Intergenerational Community for Children and Families

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


Intergenerational Community… what exactly does that mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog
The Embree Family

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

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

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

Book Review: Children & Family Ministry Handbook by Sarah Flannery

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

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

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

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

Consider these words taken from Chapter 6, page 116:

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

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

There is no cookie-cutter approach to intergenerational ministry.

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

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

In fact, it means the possibilities are endless.

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

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

That is the heart of generational discipleship.

It’s about relationship and connection.

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

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

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

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

 

 


For more information about

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

About this BlogIMG-0573

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

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

What Are We Missing?

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”

Admit it, you sang it. But, in all seriousness, have we ever felt this song more strongly as a society than now?  The words “I miss…” have been uttered countless times in our home this week. I miss my friends. I miss my classmates. I miss going out. I miss hanging out at the mall. I miss church. And, believe it or not, I miss school and I miss work.

My guess is that many of us are experiencing these deep feelings of loss as we miss the people and places that typically define our daily existence. And with their temporary loss, we see the impact that these place and people have on our lives and the gaps that are left when they are not there.

I can’t help but think about about the similarities between these missed opportunities and the past several years of study I’ve done into age segregation in the church.

Let me explain.

In the mid -1900s when age specific ministries were coming into focus, a lot of attention was giving to the number of children, youth, and families that were coming to church. By the late 20th century, most churches had developed age specific ministry departments focused on attracting a certain age group and/or their parents and grandparents to the church. And it was wildly effective. The rise of the youth group and the increase in children / family attendance at church did indeed go up.

message-4092821_1920But then something happened. As the youth group generation grew up, instead of remaining in the church, they began to leave the church. Yes, some of them came back with their kids, but not nearly the number that were represented in youth group (Source).

So what happened?

Perhaps in our zeal to increase our numbers in the present, we forgot to think about the future. Maybe we forgot to look at the people and places that helped define our faith and create connections to our local faith community and the larger Body of Christ.

Let’s just be honest, age integration (putting generations together) can be difficult. However, research has shown that it is not only a good and healthy thing for different generations to spend time in relationships one another, it is also one of the key factors in young people remaining in the faith after they’ve left their home of origin. And there are things we can do to help make our times of corporate worship beneficial to all.(For more on this, click here)

And, one more thing real quick..

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.

It’s in our spiritual DNA; we were built for community by our very Creator God who exists in the perfect community of the Trinity and in whose image we are created.  When Christ called the Church, he didn’t differentiate by age. He simply called to all who believed in Him to follow Him together. We need each other, every age, every level of development, every part, in order for us to truly be “the Body of Christ.”

We have this unique time in our lives and in our churches to consider what we are missing. It might be that we find that some of the things we are missing are things that we didn’t even realize we needed.

It’s become apparent that being together really does matter.

So, when we are together again, what is that going to look like? Could it be that when we gather together again, there might be space for all of us, all ages, all generations to worship, celebrate and gather together.  We may not even realize just how much we are missing.


For more information about

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

About this BlogIMG-0573

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

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

 

Using Fear Tactics? There’s a better way

In Kentucky, we are 2.5 weeks into a “Healthy at Home” response to the current COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted the entire globe. In the days and weeks leading up to these stronger restrictions, I began to read social media posts from my fellow Christians calling for the media to stop “fear mongering” or using fear tactics to hype the virus and, in their estimation, cause panic.

But lately a surprising and frankly discouraging trend seems to have replaced this call for the media to stop using fear as a motivator. Over the past two weeks I have seen posts that say things like this:  “You know what’s even scarier than coronavirus? Depart from me, I never knew you – Jesus” or “Corona virus is God’s way of calling America to repentance”

Friends, that is fear-mongering.

Using the abundant LOVE God showed us through His Son in order to bring us eternal life as a tool of fear to scare people into repentance? That is not right. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) not his wrath.

little-boy-1635065_1920And while it is true that our kids are not likely reading these posts, we have to be careful in how we approach children at this time. They are already scared. Things don’t make sense.  I am going to make the broad assumption that people aren’t saying these things to children but it concerns me that they are getting said at all.

