Using Fear Tactics? There’s a better way

In Kentucky, we are 2.5 weeks into a “Healthy at Home” response to the current COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted the entire globe. In the days and weeks leading up to these stronger restrictions, I began to read social media posts from my fellow Christians calling for the media to stop “fear mongering” or using fear tactics to hype the virus and, in their estimation, cause panic.

But lately a surprising and frankly discouraging trend seems to have replaced this call for the media to stop using fear as a motivator. Over the past two weeks I have seen posts that say things like this:  “You know what’s even scarier than coronavirus? Depart from me, I never knew you – Jesus” or “Corona virus is God’s way of calling America to repentance”

Friends, that is fear-mongering.

Using the abundant LOVE God showed us through His Son in order to bring us eternal life as a tool of fear to scare people into repentance? That is not right. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) not his wrath.

little-boy-1635065_1920And while it is true that our kids are not likely reading these posts, we have to be careful in how we approach children at this time. They are already scared. Things don’t make sense.  I am going to make the broad assumption that people aren’t saying these things to children but it concerns me that they are getting said at all.

Is there another way?

Absolutely there is. We serve a God who is Love incarnate. We have the opportunity to life up life and hope and peace because we serve the God of life, hope and peace. Believe it or not, that can be done without using fear to motivate people. The salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ doesn’t need the threat of eternal damnation behind it to be effective.

Here are some ways we can lead from FAITH and not FEAR:

Acknowledge the world honestly, MAGNIFY the Lord intentionally – Yes, there are bad things that happen in the world. Hiding the truth from people, especially kids, will only make them more inquisitive. Talk to them when they ask about things that are scary BUT don’t focus on the scary thing; intentionally shift your focus to how GREAT God is

This virus is scary. My kids and my friends’ kids are asking questions every day so I assume most kids are. And we can answer them honestly without magnifying fear. What we can do is reassure them that we are with them, God is always with them, and that they are not alone.

Walk by FAITH and not by SIGHT – Kids watch what we model. If we make decisions or post memes out of fear, that will be the model that they learn from. If we model decision-making and social media sharing from a place of faith and seeking God, that’s what they will learn to do as well.

Be the HANDS and FEET of Christ – We are confronted with the reality of a fallen world on a daily basis. People who are lost, in need, alone. When we become Christ to those people by serving them and sharing hope and life with them, we show our kids that faith conquers fear every time and we model participation on the life of Christ as the way to approach a Christian life.

One our our church members recently started a Zoom Call called “Fort Fellowship” where she gathers kids and families together in a blanket fort they’ve built and share a short Bible Study. Each time we gather, she issues a challenge for us to bless others even while we are apart. To write a letter, call someone who is alone, make a card, share a video, and in that way be the hands and feet of Christ even as we are physically separate.

PRAY without ceasing – The reality is we cannot protect our kids forever from the results of living in a broken world. We can minister and parent from faith, we can give them tools for the task, and we can hold their hand for a while, but eventually we have to let go. But, we never have to stop praying, in the morning, at lunch, before bed, while we walk along the road, while we sit in our house. We can always, always pray. Pray together, pray apart, and pray often.

One day, this crazy season of life will be over (and there will be a new one with new challenges and opportunities). Let’s give our kids and families the best possible foundation on which to move forward.

“Now these three remain, faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13


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 BlogIMG-0573

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.

 

An Open Letter to My Fellow Ministry Leaders

The definition of the word “overwhelm” is to “give too much of a thing to (someone); to inundate.”

Friends, parents in America are overwhelmed.

In a few short days, they have been handed the responsibility of teaching their children at home while continuing to work their job (from home or in person) all while being thrown copious amounts of information about COVID-19 from every possible direction… and then there is us.

With the best of intentions, we have joined the cacophony of voices that are offering advice, resources, videos, experiences, links, songs, lessons, books, devotionals, etc.  And that is not a bad thing; in fact, the majority of responses I’ve seen posted publicly are those of gratitude and thankfulness.

But… my guess is only a very small fraction of those resources will actually be accessed.

And we need to be okay with that.

We need to refrain from thinking things like, “Well, I guess we’ll see if parents really can disciple their kids at home” (actual comment I’ve seen repeated in one format or another over the past week). We need to be careful about not offering so much “stuff” that parents can’t figure out what they could or should do as they juggle schooling, cooking, working, cleaning, entertaining, comforting and the like.

TiredParentsAs a parent, I can almost promise that what most parents are feeling right now is a sense of concern that they are not doing enough, exhaustion as they are trying to figure out what is best, fear that they are not going to be able to hold themselves and their home together, and frustration that they’ve lost every sense of normalcy and routine.

And while they are likely grateful for resourcing and support, what they might need most of all is a high five, a virtual pat-on-the-back, and a serious vote of confidence in them. 

Consider, instead of offering another resource, sending a personal text to say, “I believe in you and I am praying for you. You are going to be an amazing parent during this time and I am excited for your kids getting to spend this time time with you.”

Or, drop a note in the mail for the kids that praises their caregivers.

Or just let them know that while the resources are available, if they can’t or don’t use them, that’s okay. Just being present with their children is the work of discipleship. If all they do is hug them, feed them, love them, and keep them healthy through this time, they have done an amazing thing.

