“It Was In The Bulletin”

My family recently went through a scare: My daughter and some of her friends were in our local mall when a shooting occurred. It was, as you can imagine, a terrifying experience for all and we are grateful that we were able to get to the girls as quickly as we did and the impact on them was frightening but minimal. I bring this up only to illustrate a point.

When the event happened, all of us immediately turned to our phones to get the news to find out what had actually taken place. My husband and I jumped on Facebook, the girls jumped on Instagram, and our family in other states turned to Google for information.

As a result, the information we were gleaning about a single event had a very different feel and unique content depending on where we accessed it.

My information came almost entirely from local news stations, my daughter and her friends were seeing a lot of “first hand” videos and testimonies, and my out-of-state family was getting Associate Press updates.

The result? We all had bits and pieces of information about the incident but none of us had the whole story.

It was as if we all had pieces to a puzzle, some more than others, but none of us had the entire picture. It took coming together, talking to each other, and giving enough time and space for information to be made public for the puzzle to come together.

Not surprisingly, this example of information gathering is a characteristic of the generation gap we experience in America. The advancement of technology has impacted how and with whom we communicate.

Age segregation can be found in digital constructs of media, social media and communication. 


Sassi, 2005, p. 684-700

Information is distributed through a variety of means from digital to print, radio to television, word of mouth to public speaking. However, more and more, the move from traditional print materials, radio news, and face-to-face conversations towards digital, video and public voices is changing the landscape of information distribution and consumption.

Due simply to a lack of access or lack of ability to use digital constructs, older adults can be unintentionally excluded from certain forms of digital communication (Source). Conversely, due to a lack of lack of access or lack of knowledge to use non-digital constructs, younger generations are unexposed to things like print media and in-person interactions. These technological and communication differences act to perpetuate the digital divide between generations.

Research gathered by Pew Research show that over 90% of young adults ages 18-29 are active on social media as compared to only 35% of older Americans, 65 years of age and older.

  • Sprout Social reports that 72% of 13-17 year olds and 64% of 18-29 year olds use Instagram while only 21% of 50-64 year olds and 10% of 65+ year olds use Instagram.
  • Of 271,000,000 Twitter users who are active every month the number of users between 51 and 60 years was roughly 2,981,000 or about 1% of the users.
  • Princeton and New York University researchers found that eleven percent of users older than 65 shared an article consistent with the study’s definition of fake news. Just 3% of users ages 18 to 29 did the same.

Changes in technology and communication have consequently exacerbated the gap between the youngest and oldest generations leading to a continued growth in age segregation and generational divide.

Rather than create an inclusive space that leads to more conversation, the lack of intergenerational connectivity has caused more isolation.

Churches can fall into this same pattern of generational hit-or-miss communication by choosing avenues that appeal to certain age groups while neglecting others. In her book Faith Formation 2.0, Julie Anne Lytle looks at the different generations that are typically represented in an average church and how they tend to communicate. She offers the thought that if we are not communicating an event or offering communication in at least seven unique formats, we are missing someone in our audience.

How does that play out?

Let’s say that the church is hosting a Combined Worship services where all church members, regardless of age or preferred worship style, will attend. In order to ensure that this is communicated to the entire audience a church will want to:

  1. Announce the service from the pulpit
  2. Place an announcement with date, time, and description in the bulletin
  3. Send an email (or two) to the entire congregation
  4. Place all pertinent information on the website in more than one location
  5. Include information on social media platforms
  6. Send a text message to members who have indicated text as a preferred method of communication
  7. Offer a personal invitation to members (visit the youth group, drop by a Sunday School class, phone call, etc.)

That may feel like overkill but each generation will tend to access the information in different ways and if one avenue is overlooked, there is a potential that someone may never know the event is happening.

There is a tee shirt that is frequently worn in KidMin circles that simply says, “It was in the bulletin!” Often, children’s pastor and youth ministers express frustration that members will tell them that they didn’t know an event was happening. But that truly could be because the information wasn’t offered in a format that is normally accessed by that person or group of people so, in their mind, the event was never announced.

Fortunately, once we realize the importance of communication platforms and how to access generations, we have a much better chance of bridging the gap and finding ways to bring generations together.

In fact, just as was highlighted above, each generation likely brings an important piece to the puzzle and together we can see the whole picture. Creating space in our churches for this to happen is one way we can begin to integrate the ages in our faith communities and move forward in serving the Lord and each other together.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes. Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings.

Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.

Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.

Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.

Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.

Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!

Anyone registered for all four sessions will receive a FREE half-hour coaching session/follow-up specific to your ministry needs.

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconnect-a-webinar-for-generational-connections-tickets-116093734485. Questions? Feel free to email me at christina.m.embree@gmail.com. Can’t wait to journey with you!


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

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.

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 I Won’t Quit Social Media

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a number of my Christian friends post that because of the divisive nature of social media, they will be deleting their account and no longer present in that space. Reasons for doing so range from political to personal, and while I do understand that for one’s mental health, a step away from social media might be necessary, I question if a complete break is the best call for Christians. Bear with me as I explain.

