Our “Church Box” is Way Too Small

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

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

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

But when she got home, she beamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The church experience is much bigger than a sermon.

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

It’s a total package.

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

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

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


It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blo

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

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

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

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Five Ideas for Worshiping Together

This morning, our family woke up and the usual morning line-up of breakfast, coffee, gathering school items, solidifying after-school plans, quick prayer, kiss on the cheek and fly out the door took place. If you know, you know. On my way out the door, I found myself reminiscing about the slower pace of our lives last year where we didn’t wake up and immediately scatter to the winds. As glad as I am that we are re-engaging with life, I must admit… I rather liked the year of getting to spend lots of quality time with my family.

And I’m not the only one. A recent study found that over half of parents weren’t “ready” to get back to pre-Covid lifestyles and 39% of kids agreed. Some families have found this time together to be not only a healthy experience for their family, but one that they don’t want to lose. Even before Covid hit, 87% of families indicated they were often looking for ways to spend time together.

What better place for that to happen than within the faith community? What if instead of returning to “life as normal” post-Covid, this could be a time to begin to intentionally find spaces for families to worship, grow, and learn about God together in church?

It’s important to recognize that each church has a unique culture, community and mission, so there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to this type of intergenerational, family-focused ministry. But here are five ideas that might be a place to start.

These ideas come from a variety of different church backgrounds and traditions, so they will not ALL work for your ministry context, but chances are one might strike a chord and you will be able to begin working towards more and more times where the family experiences faith formation together with their faith community.

Family Service Projects – What better way to bring the family together than in an opportunity to serve Christ and others as a unit?  There are many ways to engage the family in service. Check with your local food pantries and Salvation Army to see if there are ways families can work together stocking shelves or organizing donations. Many local soup kitchens or churches who serve meals will welcome family groups to serve together. Check also with local mission and ministries that serve the poor, homeless or other marginalized groups to see how families can offer assistance.

Children and youth express their faith through actions rather than statements of belief. When asked what a Christian is they will say things like, “A person who goes to church” or “A person who does good things, loves others, is kind, serves other, etc”  Engaging the family in the act of serving together can be one of the most transformational and meaningful ways to connect faith with everyday life and create bonds in the family that last long after their time of serving has ended.

Family Worship Sundays – Many churches have begun offering times of Family Worship, often once a month or on fifth Sundays, where the family stays together and worships as a unit. These Sundays should not be confused with Children’s Sundays or times where kids perform for the church. While these are special times for the church as well, they are more focused on children than they are families.

A Family Sunday will incorporate ways for the family to experience worship together such as communion, prayers said aloud with the whole church, worship songs that everyone know and can sing to, a sermon that is appropriate for all ages and elements of the service that invite participation of parents/caregivers and children such as Scripture readings by families and prayer as families. For ideas on how to include families in worship on Sunday, check out this article: https://childrensministry.com/intergenerational-worship/

Family Worship Experiences – There are a few subtle difference between a Family Worship Sunday, where the family joins with the whole congregation in a regular worship service time, and Family Worship Experiences where families are specifically targeted and ministered to. Often these experiences take place at a time other than Sunday morning and incorporate a variety of interactive activities, worship, and teaching.

Some great examples can be found at www.dandibell.com and if you want a group to come in to host, Seeds Family Worship has one they do in connection with Phil Vischer and What’s in the Bible? with Buck Denver.

Family Faith Formation – For some, inviting the family to stay together takes place best in a mid-week experience. One church I served at chose this path to help the family grow and learn together. We had so much fun using these nights to explore the Bible together. We wrote our own curriculum in 5-week blocks based on what families have indicated they want to learn. Each household unit sat in chairs in a circle and explore Scripture, do activities, and participate in a time of affirmation and blessing each night. Our topics have included Prayer, Salvation, The Bible, God as Creator, and Service. This curriculum has been updated with both Gathered and Scattered items!

Kids absolutely love spending this time with their parents. Of all the programs we had at that church, this one got the highest praise from children. You can receive a discounted copy of the first five-week block of this curriculum by filling out the contact form below and putting “Family Faith Formation” in the Subject line!

