One Day Our Kids Will Google Us

It hasn’t happened yet, but I know it will soon. I’ve already been Facebook “stalked”, Instagram-investigated, and Iphone-snooped by my thirteen-year old. It’s only a matter of time before she puts my name into Google to see what pops up.

What will she find?  

Will she find the same person who she knows as “mom”, the person who has nurtured her and instructed her, disciplined her and discipled her, laughed with her and corrected her…or will she find something that confuses her?

Will she find consistency between what I tell her and what I tell others?

Will my words in the online world match my words in our conversations at home and with her?

For instance, I tell her to love God and love others.  Will that be evident in my online profile?  I tell her to be kind and to consider others more highly than herself.  Will my words reflect that type of heart?

I tell her to always seek to good, to defend the poor, to love the hurting, to stand up for the weak, to befriend the friendless.

I tell her that calling people names, making fun of others, criticism and ridicule, treating people as “other” and showing people disrespect are all, for lack of a better term, the actions of a bully and not how we are to live or act in this world.

I tell her that God loves her, has a plan for her, has a plan for us…for this whole world. That He is God. He is good. He is sovereign. He is our hope. 

And I have to consider, “When she googles me one day, will she find my social media self, my written words, are consistent with these things I am teaching her as truth, as right, as good?”

Friends, we are coming up on some very difficult weeks in this country.

Before us lies an election like no other we have ever seen. Passion in so many areas runs deep and runs wide. And words, often written on various social media platforms, are where those passions are often loosed and proclaimed.

May I humbly encourage us, all of us, no matter where our passions lie, to intentionally consider before we post, that one day our children will google our name.  

To ponder, “Is what I am about to post online in line with what I am teaching my children about loving God and loving others?”

To pause and wonder, “Am I using this post to build up or to tear down?  To call people names, make fun of them in any way, ridicule or poke fun, or belittle them as a person?”

To think, “If my child said this to another child, would that be okay or would they be in trouble?”

baby-84626_1920One day, our children will google us.

Let’s make sure that what they find shows them a faith that doesn’t waver with elections or compromise in fear.

Let’s strive to post our passions in a way that honors the fact that each person who reads them is made in the image of God, is loved and beloved of God, and is worthy of respect because of that simple fact.

We owe it to our children to give them a consistent message of who God is and who we are no matter when or where they hear/see our words. 

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me (Paul), what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8,9 (The Message)


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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

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What’s with the Flipping Bottle?

If you have no idea what this post is about, chances are…

  1. You don’t have a middle schooler
  2. You don’t serve in youth ministry
  3. You don’t spend much time on social media

Because let me tell you, flipping bottles are everywhere.

bottles-60478_1920The newest craze to hit the middle school halls is the act of flipping a water bottle (or pretty much any kind of bottle) in the air in order to get it to land on its head…and stay.  Hours, and by hours, I mean hours, of time have been spent throwing bottles and have them thunk, thump, thud to the ground before the jubilant cheers of a standing bottle erupt. Some kids are really good at it. Some never get the bottle to stand.

But flip those bottles they do..endlessly..in hopes of the flawless stand.

Now, here’s the thing, the whole reason I found out about this phenomenon was because an adult was posting about it on Facebook. It was not a happy post. It went on and on about how annoying this game was and how they wished kids would stop playing it and how ridiculous it was.  Since then I’ve seen a number of similar posts, not quite as vehement, but still expressing frustration with kids for playing this game.

And frankly, I’m baffled.  

I feel like we as adults are creating a no-win situation for kids today.

This game is absolutely harmless. It’s creative and fun. It is not a video game, which we constantly rail against and say kids shouldn’t waste hours playing. It’s not TV, where kids tune out and lay around. It fits well with the message of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” that we have been feeding them for years.  It is generally played with a group and promotes friendship.

It’s free!  It’s fun!  It’s everything we want for kids…right?

But then, when they start exercising their imagination, talents and creativity, the message they get from from adults isn’t “Way to go guys! What a fun game! Way to use your imagination and find a creative use for that used water bottle!

No, what they hear from us is, “Please stop. That’s really annoying to us. Just go do something quiet like..play video games or watch TV. Just stop bothering us.

These kids can’t win for losing.   They are stuck hearing two simultaneously different messages and they will never be able to measure up.

And sometimes we do that to them in church too.

We want them to grow up with an active and vibrant faith. We want them to want to go to church. We want them to know and love God and to know that they are known and loved by God.

But we shush them when they are too loud.

We hush them when they fidget too much.

We remove them from our midst when they are annoying.

We even build them whole wings or buildings so that they can be loud somewhere else.

Now, hear me – I am not against having kids in age-appropriate ministry settings like Sunday School or Kids Church. In fact, I think those are really important opportunities for us to share God’s love and Word with them.

