You’re Not A Horrible Parent: Christmas Edition

Last Thursday at the stroke of midnight and the launch of Black Friday sales…it happened. Somehow we magically moved into the mysterious time we call the “holiday season.”  In just a few days my Facebook feed has lit up with posts about Christmas and Christmas trees and Christmas food. Christmas music has started playing on the radio and Thanksgiving turkeys are all discounted in grocery stores.

The whirlwind begins.

Keep in mind, dear friends, that I LOVE the whirlwind. I embrace it like a moth to a flame. The busy isn’t busy to me – it’s rich and full and bursting with life. Time with friends and family becomes the essential instead of the extracurricular and food, fun, and fellowship the norm rather than the exception.

But the is also the time of year where I see Stress get a capital-S. Because while all those things above happen, so does all the other stuff that goes on year-round. It’s not like we hit the pause button on life so that we can celebrate; instead the celebration gets piled on already busy, stressed-out lives.

A recent study by Pew Research has found that in nearly half of two-parent homes, both parents work full-time.

pewresearch

How does that affect the family?

The same research found that:

  • Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children.
  • 59% percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, and more than half of working fathers say the same.
  • 56% percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding

One mother interviewed by the New York Times said this, “You basically just always feel like you’re doing a horrible job at everything. You’re not spending as much time with your baby as you want, you’re not doing the job you want to be doing at work, you’re not seeing your friends hardly ever.”

adorable-blur-child-1261408When we add in the holidays, and all the stuff I mentioned that I love, on top of this…for many it is overwhelming.

And then, if we add in on top of that the calling for parents to intentionally lead and disciple their kids at home, using this time of year to teach them about gratitude, serving others, compassion, self-sacrifice, and giving through things like serving at a mission or participating in a food drive or giving up presents…for many, it feels impossible.

Parents, may I offer some encouragement?  

For a brief moment, before we are rushed headlong into this season, can we breath in this small respite of grace?

We don’t have to do it all.

We don’t have to do it perfectly.

We don’t have to make all the best choices, provide the best experiences, or present the best opportunities.

(deep breath)

But, if we can step back and before it all starts simply say, “Jesus, this year, with our family and our children, show us how to invite you into our everyday holiday season. In what we are already doing, show us how to have You be a part of it.  Be present in our presence;” if we can do that, my bet is at least part of the weight will lift from our shoulders.

Some simple ideas, using those everyday moments from Deuteronomy 6:7 “when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” could transform your holiday season without you feeling like you do a “horrible job” at everything.  Things like…

When you sit at home:  Watching a Christmas movie and looking for Jesus in it (see ideas for movie night discussion here), Wrapping gifts for family members and praying for each one while you do. 

When you walk along the road:  Listening to Christian Christmas Carols and asking what part of the Christmas story it was about, Looking at Christmas lights and talking about how Jesus is our Light (check out this Christmas lights scavenger hunt if you have a long drive), Handing out Blessings Bags to those in need. 

When you lie down:  Create a wall of blessing that you add to each night at bedtime (just tack up a piece of posterboard and let kids decorate with stickers, pictures, etc. and list the year’s blessings, one each night/week), Start reading the Christmas story on December 1 until Christmas Day, Add one ornament each Saturday night to the tree that has special meaning to your family.

When you rise: Use an Advent Calendar and open a door each morning before the day starts, Pray together for everyone you sent Christmas cards to (one person or family per morning/week), Put Christmas cards in your kids backpacks (you can get packs for $1 at Dollar Tree) with notes of blessing for them all season long. 

(Want more ideas: Click here)

The reality is that the holidays are coming, will come, and will pass.

Memories will be made. Life will happen. What January looks like for your family will in some way be dependent on what November and December looked like as they passed.

Don’t allow stress and shame steal the joy and opportunity of the season.

Realistically, no family can do it all. But realistically, we can all do something.

If we are unable to do “the big things,” let’s invite Jesus into all the little things and embrace the celebration for His sake.  It will look different for each home, as it should. But in each home, Christ desires to be the respite, the rest, the peace no matter what season it is.

An earlier version of this post can be found here.


For more information about

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

About the author

EmbreeFam2017Refocus 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  ChurchLeaders.com

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Church, for Kids. Not Kids Church.

