The Capacity to Love Cannot Be Built in Isolation

“The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.”

Maybe it’s because so much of the last two years has felt isolating.

Maybe it’s because so much of what I’ve observed in the public square has lacked the overt quality of love.

Maybe it’s because the idea of love not being a feeling but a capacity that needs building is something I’ve always believed but never really pondered.

But this morning, I became acutely aware of the need for love and the reality of isolation. I had written this blog originally back in 2020 but as I contemplated the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday and the deep need for real love to be experienced in our world and in our lives, I could not help but think back to this post.

“For years mental health professionals taught people that they could be psychologically healthy without social support, that “unless you love yourself, no one else will love you.”…The truth is, you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved and are loved. The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation”

Bruce D. Perry, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook

There are some things we can’t change. For many of us, the desire for things to “return to normal” has kept us from pursuing new ways of connecting. Even as we dove into new things like Zoom meetings and Facebook Live, as we’ve driven around neighborhoods dropping off activity packs or hosting socially-distanced outdoor events in parking lots and public parks, we’ve done so with a “until we can get back to the way things were” approach.

But is has become increasingly obvious that we are not going back to the way things were. It is time we begin embracing and living into the way things are. Why?

We have been changed, our children and youth have been changed, and our communities have been changed, physically, emotionally and spiritually (Source: WebMD). Words have been said that maybe we regret or only said out of frustration or weariness. Things have been posted that maybe over time we will wish we had tweaked or even kept to ourselves. There’s been a lot of heartache, confusion, and contemplation; public processing as we all try to navigate this reality.

Rather than simply return back to our pre-Covid models in an attempt to preserve what we used to call “normalcy,” perhaps now is the time to stop and consider…how do we want to return?

In the past, part of our church may have been isolated even when we gathered because of age segregation and lack of generational inclusion.

What would it look like to begin again, together, with intentional space for multiple generations to interact and connect with each other?

Perhaps church gatherings and programs were primarily created and led by representatives of one or two generations and focused on keeping things as simple and reproducible as possible.

What if coming back, more generations and representation were invited in to discussions on how things can change to be more connectional, less isolated, and more integrated at all levels?

Maybe we felt like it was the job of our “pastoral professionals” to handle things like discipleship and service opportunities.

What if in our return, the laity were empowered and equip for generational discipleship in their homes (parents/grandparents/caregivers), in their faith community (multigenerational), and in their workplaces (apprenticeship and mentorship)?

These changes that bring us together across generational lines don’t have to wait until we are gathered again in a single space in the flesh. Think about it! Now is the time to begin planning for whatever the next stage of this crazy reality brings. Now is the time to begin reaching out across generational lines and connecting people to each other. Even if you can’t “be together” in the same room, it’s time to start laying the ground and creating the space for a true coming together in heart and spirit.

  • Intercessory prayer using the Pray for Me campaign.
  • Intergenerational Zoom prayer meetings.
  • Multigenerational committees set up to talk about the return to in-person services.
  • Cultivating of resources to help congregants engage with generational discipleship in their homes, faith community and workplaces. Check out GenOn Ministries and Lifelong Faith for some incredible resources.
  • Webinars for parents/grandparents/caregivers to help give them ideas for discipleship at home.
  • Plans to introduce Messy Church or Faith Inkubators/Faith 5 or WE Gatherings.

None of this need wait for us to experience what once was so common. Sitting in pews. Passing the peace. Boisterous singing. Choirs and communion. Oh, how we long for those things to return, but oh, the opportunity we have right now to embrace these other things which will inevitably draw us closer together to God and each other.

And then, when we do return, it may look different, but, just maybe, it will look more like the Church, all ages, all gathered, in community, truly together.

The capacity to love is not built in isolation.

Let’s come together and may Love fill our hearts in ways we’ve never experienced before.


Is Your Church READY to Gather Together?

Are you interested in moving your church from a traditional, age-segregated into a more family-focused, intergenerational focus, connecting the home and the church?  

Refocus Ministry would be happy to begin a conversation with your team and church about the how your church can grow in serving the families of your church and community and connecting your faith community in relationship with each other.  

Ongoing coaching through various means is also available as your church continues the transition including weekly emails, monthly on-line trainings, and continued conversations. In addition to one-on-one coaching calls and follow-up resources, the following large-group presentations can be made available to your team, pastoral staff, or congregation.

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

  1. Presenting on a Sunday morning to your worship service(s)
  2. A parent webinar on Everyday Discipleship and partnering with the church community
  3. A presentation on Connecting Generations (importance, need, Biblical foundation) for your leadership team
  4. A training on a specific area of ministry such as Family VBS, Partnering with Parents, Equipping Volunteers, Creating an Intergenerational Culture for your ministry or leadership team.
  5. OTHER We will work to create a presentation that best suits your community’s needs

Use the contact form below to receive a customized quote for your congregations needs. We look forward to journeying with you to make Psalm 145, one generation to another, part of our church’s DNA.


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 refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

You Are Not Alone

It’s the most repeated comment I hear from church leaders when we meet to talk about intergenerational ministry and generational discipleship.

“I’m alone in this. No one else really seems to get it. Everyone just wants to keep things the same. I feel like I’m in uncharted waters all by myself.”

