Can I Do It?

“Can I do it?”

baking-1951256_1920If you are a parent with children at any age, you’ve heard this question asked. Whether it is in reference to breaking an egg for the batch of cookies you’re making, filling out a class schedule for the next year’s classes, or going to the mall for a night out with friends, this question surfaces.

The need for personal attainment, achievement and involvement is there almost from the start. We watch our babies start taking those steps to individual growth quite literally and then, over the years, take on more and more of the tasks that we were once needed for.

“Can I do it?” is a question that is innate in all of us.

Most of us don’t like to be sidelined. We want in on the action. We want to give it a go or at least try it once. Sometimes life forces us to take on things and we must ask ourselves the question, “Can I do it?” but nonetheless, it’s a question we have all asked.

I was recently reminded of this while listening to an interview of a church planter whose church was reaching out specifically to younger Millennials in an unchurched, dechurched part of the globe.  He said despite what we typically hear about Millennials, he has found them to be “highly interested” in religion and deeply desirous of being involved in church.  They are asking the question, “Can I do it?” not just in terms of belief but also in terms in action and involvement.

Can I be the one who carries the cross, both figuratively and literally?

Can I be the one who serves the poor, feeds the hungry, teaches the kids, takes care of the church, leads the prayer, reads the Scriptures, coordinates the service, leads the worship, takes up the offering, creates the bulletin, preaches the Word, and the list goes on and on?

Can I do it?

I was curious why he felt like this was the trend he was experiencing in those their church was onboarding. And he answered the question: “When they were growing up, they never got to do these things.”

Like most children and youth in traditional Western Protestant churches, their experience of “Big Church” was separate and other.  They didn’t see that corporate gathering or communal worship as something to be involved in but something attend. The answer to the question, “Can I do it?” was a resounding, “No!”

This church has chosen an apprenticeship model to begin helping change the answer to guitar-3957586_1920an even louder, “Yes!”   In other words, they are helping these young Millennials attached to an older church member to teach them their “craft”; to show them the ropes on how to be actively involved in a local church. To bring them from a place of mere attendance and consumerism to a place of real community and active participation.

But, that leads to a new question; why would we wait until these young people are adults? 

Why not begin these types of experiences now, while this generation of children and youth are still young?

Why not change the answer to “Yes!” now so that they don’t even have to ask the question in the future because they know beyond a doubt that they are wanted, needed, and welcomed as active, thriving and participating members of their local church?

This isn’t a program (although I’m sure those exist and the framework could be helpful). This is a change in how we approach discipleship within the walls of the church. It’s more than just helping our kids and youth know stories from the Bible and good morals and values. That’s important but if that is not combined with active and growing relationships with all generations in their faith community, these things will lack the depth needed for long-term faith.

Call it mentorship.

Call it apprenticeship.

Call it discipleship.

But whatever we call it, let us make sure that when we hear the question, “Can I do it?”, we are ready to help our youngest members experience a hands-on faith in a congregation that embraces them and cries out with great enthusiasm, “YES!”


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 Blog

EmbreeFam2017Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  ChurchLeaders.com

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The Loneliest Generation and the Church’s Role

If you’ve been on social media at all lately, it’s likely that you’ve seen a story about a recent loneliness survey done by Cigna (a global health service company) that reveals Generation Z is the loneliest generation currently alive around the globe. This came as a surprise to many people who naturally assumed that the oldest generation would be the ones who experienced the greatest loneliness, not young vibrant 18-22 year olds that boast huge followings on social media and are seemingly always surrounded by people.

And that’s not all. It’s not even that the 18-22 year olds are lonely; it’s that they join nearly half of all of America in saying that they are lonely.

“The survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older revealed:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).
  • One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
  • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
  • Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
  • Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness; respondents defined as very heavy users of social media have a loneliness score (43.5) that is not markedly different from the score of those who never use social media (41.7).” SOURCE

person-409127_1920A couple of years ago, Pew Research released a survey that showed religious affiliation in America and it was revealed that the largest drop in church membership and attendance was in Protestant Christian churches and the greatest gain (so where those people went) was in the category of Unaffiliated, not associating with a religion or religious community.

