Mind the Gap: Reuniting Generations in Our Churches

Recently there’s been a return to cross-generational and intergenerational communities and contexts mostly because of the research being done on the importance of multigenerational community. (Source).

As crazy as it seems to us, it’s actually quite normal and quite healthy for generations to spend quality time together.

intergenerational-cool-stuffBut, let’s be honest.  the way society is currently structured, connecting with generations outside of our own can feel uncomfortable and decidedly not fun.   And because of that, we sometimes think that we don’t have anything in common with generations other than ours and even more sadly, that we can’t be friends.

But, that’s simply not true.  It’s what we’ve become accustomed to but it’s not truth. The truth is we actually live better, more fulfilling lives when we are around each other.

Is it possible to change our minds?

Some amazing places are showing it is possible, like this intergenerational care home in the UK and these intergenerational communities in the US. They are built on the idea that we have more that unites us than separates us, more in common than difference. And I believe that can be done in the church as well. In fact, I believe it is one of the most important things we can do in our churches today. But how?

Start Slow

Realistically most of the generations that attend a church don’t even know one another’s names. They often don’t attend the same service times, they are in age-specific Sunday school classes that don’t intermingle with other classes, and they very often are in different parts of the church building.

The very first thing we can do is provide a way for generations within the church to learn each other’s names. Check out this cool resource that is a perfect way to create connections across generations: Pray for Me.

Create a Common Identity

As members of one faith community, this idea of a common identity should be relatively easy to create. Basically, using your church’s vision and mission, craft language that can be used across generations to say “This is who WE are.”  Don’t just use the language in the adult classes or church service where children and youth aren’t present.

Make sure that everyone knows they are part of the church and identify with the mission. As silly as this may seem, tee shirts are a great way to make this happen. Magnify the similarities NOT the differences.

Allow for Interactions

If your church is set up in a way that doesn’t allow for generations to mix and mingle (separate services, classes, and spaces) then it will be necessary to intentionally create space for interactions to take place. Meals together, intergenerational worship, and cross generational events are some ways to allow for that.

It’s also vitally important facilitate and encourage interactions outside of the church buildings. Some ideas:

  • Have the kids who play sports or dance post their game or performance schedules and encourage older folks to attend.
  • Ask the older generations videotape themselves telling stories about their memories of being in church and share videos with the kids once a month.
  • Create a Homebound Ministry with the youth who go and visit people who aren’t physically able to come to the church.
  • Host classes where skills can be taught between generations, older to younger and younger to older.
  • Find places in the community where teams could volunteer and serve and send intergenerational groups out to serve with one another.

Show Up in Unconventional Ways

If there is always an adult leading the call to worship, let a child do it. If a child always takes up the offering, have a college student do it. Move chairs and tables around so that people end up sitting with other generations and making new friends.  Keep messaging that we have more in common than we think and help them discover common likes, dislikes, and activities. And when you find a commonality, celebrate it!

If there is an advertised “churchwide” event, then make sure the whole church is there, all ages, including children, youth, and senior adults. As Paul would say, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

Regardless of what our society has convinced us of, this is actually what we want. Our soul longs for community and our physical health and well-being benefit from it in ways we are just starting to understand. So, yes, while it will take some intentional work and some consistent messaging, ultimately the end goal is worth it.

We will be 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 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. 

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

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

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

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


An All-Church Blessing for Parents, Children and Volunteers

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

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

(as volunteers are moving)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISMISS KIDS TO PARENTS

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

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

This post was originally shared on ReFocus Ministry here.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

EmbreeFam2017

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

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

The Way We Do the Things We Do

In his book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, author Stephen Chbosky wrote, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”  I’ve seen this posted as inspirational memes and quotes on people’s walls for years but it wasn’t until I started really digging into generational discipleship that I saw how this concept plays out in ministry, especially in intergenerational relationships within the community of faith.

We all know that communication is more than just words.  Communication takes many forms, from verbal to nonverbal, intentional to non-intentional, systemic to institutional. The way we do the things we do speaks volumes. The words we use pale in comparison to the actions we take and the method by which we take them.

In my last few years of observing how we go about discipleship in church, hearing the verbal communication of welcome and community and observing the nonverbal communication like methods and actions, it’s becoming clearer to me that one reason the church is losing the rising generations is due in part to the fact that they only accept the love they’ve been told they deserve.