Imagine with me for a second what it would look like if you walked into church and the pews were filled with children and youth. In fact, imagine with me that it looked exactly like your church but switch the adults in your church to kids and the kids to adults. Imagine with me what that church would look like. What would it sound like? What would it feel like?

Well, you don’t have to imagine. You can actually visit this church.

Grace Kids Church is located in Louisville, Kentucky and they describe themselves as “a church devoted entirely to ministry for the unique spiritual, emotional, and practical needs of children and youth.” A quick trip to their website will reveal a schedule similar to most other churches; service on Sunday and Wednesday, Family Night on Friday, and even a pastoral staff. But what you will also find one consistent message:

We are here for children and youth and we are unabashed in our mission to reach the next generation.
CoreyandKids

Pastor Corey Nelson with some of the Grace Church congregants

I had the chance to talk to the pastor of Grace Kids, Corey Nelson, the other day and he
shared a bit about how Grace Kids came to be. When Corey was first asked to serve as pastor this a small United Methodist Church, just a couple of blocks away from the famous Churchill Downs race track, it was surrounded by a community who was not involved in any way with the church.

From the day he arrived, Corey was aware that while the church had a worship service the people in the community didn’t even know that the church even existed. He shared a story of meeting a group of kids in the parking lot one night and they shared that they really had nowhere else to go that was safe and drug-free. So on a whim, Corey told them to come back Friday and he would show a movie and serve popcorn and Koolaid. Thirty kids showed up. And they never stopped showing up.

No matter what the church did, the kids kept flooding the building. Corey was shocked at the number of children who had never truly heard the name of Jesus, having only experienced that name as a curse word. It became obvious to him what direction the church needed to go.   Currently Grace Kids Church has a roster of 200 kids, two pastors on staff, an administrative board to help them run rather like a non-profit and is a vibrant growing church. For most of the kids who attend, Corey can say with confidence he is likely the only positive male role model in their life.

 

I asked Corey what his advice would be to other churches regarding reaching the next generation. He shared the following:

We have done church the same way for so long that it can be hard to get older generations on board with the idea of intentionally investing in the youth. Consistent messaging is absolutely essential. Sometimes this move towards younger generations is not wanted. It takes strong leadership from the pulpit, a willingness to hurt some feelings, and a reminder that we are here to make disciples.

Many churches have come alongside to support Grace Kids through sending teams and supporting them financially. However, getting to this point has taken a great deal of time and long conversations. Corey hopes that people will begin to see the value in discipling kids and youth but recognizes that financial needs will always be a concern they will need to work around.

I was so inspired by my conversation with Corey. His obvious dedication to serving the next generation was compelling but even more was his description of their church.

He said that sometimes people think that church for kids means “adult church dumbed down for children.” But Corey says that is not at all what this church is. Their teaching is vibrant. Their worship is heartfelt. They are making disciples. They are just doing it in a way that reaches the rising generations.

Even if we aren’t ready to start a church for kids, perhaps we can learn from that one thing.

We don’t need to “dumb down” church for kids.

They are ready to know Christ. They are aching to be discipled. We can find ways to welcome them in, if we are willing to be a little uncomfortable and a little more open to their energy and excitement. I encourage you to head to the website, check out Grace Kids Church, and pray about how you can join Corey in his mission, both at his location and in yours.


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. 

 

God is Not Bored with Us

“Do it again!”

boys-286158_1920The cry of every child who sees a funny faces, watches a “magic” trick, listens to a silly voice, snuggles with mommy, plays with daddy, swings with grandma, and rides a bike with grandpa.  I can’t tell you how many times we watched the same episode of Dora with our middle child or read the same book with our oldest.  And at Christmas, we do a lot of the same things we’ve always done. But let’s be honest…sometimes the repetition can get…boring?

Tell me you understand this weariness.

I love my kids, but I should not be able to quote every line of Dora’s exciting plan to find Grandma’s house or Dr. Suess description of uniquely colored food.  And as much as I love Christmas…  Well, you get the picture.

It gets old.  It gets monotonous.  It’s…boring.

