What Does “Different” Look Like?

Last week, ReFocus shared a post about the missing church asking, “Where did the church go?” The conclusion was simple: If we keep doing what we have been doing for the past two decades, we will continue to experience the same results – a decline in church attendance and more and more people walking away from the Christian faith.

This post was widely shared, read, and affirmed but also raised the question: If doing more of the same is the issue, what does different look like?

As pointed out in the original post, “Believe it or not, our perfectly planned services and emotionally-poignant worship experiences and our super fun youth groups and our dedicated staff and high-tech curriculum are not what keep people connected to the faith. It’s relationship. Period. It’s the creation of a community that is integrated and intentional about being part of one another’s lives, regardless of time and space, and committed to being there for one another through all of life’s ups and downs.

But how can we do that? Often our current systems, programming, and curriculum rarely if ever allow for relationships to be cultivated across generations and beyond the scope of the Sunday morning/Wednesday night experience. We see shadows of what could be but we miss the full technicolor reality. However, if we are willing, there are some simple places where we can start.

Here are FOUR areas to begin the work of intentional intergenerational community.

PRAYER

In my opinion, there is no better place for a church to begin to connect to one another than through intercessory prayer for each other. The inspiration for our prayer program at church comes from Tony Souder‘s book Pray for Me which connects children and young people in the church with prayer champions of three older generations.

The commitment is simply to pray for one another throughout the school year. But our church found that if you are praying for someone, you start caring for that someone, and as a result, relationships begin to grow. For more information on my personal experience with this, check out this post from 2015.

SERVICE

One of the characteristics of children and youth are the ways they describe what it means to be a Christian. Most adults list Christian beliefs like believing in Jesus’s death and resurrection and believing in eternity. But kids and youth often will use actions to demonstrate faith; things like, going to church or loving others. One amazing way that a faith community can create a space for generations to be together is by providing opportunities for serving together.

When we serve together something happens: We are more likely to bond with the people we are interacting with and the part of our brain that forms memories is triggered and we hold on to that bond for years to come. (Source). Weeding a community garden, providing food for people in need, cleaning the church building or a neighborhood park….the possibilities are endless and usually not restricted by age. This is a great way to engage members of a community in relationship with one another.

PRESENCE

There are many reasons given by those in children, youth and family ministry for why church attendance is down. One big one is this: Sports are to blame.” Well, let’s be honest, team sports, especially travel ball, are one reason. Practices and games no longer get put on hold for Sundays and Wednesday nights so if a child joins a team, they will likely be asked to be with the team on those days at some point. So what if we flipped the script? What if the church showed up at the sporting events, the ballet recitals, the theater performances and the preschool pageants?

Consider creating a space in your church where the schedules and announcements for these events can be posted (physically or virtually) so that the church community can show up.

PARTICIPATION

Over the past few years, as I’ve researched and written for this blog and for classes, one theme kept coming up over and over again in regards to why young adults left the church behind – they didn’t feel like they belonged.  They felt like they belonged in children’s ministry when they were little. They felt like they belonged when they were in youth ministry as teenagers. But once they were in “big church” they felt out of place, disoriented, like strangers in a familiar place but one where they didn’t belong. One way we can begin to build intentional community is by finding ways to create spaces for participation in the activities of the church. Some simple ideas:

There is NO cookie-cutter method or “right way” to do this.

If a church is asking the questions, “How do we do community better? How do we bring generations together? How do we reach out to the kids, the youth, the elderly, the lonely, the isolated? How do we do church differently?” then that church has taken the first step. That’s where it has to start. A recognition that there is more and a desire to explore how to discover that more. Prayer, Service, Presence and Participation are just starting points….but they hold the promise of a better future, one where the church is truly together.


Let’s Get Started Together!

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.

Where Did You Go? The Disappearing Church

A friend of mine recently tagged me in a Twitter thread. In the post, the author made the statement that, in America, we are really good at “acute compassion” but we are terrible at “chronic empathy.” As an example, the author noted how Americans are quick to run to each other’s aid in times of emergency. We give blood, we show up in boats and trucks and haul people out of floods and fires, we donate to people in emergency situations, we show up whenever there is a crisis and we rally together as a country. But, we aren’t that great about creating infrastructure that offers ongoing care to those in poverty, care for the elderly and aging, and safety for the larger citizenry.