Is there another way?

Absolutely there is. We serve a God who is Love incarnate. We have the opportunity to life up life and hope and peace because we serve the God of life, hope and peace. Believe it or not, that can be done without using fear to motivate people. The salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ doesn’t need the threat of eternal damnation behind it to be effective.

Here are some ways we can lead from FAITH and not FEAR:

Acknowledge the world honestly, MAGNIFY the Lord intentionally – Yes, there are bad things that happen in the world. Hiding the truth from people, especially kids, will only make them more inquisitive. Talk to them when they ask about things that are scary BUT don’t focus on the scary thing; intentionally shift your focus to how GREAT God is

This virus is scary. My kids and my friends’ kids are asking questions every day so I assume most kids are. And we can answer them honestly without magnifying fear. What we can do is reassure them that we are with them, God is always with them, and that they are not alone.

Walk by FAITH and not by SIGHT – Kids watch what we model. If we make decisions or post memes out of fear, that will be the model that they learn from. If we model decision-making and social media sharing from a place of faith and seeking God, that’s what they will learn to do as well.

Be the HANDS and FEET of Christ – We are confronted with the reality of a fallen world on a daily basis. People who are lost, in need, alone. When we become Christ to those people by serving them and sharing hope and life with them, we show our kids that faith conquers fear every time and we model participation on the life of Christ as the way to approach a Christian life.

One our our church members recently started a Zoom Call called “Fort Fellowship” where she gathers kids and families together in a blanket fort they’ve built and share a short Bible Study. Each time we gather, she issues a challenge for us to bless others even while we are apart. To write a letter, call someone who is alone, make a card, share a video, and in that way be the hands and feet of Christ even as we are physically separate.

PRAY without ceasing – The reality is we cannot protect our kids forever from the results of living in a broken world. We can minister and parent from faith, we can give them tools for the task, and we can hold their hand for a while, but eventually we have to let go. But, we never have to stop praying, in the morning, at lunch, before bed, while we walk along the road, while we sit in our house. We can always, always pray. Pray together, pray apart, and pray often.

One day, this crazy season of life will be over (and there will be a new one with new challenges and opportunities). Let’s give our kids and families the best possible foundation on which to move forward.

“Now these three remain, faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13


For more information about

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

About this BlogIMG-0573

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

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

 

An Open Letter to My Fellow Ministry Leaders

The definition of the word “overwhelm” is to “give too much of a thing to (someone); to inundate.”

Friends, parents in America are overwhelmed.

In a few short days, they have been handed the responsibility of teaching their children at home while continuing to work their job (from home or in person) all while being thrown copious amounts of information about COVID-19 from every possible direction… and then there is us.

With the best of intentions, we have joined the cacophony of voices that are offering advice, resources, videos, experiences, links, songs, lessons, books, devotionals, etc.  And that is not a bad thing; in fact, the majority of responses I’ve seen posted publicly are those of gratitude and thankfulness.

But… my guess is only a very small fraction of those resources will actually be accessed.

And we need to be okay with that.

We need to refrain from thinking things like, “Well, I guess we’ll see if parents really can disciple their kids at home” (actual comment I’ve seen repeated in one format or another over the past week). We need to be careful about not offering so much “stuff” that parents can’t figure out what they could or should do as they juggle schooling, cooking, working, cleaning, entertaining, comforting and the like.

TiredParentsAs a parent, I can almost promise that what most parents are feeling right now is a sense of concern that they are not doing enough, exhaustion as they are trying to figure out what is best, fear that they are not going to be able to hold themselves and their home together, and frustration that they’ve lost every sense of normalcy and routine.

And while they are likely grateful for resourcing and support, what they might need most of all is a high five, a virtual pat-on-the-back, and a serious vote of confidence in them. 

Consider, instead of offering another resource, sending a personal text to say, “I believe in you and I am praying for you. You are going to be an amazing parent during this time and I am excited for your kids getting to spend this time time with you.”

