Buzz Words Aren’t The Problem

I was recently part of an online discussion where the original poster expressed his concerns about a newly released curriculum using, in his words, “woke” terminology in its description. The particular words in question were the words “identity” and “curiosity.” The concern expressed was that these words were an attempt to be relevant to the culture and, regardless of the content in the curriculum which he repeatedly stated he felt was “fine”, the use of this terminology meant he “would never get near” this particular product.

As you an imagine, the discussion to follow was passionate and intense. For the most part, I watched what was taking place with a measure of frustration and disappointment. Whether or not one agreed with the original poster, the tone of the conversation was (initially) judgmental, condemning, and fear-based. And despite assurances and affirmation that the content of the curriculum as biblically-based and Christ-centered, the choice of these two words was enough to warrant the energy and passion put into the discussion about how this would impact children’s church experience and their faith.

Which brings me to the research:

Why do young people actually walk away from the faith?

Why do they leave children’s ministry and youth ministry with an immature faith or lacking a sense of belonging to their church? Why do they disassociate with the church and distance themselves from evangelical religious experiences?

Is it because the curriculum used buzz words? Is it because their youth pastor was too relevant or their children’s pastor was “woke”?

In short – No. That is not why they leave. Why they leave has a lot more to do with us – the people of God – than it does the buzz words and latest trends that come and go in culture. It has to do with our attitudes, our behavior, and our interactions with one another and the world around us.

  • Seventy-three percent said church or pastor-related reasons led them to leave. Of those, 32 percent said church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical and 29 percent said they did not feel connected to others who attended. 
  • Seventy percent named religious, ethical or political beliefs for dropping out. Of those, 25 percent said they disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues while 22 percent said they were only attending to please someone else. 
  • And, 63 percent said student and youth ministry reasons contributed to their decision not to go. Of those, 23 percent said they never connected with students in student ministry and 20 percent said the students seemed judgmental or hypocritical.   (Source)

More telling than that, of the 66 percent who said they left picked reasons for leaving, only 10 percent said they dropped out because they stopped believing in God. Their belief in God was not the issue. It was their experience in churches and denominational interpretations of Scripture that they disagreed with that led them to leave.

Over one-third of young adults have said they feel like they can’t ask life’s most pressing questions in church and 23 percent said they had “significant intellectual doubts” about their faith (Source). And no one to talk to about it. No one to normalize the reality that faith is.. well, faith. That it all comes down to belief and we can never 100% know everything while we are here on earth. That we will know fully as we are fully known only once we are with Christ. And until then, we will ask a lot of questions, express a lot of doubts, learn a lot of new things, and likely, our own beliefs about truth and God and faith will change and grow as we do.

Not one of these studies showed that young people left the faith because their Sunday school curriculum used buzz words or connected too closely to the culture. It was about the people, the relationships or lack thereof, the attitudes or experiences, that formed and shaped them, from children to student through young adult.

Conversely, why do young people chose to stay in the faith? These studies are my favorite because instead of a list of “Don’t Do’s” we get actionable, meaningful things “To Do” that will yield the fruit of lifelong disciples who want to love and follow Jesus. And what does that research show us?

The Sticky Faith group at Fuller Youth Institute have studied the reasons young people stay in church, looking for a “silver bullet” for churches and parents to use to keep that from happening.  While there was no “silver bullet” churches that encouraged intergenerational connections and worship and youth that felt involved and connected to the larger church had a much greater chance of remaining in church post high school. (The findings can be found here). 

In this article, researcher Dr. Kara Powell clearly demonstrates the need for and support of corporate worship, stating ” Of the many youth group participation variables we examined, involvement in intergenerational worship and relationships had one of the most robust correlations with faith maturity.

Most recently, Awana partnered with Barna group to look at the resiliency of youth in church post-graduation. They discovered that when kids have a meaningful relationship with an adult in the church, they are twice as likely to have an ongoing relationship with the church and three times more likely to be engaged in Scripture including understanding the metanarrative of Scripture and integrating biblical principles in their life. The conclusion drawn by the researchers at Barna Group?  “The meaningful relationships individuals have as children fundamentally influence the stability of their future faith.” (Source).

Every single one of these things has to do with relationship, with people, with us.

Do quality materials matter? Sure, I wouldn’t recommend just grabbing any old curriculum off the shelf. But do the materials we use have a tremendous influence on the kids who attend our Sunday school for one hour each week if we are lucky? Eh, probably not as much as our relationship with them, our modeling of Christ character of humility and grace, and our intentional decision to make space for them to wonder, question, doubt, and be curious as they find their own identity in Christ.

Buzz words come and go as quickly as a Snapchat picture or a TikTok trend. What we do, who we are, and how we love will stand the test of time. Let’s major on the majors and minor on the minors. Let’s put our energy into that space, encouraging one another all the more as we see the day drawing near, lifting up not tearing down our fellow ministers and parents, and being a community of faith that our young people will find hope, safety, and Christ-centered relationships in.


