What Does the Bible say about Intergenerational Ministry?

Does the Bible talk about intergenerational ministry?

How about generational discipleship?

Is there a biblical basis for this new craze sweeping the children’s ministry and family ministry worlds?

Well, technically, it’s not so much new as it is old…really, really old.

Until recently in church history, the generations did in fact worship together as an intergenerational faith community. In their book, Intergenerational Christian Formation, Holly Allen and Christine Ross (2012) point out that “first century churches were multigenerational entities, with children present for worship, healings, prayer meetings, even perhaps when persecutions were perpetuated.”

That really didn’t change until the 20th century when the work of development theorists such as Piaget, Kohlberg, and Fowler began to gain popularity, the church adapted their practices and it led the creation of specialized ministries to connect to specific age groups (Source). Eventually developmentalists’ concerns were applied to the worship hour and the Sunday morning church experience began to be viewed as a time for teaching adults (Source).

But, I digress. Since the late 1970s there have been movements popping up to help churches regain that more intergenerational feel and today…well, today, it’s a thing.  It seems like everywhere you look, this idea of intergenerational or multigenerational ministry and generational discipleship is being discussed, argued, and implemented.

Which leads some of us to ask..is this biblical?

Can we find this in Scripture and, if so, what do the Bible have to say?  

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 gets talked about a lot within the realm of family ministry as a verse that exemplifies the work of discipleship done by parents within the home.

BUT it’s important to note that these instructions to share about the commandments of the Lord weren’t given to solely to parents.  In fact, when Moses shared these commands, he did so with the whole assembly of Israel, not just to the parents/caregivers that were present.

Deuteronomy 4:9 reads, “Make them known to your children and your children’s children” indicating there were multiple generations present when these commands were given. Now, with that in mind, consider that in one commentary, it’s pointed out that according to the Jewish people, “Teach them to thy children” meant “not only those of thy own body but all those that are anyway under thy care and tuition.” That means the charge to “impress upon your children” the commandments of the Lord extended beyond the home and into the larger faith community.

We call that “generational discipleship”!

And it’s not limited to this moment. Intergenerational community can be found book-1209805_1920throughout Scripture.

Whenever the nation of Israel would gather for special occasions such as feasts or celebrations, the entire community, all generations, would be present. Like…

  • Deuteronomy 29:10-12 when Moses spoke to Israel for the final time
  • 2 Chronicles 20:13 when Jehosophat called for a fast of the entire nation
  • Nehemiah 8: 2-3 and 12:43 when Ezra read aloud the book of the law and the entire community celebrated together.

Again, Holly Allen and Christine Ross share, “In the religion of Israel, all ages were not just included, they were drawn in, assimilated absorbed into the community with a deep sense of belonging.”

In the book of Psalms, there are references to the passing of faith from one generation to another. Like…

  • Psalm 145:4One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”
  • Psalm 78 – The psalmist explains the importance of testifying about God’s works to the next generation so they would remain in the faith and not turn away a.k.a. generational discipleship.

In the New Testament, Jesus modeled this inclusion of all generations and specifically children throughout his ministry, going so far as to tell his followers that welcoming a child into their midst was akin to welcoming Him and the One who sent Him (Matthew 10:42, Matthew 11:25-26, Matthew 18:2-6, Matthew 18:10, Matthew 19:13-14, Matthew 21:16, Mark 10:13-16 & Luke 9:46-48).

In the epistles Paul writes to the churches and asks for the letters to be read aloud to the gathered community. In them, he specifically addresses a wide range of generations, including children (such as Eph 6:1-4, Col 3:20). It’s safe to assume he mentions all the generations because he expected them to be there to hear what he had to say.

So, yes, intergenerational ministry and generational discipleship are found in Scripture.

And the idea of having all generations interacting within a community of faith isn’t a new one. That doesn’t mean we throw out everything we’ve learned from developmentalists or that doesn’t mean that age-appropriate ministry isn’t of any value.