But, I do worry about the message we are sending our children and youth if we never create a time where they get to be with the whole church and they can see, hear, and feel that they are a part of that faith community, that they are known and loved by the whole church, and they belong there – truly belong there.

Are we sending them mixed messages like “Be creative and use your imagination” and “Be quiet and stop doing that”? Or perhaps more like, “We want you here” but “Here’s a better place for you to be”?  Are we in some way creating a “no-win” situation for our kids?  Or are we looking for ways to be both/and instead of either/or. To come alongside of them and join them in the journey.

It’s at least some thing to consider.

And while considering that… try flipping a bottle.

It’s actually pretty fun. 😉


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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

Beauty in the Broken

Every have one of “those” days?  Of course you have.  We all have.  Well, last year on this day, I had one of those days.  One of the days where the morning starts out on the wrong foot and from that point, recovery seems impossible.  On that day, I wrote this:

My daughter made Honors Chorus (yay) and today is their big day.

THIS MORNING WAS A DISASTER!
She didn’t lay out any of the things I told her to the night before. When I saw her outfit…oh my… she was wearing a fancy red shirt that was way too small, black pants that were too small and blue tennis shoes.
I told her there was “no way” she was leaving the house like that and to “go change” into her nicer shoes and clothes that fit. That led to a bout of complaining about how she can’t find her shoes, she lost the belt to the other pants, and oh, she couldn’t have her lunch in a regular lunch box (it had to be a paper bag) and her water bottle had to be something she could throw away (not the water bottle I had ready for her) and we needed to be at the school at by 7:45 not 8 am like I’d been told and her coat was missing and… you get the picture.
With no time to spare, we threw on a another shirt (that at least matched the tennis shoes), dumped her lunch into Walmart bag, gave her one of my old coats (which was way too big but whatever), poured the water into used empty water bottles (don’t judge.. I am ashamed), ran to the car and drove at speeds above the limits as I lectured her on why it’s important to keep her room clean and obey me so mornings like this don’t happen, etc, etc, etc.
We got to the school, tore out of the car, raced inside to find her teacher and then… for the first time that morning I really looked at my daughter.
Lord, forgive me (yes, I was crying as I wrote this). I saw before me a scared, nervous, fearful baby girl fifth grader about to leave me for the first time on an all day trip hours from our house to sing with 100 strangers for thousands more strangers (and she’s trying out for a solo) and as she walked away with her teacher looking back at me, my heart broke.
Why, oh why, didn’t I pray with her on the ride to school? Why didn’t I tell her how proud I was and how much I loved her and that everything was going to be all right? Why didn’t I hug her close and bless her like I do EVERY OTHER morning? Why didn’t I really see her until it was too late?
I sat in my office at work, tears streaming down my face. My mommy heart was breaking. Oh, I knew she’d be fine. She’s amazing. She was gonna rock. And I knew I’d see her that night, and hold her and tell her how sorry I was and how much I love her and how I know I messed up. And I knew we would both learn from this experience. But for the moment, all I could see is her big brown eyes, filled with trepidation and fear, screaming, “Mommy, don’t leave me! I need you!” and I walked away. And my heart was screaming, “What did I do? What did I do?”
So, have you ever had one of those days?

IMG_9602I felt broken… like a total failure at mommyhood.  And a family minister at a church?  Forget about it.  I cried through the morning.  I prayed through the day.  I waited for 8:30 pm when the concert would be over and I could wrap my arms around my precious child and say, “I’m so sorry!”  Imagine my relief when the young woman that met me that night was anything but sad. In fact, she was downright giddy.

She’d had a great day.  She was nervous yes, but she faced it and had fun.  She hung out with old friends and made some new friends.  She sang with 200 other kids from all over Kentucky and she beamed from the top row in her too short pants and her blue tennis shoes wearing the hot pink tee-shirt she’d been given by the school (she hates pink).
When I finally got a word in edgewise to say, “Hey, I’m sorry about this morning.  I messed up.  I should have prayed with you,”  her response was, “No, you were right.  I should have obeyed you and cleaned my room.”  Um, what?  Parenting win?  Lord, I’m confused.
And He said, “Do you truly think that your failure would keep me from doing My work in your daughter’s life or that her lack of obedience to you would keep me from doing My work in yours?  You both have room to grow and I will use you both to do My work.  Trust me.  I’m bigger than your mistakes.
Let Me do My thing in the middle of your mess because my best work comes in the form of redemption.”

As you know, if you’ve read this blog for any time at all, I have a genuine heart and I believe, call from God to serve in encouraging family ministry and discipleship in the home.  Over the past few years, I’ve watched the area of family ministry grow in popularity as studies have bolstered the need for the home to be the primary place of discipleship.  I have also seen fellow ministers and churches attempt to start family ministry and have it seemingly “not work” in their environment.

