Intergenerational Worship is NOT…

A children’s pastor recently spoke to the larger church community about the important role they play in influencing young people to remain in the church as they grow.

She explained that research has shown that having the opportunity to worship with those of different generations than their own actually helps them to feel more a part of their faith community and build relationships outside of their own peer group. And she shared that at some point in the future the children and youth would be invited to be part of the larger corporate worship experience of the whole church rather than always being separated at that time.

She was met with mixed reactions.

But one person in particular was concerned enough about this turn of events that he/she wrote the children’s pastor a letter. In it he/she expressed that “90% of the church” was happy with the way things were now and if she wanted to have the children and youth worship in the sanctuary, maybe she could start a service on Friday or Saturday night for them to go to that was more the style that they would like. And maybe if she did that “some other adults” would go to and, ba-da-bing.. the problem would be solved.

Actually.. therein lies the problem.

What the children’s pastor said and what this member of the congregation heard were two very different things.

Lenses of tradition, personal preference, and familiarity often cloud the conversation when we talk about any kind of change at church, but especially when we talk about bringing together generations for times of worship in a corporate worship setting.   It may be helpful that begin by explaining what this time of worship is NOT so that it can set the stage for what it is intended to be.

Intergenerational Worship is NOT…

Putting kids in the sanctuary

If the goal was just to put children and youth in the sanctuary, then creating a new service geared to them and separate from the rest of the body would make sense. But that’s exactly the opposite of what intergenerational worship is. The whole point is to create space for all generations, old and young and in-between, to worship together. Creating a new service or maintaining an existing service that targets one specific generation can’t accomplish this goal.

Glorified Kid’s Church

boy-1929539_1920Some people express the concern that if children and youth are welcomed into the service, they’d have to start doing “kids stuff” like singing songs with motions and eating goldfish during the super-short, kid-appropriate sermon.

Intergenerational worship is not old people pretending to be kids or young people trying to act old.

If that happened, it would be a total disservice to the whole point of intergenerational worship which has at its heart a desire to help kids and youth and adults and elderly be a part of the church as it is, whatever that looks like, and to experience all the parts of church that make it unique to their church tradition (such as liturgy, songs, Scripture reading, celebratory practices like baptism and communion, and all the other rhythms that make each worship service unique).

A Disruption

Often a concern raised is that children especially don’t get anything out of church and everyone will be forced to spend their whole service shushing kids. I read an incredible article in The Federalist, of all places, about this, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with parents, caregivers and other congregation members about this concern.

I’m not about to argue that children will get the same thing out of church that adults do; that would be ridiculous. I do think it’s important to consider what kids do get out of church (for more on that, click here) but also just as important to realize that kids are kids. They will wiggle and squirm and giggle and turn, but is that really such a huge issue that we shouldn’t offer times for the whole congregation to worship together?

It didn’t seem to be for Jesus when He “called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘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.'”

A New Fad

Actually, it’s exactly the opposite.  The segregation of ages within the church is a fairly new practice in American church history. Most of the time it gets traced back to the start of ministries on college campuses on post WWII America where it became apparent that there was a need for age-specific ministry. Churches began to recognize the need to create space to address the developmental concerns of each age group. Through time that progressed into less of a “both/and” model and more of an “either/or” model. In other words, instead of times of both age-specific and intergenerational gatherings, it became one or the other with little to no opportunity or encouragement to do both.

For those who see intergenerational worship as the “newest” fad to come down the block, it is helpful to understand that for thousands of years, the church all worshiped together and only recently have we begun consistently separating the ages. Which makes it very hard to learn from one another as Christ indicated that we should.

So, what is Intergenerational Worship?

Simply put, it is ministry that focuses on connecting multiple generations in faith-forming relationships cultivated through times of corporate worship, intentional discipleship, and ongoing mentorship.

For clarification purposes, please know that I am not opposed to quality Christ-centered, community-focused Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry, but I do have concerns when families and churches are consistently separated from each other and never having time to fellowship together. There is great benefit to all of us when we are given the chance to learn from, worship with, and grow together with one another.