Are You Ready to Connect Generations?

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 Blog

Refocus Ministry was founded by Christina Embree in 2014 as a blog and now a nonprofit coaching and consulting ministry. Christina serves with her husband Luke and three children as church planters and pastors at Plowshares BIC. She speaks conferences and churches around the globe and also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.

With over a decade in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home, equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith, and nurturing intergenerational community in the church. She holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a doctorate of ministry in spiritual formation. blogs at refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

Deconstruction & Social Media in the Age of Covid

NOTE: This blog post is a slight deviation from my normal content and is based on an article written for a journal; as such, it doesn’t carry the same tone and length as most of my blog posts in this space. However, I felt the subject area was directly connected to the realities of ministering across generations and specifically to the youngest generations and a needed foundation for ongoing conversations on generational discipleship. I invite you to take some time, read this revised article, and consider how the information contained here might impact your own life and ministry.


“I don’t believe in God anymore.”

“I don’t know if I believe in God anymore.”

“I don’t know what I believe about God anymore.”

Over the past two years, I’ve heard these phrases more times than I can remember. I am hearing them all over social media, in magazine articles, blog posts, radio programs, podcasts, and sermons. While these statements are all nuanced with very different things being said, most of the time, every one of these labeled under one broad, sweeping term: Deconstruction.

Deconstruction appears to have taken mainstage as a “buzz word” or movement within the Christian and ex-Christian community. A significant uptick in attention to deconstruction coincided with the beginning of a global pandemic that moved many people from in-person community and into a much wider virtual community found in online communities such as TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch. Younger people (Millennial and Gen Z generations) quickly adapted to this form of communication, finding solace in a global community that “gets” them. Those who are deconstructing from their faith have used the platform to process, protest, and project their experiences into a wide audience, gaining traction among those who already felt frustrated and disenfranchised by the evangelical church.

The History of Deconstruction

While deconstruction has become a rather familiar term in evangelical circles of late, the concept of deconstruction has been around for centuries. Modern evangelical deconstruction centers around one’s faith in God and in the beliefs one holds about God. However, the term “deconstruction” did not initially refer to a theological context but rather a philosophical one. Coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the concept of deconstruction referred primarily to questioning the conceptional frameworks of Western philosophy including social sciences, humanities and literature.1

By the late 1980s and into the nineties, we see the term applied to “the philosophy of religion” in academic circles and by the early to mid-2000s, the term becomes more common place in descriptions of experiences related to questions of faith and relevance.2  In 2016, Richard Rohr, a well-known leader in spiritual formation, published a work called “An Invitation to Grace” where he reflects on Walter Brueggeman’s work describing the Christian walk as a journey through the Torah (rules/law) to the Prophets (criticism for those rules) to Wisdom literature (resolution leading to wisdom).3 In his reflection, Rohr offers the following sequence for this journey: Order, Disorder, and Reorder and states that “Much of the chaos and instability of our time stems from many young and sophisticated people now beginning life in the second stage of Disorder and criticism, without first learning deeply from Order. It appears to be a disaster. The three stages must be in proper sequence for life to unfold somewhat naturally.”4 This sequencing has been seen by some as the catalyst towards the deconstruction journey with the second stage of disorder taking the focus as the modern evangelical version of deconstruction.5  And true to Rohr’s prediction, the location of young people in this second stage has become a major characteristic of the current deconstruction movement.

It is important to note that this movement or journey, however one might describe it, from initial understandings of one’s faith through a time of questioning or deconstructing into a time of reaffirmation or reconstruction is neither new nor is it unusual. Far from that, we see examples of this journey all the way back to the beginning of the Christian faith.

As an example from Scripture, we can look to the story of Peter found in Acts 10 where Peter has gone to the roof to pray and subsequently has a vision. In his vision, a cloth is being lowered from heaven and on it are a number of “unclean” animals and he is told by a voice to “Kill and eat” these animals. Peter immediately responds with “No” stating that these animals are prohibited by the law (order). The voice replies that Peter should no longer call things impure that God has made pure (disorder). Paul is left wondering about what all this could mean when low and behold, a group of Gentile believers shows up at his house and the Spirit of God tells Peter to go with them. Peter makes the following statement upon arriving at the host’s home: “You are well aware it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile (order). But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean (disorder).  So when I was sent for, I came without raising an objection (reorder)” Acts 10:28,29.

In this Scripture passage, Peter questions something he has been taught as right and good and true his whole life and deconstructs it in order to arrive a new understanding (wisdom) through the Spirit of God. This pattern directly follows the prediction of Brueggemann, Rohr, and the deconstructionist path.