What it does mean is that the normative faith practice is one where generations have the opportunity to be together and pass the faith to one another, so it would be a good idea for us to create spaces where that can happen.

I’m a firm believer that we can do both age-appopriate ministry and intergenerational ministry well in our churches instead of either/or. Rather than pitting these two against each other, perhaps its time we consider how to embrace the new without rejecting the old.

And, I’d love to know… How is your church finding ways to engage every generation in faith conversations and relationships?

For more on this, check out this post on Biblical Support for Intergenerational Ministry


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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

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Listen to the Future

I love going to conferences for children, youth, and family ministry. Mostly because I love the energy around this particular group of people. Let me explain.

These people work with the future.

They are constantly immersed in working with “the next generation” so they are constantly thinking about tomorrow. They are constantly in prayer. Constantly thinking of the how they can better reach children, youth, parents/caregivers “so that”…

And by “so that” I mean, ministers who work with children and youth are acutely aware of the challenges that face these young people in the future.

They know the statistics about young adults walking away from the church and their faith.

They are always cognizant that their time with this generation is fleeting and that they are seed-planting for a future.

They are not only fully in the present, reaching the hearts of the church today, but they are also fully in the future, recognizing the impact they will have for generations to come.

They hold sticky hands and wipe snotty noses because one day those hands will be wiping the noses of the next generation and they KNOW that they KNOW that they KNOW that their influence will extend to that place.

They eat lunch in noisy cafeterias. They visit tired mothers holding crying infants at home. They go to soccer games and baseball games and volleyball games and countless plays and musicals and they genuinely love doing it because they genuinely care for these they serve and the many generations to come they represent.

But they are tired.

And they aren’t tired because of everything I just described.

They are tired because….they feel alone.

They see all these things. They feel so deeply the absolute depth of importance of reaching the next generation for Christ, of wrapping them in His love, and of surrounding them in meaningful relationships in the church and home… but they sense that their burden is not shared by the larger faith community. In fact, at times, it seems the larger faith community sees them merely as the quieters of the young and entertainers of the youth.

children-567567_1920In the meantime, some of the most innovative and creative and downright genius ways to build the church and grow the Kingdom of God are coming from these very people yet their voice gets unheard because, frankly, they just work with the kids.  But children’s pastors and youth ministers KNOW that 85% of new converts are between the ages of 4-14 (source). They understand that to invest today in children and youth is to grow the kingdom of God for generations to come.

It’s time we give them voice.

Senior pastors, they need to you speak the truth of their ministry from the pulpit. They must have your voice legitimizing what they do, not just asking for more volunteers, but explaining the absolute need for the church to join the MINISTRY to youth and children. To form meaningful relationships. To pray for them by name. To go to their games. To visit their schools and homes. To invite them into service at church. To give them a place of belonging to a bigger community (not just the small community of people their age they find in Sunday School or youth group).

Ron Hunter of D6 Family Ministry shared this week at D6 Family ministry conference from his book The DNA of D6 that “The most important leader for leading change in a church is the senior or lead pastor.”  Without that voice, it is unlikely that change will happen. Without that voice, the children’s minister and youth pastor will continue to work and share and guide and pour themselves out for the next generation but will continue to feel very much alone.

If you don’t believe me, go ask them. Ask them if they feel alone, tired, like their voice isn’t heard. And when they say “Yes,” ask them what you can do to help change that. Do your own research and allow the reality of the gravity of their calling within the church impact you deeply.

Then speak. Speak from the pulpit. Speak in the board rooms. Speak in the finance and budget meetings. Speak in small groups. Speak in the newsletter. Speak to the oldest. AND speak to the youngest. Tell them that you understand how important this ministry to the next generations is and embrace it as the best way for your church to grow the kingdom of God.

Church, do all of that too.

Listen to what your children and youth pastors are telling you. They have the pulse of tomorrow, the inside track on the future. Just ask them to go out to lunch or coffee with you and ask them about what stirs their heart. What is their vision? What is their burden?  And what can you do?