Or, drop a note in the mail for the kids that praises their caregivers.

Or just let them know that while the resources are available, if they can’t or don’t use them, that’s okay. Just being present with their children is the work of discipleship. If all they do is hug them, feed them, love them, and keep them healthy through this time, they have done an amazing thing.

Help them redefine discipleship. A disciple is someone who follows Jesus. Discipleship is anything that we do that helps someone to follow Jesus.

For many parents, that’s gonna be a bedtime story, a math problem solved, a meal around the table, and a hug when someone is scared.

Parents are the greatest influence on their kids, now or any time. Let’s bolster their confidence and help them do the work of discipleship that they are already doing.

So, let’s offer the resources but without any strings, without any expectation, but just as a simple gift. And let’s jump to our feet and praise our parents for handling this unexpected major life change like the champions they are.

Oh…. and wash our hands.


For more information about

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

About this BlogIMG-0573

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

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

Practical and Simple Tips to Aid Intergenerational Worship

I’ve fielded several questions this week on the practicality of having all ages in corporate worship together. While some of the questions pertained to older generations participating in church, most of them were focused on the challenge of having children in the church service.  But after conversing for a bit, the basic need wasn’t to be convinced that children should be there at some point (that reconciled fairly quickly after some theological, developmental, and sociological evidences of the benefits of intergenerational worship); the bigger felt need was just for some practical and simple ways to make it possible for children to be integrated into the service.

Our traditional service structures often make it difficult to extend the hand of welcome to the next generation and it can be difficult to maneuver within those confines and find ways of incorporating all generations.

With that in mind, here are some practical tips and tools for Intergenerational Worship Services that might be useful for your faith community. I’ve shared these in the past and have had a lot of great feedback from multiple churches and denominations. I’d love to hear what your church is doing to make room for all ages to find a space to worship together.

1. Kid’s Worship Team – This team doesn’t necessary lead “singing” but they worship through hospitality (holding doors, handing out bulletins, etc), prayer (they go forward during prayer time and pray for themselves and others) and generosity (they take up the communion and pray over it).

For our team, the kids followed a weekly schedule, just like the adult worship team, and if they missed their Sunday, they had to get someone to take their spot. They also had to go through a training on worship with me before they could serve.

2. Sermon Notes – There are a lot of great templates out there for sermon notes and for older kids, it’s a great way to keep them involved with the service.  In one church, if a child completed their sermon notes, they could get something out of a treasure box and the completed form was given back to their parents so the parents could have a follow-up conversation with their kids at home.

churchkids

3. Call Out the Kids – Kids love to get attention and they love when they get to be drawn into “adult” things like the sermon. We often asked whoever was speaking to at some point in the sermon just say something like, “Hey kids, have you ever seen this?” or something else that would be appropriate to the text to help draw the kids into the story. It’s amazing how just that little comment really drew them in and helped redirect their attention to the service.

4. Interactive Teaching and Learning – Anything interactive is great!  One of the ways our current church engages the kids is if there is a topic that involves a story from the Bible, the pastor will have the kids help act out the story. Everyone loves it – it’s spontaneous so things definitely go wrong, but the whole congregation gets involved and no one forgets the Scripture we studied that week.

5. Busy Bags  – Busy bags get a bad rap, mostly because people don’t understand the developmental science behind them. Have “busy bags” but explain to parents and other church members that these activities aren’t intended to distract the kids but rather to help the kids use all of their developing senses; studies show if their hands and eyes are busy, their ears will be listening.

Quiet activities like lacing cards, stickers scenes, foam craft kits, beads and pipe cleaners, small puzzles and coloring are all great ways to engage your kinesthetic and visual learners.

6. Pew Boxes or Worship Boxes  – Similar to busy bags, these boxes can be placed underneath chairs or pews and filled with quiet activities and books for kids to use during worship services. I love the ones put together by Traci Smith and outlined here

6. Active Involvement – The difference between “having kids in Big Church” and welcoming kids into corporate worship lies basically in participation.  Are children being invited to actively participate or passively observe?  Inviting children and youth to be part of the order of worship has incredible sway in creating a sense of inclusion and welcome.