Because I firmly believe that the ideas that fuel family ministry are ordained by God, I also believe that family ministry not only can but absolutely should “work” in any church.  It is my hope that this blog will provide a place of support, equipping, resources and encouragement for churches who are embarking on the transitional journey from traditional age-segregated ministry to intergenerational family ministry.  I go into this knowing I will make mistakes.  I will fail at times.  But I am also learning that my God is bigger than my failures.  And my prayer is that He will use this blog/ministry as a place for others to come, to rest, to find hope and to keep moving forward in their own faith journey with Jesus.

As for my daughter.. a year later, we don’t really have the whole cleaning of the bedroom figured out yet and we’ve got fun new areas that we are growing in together, but God is with us…even on the days we are broken.  Beauty isn’t always found when everything is put together and perfect; beauty is often found in the everyday moments of normal life, in our imperfection and in our brokenness.


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

Practical Discipleship Before They Are #Being13

“I don’t like dealing with things face to face because its really easy to hide behind your phone but face to face, like, you have to deal with the other person.”

“A lot of people follow me that I don’t know. There’s actually a lot of people who I have no idea who they are but I let them follow me because the more the merrier.”

“I would rather not eat for a week than have my phone taken away”

If you’ve read the study or the article by CNN entitled “#Being13” you know that these are quotes from teenagers that participated in a study conducted to discover social media trends of young teens. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a look, especially if you have children in your home or church (fair warning: there’s language in the full study). Shortly after the release of the study, a follow up blog “5 Takeaways on CNN’s Study of 13 year olds” was written to help parents make sense of all the information.

After you’ve read CNN’s article (and you’re sufficiently shaken), go read the follow-up so you can calm down…and then come back here for some practical tips while your kids are still kids.girl-908168_1280

Okay… are you ready?  Sure? Take a deep breath and let’s go…

Moms, Dads, Ministers… you cannot fight changing culture.

More than likely those elementary kids you love on today will be living into this reality in the near future.  Toddler’s intelligible babble will be tomorrow’s emoticons.  The change to a digital society stops for no man..or parent..or child.  It’s happening.

BUT

Moms, Dads, Ministers…you CAN fight for unchanging truth.

You can give your kids the unchanging foundation of Christ to build on no matter what come into their life in the future. No matter what screen they end up behind, no matter what digital relationships they find themselves in.  Even now, when they are very young, you can give them the tools, the gifts, the foundation they need to enter this digital world and not lose themselves.

Here’s a few practical ways you can do just that.

Help your kids create face-to-face relationships with real people.

That might sounds pretty basic, but the results of this study shows that it is not.  Encourage healthy friendships by welcoming your kid’s friends into your home and life.  Be aware of who they are hanging around with at school and preschool even when they are young. Host the playdates. Get to know the other parents.

In addition to children, help your kids find healthy relationships with other trusted adults in the church. Sticky Faith recommends a ratio of 5 adults/child in order to build a “sticky web” of relationships. Make face-to-face relationships a priority in your home.

Teach your kids how to have a conversation.

Remember when your “baby” said his/her first word and you just couldn’t believe he/she was talking?  Talking and conversing are not the same, and social media is a great place for talking but a terrible place for conversation.  Words are often blurted out without adequate thought given to the person on the other end of the screen.  But a conversation, when you are engaged with another person emotionally and intimately, takes awareness of the other person and thought given to the words you speak.

Take your kids out on dates and have conversations. Ask questions, listen for answers, participate in the dance that is dialogue. (Hint: Cheesecake Factory does awesome dates for parents with kids and even gives you conversation starters at the table! Chick-Fil-A regularly does date nights for parents and kids as well).

Disciple them through your own social media.

As your children grow and as it is appropriate, let them sit with you as you scroll through Facebook or look at pictures on Instagram.  The truth is, not everything about social media is bad. Let them see that.  But the truth also is that there are things that aren’t great. Walk them through that too.

Explain that sometimes images pop up that aren’t godly, words are said that aren’t holy, and lives are flattened to a screen view that doesn’t reflect reality. Point them to truth in all things. (Jon Acuff has some amazing blogs at www.parentcue.org on social media; they are worth your time to read, trust me!).

Be brutally honest about your own social media habits.

Listen, I am in no way anti-social media.  I accept that it has become a major cultural trend and something I need to be involved in and aware of as my children grow. But at some point, we (and I’m talking to me here!) can cross a line where social media can begin to define us and how we process life.  We need to ask ourselves the hard questions. If the thoughts of the 13 year olds above sounded familiar to us because we’ve thought them, we need to consider what we are teaching our kids about the importance of social media in our lives.