Help them redefine discipleship. A disciple is someone who follows Jesus. Discipleship is anything that we do that helps someone to follow Jesus.

For many parents, that’s gonna be a bedtime story, a math problem solved, a meal around the table, and a hug when someone is scared.

Parents are the greatest influence on their kids, now or any time. Let’s bolster their confidence and help them do the work of discipleship that they are already doing.

So, let’s offer the resources but without any strings, without any expectation, but just as a simple gift. And let’s jump to our feet and praise our parents for handling this unexpected major life change like the champions they are.

Oh…. and wash our hands.


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 BlogIMG-0573

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.

Can’t do An Easter Egg Hunt? Easter Photo Scavenger Hunt Alternative

Years ago, I put this Easter Photo Scavenger Hunt together for my church family but recently I’ve been seeing lots of posts looking for alternatives to Easter Egg Hunts. This family-focused Easter activity does not require social interaction, other than family members, and utilizes the outdoors, technology, and some creative storytelling to help families engage with the Easter story.

family with backpacks taking selfie by smartphone

Photo Scavenger Hunt with the Family; Finding Easter is even more fun than finding eggs

We’ve all got our smart phones in hand; why not put them to good use and use them to tell our children the story of Easter? After families find each “clue” the family takes a selfie together with the object they found so that by the end, not only do they have fun, faith-filled memories, they have seven new family pictures.

Feel free to use this scavenger hunt with your church and/or family and may we all be blessed as we consider together the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord!


Clue #1 – Birth – Luke 2:6-12

This story begins in a different way

The Baby Jesus was sleeping on Hay

He was the Messiah, God’s Only Son

But His journey began as a quiet, humble one…

With your family, find a barn or manger and take a selfie together beside it. Think about what it meant that Jesus wasn’t born rich or mighty, but as a humble baby, just like us. Talk about why that is important to us as we follow Him.

Clue #2 – Baptism – Matthew 3:13-17

As He grew, he gained respect from God and man

And His calling to save us, He began to understand

He declared He came to set the captives free

And was baptized by John to begin that journey.

John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. See if you can find a stream, a pool, a river, anything with water for your family selfie. Take some time to think about what happened when Jesus was baptized, how God spoke from heaven and what John said about Him.

Clue #3 – Ministry – Matthew 4:18-20

Jesus began to teach all the people

They’d come to hear him, no building or steeple

He’d talk in the mountains and down by the sea

And to those who would listen, He’d say “Come, follow me!”

 Jesus went to places where people were to talk to them about God’s Love. If Jesus were here today, where do you think he would teach? Take a picture of your family in the place you thought of and write down a little explanation of why you picked that place!

Clue #4 – Miracles

Many people came to Jesus in need

Some sick and some lame, some broken indeed

And often Jesus would heal, touch or feed

News of Him spread around Israel with speed

There are many stories of Jesus’ miracles in the Bible. With your family pick your favorite story and read it together. There are several ways to take your family selfie – you can all point to the Scripture reference and take a pic; you can re-enact the story and take a pic; or you can take a video of your family reading or telling the story!

Clue #5 – Last Supper – Matthew 26:20-30

But some of the people did not like God’s Son

And started a plan to get rid of the One

So Jesus gathered his friends for a Passover meal

And shared what would happen; it seemed so unreal

During the Last Supper, Jesus explained that he would die and rise again, but the disciples didn’t understand his words. It was here that Jesus first described communion – the bread representing his body and the juice representing his blood. After this, he left and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before the soldiers came to arrest him. With your family, go find a garden or a patch of flowers. Take your picture together and consider how just a few weeks ago this ground was cold and dead, but today there is hope and new life.   Jesus came that we might have new life and have it for all eternity!

Clue #6 – Crucifixion – Matthew 27:32-56*

Betrayed by a friend, Jesus was arrested

He was tried by a court and his death was requested

On that saddest of days, our Savior did die

But within that dark moment, our salvation did lie

When Jesus died on the cross, his disciples and his friends lost all hope. But God had a bigger plan. A beautiful plan that was way bigger than they could see in that moment. We remember the cross as a place of suffering but also as a place of hope for all eternity. With your family, find a cross and take your picture and talk about how we can have hope in Jesus.

*Parents, this can be a difficult subject to approach with children. You know your kids best and what is the best way to share this part of the story. While I have included the Scripture reference, use your discernment and discretion when you share.

Clue #7 – Resurrection – Luke 24:1-12

Some may think that our story is done.

But they would be wrong! It has only begun!

For after 3 days, Jesus rose from the dead

To give us New Life forever…just as He said!

Our greatest hope comes in knowing that we will get to spend all of eternity with Jesus and with all who follow him! We don’t have to be slaves to sin. Jesus can help us to live with joy and life now. That is what Easter is all about! Take a picture of your family celebrating with GREAT JOY that Jesus is ALIVE!


Wanna get even more involvement?

Create a space on your website for families to upload their pictures, offer a contest for families who complete the hunt, offer the experience to your whole church or release the clues once per day so that it takes a few days for families to complete. However you do it, this gives churches a chance to engage the family with Easter and without crowds.