So the question becomes, why has deconstruction taken on such a life of its own as both a movement and a buzz word in recent times? And why, if is a natural journey of faith, has it become something of an affront to the evangelical church?

For this conversation, we must begin to look at the circumstances surrounding the deconstructionist movement over the last two years as well as the environment where this movement has found a growing community.

Deconstruction and Social Media in the Age of Covid

In March 2020, the normal gathering and communal practices of life in America were fundamentally altered. While this a global experience of all communities, those who found identity and continuity in times of gathering such as the church on Sunday mornings, this change was especially challenging. Moving community online proved challenging to those institutions that typically met in person. But for communities that were already formed online, the challenge was actually a boon to their burgeoning population.

Since March 2020, Americans have spent, on average, an additional 1-2 hours on social media per day as compared to pre-pandemic numbers.6 Social media platforms gained users at unprecedented rates with Instagram increasing by 16%, Facebook by 19%, and Reddit by 30%.7 But by far the greatest growth was on the social media application, TikTok, which grew its monthly usage by 38% (ibid). In the first quarter of 2020, when the pandemic began to shut down communities across the globe, TikTok had been downloaded 315 million times and in June 2020 it gained another 87 million users in just one month, effectively making it the app of choice for the pandemic.8

As a minister that works directly with younger generations, I have made it a practice to be where those generations can be found. As such, I was part of the great TikTok boon of 2020 and it was not long before I stumbled across Deconstruction TikTok. As of my writing this article, the hashtag #deconstruction had 208.5 million views and #deconstructiontiktok had 8.1 million followers.9 If you click on the hashtag, you quickly discover that the type of deconstruction being discussed is not Jacque Derrida version (philosophical) but the evangelical version of religious deconstruction.

With the vast majority of TikTok users being from the Millennial and Gen Z populations, we can safely assume that the majority of the followers to this movement fall within those parameters. The creators of the content, as with all areas of life, fall between the extremes of outright rejection of God and religion to simply questioning the morals and beliefs that one has been raised to embrace. In any case, the popularity of the movement and the online community that it has created is formidable.

And therein lies the reason for the current focus on deconstruction in evangelical Christian circles, both by those who are in the stage of deconstruction and those who are calling attention to it from the pulpit. However, the reality of the situation is that those who are growing in maturity of faith and in their relationship with God have always moved through this journey, albeit without the vocal and visual support of a community who are processing with them. Which begs the question; how should we respond when we are met with someone who tells us that they are deconstructing?

Responding to Deconstruction

In my current ministry role, I have interactions weekly with people who identify as deconstructing. However, the differences exhibited in their individual journeys are as unique as can be. While some have decidedly come to a place of rejecting God and Christianity, most find themselves in a place of questioning and discernment. The majority affirm their belief in Jesus but are working through the nuances of their faith and how they should live it out in the world today.10

Here are a few experiences from my own pastoral interactions that might be helpful in journeying with self-identified deconstructionists.

  1. Assess what is being deconstructed – Because the label of deconstruction is being used to describe everything from deconversion and rejection to discerning and questioning, it’s important to actually listen to the individual and hear where they are on their journey. Don’t assume you know what the label means.
  2. Offer new language – Often those who are deconstructing label themselves that way because they don’t have other verbiage to use and are just adopting the terminology of the culture. I often speak to people about the concept of “decluttering” or getting rid of beliefs or teachings that have clouded their view of Jesus. Other terminology includes those offered by Brueggemann and Rohr as noted above. Helping the individual identify their unique journey helps them to truly discern for themselves where they are at rather than getting swept up in a cultural movement.
  3. Normalize the journey – It can be scary, especially for those who have grown up in a strict religious setting, to view the journey of order, disorder, and reorder as anything other than sacrilegious and heretical. To ask questions, to express doubt, or to reject certain teachings can feel wrong or sinful when, in fact, it can be a marker of spiritual growth and maturity. Assuring them that what they are experiencing is an important part of growing in one’s faith can offer the freedom needed to grow and discern.
  4. Offer to journey alongside– Nothing is more isolating than feeling on the outside of a group you’ve always been inside. By offering to journey with them, at their pace and in their way, without judgment or forcing them to move more quickly or slowly, we can become an important part of their spiritual community and offer the support and guidance needed for healthy growth. It’s not about making them agree with us but rather being a presence that consistently points to Jesus.
  5. Recognize God’s work – Ultimately, the relationship that a person cultivates with God of either acceptance or rejection is not something we can control. God alone can speak to hearts and bring answers to life’s deepest questions. Christ tells us that if He is lifted high, he will draw all humanity to Himself. Our job is to lift Jesus high; to love God and to love others. It’s His job to speak to their hearts.