Children and youth can read Scripture, say the benediction, lead a song (doesn’t always have to have actions – it can just be a song that they like – my son loves, “No Longer Slaves” and can’t wait to lead it), and pray.   Being involved signals that we have a place in the congregation – we are a part of something bigger – and everyone needs to know that truth.


For more information about

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

About this BlogIMG-0573

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

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

How to (Painlessly) Connect Generations in Church

Let me let you in on a little secret.  Well, maybe it’s not a secret. Maybe you already know. But here it is…

Some people don’t like the idea of children being in worship on Sunday morning.

Others don’t think it’s a good idea for the youth group to be in Sunday school in the same class as older adults.

Still others question whether corporate worship is developmentally appropriate and some wonder if it’s safe, considering the world we live in, for older people and younger people to interact in meaningful ways like mentoring relationships and close friendships.

Now, it’s possible that you do not feel any of these ways… but I promise you, there are some in your congregation that do. And let’s be honest. There are legitimate reasons for their concerns about safety and developmental appropriateness and there are years of experience and tradition and structures that bolster these opinions. And frankly, sometimes the protests arise from parents that are just tired and want a break and a place to receive instead of give.

I’ve written blogs about many these topics and concerns (just click on the links)…but that is not what this post is about. Because sometimes, instead of trying to turn a whole ship, it’s wiser to just introduce some simple course corrections; ones that offer the goal of intergenerational connections without having to completely overhaul programming or interrupt the congregational flow. And sometimes, these course corrections can eventually lead to a culture that is more ready and able to begin turning the ship and embracing new (actually old) ways of worshiping and congregating together, across ages and generations.

Below are a few practices that could allow for your community to begin to connect children, youth, and the elderly (the groups that tend to be left out of communal gatherings) in meaningful ways. I’ve linked to resources as needed and would be happy to discuss any or all in deeper conversation if interested.

Pray For Me Campaign

The Pray For Me campaign connects young people with others in the congregation as prayer partners for an academic year. While there are programming resources available, the church I did this with simply prayed for each other. Each child who participated was giving 3 bookmarks with their picture and a little bit of information on it and they asked 3 adults of varying generations to pray for them for the school year. We had 40 students and 78 adults participate. Each week an email was sent out with Scripture to pray over your student for that week. That was it.

Diverse people sitting in circle holding hands at group therapy

The Pray For Me book is fantastic if your church can afford to buy one for each participant; if not, buy a few copies for your team and each Sunday school and share as needed. Long story short – when people pray for each other, they begin to invest in one another. You can read more about my experience here.

Kids Worship Team

Often times in church, we define “worship team” as the group that gets up in front of church and leads singing. But worship is SO much more than that. Worship is showing reverence and adoration for God and we can do that in so many ways. Our Kid’s Worship Team “led worship” through hospitality (holding doors and handing out bulletins), prayer (going up to the altar to pray when the pastor offered that during prayer time so no one would pray alone) and generosity (taking up the offering and praying over it).

Get creative; how can the kids and youth in your church “lead worship”? In our church now, our kids teach the adults the lesson they learned at the end of the service. It’s incredible to watch how the adults connect to the kids lesson and how the kids get to share what they’ve learned. It takes 3 minutes but it’s 3 minutes well spent for all.  What about you?

Redefine “Next Gen”

A couple of weekends ago, I had the chance to join the pastoral staff at my church (Plowshares Brethren in Christ) in sharing our 2020 Vision with the congregation. Currently, I am serving as the NextGen pastor, so when it was my turn to speak, I felt it would be good to define what exactly we meant by “NextGen.”

I’ve found that for the most part, people tend to equate the term “NextGen” to youth ministry or children’s ministry or family ministry. And while all of these things are a part of NextGen, for our church, the term is much broader. We take seriously the reality that disciplemaking means that as a community we are all participating in the passing on of our faith to upcoming generations. That means, when Plowshares NextGen holds an event, if the only people that come are the next generation, we are missing a key component of NextGen – namely, the current gens.