In the author’s words, “It is the long term work that makes disasters less damaging but we don’t want to give to the needy; we want to save the endangered. We don’t like being care workers, we want to be heroes.”

I think the author is right. I think, in our culture, it is easy to jump on board to a short-term care situation that requires minimal, short-lived sacrifice and feel good about it. But I think it’s far harder to commit to a long-term experience of hard work and dedication that requires the building of relationships, the commitment of time and energy, and the lack of immediate payoff. The latter requires something more than a momentary emotional pull to “do something.” It is much deeper and much more sacrificial; it requires us to lay down our comfort and willingly put ourselves in a position of service and humility.

And that’s exactly what I believe the Church is called to do.

You see, when I read this Twitter thread, here was my response: “Yes, and this applies to generational discipleship in the church too. We are great at altar calls and perfectly crafted worship services; terrible at lifelong discipleship and intentional community.”

The Church in America experienced a disruption over the past year that it was not prepared to handle. In fact, statistics show that 1 in 3 churchgoers have stopped attending church (in-person or online) since the start of the pandemic (Source). This is coming on the back of a rapid decline in church attendance over the last decade (Source).

Why? Because what we have been doing for the past two decades is not what keeps people in church. Believe it or not, our perfectly planned services and emotionally-poignant worship experiences and our super fun youth groups and our dedicated staff and high-tech curriculum are not what keep people connected to the faith.

It’s relationship. Period.

It’s the creation of a community that is integrated and intentional about being part of one another’s lives, regardless of time and space, and committed to being there for one another through all of life’s ups and downs.

Way back in 2013, the Barna Group shared this:The first factor that will engage Millennials at church is as simple as it is integral: relationships. When comparing twentysomethings who remained active in their faith beyond high school and twentysomethings who dropped out of church, the Barna study uncovered a significant difference between the two. Those who stay were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59% of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31% among those who are no longer active). The same pattern is evident among more intentional relationships such as mentoring—28% of Millennials who stay had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor, compared to 11% of dropouts who say the same” (Source)

What about Gen Z, the generation of young people in our churches right now? “Parents are the most important people and the greatest influence for children. According to this study, Gen Z admire their parents, but at the same time they don’t feel family relationships are central to their sense of self. They love their parents, but still long for good role models” (Source).

In the Church, we are good at acute compassion; we will show up for each other when there is an emergency or a crisis. We are good at weekly experiences and crafting worship services, Sunday schools, youth groups, mission trips, and Vacation Bible Schools that offer temporary fixes to our emotional and spiritual needs.

We are less good at things like creating space for intergenerational relationships to flourish, where older and younger people can create lasting relationships based around conversation, prayer, mentorship, guidance, and lifelong community

We are decidedly not good at addressing the structures in our churches that lead us away from each other such as age-segregated worship experiences and lack of communal opportunities to serve together consistently and building relationships outside of the church building and the hours set aside for “church.”

And then we wonder why each generation has fewer and fewer individuals who regularly attend church or identify as a Christian.

2020 has been a good barometer for this.

For individuals who had intentionally developed relationships with people in their church, who had demonstrated the willingness to put in the work of community, to remaining connected despite being about to gather in-person, to commit to Zoom worship and in-home family Bibles studies, to text one another and check in on each other, to continue building community despite the unusual circumstances…for those people, 2020 while difficult, was not a death knell to their faith or their commitment to church.

But for those who were loosely connected or even disconnected, who showed up for the experience or attended out of obligation, who didn’t have committed discipleship relationships with anyone at church or in their faith community outside of paid staff or volunteers…. it was much easier to walk away.

I believe we are faced with a challenge as we begin worshipping together again. We can either 1. Try to recover what once was and return to a sense of “normalcy” with lower numbers and zero change or 2. We can acknowledge we are good at acute compassion but terrible at chronic empathy and begin to change the way we do church by prioritizing relationships over programs and worship over services.

I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, if we don’t want to lose an entire generation (Gen Z or the upcoming Alpha Generation), we are going to have to commit ourselves to the long-term work of intergenerational discipleship, mentorship and relationship and it is going to take more than showing up on Sunday morning and occasionally volunteering in children’s ministry or giving towards the youth group mission trip.