This sense of being alone can feel overwhelming and debilitating. I know, because I’ve been there and I’ve felt exactly that. Even for someone who is fully convinced that it is in the best interest of their church, their youth, their families, and their community to begin to build relationships across generations and create space for times of worship, learning, and living together, the prospect of having to rebuild culture from the ground up can be intimidating.

So, what if we didn’t have to do it alone? What if we could join together with a group of like-minded ministers from around the globe that were journeying together from the beginning to create an intergenerational community of faith in their own churches and cities? What could it look like if everyone was on the same page, moving together, supporting one another, praying for each other, and cheering each other on?

I think it could look amazing. In fact, I think it could be exactly what is needed for so many of us who feel alone.

In February 2022, ReFocus Ministry is launching its inaugural Coaching Cohort, a 12-week program intended to provide ministry leaders with a community of fellow leaders ready to engage intergenerational community and generational discipleship on the next level. These cohorts will offer the opportunity to expand leadership skills in a twelve-week shared learning experience as a cohort group of 7-10 individuals from multiple faith traditions and church backgrounds. This cohort will meet weekly to explore and apply the principles of leadership in generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and church culture transition.

Obviously, this is not the answer to everything and for everyone…but it might be the answer for you. If you have ever said, “I am alone in this” then it might be time to discover you are not alone.

Since this cohort will be learning, growing, and journeying together, we do have to limit the number of participants for both confidentiality and mutual accountability but we are hoping that this will be the first among many cohorts that will come together and find a true community of fellow ministers who are on the same journey

If you are interested in being part of this inaugural Coaching Cohort, we invite to fill out the contact form below and we will send a follow-up email with application information.

Whether or not this opportunity is the right fit for you at this time, please know this – You are not alone. There is a growing community of ministers who understand that, as was stated in the last post from ReFocus, “We can dissect all the reasons that young people are leaving the church until we are blue in the face. Or we can begin to build relationships and community right now that will ensure deep roots and faith formation that lasts a lifetime.”


ReFocus Coaching Cohort

12 Week Zoom Program (3 months)

Limited to 10 people

Cost: $1000/person (Inaugural Cohort, $750/person, 25% off)

Purpose

ReFocus Coaching Cohorts provide ministry leaders with the opportunity to expand their leadership skills in a twelve-week shared learning experience. Facilitated by an experienced coach, a cohort group of 7-10 individuals from multiple faith organizations meet weekly to explore and apply the principles of leadership in generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and church culture transition. Through extensive exploration, inquiry and dialogue, the coach and fellow cohort members help participants identify their role in generational discipleship within their faith community and deepen their leadership capability.

Benefits

  • Accountability and growth within a community of like-minded ministers
  • Access to resources available only to cohort members, including up to one year of monthly personal coaching
  • Coachable moments and collective learning within the group that can be addressed by both the coach and the other members.
  • Ability to participate in ReFocus presenter platform as a local ReFocus representative.

ReFocus cohorts provide a confidential, open environment for ministers to strengthen their effectiveness in ‘real-time’ situations. It is intended for people who have experience in ministry and are ready to build the skills needed to be leaders in generational discipleship and intergenerational ministry.

Included in Coaching Cohort Package

  • Twelve weekly trainings/Zoom calls with coach.
  • Choice of 1 webinar with resources for church/congregation (for use within one year of cohort start).
  • Family Faith Formation TALK TOOLS curriculum (Digital download available after first 12 weeks).
  • One year of monthly, 30-minute, one-on-one coaching conversations.
  • Access to private Facebook group for cohort members only.
  • Lifetime 10% discount on all ReFocus seminars, workshops, webinars, and/or coaching packages

For more information or to apply as a participant in our Spring 2022 cohort, visit our website at https://refocusministry.org/webinars-workshops/refocus-coaching-cohorts/



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.

It’s Not Enough to say “We Value Community”

I recently watched The Greatest Showman for the first time. Mind you, I had the entire soundtrack memorized because, it’s pretty fantastic, but I had never actually watched the movie. One scene that stood out to me was when P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) invited Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron) into a partnership. During the interaction. Barnum basically dares Carlyle to put his money where his mouth is; to balk the norm and live into something greater. The invitation was clear: Put some substantive resources and actual risk behind this thing you say you believe in.

Over the past few years, I have had the chance to interact with churches of all shapes and sizes. I’ve worked with multiple denominations on multiple continents and multiple environments from urban to rural. And if there is one thing that I could point to and say, “This is what leads to success” when it comes to connecting generations in community, it is the shift from a “value” mindset to a “valuable” mindset.

Nearly every church I have the chance to journey with will share the things that they value. Inevitably, there will be a declaration that generational discipleship in the home and in the faith community is valued. But, when we start to dig deeper to look at how many resources (time, money, focus, opportunity, space, etc.) are dedicated to these things, we begin to see that being valued doesn’t necessarily translate to being valuable. In fact, often, the resources that could be used to foster these meaningful connections are diverted to maintaining the same programs, services, focuses and structures that actually impede relationships from forming.

Simply put, it’s not enough.

It’s not enough to just say “We value community.” We must take active steps to allow for authentic community to thrive.

It’s not enough to say “We value every voice.” We must tear down the structures and assumptions that keep voices marginalized and unheard.