Want a fun and unique way to tell The Story of Scripture with a perfect set-up for Easter? Check out this re-telling using just four simple but memorable symbols to tell the story


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 BlogIMG-0573

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.

Practical and Simple Tips to Aid Intergenerational Worship

I’ve fielded several questions this week on the practicality of having all ages in corporate worship together. While some of the questions pertained to older generations participating in church, most of them were focused on the challenge of having children in the church service.  But after conversing for a bit, the basic need wasn’t to be convinced that children should be there at some point (that reconciled fairly quickly after some theological, developmental, and sociological evidences of the benefits of intergenerational worship); the bigger felt need was just for some practical and simple ways to make it possible for children to be integrated into the service.

Our traditional service structures often make it difficult to extend the hand of welcome to the next generation and it can be difficult to maneuver within those confines and find ways of incorporating all generations.

With that in mind, here are some practical tips and tools for Intergenerational Worship Services that might be useful for your faith community. I’ve shared these in the past and have had a lot of great feedback from multiple churches and denominations. I’d love to hear what your church is doing to make room for all ages to find a space to worship together.

1. Kid’s Worship Team – This team doesn’t necessary lead “singing” but they worship through hospitality (holding doors, handing out bulletins, etc), prayer (they go forward during prayer time and pray for themselves and others) and generosity (they take up the communion and pray over it).

For our team, the kids followed a weekly schedule, just like the adult worship team, and if they missed their Sunday, they had to get someone to take their spot. They also had to go through a training on worship with me before they could serve.

2. Sermon Notes – There are a lot of great templates out there for sermon notes and for older kids, it’s a great way to keep them involved with the service.  In one church, if a child completed their sermon notes, they could get something out of a treasure box and the completed form was given back to their parents so the parents could have a follow-up conversation with their kids at home.

churchkids

3. Call Out the Kids – Kids love to get attention and they love when they get to be drawn into “adult” things like the sermon. We often asked whoever was speaking to at some point in the sermon just say something like, “Hey kids, have you ever seen this?” or something else that would be appropriate to the text to help draw the kids into the story. It’s amazing how just that little comment really drew them in and helped redirect their attention to the service.

4. Interactive Teaching and Learning – Anything interactive is great!  One of the ways our current church engages the kids is if there is a topic that involves a story from the Bible, the pastor will have the kids help act out the story. Everyone loves it – it’s spontaneous so things definitely go wrong, but the whole congregation gets involved and no one forgets the Scripture we studied that week.

5. Busy Bags  – Busy bags get a bad rap, mostly because people don’t understand the developmental science behind them. Have “busy bags” but explain to parents and other church members that these activities aren’t intended to distract the kids but rather to help the kids use all of their developing senses; studies show if their hands and eyes are busy, their ears will be listening.

Quiet activities like lacing cards, stickers scenes, foam craft kits, beads and pipe cleaners, small puzzles and coloring are all great ways to engage your kinesthetic and visual learners.

6. Pew Boxes or Worship Boxes  – Similar to busy bags, these boxes can be placed underneath chairs or pews and filled with quiet activities and books for kids to use during worship services. I love the ones put together by Traci Smith and outlined here

6. Active Involvement – The difference between “having kids in Big Church” and welcoming kids into corporate worship lies basically in participation.  Are children being invited to actively participate or passively observe?  Inviting children and youth to be part of the order of worship has incredible sway in creating a sense of inclusion and welcome.

Children and youth can read Scripture, say the benediction, lead a song (doesn’t always have to have actions – it can just be a song that they like – my son loves, “No Longer Slaves” and can’t wait to lead it), and pray.   Being involved signals that we have a place in the congregation – we are a part of something bigger – and everyone needs to know that truth.


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 BlogIMG-0573

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.

Are You Just Tired?

One Sunday a friend, a mom like me, who I love broke down in tears in the hallway at church. Why? After searching for a reason, what it really came down to was that she was tired. Bone weary tired. And haven’t we all been there as parents? I couldn’t help but think back on this post I wrote a few years ago. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here and tonight, as I sat down to write, I realized I was … just tired.

Are you tired? Perhaps you will find some encouragement here too. 


I looked across at her worn weary face.

“You okay?” I asked.

She looked up.  It seemed as if she were searching for a moment to come up with the “right” answer until she finally landed on, “You know, I think I’m just tired.  I really think that’s all.”

I have been there, both with the being tired and the searching for an answer.  It seems at times as Christians we have to have some reason for why we are acting the way we are.  Often our theology tells us there is a root cause or a need for healing that is leading to our tired eyes, our weary glances, our terse outbursts and our spiritual apathy.

But, sometimes… sometimes I think we are just pure and simple tired.

Parenting is exhausting.  Discipling your kids on top of that is even more demanding.  Being intentional day in and day out can be wearying.  Having to be “on” all the time, ready to address behaviors, talk about tough topics, negotiate sibling rivalries and you know, cook dinner, do laundry, date your spouse, clean the house, exercise and bathe… it can get tiring.

