The Capacity For Love: A Call for Intergenerational Community

“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

“The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.” I’ve read this book and this quote many times over the years but this morning, as I scrolled through my social media feed, seeing and reading a lot of things I would not characterize as “love”, this particular line posted by a friend struck me deeply.

Maybe because so much of 2020 has been isolation.

Maybe because so much of 2020 has lacked the overt quality of love.

Maybe 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.

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.

Even if this virus goes away and we can gather under one roof again, things will never go back to the way they were. Because we are different people. Which is why how we come back together is more important than ever. We must come back to love.

We have been changed, our children and youth have been changed, and our communities have been changed. 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.

  • 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.


Ready to get started but unsure of your next step?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone registered for all four sessions will receive a FREE half-hour coaching session/follow-up specific to your ministry needs.

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconnect-a-webinar-for-generational-connections-tickets-116093734485. Questions? Feel free to email me at christina.m.embree@gmail.com. Can’t wait to journey with you!


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
The Embree Family

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

Emotions Running A Little High? What we do matters

I read an interesting study the other day regarding mothers and their newborn babies (through 14 months old). The study looked at how the mothers responded to their baby and how their own mothers had responded to them when they were a baby. The study predicted that “mothers who recalled their own mothers as high on nonsupportive responses to their distress in childhood engaged in more self-focused and negative cry processing at 6 months, which in turn predicted less supportive responding to their toddlers in distressing situations.” The study supported their prediction and concluded that “remembered childhood emotion socialization experiences have longstanding consequences for subsequent social behavior, including parenting the next generation” (Source).

That’s a LOT of big words to say, how we, as parents and involved adults, respond to our children’s emotion, no matter how young, has a long-term impact on them and on our grandchildren. And that seems really important to remember in 2020.

Has there ever been such a highly emotional period in our lifetime? Certainly not in mine and, I suspect, not in the lifetime of many who read this blog. But definitely not in our children’s lifetime. We have been blessed in this country to have had a fairly quiet period that our children have been raised in. Of course, there have been ups and downs, but not the emotionally-gripping scenarios that we are currently facing.

COVID 19 has dramatically changed the face of our children’s environments and culture. School looks different. Home looks different. Hanging out with friends looks different. Milestones like graduating or getting a driver’s license or having a birthday party or advancing to a new grade or going to school for the first time looks different. Everything looks different.

Most kids are spending a lot more time in virtual environments like Zoom calls and Facetime and other spaces like online games, social media sites, and watching television. “Nearly half of American children spend more than six hours a day in front of a screen — a shocking 500 percent increase in usage prior to the contagion’s spread, according to a survey of 3,000 parents conducted by the advocacy group ParentsTogether” (Source).

And their emotions have followed suit. Mental health experts are warning us that these new environments wrought with worry and unknowns will have a lasting impact on our children’s mental and emotional health (Source).

But let’s go back to that first study. We are not without hope. In fact, we have a unique opportunity as parents, grandparents, other involved adults and ministers at this time to impact not only our children but the next generation of children through how we respond to our kids at this time. And when I say “our kids”, I mean collectively our kids, the generation of newborn to 18 yr olds that are looking to us right now to see their emotion, to embrace their actions and reactions, and to respond in ways that promote faith, grace, and health.

How can we do that?

There are many ways and I am not a mental health expert or a licensed counselor so I do not want to overstep my own space as a minister and a mom. I will provide a list of sites at the end of this post that I have found helpful. But as a minister and a mom who believes in the power of intergenerational community and the love of God, I offer a few ideas that might be helpful as we reflect on this holy call.

Surround your kids with positive influences

Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to create spaces for our children that we can have some control over. Connect with fellow adults you trust and invite them to build relationships with your children so that they have people to go to with their questions and fears besides you. Your faith community should be a place where your children know that they are loved and prayed for.

I often ask my kids to name five adults besides mom and dad that they know love them and pray for them; if they can’t, I start looking for people to fill that role so that they always know they are a part of a community that cares.

Plan your Action instead of Reaction

When emotions are high, it is easy to react instead of act. Something happens, words get said, tempers erupt, tears fall and everyone leaves feeling worse than when things started. It is always better to have an action plan than to fall prey to reacting.

Start with prayer, on our own, every day, and with a community praying with you if possible. If you are at a loss for words, I cannot recommend using the book of Psalms as a guide for prayer and for wisdom enough. As we ask God to go before us in meeting our children in their emotional needs, the Spirit will prepare our hearts for action and their hearts to receive.