We’re going to have to show up in the spaces and places where the younger generations are – the uncomfortable spaces like social media and the unspiritual spaces like ball games and the deeply spiritual spaces like committed prayer partnerships – and build intentional community as though our spiritual lives depended on it.

Because, at this point, I think they do.

Church as usual is not enough. It is time for a change. And it doesn’t start in a building. It starts in a community who says, “I refuse to just show up when there is an emergency or a need. I’m showing up when life is looking pretty good and I’m digging deep into relationship with intention and purpose. I’m going to relentlessly pursue relationships even if it is hard and rejection happens and I feel alone.”

That’s what Church really looks like. The easy road of “Sunday morning worship” is no longer an option. We must build something more. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” – Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:35.


Ready to Start? Not Sure How?

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.

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.

Advent Isn’t About Lighting Candles on Sunday

We have reached the blessed season of anticipation as we together await the birth of Christ. And just like 2020 has brought us new experiences in so many ways, this year we will be celebrating Advent in different capacities.

It can be exhausting and even discouraging to think about yet another change coming our way this year. But, friends, fellow parents, co-ministers in the Kingdom….Be encouraged!

Advent isn’t about lighting candles on Sunday morning. 

You see, lighting the candle doesn’t mean a whole lot to me or you (or to our kids) if we don’t talk about Hope, contemplate Joy, celebrate Peace, and commemorate Love for the rest of the week.

Reading beautiful Scriptures of God’s promises and love for us doesn’t mean a whole lot if it stays inside the church walls and never makes it to our dinner table, our car ride, our community, and our job.

Singing a few hymns about Christmas won’t impact our lives until we consider the words and use them to praise God on our recliner at home as much as we do our pew at church.

The reality is, if we are “doing” something at church and not “doing” that same thing the rest of the week, we are compartmentalizing our faith to a place or a gathering or a building instead of incorporating our faith into transformed lives.

We don’t have to literally light an Advent candle every night but if we want our children to know about the Hope of Christ, we need to talk about it every day.

And it’s fine and even fun to sing Christmas carols in the car but we also need to model a life of worship everywhere we go.

We don’t necessarily have to read Scripture aloud in front of our family but Scripture needs to be a part of our everyday conversations with our kids.

If we have learned anything this year, we’ve learned that we can’t live lives that say “Church is a building we go to on Sunday because God is there.” We’ve learned that church has to be much, much more.

We have had to tell our kids, “Church is the family of God and He is always with us so we are always in church.” Now is the time for us to not just say this with words but with our lives.

Spontaneous worship.  Times of prayer.  Lighting of candles. Corporate worship.  Waiting expectantly in hope for the arrival of Christ. 

These things don’t need to be limited to a place, a time, a special moment.  These things can be lived all year long and our lives can be a living testimony to a vibrant, growing faith.

This year offers us the opportunity to do Advent in our homes and in our faith community in a way that really grapples with Hope, pursues Peace, seeks out Joy, and embraces Love in tangible, life-giving, heart-changing ways.

Light a candle, sing a song, serve a neighbor, and give your family the biggest hug. Hope is here, Joy is present, Peace is proclaimed, and LOVE…Love is eternal. Happy Advent, friends!


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.

Discipleship is Not a Program

I once attended a Christian ministry conference and since I am me, I scoured the listing of workshops to see what I could find that was related to Next Gen. Bingo! “Holistic Discipleship for the Next Generation.” That sounded perfect and right up my alley so off I went.

The session started with some brief introductions and testimonies from the leaders, one of which was a young man who had been influenced by the program they were going to talk about. In his introduction he mentioned a number of things that were most influential on him as he grew up and all of those were people. He talked about the adults and mentors that came alongside him and spoke into his life; how they showed up at his games and took him on family trips and spent time talking to him and engaging him in his growing faith.

In most Christian circles, we’d call that discipleship.

So, I got excited because surely if one of the main presenters spent most of his introduction talking about the discipleship relationships he had experienced and the deep impact they had on his faith and spiritual formation, then this workshop would most certainly include these things in their “holistic” approach.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. In fact, for the remainder of the workshop, the words “discipleship”, “mentor”, or “intergenerational” were never mentioned. Not even once. We did talk a lot about programming, curriculum, activities, and fun and creative ways to teach kids about God. We practiced some fun imagining, talked about format and presentation, ran through some kidmin scenarios and were given insight to a lot of content.

