That Time Jesus was Angry

In a discussion I was once involved in regarding the inclusion of children in corporate worship, someone made this statement:

“I think whenever you start including children in worship, you should expect a certain amount of cynicism.”

As you can imagine, I didn’t agree. In fact, I don’t think we should ever expect cynicism in any context when it comes to welcoming people into our worship settings. Expecting the worst often brings about the worst. And I don’t want that. And, I believe, neither does the Church.  The church is the body of Christ. His Spirit indwells their midst. My expectation is that the Church will react to and welcome children just as Jesus did, just as He showed us and demonstrated while among us. 

But even Jesus’ own disciples didn’t “get it” at first. The disciples were the first to turn children away, with seeming good intention, but apparent lack of insight and understanding of Christ’s heart.  In the gospel of Mark, we read this account.

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. – Mark 10:13-15

So,  how did Jesus handle that moment?  Well, he was angry.

That word “angry” is sometimes translated “indignant” or “very displeased.”  It’s the jesus-christ-2516515_1920same word used to describe how the Pharisees felt when the children were calling out “Hosanna to the Son of David” during the Triumphal Entry and when Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath. The disciples felt that way when Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and “wasted” it and when James and John’s mom asked if they could sit next to Jesus in heaven. It’s overall…not a good feeling. It indicates a general unhappiness with a person or situation.

But then, notice what Jesus does.

He doesn’t just get angry. He gets angry but then explains why.

He explains that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children.

He explains that the disciples needed to accept the kingdom like these children if they ever wanted to truly enter in.

Then He showed them what to do. He took the children IN HIS ARMS (oh my, what a beautiful picture) and placed his hand on their heads and blessed them.  In front of the disciples. Demonstrating before their eyes exactly how He wanted them to treat children.

I’m willing to bet that in the future, the disciples  made sure that the children were never turned away. They had seen Jesus and they understood.

I picture in my head a future time where not only was Jesus holding children and blessing them, but the disciples were too. I imagine that in their churches after Jesus had left, children were in their midst, blessing and being blessed. In fact, I can assume that children were there, considering that Paul writes specifically to them in letters that were read aloud to the congregation.

Perhaps, you’ve experienced something similar.

You’ve asked your pastor if children can come and worship with the congregation and been turned away.

You’ve brought your children with you to worship service and been invited to enjoy the remainder of the service in the lobby

You’ve presented ideas for a Family Worship Service or an intergenerational gathering and been dismissed.

You’ve shared your heart with parents and ministers about the importance of allowing children to see faith modeled, to participate in liturgy, to be active members of the congregation and have faced… cynicism.

And you may even be angry, indignant, or very displeased.

Please don’t stop there.

The children still need you. And the Church still needs you.

Take the children in your arms. Bless them. Every chance you have, demonstrate the heart of welcome and the love of Jesus to them.

Because your actions speak volumes. Your testimony shines brightly. The disciples turned the children away because they didn’t understand. They didn’t know. But Jesus showed them, just as He has shown us. Let’s expect the best just as He did.

I’m not a huge sports fan but I do like this quote by Michael Jordan: If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.”  Let’s not accept that the expectation is cynicism; let’s expect to find Jesus. 


Wanna read about a “real-life” scenario regarding kids and worship and expectations?  Check out this article: What my Pastor did About the Rowdy Kids at our Church

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

EmbreeFam2017Christina 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.

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Back-to-School Blessing for Volunteers, Parents, and Kids

In many places around the country, schools are gearing up to re-start sometime in the next month. For churches that often means a re-boot as well as they move from summer mode into fall programming and the start of a new academic year. With that can come a whole range of “new” things!  Kids promote to the next class, new volunteers come on to serve or they begin serving in a new capacity, and parents begin to navigate  new experiences with new teachers, new schools, and new grade levels for their kids.

education-908512_1920A few years ago, the church I worked at was able to hold a time of commissioning and blessing over these groups as the new school year kicked off and we began to embrace all of these “new” things.  The entire time of blessing takes about 5 minutes and can be a way for your whole church to come together and let the kids, parents, and volunteers know that they are being held up and prayer and sent out as God’s lights of love as the academic year begins.

