One of “Those” Parents

Recently my husband and I have been working on tightening and/or enforcing some boundaries in our home in regard to internet and device use.  Our decision was precipitated by a myriad of concerns not the least of which was the influence that we recognize that the messages being perpetuated through certain media outlets was having on our home and children.

As we began to roll out these changes or doubled up on our enforcement of already established boundaries, you can imagine that we were met with a high degree of eye rolling, sighing, accusations of being “controlling” and ultimately the title of being “one of those parents.”

Out of curiosity and also a desire to know my tribe of “those parents” I posted a simple request on my Facebook wall:

“Having most recently been dubbed “one of those parents” for our overly stringent and utterly unbelievable boundaries we are enforcing regarding device and screen use in our home…I’d love to hear, if you are willing to share, the boundaries in place in your home. Particularly interested in hearing from parents with teens (think around 13 & 16). Also, if you have no boundaries, I’d love to know that since apparently we are the only parents who do 😉. Signed – One of those parents”

teenphoneThe response was overwhelming and encouraging. I heard from parents that ranged from more permissive to more restrictive. People shared with me their boundaries and the reasons why they were established. Not one person was exactly the same in their boundaries or their concerns, but all who participated in the discussion shared one thing in common: Every single parent was doing what they felt was best for their children out of the motivation of love.

It was tangible – we love our children so when we choose our boundaries, we are doing our very best to provide for them what they need to grow up healthy and whole. We may not all agree on what those boundaries are, but we do agree on why they are in place.

That being said, I wanted to share (anonymously) some of the comments so that if you are “one of those parents”, you will have the chance to know that you are not alone. 

“No screens in bedroom. Phone comes to me at 9pm. I use Circle to filter and to set time limits for online use. Under 2 hours total. I have full access and read everything.” (Circle is an internet-monitoring system that allows you to set Time Limits for apps and web site as well as age-appropriate Filters that apply to all devices.)

“We don’t have a set screen time limit but we do ask them to put them away if I feel like they have been on them too much. We also use software (Secure Teen) that limits content and shuts the Internet down from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. so they can’t really use their phones. We also monitor all their social media and check their photos.  Doors must be open and screen facing the door if Chromebooks are used their bedrooms.”

“No phone after 9pm. Safari and social media are disabled until academics are where we feel like they should be. We also do check texts/photos at random intervals, but are aware they can be deleted.”

Covenant Eyes not only monitors activity but the family admin can set restrictions/permissions. Also, a weekly report of activity is emailed to the admin for accountability. As far as the time limit – our kids are quite limited, not only in the amount of time they spend on devices (some on weekends, rarely during the week), but but they are limited in where they can go online. And no social media for them for years to come. It’s safer that way for so many reasons”

“Yes our 13 year old has a breakdown about once a week regarding how strict we are 🙄 We’ve used Circle for a couple years and also use the screen time limits built into iPhones.  Our kids are almost 9, 11 and 13. Up until now, basically no screens during the week (unless sick, snow day etc) we tried it several times and it didn’t work. They can text friends via Wi-Fi, no internet at all on their phones (which really operate as iPod touches). They all love audio books so they do that quite a bit on phones. There are games only on their iPads bc if they were on their phones we’d have to restrict them more. They have about an hour a day for texting/FaceTime. The older 2 only text friends. We also read all emails and texts and they aren’t allowed to communicate with anyone we don’t know.”

“We use Qustodio, which I think is similar to Circle and allows us to view all texts as well as web activity. It also allows us to set time limits. Speaking of web activity, we do not let our kiddos have that on their phones. We have a desktop in our living room, which we share for internet searching and which has a large, viable screen. We do not allow phones in rooms or bathrooms – only in common areas. We do not allow head phones in the house. We turn in phones at 8:00 pm.”

“I’m like the Outback Steakhouse… “No Rules, Just Right!” Lol! Seriously, though… I have to pick and choose my battles as a single mom of 4 teenagers. Not saying my kids don’t need boundaries, but they are very transparent with me and we keep a very open dialogue. I let them do their “teenage” thing, and I’m blessed enough to be trusted by them to always know where they are and what they’re doing, because they know they can trust me without judgement. In turn, they want to be home mostly, because it’s such a safe haven for them… and nowhere I’d rather them be by choice.”