I almost wish I could write this NOT as a children’s pastor or family minister.

I wish I could write this with a louder voice. Because this is the raw and simple truth.   This group of ministers care infinitely more than I could put into words about the kingdom of God and the future of the church. Please hear them. And love the children.

Children’s pastors, youth ministers, and family minsters who read this – if it resonates with you – please forward to those who can join your voice at your church. And know that you are not alone!  You are joined by incredible leaders and incredible lovers of God and youth all over the world. Keep loving the next generation. Keep doing all the things because your work is not in vain and one day, those children and youth you are investing in will be the leaders, the movers, the shakers…they will be pouring into their own disciples.

Teach them well. Love them. Love God.


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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

“Are We Going to Church Today?” The new question of Sunday morning

Church attendance.

Yup, we’re gonna go there.

First the good news, because we need the good news.

Jesus is Lord. Nothing can change that.

And the church is the body of Christ, and nothing can change that.

So that alone should stir an undying hope within our souls that cannot be diminished by statistics or our negative experience. Let’s be sure to keep that focus no matter what; to magnify God instead of magnifying our struggles.

church-703512_1920But there’s more good news too!

The latest Pew Research on Religion & Public Life has found that “nearly half (23% of all U.S. adults) say they have always attended religious services at least as regularly as they do now, but slightly more (27% of all U.S. adults) say they now attend religious services more often than they did at some other time in their adult lives.”

Now for the not-so-good news.

Our definition of what a “regular attender” at church is probably varies quite a bit from the definition they used which was “at least once or twice a month.”  That’s right. Regular attendance at church is now defined as “once or twice a month.” To me, that is a startling definition. I can’t think of any other social institution that would count “once or twice a month” as regular attendance (unless they are only open once or twice a month). School, clubs, work, sports teams, etc. all require a much higher level of commitment to be considered members, let alone “regular attendees.”

And therein lies much of the struggle and much of the beauty of church.  

God does not “require” us to fill any criteria to be members of his body than Jesus.  We repeatedly teach that our faith is “by grace through faith” not by works. And while we encourage the participation in the church and we teach on the importance of growing faith within community and we provide deeply needed place of connection so that we don’t walk away from God, church is a voluntary obligation and a place where we have the choice to attend or not and still call ourselves a member in good standing.

Well, almost all of us. There is a group that doesn’t really have that choice.

The choice is made for them because they are young and their parents/caregivers are the ones that must bring them to church and involve them in church. The children are not given the choice that we as adults are. They go where the parents/caregivers say to go. So when the parents/caregivers make the choice to not attend church or to make deeper commitments somewhere else, the children do as well.

Regardless of your feelings on this, and there are many, one of the reasons that family ministry has gained traction over the last few years is because this reality has been realized. Coupled with the fact that research both secular and religious consistently find that parents ARE the primary faith formers of their children, it has become evident that in order to reach the children, we must reach the parents.

Yesterday at D6 Family Ministry Conference in Louisville, Pastor Robby Gallaty shared:”One of the biggest problems we face in the church is parents who are trying to make disciples with kids but are not being discipled themselves.

That’s what family ministry is all about.

It’s about reaching a generation of parents/caregivers, equipping, nurturing, and supporting them for the work of discipleship but not by saying, “You’re on your own. You don’t need the church.”  As the apostle Paul would say, “By no means! May it never be!”

The purpose of family ministry is to put the church at such an integral place in the home and in the family, that parents prioritize faith formation and involvement in a faith community in such a way that their children know just how much they need the body of Christ if they are to hold fast to their own faith as they grow.

Re-read that!  It is so important to understand this concept if we are going to have healthy conversations about families, and children, and church retention and attendance.

So what does family ministry really say about church attendance?

d6imageDr. Colleen Derr, also sharing at D6 Family Ministry Conference yesterday, shared this nugget I think we all need to grasp: “Family ministry is not ‘dump and run.’”  In other words, it’s not “Well, you are the primary faith formers so here you go, you’re on your own. Good luck with those kiddos!”