So how can we do that?  The follow-up article is coming soon. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ideas expressed in this one. What are your concerns, ideas, frustrations, and encouragement?  And what ways have you found to connect generations creatively without neglecting the needs of anyone?


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

family

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

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Those Who Stay: 3 Reasons for NOT Leaving the Church

Whenever I’m faced with a big project, I try to approach it in pieces. I break it down into do-able parts and work my way towards finishing the whole.

When I heard Dr. Richard Ross speak at D6 Conference, I couldn’t help but think that what he shared was basically the same approach, only in the realm of ministry.

youthminthatlastsDr. Ross served as youth minister for 30 years and now is a volunteer with teenagers and parents at Wedgwood Baptist in Fort Worth. He is also a professor to the next generation of youth ministers at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth and his new book, Youth Ministry that Lasts a Lifetime, was just released.  I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Ross at lunch and here are some of the things he shared with me then and from the main stage that really stuck with me.

What made you decide to look at the effectiveness of youth ministry?

Dr. Ross:  We hear a lot about young people who leave the church as they enter into adulthood. We tried replacing parents with the professionals for 60 years. So how’s that going? I decided I wanted to look at the characteristics of young people who stay committed to their faith after high school.

What did you find out?

Dr. Ross: There were three major factors to young people remaining in the church.

First, they had spiritually alive parents. Spiritually lethargic parents create spiritually lethargic children. Spiritually alive parents are not pew sitters. They are all in!

Second, the young people who remained had a relationship with the larger congregation outside of specialized ministry (such as children’s or youth ministry). Young adults who have little love for the bride will eventually walk away from the groom but teenagers who spend their time with all generations in the church tend to stay in church. Giving teenagers a love for the church comes in two pieces: relationships and ministry.

Which leads to the final factor;  there needs to be “Bible-drenched age-appropriate ministry” that helps youth live out their faith in the world today.

How do you suggest the church approach ministry to kids and youth with these factors in mind?

Dr. Ross: The ultimate goal is families that love God, love people, and make disciples of all people.  The way to do that is to get out of the “event business” and into effective ministry. I suggest a new model for approaching ministry – Ministry in Thirds. Would we be willing to give one third of our calendar, budget and energy to each of the three factors?

One third of these resources would be spent focusing on helping parents to be spiritually alive and active by resourcing them, supporting them, and equipping them for the work of discipleship.

One third of the resources would be focused on engaging our youth with the whole congregation and finding ways to build relationships in the larger faith community.

And one third would be spent on our age-specific ministry area such as youth groups and children’s ministry.

Where can we start if we want to move in this direction?

Dr. Ross: So much of what we do is focused on our events and programs and those take a lot of time and energy.  But when you get yourself out of the event business you discover you have hours every week you can give to the families.  Children are like wet cement. We can leave impressions on them when they are young. We need to let them be active in the church as soon as possible.

Don’t wait to allow kids and teenagers to serve until they are adults. They become dry cement.  Find ways to let them serve while they are young.

bonding-1985863_1920I’ve been blogging at ReFocus Ministry for almost three years now. During that time, my heart has been to offer a “Both/And” approach towards ministry to children and youth that included BOTH age-specific ministry AND intergenerational ministry in the larger church community and homes.  As I listened this week to Dr. Ross and Dr. Bengtson share about their research which consistently pointed to the need for these intergenerational relationships in the church and home, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I’m not crazy. This really does work!”

Friends, we need one another. All ages, all generations, the whole body of Christ. As one D6 attendee shared with me, “All saints doing ministry, all the time, everywhere.”  There are no limits to God’s kingdom work. He can and will use all of us, youngest to oldest, to bring about “His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”


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

family

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

 

 

An Army of Grandparents Unleashed

Since 1900, the average life span of an American has increased by 33 years.

33 years.

Why does this matter in ministry? More specifically how does this matter to family ministry?

I heard this interesting fact this week at D6 Conference in Dallas (where, consequentially, I also ate the best guacamole and queso I’ve ever had in my life). In the past, a fact such as this one would have passed me by, receiving only a cursory acknowledgement and a brief reflection on the advances in medicine we’ve experienced in that time. But this week when I heard that, I couldn’t get it off my mind.