I think we need to give ourselves and others space to say, “I know I’m making excuses today and I know that I am being lazy, but it’s not because I’m struggling with anger towards others or bitter towards life or sinning against God, it’s because I am tired.”

sleeping-1353562_1920I once had a parent write me a quick note and you could hear the desperation of someone who wants so badly to raise their kids in a godly home with intentional discipleship and meaningful routines, but who was so tired that even writing me took all the energy they had.  Here’s the gist what I wrote back.  I hope it can encourage you as well, that even when you are tired, God can use you in powerful ways to lead your family to Jesus.

Dear Friend,

Ah, I can hear it in your note.  You are T-I-R-E-D.   You are the one to whom Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”  And on top of being tired, you are weary, labeling yourself as lazy, unworthy, not-good-enough, a bad parent and those labels are weighing on your soul.

But those labels, they just aren’t true.  A lazy parent doesn’t write a note asking for help.  An unworthy parent isn’t worrying about their kid’s spiritual health. A not-good-enough parent doesn’t ask “Where can I do better?”  Those things are markers of love, hope and godly desire.

The only label worth keeping is this one alone – Loved By God.  Even when you are exhausted and tired, you are loved.  Even when you do unlovable things, you are loved.  Even when you make mistakes, you are loved.  And even when your kids seem like more than you can handle, you. are. loved.

And you. are. tired.

Because you. are. human.

But God gives greater grace.  In our weakness, He is strong.

So instead of trying to “add” discipleship to your home, why not just invite Christ into what you are already doing?  If you are eating dinner, why not ask your kids, “What was your high today?  Your low? Where did you see Jesus?”  If you are already putting kids to bed at night, why not say, “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?” and see where that leads?  If you are already driving to a myriad of practices and appointments and grocery stores, why not use that time to pray for others in needs, memorize a couple of verses, listen to a Bible story, do a Faith Talk, or celebrate a God Moment?  And if you are already waking the kids up in the morning, why not do it with a blessing or a song or a prayer?

And know that in those moments, as tired as you are, they will hear LOVE and they will see JESUS.  And may the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, give strength to you.

Sometimes, it’s not about repenting or confessing or even healing.

Sometimes, it’s about resting and receiving and relaxing.

It’s about letting go of the high expectations we put on ourselves and replacing them with high expectation on our God.  It’s simply saying, “You know, I think I’m just tired.  I really think that is all.”

If this has connected with you today, let this blessing wash over you with God’s grace and His precious gift of rest.

May the light of God shine over you.

May the Holy Spirit fill you.

May the blood of Jesus cover you.

May you sleep in peace.

May you always know just how much the Lord Jesus loves you.

May you learn to see God, even when your eyes are closed


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

IMG-0573Refocus 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 holds Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a Doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from the same. Christina blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

My kid doesn’t “get” anything out of Church

Note from Author:  Of all Refocus Ministry’s posts over the last five years, this one has by far been the most talked about. I get asked about it on a regular basis. I use it in nearly all of my conversations with people regarding kids and church. But based on some of those more recent conversations, I felt it needed to be shared again; for some of us, as a reminder of the richness of “church” and for others, as a first-time consideration of exactly what our kids “get” out of church.

One common concern I often hear from parents and other adult church members about including children in the corporate worship setting is that kids won’t “get” anything out of the worship or the sermon.  From an adult perspective, there are certain things we want to walk away from church with such as a sense of having been in God’s presence or having learned something that will help us grow in our faith.  We presumably come to church for a reason and it is easy for us to assume those same reasons apply to our kids.

But they probably don’t.

You see your kids are young in their faith.  They don’t understand the desire for fellowship or the beauty of corporate worship or the need for continued learning and growth in their walk with Christ.  They go to church because they follow you to church; they are your disciples and they are learning what being a Christian looks like by watching and emulating you (if I were a psalmist, I’d write a “Selah” after that and encourage to to “stop and think about” that for a moment).

So, parents often express this concern:  kid-church

My kids are only going to church because I make them.  It’s bad enough when they are going to Sunday School where they get to have fun but when they are just sitting in “big church” and they don’t get anything out of it, it seems rather pointless.

I get it, I do!  I have kids and I know that often the worship service is geared towards adults only and not applicable or appropriate for them (more about that here).  I too have struggled with the fact that they don’t seem to “get” anything out of those corporate times of gathering.  But I have also seen and read many studies that show definitively that these times of worship and learning in the midst of the larger congregation are one of the leading reasons for increased “stickiness” of faith in young adults.  Thus, there must be something to it, even if what they get out of church is not the same as what we adults “get” out of attending church service.

So, what is it?  What do little kids “get” out of going to “big church”?

1.  They get SEEN

I have been at churches where I have seen kids dropped off by parents in the Children’s Area as soon as they walk in the door and picked up as it is time to leave.  More than once I’ve heard it said in the hallway, “You have kids?  I had no idea!”  That makes my heart hurt.

It has been shown that one of the most important and meaningful thing for kids is that someone knows their name.  When kids are secluded from the congregation, not only are their names unknown, their faces aren’t even recognized.  They are for the most part a dismissible part of the church and wouldn’t be missed except by a few volunteers and staff members if they never came back… which is often exactly what happens when they are old enough to do so.