But I once read a thought from G. K. Chesterton, celebrated theologian, author, and philosopher of the 20th century, that changed my perception of this repetition forever. His words challenged me to look at God, my kids, and eternity in a whole new light and consider my own walk of faith.  He writes:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. (AMEN!)

For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. (Oh…)

It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. (...Wow…)

For me, this one of of those #mindblown moments…

The words forced me to look back on those times that had so bored my grown-up mind and think about my kids…and yes, sure enough, each repetitious moment, each repeated action, brought the same reaction – the joy of seeing it and hearing for the very first time.

There was no boredom. There was only genuine delight.

We are told in Scripture to have faith like a child.  Jesus surrounded himself with children.  I can’t help but imagine in those moments where He was healing people, the children laughing in delight and saying, “Do it again Jesus!” And I can’t help but imagine Jesus’ pleasure at hearing this.

And I can’t help but think…wouldn’t He like to hear that again, from His children?

Perhaps you’ve grown weary in this calling, as a parent or minister or both? But you can remember a day when the call was new and His Spirit was fresh and you were filled and flowing over.

Do it again, Lord.

Perhaps you have seen your church, your family, racked with pain or sorrow, fear or hurt, worry or dismay, but you can remember times where God’s presence was tangible and His comfort near and His love over all.

Do it again, Lord.

Maybe you remember the excitement of your first commitment to follow Christ and the fellowship you had with God and others, but your love has grown cold and friendships grown old and you have lost your first love.

Do it again, Lord.

And maybe, you’ve experienced healing, seen revival, led others to Christ, lived intentionally in your home, or loved intentionally in your community but are in a dry place without vision.

Do it again, Lord.

And maybe you remember Christmases past that have been wonderful and full of grace but are facing a Christmas this year that feels empty and without hope.

Do it again, Lord.

God isn’t bored with us.

Each outpouring of love, each song of praise, each whispered prayer, and each step of faith for Him is as new and fresh as the one before and the one to come.My mom tells a story of me as a child, waking up from a nap and telling her that “Jesus is ‘cited about us, but we aren’t ‘cited about Him.”  Maybe that childlike faith was speaking the truth of eternity; that God is new and fresh and excited and ready to “do it again” if only we ask.

If you find yourself in a weary place, a dry place, a lonely place, maybe it’s time to exercise that “faith like a child” and look up to your Father and say… “Do it again.”

He delights in His creation. He says “It is good!”  And He delights in us.  He rejoices over us with dancing.  He is NOT bored. “For we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

So…

Do it again, Lord.  Show your glory in this generation.

Let us be the ones who are excited about you. Amen – so be it!

This post was first published 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. 

Deep Breaths. You are NOT a Horrible Parent.

And with the stroke of midnight and the turning back of the clocks…it happened. Somehow we magically moved into the mysterious time we call the “holiday season.”  In just a few days my Facebook feed has lit up with posts about Christmas, posts against Christmas, and posts pitting Thanksgiving and Christmas against each other. Christmas music has started playing on the radio and Thanksgiving turkeys are starting to show up in grocery stores.  The whirlwind begins.

Keep in mind, dear friends, that I LOVE the whirlwind. I embrace it like a moth to a flame. The busy isn’t busy to me – it’s rich and full and bursting with life. Time with friends and family becomes the essential instead of the extracurricular and food, fun, and fellowship the norm rather than the exception.

But the is also the time of year where Stress gest a capital-S. Because while all those things above happen, so does all the other stuff that goes on year-round. It’s not like we hit the pause button on life so that we can celebrate; instead the celebration gets piled on already busy, stressed-out lives.

A recent study by Pew Research has found that in nearly half of two-parent homes, both parents work full-time.

pewresearchHow does that affect the family?  The same research found that:

  • Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children.
  • 59% percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, and more than half of working fathers say the same.
  • 56% percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding

One mother interviewed by the New York Times said this, “You basically just always feel like you’re doing a horrible job at everything. You’re not spending as much time with your baby as you want, you’re not doing the job you want to be doing at work, you’re not seeing your friends hardly ever.”

When we add in the holidays on top of life, for many it is overwhelming.

And then, if we add to that the calling for parents to intentionally lead and disciple their kids at home, using this time of year to teach them about gratitude, serving others, compassion, self-sacrifice, and giving through things like serving at a mission or participating in a food drive or giving up presents…for many, it feels impossible.

stressholiday

Parents, may I encourage you?  