I cannot help but see the similarities of these two surveys.

If you look up the definition for “unaffiliated” you’ll read things like, “not associated with another or others” and “not connected” and ” not a part of.” Another word for those things is “lonely” or “alone.”  If we look at the multiple studies that have been done on why there’s been a decline in the attendance of 18-29 year olds in church, they put it this way; “We don’t belong.”  

There’s a sense that there simply is not place for them any more.  

They had a place a kids in the children’s department and they had a place as youth in the youth department but as high-school graduates, they are met with a way of worship with which they are unfamiliar, a group of people they have little to no relationship with, and a myriad of other opportunities outside the church building walls that are screaming, “You BELONG Here!”

They are…Unaffiliated…Lonely

It’s not that suddenly 18-29 year olds don’t associate with religion.  44% of the Muslims surveyed were Millennials!

It’s not that 18-29 year olds don’t believe in God.  Of all the survey respondents who identified as Unaffiliated or “religious nones” only 3.1 % identified themselves as atheist.

It’s that they do not belong. They don’t feel a part of the community.  They feel alone.

And I think we, the church, must take some of the blame for that.  

Over time, we’ve created a place where we inhibit relationships and stifle community by segregating generations and dividing up spaces based on age.

We make it difficult forge a deep sense of community by limiting our interactions making the church fit within certain hours and places instead of recognizing the church is a people not a place.

We label certain things as “worship” and make attendance at those events indicative of what a “Christian” is instead of recognizing that all of life is worship and inviting people to worship is inviting them into our lives.

We’ve created a lonely place, especially for those who “graduate” from our specialized children’s and youth programs into our larger corporate gatherings where they’ve never had a meaningful conversation, built a single intergenerational relationship, or experienced a heartfelt interaction with other older members of the congregation.

It’s never been their church. It’s been their parent’s church and their grandparent’s church.  “Big” church, adult church, but not their church. 

And they feel unaffiliated. Lonely.

If we are going to reach the loneliest generation, it’s not going to be through worship styles or coffee shops. It’s going to be through community.

It’s going to be through an intentional movement toward intergenerational relationships forged through time spent together, not just inside the walls of a church building, but time spent in life being the church. It’s going to have to be “on purpose” not simply by accident or by chance.

We will need to create and cultivate the space necessary for these types of connections to be made and we will need to recognize that community is more than just people being in the same space or building together; it is a place where people feel understood and not isolated, a place where they can feel close to people because there are people for them to talk to, a place where “meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, happen on a daily basis.”

The loneliest generation needs the church to be the Church.

The Fellowship of the Believers (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 


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. 

Guest Blog: Church Planting and Evangelism in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Count the Sheep; Count the Shepherds

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

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

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

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

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

Follow the Gold Veins

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

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

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

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

Get to Know the Missionaries

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

Learn from the missionaries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

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

Did We Create the Nones?

A few years ago (May 12, 2015) the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life released the findings from its latest study.  As expected, this release brought about a flurry of blog posts focused mainly on the decline of Millennials in the church. If you follow my blog you know my thoughts on that one, but if you are unfamiliar, feel free to read the article End the Millennial Postmortem here.

As my husband and I look towards church planting and we are praying about how to best reach the current generations, I felt compelled to re-read and re-share these thoughts (originally shared 2 years ago).

I purposely steered clear of reading the study until the buzz died down and I could read without other voices in my head telling me what to see.  I wanted to see for myself this abject decline of the church and the overwhelming gap left by Millennials who have chosen to walk away from organized religion in the form of “church.”  And, as everyone warned, I saw it.

I saw that for Evangelical Protestants and Mainline Protestants only 16/17% of their population was made up of 18-29 year olds.  I saw that these percentages matched those of the Catholic church and the Jehovah’s Witness.

But I saw something more disturbing than that.