NextGen is not just about providing a ministry space to youth and children and their parents; rather it is about creating a discipleship culture where we learn together and from one another in a way that fans the flame of faith in all of us.

With that in mind, I invited the entire congregation to join us for our first NextGen event of the year: A rice and beans dinnerthat would focus on gratitude, simplicity and privilige and end with packing Blessings Bags for our participants to take with them.  These types of events give us a way to experience discipleship together which is important for all ages, not just the next generation.

Serve Together

Warning: I’m gonna get a little scientific on you but it’s worth it so hold on. As human beings, we were created for social interaction. When we interact with other people, in positive ways, our brains release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a chemical that actually sometimes gets called the “cuddle chemical” because it helps us to trust and attach to others. When that happens, we are more likely to bond with the people we are interacting with and the part of our brain that forms memories is triggered and we hold on to that bond for years to come. (Source)

When people serve other people, a similar chemical reaction happens – humans “feel” good when they serve. So good in fact that people who serve live longer, healthier lives and experience reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety (Source).

Now, put to the two together in a church and you know what you end up with? Community. And with community we have a place for mentoring, discipleship and meaningful, lasting interactions with one another within the safety and security of communal gathering.  Those lasting bonds that are created will do more to draw hearts back to “church” than all the Sunday school crafts and silly youth group games in the whole world.

None of the things mentioned above require programming changes, curriculum overhauls or Sunday morning reorientation. They are simply course corrections. But all of them give the opportunity for the larger faith community to begin interacting with each other in ways that impact each other greatly. In other words, the ship could turn. The appetite may be whet for more because once we taste the rich gift that is true community across generations, our spirits will long for more…that’s how we were created and that’s how Jesus lived and loved.

Looking for more ideas? Check out the blog posts linked below.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

IMG-0573Refocus 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 holds Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a Doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from the same. Christina blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

The Sin of Neglect: Discipleship and the Next Generation

Sometimes, as I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed, a post will jump out at me and I will go back for a second look. That happened yesterday.

Yesterday, a senior pastor I know posted the following in Facebook discussion.

John Wesley on the pastor’s responsibility to minister to children, “Talk with them… pray in earnest for them, diligently instruct and vehemently exhort all parents…. Some will say, ‘I have no gift for this.’ Gift or no gift, you are to do this, or else you are not to be called a Methodist preacher” (On Instructing Children, Minutes of Several Conversations)

Hold up!  I gotta see more. Let’s read through the conversation that follows.

Response: And I remember reading somewhere that the average church spends 2% of its budget on reaching kids.

Reply: This neglect is a systematic sin in the general church.

 Response: I would add that church needs to be done in a way that lets children know they belong there. I never mind the noise as it means life and growth and sometimes the only response to my questions.

I must remind you, this discussion was not a discussion between children’s pastors or youth ministers. The very real impact of not effectively ministering to the next generation in ways that tell them they belong, that they are a part of the community of faith, of segmenting our churches into aged blocks that don’t interact and where the lead pastor delegates all the work with children and youth to others who are “gifted” was being felt at a different level.

This is a big deal to me. Why? Not because senior pastors or lead pastors are somehow more gifted or more called or more important than other members of the church. That would be a terrible overstatement and frankly, one that many churches and pastors do struggle with.  But let’s engage in some honest reflection for a moment (and please indulge some generalities and stereotyping: don’t immediately rush to defend your church or critique these statement; hear the sentiment behind the words).

Who has the most influence on a church/congregation? Hint: It’s not the children’s minister. It’s not the youth pastor.

Who (typically) gets paid the most for their work in the church? Again, same hint applies.

Whose voice carries the most weight, is often required to sit on the most committees and is needed to make most of the vision and mission decisions of a congregation? You guessed it.

The senior pastor.

Now we could sit here and debate the rightness or wrongness of these statements. Personally, I find those things to be most troubling and hope that churches are getting to a place where instead of being a pastor-driven church, they become mission-driven and each member of the body serves according to his/her gifts. But that’s a topic for another space and probably a different blog.