2. They get to SEE

One of the main ways that kids learn is through emulation by watching activities and actions and imitating them.  Every church I’ve been to has had its own form of liturgy or way to worship.  Some churches have prayers that are prayed each service. Some celebrate communion.  Some engage in corporate prayer, take up offerings, recite a creed, or have a time for sharing testimonies.  Some use hymnals, some projectors with contemporary praise and worship.  During the service, Scripture is read, Bibles are opened, and the Word comes to life.

All of these things are imperative for kids to be discipled in.  It may seem like they are not “getting” anything out of it, but they are learning and growing in those moments.  They are watching Mom and Dad and other adults they respect and trust show them how to worship. And if they don’t learn from the church, they will learn somewhere else.  The world has plenty of things to worship and are more than willing to teach kids how to do so.

3. They get EXPERIENCE

For a moment, I want you to think back on your own walk of faith.  Do you remember the first time you took communion?  Got baptized? Found a Scripture verse in the Bible by yourself? Put money in the offering plate?  Prayed at the altar?  Maybe even shared in front of church?

For many of us, those things happened in the context of congregational worship.  Now, I bet you did some of those things in Sunday School or Kids Church before you did them with the larger congregation, but I also bet there was something meaningful and affirming about doing it with the whole church. 

When my girls got baptized, they shared their testimony in front of the church and after the baptism, the congregation cheered and hugged them and loved on them in a way that left deep impressions on their hearts of their place in God’s church.  We don’t attend that church anymore since we moved, but the experience of being accepted in the body of Christ has stayed with them.  Having the experience of an entire congregation embracing them gave them a sense of belonging that is not easily forgotten.

It would be naive to think that this is a simple or easy task. 

Kids are… kids.  Churches would be wise to find ways to make it easier to invite kids into worship (click here for more on this ).  Parents should be prepared for the inevitable eye rolls of boredom or occasional acting out and having to do follow-up after the service to reinforce what was taught.

But I firmly believe these frustrations of the moment are far less painful than the alternative – a generation who is unknown, disengaged, and separated from the larger body of Christ.

By giving our children a place to be seen, to see, and to experience their faith with others, we give them so much more – we give them a foundation for their faith that will leave lasting impressions on their heart.


To read the follow-up blog, Do Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids to Worship, click here.

For more information about

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

About this Blog

IMG-0573Refocus 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 holds Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a Doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from the same. Christina blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

Kids & Church: The Total Package

ballet-2789416_1920When our oldest daughter was preschool age, she was obsessed with The Nutcracker Suite. Well, let’s be honest, it was the Barbie version, but she loved it. She would dress up like a princess and dance around the house pretending that she was the star of the show. When the Nutcracker came to town for holidays, my husband asked her to go with him. They dressed in their finest; she even got put her hair in an up-do, and off they went.

It was a long show. There were many in attendance, almost all older than her. While she loved being with her dad and seeing the show, she was also a preschooler so she wiggled and squirmed and squealed and giggled. She had to go to the bathroom. She got hungry and wanted snacks.

But when she got home, she beamed.

I asked her to tell me about it and all she could remember was the scene with The Rat King (Oooo…scary!).

I asked Luke to tell me about it and much of what he could remember was her wiggliness. But then I asked if people seemed bothered by her and he said, “No. Actually I had a few people compliment me on bringing her to the ballet.”

I posted an adorable picture of their date on Facebook and many similar comments were posted, things like, “So good that you are giving her this experience at such a young age” and “This is exactly what kids should be experiencing.”

Surprisingly not one person commented, “Hmm, seems like a waste of money to me. I mean, did she even understand anything?” Nobody criticized us for forcing her to sit through a long performance filled with imagery and dialogue she couldn’t follow. No one complained about her fidgeting or her outbursts. And nobody questioned whether this was beneficial for her.

Because everyone recognized, it wasn’t about her understanding the “story” of The Nutcracker Suite or her watching the ballet with a critical eye or even her sitting still through the performance.

It was about giving her an experience, a total package, filled with sights and sounds and smells and stories that could be felt and experienced even if they couldn’t be understood or comprehended.

One Sunday, a mom shared with me that the reason her kids didn’t join us in Kids Church is because every now and then she wants to them to get to experience the traditional service at church, to hear the liturgy, to listen to the hymns, to be a part of a service that replicates the services that she grew up in and that have been part of their family’s tradition.kidsinchurch

You see, for this mom, it’s not about her children understanding each word of the sermon or comprehending the history of the liturgy or the meaning of the hymns. It about the total package; the experience of being in church, surrounded by the things that have been formational for generations and by the people who make up the body of Christ.

These children get to be seen, they get to see, and they get to experience church. 

The church experience is much bigger than a sermon.

Big or little, child or adult, the sermon is only part of the whole experience. Not understanding the sermon in no way negates the rest of the experience. Seeing the people. Singing the songs. Giving our tithes and God’s offerings. Praying, at your seat or at the altar or in small groups or corporately as a whole church. Reading Scripture. Reciting psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Smelling the incense. Tasting the communion elements. Serving. Celebrating. Fellowshipping. Communing with God and with each other.

It’s a total package.

And much of what is included in that package is not comprehended through the mind, but through the heart. It’s not things that require a certain level of development but things that are experienced through the senses and understood through emotions. A sense of belonging, a place in community, an important part of a body. All of that can be experienced, regardless of age.