Some ideas for an older child/teen could be saying things like, “I know you are feeling a lot of emotion right now and I want to respond well. Let’s talk in 15 minutes once we are both less emotional.” For a younger child, often a few minutes of snuggling or a distraction such as a book or toy or praying with them. A little bit of time can go a long way in mitigating emotional outbursts that later on we might regret.

Acknowledge the Unknown, Point to the Known

With so much uncertainty in our daily lives, it can feel like the unknown is looming around every turn. Will there be school or won’t there? Will we get to go to the church building or worship from home? When can I see my friends? What is vacation going to look like? Each day there are questions without answers and that can be emotionally draining for adults and children alike.

Pretending all of that doesn’t exist or ignoring the dilemmas raised by these questions doesn’t make the stress disappear. It is better for us to acknowledge that there is a lot we don’t know…but don’t leave it there. Take them time to remind your children what we do know!

We know that God loves us and that He will take care of us.

We know that we belong to a family that loves us and a bigger faith family who is praying with us.

We know that God promises to be with us always as Immanuel, God with us.

We know that God is big enough to handle our doubts, questions, and unbridled emotions and still love us unconditionally.

We know that laughter and joy still ring out across the world; that good things are happening, that people are still serving others and speaking up for the oppressed and ministering to the marginalized and we can be part of that – we can serve and share life and light with this world.

And as parents, grandparents, friends, and ministers, we can do all of that, starting in our own homes and our own congregation with the next generation who desperately need to know we are here for them.

Resources for Parents


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
The Embree Family

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

Why I Won’t Quit Social Media

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a number of my Christian friends post that because of the divisive nature of social media, they will be deleting their account and no longer present in that space. Reasons for doing so range from political to personal, and while I do understand that for one’s mental health, a step away from social media might be necessary, I question if a complete break is the best call for Christians. Bear with me as I explain.

I currently live in Lexington, Kentucky. In Lexington there are over a hundred murals painted on the sides of buildings, in alleys, up and down streets, throughout the city.

Each mural has a story. Each story is a part of what makes Lexington the city that it is. 

Our church hosted the walk through the city as part of our Lex Get Together activities aimed at helping people who are new to the city get to know it better and those who are old to the city to learn something new. We figured there’s no better way to get to know a place and the people who live there than to explore it, engage with it, and experience it.

Which is why I have an Instagram account.

You see, I’m the mother of an almost 17 year old and a 14 year old. Her “city” is Instagram. Her “streets” are the people she follows. Her “murals” are found in that lovely search feature at the bottom of the screen. And her community is found in the multiple group conversations she is a part of.

Each image has a story. Each story is a part of what make their world what it is. 

Realistically, I know this is, like everything is, a phase that she is going through, an experiential stage common to most kids her age. I don’t think that for the rest of her life she will “live” there but for now, it’s where she is interacting with people on a daily basis. More importantly, her generation is there. Even if she wasn’t present on a social media platform, the majority of her friends and fellow Gen Zers are there.

And I need to be there.

I need to be on her streets and in her community. I need to understand viral videos, trending memes, and the language that is spoken. More than that, I need to be aware of the messages that are being given and received, not so that I can control them, but so I can have a conversation about them.

Children and youth are our first ministry but if we are not where they are, if we are not engaged, not experiencing their world, we will have a much more difficult time having conversations that lead to discipleship and faith formation.

I get made fun of by my girls for being old and not understanding all the things, but that doesn’t deter me from remaining engaged and aware. If I’m willing to walk the streets of a city so I can know it better, I’m definitely willing to scroll through a social media app to know my children better.

Be where your kids and their friends are. Be present and aware.

Ask questions like, “Have you seen anything interesting lately?” and “What’s new on Instagram?” For younger children, let them sit with you and see how you interact with people. Teach them healthy ways to engage digitally with you because one day, even if it’s after they leave your home, they will engage.

Establish the culture of loving God and loving others in all areas of life, including the digital one, so that even when you are not there, they will be able to approach technology of godly, responsible ways.

Discipleship at home is more than family devotions and Bible stories before bedtime. It’s intentionally welcoming Christ into every area of our lives and looking for opportunities to grow our faith no matter where we are and helping our children to see Him.

Note: In our home, we have limited the social media world our older kids have access to one location so that it is easier for us to engage and interact. Each family understandably needs to find their own rhythm and guidelines, but whatever those end up being, just make sure that you are there. You can follow me on Instagram @christinaembree.