It’s not enough to say, “We value children/youth.” We must engage the rising generations in active meaningful relationships and contexts that connect faith to action.

It’s not enough to say, “We value the elderly/aging.” We must create spaces where the aging generations can tell their stories, pass on their legacy, and experience generativity.

It’s not enough to say we value something; we must actually find it valuable enough to pay for it with our time, money, and effort.

Churches who begin to shift their focus (re-focus), adjust their time, divert their resources, and push through the discomfort of transition are the ones who end up experiencing new depths of generational discipleship and intergenerational community within their church family. And it doesn’t have to be a huge sudden shift; it can be just incremental steps of moving attention off of things that divide and onto things that unite and bring the congregation together.

  • Highlighting full congregational opportunities from the pulpit
    • Staffing and encouraging participation in intergenerational events and worship
      • Providing funding for trainings or service projects that are open to all ages
        • Investing in supporting, equipping and nurturing parents/caregivers for generational discipleship at home
          • Experimenting with new programs and spaces that allow for young & old to interact

Bottom Line? Resourcing matters.

Putting our money where our mouth is matters. Moving from an abstract idea that is valued to a practical engagement that is valuable matters. And yes, it will cost us something. Anytime we shift resources from one place to another be it time and energy or money and materials, there will be a cost. But that is what makes something valuable. It’s not the value that placed on it in word but the amount we are actually willing to pay for that thing.

But is it worth it? I truly believe that it is. It is worth our investment both in time and in money. And if you don’t know where to start, reach out. There are so many little steps that we can begin to implement that will allow us to shift to more connectional and intentional ways in our faith communities; ways that will connect us to each other and to Christ across generations in our homes and in our churches.

In the words of the greatest showman himself, “Just let me give you the freedom to dream and it’ll wake you up and cure your aching. Take your walls and start ’em breaking. Now that’s a deal that seems worth taking. But I guess I’ll leave that up to you.”


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!

For More Information about how you and your church can participate in this webinar experience, fill out the Contact Form Below with “ReConnect” as your subject.


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.

Church Is NOT The Building…but the Building Matters

“I didn’t even know you had another daughter!”

This statement stopped me in my tracks a couple of years ago. It happened in the hallway of a church building that I had just started serving in. The phrase was uttered by one of the most faithful older members of our church to one of our most faithful younger members. As I glanced over at them, my mind scrambled to understand how two faithfully attending church members who obviously knew one another and genuinely cared for each other had missed such a momentous occasion as the birth of a child….three years prior!

It didn’t take long for my mind to fill in the gaps. The older woman, like many older members of our church family, attended the 8:15 am “traditional” service in the main sanctuary. Afterwards, at 9:30 am, she would go down the stairs to the Sunday School classroom she’d been meeting in for years and meet with her class. At 10:30 am, she would use the lower exit and head out to her car to go home.

Meanwhile, the young mother and her family would arrive at the church at 9:30 am for the “blended” service held in the Community Center, down the hall from the main sanctuary. During that service, her children would be on the first floor under the Community Center in their nursery and Children’s Church. After service, at 10:45 am, she would move down the hall to her Sunday School class and her children would remain in the same downstairs hallway for Sunday school. Then, at 12 pm she would gather her family and head home.

Sound familiar?

How in the world were these women ever going to see each other, let alone, see the children in question? When the daughter was born, a rose was placed on the pulpit to celebrate her birth… but only in the service she attended. Her baptism/dedication, while announced in the bulletin, was only celebrated in the Community Center.

The child’s entire interaction within the church building from the time she was born took place on one floor in one or two classrooms with a set schedule of church employees and volunteers.

So, it should have come as no surprise when I heard the older woman exclaim in surprise that she didn’t even know the three-year-old girl existed…but it did. And then the surprise quickly morphed into, “This is not okay! Something has to be done. This is not how a community should act.”

What?

Thus began a journey that eventually led to a weekly intergenerational service, quarterly all-church worship services, intergenerational prayer partners, and multi-generational events. But there was one thing that didn’t change – the building.

In spite of our work to create intergenerational connections, the architecture of the building we met in often presented a challenge. In fact, it was evident that the building itself was structured in such a way as to limit interactions of multiple generations on any given day.

So What?

The reality of architecture limiting our generational contact is consistent with the findings of research. In fact, even the designs of our homes have changed over time leading to lack of generational connectivity. In the past, homes were created with the expectation of a nuclear family and often the grandparents living together in a single space with perhaps a bedroom or two for some privacy. Today, the structure of large single-family homes with multiple rooms and bedrooms create financial, spatial and cultural barriers to intergenerational living (Source).

How does that happen?

  • Lack of available affordable housing in multigenerational neighborhoods has led to “age ghettos” where homeowners are primarily older and renters are primarily younger.
  • Homes in general are usually occupied by 1) single young people or 2) aging couples/singles or 3) a single family rather than multiple generations as in the past .
  • And, as we explored in the last article, these houses tend to group together according to age and life experience so we end up with neighborhoods, retirement villages, or sections of a city mainly occupied with people of the same generation.

Older Americans especially experience age segregation because of living on their own and not in a familial home. Most older Americans living alone are in doing so in isolation without intergenerational connection or relationships. (Source). The result of this spatial age segregation has led to a growing epidemic of loneliness among the elderly who are often homebound and without outside contact for days on end.