As adults, we recognize that there is more to the church service than just the sermon. The same holds true for children too. Giving them the opportunity to experience the total package is a gift; whether they understand parts of it or not.

A version of this article first appeared on this blog here


For more information about

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

About this Blog

IMG-0573Refocus 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 holds Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a Doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from the same. Christina blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

Who Should Disciple Children?

Among Children, Family and NextGen pastors and directors, this question often gets tossed around; Who should disciple children?

The question stems from books written over the past two decades which point out that in Scripture, parents are called to disciple their children, to raise them up in the faith and teach them about Christ. This is often shared in contrast to the idea of taking children to church for Sunday school and Wednesday nights and letting the volunteers and ministers there do the work of discipleship, rather like sending our children to school to let the experts and professionals teach them.

Most of the time, there are a few common answers that get shared.

  • First, that it is the parent’s responsibility and the church is there to support them.
  • Second, that it is a shared responsibility where both the church and the parents partner together.
  • Third, that is is the parent’s responsibility but so many parents don’t know how to disciple their kids that it becomes the church’s responsibility.
  • Fourth, that it is the church’s responsibility based on the Great Commission and parents, as part of the church, participate in the work of discipleship.

These are all valid points and I appreciate the hearty discussion that takes place around this topic; however, there are a few significant facts that tend to get left out of the discussion, facts that carry a lot of weight and are important for both the church and the home to consider as we continue the conversations.

Who are the Parents?

ST_2015-12-17_parenting-11

In 2015, Pew Research surveyed 1,807 US parents with children younger than 18, representing a wide swath of social, economic, racial, and religious demographics. Among other things, the study found that “today, fully 62% of children live with two married parents – an all-time low. Some 15% are living with parents in a remarriage and 7% are living with parents who are cohabiting. Conversely, the share of children living with one parent stands at 26%, up from 22% in 2000 and just 9% in 1960.”

ImplicationsMany children are not going home to the same set of biological parents each night and spending their time in the same home. Many bounce back and forth between two homes, with two different sets of parents and step-parents, siblings and step-siblings, and rules and expectations; others live with just one parent while others live with grandparents or other relatives or caregivers. When we say “the parents” should disciple their children, to whom are we actually referring?

In order to address this reality, many ministries now talk about the importance of discipleship in the “home” or discuss the influence that the “home” has on the faith formation of children. As we consider equipping the home as the place of discipleship, it becomes increasingly important for us to consider who is filling that parental role within the home.

For more on this topic, check out these articles and the full Pew Research report.

What do we mean by “Who Should”?

One key fact that gets left out of many of the “who should” conversations is that, whether they should or not, parents ARE the ones who “disciple” their kids. Studies show parents have the greatest impact on their children and their children’s faith, far above any church or ministerial context or person (Source). By default, parents are discipling their children.

My guess is what we are actually talking about in the “who should” conversations is intentional discipleship where parents are doing discipleship on purpose rather than incidentally. In other words, are parents engaged in the work of discipleship with intention or are they just accidentally influencing their kids’ faith in both positive and negative ways?

Implication:  This is an important consideration because it impacts how we address parents and caregivers in terms of equipping and supporting their work of faith formation in the home. Rather than telling them they “should” disciple their children or that it is their job to do so, we begin the conversation by letting them know that they are, in fact, discipling their children all the time and that we, as the church, want to come along side them and journey with them as they do so. This approach immediately changes the conversation from a directive to a cooperative action.

For more on this topic, check out these articles and another Pew Research report.

Who is “The Church”?

churchpeople

One of the major criticisms of the church in many of the books regarding family ministry is that a culture of “professional discipleship” has been created where caregivers think that they can leave the faith formation of their children to Sunday school teachers and children’s pastors rather than engaging with faith in the home.

But, what do we mean when we say “the church?”  If we are merely referring to the few volunteers and paid ministry staff that interact with children or the programs, curriculum or activities that our children participate in, we are missing out on a huge portion of the church…namely, the people. 

Often the verses found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 are quoted as a mandate for parental discipleship in the home. It’s important to note that the charge to talk about these commandments, to impress them on the children, to disciple the next generation in faith what given to the entire gathered assembly and never once were parents singled out and told that discipleship was their sole responsibility. On the contrary, the command was clearly given in the presence of everyone (Hear, O Israel) and deemed by God through Moses as applicable to the whole assembly. So much so, it is repeated, nearly word for word in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 again in an address to the whole congregation.

Implications: This is a command to disciple is given to all members of the community of faith, to all of our children, not just those who live in our homes.  When viewed in this light, some of common excuses for not serving and ministering to children in the church fall short. We can’t say, “I gave my time serving with in Sunday School and youth group when my kids were young. It’s their turn now.” We can’t say, “Well, they aren’t my kids. It’s not up to me to talk to them about God.” We can’t say, “It’s not my responsibility.” I mean, we can say those things, but we miss out on our call of discipleship within the community of faith.

For more on this topic, check out these articles.

So What is the Answer?

The answer to the “Who Should?” question posed above is not an Either/Or; it’s a Both/And.  The church as a body (think people, community, not institution or program) should provide networks of support and mentoring that disciple children and uphold parents and parents should be intentional about their influence at home and consider how their own actions as Christians are impacting their children. In doing so, we provide the next generation with best road towards lifelong faith and a personal relationship with Jesus, which is our ultimate goal as members of Christ’s body.


