On Belonging at Church: “These are My People”

“To some extent the presence of children in the worship of the first Christians was a matter of necessity. But Paul’s acceptance of children of the church as ‘belonging to God’ or ‘holy’ suggest they were not only there because they had to be. They were there because they belonged there.” 

W. . Strange, Children in the Early Church

Once when I picked my daughter up from an after-school choir practice, she came skipping out, quite happy, and when she got in the car she said, “Mom, these are my people.  This is where I belong.”  This was in contrast to the previous day when I had picked her up from a different club and her attitude was one more of resignation than exuberance and her words were, “I just don’t fit in there.”

We all have a sense of when we “fit” somewhere and when we don’t.  For instance, I left my one and only Zumba class saying, “Yup, nope… I don’t belong there.” But there are other places where within mere moments of being there, I just know, this is right, this is where I belong.  It’s not awkward.  I don’t feel unwelcome. It’s not strange or unnatural.

It’s just where I belong.

I’m sure you have figured out where this whole thing is going.  I mean, if the observation made by Dr. Strange in the quote above is accurate, children in the early church weren’t just there out of consequence but because there was a recognition of belonging They weren’t just there because the church met in their home, but because they were a needed and necessary part of the body.  

Dr. Strange goes on to point out that in the letters of Paul, he speaks directly to children (Eph. 6:1-4, Col. 3:20).  This is, as he says, remarkable meaning something we should remark on.  Why?

Because these letters were being read aloud in the corporate assembly of the church.

The church in a region would gather together and hear these words being read aloud to them and learning together the words of God.  And guess who Paul assumed would be there?  The children.  And guess who he felt was worthy of being taught specifically in the midst of the larger corporate gathering? Children.

Throughout all of the epistles we see children mentioned, often in regards to their instruction and upbringing at home under the loving discipleship and discipline of their parents.  

But what we don’t see is their omission.

They were (and are) an integral part of the church.  And while a thorough review of church history will reveal a strong emphasis on the raising of children in the home and the passing on of faith from the parents, there is never a dismissal of children from the larger church body and wider community.

If you don’t “fit” somewhere, chances are you won’t go back or stay when you can leave.  

If you don’t feel like you belong, it just makes sense that you will look for a place where you do.  

And if you don’t feel like a part of something, it’s easy to disengage and withdraw even if you are physically present.  

I think we can all acknowledge that for the most part “big church” or our regular church assemblies aren’t places where children feel like they “fit.”  Even churches that are transitioning to more intergenerational approaches can find it difficult to create that feel through programming and atmosphere.

I think perhaps that’s because fundamentally, there’s a cultural expectation that kids won’t be there because for many years they haven’t.

Whenever you try on something new, it’s uncomfortable at first, for everyone.  But I truly think if our approach changes, over time programming and atmosphere won’t matter nearly as much as simply conveying the expectation that, of course, children will be there.  Like Paul’s approach, the assumption will be that they are there, they are listening, and they belong.

And the kids will know it.

And that’s not to say, there shouldn’t be times of age-appropriate ministry, because I think there should be.  And that’s not to say that a primary focus of discipleship shouldn’t be the home, because Scripture is clear that it should be.  But, it shouldn’t be a surprise to us or an unexpected distraction when children do join us for corporate worship.  In fact, it should be welcome and expected.  They should just…belong.

Just like my sweet girl intuitively knew that those choir friends were “her people” our church children will know that we are theirs. In their heart, they will know that they are “supposed” to be there; that they belong. And eventually, it won’t be a surprise or distraction to us adults when they are. Because we too will know that they belong there.

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.

Flipping the Script on How We Do Church

If you have been around ReFocus Ministry and this blog for long, you know that one of our greatest passions is to see the body of Christ connected in community across ages and life experiences. Our stated mission is to “connect generations at church and at home.” This vision includes all ages and generations, married and single people, old and young, in meaningful relationships together.

In order for this to happen, the focus on programs and activities that are age or life experience specific often needs to shift towards offering opportunities that involve all members of the body such as service projects and Service Sundays, book studies that are not topical to certain ages or life experiences, exploring a book of the Bible together, and love feasts/family meals.

In other words, simply desiring an engaged and intentional community isn’t enough; there needs to be a tangible movement toward creating spaces of connection. And that seems difficult for a lot of congregations to embrace even if they agree that a connected, intergenerational community is what they desire.

So, why is that? Well, part of the answer is because of the current cultural experience we expect when we go to church. Most churches are designed to highlight and offer age-specific ministries and opportunties aimed at people in certain life experiences. Examples include but are not limited to Sunday school classes (by age or life experience), Singles and/or Marriage ministry, Senior Bible Study, Empty Nesters or Young Moms, Traditional and Contemporary services, etc.