Family Activities – If your church isn’t ready yet to host a Family Sunday or Family Worship Experience, one idea is to begin hosting Family Activities on a monthly basis. These activities should have as their central theme the idea of having family spend time together either with/around the larger faith community, around service to the larger community, or around worship and the Word as a family unit. Putting these focuses on a rotating basis can help your families begin to spend intentional time together around the topics of faith, community, and outreach.

For instance, one month you could host a Family Game Night at church (time with faith community), and the next offer an activity that families can do at home that include a Faith Talk and time in God’s word (time with worship/Word), and then the next month offer a service experience in the community that families can do together (outreach). By offering a variety of ways for families to come together around the themes of faith, community, and service, you can begin to cultivate times of faith formation for the whole family to engage in together.

This list is by no means exhaustive and I know there are many more ideas out there. I would love for this to be a place where we can share our thoughts and ideas in the comments below. What is your church doing to allow households to gather and grow together within your faith community?


Let’s Get Started Together!

ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.” 

This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.

This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.

This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.

Interested in learning more?

Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

Why Stay Where You Are Not Wanted?

It’s been a while since I blogged. Part of that was intentional; I was away for a class and chose to put my focus there for a week. Part of it was simply a feeling of being completely and utterly overwhelmed by the state of this world and, more specifically, my interactions with Millennials and Gen Z-ers who are deconstructing their faith.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I am passionate about connecting generations in meaningful relationships with the context of the church and the home. And you also know that one of the motivating factors for this particular passion is the diminishing numbers of the above generations represented in our church communities.

But here is what I am discovering in my many conversations with those who are deconstructing their faith and some choosing to leave the church as a result; some, if not most, of these individuals are not leaving because they weren’t taught the Bible or regularly attended youth group or even engaged with the larger church community. Many not only grew up faithfully attending church but they served in positions like youth volunteer/leader or worship leader or had the pedigree of pastor’s kid or missionary family or seminary student.

These were the ones we never thought would leave; in fact, these were the ones we thought would lead.

So what happened?

I have heard and continue to hear the same story: We were not wanted.

And it goes like this:

“As I grew older, I began to see people in the church say and do things that didn’t seem to line up with what I had been taught by those same people about God, about His love, about Christianity, and about the Bible. As I studied the Bible more and began to ask questions, people began to pull away from me. I was warned about “falling away” and “losing my faith” but no one seemed to want to actually sit down and answer my questions. When I spoke up about what I was seeing and reading and believing on social media, my Christian friends turned against me. Some of the things said to me were hateful, beyond unkind. But…. my non-Christian friends were the ones who stood up for me. They listened to me. I could ask my questions, express my doubt, call out the inconsistencies and search for answers and they were never rude to me or questioned my faith. I still believe in Jesus but I don’t want to be a part of the church. They caused me so much hurt, trauma, and despair that I would rather not associate with people who say they love Jesus but act like that.”

Obviously, this isn’t a word-for-word conversation that I’ve had with someone but it is a general compilation of what so many are experiencing. Not one person I’ve interacted with set out with the goal of leaving the church; they simply had some serious questions and concerns. And before our defenses rise up and begin to defend why we “can’t compromise” and we must “resist the false prophet” and all of that, pause for one second and just hear what is being said.

These are not nameless, faceless people. These are children who grew up in our churches, sat in our Sunday School classes, and sang our songs. They memorized Bible verses and attended our VBS. They volunteered for the mission trip and led worship from the front of the congregation. They are Josiah and Sarah and Madison and Luke and all the other names that popped into your mind as you read.

When I talk about connecting generations in meaningful relationships for the purpose of discipleship, it’s not so that we can download information about our faith into an empty, waiting vessel and create clones of ourselves. True discipleship doesn’t make someone look like me; it leads someone to follow Jesus and He does the work of making all of us look like Him (2 Cor. 3:18). It’s not so the older generations can simply reprove, correct, and instruct the next generations (We’ve got Scripture for that, 2 Tim. 3:16); it’s so that we can mutually learn from one another and together grow into Christ who is our Head (Eph. 4:15).

Discipleship at home and in the church must leave room for the hard conversations without the hard line rejection. Unity in Christ is not the same as uniformity in our culture, doctrine and worldview.