Other buildings are also created with specific generations and ages in mind. In addition to spatial constructs like sounds (music, television, noises) and sights (screens, lighting, colors), architectural constructs like stairs, hallways, gates/doors, open/closed space, and seating/resting areas send messages about who should be in a space.

Architecture plays a huge role in communicating who is welcome and attracting a certain “audience” to occupy a space.

Now What?

First, let’s consider the architecture of our gathering spaces.

  • Are there ways that our building is inhibiting generational connections?
  • Can any of these barriers be removed?
  • Could space be redefined by an architectural change like removing a barrier, increasing accessibility, or redirecting traffic?

Second, get creative in thinking about how the space, as is, can be used for multigenerational community.

  • Could other spatial features, visual or auditory, be put in place to make the space more welcoming to all generations?
  • Locate places in the building that would be appropriate for gathering more than one generation.
  • Create avenues to invite people into spaces they may not normally go like multigenerational events or small group meetings in different locations.

Finally, be aware that architecture might be working against you as you seek to connect members in your congregation to each other across generational lines.

  • Think of ways you can bolster those relationships that don’t depend on “being in the building.”
  • Encourage older members to go watch kids play tee ball or perform a dance recital.
  • Invite families to “adopt” an older person as a “grandfriend” and visit with them.
  • Set up a way for teenagers to eat lunch with adults who are serving in the community or sharing Christ in their workplace.

Don’t let the building the church meets in define how you do church; be the church that occasionally meets in a building!


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.

That Time Jesus was Angry

In a discussion I was once involved in regarding the inclusion of children in corporate worship, someone made this statement:

“I think whenever you start including children in worship, you should expect a certain amount of cynicism.”

As you can imagine, I didn’t agree. In fact, I don’t think we should ever expect cynicism in any context when it comes to welcoming people into our worship settings. Expecting the worst often brings about the worst. And I don’t want that. And, I believe, neither does the Church.  The church is the body of Christ. His Spirit indwells their midst. My expectation is that the Church will react to and welcome children just as Jesus did, just as He showed us and demonstrated while among us. 

But even Jesus’ own disciples didn’t “get it” at first. The disciples were the first to turn children away, with seeming good intention, but apparent lack of insight and understanding of Christ’s heart.  In the gospel of Mark, we read this account.

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. – Mark 10:13-15

So,  how did Jesus handle that moment?  Well, he was angry.

That word “angry” is sometimes translated “indignant” or “very displeased.”  It’s the jesus-christ-2516515_1920same word used to describe how the Pharisees felt when the children were calling out “Hosanna to the Son of David” during the Triumphal Entry and when Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath. The disciples felt that way when Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and “wasted” it and when James and John’s mom asked if they could sit next to Jesus in heaven. It’s overall…not a good feeling. It indicates a general unhappiness with a person or situation.

But then, notice what Jesus does.

He doesn’t just get angry. He gets angry but then explains why.

He explains that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children.

He explains that the disciples needed to accept the kingdom like these children if they ever wanted to truly enter in.

Then He showed them what to do. He took the children IN HIS ARMS (oh my, what a beautiful picture) and placed his hand on their heads and blessed them.  In front of the disciples. Demonstrating before their eyes exactly how He wanted them to treat children.

I’m willing to bet that in the future, the disciples  made sure that the children were never turned away. They had seen Jesus and they understood.

I picture in my head a future time where not only was Jesus holding children and blessing them, but the disciples were too. I imagine that in their churches after Jesus had left, children were in their midst, blessing and being blessed. In fact, I can assume that children were there, considering that Paul writes specifically to them in letters that were read aloud to the congregation.

Perhaps, you’ve experienced something similar.

You’ve asked your pastor if children can come and worship with the congregation and been turned away.

You’ve brought your children with you to worship service and been invited to enjoy the remainder of the service in the lobby

You’ve presented ideas for a Family Worship Service or an intergenerational gathering and been dismissed.

You’ve shared your heart with parents and ministers about the importance of allowing children to see faith modeled, to participate in liturgy, to be active members of the congregation and have faced… cynicism.

And you may even be angry, indignant, or very displeased.

Please don’t stop there.

The children still need you. And the Church still needs you.

Take the children in your arms. Bless them. Every chance you have, demonstrate the heart of welcome and the love of Jesus to them.

Because your actions speak volumes. Your testimony shines brightly. The disciples turned the children away because they didn’t understand. They didn’t know. But Jesus showed them, just as He has shown us. Let’s expect the best just as He did.

I’m not a huge sports fan but I do like this quote by Michael Jordan: If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.”  Let’s not accept that the expectation is cynicism; let’s expect to find Jesus. 


Wanna read about a “real-life” scenario regarding kids and worship and expectations?  Check out this article: What my Pastor did About the Rowdy Kids at our Church

For more information about

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

About the author

EmbreeFam2017Christina 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.

Dr. Mohler, Kids in Worship, and Three Things We Need to Know

Yesterday, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, posted a video from a recent chapel service where he addressed the topic of children in the worship service. While Dr. Mohler and I likely have some theological disagreements in other areas, this is one place where my heart and his resonate together. You can hear a portion of his sermon here, but I’ve included below a few pertinent quotes that lend specifically to the conversation of intergenerational worship.