“I am a strict parent about many things. For example, we expect that our children will keep their grades above a 94 (they are capable…any grade below this for a middle school or high school student is automatic forfeiture of electronic devices until overall grade is returned to a. 94) and they are actively involved in healthy activities (church youth group, church choir, band, orchestra, community service organizations, community theatre). My theory has always been to keep my children too busy to find trouble. Our oldest two children are both recent self-supporting college grads who have avoided making any major poor decisions so I think my parenting style is working for our family. All that being said, I do not monitor texts or emails or conversations that my high school or middle school daughters are having as I feel that they are entitled to some privacy. I would have been weirded out if my father would have recorded my phone calls as a teen and I feel like this is the method that most contemporary teens use to communicate. Obviously if I learned of an issue with bullying or inappropriate messages or pics, this policy would change. I do think that like everyone else teens deserve some privacy. I also think it is a time to learn how to conduct relationships. My oldest daughter at home is a senior. She will be going away to college in a few months. If I had read every single email and text and then one day sent her 500 miles away to live I would fear she would not know how to conduct relationships on her own. We have used Covenant Eyes to make sure everyone was on the up and up on what sites that they were visiting and we do limit screen time (though we are not as strict as many on this assuming that kids are being good citizens and students…and getting all work done).”

” We are in the phase of no boundaries. Our boys are a 22 year old FT college student who lives at home and a 17 year old. Our rule has always been that I can ask for the phone at any moment for a phone check, as well as have all passwords. I do them from time to time. But we live in a world where parents are bubble wrapping their kids – and as soon as they leave and the wrap is gone they don’t know how to function. We have always been open about talking etc. the only boundaries we set were no Snapchat, and I turned off their ability to down load apps – I had to do it this it had to be approved. Also no internet on their phones until age 15. The final rule, if your technology causes you to be a jerk or a recluse, you don’t need it and I won’t pay for it. This covered participation in family time.”

As you can see, there are many ways of approaching this issue in our homes. I hope that by reading through some of these, you will have a better idea of how to best approach the boundaries of your particular family. There were over 70 comments on my initial thread; I’ve only shared a few. That shows me just how much of an issue this is for us as parents, especially as we are the first generation of parents to navigate this with our children. My prayer is that with each decision we make, we feel the grace of God towards us and our children as we do our very best with the gifts He has entrusted us with.

If you would like to comment on your boundaries at home, please feel free to do so below. This is not a place, however, to critique or judge others for theirs and any disparaging comments will be deleted. We are all doing our best and relying on God’s grace. Let’s encourage one another instead!!


For more information about

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

About the author

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

 

Advertisements

Guest blog: Raising Kids in a Screen Saturated World

Eliza Huie, author of Raising Kids in a Screen Saturated World, approached me a few weeks ago after reading my series on social media, technology and discipleship. We quickly discovered we share much of the same heart on issues surrounding these topics and her book offers some insight on how we, as parents, can approach these topics with our kids. I’m excited to have her share some of that insight with us as a guest blogger today!


Realities of the Digital Age

Have unwanted graphic texts, violent video games, pornography, cyber bullying, sexting, or screen addiction been a concern for you as a parent children in this cyber age? Do you feel overwhelmed in figuring out how to bring balance into your child’s screen use?

You are not alone.

These name only a few of the concerning vices that our screen-saturated world has brought about. Parents can feel lost in the digital landscape where their children are the technological experts and mom and dad struggle just to keep up. But keeping your child screen-free is about as realistic as keeping them from outgrowing their clothes.

If it isn’t already your reality, eventually your child will one day have that telltale rectangular pattern lining their jean’s pocket. Most parents are dependent on their child having a phone of some type in order to keep up with one another in this busy, fast pace life.

Despite the discouraging engagement that a world of devices can bring, the question to ask is this; Are screens really the problem?

Navigating the Digital Age

kids-playing-1253096_1920Is the solution to avoid giving your child technology? Most parents have already found that is an unrealistic option. Screens enter children’s lives at early ages. Pediatrician’s offices have screens in their waiting room to help the children pass the time. Libraries rent colorful tablets that are preloaded with books and games for preschoolers. Schools begin using iPads at the elementary level and many students will be assigned a device at the start of a school year.

Parents fighting for screen-free space in their family can wrongly vilify the device as the problem. But if the screen is not the problem what is? A motivational factor for writing my book was the realization that parents, like me, need practical answers to this tension. It was my desire to address the heart issue and understand what God-honoring screen use looks like. Consider the following:

“We are not fighting against technology. Phones, tablets, laptops, etc., are amoral. They are tools that can be used for good or evil. Don’t over- spiritualize activities because they either include or exclude a screen. Certainly there are times where living a life pleasing to the Lord will mean the intentional absence of screens but keep in mind that the screen is not the enemy. The frailty of weak and wandering hearts turns a potentially helpful tool into an instrument of destruction. In a world so profoundly dependent on technology, the answer is not to label devices as the problem and avoid them. Rather, reflect on what technology is revealing about what is in your heart and your children’s heart.”[1]

The Deeper Issues of the Digital Age

This approach deals with the deeper issue. Conversations about what is driving screen activity are most important. What is motivating what they consume, produce, and promote online is the deeper issue for parents to explore. The screen simply gives a platform for the heart. As parent’s we want to know and address the heart of our kids.

