The Sacred Space of Story

Last week, I was privileged to accompany some youth on a local mission trip in and around Lexington, Kentucky. On Friday night of our youth mission trip, we offered our youth and leader participants the chance to tell their story. You see, our theme for the trip was “How Far I’ve Come” and we listened to those we serve share their story of how they ended up where they were in their story and how God showed up in their own journeys. It seemed right to offer our youth the same opportunity.

We offered space to let each one, as they desired, tell their story as we’ve heard others do. And they did. Some with tears. Some with relief. Some with reluctance. Some with hope. Some with all of those wrapped up in one.

But you know what was so incredibly special to me in those moments, something that has stuck with me since that night? After each person told their story and ended with saying, “And that’s my story,” the rest of the group immediately responded with “Thank you” and clapped for them. Think about that for a moment.

These youth recognized that they had been invited into a sacred space, into a personal life journey, into an individual’s story and their natural response was to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey. Thank you for letting me into this sacred space. Thank you for showing that kind of love, the kind of love that would lay down one’s life (one’s fears, one’s hurts, one’s hopes) for another by opening up and offering a way in. It was by far one of the most moving moments for me, watching these young people and their leaders express gratitude for the opportunity to listen. They recognized the courage, the bravery, and the humility it took each one to share.

Storytelling is part of the human experience.  Before we had written text, traditions and faith were passed down orally through the generations in the form of story.. In a book called Family: The Forming Center, Marjorie Thompson says that we can connect our faith through story with the use of three forms of story.

  • Personal stories are about us, things that happened to us in our lifetime.  My kids absolutely love it when my husband and I share stories about “when we were kids.”  These stories are even more powerful when we connect them to how God has been real in our lives.
  • Ancestral stories about generations before us.  The Bible says we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witness,” heroes of the faith that have gone before us and left us a legacy in the form of lives lived and lives given for Christ.  I’ll never forget the first time my mom gave me a book by Corrie Ten Boom and I read about the powerful life lived by this Holocaust survivor who loved others and God so much she literally impacted millions of lives.  In fact, her impact on my life continues to this day.
  • Biblical stories about the characters in God’s Word. In the superhero-saturated environment kids are growing up in, why not help your kids explore the men and women of God in the pages of the Bible?  These faithful witnesses were far from perfect and yet God used them to change the world and even change our lives.

Why the emphasis on story?

Well, if we want to step back and look at the Bible broadly, to examine what Dr. Scottie May of Wheaton calls the “metanarrative” of Scripture, we are going to see a grand and beautiful rescue story . For kids, I use just 4 symbols to tell the story. The first symbol is a red heart, second is a black lightening bold, third is a brown cross, and finally another red heart. From that emerges this simple but beautiful story:

We had a perfect love relationship with God, sin separated us from the love and God used the cross and the sacrifice of His son to bring about a perfect love relationship with him again if we so desire.

I know that we debate the details of this story and we create denominations based on interpretations and translations and alliterations BUT this metanarrative is THE STORY that encompasses the Bible and this is the story we need to connect our kids to in meaningful everyday ways.

It’s not enough that kids know God is love; they must know that love is active and drawing them to Him in everyday, normal life because that is where faith and action live together.

The beautiful thing about story is that story invites us to be an active participant in what is happening. We are welcomed into a space and offered the chance to interact with someone on a deeply personal level. That’s what God does for us. And as those who desire to share the love of God with generations who have come before us and after us, that’s what we need to do for them.

Here are a few ways your faith community might consider creating space for generations to connect around story.

  • Legacy Videos: Take some time to sit down with older members of your church and ask them to record their story. It can be about a specific topic, a favorite memory, a general testimony – whatever is appropriate to your context. Then share those videos or clips of those videos with the younger generations or the congregation. Allow the stories to be heard.

  • Story Wall: Using a hallway in your church, choose a theme like “I experienced God’s love when…” and provide space for people to write/draw and post their stories and hang them up. Once you’re done, collect the stories in a small booklet and give them out at Christmas to your church family. If you did this once a quarter, you could have a beautiful collection of faith forming stories to share.

  • Progressive Dinner: This can be done one of two ways. First, you could host the whole dinner at your church and have people move to different tables or rooms with different host storytellers for each course (appetizer, entree, dessert) OR you could literally move an entire group from one home to another to hear stories and share a meal. Depending on the size and developmental needs of your church, you could come up with other variations. Key ingredients: A meal to share and stories to tell.