Stripped of our words, what do our churches often communicate to the generations who attend?

  1. My Space, Your Space – If we look at most church buildings, we will tend to find wings that are set apart by age, often down hallways or even separated by floors, much like school buildings or nursing homes in society. The common space, the sanctuary, can be a place where all ages gather but in many cases that doesn’t happen frequently.
  2. My Service, Your Service – A lot of churches have at least two if not more services and often those services look and sound different (contemporary, traditional, blended, etc.). Frequently these services become equally age segregated simply by the fact that they are intended to reach specific age groups or worship preferences.
  3. My Time, Your Time – When describing worship experiences, often people will say it is their time in the week to connect with God, to be renewed and refreshed, to have a personal experience. Distractions and discomfort is often minimized during the service time to allow for that so that even when we are together, we are essentially alone, but occupying the same space.
  4. My Church, Your Church – Having served on two church staffs and having consulted and coached with many more, this is something that repeatedly comes up, namely, the idea that within a church there may be two or more distinct faith communities based on age, likes/dislikes, and preferences and that people in these groups don’t even know the people in the other groups. One church I worked with once described their church as “Five Churches under one roof.”
So what does this have to do with accepting the love we think we deserve?

Well, if we say things like, “We welcome all ages into our community” but the proceed to navigate the children to one area, the youth to another, the adults to yet another, and the seniors to another, that verbal communication becomes muddied. It is difficult to enter a space that isn’t “ours” even if we hear that we are welcome.

be-quiet-in-churchIf we say, “All ages are members of our church community” but the youngest members never or rarely see or hear from the pastor or other adult leaders in the church or just other adults in the church except children’s ministry volunteers, do they feel truly part of the congregation?

Conversely, if the older members of the congregation never or rarely get to interact with or build relationships the younger generations, can either accept love, advice, encouragement or even just friendship from the other?

We use a lot of words to indicate unity and cohesion, but often our nonverbal communication speaks to separation and division, which, in turn, often falls along generational lines.  And that makes it very hard for each generation to accept love and friendship from the other because it doesn’t feel “right”.

I wonder what would happen if instead we embraced the uncomfortable.

If we sang some songs we don’t necessarily love.

If we allowed for some distraction and discomfort during our corporate worship time.

If we intermingled with generations who say and do things we don’t understand.

If we prioritized relationships with the whole body over the comfort of those we know best.

I mean, it would be uncomfortable to be sure. But, as a friend of mine who attends a church who is working to become intentionally unsegregated on Sunday mornings shared, maybe that is the point.

Maybe it’s not supposed to be comfortable. Maybe it is supposed to take work, to challenge us to grow beyond what feels good, to be surrounded by a much bigger world that doesn’t look and act and sound like us. Maybe there is room for both times of corporate worship and times of age-appropriate teaching. Maybe an either/or way of doing church isn’t the only way of doing church.

And maybe, if we can find time and space for the both/and, the generations who are following ours may not agree with everything we say and do but they will accept the love of the Church and the Lord because they know they are truly a part of the church, the community, the body of Christ.

I think at the very least these are ideas worth exploring, even if the questions we ask and conclusions we land on make us a just little bit uncomfortable.


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. 

Engaging Children in Worship

The other day, my son and I were at a community center that had, as part of the building, a small room called the “Children’s Chapel.” Inside the room were a few instruments (mostly drums), a number of boxes that had Bible stories inside of them, and several benches with chairs. When we went in the room, my son asked if he could play the drum. I agreed, but I reminded him that this space was sacred, which meant is was set aside to tell God that we love Him and for us to hear from God, so if he played the drum, it had to be for Jesus.

That was all the instruction he needed. He understood the space was set aside for holy purposes. In a few moments, he was joined by two young girls and together they held church. No really, they did. They used the drums there to make up songs to sing to God. His song lyrics said, “Oh God, I love you with all of my heart. You made me and take care of me. You love me and I love you.” One of the girls sang, “You are high in heaven but you made me and my friends and my mom and my dad and my sisters. And I praise you and I love you. You are great and amazing.

Then my son pulled out one of the story boxes and proceeded to tell me the story of the Good Samaritan that he had learned in small group at church today. Then together we explored the story of the Good Shepherd and talked about all the ways Jesus was our Good Shepherd.