I saw that those were the ONLY religions were showing the lowest percentages.  In contrast, 34% of Buddhist were in the 18-29 age group, 34% of Hindus, and a whopping 44% of Muslims (almost half, think about that!).  The only other category that could even come close to competing with those was the new religion of “Unaffiliated” which, for the first time in Pew history, hit a high of 35%.

What’s going on?!?

It’s not that suddenly 18-29 year olds don’t associate with religion.  44% of the Muslims surveyed were Millennials!

It’s not that 18-29 year olds don’t believe in God.  Of all the survey respondents who identified as Unaffiliated or “religious nones” only 3.1 % identified themselves as atheist.

I think it’s simply that they are… Unaffiliated.

The religion that has seen the biggest drop? Christianity.   And the area with fastest growth?  Unaffiliated.

That word just makes me sad.  If you look up the definition for “unaffiliated” you’ll read things like, “not associated with another or others” and “not connected” and ” not a part of.”  I think if we look at the multiple studies that have been done on why there’s been a decline in the attendance of 18-29 year olds in church, they put it this way; “We don’t belong.”  There’s a sense that there simply is not place for them any more.  

They had a place a kids in the children’s department and they had a place as youth in the youth department but as high-school graduates, they are met with a way of worship with which they are unfamiliar, a group of people they have little to no relationship with, and a myriad of other opportunities outside the church building walls that are screaming, “You BELONG Here!”

They are…Unaffiliated.

And in the words of one of the most noted Millennial bloggers, their generation is “struggling to find a faith community in which we feel we belong.”

I look at my teenager and I pray, “Lord, let her know her voice is important.  The church needs her smile, her songs, her prayers and her love.  Let her understand that she doesn’t need to search because she belongs.”

And I cannot help by look at my daughter, getting ready to enter middle school, and think, “What about you?  Do you feel like you belong in church? Do you feel like you are a needed part of the body of Christ? Do you know that you are necessary?”

And I look at my “baby” my son whose name means “wholly devoted” and I hold him and ask him, “Who loves you?” and he says, “Jesus loves me” and I say, “Always and forever…you belong.”

Because if you feel like you don’t belong, if you feel like you aren’t needed, it’s very easy to become…Unaffiliated.

And that’s on us, Church.

IMG_3631So find the kids in your pews.  Find the little ones in Sunday School.  Find the middle schoolers in your youth room and your high schoolers in the worship band.  Find them, welcome them, engage with them, invite them, listen to them, and make sure that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are members of Christ’s body and they most certainly belong.

And more than that, let’s make sure our actions matches our words.

Give them the chance to serve in ministry.  Let them share what God is speaking to them.  Let them lead you in worship and read to you the Scriptures. Incorporate them into the very fabric of your local body until not just they, but you, know that without them, you’d be incomplete.

Until each generation is convinced that they are exactly where they belong…in the body of Christ.  Connected to Jesus and one another in the bond of love and community; not alone, not disconnected, not removed…a part of a larger whole… Affiliated.

For the follow up to this post, click here: Millennials are NOT Leaving Their Faith


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

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

Church Minus God: When “church” isn’t Church

Oasis Community is a happening place.  Since its launch in 2012, it has grown and has open new sites in seven U.S. cities and in Toronto with many more sites set to open this year. Oasis Community meets each Sunday and offers great music, activities for children and youth, a time for testimonies and community sharing, with plenty of opportunities for outreach to the community throughout the week like serving at the local food bank or raking leaves for neighbors.

It’s a GREAT church.
Only it’s NOT a church.

I mean, it looks like a church. It acts like a church. The name is even the same as a church I have visited.

But…it’s not a church.

It’s actually a gathering place for “humanists, agnostics, atheists, self-identified freethinkers, and even questioning theists.”  It was started by a former pastor who has rejected his faith and became a “None” but missed the “social benefits of organized religious life.”  So, the solution?  Simply start a church, without, you know… God.  As Oasis Community board member Joshua Hyde shares, “Over thousands of years, religious groups have figured out a good format that helps keep people coming back, interested, and meeting new people…It’s a format that’s independent of the material that being presented.” (Source: The Atlantic, 9/16)

This isn’t just a ridiculous story. No, this is a real thing. Oasis Community exists and it is growing. It’s “atheist church.”