But never once did the presenters talk about ways to encourage intergenerational connections with children and youth outside of the programmed times. There was no conversation about mentoring and the importance of giving kids access to those who are more mature in the faith to help them to grow or about how we could put into practice activities or even programs that were geared toward growing those relationships and creating intentional space in our churches for them to mature and develop.

Discipleship was described as programmatic, aimed primarily at increasing knowledge and, frankly, getting kids to say a prayer so that they’d be “saved” with little to no conversation about how to take that faith deeper through intentional relationship.

Please don’t hear this as me knocking this group. They are doing great things in their city and God is using them.   But if we are talking about “holistic discipleship” and we are not talking about actual discipleship, mentoring or generational connectivity, we are missing the mark.

Our faith is primarily passed from one generation to another and it’s not passed in a class or an after-school program or a club that meets once a week.

All of those things are good and helpful and even needed, but those things are not discipleship.

Discipleship is first of all relational; it requires time spent building in relationship, learning and growing and worshipping together. Generational connection has to be more than just someone who volunteers to teach a class or host a club once a week. It must cross over into a meaningful relationship where love is experienced and pain is processed and life is shared.

Holistic discipleship had to be more. It has to take the next step.

Covid-19 has both complicated and simplified this reality. In the absence of our normal schedules, we have been pushed to expand our discipleship options. However, I still see so many trying to find just the right curriculum or program or activity to make discipleship happen.

But at this time, perhaps more than any other, we need the community of faith to step in and begin to press forward with intentional relationship. This is our chance to connect one another in new ways as we are not held back by long-held traditions, rigid schedules and age-specific classes and curriculum. Many people have multiple generations present in their own home and others can connect virtually, but relationships can be built around faith, even during Covid times.

What are some ways we can encourage this to happen?

1. Bible Study or Book Study with multiple entry points (Zoom, phone, or safely in-person). Instead of focusing on a specific age, focus on a topic and allow multiple generations to join. For best results, invite a youth or young adult to co-lead with a member of an older generation (40+).

2. Church Family Movie Night  – Some streaming platforms allow for groups to watch a movie at the same time. Put together a discipleship movie guide (You can get a FREE example by filling out the form below with the Message: Movie Guide). This would be good for January when cold and dark outside.

3. Prayer Meeting – Sometimes, I think when we hear “Prayer Meeting” we think Wednesday evening service. But even if it’s just a 15 minute check-in or a simple 30 minute guided prayer time over Zoom, gathering for prayer is a way to begin to build relationships, especially if the chat feature is used to share requests. Zoom Rooms are a great place to pair people up to prayer for each other as well. Families could be recruited to lead prayer once a month.

 4. Dinner Together – Put out a Zoom invitation for church members to eat dinner together over the internet. Make it even more fun by having the church help contribute part of the meal such as pizza or chicken or dessert for everyone. Set it up so that three families/individuals from different households would eat together. Provide Ice Breaker Questions and a suggested Scripture to read and common prayer to pray so they can participate in communal spiritual formation as they eat together.

5. Fort Fellowship – At the beginning of Covid-19, one of our church members organized a time for families with kids to gather once a week and study a Scripture together and catch up with one another over Zoom. Families built a blanket fort somewhere in their house, crawled inside with the computer and shared about 15-20 minutes together with their friends. This would be a great Advent activity to read through the Christmas story together!

8. Get to Know Me Videos – Ask members of different ages to send in videos of themselves sharing their favorite winter activities, recipes, family game, or stories about past faith or family experiences around a theme. Don’t worry about quality; focus on story. Each week, spotlight one or two people and share their video with your church family. Who knows? Some people just might “meet” a member of their church family for the first time!


The reality is discipleship can’t just be found in a Sunday School class or an after-school club. It is found when hearts connect in a relationship that leads to faith formation and spiritual growth both in the home and in the church.

It’s found when we get outside the program or curriculum or church walls and learn each other’s names and eat a meal together and show up to cheer each other on.

It’s found when we take time to develop our connections and move beyond the starting point that classes and clubs might be and into relationship.

That’s how Jesus did it with his disciples and that’s how they did it with their disciples and that’s how we must do it with the next generation.