  • “One Time I…”: Have you ever noticed that kids LOVE to start their stories this way? Offer families the prompt of “One Time I…” and create space for parents and kids to tell their stories at home. This is a great family night activity, dinner table conversation starter, or car ride discussion. If parents are willing, create a place for them to text or post the stories their families tell and collect them to create a gift for that family at some point in the future.

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 ReFocus

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

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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

Wonder, Community, and a Great Big God

The God I gave my kids was too small. Way too small.

He was wrapped up in stories that didn’t allow their minds to imagine His greatness, crafts that were easily discarded, and memorized verses that lacked the context of His vastness.

It wasn’t that I wanted to do that or even tried to do that. But the resources at my fingertips, the church programs I could plug my kids into, and the avenues I thought needed to be taken to teach my kids about God were just too small.

It was like trying to teach them about the world with a map of our state.

In 2013, our family moved from our home in Pennsylvania to seminary in Kentucky. We moved into seminary housing with other families who were attending seminary. These families were from all over the United States and more importantly, all over the world.

And suddenly, within mere months, the God of my children grew bigger and stronger and wider than they could have ever imagined. This God they had been taught about with a certain accent, a certain slant, and a certain view was suddenly met by a global expression of faith and experience that exceeded their understanding.

They were introduced to viewpoints and ideas that they had never heard. They watched their Kenyan friends worship alongside their Singaporean friends in vastly different ways that were nonetheless sincere and real. They interacted with elders and children, adults and teens, who all followed their God but in different ways. They heard theology debated, viewpoints expressed, and denominational differences discussed in a way that didn’t diminish their faith but opened it up wider. Hearing the same verses shared in different ways, listening to the Bible stories take on new meaning in different cultural contexts, and watching interactions with individuals that believed in Jesus differently than them but with fervor and grace that can only be described as holy offered my kids a much bigger God.

I often look at children in church and wonder, “Are we giving them a big enough God?”  If their world of imagination is so big, are the stories we tell them, big enough to fill the space?

A lot of the Bible stories I hear in church are just that…stories. They have a limited scope, beginning and end. They have limited heroes and villians like David and Goliath and Daniel and the lions and Jonah and the Whale.  They have limited life lessons like “Be brave because God is with you” and “Be obedient when God tells you what to do.”

“We tend to give kids superficial lessons in the Christian faith but we’ve found that superficial teaching leads to superficial Christians. The formula for teaching Scripture to kids has become a biblical value + a verse to back it up + a song to make it memorable”.

Phil Vischer

The power of intergenerational ministry, the strength of connecting to others outside of our own tradition or experiences, is that we see God more clearly. We may arrive at some different conclusions about how our theology is lived out, but our spiritual family gets bigger and our capacity to imagine with wonder and awe about God grows exponentially.

So, how can we let them wonder?
  1. Let them ask questions and don’t have all the answers – I know that is so hard to do, but sometimes the best way for kids to learn about God is to wonder aloud to Him (we call it prayer) and let Him answer them in His way and time.
  2. Ask “Wonder Questions” – There’s a great curriculum called Godly Play written by Jerome Barryman that incorporates asking “wonder questions” into the lesson. In other words, while the lesson is being shared, the teacher will say things like, “I wonder why the shepherd went to find the lost sheep? I wonder why the other sheep stayed in the pen? I wonder who is our Shepherd?”  I like to do this with my own kids, even my older ones, with normal everyday life situations. Things like, “I wonder why He made the grass green? I wonder why God made some things edible and some things not? I wonder if the birds are singing to Someone?  I wonder if God is speaking to his/her heart?”
  3. Connect them to other believers – Expand their spiritual family table in width and depth; invite older and younger people into your home, believers from other theological streams and traditions; believers from around the world if possible. Give them a breadth of faith family to love and grow with.
  4. Listen to them tell the stories – Oh, I love, love, love this one!  If you know your child, especially your young child, has heard a Bible story, ask them to retell it to you. There are so many times I’ve done this and instead of telling me word-for-word the “right” version of the story, they tell it with a little twist, a subtle plot change or a humorous undertone. What’s so cool about this is you get to hear who their God is according to how they heard and understood the story. And you get to underscore God’s love and goodness if they’ve missed it or even if they hit the nail on the head. 