“Christ’s people ought to be more welcoming than anyone else to children.

Our churches should not be places where the adults cannot wait to put the children away in order to get to the adult task of worship.

One of the scandals of so much evangelicalism is that we send people to their rooms as soon as we get to church…

You should see people sitting in pews whose feet cannot touch the floor…we should, in church, welcome the wiggling and the squirming “- Dr. Albert Mohler

In 12 hours, the video had generated over a thousand shares, over 2,000 reactions, and over 100 comments. So, it touched a nerve. Some people wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agree with Dr. Mohler’s points. Some people vehemently opposed his approach.

This has been my experience since I began championing the ideas of intergenerational worship as part of a healthy church experience. Like Dr. Mohler, I take a both/and approach to this idea meaning I support age-appropriate ministry within church settings as long as it doesn’t disallow for intergenerational times of worship and ministry.  However, I find, like with some many things, the tendency is to turn this discussion into an either/or scenario – either we wholeheartedly agree with something or we vehemently oppose it.  And, like with so many other things, that does not allow for a way forward.

So what are some ways we can create a both/and discussion around this topic that is healthy, robust and cooperative, that is theologically sound, developmentally aware, and spiritually strong?

 

Know the Theology

It is so important before we begin advocating for something like incorporating all ages in corporate worship that we have at least a basic theological foundation for what we are doing; our “why” so to speak. When kids and youth began to be pulled from the larger congregation for age specific ministry beginning in the 1950s, the “why” that was given was fundamentally developmental in nature.  But as that was done, the theological and spiritual ramifications weren’t explored until later when we realized we were losing the gift of generational discipleship within our church walls because our generations never interacted.

If a church desires to bring back that intergenerational space is some form, it is vitally important to have a theological understanding of why it is choosing to do so.

The Bible is literally full of examples on the whole congregation being present, both in the Old and New Testaments. Christ’s life and ministry model the same for us. Know these verses and explore these Scriptures so that when questions come, there is a “why” behind what is being done that establishes a foundation for intergenerational faith communities.

Here is a great article from Fuller Youth Institute to get started with, but don’t stop there! Do your own study. Explore the Scriptures. Explore what theologians have written. Develop a “why” that fits with your church, its vision and mission, and its members.  I once had a mentor tell me that “Christ will meet me in the Scriptures.”  He has indeed and my “why” is firmly established in the Word. That’s so important if we are to champion this particular space in worship.

Know the Research

Because developmental research was so significant in the move from  a fully integrated church to a a fully siloed one, it is important that we are familiar with what the research is saying regarding intergenerational worship and relationships within the church.  That is why my heart is for a both/and approach to intergenerational ministry rather than an either/or. I’ve reach that point because of the research that has been done regarding children and youth and their relationship to faith.  boywithhymnal

As I’ve reviewed both developmental research and ongoing research into faith affiliation and church attendance, I’ve become convinced that both age-appropriate and intergenerational ministries are both strongly needed and should be fostered within a faith community.

How that plays out in each church will necessarily be specific to that church and its culture, but to do one to the exclusion of the other is a disservice to our rising generations.


Where to start?
 This article is a good spot to get started on looking the research that is coming out. I would also recommend the following books/studies:

Know the Community

Each faith community has an identity all its own. It’s been like that since the church started; just look at the names of the epistles in the New Testament and the specific way Paul speaks to each community (also, note that he speaks specifically to children so as these letters were read aloud, he expected the children to be there). It is so important to know the culture of each church and understand what it identifies with in terms of its vision and mission.

Cookie cutter intergenerational ministry does not work. It is not enough to simply steal a program from the church down the road and expect it to work in yours. While each program or project or idea for intergenerational ministry has merit, it is only an asset to your community if it fits within your church’s identity.

The best thing that we can do as we transition from a traditional, age-segregated model to a more intergenerational, age-inclusive model is to get to know our faith community and help them to do the same. Help the generations learn each others names. Find ways to plug children into places where they are already welcome to be involved. Strengthen the relationships that already exist and find ways to build new ones. Transitional ministry is crucial to introducing “new to you” things to any group of people, so go slow and put a lot of time, prayer and thought into getting to know the church.

Want a great way to start helping generations get to know each other?  Check out the Pray For Me campaign. It is a wonderful way to incorporate prayer into your church and connect the generations at the same time!

This discussion that is happening right now in the church world is a good one!! It might be a hard one in some spaces. We will likely disagree on some things. But the heart of the issues is this  – we love our children and youth and want what is best for them. It’s worth taking the time to have a good discussion about this; to know our theological “why”, to understand the research being done, and to embrace our faith communities. My prayer is that this discussion is one that results in more children and youth staying in the faith as they grow so that we, the whole church, can say we have answered the call to “impress these things upon our children.” (Dt. 6:8).


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. 

What Intergenerational Worship IS

A few days I shared my thoughts on what intergenerational worship is NOT. So often we approach times of corporate worship where are all generations are present with pre-conceived notions of what we fear it could be. But often those things are not truly representative of the heart of intergenerational worship.

So what IS intergenerational worship?