I currently live in Lexington, Kentucky. 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. 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 figured 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.

You see, I’m the mother of an almost 17 year old and a 14 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. Each story is a part of what make their 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. More importantly, her generation is there. Even if she wasn’t present on a social media platform, the majority of her friends and fellow Gen Zers are there.

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.

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 get made fun of by my girls for being old and not understanding all the 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 and their friends 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.


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
The Embree Family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.

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.

Don’t Post That! How Fake News impacts Generational Discipleship

The term “generation gap” is a pretty common one: it refers the perceived differences between generations. In the past, I have emphasized the word “perceived” when talking about age segregation in society and the church.  But lately an important real, not perceived, difference has taken on a great deal of importance in society. This is a difference based on one’s understanding and grasp of social media, how it works, and how to engage with it properly.

With the current global pandemic and social unrest, more and more people are turning to social media as a platform for debate, protests, reform, and politics. And there are some inherent dangers in that, especially when misinformation is viral.

Research has been been done that indicates, despite society’s natural bent to believe that younger generations are more emotionally-driven and less discerning, it is actually the older generations that are most likely to spread false information such as hoaxes, disinformation, and incomplete news stories over social media (Source).

Studies have shown that “On average, users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as the youngest age group (Source). That’s a huge number!

To break that down by percentages, this study from Princeton and New York University found that eleven percent of users older than 65 shared an article consistent with the study’s definition of fake news. Just 3% of users ages 18 to 29 did the same.

This is in spite of the fact that over 90% of young adults ages 18-29 are active on social media as compared to only 35% of older Americans, 65 years of age and older (Source)

The above is just one example of why age segregation is a concern. We could blame this situation on politics or lack of understanding of social media or any number of factors. But for our purposes, let’s look at phenomena through the lens of age segregation.

A vast difference exists in the types of media that each generation uses. For instance, it is reported that 72% of 13-17 year olds and 64% of 18-29 year olds use Instagram while only 21% of 50-64 year olds and 10% of 65+ year olds use Instagram (Source).

Another 2015 study estimates that of 271,000,000 Twitter users who are active every month the number of users between 51 and 60 years was roughly 2,981,000 or about 1% of the users (Source).

The gap between generations is being exacerbated by social media platforms. This is a pattern that the Church needs to be aware of. Why? Because it impacts how the generations interact with each other in our faith community.

The younger generation, the one who grew up with social media, is more adept at recognizing misinformation and less likely to share it.

The older generation, who grew up with print media and a trust of written communication, photographs, and testimony, is more susceptible to publishing and defending misinformation as truth.

These two things immediately put these generations at odds with one another: The younger losing respect for the older generation and the older generation believing the younger generation is not listening.

When we add to that the curation of different social media platforms between generations, the gap widens even further. In a very real sense, these generations are now speaking different languages; they talk past each other and cannot hear one another. The same true story now has two different narratives and disagreement plays out politically, socially, and relationally.

Church, we must be the bridge-builders. Through the truth of God’s word, we can open the door for real relationships to be forged upon shared foundations. So how can we invite this conversation in a place of such division?

  • Create Space for Mutual Learning – If our generations never have the opportunity to both learn from and teach each other, how can we expect them to hear one another? Church is a perfect place to create space for generations to come together around common mission and vision and listen to one another as they learn together.
  • Create Space for Generational Teaching – What can your church do to help one generation teach another generation? Discipleship and mentorship programs are more common in churches but get creative! I’ve seen churches that have made videos with stories from the older generation about tough times and how God got them through that have been a huge encouragement to the younger generation. I’ve heard of other churches let the youth and young adults host a technology party where they help the older people experience new tech. Let’s use our imagination to find these spaces.
  • Create Space for Healthy Discussion – There are difficult topics facing our world today. All generations need a safe place to ask hard questions. The church should be that space, but too often, we discourage questions, doubts and inquiries and force especially our young people to find answers elsewhere. Churches that encourage healthy discussion and the reading of Scripture in community create a culture that unites rather than divides. As one of my pastoral heroes has said, “We talk more about the things that divide us, not less.” Have the hard conversations because that indicates deepening relationships.

Sometimes I’ve noticed that churches likes to take a back seat on these types of issues and say, “That’s not really a spiritual or religious thing. We’ll reserve our voice and influence for other concerns.” But I would beg to differ. All of life, as a believer, is spiritual. We declare that we have been raised to new life in Christ which means everything we do, including posting on social media, should be done in that light.

Churches have a unique opportunity to enter this space around the common belief Jesus Christ and offer a space for mutual edification and humble growth to happen. Rather than shy away, we should “talk more, not less” as my friend said. Equip parents for conversations around dinner table. Encourage connection across generations. Create the spaces. It is all part of our calling to “make disciples.”


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
The Embree Family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

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

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

 

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.