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

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Do You Even Know Me?

Our family was invited to a small community breakfast today with our neighborhood. As we were getting ready to leave, both my oldest and my youngest child asked me the same question: “Will there be anyone there that I know?

What they were really asking was, “Will there be anyone there that knows me?”  They didn’t want to go somewhere where they’d be a stranger, where they’d be unknown. For the one, it’s because she is an authentic introvert, and being around people who don’t know her is hard work. For the other, a full-blown extrovert, it was because he wanted to know that there’d be people to play with and fun to be had. But the motivation was the same.

They wanted to be known. 

homeless-844215_1920This innate desire to be known is within all of us, young or old. In fact, this desire is a big factor into whether or not someone chooses to attend a church. According to Thom Rainer, 49% of people choose a church because they have friends or family in the congregation. Multiple studies outline the importance of calling people by their name when welcoming them into a classroom or… a church.

So, the big question…in a society where about half of the citizenry doesn’t attend church, how do we create a space where people can feel known? Where children experience community? Where the choice to stay is easier than the choice to leave?

I really do think it needs to be more than just opening our doors and saying, “You’re welcome here.” Lifeway Research found that 63% of Americans say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.

But first we have to be that friend and neighbor.

We have to be the church outside of the church. We need to learn names and build community long before we issue invitations and hold programs.

When missionaries go into a foreign country to plant a church, the first thing on their agenda isn’t to invite people to their church. The first thing they do is get to know the people, the culture, the community into which they will be speaking and sharing. They begin friendships. They work with others. They become part of the community.  Then when the invitation is issued, it’s not from a place of duty but of genuine desire to see their friends come to know the love of God.

The church goes before the people come.

Friendships bloom before faith blossoms.

Community is created before congregations grow. 

Jesus models this for us with his ministry. Eating with anyone who would eat with him (like tax collectors and Pharisees, drunkards and prostitutes). Talking to people (like the woman at the well). Knowing who they are (like Nathaniel). Learning their names (like Zaccheus).  Before these people believed in Jesus, He let them know that they belonged with Him.

One of my favorite Scriptures ever is “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). God KNOWS us, truly and fully. We are fully known by Him. And that’s part of how we know we are loved. 

We have that comfort to bring to others. When we truly “see” people, when we truly “hear” children, we bring them closer to the love of Christ for them, the One who knows them fully and loves them wholly.

Church happens long before people “come” to church. It happens at the bus stop, the baseball game, the playground, the gymnastics meet, the walk around the neighborhood, the grocery store.

It starts to happen when we learn someone’s name.


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

 

One Word We Get Wrong In Family Ministry

Having just returned from a wonderful children’s ministry conference (CM Conference 2017 by CM Connect) I was struck by something that I hear said repeatedly, but erroneously, in regards to family ministry. It’s said with good intention and it’s stated with emphasis, but it misses an important fact that cannot be overlooked.
conceptual-1280533_1280Over recent years there has been a movement in churches towards a more family-focused, intergenerational ministry environment. One major platform proponents of this transition stand on is that “the home should be the primary place of spiritual formation.” Entire curricula, such as Orange from ReThink Group and Faith 5 from Rich Melheim, are predicated upon this premise.
As a family minister, I happen to agree with this viewpoint with one caveat – I do not believe that the home should be the primary place of spiritual formation, I believe it is the primary place of spiritual formation.

The question isn’t should it be that but rather, since the home is where faith is formed, how should that affect how we do church?

Any number of studies, secular or sacred, about the impact of influences during childhood and young adulthood will consistently lead to one conclusion – the parents and/or caregivers have the most lasting impact on worldview and faith formation.

The Sticky Faith group at Fuller Youth Institute have studied the reasons young people walk away from the church, looking for a “silver bullet” for churches and parents to use to keep that from happening.  Their top finding was that time spent talking and living faith in the home was the biggest indicator of a faith that sticks in kids.

According to Jim Burns at HomeWord ministries, kids that talk about their faith at home with mom and dad have a 80% chance of remaining in church once they leave the home.

IF THAT IS TRUE, THAN NO MATTER WHAT, THE HOME, THE PLACE WHERE INTERACTION TAKES PLACE BETWEEN THE CHILD AND THE PARENT/CAREGIVER, IS THE PLACE WHERE FAITH IS FORMED.

Now, it may not be the kind of faith that we as ministers in the church would like to see formed in children. It may be no faith in God at all. But regardless, faith is being formed at home all the time, everywhere, for every child.

So what is our response?

