Maybe Not the Greatest Gift of All?

It’s gift-giving time! Everyone is scrambling to find those last-minute perfect gifts to give their family and friends as we approach Christmas Day and all the celebration it brings. And, I can pretty much guarantee, that just about any church you walk into these days is going to have some indication that the “greatest gift of all” was given to us in the incarnation of Christ, Immanuel, God with us!

I fully agree that Christ is indeed the greatest gift, but I have even better news – He’s the gift that keeps on giving. Sometimes, when we talk about Christmas, we remember the baby Jesus and sometimes we even connect that to the crucified and risen Christ, and occasionally we mention the ascended and returning Lord BUT rarely do we talk about Christ today.

You see, when Christ was born and lived and died and rose and ascended to the right hand of the Father, His work didn’t end. In fact, according to Scripture, that was merely the beginning. It was at that point that Jesus began the real work – the reconciliation of all things to himself (Col. 1:20). And, of course, He had a plan.

US. The Church.

We are the Body of Christ. We are (supposed to be) Jesus in the world today, the greatest gift of all.

The things Jesus was doing? We are supposed to be doing those things. The words Jesus was speaking? Those are our words now. The life Jesus was leading? We are commissioned and called to lead; “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).

In a very real sense, we are the greatest gift to one another and to the world.

So…how are we doing?

I had a seventeen-year-old girl tell me the other day that she “believes in God and Jesus but doesn’t want to be called a Christian” because of what she has seen done and said this year in the name of Christ.

I had another young person wonder why we (the Church in general) act more like Simon the Pharisee in the story of the prostitute that washed Jesus’ feet than the woman who was humble before Christ (Luke 7:36-50).

I’ve had dozens of young people message me on social media confused and complexed at the behavior they are seeing from people who claim to be Christian and to love God.

Why is the Generation Z walking away from Jesus?

Maybe this cognitive dissonance has something to do with it.

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus (John 13:35)

“The message is we promote freedom, liberty and when the constitution/and bill of rights are endangered Americans refuse to be passive!” – Christian, commenting on my social media

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” – Jesus (Luke 6:27, 28)

“They will meet my AR15 if they come to my house and tell me to stay home 14 days!” – Christian, commenting on my social media

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” – Paul (Phil. 2:3-5)

“I have the peace that surpasses all understanding in me-Christ. I also care about people, and it’s hard to see so many sheeple who are being led to the slaughter, simply because they watch the bought and paid for communist MSM.” – Christian, commenting on social media

There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.

Politics aside. Opinions aside. Personal experience aside.

This is not the greatest gift of all.

This is not becoming of the body of Christ.

The irony is, we desperately need one another! If anything, 2020 has shown us this. There are myriads of studies that show up the importance of integrated community and the dangers of isolation and loneliness. But, here’s the thing – since we are built for community, we are going to seek it out. We are going to look for people who will sit with us, eat with us, cry with us, listen to us, walk with us, laugh with us, see us, accept us, and love us. And if it is not the Church, if it is not the people who call themselves Christians and claim to be followers of Jesus, lovers of God who so loved the world that He died for it… if not these people, then community can and will be found elsewhere.

If only we had an example to follow:

“Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)” Mark 2:15

“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

Our example. Jesus. The greatest gift of all.

Church, we hold a precious role in all of this. Christ’s words to the disciples when he looked about the crowd in compassion was to call them into that space: “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37). We get to extend the gift of Jesus to all around us. To every generation. To the least of these. To the people we disagree with. To the people we love.

We are supposed to be a gift, ministers of reconciliation, passing our faith to the next generation – not turning them away in disgust and despair. The greatest gift of all is in our grasp. So, may this be our prayer for the upcoming year – actually, for the rest of our lives!

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” Psalm 19:14. Amen.


We CAN be the Greatest Gift and It Can Start At Home

ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.” 

This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.

This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.

This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.

Interested in learning more?

Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!


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.

Redeeming 2020: The Hope of Christmas

I am seeing snow pictures from all over the country! We are currently seeing a few flakes of snow here in Kentucky. Actual white flakes falling from the sky. Immediately following this sight was the singing of “White Christmas” and the inevitable question, “Do you think we will have snow for Christmas?”

Okay, fine, I’ll admit it. I get a little bit of that excitement when I saw the snow falling. I love Christmas. But more precisely, I love Advent. I love the anticipation; the time leading up to our celebration of Christ’s birth. Now, I realize that likely Jesus wasn’t born on December 25 and that the background of the holiday was decidedly pagan and that the Wise Man have their own holiday (Epiphany) for a reason and … all those things.

But for us, Christmas IS actually the celebration of Christ’s birth.

We anticipate that moment. We talk about why He came. We talk about the miracle of His birth. We talk about how heaven came to earth; how God became man and walked around us, fully God and fully man. How He chose to come as an infant, wrapped in frail flesh, carrying within Him the hope of the world.

When Christ came into the world, He came with a purpose – Redemption. Rather than discard the world, He redeemed it. And I happen to think we, as His followers, can do that same, if we so desire. There is much about this year, 2020, that invites us to experience to redemption. Redemption means “action of regaining or gaining possession of something.” Many of us feel that we’ve lost hold of many things this year.

If ever we needed to celebrate Redemption, it is this Christmas.

We’ve lost time spent together. Lord, may we redeem this by embracing opportunities to be together, from oldest to youngest, when we can gather again.