But as long as we make it that, the story above is going to continue to be experienced over and over again on repeat. There are loving and gracious ways for us to disagree about non-essentials without excluding someone from our community.

If our role, right now, today, is to work with children, youth, and families in a ministry context, we must meet this challenge head on by creating safe spaces for doubt, discouragement and disbelief as individuals “work out their salvation” (Phil. 2:12) without severing the ties of community and grace. And we must keep in the forefront that while we are called to make disciples of all people, young and old, we are not called to keep our attendance numbers in church or denomination intact. We’re called to share the love and light of Christ; to love God and to love people.

Cultivate a culture of embrace rather than exclusion.

And if we see the tendency in ourselves to shut down, shut out, and defend whenever a question is asked, a doubt is expressed, a different way of interpreting Scripture is shared, or an opposing political, social, or theological view is presented, let us remember these are the children we’ve poured Christ into and take time to listen, to love, and to learn together.

These are not nameless, faithless, faceless “others.” We can’t lump them into groups and reject them. They are ours and they won’t stay where they are not wanted.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

The Aftermath of Easter

This week my timeline has been filled with pastors and ministers who are T-I-R-E-D. Many have put together multiple services, led various Holy Week services, hosted a myriad of Easter events from prayer meetings to Easter Egg hunts, and welcomed people back to in-person services with a host of new ways of doing things safely. Too often, I fear, for those of us in ministry and even for those of us to attend services throughout the week, the aftermath of Easter is… weariness.

But, a brief look at Scripture shows us quite a different aftermath to the actual event. If you’ve been around church circles for any length of time, it is likely you have heard a number of the post-Resurrection narratives.

  • The story of Mary at the tomb hearing her name spoken by Jesus and running to tell the disciples.
  • The account of the two people walking to Emmaus that were joined by Jesus and didn’t recognize Him until he joined them for a meal and broke the bread, something they had apparently seen Jesus do before and they ran all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the other followers that they had seen the risen Christ.
  • How Jesus then appeared to all the disciples except Thomas and then came back later so that Thomas could see Him, touch Him, and talk to Him.
  • The story of Peter who Jesus cooked breakfast for and commissioned to “feed My sheep.” 

There was an intensity. There was a virtual blizzard of events. Jesus was alive.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that not only did he appear to all of these people, he showed up in a gathering of five hundred. Five hundred firsthand encounters with the risen Christ. 500 firsthand experiences. No names. No stories. Just a brief mention of these 500. What ever happened to their stories?

I mean, technically, we don’t know. But we do know some things. We know that those who experienced firsthand encounters with Jesus felt compelled to share about them; it made their joy complete. We know that those who experienced Jesus didn’t hide their testimony but they shared it openly as we can see all through the book of Acts and the historical writings of many who documented the followers of the Way.

Here’s what I think happened. These people who had experienced the risen Christ COULDN’T CONTAIN their joy. They had to share. To make their joy complete as John says in I John 1:4, they had to tell other people. And in turn those people told other people and those people told other people. 

Friends, our faith is so unique and dynamic. We serve a personal God who interacts with us throughout our lives. He speaks to us through Scripture and song. He reveals himself in creation and one another. For some of us, we hear His whisper in our heart. For others, we experience healing, physical and emotional.

We have firsthand experience of Jesus. We have Easter!

We also hear the testimony of others. We read firsthand accounts. We listen to testimonies and stories of others. We share the experiences of people who have experienced Jesus in their lives.

We get both. We need both.

You see, our joy is made complete, our faith is made whole, when we both experience the risen Christ in our own lives and in the community of believers.

A faith built solely on the experience of others will leave us hopeless.  A faith built solely on our own experience will leave us homeless. 

I believe this is one of the reasons we are seeing a decline in rising generations in the church today. Our segregation of ages has not created the space for firsthand experiences to be shared from one generation to another. Our generational gap doesn’t foster a space for the sharing of personal testimonies and experiences to be passed on through story and song. We are left with generations that are hopeless and homeless.

The rapid spread of Christianity isn’t just because 500+ people had a firsthand experience with Jesus. As they told their story and others heard it and chose to come to faith in Jesus, they had their own firsthand experience. The Holy Spirit was given to them. They came to a place where they too experienced resurrection in their own hearts and minds. And then they shared their story and so on and so on.  Disciples were made. This is discipleship.