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
The Embree Family

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

Don’t Post That! How Fake News impacts Generational Discipleship

The term “generation gap” is a pretty common one: it refers the perceived differences between generations. In the past, I have emphasized the word “perceived” when talking about age segregation in society and the church.  But lately an important real, not perceived, difference has taken on a great deal of importance in society. This is a difference based on one’s understanding and grasp of social media, how it works, and how to engage with it properly.

With the current global pandemic and social unrest, more and more people are turning to social media as a platform for debate, protests, reform, and politics. And there are some inherent dangers in that, especially when misinformation is viral.

Research has been been done that indicates, despite society’s natural bent to believe that younger generations are more emotionally-driven and less discerning, it is actually the older generations that are most likely to spread false information such as hoaxes, disinformation, and incomplete news stories over social media (Source).

Studies have shown that “On average, users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as the youngest age group (Source). That’s a huge number!

To break that down by percentages, this study from Princeton and New York University found that eleven percent of users older than 65 shared an article consistent with the study’s definition of fake news. Just 3% of users ages 18 to 29 did the same.

This is in spite of the fact that over 90% of young adults ages 18-29 are active on social media as compared to only 35% of older Americans, 65 years of age and older (Source)

The above is just one example of why age segregation is a concern. We could blame this situation on politics or lack of understanding of social media or any number of factors. But for our purposes, let’s look at phenomena through the lens of age segregation.

A vast difference exists in the types of media that each generation uses. For instance, it is reported that 72% of 13-17 year olds and 64% of 18-29 year olds use Instagram while only 21% of 50-64 year olds and 10% of 65+ year olds use Instagram (Source).

Another 2015 study estimates that of 271,000,000 Twitter users who are active every month the number of users between 51 and 60 years was roughly 2,981,000 or about 1% of the users (Source).

The gap between generations is being exacerbated by social media platforms. This is a pattern that the Church needs to be aware of. Why? Because it impacts how the generations interact with each other in our faith community.

The younger generation, the one who grew up with social media, is more adept at recognizing misinformation and less likely to share it.

The older generation, who grew up with print media and a trust of written communication, photographs, and testimony, is more susceptible to publishing and defending misinformation as truth.

These two things immediately put these generations at odds with one another: The younger losing respect for the older generation and the older generation believing the younger generation is not listening.

When we add to that the curation of different social media platforms between generations, the gap widens even further. In a very real sense, these generations are now speaking different languages; they talk past each other and cannot hear one another. The same true story now has two different narratives and disagreement plays out politically, socially, and relationally.

Church, we must be the bridge-builders. Through the truth of God’s word, we can open the door for real relationships to be forged upon shared foundations. So how can we invite this conversation in a place of such division?

  • Create Space for Mutual Learning – If our generations never have the opportunity to both learn from and teach each other, how can we expect them to hear one another? Church is a perfect place to create space for generations to come together around common mission and vision and listen to one another as they learn together.
  • Create Space for Generational Teaching – What can your church do to help one generation teach another generation? Discipleship and mentorship programs are more common in churches but get creative! I’ve seen churches that have made videos with stories from the older generation about tough times and how God got them through that have been a huge encouragement to the younger generation. I’ve heard of other churches let the youth and young adults host a technology party where they help the older people experience new tech. Let’s use our imagination to find these spaces.
  • Create Space for Healthy Discussion – There are difficult topics facing our world today. All generations need a safe place to ask hard questions. The church should be that space, but too often, we discourage questions, doubts and inquiries and force especially our young people to find answers elsewhere. Churches that encourage healthy discussion and the reading of Scripture in community create a culture that unites rather than divides. As one of my pastoral heroes has said, “We talk more about the things that divide us, not less.” Have the hard conversations because that indicates deepening relationships.

Sometimes I’ve noticed that churches likes to take a back seat on these types of issues and say, “That’s not really a spiritual or religious thing. We’ll reserve our voice and influence for other concerns.” But I would beg to differ. All of life, as a believer, is spiritual. We declare that we have been raised to new life in Christ which means everything we do, including posting on social media, should be done in that light.

Churches have a unique opportunity to enter this space around the common belief Jesus Christ and offer a space for mutual edification and humble growth to happen. Rather than shy away, we should “talk more, not less” as my friend said. Equip parents for conversations around dinner table. Encourage connection across generations. Create the spaces. It is all part of our calling to “make disciples.”