It was a beautiful unexpected time.

It was church, in all of its fullness.

The worship was pure and from the heart. The preaching was convicting and interactive. And the faith like a child was evident in all.

I am becoming more and more convinced that children need spaces like this where they can explore who and what God is to them, unscripted and unhindered.

church-1499312_1920They hear a lot. They have the chance to listen to stories and sermons, hear songs and hymns, and do lessons and games. But this unhindered space with no direction other than, “Do whatever you want, but do it for Jesus” opened the door for these young children to worship Jesus in their own words, tell the stories as they understood them, and learn in a way that enraptured their hearts.

How can we create space for children to explore God in unhindered ways?

We can give them permission

Kids have a lot of structure in their lives. Rules as school. Responsibilities at home. Ways of behaving that are expected. But if we give them permission to have freedom in expressing their worship of God, it opens the door for them to experience more.

Ideas for how to do that? Give them a blank piece of paper and tell them they can draw whatever they want for Jesus. Offer them an instrument and invite them to write or sing Jesus a song. See if your church has a felt board you could use, and let them re-tell the stories they’ve heard.

We can give them space

As believers, we know that we can worship God anywhere at any time. But it can be helpful if we create space for those special moments in our homes.

Maybe there’s a corner in your home, a part of a bedroom or office, a wall that could be turned into a prayer wall or a worship space. Fill it with items like instruments, paper and crayons, notebooks and journals that are set aside for worship, for listening and for prayer. And model it for them by spending some sacred time yourself, worshiping God unhindered, in your home.

We can give them awe

Nothing draws us into a story more than mystery. We love to be drawn into the unknown. And nothing is more mysterious and full of awe than our God. Sometimes our Bible stories made to be accessible to children can unwittingly remove that sense of awe and make God nothing more than a superhero or really great adult. But God is so much more.

Take a look at the night sky and wonder together about a God who calls each star by name. Watch a thunderstorm and wonder about a God who can calm the storm by just using His voice. Imagine together what the moment of Creation was like or how the earth shook when Jesus rose from the grave. Invite your children into the mystery and let them experience the awe of our awesome God!

In Matthew 18: 1-3, the crowd asked Jesus, “Who will be greatest in the kingdom of God?” Jesus responds by placing a child in front of all of them and basically says “Whoever knows me like this little one.” In Luke 18: 15-17, people are bringing children to Jesus and the disciples try to send them away, as The Message puts it, “Jesus called them back. “Let these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.

There is something to a child’s unhindered faith that we, the adults, need as much as they do. Let’s give them space to explore and worship their Jesus so we can get to know our Jesus better.

This blog was originally written for the D6 Family blog, March 7, 2017 and can be accessed here.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and 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

Pray For Me? How one simple question can bring together generations

cactus“Hey Christina, would you tell Naomi I finally found cactus plants at Lowes? There were 4 in a pot with gravel glued over the top. I finally chiseled them out with an ice pick and got them repotted…Anyway, the pots are fantastic and hopefully the plants will survive. She is a great artist and I think of her every time I look at them”

I got this text at 8:30 last night. It was from my daughter’s prayer partner at church. The pots she speaks of are clay pots my daughter had painted for her.

A little over a year ago, these two people didn’t know each other.

Melanie, my daughter’s prayer prayer partner, attends the 8:15 service at our church; our family attends 9:30.

Melanie teaches a Sunday School for older adults at 9:30 while Naomi is in church.

Melanie goes home at 11 am when Naomi heads down for Kids Church and small groups.

Melanie is older. Naomi is younger.

Melanie spends her week working and with her friends. Naomi spends her week at school and with her friends.

melanienaomiBut about a year ago, Naomi (through me) asked Melanie to pray for her throughout the upcoming school year. Melanie said “Yes!” and thus began a beautiful friendship. These two ladies have become bosom buddies. They have shared many special moments of laughter and sorrow; they’ve prayed through times of grief and celebrated through times of joy.

Both Melanie and Naomi have expressed how deeply they’ve come to care for each other and how meaningful this relationship has become in their own lives.  Melanie says, “I am humbled and honored to pray for Naomi. As the older generation, we feel we will be doing the giving. So so precious to realize that the younger ones help grow us as we are helping grow them. What a beautiful part of God’s plan.”  Naomi says, “When I grow up, I want to love kids the way Miss Melanie loves me.”