To be clear, there is tremendous value in age-specific or life-experience specific curriculum and opportunities, but in most churches these types of experiences dominate the church programming and intergenerational opportunities tend to be a side option.

What if it was reversed?

What if the majority of what we offered would be open to all ages and life experiences while age-specific options would be offered but for limited times and focuses?

What if we crafted most congregational experiences with a focus on building community and working, learning and growing together, and offered special times and events focused on particular life experiences or age-specific topics?

It is in relationships forged in community that such things as older married couples mentoring newlyweds and single people learning from married people and married people learning from single people can take place. It is in serving with one another that we realized our strengths, call out gifts, find places of commonality, and the chance to face and overcome challenges together. It is in studying Scripture together that we can look to the child as Christ tells us to and for the child to look to us as we impress of them the commandments of the Lord as God calls us to do.

As with most things, the either/or argument is not a good one; we need both/and.

We need space for both types of experiences. And for the most part, I find that people tend to agree with me on that statement. However, where we start to construct that both/and matters. If 90% of our programming remains age-segregated with only 10% of our programming accessible as an optional add-on for creating intergenerational community, we’ve not really created space for relationships to grow.

But if we flip that script, if we build the relationships first and then offer the age-sensitive and life-experience specific options needs for optimum growth and development, those relationships will actually help to bolster and facilitate those programs.

It’s a lot easier for new parents to find a babysitter for a church event when they know and have relationships with everyone in the church. I

t’s a lot simpler for an elderly person to find a ride to and from a senior church event when they have a wide group of relationships with youth and young people.

It’s a lot more straightforward to find volunteers to work a Vacation Bible School when the people being asked know the kids, have relationships with them, and personally desire to see them grow.

When the community IS a community, the ability to offer age-specific opportunities becomes less about programming and volunteers and staffing and curriculum and more about the body looking out for one another and desiring the best for each other.

Throughout the Bible the importance of gathering together is emphasized (Ps. 133: 1, Heb. 10:24-25, Mt. 18:20, Col. 3:16, I Cor. 14:26). The church has always come together to worship Christ, recognizing that each person plays a role. It is clear that God did not intend for believers to live a solitary life but to be part of something bigger; the Church. How can our churches find ways to ensure that no one in our faith communities is living a solitary life?

We need to flip the script, build relationships first, and serve one another as a result. This is not a pipe dream; I have seen churches embrace this and their whole culture changed; it takes time, it takes a willingness to embrace change, but the results are what we all desire – a community of faith growing, learning, and worshiping together.


It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

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

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

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

Not Coming Back

In my line of work, it doesn’t take too long for me to recognize trends in the churches I work with and receive messages from and lately there has been one common thread: Our families aren’t coming back. More precisely, the parents aren’t coming back. And because of that, the kids aren’t coming back.

I predict that we will soon be entering a time where more and more kids will be coming back to church without parents/caregivers present or at least not present in the way they once were.

When we serve in family ministry, our goal is to equip and resource the home in ways that promote faith formation and spiritual discipleship primarily by parents and caregivers. But what happens when a child comes to our church and there isn’t intentional faith formation happening at home? How can we serve the families and the children in ways that honor them and still allow for faith formation to take place?

In addition to doing our best to engage the family and minister to the parents as noted here, we also want to make sure our church is an environment that is prepared to be welcoming and inviting to everyone.

Here are some practical ways your family ministry can minister to kids who come alone

Create a Place to Belong – There’s nothing worse than feeling out of place and awkward.  But there’s nothing better than feeling like you are a necessary part of something.  There are lots of roles that need filled in preparing and completing a worship service.  Finding a place for that child to serve can give a strong sense of self-worth. (younger kids can help hand out bulletins, help with greeting, be your “right hand man”; older kids can read Scripture, help with sound/lights, participate on worship teams, help collect communion)

Know Each Person’s Name –  Being greeted each week by name says “You are welcome here. We want you here and we are excited that you are part of our church family!” And, as best as we can, know the names of their family members so we can ask about them and how they are doing.

Talk about Home – Just because parents/caregivers may not be present in the church building, it doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the home with that child. In fact, kids may want and need support if they are trying to live out their faith at home. Ask about how they are doing, what’s going on in their family, be supportive and give them that space to share.

AssignWelcoming” Families – Before events like VBS that will likely bring more kids into your church, approach a few families and ask them if they’d be willing to “adopt” a child for the activities that day or week.  If your church has intergenerational services where kids attend, find families or even grandparents that will welcome the child to worship with them.

Always Invite the Whole Family  – If you are having a picnic, make sure to invite the whole family.  A word of caution – it can be hard on that child to have to constantly hand deliver invites or handouts that their parents might not want or show appreciation for.  If at all possible, make the contact yourself so that the child isn’t in an awkward position.