Sadly, this is a misconception that can sometimes be read into the goal of family ministry, which does put the primary discipleship responsibility in the parent/caregiver’s hands (because its already there by default), but misses the heart of family ministry, which is to work with the parents in a mutual edifying way that leads to disciple-making, not just of children, but of parents WITHIN the context of a local church body.

We are not separate from each other. We are made to be one body in Christ. As Dr. Derr shared, our job as ministers to the family is to find the “common practices, moments, and celebrations” to build upon in a way that doesn’t encourage less church attendance but rather more and more connection to the body of Christ.

What can we do better?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, because I think within this group of readers, there are amazing works of grace taking place that are helping families grow in ways that we all need to hear. I could list a bunch of ideas here, but honestly, I believe it is a heart thing.

We cannot force church attendance and/or more connection to the body of Christ. Christ won’t even force that.

What we can do is be such a pillar of support, nurture, encouragement, equipping, partnership and blessing that parents/caregivers long to bring their children to church to experience that love.

We can do that. So, let’s do that. 

For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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

Soul Weary

There’s been a lot of talk lately in ministry circles about burnout since Pete Wilson stepped down as lead pastor at Cornerstone Church, a megachurch he founded and has served at for 16 years. His reason for stepping down isn’t moral failure or negligent sin.

His reason for stepping down was simply that he was tired.

Since he stepped down, I have seen numerous articles about burnout posted in ministry circles. How to avoid burnout. How to recognize burnout. How to recover from burnout. I’ve read tons of advice; everything from maintaining a Sabbath and setting boundaries to making sure I exercise and establishing people to hold me accountable.

And all those things are good and right.

All those things may indeed help stem the physical and emotional strain ministry places on the body and mind that lead to burnout.

But I want to talk about something I haven’t seen discussed as much. Soul weariness. Deeper than the physical symptoms. More complex than the emotional burden. Paul seems to describe it well when he writes, Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Cor. 11:28, 29).

For those of us who serve children, youth, and families in the church, it might read something like this…

“Besides preparing curriculum, training volunteers, meeting with parents, visiting with children, interacting with the congregation, working with church staff, planning VBS and Christmas programs, visioning with ministry councils, cleaning classrooms, communicating with the whole church, coordinating family and community activities, comforting the hurting, educating caregivers, serving the community, creating space for discipleship, maintaining ongoing programs, establishing new programs, filling activity packets, replenishing snacks and wipes, complying with safety regulations, holding sticky hands, changing stinky diapers, etc. (the stuff that leads to physical burnout)…

…we face the daily pressure of our concern for all the churches.

Who is being discipled when they leave the church building?

Who is being lead astray by peers or media?

Who is being bullied and is afraid to tell anyone?

Who is facing immeasurable pain but can’t express it?

Who is fighting illness? Or who’s loved ones are losing battles to cancer?

Who doesn’t know the love of Jesus?

Who is angry and hurt and bitter and needs healing?

Who is weak, that we do not feel weak?

Who is lead into sin, and we do not inwardly burn?”

How many tears do we shed when we read the statistics about young people leaving the church?

How do our hearts break when we know that studies show families spend less than ten minutes a week talking about Christ at home?

How do our souls grow weary when we are met with the fact that the very ones we pour ourselves into each week, each day, for years, will likely walk away from the faith when they reach their 20s unless others take up the torch and keep the fire lit for years to come?

Being soul weary can’t be cured by exercise. By eating right. By getting plenty of sleep or even getting all of our questions answered. 

Being soul weary can only find rest in one place.

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 43 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,my Savior and my God.

There is only one place for the weary soul to find rest. In the arms of the One who created our souls.

grapes-1245739_1920I was reminded at a Group Kidmin mini-conference I attended yesterday that without Jesus in our own lives, known by us and known by Him, we have nothing of eternal value to offer those who we minister to. For it is Jesus alone who sustains us like a vine sustains its branches.