Simply put, intergenerational worship is ministry that focuses on connecting multiple generations in faith-forming relationships cultivated through times of corporate worship, intentional discipleship, and ongoing mentorship.


It’s much more than a Sunday morning experience or simply worshiping in a specific location
. It has at its heart a focus on generational discipleship and a experiencing of our faith together as a community.

And, it can have its challenges, especially today where age segregation (keeping the generations apart both physically and culturally) is the norm. Let’s be honest, putting generations together in one space can be difficult.

It can feel more like a collision than a collusion. 

However, research has shown that it is not only a good and healthy thing for different generations to spend time in relationships one another, it is also one of the key factors in young people remaining in the faith after they’ve left their home of origin. So what can we do to help create environment that allow for this type of interaction in our faith community, without causing conflict and collision?

Community

It is important to keep in mind the community cannot be forced upon a group. It must
be nurtured and watered and given space to grow. One cannot simply tell older members of a congregation that they need to go mentor and worship with younger people and expect it to take place. Bonds of community take time to grow and develop and they require a certain level of shared vision and commitment on the part of the people involved.

In order to create nurturing environments for these types of intergenerational relationships to develop, we need to intentionally create situations where meaningful interactions can take place or, even more fundamentally, offer a way to simply get to know each other’s names.

team-spirit-2447163_1920

Service projects and shared meals are wonderful places for these types of interactions to begin to occur. There is something about serving with others that leads to a sense of unity and community and the act of sharing a meal together has long been seen as a way for people to connect and bond with each other. Shared communal activities like going to a baseball game together or working on mission together can go a long way in nurturing relationships across the generations.

I’m also a huge advocate for the Pray For Me campaign that connects young people in your church up with three prayer partners from three generations in ways that help them get to know each other and connect on a spiritual level (Read more on this experience HERE).

Communication

Without a “Why” it is really difficult to introduce change of any kind. People need to know that there is a reason behind doing something differently or moving in a new direction or they will resist it because it’s easier to keep doing something familiar.

It is important to “create a need” by sharing with those who will listen your vision
and the “why” behind it. If there is no understanding of the basic reasons for connecting generations (history of children’s/youth ministry, the facts about young people leaving the church, the things that help young people to “stick”), there will be no “need” that has to be met.

So we have to share. We have to give a reason for wanting to bring the generations together. We have to communicate in ways that everyone can hear. For some, it’s going to need to be from the pulpit. For others, in the bulletin or church newsletter. For still others, social media or email or even text. But there must be a clear and consistent message if we are to engage others in the need. 

Consistencey

If I were to ask you today to tell me about your church, you would probably tell me something about your church’s vision and mission. You’d tell me about the things your church is passionate about or excited about. For instance, if your church focuses on community outreach, you’d tell me about that. If worship is your main focus, you’d tell me about your worship. If you are into community groups or life groups, I’d hear about that.

As we introduce new things, like intergenerational worship into our church context, it’s important that we recognize what our church is already passionate about and find ways to join the generations in that mission.

For instance, if our goal is to connect the generations in our church and our church is really into service projects, it might be reasonable to find ways to get the children and youth plugged in there before having them join the worship service. Or, if worship really is the big thing, to find ways to involve children and youth in active participation or slowly introduce times of corporate worship as we move towards more times spent together.  If we remain consistent with our church’s heart and vision, the transition to something new will be a much smoother experience. 

Always keep in mind that the ultimate goal is relationship, and while those are cultivated in times of corporate worship, intentional discipleship, and ongoing mentorship, the relationship is the key to the long-lasting effect on the faith of young people.

It is simply impossible to create relationships if generations remain segregated from each other all the time. Intergenerational worship creates space for relationship to happen. Ultimately, intergenerational worship IS the whole church, being the church, 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 this Blog

family

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

What the Latest Pew Research Offers for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry

This past week the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life released their newest findings on how and why people choose a new house of worship. It is a long report but I highly recommend reading the whole thing if you are someone that is interested in overall ministry within the church.

For those of us who are more specified in our interest, namely children, youth and family, here’s what I would call the Highlight Reel – the information most pertinent to these specific ministries.

1. 65% of young parents rank ministry to kids as playing an important role in choosing a new house of worship

Overall, 56% of adults who have looked for a new congregation say the quality of educational programs available for children was an important factor in their decision. Among those who currently are parents of minor children, however, about two-thirds (65%) say this. – Page 1, Pew Report

What does this mean for us?

It means that what we do matters to families that come and visit our church. In fact, this factor ranked 5th overall in importance, which is impressive considering this survey included those without children and those with grown children as well as parents of school-aged children.

2. The biggest reason to look for a new church (34%) is because of a geographical move not because of problems with their old church (7%). 

About half of Americans have never looked for a new house of worship, perhaps because they are not churchgoers or because they have been members of the same church, synagogue or mosque since childhood…They are also more likely to have lived in the same place all their life. – Page 1, Pew Report

What does this mean for us?

It means that for at least half of the children you begin ministering to at birth will remain with you into adulthood. This is why generational discipleship is SO important. Helping those children and youth establish relationships within the church with people of multiple generations is essential to creating a strong ethic of mentorship and discipleship within the church.