Recognizing that technology or screens are not the root problem will create an avenue to see the potential positive use that screens can bring into your child’s world. Rather than focusing on the screen consider how to better understand what is alluring your child and begin to have conversations there.

One of the things I attempted to do in writing this book was to give parents helpful questions to ask their child to begin conversations. These questions are intended to draw out the heart rather than to put the child on the defense about their screen use. For example, asking your child “What areas of our family life to you feel would be good to be screen-free?” or “What are ways you think we can use our screens to engage each other? Questions like these allow the child to enter into the conversation and share their thoughts.

With this disposition you are focusing on the relationship above screen issues.

That allows for conversations that reveal their heart and  puts you in a much better place to walk with your child in this screen-saturated world.

[1] From Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World. Available at 10of Those.com and Amazon.

Guest Blogger: Eliza Huie is the executive director of Life Counseling Center in Marriottsville, Maryland. She is a biblical counselor and author of Raising Kid’s in a Screen-Saturated Worlda readable, practical, and much needed book for all parents.  Eliza and her husband Ken have three grown children.

Raising Kids in a Screen_EHUIE Refocus


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. 

Devices Are Not The Enemy

When I was young, my dad once shared with me that often times growing up, I would hear two sides to a story. Like a pendulum, opinions on things would swing from one side to another, but the truth usually lie somewhere in the middle. Decades later, a mentor to my husband shared the same thing (only in Latin, which sounds cooler): “Veritas en medio est” which means “The truth is in the middle.”

The latest wave of “sides” that I’ve seen has been in regard to the use of electronic devices by children, youth, young adults… everyone.  There are facts and statistics that seem to “support” each side of the pendulum on this one.

boy with phoneI know parents who are adamantly opposed to any form of device ever being used by their child, citing everything from biological research that devices literally harm the brain to social concerns regarding the availability of kids to access mature content at the push of a button or be vulnerable to bullying without a safe place to escape (all legitimate concerns).

I know other parents who lean towards embracing devices, citing other research that shows that kids who use devices at a young age are better at problem solving, are more socially conscious, and learn basic academic skills earlier.

Oh my goodness, how in the world are we supposed to navigate this?  Well, I’m going to follow the advice of my mentors here and encourage us to consider that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Devices are not the enemy.

They are devices.  We control them. We can even turn them off.

As parents, we control the access to them within our home. We can turn off the wifi. We can take away devices. We can monitor what our kids have access to.

We can also use them constructively. We can create space that invites our kids to learn with us how to responsibly use devices. We can model healthy behavior. We can create a culture in our home that helps our kids responsibly use devices.

Ultimately, devices aren’t the issue. We are.

Whether we are the parent that says, “No devices, end of story” or the parent that says, “All the devices, let’d dive in,” the reality is simply this – we are in charge of the narrative. And since, I suspect, most of us tend to be somewhere in the middle, aware of both the dangers and the benefits and doing our best to walk the wire and do the right thing, ultimately the issue is … us.

Jon Acuff has a great series on technology and kids and one of his primary takeaways is this: “You can’t stop a changing culture, but you can control the culture in your home.”  In other words, as parents, we can’t stop the fact that devices are becoming more and more integrated in our society. We can’t.

Even if we choose to remove all devices from our home, the reality is if we walk outside of our home at any time and choose to interact at all with the world, we are going to find a reliance on devices is part of that culture.   But what we can do is create a culture inside our own home that puts devices in their proper place.

We can respect the device as what it is – a tool, a social platform, a learning resource, an object with an off/on switch – and we can establish ways of interacting with said device that help our kids and youth to develop healthy habits that will help them when they walk out of our home.

But it’s even bigger than that.

We can establish a culture in our home of kindness, a culture that says we treat others as Christ would and that extends into our social media networks.

We can establish a culture of self control and moderation, a culture that says we don’t need to over indulge or become obsessed with anything and that can extend to our use of devices.

We can establish a culture that says we honor Christ first, a culture that is first of all focused on Christ-centered relationships and community and that can encompass how and where we use devices.

We can create a culture that becomes so much a part of our home that when anything new is introduced into it, that new thing is screened by the culture and put in its proper place, and that includes devices.