There is a story I’ve often heard repeated where three blindfolded people are led over to an elephant and asked to guess what they were touching. One touches only the side and guesses the he is touching a leather object. The other touches only the trunk and wonders if it is a snake. Another touches the tail and knows it is an animal but is unsure exactly what animal it belongs to. But when they speak to one another and share their experience, they are able to put together an accurate picture and determine they are touching an elephant.

This is what happened to our family in seminary. We got to hear other’s experiences with God, with Scripture, with the church, and with their faith. And, putting it all together, we were given the gift of a clearer image of God and our imaginations of who God is and how He interacts with humanity grew.

As a result, my kids don’t necessarily embrace their faith in the same way that I do. They’ve come to different conclusions about what the Bible says, what Jesus would do, and how God would interact with the world. They’ve talked to a lot more believers about their faith than I ever did.

But as a result, their God is bigger.

Bigger than the stories. Bigger than their own experiences.

A great big God.


Is Your Church READY to Come Together?

Are you interested in moving your church from a traditional, age-segregated into a more family-focused, intergenerational focus, connecting the home and the church?  

Refocus Ministry would be happy to begin a conversation with your team and church about the how your church can grow in serving the families of your church and community and connecting your faith community in relationship with each other.  

Ongoing coaching through various means is also available as your church continues the transition including weekly emails, monthly on-line trainings, and continued conversations. In addition to one-on-one coaching calls and follow-up resources, the following large-group presentations can be made available to your team, pastoral staff, or congregation.

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

  1. Presenting on a Sunday morning to your worship service(s)
  2. A parent webinar on Everyday Discipleship and partnering with the church community
  3. A presentation on Connecting Generations (importance, need, Biblical foundation) for your leadership team
  4. A training on a specific area of ministry such as Family VBS, Partnering with Parents, Equipping Volunteers, Creating an Intergenerational Culture for your ministry or leadership team.
  5. OTHER We will work to create a presentation that best suits your community’s needs

Use the contact form below to receive a customized quote for your congregations needs. We look forward to journeying with you to make Psalm 145, one generation to another, part of our church’s DNA.


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 ReFocus

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

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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

Summer Family Activity Packet: Journey With Paul

Over the interesting year that was 2020, I began giving the families at my church quarterly discipleship packets they could do at home with their kids. This summer I put together what I simply called a Summer Family Activity Pack that lets them explore the journeys of Paul in a new a different way. Rather than simply re-telling many of the same stories that many Sunday School and church curriculums focus on, these five activities invite the family to engage with the people, places and teachings of Paul.

Journeying with Paul

Included in Packet:

Family Photo Scavenger Hunt

Family Olympics

Water Balloon Battle

Family Garden

Picnic in the Park

Perhaps you’ve been looking for a way to help households from your church intentionally engage with one another around faith formation and Scripture this summer; if so, feel free to use the materials below!

NOTE: You will need to purchase the supplies for each activity; I found most of my items on Amazon and at the Dollar Tree. See the supply list at the end of the packet materials.


Activity #1 – The Gospel According to Paul, Family Photo Scavenger Hunt

In I Corinthians 15:1-5, Paul explains the gospel that he preaches to those he visits in his journey. He writes, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.”

Use the Photo Scavenger Hunt found at this link for this fun family activity.

Once you have taken all of your photos, send them to [email address] and we will compile them for you and give you a framed collage of your family’s photo scavenger hunt experience looking for Jesus!

Activity #2- Family Night: Olympic Edition

Paul’s Missionary Journeys

Jumping into Paul’s Journeys

Using the sidewalk chalk in the packet, draw a traditional Hopscotch shape on the sidewalk. Instead of numbers in each block, put the names of the cities that Paul visited on his first missionary journey. Find a stone to throw and jump through the countries in traditional hopscotch fashion to visit all the cities that Paul visited. Once someone lands on a city, mark it off. The person who lands on the final city “wins.”