3. The idea of “regular attendance” is a fluid one with most churchgoers BUT many say they attend church MORE now than that have in the past 

More than a quarter of Americans (27%) say they currently attend religious services at least once or twice a month, but that there was once a time in their adult lives when they attended less regularly than they do now. And more than one-in-five adults (22%) say they currently attend religious services infrequently or never (a few times a year, at most), but that there was once a time when they attended more often. – Page 3, Pew Report

What does this mean for us?pewresearch

Perhaps this surprised you as much as it did me. We are always told that church attendance is declining in America so I was shocked to find that most evangelicals would say that they attend more frequently now than they did in the past.

That being said, the idea of attendance is quite fluid because the definition of attending regularly (in this study) is “once or twice a month.”  You read that right. Once or twice a month is now considered regular attendance. That means, for the most part, you will get to interact with those families and kids for 1 to 2 hours a month. That alone shows the importance of reaching families in their home, workplace, schools, and athletic events with support and consistent communication outside the “box” of church. Our time with is important, but it simply doesn’t carry the most weight. The other 167 hours of the week are hugely influential and we need to be there.

4. Roughly 8 in 10 of religious “Nones” or the Unaffiliated were raised with a religious affiliation

There are clear patterns in the reasons “nones” give for disaffiliating, based on how they describe their current religious identity. For example, most of those who now identify as atheists (82%) say a lack of belief spurred them to become unaffiliated. By contrast, fewer than half of respondents who describe their religion as “nothing in particular” (37%) cite lack of belief as the reason they no longer affiliate with a religion. – Page 3, Pew Report

What does that mean for us?

If you are like me, your heart just broke a little. Maybe a lot. This is my why. This is what motivates me every day as I recognize that 80% of those who self-identify as “unaffiliated” were at one time part of a church or community of faith. And, a deeper study will show you, these are primarily coming from evangelical Protestant backgrounds. For more thoughts on this and on what we can do to turn this tide, please read this article regarding last year’s study released on the “Religious Nones” and this response regarding Millennials walking away from faith.

There is a lot more to be gleaned from the research provided by Pew regarding this topic but I hope what was highlighted will help us prayerfully consider who we can use the resources of time and community to help our children, youth, and families grow together as a community of faith.

Creating space for deep and meaningful intergeneration connections that extend beyond the walls of the church and the hour or two a month we might be there together is absolutely critical to helping our young people find their place of belonging within the congregation. 

For more information regarding the current landscape of the church in America, please refer to the following information provided by Pew Research.

The first report on the 2014 Landscape Study, based on a telephone survey of more than 35,000 adults, examined the changing religious composition of the U.S. public and documented the fluidity of religion in the U.S., where roughly one-third of adults now have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. The second report described the religious beliefs, practices and experiences of Americans, as well the social and political views of different religious groups. A third report drew on both the national telephone survey and a supplemental survey of participants in Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel to describe how Americans live out theirreligion in their everyday lives.


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

Family Ministry is not “Family” Ministry

When you hear the words “family ministry” what comes to mind?  What did you picture in your head as you heard those words?  Many people tell me that when they think of family ministry, the first thing they picture is, well, a family – Dad, mom, kids… you get the idea.

americanfamiliesBut if I were to ask them (and you) to picture your family, what comes to mind? For some , that original picture doesn’t change much, but for the majority (at least according to the research and data) it looks a lot different.

For some there is only one parent in the picture; for others, step-parents and siblings enter the scene. Some have grandparents acting as caregivers or grandparents living in the home. Some have adopted family members and include people that are in no way related by blood, but considered family members nonetheless.

You see, language matters.   If the term “family ministry” feels limiting, it is, but only to the extent that we limit it. Our own understanding of family has been and is being shaped by how our own experience is informing it.  It can be a difficult translation though over into an area that, for whatever reason, is defined by images of “traditional” family units. As a result, those who “come alone” or those who don’t fit the image can often feel unwelcome or disenfranchised by the idea of family ministry.

So what can we do?  I think there are a few things we can all do that would go a long way in helping the Church more effectively minister to the families in our faith community and surrounding community.

Recognize that the term “family” is fluid – When planning your events and creating your context for serving families, be intentional about ensuring that your programming is flexible to reach a wide range of families. If you are prepared to minister to parents who come alone, parents who come with different children each week due to shared custody, multi-ethnic families, multi-generation families, news will spread that your ministry truly is to families, not just one type of family.

Language matters – I’m not necessarily against using the term “family” because all of those groups, no matter how different they look from the traditional image of family we all seem to embrace, would still describe themselves as a family. But by adding in terms like “parent/caregiver” and expressly inviting participation from grandparents or single parents, the door is swung open wider so that more feel welcomed to participate.

Image matters – If every piece of promotional material shows a traditional family then that is who it appears the ministry is targeting. But if the materials and programming show a variety of different family groups gathering or participating in your events, then again, the welcome becomes a little wider.

The church is a family – Yes, we say this a lot, but does our family ministry embrace this concept? Are there ways for generations to connect in worship, relationship, and community that extends past Sundays and Wednesdays and into homes and community?  Family ministry should embrace the whole church in its scope of ministry. 

Recognizing all that family ministry can and should be for our church and our community takes time and effort. There’s no curriculum in the world that can correctly assess the unique dynamic and needs presented by your ministry context.