For a brief moment, before we are rushed headlong into this season, can I give you this small respite of grace?

You don’t have to do it all.

You don’t have to do it perfectly.

You don’t have to make all the best choices, provide the best experiences, or present the best opportunities.

(deep breath)

But, if you can step back and before it all starts simply say,

“Jesus, this year, with our family and our children, show us how to invite you into the everyday of our holiday season. In what we are already doing, show us how to have You be a part of it.  Be present in our presence;” i

Some simple ideas, using those everyday moments from Deuteronomy 6:7 “when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” could transform your holiday season without you feeling like you do a “horrible job” at everything.  Things like…

When you sit at home:  Doing a Thankful Pumpkin at dinner (see “how to” here), Watching a Christmas movie and looking for Jesus in it (see ideas for movie night discussion here), Wrapping gifts for family members and praying for each one while you do. 

When you walk along the road:  Listening to Christian Christmas Carols and asking what part of the Christmas story it was about, Looking at Christmas lights and talking about how Jesus is our Light (check out this Christmas lights scavenger hunt if you have a long drive), Handing out Blessings Bags to those in need. 

When you lie down:  Create a wall of blessing that you add to each night at bedtime (just tack up a piece of poster board and let kids decorate with stickers, pictures, etc. and list the year’s blessings, one each night/week), Start reading the Christmas story on December 1 until Christmas Day, Add one ornament each Saturday night to the tree that has special meaning to your family.

When you rise: Use an Advent Calendar and open a door each morning before the day starts, Pray together for everyone you sent Christmas cards to (one person or family per morning/week), Put Christmas cards in your kids backpacks (you can get packs for $1 at Dollar Tree) with notes of blessing for them all season long. 

(Want more ideas: Click here)

The reality is that the holidays are coming, will come, and will pass. Memories will be made. Life will happen. What January looks like for your family will in some way be dependent on what November and December looked like as they passed.

Don’t allow stress and shame steal the joy and opportunity of the season.

Realistically, no family can do it all. But realistically, we can all do something.

If we are unable to do “the big things,” let’s invite Jesus into all the little things and embrace the celebration for His sake.  It will look different for each home, as it should. But in each home, Christ desires to be the respite, the rest, the peace no matter what season it is.


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 and  Seedbed

Reframing Repentance for Our Kids

When it comes to being a parent, I think one of the trickiest lines to walk is the line of confession and repentance. I mean think about it. We want our kids to come and tell us the truth but we also feel that they need to experience consequences for the actions they’ve done. We want them to acknowledge when they’ve hit their brother, knocked over the lamp, went outside their boundaries, or lied about what happened BUT we also want to reward them for owning up to it and telling the truth.  So we are in the tricky spot of saying, “Thank you for telling the truth but here’s your consequence for the behavior.”

I’ve always struggled with how best to do this and let me say up front, I don’t have the answer. But I’ve been challenged lately to consider my approach.

As we move into the season of Lent, we can’t help but hear a lot of talk about confession and repentance. This idea of coming before the Lord, acknowledging our sins, confessing our wrong doing, and reflecting on this for the forty days leading to Easter becomes central to many who celebrate Lent.

But I can’t help but think; if it is a tricky situation for me as a parent, perhaps there’s more to this Lenten journey as well.

When I think of confession and repentance, I tend to conjure up thoughts of sackcloth and ashes and sadness and despair. But maybe that’s not the whole story? I love these thoughts shared by my husband in a devotional he recently wrote.

Repentance is a difficult subject for us in the modern world. More than that, I think that it’s a difficult subject for many of us in the Christian faith. I mean, we know that it’s important and that it has something to do with salvation but I’m afraid mostly it still conjures up memories of shame, images of us beating our chests and crying out for mercy, reminders of our brokenness and of our inability to do anything about it.

But what if this vision of repentance was somehow misleading? What if repentance in the Christian tradition had less to do with our failure and more to do with God’s infinite grace?

What if repentance, far from being a season of sorrow, was actually a period of release, of freedom, of liberation?

