The Capacity For Love: A Call for Intergenerational Community

“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

“The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.” I’ve read this book and this quote many times over the years but this morning, as I scrolled through my social media feed, seeing and reading a lot of things I would not characterize as “love”, this particular line posted by a friend struck me deeply.

Maybe because so much of 2020 has been isolation.

Maybe because so much of 2020 has lacked the overt quality of love.

Maybe 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.

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.

Even if this virus goes away and we can gather under one roof again, things will never go back to the way they were. Because we are different people. Which is why how we come back together is more important than ever. We must come back to love.

We have been changed, our children and youth have been changed, and our communities have been changed. 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.

  • 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.


Ready to get started but unsure of your next step?

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
The Embree Family

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

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

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