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

IMG-0573Refocus 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 holds Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a Doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from the same. Christina blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements on this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

Right in the Middle of The Story: Why Christmas is Bigger than Christmas

Years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to share with a group of local single young mothers through a ministry called Step by Step. The topic was “What Christmas is All About For Your Kids” and the heart was to share with them that Christmas isn’t about gifts but about THE gift and how to make Christmas the most meaningful for your kids.

My heart was that if I were going to share the Christmas story most accurately, the women there needed to hear the bigger story, the metanarrative of Scripture, the whole all-encompassing story of love, hope, and grace that extends over time and that we are a part of today.

They needed to hear The Story.

For those who follow my blog, you’ll recognize this from a post I shared during Lent. This is the same story but modified for Christmas.   I shared it with the moms who gathered as if they were their kids and each mom left with a The Story booklet and the four props used during the story.  If you are looking for a new way to tell the whole story of Christmas to your kids or those you serve, perhaps this can be helpful for you as well!

“The Story”

Props: 2 red hearts, one black lightening bolt, one brown cross. (I cut mine out of construction paper)photo

Gather your family together and pick one parent to be the story teller. Everyone else will help with the props.

Okay you guys, I need your help today to tell a story. And this isn’t just any story; this is THE STORY. The story of all time! And you get to be a part of it!! So, who wants to be my first helper?

(Choose someone to hold Red Heart)

All great stories have a great first line. Usually we say “Once upon a time” but… How about we start it this way… In the beginning, God created… EVERYTHING! He created the earth and the sky, the bugs and the fish, the trees and the flowers, and then he created us. And when he did, he looked at us and said, “Man (because there was only a man at first) I love you!” And Man looked at God and said, “God, I love you too!” And everything was perfect.

(Choose child to hold Black Lightening Bolt)

Then one day, something terrible happened. Everything was perfect. God loved Man and Man loved God and all was well until… Well, as you know, every story has to have an evil villain so we are going to call our evil villain.. SIN. (refer to black lighting bolt).   Sin snuck right into that perfect world, being the sneaky villain that it is and it BAM! Came right between God and Man!! God still loved man very much but man choose Sin over God. Things were not perfect any more. It was a very sad time. Man was sad and started doing sad things, more and more sad things, and SIN kept pushing Man further and further away from God.

But God… he’s the good guy in our story… God still loved Man very much. He knew that Sin was out there trying to steal Man’s love and even before Man had chosen Sin, God had a plan in place to bring Man back to Him. God did something absolutely amazing, like a total SUPERHERO move!

(Choose child to hold Brown Cross)

God did an amazing thing. He decided to leave His place in heaven where he was safe and come to earth as a Man, a Man called Jesus, and fight the evil villain. In that day there was a woman named Mary and man named Joseph that God asked to be Jesus’ parents. They said “Yes!” and Mary gave birth to Jesus. This was the very first Christmas and God gave us the very best present that day. Every birthday needs a party, right? So God sent a whole bunch of angels down to earth to tell some shepherds that Jesus was born, and those shepherds went to see him and then ran out to tell everyone else. God also put a big beautiful star in the sky so that people from very far away would see it and come visit Jesus and bring him presents.

Sin wasn’t happy that Jesus came and tried to get Man to hurt him, but God protected Jesus so He could grow up and fight the evil villain. Jesus talked to a lot of people when he was growing up and told them that one day He would fight Sin once and for all. And then, that day came. It was an epic battle.   Jesus told the villain he couldn’t win, that he would defeat him, and Sin fought by telling Man to do evil things until one day, one very sad day, Man put Jesus on the cross because of Sin. Man killed Jesus. It seemed like all hope was lost.

Now, we’ve watched some great Superhero shows right?   Those shows, they are basically getting their story line from THE STORY, so you probably know what’s going to happen. Because in those movies, when the superhero looks totally defeated by the villain, what happens? (Kids might say things like the superhero comes back to life, or gets stronger, or beats the bad guy)

That’s right!! Sin isn’t strong enough to beat Jesus. Just when we think all hope is lost TA-DA, the grave opens and JESUS ISN’T THERE because He is Risen!! Sin is defeated!!!! God Wins!!! Oh, wait, but what about Man?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

Because Jesus beat Sin on the Cross, Man has an amazing opportunity. If we want to, we can have that perfect love relationship with God again. Sin cannot stop us from loving God and it could never stop God from loving us. We can go to God anytime we want because of Jesus’ victory on the cross and say, “God, I choose to love you and hate Sin. Jesus, you’re my superhero!”

(Have the kids lay all the signs out on the floor in a row)

Now, you may ask, why I told this story today. Because right now, as we get ready for Christmas, we are right in the middle of the story. We are right here.

(Point between lightening bolt and cross)

We are getting ready to welcome Jesus into the world on Christmas Day by celebrating when He was born. We are getting ready to open the best present of all, God’s love! We will celebrate the BIGGEST SUPERHERO VICTORY OF ALL TIME!! We will remember that SIN was defeated! That our HERO died BUT came back to life and SAVED the DAY! And that we can be in the perfect love relationship with God again.