What if it was the very life of God transforming our lives and others’ lives and the very life of the world? What if it was an invitation to God to move marvelously? How might that vision repentance change the way we approach topics like confession, or remorse, or restitution?

In Isaiah 30.15 we read that it is in repentance and rest that we discover our salvation. How can we teach our children that there is rest in the act of repentance?

In Matthew 4.17 we find Jesus saying, “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” How can we help our children see that repentance is related to experiencing the kingdom of God?

In Acts 3.19 we are exhorted to “repent… so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”  How can we allow our children to experience times of refreshing as a result of repentance?

Maybe there is a way for us to teach our children that repentance isn’t all gloom and doom, sadness and despair, but rather an invitation into a deeper experience of God’s grace, His unending Love and His infinite mercy.

I think it needs to begin with me, with us.

freedom-2053281_1920Because if my view of repentance is primarily one of beating my chest or memories of shame, I can inadvertently put that on my children. But if I begin to allow Christ to help me see confession and repentance as the first step on a journey of freedom, of rest, of refreshing, and of experiencing the kingdom of God, then perhaps I will begin to instill this vision in my children.

Psalm 30:5 reminds us that God’s “anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” The sadness and shame, the guilt and the sorrow of confession and repentance similarly need only last for a brief moment, but the freedom and joy and rest for an eternity. In fact, Paul tells us that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation”; sorrow precedes repentance but repentance precedes salvation, an experience of great joy! (2 Cor. 7:10).

Repentance isn’t the end of joy; repentance is the beginning. It’s the gateway to freedom. Confession isn’t the start of shame; it’s the resounding end of it!

What if we could re-frame that for our children? How much greater would their experience of confession and repentance be?  How much more eager would they be to move quickly from sorrow to joy?

As we go through this season of Lent, let’s ask God to help us understand more fully the gift of repentance and experience more richly the freedom it brings so that we can pass it on 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

It’s Monday, but Wednesday is Coming

It’s coming. The moment that has been talked about for the past forever it feels like. On Wednesday morning, America will wake up to a new President.

It’s going to happen.

About half of the country will be happy or at least satisfactorily resigned. About the half the country will be devastated or at best reluctantly resigned.

But regardless, it is going to happen.

So, we have the chance, right now, before it all starts or ends, depending on how you look at it, to make some important decisions.

How are we going to react?

Group of Friends SmilingThis is important because our reaction will speak volumes to the children who are looking to us for guidance and stability. Are we going to react with hopelessness and despair?  Are we going to react with fear and derision? Are we going to react with pride and self-righteousness?

Or are we going to, in the light of whatever happens, show our children a consistent dependence on Christ and the solid foundation of our hope in Him?  It’s a legitimate question we need to ask ourselves before we wake up on Wednesday morning.

How are we going to behave?

Our reactions often affect our behavior. The words we speak. The emotions we exhibit. The behavior we engage in. So we need to think, “How am I going to behave on Wednesday morning if this person or that person wins the election?”  Am I going to behave as someone whose citizenship in heaven, who is called to extend the love and mercy of God to all humanity, and who is confident in the sovereignty of God and therefore, act compassionately, graciously, and lovingly to those around me regardless of their reaction?

What are we going to post/tweet?

This one is so huge. It is so easy to hit that little button that says “Post” or “Tweet” and forget that actual people with real live hearts who are created in the image of God are on the other side of the screen reading what we wrote. So what are we going to post or tweet on Wednesday morning?  It’s worth deciding ahead of time, if not only for our own sake, for the sake of our children who will one day google us.

Each Sunday at our church during our Kids Worship time, our worship leader leads the
children through a little responsive questioning.  He asks three questions and receives three answers from the children; three question I think are very important for us to ponder as we move into this transformative week.

As you read the questions and responses, consider how they play out in our hearts, as kingdom-minded believers who are being watched closely by the next generation of Christians.

Who are You?
I am a Child of God.
Who are We Together?
We are the Body of Christ
Why are We Here?
We are here to learn more about God and His Covenant to us.

With that in mind…what will our reactions, behaviors, and words look like on Wednesday morning?