Holistic discipleship is not a program. It’s so much more.


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.

Remember, The Kids Are Watching

It hasn’t happened yet, but I know it will soon. I’ve already been Facebook “stalked”, Instagram-investigated, and Iphone-snooped by my teenagers. It’s only a matter of time before they put my name into Google to see what pops up.

What will they find?  

Will they find the same person who they knew as “mom”, the person who has nurtured them and instructed them, disciplined them and discipled them, laughed with them and corrected them…or will they find something that confuses them?

Will they find consistency between what I tell them and what I tell others?

Will my words in the online world match my words in our conversations at home and with them?

For instance, I tell them to love God and love others.  Will that be evident in my online profile?  I tell them to be kind and to consider others more highly than herself.  Will my words reflect that type of heart?

I tell them to always seek to good, to defend the poor, to love the hurting, to stand up for the weak, to befriend the friendless.

I tell them that calling people names, making fun of others, criticism and ridicule, treating people as “other” and showing people disrespect are all, for lack of a better term, the actions of a bully and not how we are to live or act in this world.

I tell them that God loves them, has a plan for them, has a plan for us…for this whole world. That He is God. He is good. He is sovereign. He is our hope. 

And I have to consider, “When she googles me one day, will she find my social media self, my written words, are consistent with these things I am teaching her as truth, as right, as good?”

Friends, we are in the middle of some very difficult weeks in this country.

Behind us lies an election like no other we have ever seen. Passion in so many areas runs deep and runs wide. And words, often written on various social media platforms, are where those passions are often loosed and proclaimed.

May I humbly encourage us, all of us, no matter where our passions lie, to intentionally consider before we post, that one day our children will google our name? 

To ponder, “Is what I am about to post online in line with what I am teaching my children about loving God and loving others?”

To pause and wonder, “Am I using this post to build up or to tear down?  To call people names, make fun of them in any way, ridicule or poke fun, or belittle them as a person?”

To think, “If my child said this to another child, would that be okay or would they be in trouble?”

One day, our children will google us.

Let’s make sure that what they find shows them a faith that doesn’t waver with elections or compromise in fear.

Let’s strive to post our passions in a way that honors the fact that each person who reads them is made in the image of God, is loved and beloved of God, and is worthy of respect because of that simple fact.

We owe it to our children to give them a consistent message of who God is and who we are no matter when or where they hear/see our words. 

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me (Paul), what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8,9 (The Message)


Parents, are you looking for a way to engage with your kids in everyday discipleship 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.

We Need Some Psalm 145 in Our Churches

I love to cook. It’s one of my favorite activities to relieve stress and be creative. I love watching all the random ingredients come together and create a delicious dish that can be shared with people I love.

I think I got this particular love of cooking and sharing what I cooked from my grandmother. As a child, we used to go over her house once a week for dinner and it was simply the best.

We’d walk in the door and our noses would be met with the most sumptuous smells of roast beef and mashed potatoes or homemade spaghetti and meatballs or breaded pork chops and macaroni and cheese.  I would love to pull up a chair or stool and watch her cook, listening to her explain why she was washing the lettuce and laying it out on paper towels to dry or watching her dump salt into her hand to “measure” it for seasoning our meal.

As I got older and began cooking for myself, I would pull out her recipes or call her on the phone to find out what I needed to do, or more often, explain what I did wrong. She passed away about 10 years ago, but to this day, when I am in the kitchen, I hear Grandma’s voice in my ear telling me what to do.

She passed so much more on to me than cooking.

She passed along a passion to love others through food, a desire to serve others by giving of herself in a meal. She taught me how to love flavor and enjoy seasoning. She offered me joy and renewal in a kitchen. We talked there. We played there. We laughed there. To this day, the kitchen is a safe place for me.

I cannot help but think of this when I read these verses in Psalm 145:3-7

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:3-7

Isn’t that just the most beautiful picture? One generation commending the works of God to another, telling of the goodness and power of God and celebrating Him in front of the next generation.

Imagine it with me; close your eyes and picture a multigenerational group of people speaking to one another about the goodness of God. 

Like how God provided for the family back in 1942 when times were tough and things looked bleak.

Like how God helped with a test when nerves were at an all time high.

Like how God shows himself in the sunrise when the world comes alive and how God comforts us in the thunderstorm and keeps us safe when we are scared.