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Photo by Pedro Lima on Unsplash

The reason I have chosen to bring attention to this Facebook post on this blog is because… the poster was right.  His description that “this neglect is a systemic sin in the general church” is spot on. We, the body of Christ, are called to make disciples.

In our churches, we are gifted with multiple generations, all at different paths on the journey, all in different life circumstances, all with so much to give to one another, all called to disciple…and, in many cases, they don’t even know each other’s names let alone speak to one another outside the church walls.

How can we answer the call to go and make disciples if we can’t even stay and make disciples?

I was so glad to see this Facebook discussion because I am convinced that it is time.

It is time for churches in America to recognize that doing the same thing we’ve been doing for the next 20 years will simply yield the same results of neglect and loss.

It is time to recognize the structural and personal constructs that keep us from engaging with one another, across generations, in meaningful ways that lead to relationships and discipleship.

If your church building has entirely separate wings for separate ages, it is time to figure out how to literally break down the walls.

If your curriculum is targeted at only one age group so that your Sunday school classes or Wednesday night groups are limited in who can attend, it’s time to get creative and figure out how to include more generations in these conversations.

If your church board or leadership team or welcome committee or worship team or outreach group doesn’t have a chair for a member or two of the next generation (yes, youth group kids) to have a voice and be a part of the mission, it is time to recognize the mission and vision will end with the generations that do.

Open the doors. Have the conversations. Listen to one another.

Hear the babies cry and the toddlers play and the children laugh and the teens whisper and the young adults converse and the new mamas sigh and the old mamas advise and the new husbands wonder and old husbands share and the elders remember. Listen to the life of the church.

Don’t be afraid of each other and of change. Let’s be the generation that says “No!” to the systemic sin of neglect and “Yes!” to the call to make disciples right in our own pews.

And senior pastors, do not neglect the children and the youth. They need you too. As Wesley said, “Gift or no gift, you are to do this!”  If our churches are going to change direction, they are going to need you to embrace this reality.

If I am passionate, it is only because I truly believe it is time. We cannot keep wasting our time arguing about whether we want to do this or debating that we like things this way or that. It is time to get serious about being the body of Christ, to one another and to the world, without limits places on age or generation.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

IMG-0573Refocus 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 holds Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a Doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from the same. Christina blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

Who Should Disciple Children?

Among Children, Family and NextGen pastors and directors, this question often gets tossed around; Who should disciple children?

The question stems from books written over the past two decades which point out that in Scripture, parents are called to disciple their children, to raise them up in the faith and teach them about Christ. This is often shared in contrast to the idea of taking children to church for Sunday school and Wednesday nights and letting the volunteers and ministers there do the work of discipleship, rather like sending our children to school to let the experts and professionals teach them.

Most of the time, there are a few common answers that get shared.

  • First, that it is the parent’s responsibility and the church is there to support them.
  • Second, that it is a shared responsibility where both the church and the parents partner together.
  • Third, that is is the parent’s responsibility but so many parents don’t know how to disciple their kids that it becomes the church’s responsibility.
  • Fourth, that it is the church’s responsibility based on the Great Commission and parents, as part of the church, participate in the work of discipleship.

These are all valid points and I appreciate the hearty discussion that takes place around this topic; however, there are a few significant facts that tend to get left out of the discussion, facts that carry a lot of weight and are important for both the church and the home to consider as we continue the conversations.

Who are the Parents?

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In 2015, Pew Research surveyed 1,807 US parents with children younger than 18, representing a wide swath of social, economic, racial, and religious demographics. Among other things, the study found that “today, fully 62% of children live with two married parents – an all-time low. Some 15% are living with parents in a remarriage and 7% are living with parents who are cohabiting. Conversely, the share of children living with one parent stands at 26%, up from 22% in 2000 and just 9% in 1960.”