Feel free to adapt this script to your own church’s service and needs, and blessings to all as we encounter all the “new” things!


An All-Church Blessing for Parents, Children and Volunteers

Purpose – To recognize kids who are promoting to new classes/small groups, to pray over kids, parents and volunteers at the start of a new academic year

Children’s Pastor/Family Minister – We are excited to be able to celebrate with you the growth of our kids and families this year and recognize them as they promote to new classes and small groups within this ministry and some to youth group. But before we bring up the kids, can I ask all of our ministry volunteers to please stand and make their way to the center aisle?

(as volunteers are moving)

It is a blessing to serve with this group of people. The love they show our kids and the grace with which they serve is a testimony of the love of Christ in their lives and to the children. So, I’d like to not only say thank you, but briefly pray for you as you serve this upcoming year! Church, will you join me?

(PRAYER – Lord be with and bless these who serve. In their service, give the strength and by your Spirit give them grace. May the love they give be retuned to them in greater numbers and may your joy fill their hearts)

Volunteers if you will please line each side of the center aisle and get your high five hands ready, we will bring in our kids!!

(If you have some fun music, you could use this here. This is based on our structure with small groups. It can be adapted to fit whatever age groups, classes, or sections a church has for their programs. It can also be done as one large group which will reduce the amount of time needed for this commissioning and blessing.)

Joining us for the very first time as they are just starting school, we give you our preschoolers!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

Moving up into the elementary room, we are excited to recognize our new Kindergarten/First Grade small group!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

Not too far ahead of them, we want to recognize our “middle kids” our 2nd/3rd grade small group!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

And finally, our oldest group, and probably the most excited, our 4th/5th grade small group!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

Last, we’d like to recognize our 6th graders who will be moving up to join the youth group this year!

(children will “run” through the volunteers to the front)

AT THIS POINT, ALL THE KIDS WILL BE UP FRONT AND THE VOLUNTEERS WILL RETURN TO THEIR SEATS

Pastor or Worship Leader: Church, we are so blessed to have this group of children to welcome into worship and help their parents disciple in the faith. At baptism (or dedication, depending on the church), we commit to helping our kids grow in Christ and today we would like to re-affirm that commitment to them in their presence so that they can hear and know that we are here for them.

(At this time, we read our church’s Congregational Charge read at baptism. More than likely, each church has a similar reading for baptism or dedication. This is a great time to remind the congregation of the commitment they have made to walk with these families and children and a wonderful chance for the children to actually hear the words being said since they are too young to comprehend it the first time is said.)

Pastor – Lord, we thank you for the gift of these children and youth. May we be faithful to serve them and may they walk in your love. Be with this as they go into this new school year and give them the grace they need to learn and grow.

Children’s Pastor/Family Minister– If you are a parent/caregiver of one of the children here, will you please stand where you are? Kids, these people love you more than you could possibly know and they want you to grow in faith and in love. Will you help me to pray for them like we did for you?

DISMISS KIDS TO PARENTS

Children’s Pastor/Family Minister (as kids are going) – Parents we know that the work you do is difficult and while the days are long, the years are short. Please hear this blessing as a prayer for you as you serve God as the faith formers in your home.

“May you love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. May His commandments always be upon your hearts, so that you can impress them on your children. May God give you grace to talk about these things continually, when you’re at home, or on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. When your strength fails, may you walk in His. When you are weary, may His arms carry you. And when the day is done, may you hear His voice saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

This post was originally shared on ReFocus Ministry 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. 

This is Holy Week: Experiencing the Sorrow and the Joy Together

This week as believers, we celebrate highest highs and lowest lows in the pivotal moments of our faith. On Sunday we met Christ with shouts of “Hosanna!” and waved palm branches of praise to welcome him to Jerusalem.

But what we welcomed Him to is actually the beginning of the end; we praised Him into Gethsemane, we ushered him to the mount of Calvary. And even as we shouted with joy on Sunday, our hearts know what this week holds – the Last Supper, Good Friday, the dark silence of Saturday.

easterloveAnd in those lowest lows, we grieve. We are sad. Our shouts are silenced.

But oh, the glory that awaits us. Oh, the joy that is coming. Oh, for Sunday morning with the Light breaks through the darkness, and our shouts return, this time with eternity in the strains, for this time we will shout to a risen Savior; this time to a everlasting Lord; this time “Hosannas” without end.