It is Jesus alone who sees us and knows us and calls us. He alone is Creator of our souls and when our souls are weary, drug out, exhausted, and lay helpless before Him, He alone, as Good Shepherd, can pick us up, hold us close, heal the words, and restore the soul.

Fellow minister, fellow parent, is your soul weary?

Run to Jesus.

I’ll meet you there in the heart of prayer. His grace will meet us, as promised, in our time of need. For the One we serve is faithful. The One we serve is good. The One we serve knows how to restore weary souls.

Our invitation, weary souls, is to come.

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. In the same way, my Spirit will help you in your weakness. You do not know what you ought to pray for, but my Spirit himself intercedes for you through wordless groans. And I who search your heart knows the mind of my Spirit, because my Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

 “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. In peace I will lie down and sleep,  for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Yes, my weary soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” 

Matthew 11:28-29, Proverbs 3:24,Exodus 33:14, Jeremiah 31:25,Romans 8:26-27, Psalm 62:1, Psalm 4:8, Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 62:5


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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

Church Minus God: When “church” isn’t Church

Oasis Community is a happening place.  Since its launch in 2012, it has grown and has open new sites in seven U.S. cities and in Toronto with many more sites set to open this year. Oasis Community meets each Sunday and offers great music, activities for children and youth, a time for testimonies and community sharing, with plenty of opportunities for outreach to the community throughout the week like serving at the local food bank or raking leaves for neighbors.

It’s a GREAT church.
Only it’s NOT a church.

I mean, it looks like a church. It acts like a church. The name is even the same as a church I have visited.

But…it’s not a church.

It’s actually a gathering place for “humanists, agnostics, atheists, self-identified freethinkers, and even questioning theists.”  It was started by a former pastor who has rejected his faith and became a “None” but missed the “social benefits of organized religious life.”  So, the solution?  Simply start a church, without, you know… God.  As Oasis Community board member Joshua Hyde shares, “Over thousands of years, religious groups have figured out a good format that helps keep people coming back, interested, and meeting new people…It’s a format that’s independent of the material that being presented.” (Source: The Atlantic, 9/16)

This isn’t just a ridiculous story. No, this is a real thing. Oasis Community exists and it is growing. It’s “atheist church.”

But how can that be?

Isn’t the Church the body of Christ? Isn’t God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit intrinsic to the very institution that is.. church?

Well, is it?  I had to take a step back and really consider this.

If we took God away from our church, my church, could our Sunday morning still flow, go right along as normal, without skipping a beat? What about our outreach to the community?  Our Sunday School classes? Our Wednesday night programming?

farbenspiel-174873_1920I know, that kinda stings.  When I first read about Oasis Community, I wanted to get angry and defensive.  I wanted to say, “But there’s more to church than that. People don’t stay because of programming!  They stay because of Jesus.

But, the truth is, our churches are losing people and when asked why they leave, a lot of them leave because they don’t feel like they belong; they don’t feel a part of the community.  When asked about their faith, many will say they never really had any or that their life experience doesn’t mesh with what they learn in church.

I think it begs the question, “What makes the Church…church?”

The truth is there are some things that simply cannot be without the presence of God in the midst of the church.  And these are the things that from the very beginning of what we call “church” defined us and identified us as Christ followers.

These things you will not find in Oasis Community, because they are not “independent of the material being presented,” rather these things require not only the belief in God, but an interaction with Him; a very real communion with God and man, which is where I begin.

  1. Communion

Communion is where we as believers gather around the bread and the wine (or the cracker and the juice depending on your tradition) and literally communion with God. We remember the death of Jesus Christ, in very real and tangible ways. We know that where two or three or gathered in His name, He is with us and therefore, we know that His presence is with us at communion. This practice is not an empty ritual. It is where Christ meets us and we come to Him.