Appreciate WHO they are – Don’t let their identity be “The kid who comes without his/her parents.”  They are a beautiful and unique child of God.  A colleague of mine shared this with me about his own experience: “Once upon a time, when I was one of those kids (at church sans family), I appreciated being taken seriously on my own, not as a spare part (like so many singles do!)” 

Host Cross-Generational Events– Instead of all events being focused on family groups, host events where all generations mingle and fellowship regardless of age or relationship.  One family minister I know has round tables and the simple rules are 1. You can’t sit with anyone you are related to and 2. You can’t sit with anyone your age.  Her church has grown to love these times of intentional intergenerational connection and no one feels singled out.

As tempting as it is to press forward in an attempt to return to “normal”, we need to be careful not to bring our pre-Covid mentality into our post-Covid reality. We have all be formed and changed by the past year, kids most of all. Our homes and our lives look different. Let’s do our best to reach people where they are and share the love of Christ with all we have the chance to interact with, no matter what it looks like.


It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Connecting Church And Home During COVID

The landscape of church in America has changed.

Where we were once primarily gathered in-person, on-site at a church building in generally age-segregated worship experiences, we now found ourselves in scattered and distanced situations, at home and online in more intergenerational contexts. Words like “isolated” and “disconnected” get thrown around. It’s new but it’s not normal… it just is.

Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the steps taken in our state, city or church to address the current pandemic, the reality is that many of us are finding ourselves in a new ministry environments and still trying to do old ministry things.  

We are finding ourselves both gathered and scattered and the things we did in the past don’t work as well in the now.

But, in truth, that’s not all bad! There are opportunities for growth, for connection, and for faith formation if we grasp them. In fact, if we are willing to set aside the square peg of what once was and seek to find the right fit for the round hole that is now, we may actually emerge with something even better.

Let’s get really practical about this. What are some ways that we can begin to reframe our ministry without trying to re-invent what we once did?

Here are some on-the-ground, easy-to-implement ideas to reimagine ministry connections and spur on generational discipleship today.

Chain Mail

Remember the days of sending mail…in an envelope…with a stamp? What if you were able to connect your whole church through letters? Here’s the plan: Put together address lists of 6-10 addresses, a letter explaining how a chain letter works, a bunch of stamps and send it out.

What should the chain letter be about? Pick a topic. It could be as simple as “Add your favorite Scripture verse and mail it on!” or “Write an encouraging note to the next person on the list and put in the mail!” The last address should be the church and then post pics as they return.

Pray For Me Campaign

I will bring this up every time! Pray For Me connects children and youth to three adult prayer partners in their church for a duration of time. Beyond connecting generations, Pray For Me will also lead to a congregation connected in intercessory prayer.

Tell Your Story

We miss seeing each other’s faces and hearing each others voices. What if each week or month, a topic was offered by the church like, “When was a time God provided for you in a miraculous way?” or “What is your favorite Christmas memory?” and then encourage families and individuals to send in short videos with their story. Create a “Storyboard” on your website and share the videos there and through emails and social media.

Family Faith Formation

Parents are “learning” weary. They’ve had to learn all kinds of new things this year and the thought of having to learning something else or log on to something else and try to get the family in front of the screen. But as the months get colder, families are going to find themselves inside more. Consider putting together fully-contained, easy-to-implement faith formation activities for families to do like Advent-in-a-Box or Fill Your Toolbox family experiences.

Homebound Ministry

At this time, perhaps more than any other, families can empathize with those who for health reasons cannot come outside or be around others. Create a kit for families to decorate cards, make magnets, color tissue boxes, etc. and set them up with an adopted friend that they can minister to over the course of the winter.

Family Movie Night

Most families I know set aside times for the family to watch a movie together but that time together can be a time for intentional family discipleship. Click this link for four faith-forming movie moments you might want to utilize for your Family Movie Nights. You can use these moments to help parents make movie night a formational moment.

Want an example of a whole Family Movie Night discipleship packet for the movie Ice Age, including four different faith talks that include a focus, questions to ask, and a Bible verse to share?  Fill out the form at the end and be sure to ask for the Family Movie Night Guide in your message!

Christian theologian and researcher, John Westerhoff, once said, “”…we are more apt to act our way into new ways of thinking than think our way into new ways of acting…”  In other words, our actions create new neural pathways that actually make us think differently. The opportunity we have before us is to help our church families find new ways of acting now so that when we gather again, our thinking has changed and we are more connected to one another than ever before.

If our energy is spent in trying to keep what we once had, trying to fit that square peg in this round hole, we will miss the chance we have. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help our faith communities come together as they never have before. It may not be what we wanted or expected, but it is our gift – let’s use it wisely.


Looking for a way to help parents/caregivers engage with their kids in everyday discipleship at home?

ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.” This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About 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.