This is Holy Week.

A few years ago, on Good Friday, I shared these thoughts. This still ring true today

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 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.

Feel every moment of this Holy Week. Feel the joy. Feel the sorrow. Let yourself feel. And in those feelings, let yourself find hope in the Resurrection – for we have this hope, THIS HOPE, as an anchor to our souls.

“The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”


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. 

How We “Broke” The Family

Onec, while my husband was at a neighbor’s house, one of their electric outlets wasn’t working, a recurring problem with that outlet.  Luke knows a bit about electricity so he grabbed some tools from home and got to work.  Ultimately, he had to trace the problem back to a wire that had become loose and sometimes, but not always, disconnected.  After he re-connected and tightened the wire, ta-da, electricity again!

A recent study released by Search Institute, a research group dedicated to “discovering what kids need to succeed,” suggests that…we’ve got a loose wire in America. Not just a loose one, but in some cases, a completely disconnected one, and unfortunately, the one that has the most power.

The title of their research is “Don’t Forget the Families: The Missing Piece in America’s Effort to Help All Children Succeed” and what it shows is that we have made a big mistake in America – we nixed the family and tried to raise the kids without it.

They report, “too many institutions and professionals have given up on families, focusing exclusively on the struggles families face and the problems they create. We then put our energy and resources into setting up systems and supports that compensate for the failures we perceive in families.”

So what does that mean?family_cutouts

We tried to “fix” the shortcomings we’ve perceived in families by, well, replacing the family with things like school, and sports, and therapy, and youth programs and … church. Yes, church.

As a society we collectively decided that “many families are dysfunctional and even hopeless. Changes in family structure and family life have led some observers, advocates, and the public to characterize the state of families today as bad and getting worse.”  The solution? Remove the “power” from the family and replace it with other more stable things.

The problem with that is, we forgot that we are hard-wired to be a part of a family, and no matter how many institutions we create to vie for power in our hearts, our family consistently remains the most influential. 

“In reality, there is little evidence that families have lost their power in the lives of children and youth—even though many families do face major challenges.[A] University of Virginia study found that most parents are quite happy with their own families (Bowman et al., 2012).

A 2010 survey of 2,691 U.S. adults by the Pew Research Center similarly found that 76% said their family is the most important element of their lives, and 75% said they are very satisfied with their family (Taylor, 2010).

Longitudinal evidence suggests that it is more accurate to describe families as changing, not declining… family influence remained strong… levels of maternal engagement remained strong.

Conclusion? Families still matter greatly, and families can and do tend to perform well those functions that are particularly relevant to the lives of children, even in different social and historical contexts, household arrangements, and living conditions (Bengsten, et al, p. 15).”

What does that mean to us in the Church?

Parents/caregivers are the single most important influence in a child’s life. Period.

No amount of programming, support, systems or institutions can change that.  We are hard-wired to exist within families by the very One who wired our system in the first place.  And thus the call to parents to disciple their kids in the faith all through Scripture. Because God knew what researchers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to tell us in a pages-long report on the success of children:

We propose focusing family engagement on reinforcing families’ central role in helping children and youth develop character strengths through which they discover who they are, their power to shape their own development, and why they matter in their families, communities, and world 

In the church, we call that…discipleship.

 This study, aimed at the larger society and having nothing to do with faith or religion or church, is saying we must “refocus family engagement for greater reach and impact based on the perspectives, priorities, and strengths of families.”

It is time.  

We need to rewire, reconnect, reengage and refocus on the home. Family, no matter what it looks like or how messy it feels to dive into, is where it is at. The power has always resided there.  The influence has always been strongest there.

The fact is, families were wired that way from the start by the One who said, “Impress these commandments upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road; when you lie down and when you rise.”

It’s time to fix the disconnect and turn our attention, our energy, our desire to see children follow Christ towards the home and equip the leaders there to do what they are wired to do…go and make disciples at home.

This article was originally posted in October 2015. You can read the original here


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

What Intergenerational Worship IS

A few days I shared my thoughts on what intergenerational worship is NOT. So often we approach times of corporate worship where are all generations are present with pre-conceived notions of what we fear it could be. But often those things are not truly representative of the heart of intergenerational worship.