It’s probably because I didn’t just hear that. I heard something other things that caused my “family ministry” ears to perk up.

I heard that in a 45 years longitudinal study of 360 families, grandparents were found to have a “higher than anticipated” influence on the faith of their grandchildren, second only to the parents of the child.

I heard that the degree of that influence a grandparent had in a person’s life did not decline with time but actually in some instances, it actually increased.

I heard that about 8% of children today are being raised by their grandparents and that there are more years of shared life with grandchildren than any time before.

I learned that if grandparents talked about their faith with their grandchildren face-to-face more than once a week OR went on family vacations with their grandchildren once a year that those grandchildren had a significantly higher chance of remaining in the faith than those who did not and led to an increase in grandchildren talking with others about faith struggles in their life.

I learned that “when grandparents consistently modeled their faith, their grandchildren tending to share that faith”

And I realized that there is a veritable ARMY of grandparents out there who are poised to help form the faith of the next generation of believers; to join parents in the beautiful privilege of discipling children an youth; to pass on the legacy of faith that has sustained them throughout their life onto their grandchildren who are just beginning theirs.

grandparents-1969824_1920And what’s even more amazing than that is that, according to developmental theorists, that’s exactly what God has instilled in them to do. According to Eric Erikson’s generativity theory, as people enter into the “post-kids, post-work” stage of life, they tend to start looking for ways to pass on to others what they have learned and experienced. If they can’t find that outlet, they will tend to enter a stage of “stagnation” where, for lack of a better word, they can get grumpy. In other words, people in this stage need to pass something on their legacy in some fashion to others.

This is where we find our implication for ministry, because friends, if there is anything that needs to be passed on, it is our faith!

Close your eyes with me and picture the grandparents in your life, in your church, in your community. Do you see them? Do you see the army of disciplers in front of you, just waiting to be unleashed? Do you number in their ranks?

If you, like me, have been taken by these facts and statistics, you might ask, as I did, “What next? How do I bring this army to life?”

Here are some practical ways forward that I gleaned from my experience at D6.

  1. Research – Take some time to look deeper into these facts stated above. The first few came from a study done by Dr. Vern Bengtson and can be found in his book Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down across Generations. The other information came from my friend and colleague, Matthew Deprez of the Fuller Youth Institute and the research he is currently doing on grandparents. You can find information about Erikson’s generativity theory here.
  2. Resource – I cannot say enough about the Legacy Coalition and the work they do resourcing grandparents for this important work of discipling their grandchildren. Take time to look over their website, read their blog, and hear the stories of how God is using grandparents in ministry to their families and community.
  3. Relay – I often tell family ministers that they need to be sure to continually let parents know just how influential they are to their children’s faith. I humbly submit that we need to do exactly the same for grandparents, building them up and encouraging them in the work of discipleship by reminding them often of just how important they are to the faith formation of their grandchildren.

I am excited. I am so excited. For years, we’ve known that grandparents had influence but now that we know just how much, we can truly understand just what this generation can do for our families. And that, my friends, is really good news.

We’ve been given 33 more years. Let’s use it to shape the faith of future generations. 

grandparents-1927320_1920


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

family

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

The Cubbies Win!

“So there we were, bottom of the ninth, game is tied and…”

baseball-field-1563858_1920I mean seriously, how many times have we heard stories that begin like that in movies and on grandparents’ laps? To have lived it last night with the whole country (despite the rain delay straight from the goat) and to have woken up to a social media feed full of celebration and raw excitement was a pleasant and, dare I say, needed break from the wearying political rhetoric and constant supply of heartbreaking news that fills our eyes and airwaves.

And yet, while this momentary chance to catch our breath and collectively celebrate a long-awaited victory is a slight reprieve, the facts of political divide and devastating realities don’t disappear.

There is a tension in our world. A tension that we see played out all around us. The tension of good and evil, joy and sorrow, peace and fear.