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
The Embree Family

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

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

Intergenerational Community for Children and Families

This week I had the chance to join with around 400 people via Zoom at Intergenerate Australia. It was a phenomenal time of growing and learning with people all over the world and I’m so grateful for what was shared there. A few people have asked for slides from my presentation so I thought I’d do a recap here along with sources/resources used so we can keep the conversation going!


Intergenerational Community… what exactly does that mean?

When we talk about certain things, like community, we bring to the conversation all the defining characteristics of that thing that we’ve gained over our years. Martin Minsky calls these words “suitcase words“; words that need unpacked because they carry a lot of meaning.

For example the word, “Community” means different things to different people. Because I am in the process of reading Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us by Christine Pohl, I now include the practices of gratitude, promise-keeping, truth-telling and hospitality in my definition of community. But people who haven’t read this book may not have all of those meanings in their “suitcase.”

It’s important to define what you are talking about before you starting talking about it so, for this blog post, the term “intergenerational community” will be defined as:

A gathered group of multiple generations in meaningful relationships with one another where all have the opportunity to teach and to learn from others.”

Now that’s not to say this definition is the “right” definition or the “only” definition; it’s just the one we are going to use for the purpose of this post.

When sociologists talk about groups that gather together in community, they often talk about primary groups (more intimate, face-to-face, long-term) and secondary groups (impersonal, task-focused, time-limited). Our goal in establishing intergenerational community is for the church to be a primary group not a secondary one. Our gathering can’t just be to fulfill the tasks involved in having a Sunday morning service, limited to an hour, and segregated by age. If our faith community is to be a primary group which wields the most influence, we need to be together in the same space, face-to-face, in meaningful ways.

To explore the importance of this for children, click here. For parents, click here.

When we talk about a space being intergenerational, we want that place to be representative of the generations that are in our community. That doesn’t mean every generation will be present at every event. But that also doesn’t mean the majority of the people present will be one generation with a single representative of another (think Sunday School classroom).

A good rule of thumb: When thinking about intergenerational community, think “Past, Present, Future.” Three generations – one who represents the past (older generation), one who represents the present (middle generation), and one who represents the future (youngest generation).

There has been much research done on the importance of intergenerational relationships for all generations. For more on this for children, click here and for families/parents, click here.

It is not enough to simply gather multiple generations into a space and call it community. There must be the cultivation of meaningful relationships, a deeper meeting of spirits and a connecting to one another’s humanity. This can often be done in very practical and simple ways if we are willing to get creative.

Resist the urge to “programmatize” relationship. That never works out well. Instead, find ways to provide opportunities both in the church building and outside of the church building for meaningful relationships to form. There are some ideas listed above on the slide and below are some links for further exploration.

The final part of creating an intergenerational community for children and families is to provide a space for all generations to be both teacher and student. If a church finds that it is consistently having only one generation act as the “teaching” generation and all others are in learning mode, lifelong learning is unlikely to be fostered. Each generation has unique gifts and worldviews to add to the conversation. Strive to find space for each to teach and each to learn.

Each of these elements (gathered community, multiple generations, meaningful relationships, learning/teaching) taken singularly leaves an important part of intergenerational community out. If a church nails gathered community but doesn’t foster meaningful relationships, the next generation has very little to bring them back when they are older. If a church knocks teaching and learning out fo the park but limits generational involvement, then community will suffer from a lack of full participation.

Taken together however, these pieces of the puzzle can help lead to a rich and growing intergenerational community that extends beyond Sunday morning and into everyday life. And that is the key to true community; it has to be more than an event – it needs to be who we are, the church, the body of Christ.

(For those of you looking for the chart used during breakout discussion groups, go here)


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
The Embree Family

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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

What Are We Passing On?

I was once with a friend who was going through some items she had been given by another family member. The boxes were labeled “Pass On” and inside were items that had been passed from one family member to another throughout time.

Some of the items were very special; a birth announcement, pictures of family members, medallions for bravery and the like. Others were, well, for lack of a better term, junk. Doilies that had been chewed by moths, musty blankets, and even some old socks had made it into the mix.

Because no one had truly taken the time in years to go through what was being passed down, my friend got it all; the good, the bad, and the stinky. Together we went through the box and decided what was good to keep and eventually pass on to her own children and what needed to passed by and just thrown away. Some things were easy to classify; some she questioned and even said, “I’m gonna hold on to it for now but they may choose to get rid of it in the future.”