    • Antioch in Syria Acts 13:1-3
    • Selucia Acts 13:4
    • Cyprus Acts 13:4
    • Salamis Acts 13:5
    • Paphos Acts 13:6
    • Perga Acts 13:13
    • Antioch in Pisidia Acts 13:14
    • Iconium Acts 13:51
    • Lyrstra Acts 14:6
    • Derbe Acts 14:6 and Acts 14:20

It’s a Toss Up:  Meeting Paul’s Friends

Using the enclosed bean bags and plates, create a Bean Bag toss game by laying out the plates and trying to land on them with bean bags. Each plate has the name of one of Paul’s friends and the Scripture reference where you can find them in the Bible. Whoever “meets” the most of Paul’s friends, “wins.”

    • Lydia, Acts 16:11-15
    • Priscilla, Acts 18
    • Barnabas, Acts 9:26-27
    • Silas, Acts 16: 25-36
    • Timothy, 2 Tim. 2:2-6
    • Phoebe, Rom. 16:1-2
    • Junia, Rom. 16:7
    • Titus, Titus 1:4-5

Frisbee Relay: Journeying together

Using the foldable flying discs in your packet, partner up with a family member. Paul and Silas can be one team; Paul and Barnabas can be another (if you have five family members, Timothy can join this group).  Pick a section of your yard or a park you want to cover and have the first person throw the disc, then the second, then the first, until you reach the other side. Talk to your kids about how Paul had companions who helped him finish his journeys.

Ring Toss: Third Time’s the Charm

Paul went on three missionary journeys, his final landing him in Rome. Set out four cones, including the one labeled “Rome.”  Use the rings in the packet to toss around the cones. The first person toss the ring around all three cones and then around Rome “wins.”  Even though Paul knew that he would likely end up in jail and dying in Rome, he went there because God told him to and because of that we have much of the New Testament.

Activity #3 – WATER BALLOON BATTLE

Get ready for some fun on a hot day! We can imagine that Paul’s journeys took him through some HOT places. Grab a Bible and look at the maps of Paul’s 3 missionary journeys. And then, pick a hot day to have some family fun;  Included in your packet is a water balloon “Bunch of Balloons” for you to fill and toss. HAVE FUN as a family!!

Activity #4 – Family Garden

Only God Can Make It Grow

We’ve been looking at Paul’s story over the summer and Paul talks about how sharing about God with others is like planting a seed. In I Cor 3:5-9, he shares about how he and another person named Apollos both helped to plant God’s story in people but only God can make it grow. You have some seeds and planters so that you can plant the seed and water it, but only the God could make all the sun and water and soil grow that plant. Have fun gardening together with God!

Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.

Activity #5 – Picnic at the Park

Sharing Together

Use the basket your Family Summer Activity Packet came with to pack a picnic lunch and head to the park. While there, ask your kids how they think Paul might have felt as he walked through places he had never been on his missionary journey and met new people and shared Jesus with them. Share the story of Priscilla and Aquila who invited them into their home and shared their life and food with him. As you share this meal together, think about how you can bless each other and others, including strangers, by sharing what you have with them. Maybe even in the park today, you will see someone to share God’s love with today.

Priscilla and Aquila were tentmakers as was Paul. Priscilla and Aquila had been among the Jews expelled from Rome by the Roman Emperor Claudius in the year 49 as written by Suetonius. They ended up in Corinth. Paul lived with Priscilla and Aquila for approximately 18 months. Their story with Paul is in Acts 18.

SUPPLY LIST

  • Printed Out Scavenger Hunt
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Bean Bags and Paper Plates with Names/Scriptures on them
  • Frisbees
  • Rings and Cones
  • Water Balloons (I recommend Bunch o’ Balloons)
  • Seed Packets and Seed Starter cartons
  • Basket and Tablecloth

It’s Time To ReFocus

Are you interested in moving your church from a traditional, age-segregated into a more family-focused, intergenerational focus, connecting the home and the church?  

Refocus Ministry would be happy to begin a conversation with your team and church about the how your church can grow in serving the families of your church and community and connecting your faith community in relationship with each other.  

Ongoing coaching through various means is also available as your church continues the transition including weekly emails, monthly on-line trainings, and continued conversations. In addition to one-on-one coaching calls and follow-up resources, the following large-group presentations can be made available to your team, pastoral staff, or congregation.

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

  1. Presenting on a Sunday morning to your worship service(s)
  2. A parent webinar on Everyday Discipleship and partnering with the church community
  3. A presentation on Connecting Generations (importance, need, Biblical foundation) for your leadership team
  4. A training on a specific area of ministry such as Family VBS, Partnering with Parents, Equipping Volunteers, Creating an Intergenerational Culture for your ministry or leadership team.
  5. OTHER We will work to create a presentation that best suits your community’s needs

Use the contact form below to receive a customized quote for your congregations needs. We look forward to journeying with you to make Psalm 145, one generation to another, part of our church’s DNA.