Doing that will take work,  a lot of work. It’s not an offhanded thing. Creating a culture in our homes requires actual and intentional thought and time.  It requires stated expectations and shared values. And those don’t happen overnight.

Creating that culture is as much a part of the discipleship process as reading the Bible, praying with our children, and serving our community.

Discipleship at home isn’t about adding more to our already busy lives; it’s about welcoming Christ into every aspect of our lives, including technology. It’s about finding ways to intentionally invite Jesus into our devices, not in some “super spiritual” Jesus juke kind of a way, but in a recognition that like every other part of our lives, this one needs His grace as well.

There are articles upon articles out there that will give ideas galore about how to actively engage your child in healthy ways with devices. Articles about how to make it more safe. Ideas on intentional conversations you should have with your children. I recommend reading them. But I also recommend this; don’t let fear or apathy control the decisions that we make in regard to devices.

We have the exciting opportunity to help our children experience life within the safe space of our home with the guiding principles of our culture through the grace of Christ.

With that before us, let’s not let devices steal the spotlight.

Instead, let’s prayerfully consider how these objects can be best experienced in our children’s lives in ways that prepare them for the future and engage them with discipleship within our homes.

(This article is the third in a series on social media, technology and discipleship. To read the first and second, click on the links)


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

Why We Need To Be There

On Sunday, I joined with a group from our church to walk through the streets of Lexington for the Lexington Mural Challenge Scavenger Hunt. In Lexington there are over a hundred murals painted on the sides of buildings, in alleys, up and down streets, throughout the city.

Each mural has a story and each story is a part of what makes Lexington the city that it is. 

Our church hosted the walk through the city as part of our Lex Get Together activities aimed at helping people who are new to the city get to know it better and those who are old to the city to learn something new. We figure there’s no better way to get to know a place and the people who live there than to explore it, engage with it, and experience it.

Which is why I have an Instagram account.

twitter-292994_1920You see, I’m the mother of an almost 15 year old. Her “city” is Instagram. Her “streets” are the people she follows. Her “murals” are found in that lovely search feature at the bottom of the screen. And her community is found in the multiple group conversations she is a part of.

Each image has a story and each story is a part of what make her world what it is. 

Realistically, I know this is, like everything is, a phase that she is going through, an experiential stage common to most kids her age. I don’t think that for the rest of her life she will “live” there but for now, it’s where she is interacting with people on a daily basis.

And I need to be there.

I need to be on her streets and in her community. I need to understand viral videos, trending memes, and the language that is spoken. More than that, I need to be aware of the messages that are being given and received, not so that I can control them, but so I can have a conversation about them.

Our church plant recognizes that to minister effectively to those in the city of Lexington we feel called to, it’s important for us to experience the culture and engage with the environment.  Our children and youth are our first ministry but if we are not where they are, if we are not engaged, not experiencing their world, we will have a much more difficult time having conversations that lead to discipleship and faith formation.

I still get made fun of by my girls for being old and not getting things, but that doesn’t deter me from remaining engaged and aware. If I’m willing to walk the streets of a city so I can know it better, I’m definitely willing to scroll through a social media app to know my children better.

Be where your kids are. Be present and aware.

Ask questions like, “Have you seen anything interesting lately?” and “What’s new on Instagram?” For younger children, let them sit with you and see how you interact with people. Teach them healthy ways to engage digitally with you because one day, even if it’s after they leave your home, they will engage.

Establish the culture of loving God and loving others in all areas of life, including the digital one, so that even when you are not there, they will be able to approach technology of godly, responsible ways.

Discipleship at home is more than family devotions and Bible stories before bedtime. It’s intentionally welcoming Christ into every area of our lives and looking for opportunities to grow our faith no matter where we are and helping our children to see Him.

Note: In our home, we have limited the social media world our older kids have access to one location so that it is easier for us to engage and interact. Each family understandably needs to find their own rhythm and guidelines, but whatever those end up being, just make sure that you are there. You can follow me on Instagram @christinaembree.

This article is the first in a series on social media, technology, and discipleship. To read the second and third in the series, click on the link!


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. 

Why I’m Not Mad At Disney

Beauty and the Beast: The Controversy.

As I scroll through social media or engage in conversations with many of my readers, I can’t help but title the new movie this way in my head (accompanied by the sound of ominous music). It seems like everywhere I look, I see opinions raging, most expressing disappointment, some reacting with outrage, some with support and many with apathy.beautiful-963893_1920

So there it is. The Controversy. In the live action version of Beauty in the Beauty, there is a nod to Same Sex Attraction (SSA). You can go look up the details if you haven’t heard about it yet, but if you haven’t, I’d be shocked.