As ministers and fellow journeyers, it behooves us to reject the posture of defensiveness or criticism that can sometimes accompany reactions to those who find themselves in the deconstruction movement. Instead, it is important that we recognize that none of us have arrived at a place of fully knowing as we are fully known and remain humble as we too allow God to challenge us, teach us, and shape us to become more and more the image of His Son. Deconstruction can merely be a step on our journey and one that, if done surrounded by the grace of God and love of community, can lead us to love God and love others even more; to do the work of the Father which is to believe in the one He has sent – Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sources

  1. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopedia. “deconstruction.” Encyclopedia Britannica, October 20, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/deconstruction.
  2. Dicenso, J.J. Deconstruction and the philosophy of religion: World affirmation and critique. Int J Philos Relig 31, 29–43 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01539179
  3. Brueggemann, W.  The Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipating Word. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012.
  4. Rohr, R. (2016). The Invitation of Grace. Accessed online 1/4/22: https://cac.org/the-invitation-of-grace-2016-03-21/
  5. Vanderpool, K. The Age of Deconstruction and the Future of the Church. Relevant Magazine. 4/7/21. Accessed online: https://www.relevantmagazine.com/faith/the-age-of-deconstruction-and-future-of-the-church/
  6. Additional daily time spent on social media platforms by users in the United States due to coronavirus pandemic as of March 2020. Published 1/28/21. Accessed on 1/4/22 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1116148/more-time-spent-social-media-platforms-users-usa-coronavirus/
  7. Growth of monthly active users of selected social media platforms worldwide from 2019 to 2021. Published 3/8/2021. Accessed on 1/4/22 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1219318/social-media-platforms-growth-of-mau-worldwide/
  8. TikTok Statistics. Published 9/27/21. Accessed 1/5/22 from https://wallaroomedia.com/blog/social-media/tiktok-statistics/
  9. TikTok application, Accessed 1/12/21.
  10. Hardman, R. Deconstruction, Deconversion, and Ex-vangelicalism. Publishd and accessed 1/10/22 from https://www.randyhardman.com/post/deconstruction-deconversion-and-ex-vangelicalism

A version of this article was first published here by this author in the Shalom! Journal Brethren in Christ U.S, Winter 2022, Vol. 42, Issue 1.


If you have ever felt alone in your heart for intergenerational ministry, if you have ever wondered what the next right step is or been curious about how you can best serve your church’s discipleship or mentorship ministry, then a ReFocus Ministry Coaching Cohort might the place for you.

ReFocus Coaching Cohorts provide ministry leaders with the opportunity to expand their leadership skills in a twelve-week shared learning experience. Facilitated by an experienced coach, a cohort group of 7-10 individuals from multiple faith organizations meet weekly to explore and apply the principles of leadership in generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and church culture transition. Through extensive exploration, inquiry and dialogue, the coach and fellow cohort members help participants identify their role in generational discipleship within their faith community and deepen their leadership capability.

NEW COHORT FORMING FALL 2022

Benefits

  • Accountability and growth within a community of like-minded ministers
  • Access to resources available only to cohort members, including up to one year of monthly personal coaching
  • Real-life moments and collective learning within the group that can be addressed by both the coach and the other members.
  • Ability to participate in ReFocus presenter platform as a local ReFocus representative.

ReFocus cohorts provide a confidential, open environment for ministers to strengthen their effectiveness in ‘real-time’ situations. It is intended for people who have experience in ministry and are ready to build the skills needed to be leaders in generational discipleship and intergenerational ministry.

Included in Coaching Cohort Package

  • Twelve weekly trainings/Zoom calls with coach.
  • Choice of 1 webinar with resources for church/congregation (for use within one year of cohort start).
  • Family Faith Formation TALK TOOLS curriculum (Digital download available after first 12 weeks).
  • One year of monthly, 30-minute, one-on-one coaching conversations.
  • Access to private Facebook group for cohort members only.
  • Lifetime 10% discount on all ReFocus seminars, workshops, webinars, and/or coaching packages


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at the ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

Refocus Ministry was founded by Christina Embree in 2014 as a blog and now a nonprofit coaching and consulting ministry. Christina serves with her husband Luke and three children as church planters and pastors at Plowshares BIC. She speaks conferences and churches around the globe and also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.

Changing the Way We Talk About Discipleship at Home

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with a church and talk about my favorite subject – connecting generations at church and at home. One of the things that we discussed was the parent/caregiver ministry of discipleship at home. The conversation went along the typical lines – “The parents in my church don’t really know how to disciple their kids, they are overwhelmed with life and feel out of their depth when it comes to faith formation in the home.”

I hear this a lot. Not just from leaders in the church but from parents themselves. It feels like just another area of possible failure; a set-up that puts responsibility for their child’s current and future spiritual health squarely on them.

That’s a pretty high bar to reach. And I’m sure that’s not the message we intend to be sending when we tell parents that they are the primary spiritual leaders in their children’s lives. We don’t want parents who feel set up to fail.