So what IS intergenerational worship?

Simply put, intergenerational worship is ministry that focuses on connecting multiple generations in faith-forming relationships cultivated through times of corporate worship, intentional discipleship, and ongoing mentorship.


It’s much more than a Sunday morning experience or simply worshiping in a specific location
. It has at its heart a focus on generational discipleship and a experiencing of our faith together as a community.

And, it can have its challenges, especially today where age segregation (keeping the generations apart both physically and culturally) is the norm. Let’s be honest, putting generations together in one space can be difficult.

It can feel more like a collision than a collusion. 

However, research has shown that it is not only a good and healthy thing for different generations to spend time in relationships one another, it is also one of the key factors in young people remaining in the faith after they’ve left their home of origin. So what can we do to help create environment that allow for this type of interaction in our faith community, without causing conflict and collision?

Community

It is important to keep in mind the community cannot be forced upon a group. It must
be nurtured and watered and given space to grow. One cannot simply tell older members of a congregation that they need to go mentor and worship with younger people and expect it to take place. Bonds of community take time to grow and develop and they require a certain level of shared vision and commitment on the part of the people involved.

In order to create nurturing environments for these types of intergenerational relationships to develop, we need to intentionally create situations where meaningful interactions can take place or, even more fundamentally, offer a way to simply get to know each other’s names.

team-spirit-2447163_1920

Service projects and shared meals are wonderful places for these types of interactions to begin to occur. There is something about serving with others that leads to a sense of unity and community and the act of sharing a meal together has long been seen as a way for people to connect and bond with each other. Shared communal activities like going to a baseball game together or working on mission together can go a long way in nurturing relationships across the generations.

I’m also a huge advocate for the Pray For Me campaign that connects young people in your church up with three prayer partners from three generations in ways that help them get to know each other and connect on a spiritual level (Read more on this experience HERE).

Communication

Without a “Why” it is really difficult to introduce change of any kind. People need to know that there is a reason behind doing something differently or moving in a new direction or they will resist it because it’s easier to keep doing something familiar.

It is important to “create a need” by sharing with those who will listen your vision
and the “why” behind it. If there is no understanding of the basic reasons for connecting generations (history of children’s/youth ministry, the facts about young people leaving the church, the things that help young people to “stick”), there will be no “need” that has to be met.

So we have to share. We have to give a reason for wanting to bring the generations together. We have to communicate in ways that everyone can hear. For some, it’s going to need to be from the pulpit. For others, in the bulletin or church newsletter. For still others, social media or email or even text. But there must be a clear and consistent message if we are to engage others in the need. 

Consistencey

If I were to ask you today to tell me about your church, you would probably tell me something about your church’s vision and mission. You’d tell me about the things your church is passionate about or excited about. For instance, if your church focuses on community outreach, you’d tell me about that. If worship is your main focus, you’d tell me about your worship. If you are into community groups or life groups, I’d hear about that.

As we introduce new things, like intergenerational worship into our church context, it’s important that we recognize what our church is already passionate about and find ways to join the generations in that mission.

For instance, if our goal is to connect the generations in our church and our church is really into service projects, it might be reasonable to find ways to get the children and youth plugged in there before having them join the worship service. Or, if worship really is the big thing, to find ways to involve children and youth in active participation or slowly introduce times of corporate worship as we move towards more times spent together.  If we remain consistent with our church’s heart and vision, the transition to something new will be a much smoother experience. 

Always keep in mind that the ultimate goal is relationship, and while those are cultivated in times of corporate worship, intentional discipleship, and ongoing mentorship, the relationship is the key to the long-lasting effect on the faith of young people.

It is simply impossible to create relationships if generations remain segregated from each other all the time. Intergenerational worship creates space for relationship to happen. Ultimately, intergenerational worship IS the whole church, being the church, together. 


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

When Church is Optional

I recently heard a speaker refer to the “Nones” as the “new atheist.”  I quickly leaned over to my husband and said, “No, that’s wrong. They aren’t atheist. They just see belonging to a church or a denomination as optional to their faith in God.”