But how can that be?

Isn’t the Church the body of Christ? Isn’t God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit intrinsic to the very institution that is.. church?

Well, is it?  I had to take a step back and really consider this.

If we took God away from our church, my church, could our Sunday morning still flow, go right along as normal, without skipping a beat? What about our outreach to the community?  Our Sunday School classes? Our Wednesday night programming?

farbenspiel-174873_1920I know, that kinda stings.  When I first read about Oasis Community, I wanted to get angry and defensive.  I wanted to say, “But there’s more to church than that. People don’t stay because of programming!  They stay because of Jesus.

But, the truth is, our churches are losing people and when asked why they leave, a lot of them leave because they don’t feel like they belong; they don’t feel a part of the community.  When asked about their faith, many will say they never really had any or that their life experience doesn’t mesh with what they learn in church.

I think it begs the question, “What makes the Church…church?”

The truth is there are some things that simply cannot be without the presence of God in the midst of the church.  And these are the things that from the very beginning of what we call “church” defined us and identified us as Christ followers.

These things you will not find in Oasis Community, because they are not “independent of the material being presented,” rather these things require not only the belief in God, but an interaction with Him; a very real communion with God and man, which is where I begin.

  1. Communion

Communion is where we as believers gather around the bread and the wine (or the cracker and the juice depending on your tradition) and literally communion with God. We remember the death of Jesus Christ, in very real and tangible ways. We know that where two or three or gathered in His name, He is with us and therefore, we know that His presence is with us at communion. This practice is not an empty ritual. It is where Christ meets us and we come to Him.

Recently a friend of mine with a very wise 7 year old shared that her daughter had said this to her:

“I was thinking today about communion. It should be celebrated often because it reminds us we all drink from the same cup and eat of the same loaf of bread. I think we need to be reminded more than once in a while that we all need to come together and come to Jesus. Plus, it tastes yummy.”

I heartily agree!

2. Baptism

In baptism, “buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:4). Wow, think about that. We are participating in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection in such a way that the idea is presented to us as a “we too” moment. We too, like Christ, get to live in new life. We too, like Christ, experience resurrection. This is unmistakably a time in the life of the Church that we cannot experience without His very presence.

3. Worship in Spirit and in Truth

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, He told her a time was coming where He would be worshiped across the whole world and because “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in Spirit and in Truth” (Jn. 4:24). It’s not about the music, though I concede that we have at times given that impression to those who look at us. It’s not about the music, the hymn or the chorus or the latest hit on the radio. It’s about worshiping in Spirit (as in the Holy Spirit) and in Truth (as in Christ – the Way, the Truth, and the Life). Worship simply cannot take place without the presence of God in our midst. Music? Sure. Worship? No. 

4. Prayer

What do we teach children that prayer is? Talking to God. Prayer simply cannot be without God. I love the Lord’s Prayer because in it, we see the whole Trinity – the Father that is in heaven, the Son who is completing His will on earth as it is in heaven, and the Spirit who is leading us not into temptation but delivering us from evil. God is woven into prayer. But I do think it is fair to ask…how much are we praying?  Would there be a gap, a wide enough gap, in our monthly calendar of activities or weekly order of service that filling it would be difficult?

I know there are more. Many more. Things that reach beyond our programming and into our hearts. Things that cannot be duplicated or copied without the presence of God in His fullness.

And that is why for thousands of years the Church, not “church”, has continued to grow. That is why we continue to go each week and seek and worship and pray.

As we raise the next generation to know and love Christ, my prayer is that they always know the difference between our building and the programming that takes place there and the Church and the transforming work of God that takes place there.

There cannot be an atheist church – the Church IS the Body of 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 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

Why Should We Come to Church?