One way to begin to create a more positive, less exhausting call to action is to change some of the approaches and phrases we use in talking to parents and caregivers, kind of a “instead of…..try this….” approach. Why? Because words matter and what we communicate can make a huge difference between a parent who feels underresourced and overwhelmed to a parent who feels supported, nurtured, and equipped for the work of discipleship in the home.

Instead “You should be discipling your kids at home” try “You are discipling their kids at home and we are here to help.”

Instead of “Here are some resources to help you disciple your kids” try ”Here is a mentor to walk with you as you disciple your kids”

Instead of “You need to make sure you bring your kids to church every Sunday” try “We will prioritize being your spiritual support and community all week long; how can we show up?”

Instead of “We will be praying for you” try “We’ve got a list of people who have committed to praying for parents and your prayer partner will be in touch soon.”

Do you see the shift?  It moves from an isolating message of “This is your job” to a communal charge of “This is our job.”  It recognizes the profound influence that parents and caregivers have on their children and emphasizes the role of the community in supporting that work.

Another message we often share with parents/caregivers that the church only gets 40 hours a year, schools get 1,200 and parents get 3,000 and therefore parents have the responsibility to disciple their kids; and they do, but they are not meant to do it alone.

We say that church isn’t a building, it’s a community, but when we consistently and often exclusively share messages like this one, we reinforce that idea that church is a place we go 40 times a year for an hour at a time. We can’t have it both ways.

If church is a community of faith committed to doing life together, then church should be in the schools, the homes, the playgrounds, the neighborhoods, the restaurants, the grocery stores, the soccer fields, etc. Parents are the greatest influence; every study, secular or religious, shows us this. But limiting the church’s influence to only 40 hours a year says that church is nothing more than a building we go to once a week and the faith community is just the pastoral staff and volunteers that interact with our kids on that day?

There is one verse that we often use to demonstrate the mandate in Scripture for parents/caregivers to disciple their kids:

Impress these commandments on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:7

Often, in shining the spotlight on this verse and directing our focus of discipleship exclusively to parents/caregivers, we miss something of great importance, something that changes everything about the command.

This command wasn’t given to parents.

It was given to the community of faith.

The charge to talk about these commandments, to impress them on the children, to disciple the next generation in faith what given to the entire gathered assembly and never once were parents singled out and told that discipleship was their responsibility. On the contrary, the command was clearly given in the presence of everyone (Hear, O Israel) and deemed by God through Moses as applicable to the whole assembly. So much so, it is repeated, nearly word for word in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 again in an address to the whole congregation.

So what does this mean?

Parents, it is not exclusively “your” job to disciple your children.

Church, it IS corporately our job to disciple our children.

So, yes, if you are a parent/caregiver and you are a believer, of course, you are discipling your kids, especially since you have the most time with them and the most influence on them!

But, Church, please hear this, parents are not supposed to be doing this alone. This isn’t a command devoid of community. This isn’t a mandate that applies only to parents/caregivers and their children. This is a command given to all of us, every single member of the community of faith, to all of our children, not just those who live in our house.

A shift in our conversation, an embrace of community, an adjustment in our approach could go a long way in helping our parents/caregivers embrace and celebrate their role as a spiritual leader their home. The end result? A closer community and a group of kids who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they belong and they are loved by God and by their church.



If you have ever felt alone in your heart for intergenerational ministry, if you have ever wondered what the next right step is or been curious about how you can best serve your church’s discipleship or mentorship ministry, then a ReFocus Ministry Coaching Cohort might the place for you.

ReFocus Coaching Cohorts provide ministry leaders with the opportunity to expand their leadership skills in a twelve-week shared learning experience. Facilitated by an experienced coach, a cohort group of 7-10 individuals from multiple faith organizations meet weekly to explore and apply the principles of leadership in generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and church culture transition. Through extensive exploration, inquiry and dialogue, the coach and fellow cohort members help participants identify their role in generational discipleship within their faith community and deepen their leadership capability.

NEW COHORT FORMING FALL 2022

Benefits

  • Accountability and growth within a community of like-minded ministers
  • Access to resources available only to cohort members, including up to one year of monthly personal coaching
  • Real-life moments and collective learning within the group that can be addressed by both the coach and the other members.
  • Ability to participate in ReFocus presenter platform as a local ReFocus representative.

ReFocus cohorts provide a confidential, open environment for ministers to strengthen their effectiveness in ‘real-time’ situations. It is intended for people who have experience in ministry and are ready to build the skills needed to be leaders in generational discipleship and intergenerational ministry.