I have a few people ask me for my take on this. Specifically, I had someone ask me “Doesn’t it just make you so mad?” And, I had to look at them and say, “No, not at all.” And here’s why:

  1. Disney is not an evangelical Christian company – They never have been. It’s not in their DNA. They are a company that has always reflected the culture and the things that are important to the culture.
  2. Disney is not beholden to me for….anything – They have not entered into any kind of arrangement to offer me what I deem family-friendly entertainment or promise me that they will express my values in their movies or television shows.
  3. Disney is not raising my children – I’m doing that. And there have been MANY Disney moments where I’ve stopped the movie and said, “Hmm, what do you guys think about that? Is that how Christ would have us act or respond? What do you think Jesus would have done in that situation? What about you?”
  4. Disney is pushing an agenda – Of course they are! Everything and everyone is! Friends, we are. Walmart is. Chick-Fil-A is. The trash company is. Everyone is. Part of the beauty of our country is that we can. And part of the beauty of our republic is that our right to do so is protected and our right to not engage with something is also protected.
  5. Disney is primarily a business – They want to make money. Lots of money. And as we know, any publicity is good publicity. Those who have hit the airwaves and social media calling for a boycott and spreading inflammatory articles and blog posts have helped create a storm of publicity for them that will help them meet their ultimate goal. To make more money.

I can’t be mad at Disney for doing what Disney does any more than I can be mad at any other company for doing what that company does.

Friends, we are called to be “alien and strangers” in this world (I Pet. 2:11). We are supposed to be the odd ones out. We are supposed to be different. It’s not the world’s job to conform to us. It’s our job not to conform to it (Rom. 12:2). Expressing outrage over the world being the world is like expressing outrage that a bird flies.

If outrage is to be expressed, let it be for things that truly break God’s heart.

He LOVES the world, so much that He sent his only Son to say it in the loudest way possible. Look at how Jesus approached life.

He didn’t say, “Boycott the world!” He said, “Love your neighbor, do good to those who come against you.” (Mt. 5:44)

He didn’t act in ways that said, “Withdraw from society” but rather he ate dinner with outcasts, with “sinners”, with the ones no “righteous” person would associate with (Mark 2:13-17).

He did not expect the world to be like Him. Instead, He went to them wherever they were and stayed who He was without shaming them (Luke 7:36-50).

There are things that do break God’s heart.   Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the very people He came to love, didn’t see Him, didn’t know who He was (Luke 19:41-44). He wept in the garden because the cup He had to bear was so difficult but His overwhelming love for the world was stronger (Luke 22:44). He wept when a friend lost his life, even though He knew that life would be returned to him (John 11:35).

Jesus’ heart breaks for people.

His outrage was expressed only against those who claimed to love him and acted in ways unlike Him (Mt. 21:12-13, Mt. 23). Whether we choose to watch the movie or not, let’s be sure that our actions, our words, reflect Him and His love for the whole world and all the people in it.

Because that is our agenda – that is what we are called to do (Mt. 22-36-40).


Want ideas on how to turn any Family Movie Night (Disney or otherwise) into an intentional discipleship moment at home?  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

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

They Disagree. But They Still Love Each Other.

Sometimes in the Embree house we have debates. No, that’s not code for “fights.”  It actually is debates. We even time them. Two minutes to make your case, 30 seconds to question, 30 seconds to defend and then switch sides. Each participant gets a 1 minute conclusion.  So, see…actual debates.

I know that sounds a little strange, but hear me out. Somehow, in our home, we have managed to raise two beautiful, strong, intelligent daughters of two very different political persuasions. Now, I’m not sure they realize they have “political persuasions”. I think they just think they have opinions about how life should go. But as parents, we sometimes chuckle when our conservative daughter makes a comment and our more left-leaning daughter gets all fired up.  We’ve debated everything from government subsidies for small-town grocery stores to whether or not education is a fundamental right or a limited privilege. It’s quite interesting to hear their takes on things, without our input.

So, why do we do this?  

Is there a greater purpose being fulfilled by this seemingly academic activity?

We think so and we think it’s something that is vitally important for our children, for us, for all of us to understand.

My girls often disagree. They don’t see the world the same way. They’ve been raised in the same home, with the same parents, and the same life experiences. But, for whatever reason, they have formed unique ways of seeing the world that often clash with the other.

My girls often agree. They both love Jesus. They both love family. They both love chocolate, The Flash, and goofing off when they are supposed to be doing the dishes. And, most importantly, they both love each other.