Like that time there was a car accident but we walked away unharmed or that time when the bully at school was being mean but someone else stood up and defended us.

This is what happens when all ages celebrate God’s abundant goodness and joyfully sing of His righteousness as they stand together in church or they pray together for a miracle or they work together to serve others who are in need. We share our stories. We share our lives.

Why is it so important that a 9 year old needs to be hanging out with a 90 year old in church?

It’s not so they can share a laugh over the latest meme or discuss medications. It’s not the things we think are needed for common ground like shared life experiences or familiar hobbies or activities. No, it’s for a much deeper reasons than that. It’s so that one generation can commend God’s works to another and tell of His mighty acts.

You see, the things that bind us together, the things of the Lord, are not dependent on our generational experience, they are dependent on God! 

Our faith is passed not by a program or a church service or a book that we read but in relationship with one another where we know each other’s names and stories and we share the goodness of God with each other.

It’s not about programming or events or activities, although we may use those. It’s about Jesus! Here are a few examples:

Praying for each other supersedes all generational barriers. Intercessory prayer, praying for other people, doesn’t rely on age at all. We can all pray for one another, regardless of generation.

Service is another area that doesn’t rely on age. We can gather around mission and serve together no matter our age. What is our church’s vision and mission? That mission is not age-bound. In fact, the mission of the church needs to be age-encompassing because the people we desire to reach with God’s love are all ages.

Worship is another place we can gather together. Now, when I say worship, a lot of people hear “singing” or “songs” or “style”. That’s not worship. Those are ways to worship. Worship is turning our attention to God in honor and praise. And that knows no generational bounds. In fact that is where we started today “One generation to another!”  It doesn’t saying “Older generation to younger generation”. It says “One generation to another!”  We need to listen to each other worship God and worship Him together.

I firmly believe that if we want to see Psalm 145 be a reality in our churches, if we really want to see our church family grow together and our younger generations stay faithful to Jesus, we are going to have to find ways to come together, in community, and be the church across generations – From One Generation to Another!


Looking for a way to help parents/caregivers engage with their kids in everyday discipleship 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.

Christmas for the Whole Church: Socially Distanced and Virtual Options

I get a lot of requests for Christmas programs that are intergenerational and focused on bringing the whole church together, while still being appropriate for kids to lead and participate in. One year, after searching for a while, I decided to write my own, and just see what happened.   We ended up having a very moving and memorable all-church experience around the story of God’s Love played out at Christmas.

This year, I’ve had a lot of the same requests with the caveat of “Oh, and it needs to be Covid-friendly.” To meet this need, I’ve taken my “Christmas for the Whole Church” program and added the elements necessary to experience it in a socially-distanced or virtual way. I hope that this is helpful for your churches as you navigate celebrating Christmas in a new way this year!

Because the original program included videos and music our church paid for, I am unable to share the full scripting here, although I can provide links to the music and videos for your own purchasing if desired. IF YOU USE THIS SCRIPT, PLEASE PURCHASE WHATEVER VIDEOS OR MUSIC YOU MIGHT DECIDE TO USE. The rest of the script, which I have written, is free for your use but please honor those who have copyrighted their materials for purchase.

The inspiration for this program came out of the experience of “Cardboard Testimonies” where people share their testimony in short phrases on a piece of cardboard. For instance, the one side might read “Lost in Sin” and the other could read “Found in Love.”  As you read through the script, you’ll see how this is utilized to share the story of Christmas and, even more, the metanarrative of God’s ongoing story of Love and rescue for all of us!

A Christmas Celebration for The Whole Church

  • Narrator 1, 2
  • Joseph – Doubter/Believer
  • Mary – Too Young/Chosen by God
  • Shepherds – Nobodies/God’s Somebodies (2)
  • Wise Men – Wise/Humble (3)
  • Scripture Reader
  • Children to sing

MATERIALS NEEDED – Cardboard signs, both prepared as described and empty, and extra sharpies. Costumes can be used for children if the church desires but each child should bring their own from home (no sharing).

SOCIALLY DISTANCED

If you plan to do this in church but socially-distanced, make sure that you have enough room or stage or around the church to allow people to speak. I would recommend putting tape on the floor where each person can stand.