Included in Coaching Cohort Package

  • Twelve weekly trainings/Zoom calls with coach.
  • Choice of 1 webinar with resources for church/congregation (for use within one year of cohort start).
  • Family Faith Formation TALK TOOLS curriculum (Digital download available after first 12 weeks).
  • One year of monthly, 30-minute, one-on-one coaching conversations.
  • Access to private Facebook group for cohort members only.
  • Lifetime 10% discount on all ReFocus seminars, workshops, webinars, and/or coaching packages

For more information or to speak to someone about any questions, please fill out the contact form below with the Subject of “ReFocus Coaching Cohort”


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at the ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

Refocus Ministry was founded by Christina Embree in 2014 as a blog and now a nonprofit coaching and consulting ministry. Christina serves with her husband Luke and three children as church planters and pastors at Plowshares BIC. She speaks conferences and churches around the globe and also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.

With over a decade in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home, equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith, and nurturing intergenerational community in the church. She holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a doctorate of ministry in spiritual formation. blogs at refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

Kids Can’t

It’s a response I’ve heard more times than I can count.

Kid’s can’t.

Kids can’t sit still in church. Kids can’t understand the sermon. Kids can’t grasp theological concepts. Kids can’t be expected to participate. Kids can’t serve until they are older. Kids can’t lead from the front. Kids can’t be in the main service time. Kids can’t.

The context may have been a bit different in Matthew 19 & Mark 10 but the sentiment was about the same. People, presumably parents, were bringing their children to come meet Jesus, as one might do as the people who are charged with being the primary faith formers in their children’s lives. But upon their visit to Jesus, the disciples stopped them. Didn’t just stop them, but rebuked them.

Kids can’t see Jesus. Can’t you see that he is busy taking care of the adults. Don’t be such a bother. Leave Him alone and take your kids elsewhere.”

But Jesus, being true to form, notices what is happening and puts an end to it.

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.

Jesus turns everything upside down.

“Kids CAN!” He declares.

Kids can come to Jesus and kids can be active members in the kingdom of God. Kids can handle theology and worship and service for the kingdom of God belongs to them. Adults, on the other hand, can’t – unless they are willing to receive God’s kingdom like a child.

In another interaction, Jesus takes a child, places him or her in the center of a crowd and states, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mark 18:3-5).

Jesus was declaring as clearly as one can declare, “Kids can!”

Kids can worship and learn and serve alongside adults. Now, we adults may need to exercise a bit of creativity; we may need provide outlets for energy and activities for interactive learning. We may need to create spaces and times where we adults learn as children instead of always insisting that the children learn from us. We may need to “change and become like little children” in how we approach some things.

Can children sit still in church? Well, do they have to or is that just so the adults can feel comfortable?

Can kids understand the sermon? Well, do they have to or is the sermon just one small part of an overall experience that allows children to know that they are a part of the larger community, the body of Christ?

Can children grasp theological concepts? Well, do they have to understand every theological stance exactly the same as some (but definitely not all) adults do or is there room for them to start small and grow in wisdom and understanding?

Can kids be expected to participate at church? Well, do we limit opportunities for participation to roles that can only be filled by adults or do we creatively find avenues for all ages to be part of our times of worship and learning and serving and leading?

Can children be in the main service time? Well, adults, that’s up to us.

We create the space. We control the dialogue. Like the disciples, we can stop the children from coming. And like the disciples, we can cite all the reasons why they can’t come. Or…

We can begin to think along the lines of what kids CAN do rather than what they can’t.

Kids CAN learn and teach. They can worship and pray. They can serve and lead. After all, the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Maybe it’s time for us adults to make space for the younger generations to show us the kingdom of God. To hear them explain to us who Jesus is and to demonstrate for us the theology of the kingdom. To humbly allow Jesus to put a child in the center of our community and say, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. To truly welcome that child and in doing so welcome Christ and the one who sent Him.



If you have ever felt alone in your heart for intergenerational ministry, if you have ever wondered what the next right step is or been curious about how you can best serve your church’s discipleship or mentorship ministry, then a ReFocus Ministry Coaching Cohort might the place for you.

ReFocus Coaching Cohorts provide ministry leaders with the opportunity to expand their leadership skills in a twelve-week shared learning experience. Facilitated by an experienced coach, a cohort group of 7-10 individuals from multiple faith organizations meet weekly to explore and apply the principles of leadership in generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and church culture transition. Through extensive exploration, inquiry and dialogue, the coach and fellow cohort members help participants identify their role in generational discipleship within their faith community and deepen their leadership capability.

NEW COHORT FORMING FALL 2022

Benefits

  • Accountability and growth within a community of like-minded ministers
  • Access to resources available only to cohort members, including up to one year of monthly personal coaching
  • Real-life moments and collective learning within the group that can be addressed by both the coach and the other members.
  • Ability to participate in ReFocus presenter platform as a local ReFocus representative.

ReFocus cohorts provide a confidential, open environment for ministers to strengthen their effectiveness in ‘real-time’ situations. It is intended for people who have experience in ministry and are ready to build the skills needed to be leaders in generational discipleship and intergenerational ministry.