I need your testimonies of God’s hand of love and redemption and resurrection in your life. And you need mine. And future generations need ours. Because the firsthand accounts that become secondhand accounts will lead to more firsthand accounts. It is also why we need each other.

Author Wendell Berry once said, “Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years…Laugh. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts….Practice resurrection.”  In other words, plant your seeds of faith. Listen to the testimomies, firsthand and secondhand, make your joy complete. Practice rising to new life. Speak. Share. Sow. Practice resurrection everyday.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

The Intergenerational Body Of Christ

Sometimes it is easier to describe what something IS by exploring what it is not. Many people associate the term “intergenerational ministry” with children’s ministry or family ministry within the church. While those ministries may be partners in intergenerational ministry, the scope of these individual ministries are not broad enough.

Intergenerational ministry encompasses the whole church, all generations, in communal and corporate contexts of friendship, mentorship, discipleship, and relationship.

Intergenerational ministry is more of a cultural characteristic of a church than it is a ministry area; it is a culture that values and creates space for meaningful connections to be made across generational boundaries in a variety of settings for the purpose of generational discipleship, faith formation, and community building.  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 faith community to recognize the need for intentional generational connectivity, the following question must be answered:

  1. What do we mean by a “generation?”
  2. What does each generation need from the church ?
  3. what can each generation contribute to the church?

Defining Generations

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 as marketing firms began to explore how to best market to specific groups, coining nicknames for them in order to create a collective conscious.

The most likely generations that would be found in your church would be the Silent Generation (born 1924-1942), Baby Boomers (1943-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-2000), and Gen Z (2001-2020) and Generation Alpha (the children). The years applied to these generations have some variability depending on who you talk to, but these are basically the breakdown of generations alive today.

Generational Gifts

These six generations offer unique experiences in both spiritual and communal practices for the church.

  • 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.

Generational Needs

Likewise, each generation brings its unique needs to the church. The graphic below uses Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial stages to outline these needs in a church setting. Note, the research on Alpha generation is just starting to make its rounds so they haven’t been included this this particular graphic.

  • 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 placed 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.

As we create communities that encourage relationships to be built across generations, it is important for us to find ways for each generation to both give and receive. And isn’t that what church is all about? The body of Christ, receiving from Christ and one another and, in turn, giving of itself to the one another and the world; just as Jesus has done and just as we will celebrate this upcoming Holy Week. Intergenerational ministry is, at its heart, the church, built and fitted together, as the body of Christ.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

Discipleship, Departure, and Deconstruction: The Role We Play

If Covid did anything, it showed us our deep need for one another and for community.

We are, as one study put it, hardwired to connect.  It’s not surprising then that when Jesus gave us the Great Commission to go and make disciples – not converts – disciples, we find that that happens best in community. Throughout Scripture, we see that faith is passed from one generation to another.

Discipleship is first of all relational.

It requires time spent building in relationship, learning and growing and worshipping together. Generational connection has to be more than just someone who volunteers to teach a class or host a club once a week. It must cross over into a meaningful relationship where love is experienced and pain is processed and life is shared. The reality is, our faith is primarily passed from one generation to another; it’s relational not programmatic. It’s not passed in a class or an after-school program or a club that meets once a week, even though those things can be part of the process.

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

But at this time, perhaps more than any other, we need the community of faith to step in and begin to press forward with meaningful and intergenerational relationships in intentional community.

Our tendency might to try to find a way to make this happen without disrupting the “normal” church programming. But that’s problematic because many of the structures we often have in place actually inhibit relationships from being forged across generations. But 2020 taught us that what we long for most is one another.  This is our chance to connect one another in new ways as we are not held back by long-held traditions, rigid schedules and age-specific classes and curriculum. Many people have multiple generations present in their own home and others can connect virtually, but relationships can be built around faith, even during Covid times.

Why? What is our motivating factor?  The Great Commission.