Recently I wrote a paper regarding generational discipleship in the church in which I state,

“Generational discipleship, passing the faith from one generation to another through relationship within a community of faith, can be difficult when a church is structured in a way that tends to segregate members by ages and stages of development. Creating space within the church for the types of relationships that support, nurture, and equip children and the family can be difficult.”

But, what if we could find a space to connect the generations, a vehicle that brings people together, regardless of age or service preference or location in the church building? Something like intercessory prayer. prayforme

The inspiration for our prayer program at church came from Tony Souder‘s book Pray for Me which connects children and young people in the church with prayer champions of three older generations. The commitment is simply to pray for one another throughout the school year. But our church quickly found that if you are praying for someone, you start caring for that someone, and as a result,
relationships begin to grow.

At the end of our first year of praying for each other, I interviewed our participants to see what they thought of their experience. What I found out was really quite amazing and worth our attention.

  1. Parents felt more supported by the church in general even though they were only interacting with a few prayer partners. Simply knowing that other people, older generations, were intentionally praying for their children made them feel more connected to the church and more supported by the faith community. Texts like the one I got last night are a huge part of that experience.
  2. Prayer Partners felt more connected to the families in the church. Instead of just seeing the families passing the hallway, they were more like to stop and ask how things were going, how they could pray for their child, and how they could be more intentional in their prayers. As a result, they began to feel more connected to the family as a whole, not just to the children they were praying for.
  3. Prayer as a spiritual discipline took on greater importance, not just for the prayer partners, but for the church as a whole. 65% of prayer partners indicated that the intentionality of praying for their child led to substantial growth in their own prayer lives that spilled over into praying for others including other adults within the church.

The conclusion of my paper read like this:

“One of the beauties of the church is that it can be an intergenerational community bringing people of all ages, including the elderly and the young, together to learn about God and life from each other” (Stonehouse, 2010, p. 127). In order for this beauty to be experienced by all who enter the church building, there must be times of interaction that take place between the generations; times where names can be said, hugs can be exchanged, faces can be seen.

While intercessory prayer cannot create that space, it can create a means by which names and faces can be made known and intentional thought given to persons regardless of age or service preference. As Dr. Catherine Stonehouse (2010) goes on to share, “Wishing for such an intergenerational faith community will not be enough; it will take intentional planning on the part of church leaders” (p. 128). Perhaps intercessory prayer could be the start of that intentional planning.

If you are interested in knowing more about how your church can begin an intentional intercessory and intergenerational prayer program at your church, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of the book Pray For Me by Tony Souder. If you’d like to know how our church put the program into action, feel free to message me and I’ll share what we did to create space for these prayer connections.

And if you want to experience the joy of seeing your child connect with an older friend who can pour the love of Jesus, the experience of a walk with Christ, and grow in their faith within the community of believers, I cannot recommend enough having them ask the simple question, “Will you pray for me?”

Quotes taken from Listening to children on the spiritual journey: Guidance for those who teach and nurture written by Stonehouse, C. and May, S. (2010). Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Books.


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

A Prayer for Our World

In a world where a 4 year old boy peers from a backseat while his caregivers are passed out in the front due to a drug overdose…

In a world where politics divide a country, not just by ideology, but words of absolute hatred and burning insults…

In a world where floods and earthquakes and war and famine tear apart lives and destroy futures in seconds…

In a world where heartache fills the airwaves and the pages of social media feeds; where so many statements are laced with bitterness, sadness or greed; where we remember anew each year moments of terror that broke our hearts;  where we stare aghast into the grief each day because we are connected in ways we could never have imagined just one generation ago…

In that world…

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”- St. Francis

In that world, let us be different and let that difference be Jesus.


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

Five Ways to say Welcome

Yesterday was my kids’ first day back to school. My husband and I went on a breakfast date. I attended chapel at my husband’s seminary. My house was quiet for 7 hours. And, if I’m honest, it was nice.

But as the time grew closer for my kids to get home, I grew more and more antsy. I wanted to know how their day went. I wanted to give them hugs and look in their eyes and see if they were really okay. I wanted to welcome them back into the quiet space, knowing full well it wouldn’t be quiet any more, but desiring even more their presence.  So, I made them smoothies and soft pretzels and waited by the door to say, “Welcome home!”