The “Passing On” of things from one generation to another doesn’t happen just in families and it isn’t just trinkets and treasures. In fact, some of the greatest things we pass on aren’t tangible.

We pass on stories and values, faith and virtues, traditions and memories. We pass these on as we sit around dinner tables and tell bedtime stories, as we gear up for family reunions and celebrate holidays. All of this familial culture is given to us and many of us, as we grow older, unbox them and go through them, determining what still has value and what needs to be gotten rid of.

And, this same thing happens in our society. Our community and our country offer us many of the same identifying legacies. We have certain holidays that we celebrate in certain ways. We know the names of certain leaders and accept both truth and myth about who they are and what they stood for.

We have a whole system of culture and understanding passed to us from the generations who came before us. And over time, those things have been dug through, some discarded and others modified, all the while passing the box down.

In churches, we call this “passing on” of our faith, generational discipleship. The faith we’ve been given by God was intended to be shared one generation to another and not neglected (Judges 2:10, Ps. 145:4, Dt. 6:4-9, 2 Tim. 1:5).

On some occasions, we see the intersection of all three: Home, Church, Country. May I be so bold to say that I believe that is happening right now?

As we look at our country and we see what is happening in the realms of systemic racism, social injustice, and cultural violence, it is apparent that home, church, and national “boxes” are all being dug through and reviewed by current generations to determine the value of what we’ve been given.

I’ve seen a number of responses taking place among the many voices I’ve been listening to over this time.

  1. Passing on the Box – One response is simply to accept and pass on the box of whatever we’ve been given and move on.
  2. Unpacking the Box – Another response has been to unpack the box and look at the items there. Sometimes those items are gone through and discussed, sometimes they are just looked at and then boxed back up.
  3. Discerning the Box – For some who unpack the box, there is an effort made to discern if what has been given is worth keeping to pass on to future generations or if it needs to be modified/corrected or just thrown out.
  4. Ignoring the Box – Another response is to just say, “There is no box” and continue to move through life uncritically without acknowledging that life has been shaped by centuries of generational passing on.

My biggest concern as I’ve listened to many voices over the last few weeks are those who are either ignoring the box or passing on the box without taking the time to unpack the box and see what is there or, even better, discerning if the box needs some serious change.

When we talk about institutional racism, systemic bias and prejudice, and cultural assumptions and stereotypes, the only response that is worthy of us as followers of the Way, the Truth, and the Life is number 3 – Discerning the Box. As the Church, we need to faithfully and humbly we willing to look at the lenses that have been passed on to us and sit in the uncomfortable place of determining if legacies and systems we’ve been given should be given to our children.

Maybe it’s time to pass on some new things.

Maybe we need to be honest about some of the musty blankets and the moth-eaten doilies that have filled our history, traditions, and stories.

Maybe instead of letting our children shoulder the weight of whether or not to get rid of something, we decide now to stand against all systems that perpetuate racism, violence, oppression, and hate, even if we don’t totally understand all of these things or fully comprehend how our legacy has been impacted after 400 years of history.

If we are unwilling to even begin to unpack our boxes, in our homes, in our churches and in our nation, then this unrest that has defined our country, and indeed the world, over the last few weeks will be for naught and we will have simply passed the box to our children and youth.

Let’s open it up.

Let’s unpack it. Let’s listen. Let’s hear. Let’s discern. Let’s change.

If there was ever a time for generational discipleship to rise up in our churches, it is now. May we humbly be willing to let the Holy Spirit discern our hearts and may what we pass on be only those things that bring Him glory and honor both in the world and in our homes.

“At the nexus of righteousness and justice, transformation takes place.”

Rev. Jo Anne Lyons, General Superintendent Emerita and Ambassador of The Wesleyan Church

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
The Embree Family

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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

The Generation Game (and how to play)

My oldest daughter recently (jokingly!) said to me, “Okay Boomer…” when I was doing what she considered to be an “old person” thing (taking a selfie the wrong way…who knew?). I gave her my sternest “mom” glare and said, “Just to be clear, I’m not a Boomer, ‘kay? I am an X-er.” Her amused glance back at me had a “Whatever…” feel to it, but it did lead her to ask the question, “Who came up with the generations anyway?”

Now that’s a great question! Just where did the rules of the Generation Game originate? And how do they apply to intergenerational ministry in the Church?

Let’s start with the latter; What is intergenerational ministry?

Sometimes it is easier to describe what something is by exploring what it is not. Many people associate this term with children’s ministry or family ministry within the church. While those ministries may be partners in intergenerational ministry, the scope of these ministries are not broad enough. Intergenerational ministry encompasses the whole church, all generations, in a communal and corporate context.