That call is to make disciples. Discipleship is a lifelong process. Which means even the oldest members of our congregation need discipleship. It just looks different for them than it does for kids. It looks a lot like legacy-leaving and story-telling and intercessory-praying. For kids, it looks a lot like getting to see their parents worshiping, getting to have their name be known and spoken by adults in their church, getting to participate in the things that identify us as believers like communion and worship and reading Scripture in community.

But here’s the heart of the issue: We need each other.

Lifelong discipleship necessitates interactions with multiple generations.

Studies show that age homogeneity in social networks leads to isolation and loneliness. Younger people experience delayed socialization. Older people experience a lack of generativity needed for positive cognitive health (Source). And sometimes, the way those things manifest, are in things like apathy, busyness, and disconnection….sound familiar? Scottie May of Wheaton College points out that “Within many churches today, children and parents rarely share experiences. This generational separation makes it difficult for parents to learn how to nurture their children spiritually” (Source). Combine that with a lack of intergenerational relationships in the church and what we are left with are lonely, exhausted parents, disillusioned ministers, and a congregation just waiting to be connected together, on mission, in relationship, with each other and with God.

And let’s be real a second (for just a millisecond) – when relationships in a church are based around agreement on social, political, and even theological issues rather than the foundation that is Jesus Christ and the revelation of God’s love through the Bible, they easily crumble when disagreements arise.

Disillusionment with the church among rising generations is at an all-time high. But it’s not Jesus or even the Bible they take issue with; it’s church members that they trusted who put agenda before truth and politics before Christ. As they “deconstruct” their faith, they grow confused why people they looked up to in church so readily dismiss them when disagreements arise in social and political matters instead of listening, reflecting and embracing the hard conversations and challenges they want to have.

The importance of genuine intergenerational connectivity in meaningful relationships cannot be underestimated especially when it comes to relationships within a faith community. These relationships sustain us. They combat apathy with genuine care. They reduce the need to hide in busyness by creating safe spaces to learn and grow. They nullify the disconnection by normalizing shared experiences and life on mission.

I truly believe this division and lack of connectedness is the biggest challenge facing, not only children’s ministry, but the Church in general. But this is not a “forever and always” situation. We can begin to create connections within our churches and our homes that will lead to more engage parents, kids, and congregation.

And there is literally no time like the present to begin to pursue this time of intentional, intergenerational, life-giving, loneliness-busting, prayer-focused, integrated, invested community.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

It’s Not Enough to say “We Value Community”

I recently watched The Greatest Showman for the first time. Mind you, I had the entire soundtrack memorized because, it’s pretty fantastic, but I had never actually watched the movie. One scene that stood out to me was when P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) invited Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron) into a partnership. During the interaction. Barnum basically dares Carlyle to put his money where his mouth is; to balk the norm and live into something greater. The invitation was clear: Put some substantive resources and actual risk behind this thing you say you believe in.

Over the past few years, I have had the chance to interact with churches of all shapes and sizes. I’ve worked with multiple denominations on multiple continents and multiple environments from urban to rural. And if there is one thing that I could point to and say, “This is what leads to success” when it comes to connecting generations in community, it is the shift from a “value” mindset to a “valuable” mindset.

Nearly every church I have the chance to journey with will share the things that they value. Inevitably, there will be a declaration that generational discipleship in the home and in the faith community is valued. But, when we start to dig deeper to look at how many resources (time, money, focus, opportunity, space, etc.) are dedicated to these things, we begin to see that being valued doesn’t necessarily translate to being valuable. In fact, often, the resources that could be used to foster these meaningful connections are diverted to maintaining the same programs, services, focuses and structures that actually impede relationships from forming.

Simply put, it’s not enough.

It’s not enough to just say “We value community.” We must take active steps to allow for authentic community to thrive.

It’s not enough to say “We value every voice.” We must tear down the structures and assumptions that keep voices marginalized and unheard.

It’s not enough to say, “We value children/youth.” We must engage the rising generations in active meaningful relationships and contexts that connect faith to action.

It’s not enough to say, “We value the elderly/aging.” We must create spaces where the aging generations can tell their stories, pass on their legacy, and experience generativity.

It’s not enough to say we value something; we must actually find it valuable enough to pay for it with our time, money, and effort.