ImplicationsMany children are not going home to the same set of biological parents each night and spending their time in the same home. Many bounce back and forth between two homes, with two different sets of parents and step-parents, siblings and step-siblings, and rules and expectations; others live with just one parent while others live with grandparents or other relatives or caregivers. When we say “the parents” should disciple their children, to whom are we actually referring?

In order to address this reality, many ministries now talk about the importance of discipleship in the “home” or discuss the influence that the “home” has on the faith formation of children. As we consider equipping the home as the place of discipleship, it becomes increasingly important for us to consider who is filling that parental role within the home.

For more on this topic, check out these articles and the full Pew Research report.

What do we mean by “Who Should”?

One key fact that gets left out of many of the “who should” conversations is that, whether they should or not, parents ARE the ones who “disciple” their kids. Studies show parents have the greatest impact on their children and their children’s faith, far above any church or ministerial context or person (Source). By default, parents are discipling their children.

My guess is what we are actually talking about in the “who should” conversations is intentional discipleship where parents are doing discipleship on purpose rather than incidentally. In other words, are parents engaged in the work of discipleship with intention or are they just accidentally influencing their kids’ faith in both positive and negative ways?

Implication:  This is an important consideration because it impacts how we address parents and caregivers in terms of equipping and supporting their work of faith formation in the home. Rather than telling them they “should” disciple their children or that it is their job to do so, we begin the conversation by letting them know that they are, in fact, discipling their children all the time and that we, as the church, want to come along side them and journey with them as they do so. This approach immediately changes the conversation from a directive to a cooperative action.

For more on this topic, check out these articles and another Pew Research report.

Who is “The Church”?

churchpeople

One of the major criticisms of the church in many of the books regarding family ministry is that a culture of “professional discipleship” has been created where caregivers think that they can leave the faith formation of their children to Sunday school teachers and children’s pastors rather than engaging with faith in the home.

But, what do we mean when we say “the church?”  If we are merely referring to the few volunteers and paid ministry staff that interact with children or the programs, curriculum or activities that our children participate in, we are missing out on a huge portion of the church…namely, the people. 

Often the verses found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 are quoted as a mandate for parental discipleship in the home. It’s important to note that the charge to talk about these commandments, to impress them on the children, to disciple the next generation in faith what given to the entire gathered assembly and never once were parents singled out and told that discipleship was their sole responsibility. On the contrary, the command was clearly given in the presence of everyone (Hear, O Israel) and deemed by God through Moses as applicable to the whole assembly. So much so, it is repeated, nearly word for word in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 again in an address to the whole congregation.

Implications: This is a command to disciple is given to all members of the community of faith, to all of our children, not just those who live in our homes.  When viewed in this light, some of common excuses for not serving and ministering to children in the church fall short. We can’t say, “I gave my time serving with in Sunday School and youth group when my kids were young. It’s their turn now.” We can’t say, “Well, they aren’t my kids. It’s not up to me to talk to them about God.” We can’t say, “It’s not my responsibility.” I mean, we can say those things, but we miss out on our call of discipleship within the community of faith.

For more on this topic, check out these articles.

So What is the Answer?

The answer to the “Who Should?” question posed above is not an Either/Or; it’s a Both/And.  The church as a body (think people, community, not institution or program) should provide networks of support and mentoring that disciple children and uphold parents and parents should be intentional about their influence at home and consider how their own actions as Christians are impacting their children. In doing so, we provide the next generation with best road towards lifelong faith and a personal relationship with Jesus, which is our ultimate goal as members of Christ’s body.


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

IMG-0573Refocus 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 holds Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a Doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from the same. Christina blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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

What Does the Bible say about Intergenerational Ministry?

Does the Bible talk about intergenerational ministry?

How about generational discipleship?

Is there a biblical basis for this new craze sweeping the children’s ministry and family ministry worlds?

Well, technically, it’s not so much new as it is old…really, really old.

Until recently in church history, the generations did in fact worship together as an intergenerational faith community. In their book, Intergenerational Christian Formation, Holly Allen and Christine Ross (2012) point out that “first century churches were multigenerational entities, with children present for worship, healings, prayer meetings, even perhaps when persecutions were perpetuated.”