Recently a friend of mine with a very wise 7 year old shared that her daughter had said this to her:

“I was thinking today about communion. It should be celebrated often because it reminds us we all drink from the same cup and eat of the same loaf of bread. I think we need to be reminded more than once in a while that we all need to come together and come to Jesus. Plus, it tastes yummy.”

I heartily agree!

2. Baptism

In baptism, “buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:4). Wow, think about that. We are participating in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection in such a way that the idea is presented to us as a “we too” moment. We too, like Christ, get to live in new life. We too, like Christ, experience resurrection. This is unmistakably a time in the life of the Church that we cannot experience without His very presence.

3. Worship in Spirit and in Truth

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, He told her a time was coming where He would be worshiped across the whole world and because “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in Spirit and in Truth” (Jn. 4:24). It’s not about the music, though I concede that we have at times given that impression to those who look at us. It’s not about the music, the hymn or the chorus or the latest hit on the radio. It’s about worshiping in Spirit (as in the Holy Spirit) and in Truth (as in Christ – the Way, the Truth, and the Life). Worship simply cannot take place without the presence of God in our midst. Music? Sure. Worship? No. 

4. Prayer

What do we teach children that prayer is? Talking to God. Prayer simply cannot be without God. I love the Lord’s Prayer because in it, we see the whole Trinity – the Father that is in heaven, the Son who is completing His will on earth as it is in heaven, and the Spirit who is leading us not into temptation but delivering us from evil. God is woven into prayer. But I do think it is fair to ask…how much are we praying?  Would there be a gap, a wide enough gap, in our monthly calendar of activities or weekly order of service that filling it would be difficult?

I know there are more. Many more. Things that reach beyond our programming and into our hearts. Things that cannot be duplicated or copied without the presence of God in His fullness.

And that is why for thousands of years the Church, not “church”, has continued to grow. That is why we continue to go each week and seek and worship and pray.

As we raise the next generation to know and love Christ, my prayer is that they always know the difference between our building and the programming that takes place there and the Church and the transforming work of God that takes place there.

There cannot be an atheist church – the Church IS the Body of Christ. 


For more information about

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

About the author 

Family(40)

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

A Prayer for Our World

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

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

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

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

In that world…

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About the author – This blog post was written by guest blogger, Mary Trent. 

Family(40)

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

Why Intergenerational Worship? And Why Now?

I am currently working on a research paper for class focusing on the need for and importance of intergenerational connections throughout life but especially in communities of faith. As a minister to children and families, the more I study, the more convinced I am that we need to be asking the questions, “Why Intergenerational? And Why Now?”.

Consider this 2003 study by the Commission for Children at Risk that found when connections to others and to moral and spiritual meaning are weakened the results are significant; “the thinning out of social connectedness is contributing significantly to the range of childhood problems, including child abuse and adolescent depression, and conversely, that thickening the networks of meaningful relationships contributes significantly to better outcomes for children and youth” (Commission on Children at Risk, 2003, p. 43).

Where better than the church to rehabilitate these connections?

What better place to engage multiple generations in relationship with each other around the heart of faith and spirituality?

Where else do multiple generations gather each week and are provided with the chance to “thicken” those networks of meaningful relationships?

We, the Church, have the unique opportunity to break down barriers of age and spatial segregation and build relationships with one another that span generations and bring together communities.

“Intergenerational relationships grow everyone young by breaking the silos of age- and stage-based ministry.”

Dr. K. Powell, J. Mulder, B. Griffen, Growing Young as quoted today in The Washington Post

r e F o c u s

Recently, I’ve been asked to share some of the research and studies that I have used in writing my blogs and developing my heart for family and intergenerational ministry.  The following is a brief overview of some of the top studies, articles, and research I’ve used to formulate my ideas and share my heart with all of you.

The Research behind Intergenerational Worship

One of the first longitudinal studies done on youth in regard to church attendance post high school once the Millennial decline became apparent was done by Fuller Youth Institute in 2006-2010 and they released their findings here. Primarily, their research found three things:

1. While most U.S. churches focus on building strong youth groups, teenagers also need to build relationships with adults of all ages.

