If you are a parent of a young child, you toddler-mealprobably have a plethora of plastic plates in your cupboards, with little compartments for each part of the meal, because if you are a parent, you KNOW that the food can’t touch! My 4 yr. old son is very clear that not only does the food need separated but also, each compartment must be adequately filled.

As I sat at the D6 Family Ministry conference, listening to Ron Hunter share his heart for connecting the church and family, it occured to me that for many of us, parents and ministers, that is how we approach life.

Because our lives are full, there are no empty compartments, but because life is busy, we do our best to keep everything in its place. We have a compartment for work, a compartment for home and family, a compartment for fun and play, and a compartment for church. Everything neatly fits on its place, rarely touching, and easily organized so our brains can function….with appropriate caffeine intake.

Do you ever feel like you just go through life checking off boxes?

Making sure that you get everything done and collapsing into bed each night so you can do it again?

If you do, than there is a good chance that your walk of faith falls into that same pattern.

It’s not totally your fault.   As Ron Hunter shared this morning, the way church has been “done” facilitates this compartmentalized life.

When you “go to church” the compartments are ready and waiting for your family. Your children go to the red hallway with the highest walls to contain the mess, your youth go to the comfy compartment with couches and loud music, adults go to rooms with coffee and doughnuts according to their age level to enjoy “fellowship” and after a perfunctory gathering of adults and maybe older youth for singing and teaching, all rejoin each other on the way to the car and ….check mark, church is done.

We compartmentalize our faith at church.

It only makes sense that we compartmentalize it in life.

Faith has its place on our plate. It only takes up about 1/168 of our plate (one hour of our 168 weekly hours) but it is there, so we can check it off, and move on to our other compartments. As Ron Hunter shared, “The problem is if we perpetuate 1/168 idea of church for adults, we end up with siloed faith. Parents just do the one hour with God and then they are done.

But that’s NOT how faith works. That’s not what church is supposed to be.

Our faith? That’s what should BE the plate. Our faith should be what holds the rest together. It should be the very foundation of everything we do. It should never get checked off. It should be what we stand on and talk about and incorporate into every other part of our life.

If our faith is the plate, then our family needs to be the gravy that covers everything. With each bite of our work, our play, our home, there needs to be a taste of family in it. Our family cannot be far from our mind, compartmentalized in a certain space and unwelcomed in the rest. We should always be asking, “How can I bless my family and live out my faith in this?” As Pete Wilson speaking at D62015 shared, “We are the same person at work as we are at home…only more tired. If you are not grace-filled at work, then you won’t be at home either.

Compartmentalization works great for preschool lunch.

It doesn’t work for faith and family.

Our faith has got to be something we take with us.

Our church experience needs to be intergenerational and communal.

Our work, our play, our home needs to be a place where faith and family overflow into each and every compartment.

They can never be checked off as done, because, as Paul shares “we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image” (2 Cor. 3:18). Until that day, we are a work in progress. Rest in knowing that God is the One doing the work and give him access to your whole life, 24/7, to do it.

Christina Embree

Christina Embree

Wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC, Christina 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 also blogs at and is a contributing blogger at
Christina Embree

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