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 ReFocus

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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

Our “Church Box” is Way Too Small

There are times that my mind is stirred by a memory; this weekend was one of those time. My oldest daughter went to prom and there she was, all decked out in her beautiful dress, twirling like a princess, her face beaming with happiness. And it brought this experience from her childhood to mind and with that, this blog post, which I’ve shared before but it absolutely bears sharing again.

When our oldest daughter was preschool age, she was obsessed with The Nutcracker Suite. Well, let’s be honest, it was the Barbie version, but she loved it. She would dress up like a princess and dance around the house pretending that she was the star of the show. When the Nutcracker came to town for holidays, my husband asked her to go with him. They dressed in their finest; she even got put her hair in an up-do, and off they went.

It was a long show. There were many in attendance, almost all older than her. While she loved being with her dad and seeing the show, she was also a preschooler so she wiggled and squirmed and squealed and giggled. She had to go to the bathroom. She got hungry and wanted snacks.

But when she got home, she beamed.

I asked her to tell me about it and all she could remember was the scene with The Rat King (Oooo…scary!).

I asked Luke to tell me about it and much of what he could remember was her wiggliness. But then I asked if people seemed bothered by her and he said, “No. Actually I had a few people compliment me on bringing her to the ballet.”

I posted an adorable picture of their date on Facebook and many similar comments were posted, things like, “So good that you are giving her this experience at such a young age” and “This is exactly what kids should be experiencing.”

Surprisingly not one person commented, “Hmm, seems like a waste of money to me. I mean, did she even understand anything?” Nobody criticized us for forcing her to sit through a long performance filled with imagery and dialogue she couldn’t follow. No one complained about her fidgeting or her outbursts. And nobody questioned whether this was beneficial for her.

Because everyone recognized, it wasn’t about her understanding the “story” of The Nutcracker Suite or her watching the ballet with a critical eye or even her sitting still through the performance.

It was about giving her an experience, a total package, filled with sights and sounds and smells and stories that could be felt and experienced even if they couldn’t be understood or comprehended.

A few years ago, a mom shared with me that the reason her kids didn’t join us in Kids Church is because every now and then she wants to them to get to experience the traditional service at church, to hear the liturgy, to listen to the hymns, to be a part of a service that replicates the services that she grew up in and that have been part of their family’s tradition.

You see, for this mom, it’s not about her children understanding each word of the sermon or comprehending the history of the liturgy or the meaning of the hymns. It about the total package; the experience of being in church, surrounded by the things that have been formational for generations and by the people who make up the body of Christ.  These children get to be seen, they get to see, and they get to experience church. 

The church experience is much bigger than a sermon.

Big or little, child or adult, the sermon is only part of the whole experience. Not understanding the sermon in no way negates the rest of the experience. Seeing the people. Singing the songs. Giving our tithes and God’s offerings. Praying, at your seat or at the altar or in small groups or corporately as a whole church. Reading Scripture. Reciting psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Smelling the incense. Tasting the communion elements. Serving. Celebrating. Fellowshipping. Communing with God and with each other.

It’s a total package.

And much of what is included in that package is not comprehended through the mind, but through the heart. It’s not things that require a certain level of development but things that are experienced through the senses and understood through emotions. A sense of belonging, a place in community, an important part of a body. All of that can be experienced, regardless of age. When we squish church into a box that can be experienced only by adults in less than an hour…we miss the point, we miss the whole idea of church. And that is why it is so easy for people to leave the church, because what they are leaving isn’t really the church, it’s the box we’ve created for church to fit into.

Yesterday, in our small church, a teenager led worship, a 3rd grader read the Psalm, a 4th grader helped lead communion, and the adults shared prayers and praises from one generation to another. It was so much more than just any one of these things alone. As adults, we can recognize that there is more to the church service than just the sermon or the worship or the program of events. The same holds true for children too. Giving them the opportunity to experience the total package is a gift; whether they understand parts of it or not.

A version of the post first appeared in January 2018 on this blog.


It’s Time To ReFocus

Are you interested in moving your church from a traditional, age-segregated into a more family-focused, intergenerational focus, connecting the home and the church?  

