatest story every to unfold, to be a part of God’s eternal plan. It’s not a headline that grabs attention or gets people to read the blog posts. But it is the good news we were sent to proclaim!

Before we sought Him, He sought us. He never leaves us. Never forsakes us. He meets our deepest needs. He calms our deepest fears. He’s an ever present help in time of need. We are never on our own again. We are never without hope. Never without an advocate, a friend, an ally, or hope.

We have all this and more because we have Jesus!  

And that is what our churches, our children and this world need to hear, over and over again, proclaimed through our words, our worship, our actions and our lives.

Please hear me, I fully understand the need for us as Christians to be challenged in our faith, to not grow complacent and to keep growing.

But I think it is equally important, maybe even more important, that we continually affirm the good, reiterate the truth of God’s love, and proclaim to one another, to the world, and to our children just how incredibly blessed we are to be part of the family of God!

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25The Message (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

2016 In Review: Top Five Read and Shared Posts

Friends, what a blessing it has been to share this past year with you. Your encouragement, excitement and support has been a blessing to me as I’ve had the opportunity to share my heart with all of you regarding children, families and the body of Christ.

This year over 500,000 new people visited this blog and shared its posts. Many of you wrote to me and shared testimonies and prayer concerns and amazing resources. Several of you called me, emailed me, or chatted with me about various experiences in your homes and churches. I have been immeasurably blessed to join you in your ministry journey. 

Here are the top 5 blog posts of 2016.

stopbullyingIt is NOT Okay – This blog was first shared in March 2016 during the intense political presidential campaign and was read on Day 1 by more than 300,000 people. While the campaign is over, many of the concerns I shared in this post still exist and I continue to pray that we can find ways to tell our children in no uncertain terms that many of the words and behaviors being exhibited by leaders in our country are not okay.

“I can no longer hide behind the flag of “I don’t want to be political” rather I have to state the obvious and say, “This is not about politics. This is about human decency and I, for the sake of my children and all future generations who are seeing these things, must say, ‘I am not okay with this because this is NOT okay.'”

kidsinchurchWhy My Kids Weren’t At Kids Church – Inspired by a mom who shared with me why her kids weren’t in Kids Church one Sunday, this post looks at the larger experience of the Sunday morning church service. This post continues to be read and shared daily and has led to some wonderful discussion with many of you as we’ve explored this topic more together!

“The church experience is much bigger than a sermon.Big or little, child or adult, the sermon is only part of the whole experience. Not understanding the sermon in no way negates the rest of the experience.”

kid-churchMy Kid Doesn’t “Get” Anything Out of Church – For the second year in the row, this post has struck a chord with people across the world. It has been read and shared in over 120 countries.

“One common concern I often hear from parents and other adult church members about including children in the corporate worship setting is that kids won’t “get” anything out of the worship or the sermon. From an adult perspective, there are certain things we want to walk away from church with such as a sense of having been in God’s presence or having learned something that will help us grow in our faith. We presumably come to church for a reason and it is easy for us to assume those same reasons apply to our kids.  But they probably don’t.”

bottles-60478_1920What’s with the Flipping Bottle?   – Remember that short-lived craze where kids across America were flipping bottles to see if they would land upright?  Here were my thoughts on the phenomenon and what we as adults could learn from the kids and the flipping bottle. Over 7,000 of you read and shared this post, helping it rise to the third most popular for the year.

“Have you seen your kids or others flipping bottles? Does it drive you nuts?  If so, you’re not alone…but, are we sending the best message to our kids?”

ChurchandkidDo Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids to Church – Making its appearance for the second year, this post continues to be read and shared in countries across to the world. The heart of this article is to explore what we mean when we say “welcome” to children in the corporate worship and fellowship of the larger faith community and has sparked numerous conversations, discussions and future posts.

 “It’s not about making sure we use strategies to keep kids occupied and from being a distraction.  That’s important, but its not about that.”

God has just blessed me so much with this opportunity to share life and ministry with all of you. Thank you for welcoming me into your conversations, your churches and your homes. I’m so looking forward to what 2017 holds for ReFocus Ministry and the work of children and family ministry across 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