Intergenerational ministry is more of a cultural characteristic than it is a ministry area; it is a culture that values & creates space for meaningful connections to be made across generational boundaries in a variety of settings for the purpose of generational discipleship.

As the term implies, intergenerational ministry is an intentional approach to ministry that both allows for and encourages interaction between multiple generations in such ways as corporate worship, relational mentorship and lifelong community.

In order for a church to recognize the need for this generational connectivity within their faith community, the following question must be answered: What does each generation need from the church and what can each generation contribute to the church?

So, we have to ask, where did the generational labels originate?

Generational theory, the grouping of individuals into particular social groups with a shared identity predicated on the year of their birth and life experiences, began in the early 20th century and gained steam in the mid to late 20th century. Why? Marketing firms began to explore how to best market to specific groups, coining nicknames for them in order to create a collective conscious. In other words, they wanted to sell us stuff that they thought we wanted to buy.

Currently, the most likely generations that would be found in a given faith community would be the Silent Generation (born 1924-1942), Baby Boomers (1943-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-2000), and Gen Z (2001-current). These five generations offer unique experiences in both spiritual and communal practices for the church (see chart below). And that is how the generations fit into intergenerational ministry.

  • The older generations bring a wealth of faithful testimonies, historical worship practices, and community-sustaining disciplines.
  • The middle generations offer a bridge between past experience and current ones through experience with a vast array of communication tools from rotary phones to high-speed internet conferencing and the latest social media trends.
  • The youngest generation offer the heartbeat of current culture and the application of spiritual truths in a dynamic cultural environment.

Likewise, each generation brings its unique needs to the church. The chart below uses Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial stages to outline these needs in a church setting.

  • The older generations need to be needed; the desire for generativity and legacy-leaving are uniquely found in these generations and to be left isolated from those to whom their legacy can be left (the younger generations) is stifling and leads to stagnation.
  • The middle generations are those seeking intimacy in deeper relationships with others, such as mentorship and discipleship, but if those opportunities are found lacking, will retreat into a placed of isolation.
  • The youngest generations are looking for a place to be industrious (an important part of the community) and find identity (a role to play in the community); thus faith communities need to be intentional not just with providing safe and fun environments like Kid’s Church and youth group but integral participatory environments that allow for identity and industry to be rooted in the church.
Graph of Generations, their gifts, and their needs within a local church.
Generational delineations derived from https://www.cnn.com/2013/11/06/us/baby-boomer-generation-fast-facts/index.html
Erikson’s stages derived from https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

What does this all mean?

Simply this: As ministers in the local church, as members of the larger Body of Christ, we need to be aware that in our churches are multiple generations that bring multiple gifts and have multiple needs. Many of the ways to engage cannot be “programed” into the church experience but require us to creatively find space to relationships to be cultured and meaningful communication to take place. For ideas on how this can start to become a reality in your faith community, check out the links below.

There is a richness to be found in connecting the generations; let’s discover it together. Okay Boomer? 😉

If you’d like to explore some practical ways to begin making space for intergenerational worship experiences, click here.

Looking for practical ideas on how to (painlessly) connect the generations in your church? Click here.

Want to dig into what the Bible has to say about connecting generations in discipleship, community and worship? Here are a few links to check out:

A version of this article by the same author will appear in the Brethren in Christ Shalom! journal this summer.


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
The Embree Family

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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

No, You Are Not Having Intergenerational Worship on Sunday

When the “stay-at-home, school-cancelled” executive orders began to spread across the United States, a lot of social media posts began circulating that parents of school-aged children would now all be homeschoolers. Since I am friends with a number of people who homeschool, I immediately began to hear from them that this thing that most people were now doing (Zoom class, online work, turning work into a teacher in a different location, navigating new technology, etc.) was most definitely NOT homeschooling.

It didn’t take long for new social media posts to begin circulating that said, “You are not homeschooling; you are schooling at home in crisis.” Within a few weeks, distinction having been made, people began to accept that the experience of homeschooling and the experience they were currently facing were not one and the same.

Enter “Church Re-Opening.”

In many states, churches are beginning to re-open their doors, albeit with a number of cautions and restrictions. One major thread that appears similar across the board is that children’s ministries are delaying their opening even longer which means children will be joining their parents in corporate worship (or “big church”, a name that is a personal pet peeve of mine but generally understood in church circles).