Included in Coaching Cohort Package

  • Twelve weekly trainings/Zoom calls with coach.
  • Choice of 1 webinar with resources for church/congregation (for use within one year of cohort start).
  • Family Faith Formation TALK TOOLS curriculum (Digital download available after first 12 weeks).
  • One year of monthly, 30-minute, one-on-one coaching conversations.
  • Access to private Facebook group for cohort members only.
  • Lifetime 10% discount on all ReFocus seminars, workshops, webinars, and/or coaching packages

For more information or to speak to someone about any questions, please fill out the contact form below with the Subject of “ReFocus Coaching Cohort”


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 founded by Christina Embree in 2014 as a blog and now a nonprofit coaching and consulting ministry. Christina serves with her husband Luke and three children as church planters and pastors at Plowshares BIC. She speaks conferences and churches around the globe and also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.

With over a decade in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home, equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith, and nurturing intergenerational community in the church. She holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a doctorate of ministry in spiritual formation. blogs at refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

Declare War? Really?

Over the past two days, two articles have shown up repeatedly in my social media feed. The first is entitled, “The mistake that is causing churches and their ministers to collapse” by BT Irwin and the second is “Skillet’s John Cooper: It’s Time to ‘Declare War Against This Deconstruction Christian Movement’ by Tyler Huckabee, Relevant Magazine.

If any juxtaposition of commentary could be more relevant to the church in America in 2021, I don’t know what it is. Both of these articles seek to address what is happening in the evangelical North American church. Both address the exodus of young people from the mainstream church. Both offer explanations for the shifts in attitude and focus of the rising generations.

But one declares war.

The other calls us to action.

I’ve been working in the areas of children, youth, and family ministry for over a decade. I was raised in the church and have served in every level of volunteer and paid church ministry. Through the ministry of ReFocus I’ve worked with dozens of churches and ministries across North America of varying denominations and theological traditions. And having done so, I can with confidence say this, declaring war against the rising generations and the movements they are enveloped in is not going to help us fulfill the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment.

In fact, I’m 100% certain declaring war will do the exact opposite of making disciples, loving God, and loving others.

In the first article, the author (BT Irwin) relates the experience of his father who collapsed under the weight of pastoral ministry and the “mistake” he points to in his church leadership is not empowering the members of the church to do the primary work of believers – making disciples. Instead he focused on growing the church in numbers rather than in disciples. As he put it, he measured width instead of depth. And it nearly killed him.

The author then shares his own experience in church through this story:

A few years before when I was still single, I felt a strong need to grow and mature as a Christian. I knew all the right facts from the Bible, but I felt less and less like I knew how to live a Christ-like life. When I compared myself to the world around me, I didn’t see anything about my lifestyle that set me apart as a man of faith, hope, and love. I wanted to see the Christ-life in real life. I wanted someone living that Christ-life to show and tell me how to do it, too.

I wanted to be an apprentice to a master teacher.

I asked around for a few months, but didn’t find anyone who seemed open to the idea of sharing his life with me that way.

Finally, in desperation, I put up flyers around the church building announcing that I was looking for an older Christian man to “take me under his wing” and let me follow and learn from him. I just wanted someone to pray and study the Bible with me and perhaps invite me to come along with him as he practiced the Christ-life in and out of the church.

I knew it was a tall order, but in a congregation of 1,000 members (and more than 20 elders and ministers), I thought at least one person would call me.

No one called me. No one.

No one called.

No one cared.

And as a result, the author says he felt rejected, like a failure, in his own church. He was literally begging for generational discipleship. He pleaded for mentorship. He longed for someone to pour into him. He was dying for relationship.

While by some miracle, he did not leave the faith as a result of this experience, one could certainly understand if anyone in this position would begin to deconstruct their faith and question their belief system.

And the response by John Cooper is to declare war on people like this.

Surely we can do better.

Surely we MUST do better.

Do you want to know what keeps young people in the church? Do you want to know what keeps them grounded in their faith in Jesus Christ and walking through times of doubt and fear and confusion?

It’s not declaring war on them or any movement they’ve associate themselves with. It’s not amazing children’s ministry programs or youth ministry events or buildings or “growing” churches or the best worship band in town. It’s not loud voices yelling at them and telling that they are wrong.