Do you want to know the coolest thing that the study found?  I mean, the absolute best thing about the whole study.  Something that needs said over and over again until we believe it, we know it, we accept it, and we live into it…

Parents, you are the single greatest influence in your child’s life.

Period. End of story. You.

What the study actually showed was “parents that tried to keep a close eye on their child’s social media accounts had a profound effect on their child’s psychological well-being. Parent monitoring effectively erased the negative effects of online conflicts.

Effectively erased the negative effects.”

Parents did that.  Just by being involved.  Just by being active.  Just by being..the parent.

Don’t let fear frame how you approach social media with your kids.  Let the wisdom from heaven that is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17); let that wisdom guide you.  #Being13 can be an incredible time of growth for the kids you love and God has given us all we need to get them ready for it by His grace and in His love.


Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

Practical Middle School: Four Ideas For Intentional Conversation

Last week, I shared that I was away with my (almost) 12 yr. daughter for a pre-middle-school trip away, just the two of us; a trip dedicated to some serious conversations and some serious mother-daughter fun.  A number of you wrote to me curious about our trip and what those moments of discipleship looked like, so with my daughter’s permission, I’m happy to share with you a bit about our time away.

Middle school – just hearing that can immediately strike a chord of terror in many hearts.  Whether it is because you are reflecting back on your own experience or dreading the fact that your child is now entering or in that phase, the middle school era carries with it some unique challenges.  It is for some kids their first brush with “the real world” outside the relative bubble of care that most elementary schools provide.  For others, it is the first time they are handed a bit more control and responsibility for their academics, extra-curriculars and, most importantly, their choice of friends within a wide range of peers. For all, it is that mysterious time where their body starts changing, their minds start maturing, and their hormones start raging, leading to all kinds of emotions and discoveries…the stage parents cringe at as they consider their child and remember their own journey through adolescence.

Long before we reached this exact moment, my husband and I decided that it would be prudent for us to make some plans to be pro-active in starting an intentional conversation with our kids prior to entering middle school to address the issues and changes they were about to experience.

Here are a few of the things we did to make that time memorable and meaningful for our daughter.

1. Build the Excitemmother-338289_1280ent – Long before the summer of middle school angst, we told our daughter that she would be going on a trip with Mom all by herself during that summer.  We told her she got to pick where we went (within a 4 hour radius) for our two-day overnight trip and that we would do whatever she wanted (within reason).  The build-up alone was enough to set the stage for a memorable trip; no matter what we ended up doing, she was thoroughly engaged with and owned that time and was ready to take it all in.

2. Give Over (some) Control – Since we were going to talk about some sensitive topics that could make her feel uncomfortable, I wanted to make sure I gave her some measure of control.  I wrote the topics on a number of 3×5 cards (one per card) and told her, “We will talk about each of these things on our trip, but you get to pick the order and the speed at which we go through them.”  As she initially looked through the cards, you can imagine the reactions I heard…but she was able to be in control of the conversation and that seemed to give her some peace.

3. Offer a Tangible Reminder – Ever since she was born, I have prayed the same prayer over my oldest girl – that she would grow to be a woman of excellence and noble character whose worth is far more than rubies (Pr. 31:10).  Last fall, I found a necklace that had a pendant with those words inscribed on it and I bought it with this trip in mind.  During our last meal together, I gave it to her and shared with her that whenever she wore it should could remember our time together and all that we talked and prayed about and know that she can always talk to me about anything at anytime.  She’s worn the necklace nearly every day since.

4. Have FUN – Our serious conversations took place basically on the ride down and the ride back (3.5 hours both ways was plenty of time). Remember those 3×5 cards?  I told her that if she had questions about a topic we discussed to write them on the back of the card and I’d answer them when we drove home; that I wanted our time away to be fun and full of comfortable time together so she didn’t need to feel nervous that I’d talk about those things all during the trip.  It worked out well – she wrote her questions and we were able to process together on the way home and she had space during our trip to think things through without pressure.  And while we were away, we concentrated on important things like…shopping, swimming, hiking and eating.

By no means do I think this is a “cookie cutter” way of doing things with each family and child, but these were some of the ideas that worked for us as we get ready to head into our middle school years.  By far, I think the most important part of this trip away was the message that was sent: You are important to us, so important that we are willing to drop everything to just be with you!  That message of grace, of love, and of honor can be carried out in many ways, but it is oh-so-important that the message is heard.  Intentional moments of discipleship in parenting necessarily require our time. But the rewards from that investment are lasting.

Have you had a meaningful pre-middle-school activity or conversation with your child?  There are many tools available to help with this conversation such as Passport to Purity from Family Life Today , but I’d love to hear what worked for you! Feel free to check out the links below to join our conversation on Facebook and to learn more about practical discipleship at home.


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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