Church People Believe Faith Religious

I’ve seen multiple helpful posts regarding how to help children to engage in the worship service or, at the very least, keep them engaged so that others can worship. Ideas, very many of them similar to ones I’ve shared here for years, are floating about and people are trying, some for the very first time.

This has the potential to be an incredible boon for connecting generations and creating space for corporate worship across America.

My concern however is that it will have exactly the opposite affect. 

You see, first and foremost, intergenerational ministry is not about putting people of multiple generations in a communal space where worship, prayer, and/or teaching takes place. That might be what happens BUT that is not the heart of intergenerational ministry.

True intergenerational ministry is a culture which strives to create environments that foster generational mentorship, intergenerational relationships, and multi-generational experiences that focus on welcome, belonging, and discipleship.

It’s not about putting people in the same space and making sure that everyone can somehow make it through an hour together and hopefully not distract one another too much. That’s online schooling in a crisis. It’s a current reality that we have not chosen but that has been thrust upon us and we are dong our very best to work with.

Intergenerational ministry is something that needs time and cultivation. In churches that are strongly separated along generational lines, the introduction of intergenerational worship, study, and prayer is something that should be entered into circumspectly with care given to community needs and corporate identity. Like homeschooling households, there is no cookie-cutter method for intergenerational ministry. Each faith community has particular needs and considerations that must be addressed as intergenerational culture is lived into.

The danger that exists with creating a few busy bags, printing out sermon sheets, making coloring pages available, and the like, isn’t that those things are inherently unhelpful (I actually recommend them in certain contexts); it’s that those things do not an intergenerational worship service make.

My encouragement to those of you dipping your toes in the waters of corporate worship for perhaps the first time is to take the next few Sundays in stride.

You might find that your faith community is ready to begin exploring ways to connect the generations in corporate worship, learning, and serving settings. GREAT!  I would be happy to point you in the direct of some fantastic resources.

You might find that your faith community is not ready to engage in fully-integrated worship and learning settings for all ages. That’s fine too. Forcing a square peg in a round hole doesn’t work. But, changing the shape or the culture can work and given time and community buy-in, you might find ways to begin to overlap generations and find space to allow generational discipleship and intergenerational relationships to flourish. I’d be happy to walk alongside of you as you begin to explore ways to make that happen. (A great place to start is here)

Regardless, the major takeaway of this post is simply this: What will be happening in most churches over the next several weeks, while inclusive of all generations, will not likely be true intergenerational worship or ministry. Accept it as it is –  a way to worship during a state of global crisis – and know that God’s grace is sufficient and His presence is promised wherever we gather in His Name.


For more information about

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

About this BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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

Book Review: Children & Family Ministry Handbook by Sarah Flannery

Every now and then, I have the great privilege of being asked by an author to review their book on my blog. Often the books have something to do with my area of training and ministry (children, youth, family ministry) but rarely do they deal directly with my passion, intergenerational ministry and generational discipleship.

So I was especially Sarahsbookblessed when fellow minister, Sarah Flannery, asked me to consider reviewing a chapter in her newly-released book, Children and Family Ministry Handbook, entitled “Intergenerational Ministry”. I jumped at the chance…and let’s be honest, I, of course, read the whole book because I so appreciate her voice (I also loved Chapter 7 on Milestones so I might review that one at a later date).

Sarah does a great job up front defining what she means by “intergenerational ministry” and offering several examples of what that could look like in specific congregational settings and homes.

But the key takeaway from this chapter is one that I can wholeheartedly echo: Intergenerational ministry is not a program; it is a culture, a way of doing church, that invites the entire congregation, every age, every generation, into meaningful worship and service together.

Consider these words taken from Chapter 6, page 116:

Intergenerational ministry does not fit in the context of a programmatic approach because it is too messy and too unwieldy to be programmed. Programs limit the audience in order to maximize the effectiveness for that one target group. Ministry asks us to expand the audience to include majorities and minorities, young and old, anyone and everyone.

Often, the dilemma that churches run into in creating space for intergenerational ministry is that they try to take a programmatic approach rather than a ministerial approach. They may look for a particular curriculum or a series of specific events or a special service project and, while all of those things could be good for the church, they may also be unhelpful or even detrimental depending on the congregation.

There is no cookie-cutter approach to intergenerational ministry.

The needs and gifts of each generation represented in a faith community as well as the culture and tradition of their church tradition and their local community must be considered. Which is why intergenerational ministry can be “messy” and “unwieldy.”