May God be with each of us as we seek to be children of God, the body of Christ, learning more about Him and His covenant of Love to us every day….even the day after Election Day.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James‬ ‭1:19‬ ‭


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 the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is 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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Easy like Sunday Morning: Creating “Easy Wins” for the Home

Yes, we’ve all heard the joke: “Whoever wrote the song ‘Easy like Sunday Morning’ obviously never tried to get their family to church on time” or something similar to that. Sunday mornings are notoriously horrendous, especially if you have kiddos to get dressed, fed, and out the door. Can I get an amen?

But, that’s actually not what I’m talking about this time.

Yesterday I had the chance to sit in on a class with my husband and some of his (and my) seminary friends. The class discussion revolved around how liturgical practices in the church could be utilized to address current themes such as nationalism, consumerism, the sexualization of society, etc. It was a great discussion.

However, as the discussion continued, it became increasingly clear that the church has limited influence in speaking into these areas.

In fact, it became increasingly clear that if the message was going to be heard, it was going to need to come from parents/caregivers in the context of the home.

churhccomeshomeBut how?  How do you take liturgical and sacramental practices like communion and baptism and put them in the context of the home while relating them to the themes and challenges of the culture today?

In other words, how do you give parents easy wins, simple ways to connect Sunday to Monday, so that the home continues the conversation of church? You know, easy like Sunday morning. 

We need to think bigger.

We need to look at this whole idea of having ONE conversation in multiple locations so that when we are in church on Sunday, what we are talking about, and what we are doing, doesn’t seem new or different or foreign. Instead, when we walk into church, it seems familiar and natural, a continuation of the conversation.

Like with communion:

What if we gave parents activities to explain communion to their kids at home BEFORE their kids take communion at church?

What if, after Communion Sunday, we give them a few conversation starters to share with their kids about how communion speaks to consumerism and materialism (not with those words, but with that heart)?

What if we created round table discussions for parents to come to at church, not when their kids are 13 and in the middle of the pangs of puberty, but when they have infants and are preparing for this whole parenting thing and at those tables, we took communion and talked about how we can live out this practice in our homes through sacrificial living and experiencing God’s presence?

And how about baptism?

What if the words spoken, the commitment of the church to walk alongside the child and family at baptism or dedication (depending on your tradition) were given to parents to take home and review with their kids on a regular basis? Maybe even framed and signed by the pastor and members of the church?

What if we offered remember your baptism services and encouraged families to talk about their baptisms at home before they come to church so that baptism was more than a one-time event but a continual reminder of identity in Christ and as a member of the Church?

A lot of “What ifs” in all of that, but imagine if those “What ifs” became easy wins for parents/caregivers to have intentional faith conversations with their children and youth when they rise, when they lie down, when they sit at home and when they walk along the road.

Here are some Easy Wins to get started (and I’d love to know what your church is doing to continue the conversation between church and Home)

Easy Wins – Communion

At our church last Valentine’s Day, we created little “Take Home Communion Kits” for families that included a short liturgy, the elements of grape juice and bread which were blessed by our pastor, and a little lesson the Greatest Valentine Ever (Jesus). Families were able to celebrate together with a lesson that connected to the holiday of Valentine’s Day and reminded them of where True Love is really found. Need elements? Click here for what we used. 

How do you talk about communion with youth?  Here’s an article that makes talking about communion as easy as talking about eating dinner, something all kids and youth understand. This is a great way to talk about communion as community, literally “communing” with God and the whole family of God. And this conversation can be had over dinner a.k.a. “when we sit at home.”

Creative Communion, a book by Margaret Withers and Tim Sledge, actually has six session around different foods and snacks that actually helps open the discussion with kids about different aspects of communion such as gathering, confession, gospel reading, offering, communion, and dismissal. It’s a really neat approach using food kids love (like pizza) to have an ongoing conversation about the sacrament of Eucharist. For more ideas and more about the book, click here.

Easy Wins – Baptism

Remember your baptism – Many church traditions offer the opportunity to “remember your baptism” as part of their regular service. This can easily be done by the family in the home and parents can remember aloud with their children their own baptism and what it means to be a member of the body of Christ. Simply use water to pour over one’s hands or touch to one’s head and remember together.  Check out this amazing booklet from one church that gives baptism anniversary activities for the parents and children to do at home and remember together their baptism. 