The other day, a friend of mine messaged me with something she had written that, frankly, blew me away. Her story of a conversation with a couple of teens in her neighborhood and what it spoke to her heart was so profound, I immediately asked her if I could re-share it here with all of you.

 As we consider reaching out to the children, youth and families in our own neighborhoods, perhaps her words can help us to prayerfully consider how our churches are welcoming children of all ages into worship. Thank you, Mary Trent, for sharing your heart with all of us!


So I am walking around in my new neighborhood and I happen upon a couple of teenagers. I approach them and compliment their skateboarding abilities, they politely smile in return. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, I tell them that I am new to the area and that I am a pastor here in our community. Wanting to practice what I preach in almost all of my sermons, I invite these kids to church.

Their response shocked me.

Now before I tell you what they said, let me just say that in ministry I have been told “no” in a number of ways. Sometimes “no” is a literal door being slammed shut; other times it is a polite “Thank you but…” (Insert reason here). So as a believer and minister, I have come to terms with being turned down often.

I think it’s helpful to look to scripture and learn how Jesus responded when he encountered “no” in ministry. Isn’t interesting that in the Gospels the ones who most often opposed the ministry of Jesus were the chief religious leaders of the day? They are some of the primary antagonists in the Gospel story.

But, dear readers, for a few moments I am inviting you to lay off on the Pharisees, and take a look at Matthew 19:13-15:

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

Interesting. It was Jesus’ own disciples who were saying “no.”

Do you ever wonder what prompted them to oppose the notion of children approaching Jesus? Given the context of this passage, perhaps one possibility is that the disciples felt like the children were interfering with the “more important” work of Christ.

Could it be that they failed to comprehend the value of the souls behind those tiny faces who were coming toward Jesus?

Flash forward to the present. I have just invited these two teens to church and I prepare myself for “no” but instead I heard this:

“Why should we come to church?”

doubt-623847_1920Before I could answer, the other teen says, “When I was a kid I went to church and they took us to Sunday school and children’s church. Things really stopped when I went to middle school. I mean there was a youth group and we did car washes and went on trips, but I never understood why I needed to be in church for any of that. I could join a club at school and do pretty much the same thing. So I did.”

Brothers and sisters, this response left me speechless.

I have heard from countless church leaders and members that say the young adults and their families have “disappeared” from the church because of things like sports, apathy, or disinterest in worship. I would not argue that these things are not a factor but let’s think for a moment.

What does soccer on Sunday offer a kid besides physical activity or the chance to win a game?  I’ll tell you what it offers: a defined and purposeful space to belong to something bigger.

 So what does this have to do with Jesus’ disciples saying, “no” to the kids?

Take a moment to consider your church. Think about its ministries, its vision, and its programs. Be honest with yourself and consider whether kids of all ages are welcome or are they being tolerated?

Are they incorporated into the fold of ministry and learning how to be better disciples of Jesus or are they getting the same thing they could get at daycare, the Y, or a club?

 Beloved, I believe we in the Church have repackaged “no” and have been distributing it to our kids in the form of segregated and isolated worship. Think about it for a moment–ageism has become an acceptable and optimal pattern for many congregations particularly as it applies to corporate worship. We have been told that kids need to be constantly entertained. Not only have we listened to this but we have removed all doubt that “adult worship” is no place for them to participate or learn. In short, we have told them “no.”

But here is the good news!

Instead of investing our energy and finances on finding a “Wow” factor to draw young families and their children into our churches, let us EMBRACE our “Why” factor. Let’s consider their questions.

Why does anyone need to come to church? Why is worship important?

Let us pray together and ponder the ways we can say “yes.”

And let us give good reasons as to why all children matter in the life of the 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 – This blog post was written by guest blogger, Mary Trent. 

Family(40)

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

A Hope and A Future for the Next Generation

Jeremiah 29:11. If you’re like me, this verse immediately brings to mind graduation cards, Youth Sunday sermons, and notes passed when to someone when they move, get a new job, have a baby, get married, etc.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

It’s a good verse, seemingly well suited for those previously mentioned occasions, but…well, not exactly used in its context. And context matters. A lot.