But take heart!  Messy and unwieldy does not mean impossible.

In fact, it means the possibilities are endless.

Within your church are gifts and graces that can be shared among the members of your congregation if space is created for them to flourish. And that is the meat of this chapter in Sarah’s book; she not only offers a guide to intergenerational worship and service that is helpful in knowing your own church, she provides multiple practical and easily implementable ideas for how to dive into intergenerational in each church context.

Her final paragraph reminds us to “Always maintain a perspective of ministry, not programs.”

That is the heart of generational discipleship.

It’s about relationship and connection.

It’s about making space for old and young and everyone in between to fill the role in the body of Christ that they have been gifted and graced for.

And it is about hospitality and community lived out in our corporate worship, mission, and service.

If you are interested in learning more about Sarah and her book, I encourage you to visit her website at sarahmflannery.com.

To put your hands on a copy of her book, check it out at CokesburyAmazon or any major book retailer (pssst…free shipping with Cokesbury right now and only $12 for the book!).

 

 


For more information about

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

About this BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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

The Church Has Left The Building

I miss church. I bet you do too. And I bet that you or someone in your house has said this exact phrase over the past 6 weeks.

Theologically, we all know that “church” is not a building. We understand that “church” is the body of Christ. So more precisely, I think, when we say we miss “church”, we mean more than that. We miss the people. We miss the things we do together as people; worship and communion and conversation and prayer and hugs and food. We miss the community of faith. We miss each other and we miss the practices that renew our faith each week as we reenact the promises of Scripture through our worship and celebration.

The challenge for us as parents and ministers is to consider; how do we model authenticity and consistency as Christians safe at home while still acknowledging we are all struggling with our new reality?

Consistency in what we teach and how we live is critical to creating an atmosphere of authenticity both at home and at church. 

We are the church, when we are at home and when we are together. Who we are and how we are living should flow seamlessly between those worlds without friction or tension. What we do in one place, we should be able to just as freely do in another place and our faith should reach beyond the walls of church into the everyday life we live.

churhccomeshome

Consider these five “church” activities that we often engage in easily and freely when we gather together but can struggle to engage in our homes along with some ideas for how to simply and easily add them into our “healthy at home” life:

Worship

Every Sunday without fail, voices are raised in song in churches around the world, praising and worshiping the Lord through “songs, hymns and spiritual songs.”  Have you ever considered hosting a worship service with your family at home?  Worship through song isn’t limited only to the walls of a church, in fact Paul says we are to to always be “singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.” Many church services are online now and offer singing as part of their worship but if yours doesn’t, it’s perfectly fine for you to sing in your home. Easy ways to incorporate singing? Sing a song instead of praying a prayer before dinner. Teach a favorite song to your kids. Check out resources on Psalmody and pick a Psalm to learn and sing as a family.

Prayer

Whether it be a pastoral prayer or the communal recitation of the Lord’s prayer, we frequently engage in spoken prayer in a church setting; do we do the same in our homes?  The Lord’s Prayer is a great way for you to begin praying with your kids and creating that seamless flow between church and home.

Giving

In many churches, every week, the plate is passed and our tithes and offerings are given to the Lord.  But we don’t have to limit our giving to the church offering plate.  It can be hard sometimes to remember to give from a cheerful heart if we don’t see the need or if our gift is automatically withdrawn from our checking account Maybe your family could talk about ways to  support your church or a missionary or provide meals for families in need so they can be a part of the gift of giving.  The cheerful heart of giving isn’t only for church.

Bible Reading

If the only time our children see us open the Bible (or pull up the app on our phone or tablet) is in the church building, the model they see is one where the Bible is only for certain times not all of life.  But the writer of Psalms says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” This the perfect time to add some daily Scripture meditation into your family rhythm.  The Scripture is for everywhere, every day.

Fellowship

Let’s face it; a big reason for going to church is to see  friends.  I had someone tell me the only time they saw their friends was on Sunday morning.  It’s really hard for your kids to see the community and family that is the body of Christ if they only see people for 1 hour a week, 4 times a month.  Invite people over, even if only by Zoom for now, build and maintain relationships with those you miss and create space for fellowship all week long.

When our children see consistency in who we are and what we do at church and who we are and what we do at home, it will be easier for them to understand the providence of our God who is present with us in the everyday.

When we are consistent, we are authentic, and when we are authentic, we are modeling the truth of Jesus to the next generation.


For more information about

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

About this BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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