As ministers, we cannot assume that what we share on Sunday will become lived out on Monday unless we are somehow impacting and reaching into the home. We must connect outside the four walls of our church. We must continue beyond the initial engagement of an outreach event. We must recognize that even if our title is still Children’s Pastor, we are also Parent Pastor and Caregiver Counselor and Home Helper. Sunday may be our landing zone, but our work must be done outside home base.

It is no longer a question of whether or not the home should be the primary place for faith formation and spiritual growth. We do not have to wonder if parents should be spiritually leading their kids or discipling them in faith.

These things are. They simply are.

And the question for us is, “What do we do about it?”

(This article was taken in part from an article written by me and  originally published in February 2015 at Children’s Ministry Blog.com.) 


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

Lone Ranger Kidmin?

I think this is something I hear more than anything else when I talk to weary children’s ministers and family pastors and youth directors: “I feel so alone.”  It’s an awful feeling, right?  There is nothing to compare it to. Everything feels like an upward battle. You feel exposed and weak and there’s no safety or place to find rest.

Yesterday at CM Conference 2017 by CMConnect, Heidi Hensley told us why.  Simply put she said, “We are designed to be with one another. We aren’t designed to be around each other. We are designed to be in community with one another.”

alone-1869997_1920God made us to be with others. He made others to be with us.

So when we are alone or feel alone, it is an awful feeling, because we were made for more.  I spoke to Heidi ahead of time and asked her what she wanted people to walk away with from the time with and she responded, “A stronger desire and understanding for the need for community and connection with one another.”  That’s exactly what happened. I’m going to just let you read my notes because what she shares from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 shows us just how we were designed to work, live, grow and thrive with one another.

When you are at work

“Two are better than one because they have a better return for their labor” Ecc. 4:9

Whenever we work together, we reap the benefits of the labor together. We realize that it’s not about it. When we work alone, it’s easy to identify “I did that” but when “we” do that, it’s about God.

When we fall down

“If either of them falls down, the other can help the other up. But pity anyone who fails and has no one to help them up.” Ecc. 4:10

Pay attention to your warning lights. More importantly, pay attention to who sees your warning lights going off and that you are close enough to listen to if they point it out? You need people in your life who know your weak spots and see your warning lights going off.

When you get cold

“Also if two lie down together they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” Ecc. 4:11

How can we stay on fire for God without people in our circle who are keeping us warm? And how can those around us stay on fire if we are silent? Look around the “playground” and see who is falling and who is hurt. Look around your church and the churches around you and see who needs encouragement.

When you go to battle

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves” Ecc 4:12a

Sometimes when you think you about to land, a crash landing is coming. When soldiers get in formation for battle, they literally cover each other’s back. They don’t turn around. Their faces are out and weapons we ready. They absolutely trust one another and believe they are being looked out for from the other. We shouldn’t have to turn around and ask to be covered; that should be what is happening. We need to surround ourselves with prayer warriors, accountability partners, and trusted friends.

“A cord of three strands is not easily broken” Ecc. 4:12b

Where do we find relationships like this? When we get close to Jesus, we get close to people. And the closer we get to Jesus, the closer we are able to get to other people.

This isn’t a to-do list.

Heidi was quick to tell us that she wasn’t telling us to run out the doors and set up an accountability group or a secret Facebook page for trusted friends or any number of things. She challenged us to do what this quote says: “I went out to find a friend, and they were nowhere. I went out to be a friend, and they were everywhere.”

There’s a real reason why lone ranger kidmin doesn’t work.

Because we, the people doing the ministry, need each other. We need teams and we need a community. We were never meant to go it alone. How can we help each other find that safe place, where backs are covered, and trust is implicit?  I’d love to know your thoughts!!

P.S. Parents weren’t supposed to go it alone either! Parents are called to pass on our faith at home in the midst of a faith community who joined us in our discipleship and supported us in our work of faith formation. It’s an US not a THEM when it comes to discipleship in the home. Click here for more on that!!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

“No One Is Listening” and other Millennial Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Sometimes, Church is Confusing

The more I’ve worked in the “church world,” the more aware I have become that this whole “raising up the next generation” and “growing the Kingdom of God” thing is really a team effort. And by team effort, I mean, it involves all. the .people…not just the ones who get paid or do a specific job or raise the children.

Recently, I had a parent share with me one of their struggles with raising their kids in the faith. It wasn’t that they had a hard time talking to their kids about God or the Bible or even the tough issues of the day. It wasn’t that their church didn’t have a good ministry to kids and youth or that they felt left out of what was happening there. It wasn’t even that they were too busy or they were too tired or they were too ill-equipped.

Their struggle was simply this – there’s too much going on.