“For those who stayed, church remained a key part of their life because they saw it as relevant to their life and they had relationships there that mattered” (Source: Lifeway Research)

Genuine relationships. First, they have strong relationships with others their own age. Second, they have a ministry leader they respect and from whom they want to learn. Third—and perhaps most importantly—they have relationship with older adults. Young people long for older mentors and models, and the church that offers these relationships will be a magnet for young people.” (Source: ChurchLeaders.com)

“Cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which effective faith communities are developing flourishing faith in both young and old. In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body—that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.” (Source: You Lost Me, David Kinnaman, Barna Group)

These are just a few of many examples of research that shows us that relationships, community, and generational discipleship are essential, not optional, foundations for a growing church – one that is growing in depth without a constant focus on width.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m fired up. I’m exhausted with trying to convince churches that we need to cultivate space for relationships, connection, and communication across generations with the work of peace-making and kingdom-building as our guide. But here is what I know:

I refuse to declare war. Especially on the casualties of the church.

Instead, I want to be the one who steps into the mess, takes the proverbial flier off the church wall, and says “Yes” to every young person (or old person!) who wants to question, doubt, grow, cry and deconstruct with me – to journey with them as we look to follow Jesus better…as disciples in the making.

To seek peace and pursue it, to beat swords into plowshares, to bridge the generational gap, and to be the church that loves God, loves others, and makes disciples.


Is Your Church READY to Grow 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 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 refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The Capacity to Love Cannot Be Built in Isolation

“The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.”

Maybe it’s because so much of the last two years has felt isolating.

Maybe it’s because so much of what I’ve observed in the public square has lacked the overt quality of love.

Maybe it’s because the idea of love not being a feeling but a capacity that needs building is something I’ve always believed but never really pondered.

But this morning, I became acutely aware of the need for love and the reality of isolation. I had written this blog originally back in 2020 but as I contemplated the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday and the deep need for real love to be experienced in our world and in our lives, I could not help but think back to this post.

“For years mental health professionals taught people that they could be psychologically healthy without social support, that “unless you love yourself, no one else will love you.”…The truth is, you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved and are loved. The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation”

Bruce D. Perry, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook

There are some things we can’t change. For many of us, the desire for things to “return to normal” has kept us from pursuing new ways of connecting. Even as we dove into new things like Zoom meetings and Facebook Live, as we’ve driven around neighborhoods dropping off activity packs or hosting socially-distanced outdoor events in parking lots and public parks, we’ve done so with a “until we can get back to the way things were” approach.

But is has become increasingly obvious that we are not going back to the way things were. It is time we begin embracing and living into the way things are. Why?

We have been changed, our children and youth have been changed, and our communities have been changed, physically, emotionally and spiritually (Source: WebMD). Words have been said that maybe we regret or only said out of frustration or weariness. Things have been posted that maybe over time we will wish we had tweaked or even kept to ourselves. There’s been a lot of heartache, confusion, and contemplation; public processing as we all try to navigate this reality.

Rather than simply return back to our pre-Covid models in an attempt to preserve what we used to call “normalcy,” perhaps now is the time to stop and consider…how do we want to return?

In the past, part of our church may have been isolated even when we gathered because of age segregation and lack of generational inclusion.

What would it look like to begin again, together, with intentional space for multiple generations to interact and connect with each other?

Perhaps church gatherings and programs were primarily created and led by representatives of one or two generations and focused on keeping things as simple and reproducible as possible.

What if coming back, more generations and representation were invited in to discussions on how things can change to be more connectional, less isolated, and more integrated at all levels?

Maybe we felt like it was the job of our “pastoral professionals” to handle things like discipleship and service opportunities.

What if in our return, the laity were empowered and equip for generational discipleship in their homes (parents/grandparents/caregivers), in their faith community (multigenerational), and in their workplaces (apprenticeship and mentorship)?

These changes that bring us together across generational lines don’t have to wait until we are gathered again in a single space in the flesh. Think about it! Now is the time to begin planning for whatever the next stage of this crazy reality brings. Now is the time to begin reaching out across generational lines and connecting people to each other. Even if you can’t “be together” in the same room, it’s time to start laying the ground and creating the space for a true coming together in heart and spirit.

  • Intercessory prayer using the Pray for Me campaign.
  • Intergenerational Zoom prayer meetings.
  • Multigenerational committees set up to talk about the return to in-person services.
  • Cultivating of resources to help congregants engage with generational discipleship in their homes, faith community and workplaces. Check out GenOn Ministries and Lifelong Faith for some incredible resources.
  • Webinars for parents/grandparents/caregivers to help give them ideas for discipleship at home.
  • Plans to introduce Messy Church or Faith Inkubators/Faith 5 or WE Gatherings.

None of this need wait for us to experience what once was so common. Sitting in pews. Passing the peace. Boisterous singing. Choirs and communion. Oh, how we long for those things to return, but oh, the opportunity we have right now to embrace these other things which will inevitably draw us closer together to God and each other.

And then, when we do return, it may look different, but, just maybe, it will look more like the Church, all ages, all gathered, in community, truly together.

The capacity to love is not built in isolation.

Let’s come together and may Love fill our hearts in ways we’ve never experienced before.


Is Your Church READY to Gather 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 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 refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

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.

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