Later, after the noise returned and the excitement wore off and the normal routine of our evening ensued, I thought, “Hmm, what was I so excited about?” But before bed, as I was tucking my youngest in, he said something along the lines of , “I can’t wait to come home tomorrow.”

And isn’t that what I really wanted?

I wanted my kids to want to come home. To come back to this place we share, to the noise and the mess, to the warmth and the love. I wanted them to walk through that door and immediately know they were wanted, they were missed, and they were loved.

They were welcomed.

hand-1549132_1920What if we translated this kind of “welcome home” into our church setting? I’m not saying we hand a smoothie and soft pretzel to each child that walks through the door, although that would be delicious. But what if we thought, “How can I let this child who is coming to worship service, to Sunday school, to Kids Church, to small group, know that they are wanted, missed, and loved?” 

Here are five ideas that other ministers have shared with me for us to consider how we can say, “Welcome” each and every time we open the door to a returning child.

Say Their Name

Nothing says, “I know you” better to a child than simply saying their name when you see them. One little girl recently began attending our church and when I saw her on the second Sunday she was there I welcomed her by name. She literally stopped in her tracks, looked up at me and said, “How do you know my name?”  I said, “Well, your mom told me last week and I remembered.”  She responded with a simple but surprised, “Wow!”  But later, she made sure to say good bye to me…by name.

Get on their Level

Once, a fellow minister at a conference, had all of us get down on our knees and “walk” around the room at half our size to see what the room looked like from a shorter vantage point.  Tables at eye-level, ceilings far above our heads, signs and screens where we couldn’t read them; all of those experiences were helpful in understanding how a child feels. But nothing was more impacting than when half the adults were told to stand back up. Suddenly, those tall people became quite intimidating. Simply kneeling down so eye-to-eye contact is possible can remove that barrier and say, “I’m glad you are here!”

Ask a Question

A friend of mine told me that her trick to welcoming kids to the worship service is to make sure she has a question to ask about something they are involved in. For instance, if they play soccer, she’ll ask if they had a game and how it went. If they are in school, she’ll ask about their classes or how their tests went. She said, “I don’t need to know specifics, I just need to know basics, and they fill in the rest.”  She’s also careful not to ask “yes” or “no” questions but ones where they can talk. Showing interest in someone says, “I want you here!” in very real ways. 

Listen to the Answer

We’ve all been there. Someone asks a question, to be polite, and when we answer, we can see they have completely lost interest. That does not feel welcoming at all. Making the choice to not only ask a question but really listen to the answer tells the child that they are valuable enough for your time and attention. And with a child, that answer could be long and confusing, but listening means that there is genuine care. And that is welcome.

Pray for Them

I am convinced that we consistently underestimate the power of prayer as an agent for developing meaningful relationships in the community of faith, especially between generations. Praying for someone consistently is investing in someone intentionally. Through prayer, genuine care and concern for the other is developed and that shows in each interaction and each conversation. My church launched a prayer campaign last year that linked each child with three prayer partners for the school year. I watched my own children develop relationships with these caring adults that not only filled a need in their lives for positive adult role models but also made them feel genuinely welcomed and wanted at church.  

Wouldn’t it be great if at the end of a Sunday a child could say to their parents, “I can’t wait to go back church next week?” I think when we create that place of welcome, that desire can be a real possibility. And I think it can last long beyond childhood into youth, young adulthood, until they have their own children to welcome into church.

What are some ways that you say “Welcome” to children in your faith community? 

Looking for practical ways to Welcome Kids into 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 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

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

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

education-908512_1920Last year, our church was able to hold a time of commissioning and blessing over these groups as the new school year kicked off and we began to embrace all of these “new” things.  The entire time of blessing takes about 5 minutes and can be a way for your whole church to come together and let the kids, parents, and volunteers know that they are being held up and prayer and sent out as God’s lights of love as the academic year begins.

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


An All-Church Blessing for Parents, Children and Volunteers

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

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

(as volunteers are moving)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISMISS KIDS TO PARENTS

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

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


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

When Hearts Break

Friends, this has been a hard week for our family, our church family, and our community. We’ve had to face deep sadness. We’ve had to look death in the face. We’ve experienced gut-wrenching hurt and watch those we love experience the deepest pain.