Now, in case you’re lost…. a “None” is someone who does not choose to affiliate with a religion. Over the last decade, there’s been a marked increase in the number of people who choose this designation on surveys, especially in the Millennial age group (18-30ish). Atheists claim there is no God, but the diverse group of Nones doesn’t say that. Rather, most say that they do believe in God, but they choose, for a myriad of reasons, not to associate with a specific religion or preference. Even those who say they believe in a Christian God and agree with the tenets of Christianity don’t want to claim a denominational affiliation.

And attendance at a church is…well, optional to their faith.

The latest Pew Research on Religion & Public Life has found that “nearly half (23% of all U.S. adults) say they have always attended religious services at least as regularly as they do now, but slightly more (27% of all U.S. adults) say they now attend religious services more often than they did at some other time in their adult lives.”

However…

Our definition of what a “regular attender” at church is probably varies quite a bit from the definition they used which was “at least once or twice a month.”  That’s right. Regular attendance at church is now defined as “once or twice a month.” To me, that is a startling definition. I can’t think of any other social institution that would count “once or twice a month” as regular attendance (unless they are only open once or twice a month). School, clubs, work, sports teams, etc. all require a much higher level of commitment to be considered members, let alone “regular attendees.”

And therein lies much of the struggle and much of the beauty of church.  

God does not “require” us to attend church to be members of his body than Jesus.  We repeatedly teach that our faith is “by grace through faith” not by works. And while we encourage the participation in the church and we teach on the importance of growing faith within community and we provide deeply needed place of connection so that we don’t walk away from God, church is a voluntary obligation and a place where we have the choice to join or not and still call ourselves a member in good standing.

Well, almost all of us. There is a group that doesn’t really have that choice.

boywithhymnalThe choice is made for them because they are young and their parents/caregivers are the ones that must bring them to church and involve them in the faith community.

The children are not given the options that we as adults are. They go where the
parents/caregivers say to go
.

So when the parents/caregivers make the church optional, the children do as well. And they can grow up and say things like, “I believe in God, but I don’t think I need to belong to a church to have my own faith.”

Regardless of feelings on this, and there are many, one of the reasons that family ministry has gained traction over the last few years is because this reality has been realized. Coupled with the fact that research both secular and religious consistently find that parents ARE the primary faith formers of their children, it has become evident that in order to reach the children, we must reach the parents.

Last year at the D6 Family Ministry Conference in Louisville, Pastor Robby Gallaty shared:”One of the biggest problems we face in the church is parents who are trying to make disciples with kids but are not being discipled themselves.

That’s what family ministry is all about.

It’s about reaching a generation of parents/caregivers, equipping, nurturing, and supporting them for the work of discipleship but not by saying, “You’re on your own. You don’t need the church.”

The purpose of family ministry is to put the church at such an integral place in the home and in the family that parents prioritize faith formation and involvement in a faith community in such a way that their children know just how much they need the body of Christ if they are to hold fast to their own faith as they grow.

Re-read that!  It is so important to understand this concept if we are going to have healthy conversations about families, and children, and church retention and attendance.

So what does family ministry really say about involvement in a faith community?

Dr. Colleen Derr, also shared at D6 Family Ministry Conference, this nugget I think we all need to grasp: “Family ministry is not ‘dump and run.’”  In other words, it’s not “Well, you are the primary faith formers so here you go, you’re on your own. Good luck with those kiddos!”

Sadly, this is a misconception that can sometimes be read into the goal of family ministry, which does put the primary discipleship responsibility in the parent/caregiver’s hands (because its already there by default), but misses the heart of family ministry, which is to work with the parents in a mutually edifying way that leads to disciple-making, not just of children, but of parents WITHIN the context of a local church body.

We are not separate from each other. We are made to be one body in Christ. As Dr. Derr shared, our job as ministers to the family is to find the “common practices, moments, and celebrations” to build upon in a way that doesn’t encourage less church attendance but rather more and more connection to the body of Christ.

 

We cannot force church attendance and/or more connection to the body of Christ. Christ won’t even force that.

What we can do is be such a pillar of support, nurture, encouragement, equipping, partnership and blessing that parents/caregivers long to bring their children to church to experience that love.

We can do that. So, let’s do that. 