The church they attend is what we tend to refer to as “siloed.”  The children go one place on Sunday morning, the youth another, and the adults another. The children have one lesson, the youth have another, and the adults another. The children have their group of friends, the youth have theirs and the adults have theirs. A ne’er the two shall meet…at least within the church context.

mistake-1966448_1920So besides all the separate events, lessons, and friendship, there is also the struggle of trying to have a unified conversation. Because in their youngest child’s eyes, the children’s pastor is her pastor. Their teen sees the youth pastor as his pastor and, of course, the parents see the senior pastor as their pastor. It is…confusing.

They all go to the same church, but in a very real sense, they go to three separate churches. 

Now, this isn’t a post to discuss the pros and cons of this approach (although I’d be happy to hash that out at some other time), rather this is a wake-up call for those of us who serve in ministry to consider – what message are we giving to families?

And by that I mean, do we work as a team to keep one vision, one mission, and one message in front of families so that they can unite around one faith community and join in one mission?

Or do we tend to focus on our own area, making sure that we take care of our “congregants” and our curriculum/sermon (totally looking at myself now too!)?

I know there are some churches out there that do this fabulously! But some of us struggle with this disconnect. It’s not that the staff doesn’t want to work together; it’s that most of our materials, trainings, and curriculum are set-up on a way that leads to a division rather than a coming together.

So what can we do?

  1. Be Intentional about being a TEAM  – Talk to one another about what each area is doing and find ways to connect with the others. Go serve in one another’s “spaces”. Learn each other’s “language” and find ways to have a common message or voice.
  2. Be Intentional about being ONE church – Even if your church expresses itself in multiple ways, seek to create a single mission/vision that the church can built itself around. Use that singularity to help fuel all the expressions.
  3. Be Intentional about holding ONE conversation – There are a lot of ways to do this. Curriculum like D6 2Gen and Group’s Faithweavers that have the whole church look at one Scripture. Create units based around certain themes or Scriptures that the whole church walks through together. Offer special Bible study or small groups through the year that the church does together.
  4. Be Intentional about learning TOGETHER – So many training opportunities and conferences are built around specialty areas and not applicable to the whole team. That’s one reason I love D6 Conference. It’s for the WHOLE team. There’s something for everyone and more importantly, something for the group as a whole, to learn together and vision together.* Find ways to grow together so that vision gets instilled across the entire team.

As much as I love children and family ministry (and I do!), I am realizing more and more that if we are going to effectively raise the next generation in the faith and grow the kingdom of God, we are going to have to strive to create a space that emphasizes community on mission together, with one heart, one vision, one conversation that continues throughout the week, at home, at school, and at church.

*If you are considering finding a way for your team to grow today, I highly recommend D6 Conference. Check it out and let me know if you have any questions. If you decide to attend (yay!), when you register, use the code “RefocusD6” to receive $20 off each registration. And…I’ll see you there!!


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

 

What’s Worse than FoMO and What Can We Do About It?

Fear is a powerful motivator. It’s not a good motivator, but it is a powerful one. And a new kind of fear is motivating a lot of us to leave “church” behind.

It is not a fear of the future, of eternity, of what is to come; rather it is a fear of missing out on the present; of not being in the right place at the right time to experience the best things.

loneliness-1879453_1280The fear of missing out (FoMO) has recently become an area of much interest to
researchers who study people.  Some say that social media has fueled this fear; for example, one researcher stated, “Defined as a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”  Other researchers warn that our fear of missing out “spills over” into our kids. This exchanged between a psychologist and a young boy demonstrates this:

A 10-year-old boy I was working with was terribly unhappy with himself. “Why?” I asked. “Because I don’t always get the best grades,” he replied. “What’s so important about getting the best grades?” I inquired. “If I don’t,” this sweet boy answered, “then I won’t get into the best college.” “And if you don’t get into the best college?” “Then,” with tears in his eyes, he replied, “I’ll miss out on getting the best teachers, the best jobs, the best friends.”

Has this fear of missing out affected the church?

Absolutely. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of church-related blogs, articles and sermon series on FoMO and the spiritual hazards therein. However, I feel like maybe we are missing the mark on how we are addressing this particular phenomenon. I’ve read everything from “Make your church the place people don’t want to miss out on” to “Fear is a sin and you need to stop it” to “Here’s five ways to say NO to FoMO.”

It wasn’t until I read this in a paper written by my husband that things started clicking for me.

John Wesley had great success aiding a generation who desired to “flee from the wrath to come”.  Our generation, though, does not fear “the wrath to come”.  The greatest existential fear of our generation is “nothingness”.  They do not fear dying and going to a place of fire and judgment.