Church Is NOT The Building…but the Building Matters

“I didn’t even know you had another daughter!”

This statement stopped me in my tracks a couple of years ago. It happened in the hallway of a church building that I had just started serving in. The phrase was uttered by one of the most faithful older members of our church to one of our most faithful younger members. As I glanced over at them, my mind scrambled to understand how two faithfully attending church members who obviously knew one another and genuinely cared for each other had missed such a momentous occasion as the birth of a child….three years prior!

It didn’t take long for my mind to fill in the gaps. The older woman, like many older members of our church family, attended the 8:15 am “traditional” service in the main sanctuary. Afterwards, at 9:30 am, she would go down the stairs to the Sunday School classroom she’d been meeting in for years and meet with her class. At 10:30 am, she would use the lower exit and head out to her car to go home.

Meanwhile, the young mother and her family would arrive at the church at 9:30 am for the “blended” service held in the Community Center, down the hall from the main sanctuary. During that service, her children would be on the first floor under the Community Center in their nursery and Children’s Church. After service, at 10:45 am, she would move down the hall to her Sunday School class and her children would remain in the same downstairs hallway for Sunday school. Then, at 12 pm she would gather her family and head home.

Sound familiar?

How in the world were these women ever going to see each other, let alone, see the children in question? When the daughter was born, a rose was placed on the pulpit to celebrate her birth… but only in the service she attended. Her baptism/dedication, while announced in the bulletin, was only celebrated in the Community Center.

The child’s entire interaction within the church building from the time she was born took place on one floor in one or two classrooms with a set schedule of church employees and volunteers.

So, it should have come as no surprise when I heard the older woman exclaim in surprise that she didn’t even know the three-year-old girl existed…but it did. And then the surprise quickly morphed into, “This is not okay! Something has to be done. This is not how a community should act.”

What?

Thus began a journey that eventually led to a weekly intergenerational service, quarterly all-church worship services, intergenerational prayer partners, and multi-generational events. But there was one thing that didn’t change – the building.

In spite of our work to create intergenerational connections, the architecture of the building we met in often presented a challenge. In fact, it was evident that the building itself was structured in such a way as to limit interactions of multiple generations on any given day.

So What?

The reality of architecture limiting our generational contact is consistent with the findings of research. In fact, even the designs of our homes have changed over time leading to lack of generational connectivity. In the past, homes were created with the expectation of a nuclear family and often the grandparents living together in a single space with perhaps a bedroom or two for some privacy. Today, the structure of large single-family homes with multiple rooms and bedrooms create financial, spatial and cultural barriers to intergenerational living (Source).

How does that happen?

  • Lack of available affordable housing in multigenerational neighborhoods has led to “age ghettos” where homeowners are primarily older and renters are primarily younger.
  • Homes in general are usually occupied by 1) single young people or 2) aging couples/singles or 3) a single family rather than multiple generations as in the past .
  • And, as we explored in the last article, these houses tend to group together according to age and life experience so we end up with neighborhoods, retirement villages, or sections of a city mainly occupied with people of the same generation.

Older Americans especially experience age segregation because of living on their own and not in a familial home. Most older Americans living alone are in doing so in isolation without intergenerational connection or relationships. (Source). The result of this spatial age segregation has led to a growing epidemic of loneliness among the elderly who are often homebound and without outside contact for days on end.

Other buildings are also created with specific generations and ages in mind. In addition to spatial constructs like sounds (music, television, noises) and sights (screens, lighting, colors), architectural constructs like stairs, hallways, gates/doors, open/closed space, and seating/resting areas send messages about who should be in a space.

Architecture plays a huge role in communicating who is welcome and attracting a certain “audience” to occupy a space.

Now What?

First, let’s consider the architecture of our gathering spaces.

  • Are there ways that our building is inhibiting generational connections?
  • Can any of these barriers be removed?
  • Could space be redefined by an architectural change like removing a barrier, increasing accessibility, or redirecting traffic?

Second, get creative in thinking about how the space, as is, can be used for multigenerational community.

  • Could other spatial features, visual or auditory, be put in place to make the space more welcoming to all generations?
  • Locate places in the building that would be appropriate for gathering more than one generation.
  • Create avenues to invite people into spaces they may not normally go like multigenerational events or small group meetings in different locations.

Finally, be aware that architecture might be working against you as you seek to connect members in your congregation to each other across generational lines.

  • Think of ways you can bolster those relationships that don’t depend on “being in the building.”
  • Encourage older members to go watch kids play tee ball or perform a dance recital.
  • Invite families to “adopt” an older person as a “grandfriend” and visit with them.
  • Set up a way for teenagers to eat lunch with adults who are serving in the community or sharing Christ in their workplace.

Don’t let the building the church meets in define how you do church; be the church that occasionally meets in a building!


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!

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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.