They disagree. But they still love each other. 

Friends, we are at a time in our country where our children need to learn from us that we, the adults, may disagree but we still love each other.  

They need to see us share our hearts with grace and walk away from conversations saying, “I love you” or “I respect you” or “I see you.”  They need to understand that while it is fine to care about and speak to these issues that face us in the world today, in our country today, in our homes today, on social media today, it is not okay to end the conversation with division, strife, and hate.

You see, we are more than our opinions. If we find that our opinions are robbing us of our peace and joy throughout the day, then we need to examine how we are sharing them with others. Because as Christians, we are called to more.

When I was a kid and fought with my brothers or sister (this time it really was a fight, not a debate), my mom would often make us write this verse.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

As a kid, I thought that meant I couldn’t get mad. As an adult, I think it’s a little more than that. Because this verse is embedded in a much bigger picture that Paul is painting. He’s not saying, “Don’t have convictions. Don’t get upset. Don’t disagree with anyone.”  He’s saying that in every situation, there’s a bigger picture.

Love Above All

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. heart-791047_1920Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” 

We may define what is “good” differently (especially politically), but we must love sincerely. We may not always agree with others but we always honor them and remain devoted to love.  Our zeal should primarily be for serving the Lord, even if other things stir our spirits.

Walk Before Talk

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Opinions are one thing, but we are called to actions of grace and love. We are to be about the work of the kingdom, always, regardless of political climates.  Regardless of what others say or do to us, names that are called, attitudes that are exhibited, we are challenged to not respond in like tone; we are called to respond with grace and love.  That is seeking peace.

Others  Before Self

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

See others, truly see them. Try to understand how and what they are feeling. Don’t think that any of us has the corner on “reality”, rather, seek to understand WHY someone feels the way that they do.

Grace Before Grievance

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

If someone uses language that is filled with vitriol, respond with words seasoned with grace. As far as it depends on us, be kind to other people, even in disagreement.

This passage of Scripture ends by saying, “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  There is only one true good. Jesus tells us that “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19). And we know that God is LOVE.

It is our hope as parents that we are teaching our children that they don’t always have to agree with each other, but they do have to honor each other and love each other. It is also our hope that we are modeling this for them in our interactions with the world around us and with each other. We don’t always succeed at that. We sometimes fail. We sometimes say things that days, months or years later we think, “I wish I’d said that differently.”  But it is our hope and our heart to help our children live in the tension well. To end each conversation on our part with “They disagree. But they still love each other.”


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

I wasn’t going to say anything. Shame on me.

I wasn’t going to say anything.  I wasn’t going to use this space to make a statement. I told myself it was the right call. I gave myself a million reasons why I couldn’t write about these things here, in this space, dedicated to the home and to the church, to generational discipleship and faith formation. I told myself to let it go, to move on, just like so many others on social media have told me they are doing and I should do. Post pictures of dogs and dinner. Write blogs on Sunday School and Kids Church.

But this morning, the battle playing out all over social media, all over the news, all over our country made its way into the church, into the home.  This morning I read this:

A group of Hispanic/Latino young people attending the annual Pilgrimage youth event in the North Carolina Annual Conference were victims of repudiation and intimidation upon their arrival on Friday November 11…

“Since we arrived at the event last Friday, young people wearing hats with the ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan have carried out hostile actions on our young people. Actions continued on the second day and we are worried and disappointed by this situation…Upon their arrival on Friday November 11…the clothes pins we traditionally used at this event to share positive messages of Christian love and fellowship were used to convey messages like, ‘I Love Trump’ and ‘Build the Wall’. The pins were put on the clothes of some of our young people.”

So why is this different than all the other reports on social media and in the news?  Why was this the one that moved me to find my voice and speak out in this space at this time?

Because the headline for these atrocious acts read, “YOUNG LATINOS INTIMIDATED AT METHODIST EVENT” and I currently work at a Methodist church and that, my dear friends, hits a little too close to home. 

Samerican-flag-795307_1920ince the campaigns began, I have been pleading with adults to please, please, consider the words they are using and the actions they are choosing because the younger generation is watching them and learning from them and emulating them.

Throughout the campaigns, I was told repeatedly by supporters of Mr. Trump that I should “vote for the policy, not for the person.”

The thing is, that is impossible.

We don’t elect a policy to the position of president. We elect a person.

81% of evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump, the person.

The silence of this group in regard to these atrocities that have been going on since the election is deafening.  The silence of president-elect Trump is twice as loud.*

See, the thing is, children and youth – they don’t understand the distinction of voting for someone because you agree with their “policies” but disagree with everything else about him unless they are expressly told that, early and often.