Churches who begin to shift their focus (re-focus), adjust their time, divert their resources, and push through the discomfort of transition are the ones who end up experiencing new depths of generational discipleship and intergenerational community within their church family. And it doesn’t have to be a huge sudden shift; it can be just incremental steps of moving attention off of things that divide and onto things that unite and bring the congregation together.

  • Highlighting full congregational opportunities from the pulpit
    • Staffing and encouraging participation in intergenerational events and worship
      • Providing funding for trainings or service projects that are open to all ages
        • Investing in supporting, equipping and nurturing parents/caregivers for generational discipleship at home
          • Experimenting with new programs and spaces that allow for young & old to interact

Bottom Line? Resourcing matters.

Putting our money where our mouth is matters. Moving from an abstract idea that is valued to a practical engagement that is valuable matters. And yes, it will cost us something. Anytime we shift resources from one place to another be it time and energy or money and materials, there will be a cost. But that is what makes something valuable. It’s not the value that placed on it in word but the amount we are actually willing to pay for that thing.

But is it worth it? I truly believe that it is. It is worth our investment both in time and in money. And if you don’t know where to start, reach out. There are so many little steps that we can begin to implement that will allow us to shift to more connectional and intentional ways in our faith communities; ways that will connect us to each other and to Christ across generations in our homes and in our churches.

In the words of the greatest showman himself, “Just let me give you the freedom to dream and it’ll wake you up and cure your aching. Take your walls and start ’em breaking. Now that’s a deal that seems worth taking. But I guess I’ll leave that up to you.”


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

“I Believe in Jesus, but Don’t Call Me Christian”

“Younger people are less religious than older people.”

Across the board, this proves to be true. Doesn’t really matter what country one observes or what metrics one uses; statistically, research finds that younger generations tend to be less religious than those who have come before.

However, it turns out, what does matter is which religion is being studied.

According to recent Pew Research, Christianity not only has the most predominant age gap, in that it affects nearly every country that identifies as Christian, it also has the largest one by percentage meaning there is a larger gap in between the ages than other religions.

“Age gaps are also more common within some religious groups than in others. For example, religion is less important to younger Christian adults in nearly half of all the countries around the world where sample sizes are large enough to allow age comparisons among Christians (37 out of 78).

For Muslims, this is the case in about one-quarter of countries surveyed (10 out of 42). Among Buddhists, younger adults are significantly less religious in just one country (the United States) out of five countries for which data are available.

There is no age gap by this measure among Jews in the U.S. or Israel, or among Hindus in the U.S. or India.1 (Source)

Pew Research, 2018

The highest retention rates for religions are found in the Hindu, Muslim and Jewish communities.  The lowest retention rates are found in Mainline Protestants, Buddhism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and atheism (Source).

Why?

There are so many people asking and answering this question. There’s a lot of research being done not only on why younger generations are leaving their faith and/or their church and why some choose to stay. More precisely, many younger generations are saying, “I still believe in God and Jesus and the Bible, but I don’t want to be called a Christian.” They are opposed to many of the movements that have been labeled as “evangelical” or “Christian” in the past decades and desire to distance themselves from that label and institution. Here are some common reasons for younger generations distancing themselves from church.

  1. Some stay away from church because they don’t feel like they belong. A study shared by Christianity Today found that about “58 percent of young adults indicated they dropped out because of their church or pastor. When probed further, they said:
    • Church members are judgmental or hypocritical (26%).
    • They didn’t feel connected to the people at their church (20%).
    • Church members were unfriendly and unwelcoming (15%)
    • Religious, ethical or political beliefs (52%)
  2. Others leave because their faith or their church was never truly theirs, just something they had to do for their parents or because children’s ministry or youth group was a fun social hangout. “Consider this finding: when students involved in the College Transition Project were asked what it means to be a Christian, 35 percent “gave an answer that didn’t mention Jesus at all.” (Source)
  3. Still others leave because they have no relationships the church or a compelling reason to stay.  According to an interview with Dr. Kara Powell of Fuller Youth Institute, “The number one reason why young people are walking away from their faith—it’s a lack of intergenerational worship and relationship” (Source).
  4. A more recent development, the perpetuation of conspiracy theories, political agendas, and nationalism within the church. A recent study by Lifeway found that 49% of pastors frequently hear members sharing conspiracy theories and predominantly these belong to the 65+ generation and are part of a predominantly white church (Source). This is a major issue for younger generations who both reject this mixing of church and state and racial divide and also call out conspiracy and nationalism on a regular basis.