In all of that, we’ve also seen God’s hand of grace through the body of Christ. I’ve watched as people have gathered around a hurting family with respect, honor, and love, being the hands and feet of Christ. Praying together for them, loving them in practical and meaningful ways.

These words I wrote last year have taken on new life and meaning for me. Perhaps if you find yourself in a place where you need to answer hard questions that children might ask, they can help you too.

We can’t let the sadness of the moments and our own confusion and doubt keep us from fully engaging with our kids.  To brush them off in this moment will leave them hurting and wondering, having to sort through on their own the fears and worries they can’t understand.  In these moments, we must take the time away from distraction to look them in the eyes, answer their hard questions as best we can, and gently lead them to the heart of Christ through prayer and love.

What can we as adults do when the questions come?

1. Process with them – There may be a lot of questions, there may be only one.  They may just want to talk.  Let them download on you rather than keep it inside.  In their innocence, it may appear as though these things aren’t affecting them deeply so you may want to brush over it and “not make a big deal about it.”  My heart in this is – it’s worth making a big deal about.  Give them the space to process with you and know that they are not alone. (For a more in-depth article on tips for taking with kids about death, click here)

2. Protect them – Kids are vulnerable to fears in ways adults aren’t because their minds don’t know how yet to separate reality from imagination.  When fear is made manifest, combat with with love.  The Bible says “Perfect love casts out fear.”  If need be, remind them of that favorite movie from last year where the heroine was defeated when fear ruled but victorious when love won (just don’t tell them to “Conceal don’t feel” – worst parenting advice ever)!  Be present with them and let them know they are safe with you and that no matter what, they are never alone.

3. Pray with them – Even if your conversation is only a few seconds long, don’t end it without saying, “Hey buddy, you know what, let’s pray for those people right now.”  Not only are you inviting God’s presence into the situation, you are teaching a valuable lesson about where to turn when life’s troubles come our way.  It will leave a lasting impression on their heart.

Friends, there are no easy answers.  When hearts are broken, we can only turn to one place for healing.  As we process the next few days and we consider our own hearts in these matters, let us model for our children what is is to be 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)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.

Please and Thank you

When kids are first learning their “please and thank you’s” it’s not unusual to here a parent prompt their child by reminding them, “What do you say?”

I kinda feel like Thanksgiving is our cultural equivalent.

It sometimes feel like we spend much our our lives running from here to there, doing this and that, getting knicks and knacks, and fall exhausted into bed each night so we can get up and do it all again the next day.

I don’t think many of us want life to be like that. I read enough blogs and see enough Facebook posts to know that most of us long for the quieter moments, for peace and rest, for intentional moments of living deeply.  But we face the harsh reality of bills to pay and schedules to keep and people to meet and it can feel like life becomes a checklist, a to-do list, or just a crazy, messy race.

And then this day comes once a year where all around us we hear a thanksgivingdifferent message. Whether contrived for commercial reasons or sincere heartfelt sentiments, we consistently hear things like, “Give Thanks” and “Count your blessings” and “Gather friends and family.”  It’s like a societal nudge..a reminder..a simple, “What do you say?” for all of us. 

The goal of the parental reminder is to help our kids form a habit where saying “Thank you” is a normal response from our children.

The goal of Thanksgiving was quite similar. These powerful words, proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as the Civil War waged on and Thanksgiving was made an official holiday, reflect that desire that gratitude would become our way of life in America.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…

…No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

I’m not sure I could ever write a better “prompt” than this.

This day, the day we call Thanksgiving, isn’t just a day to say “thank you” but also a day to say “please.”

Please forgive us for taking You for granted.

Please heal our nation and your Church of the wounds that have torn us apart.

Please restore us in your grace to relationship with you.

Please keep in tender care those who mourn

Please, Lord, come and heal our land.

And if this day of feasting and family, of food and fellowship, also becomes to us a time of faithfulness and forgiveness, perhaps when the day is gone, the reminder of “What do you say?” will echo in our lives, our families, our homes, our churches every single day.

Happy Thanksgiving friends.

Embrace the “please and thank you’s”, hug the ones you love, count your blessings, and give thanks!


 

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

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

About the author

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