Church is More

As many of you know, I am involved with a church plant in Lexington, Kentucky. Recently, my husband and I had a chance to sit down with our bishop and in our conversation, this phrase came up over and over again: Church is more.

More than what, you might ask?  Well, in this case specifically, church is more than Sunday morning. Cognitively and theoretically, I think most Christians and most ministers would agree with that statement. But a brief review of our structures, systems and focus would argue that we do tend put an unusually high demand on Sunday.

Picture this: It’s Sunday at noon.  Churches are sending their congregants away to a new week.  Children have been picked up, crafts and lesson sheets in tow.  Nurseries have been scrubbed down, sound systems turned off, and toys sanitized.  In a few minutes the once bustling church grows quiet as the people resume their lives outside the walls.

And therein lies the challenge. What happens the rest of the week?

And no, I’m not referring to a midweek service.  I’m referring to the part of the week where you aren’t “in church.” When church is “open.”

A recent study that looked at church attendance found that for most kids, regular attendance (being at church 3 out of 4 Sundays a month) is no longer a realistic expectation.  In fact, the majority of churched kids only found their way into the church building on average 2 Sundays a month.   That’s 24 hours each year.  That’s one day.  1/365th of their life.  That’s a lot of time not in church.

open-sunday-sign-1698635_1920

Simply put, that’s not enough.  This same study show that these kids will spend as many hours engaged in media in two days that they will in church all year.  Youths will be in their classroom 60 times longer than in church and spend over 280 hours participating in sports activities over the course of a year.

Maybe we already know all this, maybe not. But whether this is a reminder or a wake-up call, I urge us to consider, are we okay with these numbers? 

Are we satisfied that we are preparing the next generation to carry our faith forward?

Are we content that as a church we are doing our best to disciple and mentor our youth and kids?

My guess is most of us would say we are not okay, satisfied or content with these statistics but we may also be lost as to what to do.  Lost as to what to say.  Lost as to where to go. While we cannot steer the ship of culture to become something it is not, we can consider what we can do in order to bring about a real change in the culture of the church and the heart of the home.

MINISTERS

Equip Your Parents – If the parents/caregivers in your congregation grew up with a traditional Sunday School model, they may not have the tools to use for faith formation at home.  Equip them for the call!

Engage the Congregation – Your church will have to move the focus from Sunday and Wednesday nights to times of relationship-building and faith formation outside of the church walls.  The children aren’t in church because often Mom and Dad aren’t in church.  If no one is talking to them on the off weeks, our faith has become compartmentalized to a time and place rather than a way of life.

Encourage Your Leaders – If you have a staff, volunteer or paid, who serve the children and families of your church, take time to thank them for their service and encourage them to consider how they can reach out in love all week long, not just on Sunday.  Write a note, send a text, say a prayer and share a hug so that they can go and do the same.

PARENTS/CAREGIVERS

Get Plugged In – If kids aren’t in church, it’s often because their parents/caregivers aren’t in church.  Maybe you legitimately can’t be there, but if you can’t, you need to find somewhere (a small group, a prayer group, Bible study, or fellowship group) where your kids can see you growing in your faith. You are the single most powerful influence on your kids – what you model, they will follow.

Get Excited – There is nothing more exciting than an active growing life of faith.  It’s more exciting that a good grade, a goal scored, or a tooth lost.  Showing love, being kind, extending patience, choosing obedience and living gratefully should be celebrated and acknowledged.  What makes you excited will tell your kids what is important in life.  What do you cheer loudest for?

Get Together – When a family serves together, prays together, and studies together they also grow together.  Kids link actions to concepts.  If you want your child to grow up as a disciple of Christ, disciple them.  If you want them to be a worshiper, worship with them.  If you want them to pray, then pray with them and if you want them to believe the Bible, share it with them. Do this life of faith together. (Read more at Doing ‘Sunday’ on Monday)

Church may never “look” the same.  Sunday morning and Wednesday night may not be what it was 20 or 30 years ago.  But that doesn’t mean that we must lose the next generation.

Our faith is bigger than our church walls.  It’s time we realize that and we engage with Christ in the everyday.

Church is More.

A modified version of this post was first shared on this blog 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

EmbreeFam2017

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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

A Distinctly Different Welcome

This past Thursday, I had the chance to sit with some members of our church plant leadership team and discuss some upcoming events.  Our church plant is in its very beginning stages, so things like “kids ministry” and “family ministry” don’t really exist in more traditional formats.  But here’s what does exist; a culture of welcome for all ages. 

How do I know that?  Because when we were planning these events and the topic of children was brought up, we didn’t shy away from the topic or try to figure out how to work around it. We wrestled through the developmental realities of having children in the service and worked together to come up with ideas that would allow the children to remain with their parents if so desired.

I used the word “wrestled” on purpose because I think it is important to acknowledge that this isn’t a topic that easily approached. There are real concerns and issues when we talk about making space for all ages in a worship service.  And different churches reach different conclusions based on their families and their needs. If you read my blog, you know that I prefer a “Both/And” approach where children are able to be in worship and relationship with adults AND receive time where they get some age-appropriate teaching and time with peers.

But I digress, because what I really wanted to point out was this:

Regardless of the decision we arrived at, the approach was one of intentional welcome. It wasn’t an afterthought, it was a forethought. And the thought wasn’t, “How do we deal with them?” it was “How do we welcome them?”

And I think that is ultimately the underlying culture that must be in place if we are to have any kind of effective ministry to children, youth, and families, no matter what it “looks” like at a given church. Actually, I think how we welcome children and youth directly effects the overall health of the church and the experience of the Lord’s presence in our midst.

Jesus tells us in Mark 9:37, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Think about that. Whoever welcomes a child, welcomes Christ, but not only Christ, but the one who sent him (the Father).

Our welcome of children into our midst ushers in the very presence of God. That’s pretty fundamental to the idea of church.

church-2564560_1920A culture of welcome speaks volumes, not just to the children who are being welcomed, but to the parents who bring them and to the community around them. In a world that is increasingly segregated by age, each generation being “sent” to its appropriate place, the church is different – it requires no separation; rather integration and relationships are modeled for us through Scripture and commended by our Savior.

It is distinctly different from what is happening in the world today and as such, it requires some intentional wrestling on our part.

Overcommunicate the welcome. Make it so apparent that there is no question.

Through words. Through visible things such as coloring tables and busy bags. Through relationships that span generations. Through grace extended to one another when generations collide. Through wrestling with the constraints and fighting for a culture of welcome. Through love.

Realistically, there are no easy answers to creating space for intergenerational worship and a culture of welcome for all ages. But there are answers worth fighting for, worth wrestling with. And whatever answers we find, may we always remember that “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (the little children)” and strive to embrace the children God brings into our faith communities.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Guest Blog: Church Planting and Evangelism in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Count the Sheep; Count the Shepherds

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

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

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

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

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

Follow the Gold Veins

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

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

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

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

Get to Know the Missionaries

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

Learn from the missionaries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Day 3: Please Don’t Lick the Deodorant

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

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

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

365 Church Planter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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