We’ve lost embraces and handshakes and arms around shoulders. Lord, may we redeem this by never letting an opportunity to cheer, to comfort and to hold when offered the opportunity to do so; may we truly “see” each other and reach out.

We’ve lost times of corporate worship. Lord, may we redeem this by re-gathering in ways that bring even more of the body of Christ together, from generation to generation, and raise our songs of praise and worship to you as one family.

We’ve lost in-person prayer meetings and Sunday schools and youth group activities and Bible studies. Lord, may we redeem these by praying fervently for one another, by learning more about You and who you are so we can share with one another, and studying your word in our home together as households or “little churches.”

We’ve lost “the way we’ve always done it” this year and we’ve gone headfirst into so many new things and new ways of celebrating and worshiping and “doing church.” Lord, may we redeem this by pressing in even closer to our community, our church family, and our neighborhood and welcoming your work in new and surprising ways.

In many ways, 2020 offers us the opportunity to re-assess and re-align. If anything, we have realized how very much we need one another. To reflect back on a post from earlier this year, perhaps now is the time to stop and consider…how do we want to return in the future?

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 and the hope which will inevitably draw us closer together to God and each other. As author Rachel Solnit says, “Hope is a commitment to the future.”

Christ, the incarnate God, is our Hope and our Future.

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. Maybe in these spaces, we will experience the redemption of what was lost.


Ready to begin 2020 with Renewal at Home & Church?

ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.” 

This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.

This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.

This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.

Interested in learning more?

Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!


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.

All Together Now

This Christmas in churches across America, things are going to look a little bit different. In some areas, churches are still meeting in-person but in modified capacities. In some, all the generations of churches are worshiping together in the space for the first time. In others, families are worshiping together in cars or in homes or even outside in our warmer states.

A lot of logistical questions are being asked about how best to make this all work. And some other questions are being asked too; familiar questions for someone who has been advocating for adults and kids to experience worship together for the last several years. Over those years, I’ve had the chance to be a part of many conversations about intergenerational worship and generational discipleship.  Most conversations inevitably end up in a series of questions that usually start with “What if…”

For example, if we talk about including children in the corporate worship time the “What if’s” include…

  • What if the kids talk or “whisper loudly”?
  • What if they cry or whine or whimper or wail?
  • What if they are bored or distracted?
  • What if they wiggle, squirm, move around, have to pee, get up and walk around?
  • What if they are distracting to the adults, to their parents, to the older generation?

Or if we talk about holding an event that is open to all generations, the “What if’s” are more like this:

  • What if the generations don’t talk to each other or can’t relate to each other?
  • What if the time, place, topic, etc. doesn’t work for this group or that group?
  • What if not everyone gets something out of it?

So, okay, let’s talk about it. What if all the “What if’s” happened?  

Would it wreck the church? Would there be irreversible damage?  

Would there be no recourse but to just say, “It’s over. Throw in the towel. Intergenerational ministry just doesn’t work?”

Are the risks really so great that if all of the greatest fears happened, if all of the “What if’s” came true, it’d be too much to even try beyond the forced parameters of a global pandemic?

Even if we know, because of research and studies, both secular and religious, that the results of intergenerational ministry and relationships include things like reduced “dropout” of young people once they graduate of high schoolincreased spiritual growth for the entire churcha mature faith in young adultsa sense of belonging and meaning for children, and a stronger community of faith across the board.

What if ALL the “What if’s” happened BUT over time so did all the other things?

Young people remained in the faith and in the church after they graduate high school as opposed to the current trend of rapid decline in both.

The entire church experienced overall spiritual growth and vibrancy in the congregational community was heightened (or as the researchers at Fuller Youth Institute put it, “Warm intergenerational relationships grow everyone young.”)

College students had a mature and well-developed faith that was able to carry them through their college years and into healthy marriages and parenting roles.

Children recognized themselves as part of the larger faith community, not separate or somehow lesser than, but genuinely a needed and necessary piece of the church as a whole.

The church grew stronger together, sharing not only a building during a certain period of time each week, but worship and relationship and creativity and fellowship that even carried over to life outside the walls.

Would it be worth it then… to hear some cries, to watch some wigglers, to have to hear music we didn’t necessarily like or see something done differently than it was before? Would it be worth some distraction, an interruption, some inconvenience or some sacrifice?

What if all the “What if’s” happened…and we decided beforehand that it was okay because it was, most certainly, worth it.

Because, my experience has been, and other attest, that all of these “What if’s” don’t usually happen and certainly don’t usually happen all at once. And there are ways to help make sure that if they do, there are tools and structures and support in place to ensure that they don’t cause irreparable damage.

And in the end, is really a risk… or just a stretch?  

Just a willingness to be a little uncomfortable in order to grow, to learn, to experience something that may seem new to us, but is actually the way things were for centuries; the way our faith was passed to us – from one generation to another (Ps. 145:4). What if, what started this Christmas was carried over into the New Year and into a new way of doing church, all together now.

What if… this Christmas was one of our best Christmases yet?

My prayer are with each of us, no matter where and how we are worshipping this Christmas, in homes, in parking lots, in buildings and in Zoom meetings. May God pour out His grace upon us and bring us together in ways we’ve never imagined.


Looking for a way to help parents capture those discipleship moments at home?

ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.” 

This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.

This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.

This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.

Interested in learning more?

Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!

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.