Begin by simply taking a look at where you are and think about where you’d like to be. If family ministry for your church is limited due to language or imagery or by lack of available options for those outside the traditional mold, then begin to take steps to remedy it. Expand your focus and embrace the wider vision of family ministry can be!

silhouette-74876_1920While I am in no way a proponent of a “cookie-cutter” model for any ministry area, including children and family ministry, I do think there are some key markers of family ministry that we should seek to incorporate in our context, whatever the unique needs of our community are. For a full discussion on this click here, but for a snapshot, here are the five markers of family ministry that I find all effective family ministries exhibit.

  1. Focus – The focus of the church becomes centered on the home rather than the organization and the entire congregation joins in celebrating parents/caregivers as shepherds to the next generation.
  2. Function –  Rather than being program-focused, family ministry “represents a fundamentally different way of doing church” (Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, editor of Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views). Every area of the church participates and is involved in family ministry regardless of age, ministry, or worship service.
  3. Family as foundation– While this characteristic might seem obvious, it becomes less so when we pose the question, “What makes family family?” Family ministry consistently recognizes the family, no matter what it looks like, as the normative place for discipleship of children and supports and resources as needed.
  4. Formational – Family ministry has as its heart a commitment to passing the faith from one generation to another through the platform of the home supported by the church.
  5. Fun – That’s right, fun! This is my own thing. I don’t have research and studies to back me up on this but I’m just putting it out there that if family ministry is not fun, if it is a chore for the church, a duty for the parents, and a drudgery for the kids, then it has failed in its role.  Family ministry should bring inspiration and joy to the entire church body and life and health to the home.

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.

Worshiping with Children: What’s the expectation?

“I think whenever you start including children in worship, you should expect a certain amount of cynicism.”

Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t. I really don’t.

I don’t think we should ever expect cynicism in any context when it comes to welcoming people into our worship settings. Because, our churches are not ours. They are God’s. And from what I’ve read about Him, He was pretty cool about accepting pretty much everyone into His presence. Well, admittedly, He wasn’t thrilled with hanging around the religious folks, but He sure seemed drawn to the young, the sick, the needy, the hurting, the ordinary, the lame, the lonely, the humble.

Expecting that the church will react with cynicism is not how I choose to approach ministry to children within the larger church context.

Expecting the worst often brings about the worst. And I don’t want that. Neither do you.  And, I believe, neither does the Church.  The church is the body of Christ. His Spirit indwells their midst. So my expectation is that the Church will react to and welcome children just as Jesus did, just as He showed us and demonstrated while among us. 

The experience many have had when trying to re-introduce children into congregational worship has not coincided with my expectation, and I understand that. But we don’t have to look far to see that play out in Scripture too. The disciples were the first to turn children away, with seeming good intention, but apparent lack of insight and understanding of Christ’s heart.

And how did Jesus handle that moment?

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. – Mark 10:13-15

That word “angry” is sometimes translated “indignant” or “very displeased.”  It’s the same word used to describe how the Pharisees felt when the children were calling out “Hosanna to the Son of David” during the Triumphal Entry (those kids…causing trouble all over the place!) and when Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath. The disciples felt that way when Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and “wasted” it and when James and John’s mom asked if they could sit next to Jesus in heaven. It’s overall…not a good feeling. It indicates a general unhappiness with a person or situation.

But then, notice what Jesus does.

He doesn’t just get angry. He gets angry but then explains why.

He explains that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children.

He explains that the disciples needed to accept the kingdom like these children if they ever wanted to truly enter in.

Then He showed them what to do. He took the children IN HIS ARMS (oh my, what a beautiful picture) and placed his hand on their heads and blessed them.  In front of the disciples. Demonstrating before their eyes exactly how He wanted them to treat children.

welcomejesusisexpecting

I’m willing to bet that in the future, the disciples  made sure that the children were never turned away. They had seen Jesus and they understood. I picture in my head a future time where not only was Jesus holding children and blessing them, but the disciples were too. I imagine that in their churches after Jesus had left, children were in their midst, blessing and being blessed. In fact, I can assume that children were there, considering that Paul writes specifically to them in letters that were read aloud to the congregation.

Some of you have tried.

You’ve asked your pastor if children can come and worship with the congregation and been turned away.

You’ve presented ideas for a Family Worship Service or an intergenerational gathering and been dismissed.

You’ve shared your heart with parents and ministers about the importance of allowing children to see faith modeled, to participate in liturgy, to be active members of the congregation and have faced… cynicism.

And you may even be angry, indignant, or very displeased.

Please don’t stop there.

The children still need you. And the Church still needs you.

Take the children in your arms. Bless them. Every chance you have, demonstrate the heart of welcome and the love of Jesus to them.

Because your actions speak volumes. Your testimony shines brightly. The disciples turned the children away because they didn’t understand. They didn’t know. But Jesus showed them, just as He has shown us. Let’s expect the best just as He did.

I’m not a huge sports fan (let’s be honest, I’m not any kind of sports fan) but I do like this quote by Michael Jordan: If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.”  Let’s not accept that the expectation is cynicism; let’s expect to find Jesus. 

Wanna read about a “real-life” scenario regarding kids and worship and expectations?  Check out this article: What my Pastor did About the Rowdy Kids at our Church


For more information about

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

About the author

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.