Children don’t hate, until it’s demonstrated for them. Children don’t understand immigration policy or the status of refugees. They need to have those things explained to them. By us. The adults. The ones they are imitating.

A quick perusal through the post-election hate crimes and racist actions will reveal that a a majority of the increase we are seeing is taking place in schools – schools!  Where the children are. Where the youth are. Where the young adults are. The bullying taking place, the graffiti being painted,the words being spoken are by and large coming from…children. 

We cannot close our eyes to this reality. We have taught them something, America. We have taught them something, Church. At this point, I don’t even care who we voted for. I care about what we are going to do now.

Are we going to tell our children that this. is. wrong?

The things Mr. Trump said during his campaign were wrong. The words he called human beings were wrong. The way he made fun of people was wrong. The manner in which he treated, talked about, and manhandled women was wrong. It was all very, very wrong.

90 youth, 6th-12th grade aged youth, were ostracized, terrorized, and threatened…at church. By church kids. Our kids.

And they learned it from us.

We were pretty loud in our support of policy, calling on the evangelical community to vote for the person.  If we are not equally as loud now in calling for the end to racism, sexism, and all the other -isms then we are continuing to teach our children that those things are okay.

In this space, dedicated to the home and to the church, to generational discipleship and faith formation, I cannot stay silent. Because this is in our homes. In our churches. It is how we are discipling our children. It is faith formation. It’s everything I write about. It is exactly why I started this blog. And I couldn’t remain silent about the biggest thing affecting our homes, our church, our children today.

It is my prayer that you won’t either. Talk about this with your children. Regardless of how you voted, remind them that every person, every child, every race, every gender, every human being is made in God’s image, loved and cherished, of great worth in His sight and we are called to love like Him. Disciple them.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

*I was just made aware that Donald Trump has asked those harassing minorities to “Stop It”. See article 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.

Friends, Our Kids are Confused

Last night I was woken not once but twice with repeated alarms from my phone. An Amber Alert had been issued. A four-year-old girl had been taken. The entire country went on alert. Prayers were offered, however brief or fleeting. People took more notice of certain vehicles and blonde-headed little girls. For a moment, an anonymous person, a random child, because the focus of everyone’s attention. And thankfully, she has been found.

Over the past decades, an similar alarm has sounded within the church. A wake-up call for the church. Our children are going missing. I know, I know, you’ve heard that right?

 We’ve seen the statistics. We’ve read the books. We’ve heard the speakers. The rise of the “Nones” or the “Unaffiliated” is full of children who have grown and chosen to leave the church.

There are multiple reasons for this. Many theories have been offered. I’ve offered a few myself. But it wasn’t until recently in a discussion with a couple of kids did I start to see things a little differently.

And yes, it has to do with this election.

And yes, it has to do with us.

I’m going to share what they said. And that’s all. And it might sting. It did me. But I think we need to hear it.

I heard some kids discussing the election. They expressed some serious concerns about things they were hearing from the candidates on the news. Granted, not everything they were saying was spot on, although sadly, it was surprising how much they had picked up.

“I don’t understand…”

I can’t go on to tell you what they didn’t understand because they named specific candidates but I can tell you what confused them.  They had heard on the news some things the candidates had said and done and in real life, they heard Christians defending them. And they didn’t understand how Christians, who are supposed to love God and love others, could defend the things they had heard about.

They were genuinely confused.

They could not figure out for the life of them how to reconcile one with the other.  And these things were coming from adults they know, love and respect, which was even more confusing.

And I couldn’t help but think in that moment, “Christians, what have we done?” What message have we sent this generation?  Who can blame them for growing up and thinking that the church is, that we are, hypocritical?

Friends, I can’t and won’t tell you how to vote but I urge you, deeply, to consider what our words and actions are teaching our children, our grandchildren, and the children who see us at church.

This is an Amber Alert. A “Wake up, Church.”alarm-959592_1920

Our children are watching how we respond to this election cycle.

Are we letting fear determine our footsteps, our words?

Are we allowing God to be manifest in our actions and reactions?

If we had to stand up today and defend ourselves as believers called to extend the truth in love, would our social media platform defend or condemn us?

The alarm that Apple has chosen to attach to the incoming Amber Alert calls is loud, it’s jarring, it’s uncomfortable. I know that this post is outside the normal voice I write with. It’s loud, it’s jarring, it’s uncomfortable.