For Cardboard Testimonies: Have multiple stations, spaced out, for people to write on their cardboard. Have hand sanitizer at each table and wipe down markers after use.

VIRTUAL

You will be using video cameras in order to tape each scene. This can be accomplished a few ways:

  1. Each actor can send in a video of themselves doing their part. This is the most convenient option but there is very little quality control
  2. Someone from your church can go videotape each person doing their part. Not as convenient, but a lot more quality control.
  3. You can set up a Zoom meeting where each person reads their part and the meeting is recorded.

For Cardboard Testimonies: Have people send in still shots (Pictures!) of them holding their signs, front-facing and back-facing. These will be added to the movie at the end. In sharing their testimonies, make sure you include an explanation of what is expected since they won’t be able to see the program beforehand. Examples of cardboard testimonies can be found here.

The Script

Narrator 1  – It’s that time of year again. Can you feel it? (wrap arms around self) Can you smell it? (take a deep breath and then look over a plate of cookies) Mmmmm, can you taste it? (takes a small bite) This is one of my very favorite times of year. I love the sights, the sounds, and the stories that make it so special. But my favorite story is the one we as Christians celebrate as we light our tree, share our gifts and sing our songs. Of course, I am talking about the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Narrator 2 – Like so many stories in the Bible, there is so much for us to learn from how God interacted with the people He used. Today, we want to look a little deeper at the story we all know and love and just see if we can catch of glimpse of Christmas here today.

Let’s start with Joseph, Jesus’ father here on earth

( Joseph enters hold up large sign “Doubter.”)

Joseph: I couldn’t believe it when I heard her say it. “I’m going to have a baby, God’s son, and he will save the world.” We weren’t married yet. I wasn’t ready to be a father. And she said she talked to angels. Doesn’t that sound crazy to you? But then, it happened. In a dream I talked to an angel too. I heard him say that everything Mary said was true. That I was going to be the father to God’s own Son. And in that moment my heart changed (flip the sign to other side “Believer”) and I became the first of many believers in my son, Jesus, the Messiah.

(Video – Joseph song: Music available to purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Josephs-Song/dp/B002CGLYD2 and video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BARVAg0gl6w&list=RDBARVAg0gl6w , Joseph leaves)

(Mary enters, holding up sign that reads “Too Young”)

Mary: Hi, my name is Mary. I’m still not used to getting up in front of people but I am learning. I’ll never forget the day the angel told me I was to be Jesus’ mother. Me? But, I was so young, really just a child. I was engaged to be married but not for a while and I couldn’t understand why God would choose me. But He did. Not because of my age or my abilities but because I was willing and I was available. (flip sign, other side reads “Chosen by God”). I was chosen and by His Love , I was blessed to be the mother of God’s only son.

(Song: Mary, Did You Know? Music available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IB4DTFU/ref=dm_ws_tlw_trk9. We had two of our youth play the piano and sing for this part.  If SOCIALLY DISANCED, keep 12 ft from the singer and others. Mary exits)

(Two shepherds enter, carrying 1 big sign that says Nobodies. The two should be struggling, arguing a bit on how best to carry the sign before they get situated. For COVID purposes, it would be best for these two individuals to be from the same household so they can interact freely)

Shepherd #1 – Ahem, hello, sorry ‘bout that. Um, ahem, yeah… we are shepherds. (said definitively and then stop expectantly)

Shepherd #2, shaking his head – And…? Never mind, I’ll tell them. We are shepherds and around these parts we don’t get much, yah know, R-E-S-P-E-C-T because well, see, we don’t have a lot of schooling and mostly we’re just out in the field all day watching sheep.

Shepherd #1 – But that’s important!! Because if someone didn’t watch the sheep, they’d run off or get eaten and things!!

Shepherd #2 – Yeah, I know that, but lots of other folks just think we’re stinky and silly. BUT not God, oh no, not Him. He done sent us a whole slew of angels, singing and telling us that the Messiah had been born.

Shepherd #1 – That’s right. At first we were scared but then we was just excited. We was the first to know!! (they flip the sign, easily and not clumsily this time) and we were the very first ones to tell others that Jesus has been born.