Regardless of your church’s baptismal tradition, one thing we all agree on is that baptism invites us into the community of faith, into the Church, the Body of Christ. In an age where belonging and identity are often questioned, baptism gives us both. For parents, this can be a good way to talk to their kids when they question who they are and where they belong. Baptism brings us back to that place. Here are some links on ways to spark or have that conversation at home:


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 the author 

Family(40)

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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

A Prayer for Our World

In a world where a 4 year old boy peers from a backseat while his caregivers are passed out in the front due to a drug overdose…

In a world where politics divide a country, not just by ideology, but words of absolute hatred and burning insults…

In a world where floods and earthquakes and war and famine tear apart lives and destroy futures in seconds…

In a world where heartache fills the airwaves and the pages of social media feeds; where so many statements are laced with bitterness, sadness or greed; where we remember anew each year moments of terror that broke our hearts;  where we stare aghast into the grief each day because we are connected in ways we could never have imagined just one generation ago…

In that world…

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”- St. Francis

In that world, let us be different and let that difference be Jesus.


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 the author – This blog post was written by guest blogger, Mary Trent. 

Family(40)

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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

The Shaming Needs to Stop

Please, let’s just stop. I’m asking us as a friend. I’m asking us as a fellow Christian. And I’m asking us as a human being; please stop using social media as a place to shame, dishonor, and ridicule people. Our kids deserve better examples from us of what it means to be in this world but not of it. (If you aren’t sure what I mean by “public shaming”, click here)

As I scrolled down through my Facebook feed this morning, as with many mornings, my heart broke as I saw my timeline filled with posts from my fellow brother and sisters in Christ using this platform as a way to express passive-aggressive (and sometimes downright aggressive) disapproval of other people.

Whether it is in regards to politics or just something that somebody is doing that, for whatever reason, we just don’t like, it appears that we feel like social media is an acceptable place to be rude, snarky, sarcastic and just plain mean to each other.

If anyone feels they are being targeted by this, please don’t. I don’t even know who posted some of the things that are coming to mind this morning, but I know I’ve seen things shared multiple times that do not in any way seem to me to reflect the love of Christ, the fellowship of His sufferings, and the testimony of His grace – the things we are supposed to be communicating with the world.

There are better ways, much more productive ways, of channeling disapproval.

If we feel the youth of today are an immodest, misbehaving, selfish, uneducated generation, let’s not post a meme about it… let’s find a way to serve them. Become a mentor. Be part of their community. I know for a fact each local church needs children and youth volunteers (guarantee it – just go and ask). Use that as the platform for change by living a life of true love and sacrifice and modeling how to live product and selfless lives that honor others.

A million memes on Facebook with a snarky comment about how kids can whip and nae-nae but can’t say the Lord’s Prayer will do absolutely nothing but hurt them and others. DO something.Say the Lord’s Prayer for them and then with them as you lead them in love. 

If we feel that the political party  is wrong about something, let’s recognize that calling the them names on Facebook, making fun of their educational level, lashing out at them in sarcastic and hateful ways, and creating an atmosphere that supports violence and division, will only lead to no good, for us or them. If we really care that much about our party or our candidate, we can share why without having to denigrate others at the same time. We can spend more time on what we consider good and less time using social media to rail against others in rude and inconsiderate ways about what we think is bad.

Listen, before we post, let’s simply consider this: “Would I like someone to say this about me?”  If you wouldn’t, then don’t post it!  Don’t call people names (that would stop half the posts right there!). Don’t undermine people’s character because they don’t agree with you. Address issues without attacking people.

If we are unhappy with legitimate social issues in society, things that range from concerns about education to society’s addiction to technology, again, let’s actively do something about it. We have influence on actual people; children and youth that are in our churches, our communities, our world. Befriend them. Build a relationship with them.

Let’s bring them the love of Jesus and let our lives model for them what it is to live in the world and not of it. Then when we share our concerns, they may actually be heard, rather than just cause a reaction of shame or anger as social media memes tend to do.