Refocus Ministry would be happy to begin a conversation with your team and church about the how your church can grow in serving the families of your church and community and connecting your faith community in relationship with each other.  

Ongoing coaching through various means is also available as your church continues the transition including weekly emails, monthly on-line trainings, and continued conversations. In addition to one-on-one coaching calls and follow-up resources, the following large-group presentations can be made available to your team, pastoral staff, or congregation.

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

  1. Presenting on a Sunday morning to your worship service(s)
  2. A parent webinar on Everyday Discipleship and partnering with the church community
  3. A presentation on Connecting Generations (importance, need, Biblical foundation) for your leadership team
  4. A training on a specific area of ministry such as Family VBS, Partnering with Parents, Equipping Volunteers, Creating an Intergenerational Culture for your ministry or leadership team.
  5. OTHER We will work to create a presentation that best suits your community’s needs

Use the contact form below to receive a customized quote for your congregations needs. We look forward to journeying with you to make Psalm 145, one generation to another, part of our church’s DNA.


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 Blo

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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

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Exclusion or Embrace? Age Integration in the Church

One of the most compelling aspects of the early church described in Scripture is the characteristic of deep, intentional, unusual community. Just look at how the church is described in Acts 2:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47 NIV

This approach to community, hospitality and welcome made the early church stand out. It was peculiar for a group of unrelated individuals to live in such a way. It was said of Christians, “see how they love one another…how they are even ready to die for one another” (Source).

Rodney Stark in his book The Rise of Christianity describes Christians this way: “To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachment. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. . . . For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture” (p. 161).

Much has been written about this kind of Christian hospitality that embraces the marginalized and poor, takes care of the widow and orphan, and seeks to serve and love humanity, those in the church and those who live in community with the church.

Theologian Miroslav Volf has written an extensive work on Christian community called Exclusion and Embrace. Volf’s work is a in-depth theological work and I cannot do it justice in a short blog (If this piques your interest, be sure to check it out!). But what he writes about really struck my interest in regard to intergenerational community.

Volf characterizes Christian hospitality as embrace, an act that he describes in four parts: Arms open to others (invitation), arms reaching out to others (waiting), arms wrapped around others (embrace) and arms opening to release others (differentiation). 

However, there are times when Christian community doesn’t offer that welcome and embrace but rather there is a sense of division and exclusion. What exactly is meant by exclusion?  Just as Volf explores four movements of embrace, he defines four acts of exclusion: elimination, assimilation, domination, and abandonment.

In my role as an advocate for generational discipleship and intergenerational ministry, I read this insight through the lens of age integration and multigenerational faith experiences in community. In that light, we can see how the Church has struggled with each form of exclusion.

To be clear, there is not a 1:1 correlations between his work and the integration of ages and intergenerational community in a church….but… I do think it is worth at least considering in the light of Christian community and hospitality. Below is a short description of each type of exclusion and how we might see it play out in a church setting.

Elimination. Perhaps the simplest form of exclusion is simply to remove the “other” from the embrace of the gathered body. How is that done in church? Well, the creation of age-specific spaces severely limits the ability for generations to interact together and regulates where and when certain ages are allowed to be. In some churches. Some ways we can see this accomplished is in things like specifically banning children from attending corporate worship services or setting age limits on participation in church board, ministry teams, or staff. 

Assimilation. Things are a lot easier when we are all on the same page. Rather than celebrate our differences and uniqueness, assimilation pushes people into conformity. Intentional or not, we can see this in churches in such spaces as targeted worship services aimed at specific age groups, age-specific Sunday School classrooms and curriculum, generation-specific activities, and events or opportunities based on personal style and taste where homogeneity within the group, service, or event is expected and even desired. When these types of things become a consistent and regular occurrence in a community, the message can be “To truly be a part of this community, you need to be this age or act this way.”

Domination. Perhaps the saddest form of exclusion explored by Volf, domination is when “we are satisfied to assign ‘others’ the status… in their proper place, which is to say the place we have assigned for them” (p. 75). Stereotypes about age can impact a faith community leading to the majority age groups having greater voice and sway over the less represented older and younger groups. We can see this happening if we look at things like salary and budget distribution for ministries or ministry personnel, generational representation in places of leadership, and care of persons within each group, but especially in that of older, aging members.  