When we look at Jeremiah 29, we see that it was written by the prophet Jeremiah to the  people of Israel who were exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem. He was writing to remind them that they were not forgotten and that when 70 years was completed, God would bring them back to Jerusalem.  Jeremiah needed them to understand God was not finished with Israel as a nation; that His plans for them were to give them hope and a future. 

So, yeah, a little different than graduating from high school or getting married.

But, as I read this chapter, I see striking similarities to our world today. In a sense, we, as believers in Christ and citizens of His kingdom, are in “exile” on earth. If our reality is God’s kingdom, than this current reality is passing and fleeting. We have a promise from God of hope and a future eternally with Him.

And like Israel, when we look around at this world, we can get discouraged and think perhaps we have been forgotten or think this is all there is, and we need reminded that there is hope and there is a future…if not for us, than most certainly for our children.

If that’s true, than what principles can we find in Jeremiah 29 that we could be reminded of today?

This is not our home, but we should live here

Jeremiah tells Israel to “build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.”  In other words, live in Babylon. Don’t just sit around waiting for the exile to be over. Engage with the world and community around them. Be a part of what is going on.  And at the same time, never forget who you are and where God is taking you one day.

We live in America. We live in towns and neighborhoods. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. This is not our “home” or our “country” but it is where we live. In a very real sense, this is where we belong for this time and place. So we should engage with this place that for now we call home.

America isn’t God’s kingdom, but we should pray for its peace and prosperity

Yes, youcross-1492343_1920 read that right. Jeremiah tells Israel to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city [Babylon] to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” In other words, we don’t just live here; we actively seek for its good. We want America to be a peaceful and prosperous place and we pray for that very thing.

In our current politically charged context, this idea of praying for our country (not our candidate or political party) can be lost. A lot of the prayer I hear for this country comes from a place of fear and foreboding, feelings I’m sure Israel shared, but Jeremiah’s call to prayer isn’t founded in fear but rather in hope and belief of a future. Imagine if we prayed, together as a body of Christ not divided as political factions, for the good of our country as a whole with faith that God is ultimately in control of our eternal future. 

We might be the adults now, but we won’t be forever

70 years is an interesting amount of time for God to choose for Israel’s exile. Enough time for three generations to grow, and one generation to pass away before they ever saw a return to Jerusalem. So, if fear had ruled the roost, there would have been no generation left to experience God’s promises of hope and future. But Jeremiah specifically addresses this saying, “Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.

Frankly, this is the thing that worries me the most about the current Christian culture in America. We are breeding fear in the next generation (See what Andy Stanley says about this). We are not teaching them to live here, to engage with the community, to pray for the nation, to look forward towards God’s kingdom and our hope for an eternal future. We are teaching them that our exile is our true reality, that our political leaders control our future, and that fear should motivate our actions.

We are not increasing the numbers of those who are in God’s kingdom; we are decreasing. The generations who follow us are walking away.

This is not right. This is not good.

We need to change our speech. We need to change our actions. We need to remember that while this is not our home, we are called to live here, not in fear but in hope. We should be praying for America’s peace and prosperity, more than we are praying for or against a political candidate. We need to speak words of life and hope and future rather than perpetuating fear and despair and hopelessness.

Then the words of Jeremiah 29:11 will most definitely apply to our context in very real ways; ways that we can share with those who follow us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


For more information about

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

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

Do I Belong?

This past week, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit Europe and spend the week together celebrating our 15th anniversary. The whole trip was incredible; the places we visited, the people we saw, the tour guides and staff people who went out of their way to make sure our trip was memorable. But there was one thing that all of that amazing and wonderful stuff couldn’t do…it couldn’t make us “feel” at home.

Everywhere we went, a different language was spoken. Different foods were eaten. Even different water was sipped. The dress was different. The customs were different. The subway system was different. There were many times we stumbled over ourselves trying to figure the “right” way to do something, and while we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves the whole time, there was a little bit of a sense of relief when we re-entered the States and were once again able to ask questions and understand the answers.