That really didn’t change until the 20th century when the work of development theorists such as Piaget, Kohlberg, and Fowler began to gain popularity, the church adapted their practices and it led the creation of specialized ministries to connect to specific age groups (Source). Eventually developmentalists’ concerns were applied to the worship hour and the Sunday morning church experience began to be viewed as a time for teaching adults (Source).

But, I digress. Since the late 1970s there have been movements popping up to help churches regain that more intergenerational feel and today…well, today, it’s a thing.  It seems like everywhere you look, this idea of intergenerational or multigenerational ministry and generational discipleship is being discussed, argued, and implemented.

Which leads some of us to ask..is this biblical?

Can we find this in Scripture and, if so, what do the Bible have to say?  

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 gets talked about a lot within the realm of family ministry as a verse that exemplifies the work of discipleship done by parents within the home.

BUT it’s important to note that these instructions to share about the commandments of the Lord weren’t given to solely to parents.  In fact, when Moses shared these commands, he did so with the whole assembly of Israel, not just to the parents/caregivers that were present.

Deuteronomy 4:9 reads, “Make them known to your children and your children’s children” indicating there were multiple generations present when these commands were given. Now, with that in mind, consider that in one commentary, it’s pointed out that according to the Jewish people, “Teach them to thy children” meant “not only those of thy own body but all those that are anyway under thy care and tuition.” That means the charge to “impress upon your children” the commandments of the Lord extended beyond the home and into the larger faith community.

We call that “generational discipleship”!

And it’s not limited to this moment. Intergenerational community can be found throughout Scripture.

Whenever the nation of Israel would gather for special occasions such as feasts or celebrations, the entire community, all generations, would be present. Like…

  • Deuteronomy 29:10-12 when Moses spoke to Israel for the final time
  • 2 Chronicles 20:13 when Jehosophat called for a fast of the entire nation
  • Nehemiah 8: 2-3 and 12:43 when Ezra read aloud the book of the law and the entire community celebrated together.

Again, Holly Allen and Christine Ross share, “In the religion of Israel, all ages were not just included, they were drawn in, assimilated absorbed into the community with a deep sense of belonging.”

In the book of Psalms, there are references to the passing of faith from one generation to bible-3736644_1920another. Like…

  • Psalm 145:4One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”
  • Psalm 78 – The psalmist explains the importance of testifying about God’s works to the next generation so they would remain in the faith and not turn away a.k.a. generational discipleship.

In the New Testament, Jesus modeled this inclusion of all generations and specifically children throughout his ministry, going so far as to tell his followers that welcoming a child into their midst was akin to welcoming Him and the One who sent Him (Matthew 10:42, Matthew 11:25-26, Matthew 18:2-6, Matthew 18:10, Matthew 19:13-14, Matthew 21:16, Mark 10:13-16 & Luke 9:46-48).

In the epistles Paul writes to the churches and asks for the letters to be read aloud to the gathered community. In them, he specifically addresses a wide range of generations, including children (such as Eph 6:1-4, Col 3:20). It’s safe to assume he mentions all the generations because he expected them to be there to hear what he had to say.

So, yes, intergenerational ministry and generational discipleship are found in Scripture.

And the idea of having all generations interacting within a community of faith isn’t a new one. That doesn’t mean we throw out everything we’ve learned from developmentalists or that doesn’t mean that age-appropriate ministry isn’t of any value.

What it does mean is that the normative faith practice is one where generations have the opportunity to be together and pass the faith to one another, so it would be a good idea for us to create spaces where that can happen.

I’m a firm believer that we can do both age-appopriate ministry and intergenerational ministry well in our churches instead of either/or. Rather than pitting these two against each other, perhaps its time we consider how to embrace the new without rejecting the old.

And, I’d love to know… How is your church finding ways to engage every generation in faith conversations and relationships?

For more on this, check out this post on Biblical Support for Intergenerational Ministry

This article originally appeared on this blog in September 2016


For more information about

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

About this Blog

EmbreeFam2017

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

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