Abandonment. The final form of exclusion described by Volf is simply abandonment or “minding our own business” (p. 75). Very often children, young people, and older people tend to fall into these categories because they offer little financial benefit to the church, often cannot perform the needed duties of deacons and elders, teachers and pastors, leaders and servers, and instead get abandoned from the communal life of the body. Even churches who spend a great deal of money in creating age-specific areas of ministry can still abandon these generations by not incorporating them into the corporate life of the church, rather leaving them to their own separate spheres.

Volf describes this tendency to exclude as a result of our own discomfort with “anything that blurs accepted boundaries, disturbs our identities, and disarranges our symbolic cultural maps” such as a child crying out in a worship service, a toddler coloring and snacking in the pews, an older person needed helped slowly down an aisle, or a teenager dressing in casual or ripped clothing. Presented with these uncomfortable moments, it’s easy to think that these types of exclusionary actions are best for everyone.

But that appears to be the polar opposite of Christian community; in fact, from the descriptions of early Christians and all throughout Scripture, the idea of coming together, being a body made up of many parts, finding room for each member to connect, seems to be the traditional approach to church.

Regardless of one’s view one Volf’s characterization of exclusion and embrace, it would be worthwhile for churches to examine their gathering practices and the structures/programs that are in place to see if there are spaces where Christian community and hospitality is being intentionally or unintentionally stifled, especially as it relates to generational discipleship and intergenerational connections.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes. Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings.

Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.

Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.

Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.

Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.

Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!

For More Information about how you and your church can participate in this webinar experience, fill out the Contact Form Below with “ReConnect” as your subject.


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.

The Beauty, Mystery and Sorrow of Easter

Two nights ago I awoke in Kentucky to the sounds of thunder, lightning and torrential downpours.  My phone was lighting up with flood alerts and I could hear what sounded like a small river in the gutter outside my window.

My first thoughts during the storm were that it was Holy Week, Good Friday was coming, and how appropriate the dark weather was to experience this week.  My heart went to Mark 15 where we read:

“At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? “”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33,34.37-39)

Traditionally, the sorrow of Good Friday would be commemorated at churches all over the world with darkened services, candelight vigils, readings from Scripture that cause us to ponder anew the sacrifice made by Christ that day.

This year, it may look a little different.

This year we will try to bring that commemoration into our homes. Parents will have the primary responsibility for sharing the events of Good Friday with their children.

There is something palpable about the beauty and mystery of Good Friday.  Sometimes, it is our tendency to shield our children from these dark emotions, from the sadness and the heaviness of the crucifixion.

Don’t.

cross-1375765_1920I realize that they won’t understand it all.  I know that it could make them sad.  I understand that they are young.  But the depth of understanding goes beyond our emotions on this day.

When we allow ourselves to remember the darkness of this day, the sadness of this moment that, if we are truly honest, not one of us completely understands, we create space for God to do a deeper work that our minds can understand.

Children are young.  Cognitively they don‘t understand.  But their hearts are attuned to God’s love.  Their understanding of spiritual things goes deeper than we adults sometimes give them credit for.

Throughout Scripture, we are told that infants praise him, the faith of children is pure, little ones know him, and we should be like them.  In children, the kingdom of God is made manifest so, trust me, they may not understand the theology, but they understand the heart of God and the love that was given.sunset-476465_1280

Ever been outside when a storm rolls away and the sun breaks through? 

Does it ever shine brighter in that moment?

On Good Friday, we experience sadness.  But only for a moment.  Because on Sunday we will experience unspeakable joy.  No matter the depth of sorrow we feel on Friday, our rejoicing on Sunday will far exceed those limits.

If we want our children to truly know the JOY that is Easter, we must let them also experience the sorrow that is Good Friday.

It’s okay for them to feel.  Feel with them.  It’s okay for them to cry.  Cry with them.

BUT, cry with hope.  Feel with expectation.  And Sunday morning, before eggs and bunnies and chocolate and flowers, before dinners and tulips and fancy dresses and suits and ties, before all of that… let them experience the OVERWHELMING, LIFE-CHANGING, HEART-POUNDING Joy of crying out, “He. Is. RISEN!!” 