I couldn’t help but reflect on our experience in the light of the church. I wrote a blog a while back that explored the Pew Research findings that showed that the fastest growing label in the “religion” category was “unaffiliated” or not connected to any particular religion. This category was filled primarily with Millennials who had at one time associated themselves with organized religion. I was curious why this trend was happening so I read a number of blogs written by Millennial authors about why they had chosen to leave the church.

By and large, the overall message was “We don’t feel like we belong.”

That’s exactly how I often felt in Europe. I may have been there, dressed in the right clothes, paying with the right money, and eating the right food, but I didn’t feel like I belonged. Even when things were done to make us feel more at home, it still couldn’t eradicate the feeling of not belonging. Why?

We didn’t know anyone – Everyone was new to us; a stranger. Even the friendliest people we met were still new. We had no relationships with them nor them with us, so our conversations were necessarily surface and without depth.

We weren’t familiar with the customs – It’s funny how the littlest thing can remind you that you are out of your element, things like asking for “just water” at a restaurant and having a chilled bottle of seltzer water delivered to your table or not walking on the right side of the road because that is the bike lane and they will run you over. These moments, seemingly small, were poignant reminders we were in unfamiliar territory.

We didn’t speak the language – Obviously one of the most visible ways we felt unaffiliated was in terms of just speaking to those around us. Trying to figure out if what we were paying for an ice cream cone was actually the right amount could lead to times of intense stress. Reading maps and taking the subway? Yeah, we lived Finding Dory.

So what does this have to do with the church?

churchworshipIf the millennial bloggers I read are accurate in their assessment, they share much the same feelings when they are in church. It makes sense then that they would want to leave and find somewhere where they feel they belong. And, if during their lives as children in church they spent most, if not all, of their time separated from the older generations and not in attendance for corporate worship or congregational gathering times, the feeling of not belonging would simply be a natural occurrence, an expected consequence.

They wouldn’t know anybody – Or perhaps, more accurately, they wouldn’t be known by anybody. If coming into “big church” is a new experience and the majority of people attending are new to them, it would not feel like a community they were a part of or were familiar with. It’d be like going to a new country in a way.

They wouldn’t know the customs – Every church has a liturgy; a way of worshiping together. Some follow traditional liturgical practices that have been passed down for centuries; some just have a habitual way of going about church service (song, welcome and greeting, song, song, prayer, offering, song, sermon, prayer, son…something like that). When to stand, when to sit, how to “pass the peace”, how to sing, when to clap, when to go up front, etc. – these customs help create the atmosphere that is unique to that church. How foreign it can feel if it’s never been experienced before and how unusual that must feel when it is happening in a space where you’ve been attending for most of your childhood and youth.

They wouldn’t know the language – Almost every church I’ve attended has some time where the congregation participates in some way praying, reciting, or singing together. In some churches, especially more liturgical ones, there are certain things that are to be said at certain times. For the inexperienced, I imagine this could feel quite intimidating and at times isolating.

What can we do?

It is at this point I tend to lose some readers because it is assumed I am not a proponent of age-appropriate ministries and advocating only for intergenerational worship opportunities. But that’s not true. I tend to be a both/and kinda person.

My encouragement would be this: Find ways to connect the older and younger generations in meaningful relationships where they know each other names long before the young ones head off to college AND seek to find times where the whole congregation can engage in worship and fellowship together before the young people are launched into completely unknown territory.

Give them a chance to know and feel like they belong before they even arrive.

Part of the fun of visiting a new place is that you don’t know everything. The same holds true with church. There should always be more to know of Christ and of each other and there should always be a certain sense of stretching and discomfort as we truly engage in living life together as community. However, recognizing that transition is difficult and we sometimes need a bridge to make the journey, there’s nothing wrong with creating space for relationships and times of corporate worship to reinforce the message for young people that they most certainly do belong.


For more information about

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

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com