But I am as genuinely passionate about this as I can be.  I don’t want the next generation to look back at this election cycle and say, “That’s when I knew Christianity, church, all that Jesus stuff, wasn’t real.”

So if at the very least, after reading this, we can, for one brief moment, all stop for a moment, look at the children, and pray for them, and consider, truly consider, the words we are speaking and posting, perhaps we will be taking one step towards finding them again.


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,

What’s with the Flipping Bottle?

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

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

Because let me tell you, flipping bottles are everywhere.

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

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

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

And frankly, I’m baffled.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

And sometimes we do that to them in church too.

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

But we shush them when they are too loud.

We hush them when they fidget too much.

We remove them from our midst when they are annoying.

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

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

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

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

It’s at least some thing to consider.

And while considering that… try flipping a bottle.

It’s actually pretty fun. 😉


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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

Can They Hear You? Practical Communication for Multiple Generations

One of the challenges of leading children’s, family, or intergenerational ministry is the need to communicate with a large audience of varying needs and perspectives.  The target audience ranges from infant to 99+. The intended receivers communicate in vastly different ways. The focus group is never in focus but rather all-encompassing and ever-changing.

Recently, I read a book that really helped me consider this challenge in a new light. In her book, Faith Formation 4.0, Dr. Julie Anne Lytle points out that, “the twenty-first century is unique because it includes cohorts that were significantly shaped by the four eras of human communication.”

So, what might these four eras be?

Oral Tradition

This era of communication was humanity’s first way to communicate through the passing down of wisdom through storytelling. There was a strong sense of community, since this kind of communication relied on face-to-face interaction, and the wisdom shared was passed from one generation to another within a communal context.

Written Text

With the introduction of symbols to represent words, wisdom was able to be passed further than one’s immediate community. You didn’t need to see or even know the person passing on the knowledge; you could read about it! But that was nothing compared to what happened next.

Mass Media

When written text met printing press, the ability to share knowledge became a global phenomenon. Written information could be shared with anyone and passed anywhere. Knowledge no longer required community, just a way to be passed. But it was still one-sided; you could read but you couldn’t respond. Until…

Interactive Communication

Beginning with the telephone and up to the social media connected world of today, not only could you read and pass on information, you could react to it and interact with it without global limitation. A new type of community has risen; a global community of shared and accessible knowledge.

And guess what?

In your church (and in mine) there are generations that give and receive information best in each of these ways. 

Some want the face-to-face interaction. They want to hear from you what the vision, mission and needs of the church are. They don’t necessarily want to interact with that information, but they do want to know it. These are the ones who want to “hear it from the pulpit.”

Others prefer to read about it. They want to pick up a piece of literature and read about what is happening in your ministry, in the church, within the community, and around the world. Again, they may not want to interact with it, but they do want to read about it. These are the members of your congregation that “look for it in the bulletin” each week and subscribe to the church newsletter.

generationsStill others gravitate to mass-produced information that can be accessed and passed on easily, such as brochures about the church and its ministry, reproducible videos that can be used for Bible study or training, books that can be shared from the church library, and a easy-to-read and up-to-date church website.

Finally, there are those who feel most comfortable with information that allows them to interact with it such as posts on Facebook, small groups focused on discussion, text messages and Snapchat.  In fact, there are many in this group that only get their information from these avenues, rarely reading anything they are handed on paper or going to the church website for information.

So what does this mean for us?

  1. Communication must be multi-faceted – If you want your message to reach the entire congregation, it is necessary to use a variety of avenues to share your information.  For one event you may have to have it announced from the pulpit, written in the bulletin, printed in the newsletter, sent out by email and posted on social media.
  2.  Communication must be shared more than once – Let’s assume that Miss P. who only takes things to heart if the Pastor says it from the pulpit misses the one Sunday the announcement is made and Mr. C. who meticulously reads the bulletin each week gives his copy to a visitor… you’ve just missed your chance with them. It’s best to assume you need to share your information multiple times in multiple ways.
  3. Communication must be timely and interesting – We must face the fact that there are many voices with lots of information vying for people’s attention. Certain times are worse than others to try to get your message across. For instance, when school re-starts, parents are flooded with information from their kids new teachers and schools and information overload is bound to happen. Time your information sharing to reach them before or after the onslaught, again multiple times, in multiple ways.

While this means we have to spend a lot more time working on our communication materials (slides, articles, announcements, videos, social media posts, text reminders, etc) it also means that if we do so, we will have a much better chance of having our voice heard and gathering more generations into our ministry’s mission and vision.

Understanding how members of our congregation receive and interact with information can help us do a better job at ministering to each generation and creating ways for them to all grow together.


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