2. Churches and families overestimate youth group graduates’ readiness for the struggles ahead with dire consequences for the faith

3. While teaching…

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Why Should We Come to Church?

The other day, a friend of mine messaged me with something she had written that, frankly, blew me away. Her story of a conversation with a couple of teens in her neighborhood and what it spoke to her heart was so profound, I immediately asked her if I could re-share it here with all of you.

 As we consider reaching out to the children, youth and families in our own neighborhoods, perhaps her words can help us to prayerfully consider how our churches are welcoming children of all ages into worship. Thank you, Mary Trent, for sharing your heart with all of us!


So I am walking around in my new neighborhood and I happen upon a couple of teenagers. I approach them and compliment their skateboarding abilities, they politely smile in return. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, I tell them that I am new to the area and that I am a pastor here in our community. Wanting to practice what I preach in almost all of my sermons, I invite these kids to church.

Their response shocked me.

Now before I tell you what they said, let me just say that in ministry I have been told “no” in a number of ways. Sometimes “no” is a literal door being slammed shut; other times it is a polite “Thank you but…” (Insert reason here). So as a believer and minister, I have come to terms with being turned down often.

I think it’s helpful to look to scripture and learn how Jesus responded when he encountered “no” in ministry. Isn’t interesting that in the Gospels the ones who most often opposed the ministry of Jesus were the chief religious leaders of the day? They are some of the primary antagonists in the Gospel story.

But, dear readers, for a few moments I am inviting you to lay off on the Pharisees, and take a look at Matthew 19:13-15:

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

Interesting. It was Jesus’ own disciples who were saying “no.”

Do you ever wonder what prompted them to oppose the notion of children approaching Jesus? Given the context of this passage, perhaps one possibility is that the disciples felt like the children were interfering with the “more important” work of Christ.

Could it be that they failed to comprehend the value of the souls behind those tiny faces who were coming toward Jesus?

Flash forward to the present. I have just invited these two teens to church and I prepare myself for “no” but instead I heard this:

“Why should we come to church?”

doubt-623847_1920Before I could answer, the other teen says, “When I was a kid I went to church and they took us to Sunday school and children’s church. Things really stopped when I went to middle school. I mean there was a youth group and we did car washes and went on trips, but I never understood why I needed to be in church for any of that. I could join a club at school and do pretty much the same thing. So I did.”

Brothers and sisters, this response left me speechless.

I have heard from countless church leaders and members that say the young adults and their families have “disappeared” from the church because of things like sports, apathy, or disinterest in worship. I would not argue that these things are not a factor but let’s think for a moment.

What does soccer on Sunday offer a kid besides physical activity or the chance to win a game?  I’ll tell you what it offers: a defined and purposeful space to belong to something bigger.

 So what does this have to do with Jesus’ disciples saying, “no” to the kids?

Take a moment to consider your church. Think about its ministries, its vision, and its programs. Be honest with yourself and consider whether kids of all ages are welcome or are they being tolerated?

Are they incorporated into the fold of ministry and learning how to be better disciples of Jesus or are they getting the same thing they could get at daycare, the Y, or a club?

 Beloved, I believe we in the Church have repackaged “no” and have been distributing it to our kids in the form of segregated and isolated worship. Think about it for a moment–ageism has become an acceptable and optimal pattern for many congregations particularly as it applies to corporate worship. We have been told that kids need to be constantly entertained. Not only have we listened to this but we have removed all doubt that “adult worship” is no place for them to participate or learn. In short, we have told them “no.”

But here is the good news!

Instead of investing our energy and finances on finding a “Wow” factor to draw young families and their children into our churches, let us EMBRACE our “Why” factor. Let’s consider their questions.

Why does anyone need to come to church? Why is worship important?

Let us pray together and ponder the ways we can say “yes.”

And let us give good reasons as to why all children matter in the life of the 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 – This blog post was written by guest blogger, Mary Trent. 

Family(40)

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