Portions of this post appeared here originally last year in an article entitled, “Are We Going to Church?

For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

What Happens When You Replace Pews with Coloring Tables?

I often have people ask me if I could give examples of how churches are finding creative ways to allow for intergenerational worship within their faith community. I’m always on the lookout for stories I can share that might strike a chord with someone and help them as they seek to find more ways to bring generations together within the church.

As soon as I read this account, I knew I had to share it because it is the perfect blend of simplicity, grace, and creativity that so many are searching for. Many thanks to Mike Woods of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church for his willingness to share his experience with all of us!


This summer we took out a couple of pews in the back of church, long wooden benches that are designed for fifty minute sitting sessions. Unfortunately worship usually lasts an hour. We replaced the pews with coloring tables. They were an immediate hit. No signs were needed as to why the tables were there.

Their presence just said WELCOME to a certain segment of the communion of saints.

One week later we heard Jesus’ story of this crazy farmer who threw seeds everywhere. A nine year old came to the communion table and with pride handed me her very accurate time lapse drawing of the life cycle of a seed that she wanted me to share with the congregation to make us all better people. I did.

The next week I was talking to a grown up about grown up things after church when I felt this tug my sleeve. The little one tugging was excited to show me something with such excitement that she forgot to wipe the ample supply of pumpkin bar off her hand so it now adorns my sleeve at the elbow.

She too needed to show what she had drawn during worship. We had heard Jesus’ story of the wheat and the weeds. I thought I was helpful when I said to consider that the kingdom of heaven like it is God’s holy ecosystem where weeds are necessary, like mosquitoes are necessary but in the end God knows what God is doing. Seemingly opposite things can co-exist in God’s church – sort of like Viking fans and Packer fans worshipping together.

Well she took all this in and produced a work of art that included a puppy, playing with a kitty, who was playing with a mouse who was playing with the puppy … a beloved community of play. She was probably five years old but a very good theologian. The stain would come out in the wash the next day but I am still thinking about that drawing.

GreenweedsThat same morning I came face to face with a three year old artist and his interpreter (mom). I saw a series of colorful slashings on his eight and a half by eleven canvas. I was told the larger blue scribbles are the wheat. The contrasting green slashes are the weeds. Both sets of plants seemed to be thriving. Yup, I thought, the wheat was good seed, unimpeded by weeds. God will use the wheat to make blue bread and the green weeds God can bundle up to build the fire to bake the bread.

When I asked about the bonus picture on the back of the paper of a rhinoceros and its horn and a wheel. The interpreter just shrugged her shoulders.

YouaremylightI like the piece on my door where a five year old wrote: “You are My light” from the bottom of her paper up, so that the word “light” was like a crescendo on top of the pile of letters. It does make sense if you think about it.

drawingpeopleSpeaking of light – another five year old showed me her drawing of red clouds, a yellow sun, green grass and two stick people with skinny arms touching one another and a beam of yellow glowing between those arms. What is this yellow here I asked. She looked at me with all the confidence in the world and said, “That’s friendship!” Is not friendship the stuff of light, and necessary for life as yellow sunlight?

Then there is the toddler who makes her own kind of music every time the congregation sings a hymn. She grabs a songbook like everyone else but she only knows one song so far in her short life. So with conviction and gusto she belts out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star every single time! Last Sunday for our last song the whole congregation, a couple hundred strong, sang in one voice, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star … because her daddy is serving in the military in Saudi Arabia and he wanted to let his daughter know it’s okay to sing her own song.

Because when churches use the word “we,” we always mean one more.

 

MikeWoodGuest Blogger: Mike Wood serves at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Crescent, MN. I first read his story on Facebook and it was also published in the Houston County News in his hometown.

What are some ways that your church has creatively made space for all ages to worship together? Send your stories, pictures, and short bio to christina.m.embree@gmail.com and perhaps we will be able to share your testimony on the ReFocus blog.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

What do YOU want to be when you grow up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This question gets asked of kids a lot!  I never really thought much about this question and subsequent answers until yesterday when a friend of mine posted a inquiring thought of his own.

It read, “I find it interesting that in America when we ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we’re looking for an occupation rather than a quality (i.e. honest, kind, loyal, etc.)”