Shepherd #2 – We may not speak the best or read real well, but God trusted us to announce the arrival of His Son. I say that makes us Somebody in His book! (they high five)

(Video: Skit Guys, First Christmas Shepherd available for purchase at http://skitguys.com/videos/item/first-christmas-shepherd)

(Wise men enter, stoically, the middle one holding a sign reading “Wise”. If possible, it would be good for these three individuals to be from the same household so they can interact freely)

Wiseman #1 – Good evening. It is our privilege and joy to share with you this evening the events that occurred upon our visit to Bethlehem around the arrival of the baby named Jesus of Nazareth.

Wiseman #2 – Our charts and graphs as well as our astrological studies had led us to the exact location of the child’s birth. We had brought with us valuable gifts to present to Him as our studies had revealed that he would indeed be a king, a king of kings to be exact.

Wiseman #3 – Imagine our surprise when all of our wisdom and charts and graphs and maps led us to a tiny cave behind an inn in the town of Bethelehem. (all kneel as the middle one flips the sign to reveal the word HUMBLE) We bowed before the king of the world on a dirt floor and dirty hay and never have we been so fulfilled in all our lives.

Scripture Reading 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (Jn. 1:1-5)

(Song: “Here I am to Worship”, music available to purchase at http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0081209.)

There are no spoken kid parts at this time but they will have a small role to play this section

Narrator 1: You see, there’s so much more to the story than just a manger and a birth. Lives were changed. People were transformed. Let’s take a look one more time at how these people so long ago were changed.

All characters holding their broken signs facing out. If you are using a video, pictures would work for this rather than having each character present the whole time.

Narrator 2: See, each person needed God in some way. They all felt confused, insecure, insignificant, unworthy and self-sufficient. But the love of God transformed them (Actors flip signs) He changed their lives, their minds, and their hearts. He made them into believers and helped them understand they were chosen children of God. He made each of them “somebody” and gave them hearts of humility.

Note: Picture taken during non-Covid experience

Actors exit with “new” signs above their head to be seen by the congregation. If you are using a video, pictures would work for this part.

Narrator 1: Yes, these people long ago were transformed and the impact of our Savior’s birth continues to this day. Jesus’ love still has the power to change us, each one of us. The story continues even with us…

At this time, a few adult members of the congregation will come out one by one and in the spotlight with their “cardboard” testimony. If anyone is willing, you could give them time to share their testimony. Even if this is being done in a socially distnaced, in-person way, videos of the cardboard testimonies might be a viable option.

If you are solely using virtual/video, skip the next section and move right into the section of the video that highlights pictures of members holding up their cardboard testimonies. Play the music in the background as the testimonies are shared.

Narrator 2: Perhaps some of the rest of you have experienced this kind of love in your life. Perhaps you too have a story to share. (Preplanned volunteers line up on left side of church) If so we will invite you now to make your way to one of the three stations where blank signs and markers are available for you to make your own sign.

Narrator 1: While the music continues to play, make your way to the far side aisle and we will help you come one by one to the front to share your sign. You don’t need to talk, just share your sign with us. This may very well be the best Christmas card you could send. You may now go to the 3 stations at the back.

Music to play. We used “Oh How He Loves Us” by David Crowder. Preplanned volunteers will begin filing onto stage, socially-distanced and masked, to show their sign. As congregants line up, prompter 2 will tell each one to go as the current testimonial is stepping down. There is no set time limit for this. It will depend on the size of your church and the move of the Holy Spirit. Our testimony time lasted about 10-15 minutes. The music played on a loop during that time. 

Pastor/Director (In-person or Virtual video): Maybe today, you didn’t have a sign to show or a card to write. That’s okay because the very best news of Christmas is that the story never ends. If today you felt a desire to allow God to re-write your story and you would like to pray with someone, we invite you to contact us and we would love to pray with you.

SOCIALLY DISTANCED

If you are able to take communion safely, consider ending this way. “Now, in the spirit of celebration, thanking God through Jesus Christ for His magnificent gift of love, let us come to the table set before us and share in communion with Christ and one another (Continue with communion liturgy).

VIRTUAL

End the video with a Christmas carol and information about how to contact the pastoral staff at the church. We used “O Come all ye Faithful” and “Joy to the World”

I hope that this script and opportunity to share the Christmas story in a new way is a help to you this year. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions and I will be happy to help you as I am able!


Looking for a way to help parents/caregivers engage with their kids in everyday discipleship 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.