So, how do we as parents and leaders of the next generation, teach our children to live in a healthy, life-giving way in the midst of the tension. How can we live fully into moments of joy without trivializing the real and tangible needs and hurts in our world?  The way we react in these moments teaches our children a lot about how to approach life both now and in the future.

Here’s some thoughts on how we can handle the “Cubbies Win” moments of life:

Live Fully in the Moment

In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, a conversation takes place between two demons. The older is teaching the younger the best techniques and approaches to tripping up Christians in their walk of faith. At one point, the older shares, “The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most temporal part of time–for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”  He says the best thing that the younger can do is get Christians to live in the past or in the future but never be fully in the present, because Christ is in the present.

When our present offers us moments of joy, Christ is there. Live into it!  Embrace it! And when our present offers us moments of sorrow, Christ is there. Fall into Him! Let Him embrace you!  As Jim Elliot, missionary, said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

Do Not Worry

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms not to worry about tomorrow. Often when we are faced with the hard realities of this life, our tendency is to turn to worry and our kids see that. But Jesus offers us this actual reality – that our worry does nothing to change the reality of the situation and can only remove us from a place of trust in God. Jesus says, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Mt. 6:34, The Message).

Embrace the Tension

The fact is, what happens outside of us, in the world that surrounds us, is simply a larger expression of what happens inside of us all the time. Paul writes about this tension in Galations 5:17 when he says, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” To pretend that the tension doesn’t exist does a disservice to our children. Teaching them to understand the roots of the tension (The Story – the metanarrative of Scripture) can be the best tool we can offer them

Reggie Joiner of Orange offers these thoughts on the tension that exists:

Tension doesn’t make a truth less TRUE, it makes it more REAL.. Some of us don’t like tension. We are threatened by tension. God is not threatened by tension. Tension is a good thing. The tension of doubt builds a stronger foundation for faith. Trust leads you to stronger faith AND doubt leads to stronger faith. Jesus had all the answers, yet He asked LOTS of question. He understood that that is how truth becomes real for us.

As believers, we live in the gap of “already” and “not yet.”  In other words, we already experience God’s grace and mercy in our lives but we are not yet in a place of fully experiencing a world without sin and sorrow. But we have Jesus with us in that gap and therefore we of all people can embrace the tension with unending hope.

Let’s be honest. The tension is difficult. That’s why we need Jesus.

But the moments of joy, of hope, of peace…those are little gifts we are given along the way. And Christ is in the present, so celebrate the moments. Or as they say in Chicago, Fly the W! (Congrats Cubs fans – that was a long time coming)


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 the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. 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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Christmas Love Letters from God: Journey Through Advent to Ephiphany

Around this time of year, parents begin asking me for thoughts on what they can do for Advent with their kids. In the past, I’ve shared ideas for some fun things such as the Christmas Song Scavenger Hunt (We love to do this at a mall during the holiday season and challenge another family to see if they can beat us at finding all the items) and some discipleship-focused things such as celebrating Jesus at Christmas in the everyday.

christmas-love-letters-coverThis year I’m excited to suggest a great book, written by Glenys Nellist, called Christmas Love Letters from God as a way that your family could journey through Advent and into Epiphany together.

You may recall that a while back I reviewed Glenys’ book Little Love Letters from God. I love her books because they do something many children’s Bible stories fail to do – they put children right in the middle of The Story. For those who have read my blog before, you know I really believe that the stories of the Bible find their greatest impact when they are told in the context of the larger story, the metanarrative of Scripture (read more about that here).

Why? Because understanding that these moments and events don’t stand alone but are part of a bigger picture gives them meaning and let’s us know that our story has a place in that bigger picture too.

In Christmas Love Letters from God, Glenys has done the same thing again by taking the familiar and beloved stories from Christmas and including at the end of each one, a personalized “love letter” to your child(ren) from God.

They get to read things like, “I’m so glad Joseph said yes to me…Never be afraid to say yes to me. When you hear those quiet whispers in your heart….remember that just like I helped Joseph, I will help you too” and “I gave my Son, Jesus, to Mary and it made me feel wonderful…because…Jesus wasn’t just for her. Jesus was my gift to the whole world and that includes you.”  And the letters always end with “With Love, God.”