Rejoice!  Cry out!  Dance a little.  Celebrate with your kids in a way you never have before.  Let joy swell in your hearts and come out as shouts of praise. Let them experience all the wonder and mystery wrapped up in God’s love for us on these three days.  Don’t let it just pass by unnoticed.  Don’t let your fear of their sadness keep them from experiencing the immensity of Easter Joy!!

Make this Easter a day they will never forget and they will long to experience for years to come.

May the words Ps. 30:5 come alive this year: “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning!”

For He IS Risen, just as He said!  He is Risen.. Indeed!!


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 BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. 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

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author.

Best Bibles for Kids and Youth: Our Top Picks and Why

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that my husband and I are involved with a church plant in Lexington, KY. I’m thrilled to be over NextGen ministries for our church and in a few weeks, we are having a special celebration service. One of my favorite parts of working with kids is watching them engage with the Bible (For a great blog post and story about this very thing, click here).  Our church has decided to honor our children and youth who have shown a desire to know God through Scripture by presenting them with a Bible during our celebration service.

Even though I and probably most of you who read this blog get to interact with the kids and youth pretty frequently, their parents are the ones who really know best where their child is at in regards to this area of their spiritual journey. So we provided our parents with a list of Bibles that we recommend for us to present to them during our Celebration service.

These Bibles were chosen based on personal experience and a lot of time spent in children’s ministry. They are organized by age and links are provided so you can give them a closer look.  For youth ages 14 and older, our church felt like the best Bibles are the ones we tend to use as adults but I personally recommend the NIV, ESV, and NLT versions for youth  because of their readability.

IamI AM: 40 REASONS TO TRUST GOD (Bible Stories, 2-6)

While this book is primarily Bible stories, it is an amazing and beautifully illustrated walk through Scripture looking at the different names of God.  It may not be a “Bible” in the traditional sense, it is Scripture and does a beautiful job of introducing young children to a living and loving Savior. The artwork alone will capture their imagination.

JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE (Ages 3-8)JesusBible

If you have not yet read this beautiful, moving introduction to Scripture, you are in for a treat. Sally Lloyd-Jones invites children and adults alike to interact with the Bible in ways that capture both the mystery of God’s love and the richness of theology.  Best of all, she helps us to see Jesus in every story that is shared because “every story whispers His name”. Luke and I have often teared up while reading it because it is so moving.

NIRV ADVENTURE BIBLE FOR EARLY READERS  (FOR NIVBibleAGES 5-10) &  NIV ADVENTURE BIBLE (FOR AGES: 8-11).

NIrVBible

Why these?  The readability of both of these Bibles is the biggest selling point for these Bibles.  Both of these Bibles are word for word Scripture; in other words, these are not Bible stories or summaries.  And there are extras added to help kids with what the Bible is saying. The introductions to each book, special sections like call outs in the text, and fun colors and graphics can all be helpful in connecting kids to what they are reading.

ESV FOLLOWING JESUS BIBLE  (FOR AGES 10- 13)FollowingJBible

Do you have some pre-teens in the house?  The ESV Following Jesus Bible is a great transitional Bible from childhood into young adulthood. The way the content is designed is helpful with preteens in mind as they transition from a beginner’s Bible to adult versions. Call Out Boxes on most pages help answer the questions of who, what, where, when, or why for specific verses or pieces of text, giving readers a more holistic understanding of what they are reading. And much like the Jesus Storybook Bible, there are “Seeing Jesus” sections throughout the book that help us to find the metanarrative of Scripture and the saving grace of Christ throughout the entire Bible.

Bonus: For Young Kidsbibleappkids

The Bible App for Kids Storybook Bible

This recommendation comes from my friend Judy Chatterton. She offered these thoughts a few years ago and I wanted to share because we’ve enjoyed this fun storybook Bible: “We’ve had this Bible for a year now. If you have young kids in your house you NEED this Bible!! The illustrations are adorable. It’s colorful. It’s an easy read aloud because there aren’t a lot of words on each page. I think this should be every child’s first Bible!!! For goodness sake’s, you want a child’s first impression of God’s word to be a positive one and this storybook accomplishes that.” (This Bible and other age-appropriate gifts for Christmas found here)

Hopefully this has been helpful to you as you consider what Bibles you might recommend to parents or hand out at your own Celebration Services.  If you have a favorite not mentioned here, I’d love to know about it; feel free to drop a recommendation and a link in the comments below.


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

EmbreeFam2017

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. 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

*The advertisements on this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author.