Makes you think, right?  Even when our kids are little and they answer, they usually immediately offer up an occupation.  So I was curious, why is that? Why do we immediately assume our “what” is somehow connected to our “who”; our identity?

In his article, American Identity Crisis: Are You Your Job?, Joe Robinson points out that “It’s automatic for strangers at any American social setting — right after “nice to meet you” and within the first two minutes of conversation or your citizenship is revoked. “What do you do?” It’s a line that would be considered rude in many lands, but not here, where inquiring minds have to know: What’s your status and how much money are you making?

He goes on to say, “The answer could be “I like to bike” or some other expression of your real identity, but the instinctive response is to go with the very real-appearing but pseudo-identity, the job ID. In a rootless culture with no obvious class markers, the job defines the person and the pecking order. You are what you do.”

water-hose-942973_1920Yikes!  I don’t know about you, but that is certainly not the value or the identity I want myself or my children to have. But realistically, in America, that tends to be our focus. At a recent conference I attended, one of the speakers (Larry Osburne) pointed out that one of the “gods” we serve in America is the “god of potential.”

We see this especially in the areas of sports, academics, and extracurriculars.

Parents are told from the second their child is born about that child’s potential and how to maximize it. The best schools, the best sports teams, the best programs…making sure that their kids have the best chance to have the best future with the best experiences possible; to fully live up to their potential. Whether the goal is a sports scholarship, a cheer championship, highest academic honors or just plain winning at life, parents are willing to sacrifice A LOT to make sure their children can play ball, dance on stage, be in all the classes, attend all the functions and do all the things so they can succeed.

Is it any wonder then when we ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, they give us an occupation, rather than a characteristic?  

So what can we do in our homes and churches to help our children form a core identity that is other than what job they are going to do when they are older?

We can intentionally and repetitively remind them of WHO they are

One of my favorite questions to ask my kids is “Who are you?” to which they inevitably respond, “I am a child of God.” This question got asked at the beginning of every Kids Church at my last church and it found deep root in my children’s hearts.

We can do that for our kids too! And that doesn’t negate their uniqueness and abilities; we are children of God made with different gifts and callings, but we are children of God nonetheless. In the church, we can remind them of the great potential they have to do AMAZING things for God!  We can call out the gifts we see in them and we can find ways for them to use those gifts within the faith community as members of the congregation.

We can redefine the word WHAT for them

When they talk about what they want to be when they grow up, we can remind them of what we want most for them to be – kind, gracious, loving, brave, honorable, loyal, faithful, etc. We can talk about our ultimate calling to be God-followers, lovers of Him and others, and what that looks like as we interact with others.

One moment I think is great to help remind kids about these things is at night before bed. I have prayed the same prayer for each of my kids since they were born, based on what the meaning of their name is. My oldest will tell you that I pray for her to be a woman of noble character, my middle to be a woman of wisdom, and my son to be wholly devoted to God. The other night,my middle child put my son to bed for me – guess what prayer she prayed?  She asked that God would help him to grow into a man of wisdom; the same prayer she’s heard me pray for her for so many years. It’s become WHAT she is. 

We can reinforce WHOSE they are no matter where life takes them

Recently a story has been floating around Facebook of a parent who taught their child to text “X” if they needed their parents to pick them up from an uncomfortable situation. What really stood out to me wasn’t the story but the image that went with it. It was a picture of the phone and the text conversation went like this “Mom, can I go to so-and-so’s house tonight?”  “Sure! Remember WHO you are; remember WHOSE you are”  “Okay, thanks”….. “X”  Why do you think that “X” got texted to Mom?  Because they remembered whose they were.

And that’s on us, parents and Church, to consistently and loving remind our children that they belong to God, and that they belong to His body the Church, and that whose they are matters as much as who they are when it comes to self identity.

Jon Acuff points out in his talks to parents about social media that we simply cannot change the culture around us in terms of technology and, I would say in this case, identity. But what we can do is create and sustain a different culture in our home; one that reflects our values and our identity in Christ.

Let’s be intentional in helping our children find an answer to this question that is much bigger than just a job. Let’s help them discover who, what and whose they are in Christ!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Discipleship When the World Revolves Around You

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

So, of course, they are going back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And guess how we help them?

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

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