My son loves reading these books and hearing God’s letters that are written to him. And he loves entering into the story in a very real and tangible way.

But what I love the best about this particular book is that the chapters line up perfectly with the Sundays of Advent and take us right up through Epiphany.

If you were to take one chapter each Sunday of Advent, Christmas Day, the two following Sundays which gets you to Epiphany, you will have journeyed together with love letters from God through this very special time of year.

  • Sunday, November 27 – Start with Isaiah’s Good News and hear about the Light that is coming into the world.
  • Sunday, December 4 – Join Mary’s Song of thanksgiving and think of how we sing Christmas carols of joy today.
  • Sunday, December 11 – Read about Joseph’s Dream and the plan God had for Joseph to be Jesus’ daddy and the plans He has for us.
  • Sunday, December 18 – As Mary and Joseph travel  Bethlehem’s Road, remember together it was God who was leading them all the way.
  • Sunday, December 25 – Celebrate together on Christmas morning the Jesus Joy of our Savior’s birth, the perfect gift, our very best present.
  • Sunday, January 1 – Consider that the story doesn’t end but invite your children to join the Shepherd’s Surprise that God had chosen to tell them great things, just like He does for us.
  • Sunday, January 8 – As you finish the season, with the story of the Wise Men’s Wonder, you’ll get to remind your children that the greatest gift they can give to Jesus is their heart. What a wonderful way to start the new year together!

Not only is this book engaging and grounded in Scriptures, it is also beautifully illustrated – one you will bring out every Christmas even once your children are grown. I am so excited to start reading this with my own family (Caleb has already had a sneak peek or two…He’s pretty excited) throughout the entire Advent and Epiphany Season.

Interested in getting a copy for yourself or your church?

author-photoThe author, Glenys, and Zonderkidz are offering a free copy of Christmas Love Letters from God. To be eligible to enter, you must live in the US and have a street address (no PO boxes).  To be entered in our drawing, follow this link and scroll to the form at the bottom of the page. In the comment section please write “Little Love Letters” and make sure we have a way to contact you for mailing information.

Winner will be chosen on Sunday, November 13, 2016.

The book is also available for purchase through Zondervan or Amazon (as well as a number other retailers). To hear more about the book, check out these videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjKR8EQZIMo and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E-W_cxXzlI


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 the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. 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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

One Day Our Kids Will Google Us

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

What will she find?  

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

Will she find consistency between what I tell her and what I tell others?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends, we are coming up on some very difficult weeks in this country.

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

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

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

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

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

baby-84626_1920One day, our children will google us.

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

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

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

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


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 the author 

Family(40)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. 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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

Christmas for the Whole Church

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

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

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

Cardboard testimonies – A Christmas Celebration

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

 MATERIALS NEEDED – Cardboard signs, both prepared as described and empty, and extra sharpies. Costumes can be used for children if the church desires.

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

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

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

(Lights dim, spotlight on center stage, Joseph enters hold up large sign “Doubter.”

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

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

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

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

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

(Two shepherds enter, carrying 1 big sign that says Nobodies. The two should be struggling, arguing a bit on how best to carry the sign before they get situated)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Wise men enter, stoically, the middle one holding a sign reading “Wise”)

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

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

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

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

(At this time, all the kids will come out and sing “Here I am to Worship”, music available to purchase at http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0081209)

There are no spoken kid parts at this time but they will have stage presence as part of this section

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

All characters go line up in the front platform, holding their broken signs facing out.

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

Actors exit right, lining up against the side wall of the sanctuary holding their “new” signs above their head to be seen by the congregation.

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

At this time, a few adult members of the congregation will come out one by one and in the spotlight with their “cardboard” testimony. If anyone is willing, you could give them time to share their testimony.

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

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

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

Pastor/Director: Maybe today, you didn’t have a sign to show or a card to write. That’s okay because the very best news of Christmas is that the story never ends. If today you felt a desire to allow God to re-write your story and you would like to pray with someone, we invite you after the service to make your way to the corner of the sanctuary at the cross where we have friends who would like to pray with you waiting.