So this month , as you wait for Christmas and you think about the Story, take time to remember. This story has the happiest ending of all! It ends with a LOVE SO BIG it wins every time! And you get to be a part of that story!!


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 on this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

Teens and Church: Is It Worth The Battle?

“Do I have to go to church?”

I am the parent of teenagers. This has been uttered. More than once.

I realize that there are some parents who never experience hearing this but for many the parent of teens, this comment is a likely reality.

So how to respond?

Do you force attendance and run the risk of making your teenager even angrier with you, the church and maybe even God?

Do you allow them to skip every now and then and run the risk of encouraging them to begin a habit of not attending church?

After a lifetime of telling them that church isn’t a building but the people in it, do you double down on getting them in the building?

If they are tuned out, is it even doing any good for them to be there?

girl-1848478_1920If you are like me, this wrestling match of “What is best?” ensues and you begin to question everything you’ve attempted to do as a parent, minister, and discipler.  And you’re also keenly aware that in just a few short years, they will know longer be under your roof and they will be making their own decisions about what to do on Sunday morning and Wednesday night (or whenever your church meets) and you will have no say and little influence.

Since I am knee-deep in the beautiful chaos that is parenting teenagers, I thought that at the very least I could share my thoughts and hopefully, glean from yours, so that together, we can encourage one another with the best choice we can make given our individual situations.

The Church IS People

I’m a big believer in the power of intergenerational relationships and cultivating friendship that exist outside the constructs of a building or a designated church time. The body of Christ is made up of all generations and we are called to share our faith with one another, one generation to another, and that can’t happen exclusively in the construct of a Sunday morning church service. It is up to us as parents to find ways to help our children build those relationships with other adults long before they reach the “I don’t want to go to church” age.

Why? 

1. Because sometimes they may not want to go to church but they might just want to go see a friend, even if that friend is an adult.

2. Because sometimes church might be them going out with said friend to the mall and having conversations with that adult who is pouring into them that they would never have with you.

3. Because we need each other; the church is supposed to support parents as they raise their kids and these relationships are necessary for holistic faith

4. Because the Church IS People not a building.

There’s More than One Way

Recently our oldest has requested to not go to youth group anymore since most of the teens there are younger than her. Really a hard call for us since we are the pastor’s family. But we gave her a choice: Either go to youth group OR meet with the youth pastor twice a month to do a book study.  She chose the latter.

So now my child is spending one-on-one time with someone I respect and want to have speaking into her life, talking about Scripture and God, and “getting her way”.  We decided that rather than say “No,” we’d work with her to find a way to ensure that while she is our home, she has some intentional time of discipleship that is developmentally appropriate for her.

What’s the Motive?

As parents, we thought long and hard about this. We all know that “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a cheeseburger.”  But there is value in being around a community of believers who care about you and worships the same God you do.  So we really have to consider why we feel like it is important for our kids to be in church, especially when they are teenagers.

For us it came down to this: Church is something we do as a family and while you live with us, it will be something you participate in. We know that you have to choose for yourself if you want to be a Christian or attend church once you leave our home, but while here, this is something that we value and we commit to doing as a family.

Now, does that mean our kids can never miss a church service? For our family, no, that is not what it means. We understand that there are things that come up that might cause them to miss a service and there may be times where we say, “Why don’t you all stay home today?”  But ultimately, we have said that church will be a non-negotiable in our home.

Watch for Substitutes

Being in church actually fulfills a deep need and longing that we have to be in community. God created us for that very thing in His image of perfect community in the Trinity. So, if church isn’t a place where that need for community is being met, teens will likely substitute with something else.

A recent article in the Washington Post about Millenials leaving church (not Gen Z, mind you, but still addressing the church attendance issue) states “Some of us are turning to convenient, low-commitment substitutes for faith and fellowship: astrology, the easy “spiritualism” of yoga and self-care, posting away on Twitter and playing more games..Here’s what really worries me: Few of these activities are as geared toward building deep relationships and communal support as the religious traditions the millennials are leaving behind. Actively participating in a congregation means embedding oneself in a community. This involves you in the lives of others and the other way around — their joys and sadnesses, connections and expectations. By leaving religion, we’re shrugging off the ties that bind, not just loosening them temporarily.”

This should be a wake up call for us as parents and for many of us who are in fact Millenials. If we see that our sense of community or our teen’s sense of community is coming from shallow substitutes, there’s a bigger thing going on that just missing a church service.

Community is key to connection; that is what the body of Christ is called to be for one another and for the world. 

This is where we have landed in our home. And I realize, that other parents end up in another place. Perhaps you have been blessed with a child who never questions the need to go to church or expresses a desire to not attend regularly. Perhaps every single Sunday is a struggle and you have grown weary and your heart is heavy.  It is not an “easy answer” issue with a cookie cutter solution.

But I do know this: God cares immeasurably more for your child (and my child) than you (or I) do and He is not the kind to let sheep run wild without a caring Shepherd to guide them to the fold. Whether their head, heart and body are in the pew or not, He is with them and we can entrust our budding adult to His hands.

I’d love to hear from you; what has your experience with teenagers and church been and how have you parented them in grace and love when it comes to church attendance?


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 on this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author.