Rather, they fear dying and being forgotten.

They fear that they have invested the scant 60-80 years of their lives on little of consequence.  They fear that their work may be futile, their influence limited, and that their relationships, at best, chemically predisposed.

They fear this because that’s the very thing that secularism teaches them.

Here’s the Game Changer

The Fear of Missing Out is really the Fear of Being Nothing.

Meaninglessness, unlike fear, isn’t a state from which we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get over. Meaninglessness can’t be fixed by being the coolest church on the block or the “not-to-be-missed” place to be on Sunday morning. Meaninglessness can’t be solved in five easy steps.

But the antidote to meaninglessness is exactly what we, the body of Christ, have to offer the world today. A place of meaning and purpose. The knowledge that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. That we MEAN something, not just to the world, but to God and to eternity. That we have a part to play, an important part to play, in this beautiful act of grace called the kingdom of God.

We can offer these truths (and many more) to every person we interact with, with every child we minister to.

  1. We were created on purpose – We were created in God’s image with thought and purpose, not haphazardly or by accident. (Gen. 1:26)
  2. We are a work in progress – God is continually molding and shaping us for meaningful purposes so we can always have hope and expectation (Is. 64:8)
  3. We all have a part to play in His Kingdom  – Every piece of the puzzle, every member of the body, every vessel He’s created has a purpose (I Tim. 2:20, I Cor. 12:12-27)
  4. We will leave a legacy behind us – What you are today, Who you are today, will affect the generations to come. Everything you do has meaning. (Pr. 13:22)
  5. Our story is only beginning – This time on earth is only the start of an eternal story that we get to invite others into (Heb. 12:1)
  6. We have been chosen – If it’s not enough to know that we were created with purpose, we were also chosen with purpose to be a part of God’s story (Jn. 15:26)
  7. We have meaning – In Ecclesiastes, the Teacher searches for meaning, high and low, in every conceivable place and finally determines that our meaning can’t be found here – our meaning comes from God. He is the reason we have meaning. (Ecc. 12:12, 13)
If we know these things, truly know them, we will not fear missing out.

We will endeavor to live each day, each moment, each second to the fullest. 

Friends, we don’t need to convince the world that going to church or being a Christian better than “missing out.” We need to tell each person and especially each child that they mean something. Our lives have consequence.

We believe…that God has spoken into this void.  Our story directly intersects with the deepest felt anxieties of our culture.  This is because it begins with Meaning… God spoke Meaning into our chaos and gave order to the world.  (In Jesus) the very Meaning of the world became flesh and spoke value and dignity into every human endeavor, every stage of life, every relationship. – Luke Embree

We have the words of eternal life because we have Jesus (Jn. 6:28)! We know the very meaning of life itself. And that is what our children need to hear most of all. That they have meaning. They have purpose. They will never be forgotten.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Family Ministry When No One Goes to Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article originally posted January 25, 2015. 


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

The Star Didn’t Lead Them to Jesus

“Where did the star lead them?”

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

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

You might say, I had an epiphany.

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

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

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

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

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

Ever had a detour? 

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

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

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

But what if it wasn’t a mistake? 

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

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

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

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

Accept where you are, but don’t assume you are staying

When we end up somewhere unexpected, it is tempting to assume we’ve reached the end of our journey and that assumption can lead to a place of resignation.  Maybe you’ve tried integrating a service, but families are complaining that it is not meeting their needs.  Perhaps you’ve tried initiating faith talks with your family, but you are the only one that ends up talking.  Or maybe you’ve started a course of study and your grades aren’t what you had expected or hoped.

Those detours can appear more like periods than commas on your journey.  But what if you…

Pause long enough to take in your surroundings

The voice of failure can be loud, but the quiet voice of the Lord can be overwhelming.  Be still enough to know that He is God.  Then, listen to the other voices.  Ask what needs your families don’t feel are being met, inquire of your family why they don’t feel comfortable participating in faith talks, or consult your fellow students or professors about where you could improve academically.

Often God clarifies His leading in our lives through the people He puts in our path, even the detours.

Let God restore your vision

At some point, after talking to Herod and the scribes and staying for a time in the palace, the wise men had to once again turn their eyes to the sky and lo, and behold, when they did “the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them.”  God resumed the journey, this time with deeper understanding and clarity and this time to the final destination.

Maybe your intergenerational service will take on some new characteristics or your family faith talks might play out differently than you assumed or your academic expectations may need adjusted, but when we follow God’s leading and lift our eyes to Him, He will lead us right into His presence.

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that is not what being a Christian is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have all this and more because we have Jesus!  

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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