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 school, increased spiritual growth for the entire church, a mature faith in young adults, a 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…
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
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.