Of course, there are more reasons, but these are some of the big ones. And the thing is, some of these can be resolved! 

Basically, each of these reasons boil down to this:  We need faith communities that are, as Dr. Powell stated another interview, “ruthless about focusing on Jesus [and] realize that Christianity can be awkward and sometimes confusing, but Jesus is always magnetic.” And this starts when they are young, when they are children, not once they have left.

We need communities that foster a sense of belonging to something bigger, create space for intergenerational connections that are meaningful and long-lasting, and invite a willingness to engage in conversations of doubt, faith, and culture. 

We can keep moving forward with age-segregated ministries, church services, and programs or we can step back, see the bigger picture, listen to what we are hearing from generations to come, and begin implementing the changes needed to address the concerns listed above all while remaining stalwartly focused on Christ.

It won’t always be comfortable for many of us to “change” and to embrace new ways of thinking and “doing” church, but it’s time to think bigger than today, bigger than “us” and consider our children, grandchildren and generations to come.

For more on these topics, check out the posts below and share your own thoughts in the comments


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

Missing the Mark: The Failing Strategy of Trying to Woo Missing Generations

Increasingly, I find myself in conversations with churches that are concerned they do not have a lot of Millennials and Gen-Xers in their congregation. “We have two strong areas in our church,” one pastor said, “Seniors and kids 5th grade and under. We just can’t seem to hit the generations in between.”

This church’s solution to this problem was to focus on reaching those missing generations. Offering classes they thought they would like. Playing worship songs and preaching sermon series they thought they’d enjoy. Even adjusting the service time and format in order to appeal more to those generations. Nothing seemed to be working. So I offered this suggestion:

Instead of focusing on the weaknesses, build up the strengths.

Find ways to intentionally invest in and connect the oldest generations and the young generations currently in the church.  Create programming specifically for them. Give them the attention and the focus. Put together opportunities aimed at bringing those two groups together. After all, if the other generations aren’t there anyway, what have you got to lose?

The reality is this:  We need each other. These separations we have created in our churches based on generational lines and age segregation are not doing us any favors. Instead of making us stronger, they have made us weaker. They keep us from being connected to each other. They inhibit us from experiencing community with one another.

Being in the same building at the same time makes us not more connected that a bunch of loose legos in a bin. In order for those legos to build anything, they have got to be joined together.

We are at our very core hardwired to connect. This is actually the title of a study done by the Commission on Children at Risk completed in 2003 that looked specifically at depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, thoughts of suicide, and other serious mental and behavioral problems in young people. Their conclusion? We are hardwired to connect to other people.

Simply put, we are built for community. We actually need places to be vulnerable and accountable, to pass on knowledge and gain new experiences, and without those things in place, we begin to disintegrate as an individual. “When younger and older connect, the intergenerational relationships built are a route to success in early life and a key to happiness and well-being in our later years” (Source). This begs the question – why?

Because we are created in God’s image and He is a communal God.

We are quite literally created FOR community. There’s no getting away from that very essential part of who we are.

When we look at our church community and only focus on what or who we are missing, we will miss out the gift in front of us. The next generation. The oldest generation.  As members of a faith that perpetuates itself through generational discipleship, passing our faith from one generation to another, finding ways to strengthen those connections will be our greatest gift.

If we are going to see our churches strengthened, we have to take our focus off the “missing” generations and begin to support, equip, strengthen, nurture, and connect the ones we still have in our communities.

Create space for them to be in relationship with one another, making meaningful connections (not just passing in the hall), engaging in corporate times of worship (not just periodic performances) and life-giving discipleship relationships (not just the sharing of an occasional word of wisdom).

Let’s invest in the generations of today and let’s focus on how we can strengthen their faith and their relationships in ways that will create lifelong faith for generations to come.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

Exclusion or Embrace? Age Integration in the Church

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

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

Acts 2:42-47 NIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

About this Blog

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

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