And for the other issues, the ones we just like to get upset about for one reason or another – something rubbed us wrong or we just don’t like the way someone did something – bring it to the right place first; not the public sphere as a reaction to correct those who did wrong, but to the Father in heaven and ask if there is any wicked way in you (Ps. 51).

girlsocialmeidaMy daughter will turn 13 this year. She will be old enough for a Facebook account. And I will let her have one because I think I’ve raised her with some character tools that will help her use social media in a healthy way. BUT I would never allow her to use social media as a place to make rude or snarky comments about her friends.

So why is it okay to do that to strangers, or youth, or parents, or Democrats, or Republicans, or random people that we’ve never met?  It’s not.

It’s not right to use shame as a tool to make our point.

And if that’s the only tool in our social media belt, could I challenge and encourage us to take some time to really consider what it is that we believe about God, His love for the world and all the people in it, and then think about how we can make lasting changes by serving others rather than shaming them.

I understand that might mean we post some pretty straightforward and thoughtful things on Facebook that share our heart in loving and honorable ways. It might mean we take a direct stand on some issues because that’s what we feel called to do.

But let’s do it with a heart of love and use the tools of grace and humility rather than the weapons of shame and condemnation.

And let’s show our kids that they can do the same when it’s their turn.


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 the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is 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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

 

It’s STILL Not Okay: The Not-So-Golden Rule

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule.

According to Wikipedia, nearly every culture and every religion have some version of this rule.

kindness-1197351_1920Some, like the Bible, state it in positive terms; “Do unto others has you would have them do unto you.

Some state it in negative terms; “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.

Some talk about it like more of a feeling or emotion; “Don’t wish on others what you don’t want to happen to you.

It’s pretty much a universal understanding that we treat people in the way we want to be treated and we don’t treat people in ways we don’t want to be treated.

But here’s the thing. Jesus takes it a step further.

You see, Jesus assumes that people won’t always follow the golden rule. He assumes that there will be times in our lives that people will do exactly the opposite of the golden rule.

They will intentionally hurt us.

They will seek to do things to us that we can safely assume they don’t want done to them.

They will wish harm upon us and speak to us with malice.

They will act in ways that do not fit within the parameters of the golden rule.

So Jesus says, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

 Basically, He says we are called to follow the golden rule even if everyone else is breaking it. We are supposed to be different, stand out, reflect Christ to the world around us. 

Many of you read my recent post last week entitled It is Not Okay where I responded to various examples of disruptive, disrespectful and disturbing behavior of the current election cycle. Over a half million people read the post, with many sharing it on Facebook and Twitter, and many responding in comments, messages and emails. The responses I received over the past week from across the United States and the world ranged from support, encouragement, and agreement to nothing short of hate, disgust and anger.

But the ones that most broke my heart were the ones that started with “I agree with you but…” and ended up saying something along the lines of “the only reason they acted that way is because they were baited.” In other words, the attitudes, actions, and behaviors I said were not okay, actually were okay because someone else did it first.

Basically the opposite of the Golden Rule.

More like the not-so-golden rule of “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”

A rule that Jesus destroyed when He said, You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

In that original article, I asked repeatedly, “What are we teaching our children?”  Based on the many, many responses I received, I can say these appear to be the things we are passing on to the next generation.

  1. If someone hurts you, you have every right to hurt them back. After all, they deserve it. An eye for an eye…
  2. If you disagree with someone about anything for any reason, you can express that disagreement in any way you want. After all, free speech and everything…
  3. If someone is being hurt, disrespected, treated abusively, bullied, or made fun of, the best thing to to do is to find out what they did to deserve it first, before stepping in to defend them or stop the behavior.  A tooth for a tooth.

If we are teaching our children that behaviors of aggression and bullying are allowable in certain circumstances, then why are we surprised when they grow up and violence and anger become the language of choice?  

So what does that mean for us? What should be we be teaching our children?

It means if someone hits us, we can’t hit them back.

It means if someone insults us, we don’t insult them back.

If someone steals from us, we don’t steal back.

If every manner of evil is done to us… it is still not okay for us to do the same to them.  

Period. End of story. It is still not okay. 

Christ has given His Church an ethic of Love to live by. He models for us a walk that puts others first and relentlessly pursues peace. If we are teaching our children anything other than that, we need to take a step back and really examine Christ’s words. As I shared last week…

Love God. Love Others. 
Simple as that. Anything else is not okay.

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 the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is 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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.