Now, in the spirit of celebration, thanking God through Jesus Christ for His magnificent gift of love, let us come to the table set before us and share in communion with Christ and one another (Continue with communion liturgy).

Whole congregation sings: O Come all ye Faithful, Joy to the World (or music of your choice. We followed this Christmas program with a church-wide holiday dinner)


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 the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. 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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

Gifts Grandparents Give

My daughter’s 13th birthday is coming up…soon. Which means I’ll be the mom of a teenager (a fact worthy of its own blog post) but it also means I’m supposed to be planning an epic birthday party. The thing is, she already planned it. And what struck me as I read through her extensive, all-day, very detailed plan, was her request for dinner: Great-Grandma’s Spaghetti and Meatballs. 

There are a few things that have gotten passed through the generations and this particular recipe is one of them. My great-grandmother showed my grandmother how to make it and my grandmother showed my mother and they showed me and now I’ll pass it on to my kids. To me, it’s Grandma’s Spaghetti which is funny because to my grandmother it was Nonni’s Spaghetti (her mother-in-law). But one thing doesn’t change – the amazing, delicious, recipe that has to cook for two days and is hands-down the best spaghetti and meatballs on the planet.

cafe-845527_1920Psalm 145:4 tells of a different kind of thing getting passed from one generation to another. “One generation commends His works to another; they tell of His mighty acts.”  

Testimonies of faith, passed from one generation to the next, through stories, through conversation, through example.  

The thing about the recipe that my grandmother passed to me is that it took time. She couldn’t just write it down, because frankly, some of the steps included eyeballing spices in the palm of her hand or taste-testing at certain times to make sure the ingredients were blending.

It took a relationship. 

And when I make that particular dish, I can still hear her voice in my head telling me to “stir that gently or you’ll break up the meatballs” or to “cut that smaller; you don’t want a mouthful of garlic!” I can also hear her singing. I can remember stories she told me. I can feel her hugs. She passed a whole lot more than just a recipe to me. She passed on a lifetime of stories and of love. 

Generational discipleship is about more than just passing on testimonies of faith.

Yes, those things are the reason for the conversation. But in telling the stories, we are also passing on and receiving a lot more. Relationships are forged. Time is spent. Love is modeled. Laughter ensues. Hugs are given.

We both find out that we belong – we belong in the place of giving and we belong in the place of receiving.

We find out who we are as we pass on and receive the stories of hope and grace that have forged our identities.

A fellow seminarian was so curious about this “passing on” of the faith from one generation to another, especially from grandparents to grandchildren, that he is actually using this as the foundation of his Master’s thesis.  As we talked, I realized I wanted to be a part of finding out what this looks like. Why? Because I know how important my grandparents were in shaping me and I want grandparents and older generations to know just how much of an impact they have on children and youth.

If you’d like to be a part of this research, I invite you to read the information below sent by my friend Matthew Deprez. If you want to be a part of shaping the lives of the next generation, in addition to taking the survey, I invite you to build a relationship with a grandchild or other young person as you pass on your favorite recipe or show them the perfect golf stroke.

In other words, use what you have to pass on as a vessel to pass on a whole lot more. Forge relationships and mold identities by doing just as we’ve been commissioned, by commending His works to the next generation and telling of His mighty acts!

From my friend, Matthew Deprez
As part of a Capstone/Thesis project I am working on through Wesley Seminary, I am hoping to identify how grandparents shape the faith formation of their grandchildren. After a lengthy Literature Review that has taken over a year to complete, we are finally ready to begin our first wave of unique research that will be conducted through a brief study, which you can access here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/grandparentstudy.
I’ll be collecting these responses no later than August 25th and anticipate this survey only taking between 5 – 10 minutes to complete. As a way of saying thank you for your time, I will be randomly giving away a $50 Amazon gift card to an individual who completes the survey. (Details in the survey link).  
Thank you for your willingness to be part of this exciting study. My desire is to expand our understanding of the grandparent-grandchild relationship for the sake of future generation’s faith formation, and ultimately Kingdom-building that extends well beyond this academic project.

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 the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. 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. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com