Passing It On: Generational Discipleship in Church

What do we mean when we talk about “generational discipleship”? It’s a term that I am hearing more and more frequently and it’s one that I myself use often in this blog.

Simply put, generational discipleship is the passing on of our faith from one generation to another.  

In Scripture, it is the model we are given for how we instill within our children and grandchildren the faith that our parents and grandparents shared with us and we do so within the context of relationship, mentorship, and community.

baton-passThere are examples of generational discipleship all through Scripture.

The most oft-quoted verse about generational discipleship is probably Deuteronomy 6:4-9 where we are told to impress the commands of the Lord upon our children and to talk about them when sit and when we walk and when we lie down and when we get up…so basically, all of the time. And this command is given within the full assembly of Israel to all the people so not just to parents but to the larger faith community.

We see this idea of generational discipleship play out in Scripture through so many intergenerational and familial relationships. Some examples include but are certainly not limited to…

  • Eli and Samuel (I Samuel 3)
  • Timothy and his mother and grandmother AND Timothy and Paul (2 Tim. 1:5)
  • Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2)
  • Naomi and Ruth (The book of Ruth)
  • Moses and Joshua (Deut. 31)
  • Mordecai and Esther (The book of Esther)

So how does generational discipleship play out in a faith community?

In 2017, The Journal of Intergenerational Relationships published an article whose findings explained that intergenerational relationships create essential learning environments for all generations.  In other words, if generations are going to interact with each other in meaningful ways, there are some key essentials that need to be in place.

Specifically they find that three things are necessary for intergenerational learning

  1. There must be space to learn about one’s own generation with other generations
  2. All generations must act as learners and teachers at the same time
  3. The learning must motivate participants towards in a particular way.

Often when our churches gather, these dynamics are either not in place at all or are difficult to find. Putting multiple generations into a place where they can interact in meaningful ways can be challenging because of differences in likes, dislikes, development and experience.

As a result, many churches opt for an environment that segregates the generations from one another and promotes learning within one age range rather than between the generations.  It’s much more difficult to create an intentional space for both to give and receive.

While these things are challenging, they are not impossible to overcome. It might be easier in the short term to maintain age-specific environments, but it is clear that in the long run, generational discipleship will be hampered by the lack of meaningful intergenerational relationships and interactions.

So what can we do?

There’s no silver bullet that will magically erase these challenges or suddenly make it easier to engage generations in learning and living together, but there are some avenues to explore that will create the space for growth.

  1. Stated Purpose – If you desire to put generations together for anything from corporate worship to shared meals, be sure and let everyone know the purpose behind your action. Give a stated reason for creating a multi-generational space and repeat it often so everyone is on the same page.
  2. Be Creative in Connection – Connecting different generations doesn’t have to look the same and connecting same generations. It’s unlikely that a second-grader is going to go out for coffee with a senior citizen. But what if the oldest Sunday School class showed up to cheer on the kids in tee ball in soccer?  What if the teenagers worked alongside their parents in serving their community together?  What if intergenerational prayer partners were connected to each other?  There are a lot of ways to interact with each other in meaningful ways!
  3. Give Generations a Voice – There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have nothing to give or that you are not heard.  If we step back and notice that our church lay leadership, committees, service groups, etc. all reflect only one or two generations and those groups are the ones casting vision, leading, and guiding the church, then there are multiple other generations that may not be feeling heard. Creating intentional space for all generations within your leadership structure can help flip that “top-down” mentality on it’s head and ensure that all generations have the space to give and to receive, to teach and to learn, so that all can grow together.

Since the separation of ages and the perception of differences mirrors that of our society, it’s easy for us to think “that’s just the way it is.”  But it’s important to note that it wasn’t that way for centuries. And equally as important to note that the impact on the church is a substantial one. Why?  Because our faith is primarily passed from one generation to another.

That is generational discipleship.


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 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. 

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The Way We Do the Things We Do

In his book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, author Stephen Chbosky wrote, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”  I’ve seen this posted as inspirational memes and quotes on people’s walls for years but it wasn’t until I started really digging into generational discipleship that I saw how this concept plays out in ministry, especially in intergenerational relationships within the community of faith.

We all know that communication is more than just words.  Communication takes many forms, from verbal to nonverbal, intentional to non-intentional, systemic to institutional. The way we do the things we do speaks volumes. The words we use pale in comparison to the actions we take and the method by which we take them.

In my last few years of observing how we go about discipleship in church, hearing the verbal communication of welcome and community and observing the nonverbal communication like methods and actions, it’s becoming clearer to me that one reason the church is losing the rising generations is due in part to the fact that they only accept the love they’ve been told they deserve.

Stripped of our words, what do our churches often communicate to the generations who attend?

  1. My Space, Your Space – If we look at most church buildings, we will tend to find wings that are set apart by age, often down hallways or even separated by floors, much like school buildings or nursing homes in society. The common space, the sanctuary, can be a place where all ages gather but in many cases that doesn’t happen frequently.
  2. My Service, Your Service – A lot of churches have at least two if not more services and often those services look and sound different (contemporary, traditional, blended, etc.). Frequently these services become equally age segregated simply by the fact that they are intended to reach specific age groups or worship preferences.
  3. My Time, Your Time – When describing worship experiences, often people will say it is their time in the week to connect with God, to be renewed and refreshed, to have a personal experience. Distractions and discomfort is often minimized during the service time to allow for that so that even when we are together, we are essentially alone, but occupying the same space.
  4. My Church, Your Church – Having served on two church staffs and having consulted and coached with many more, this is something that repeatedly comes up, namely, the idea that within a church there may be two or more distinct faith communities based on age, likes/dislikes, and preferences and that people in these groups don’t even know the people in the other groups. One church I worked with once described their church as “Five Churches under one roof.”
So what does this have to do with accepting the love we think we deserve?

Well, if we say things like, “We welcome all ages into our community” but the proceed to navigate the children to one area, the youth to another, the adults to yet another, and the seniors to another, that verbal communication becomes muddied. It is difficult to enter a space that isn’t “ours” even if we hear that we are welcome.

be-quiet-in-churchIf we say, “All ages are members of our church community” but the youngest members never or rarely see or hear from the pastor or other adult leaders in the church or just other adults in the church except children’s ministry volunteers, do they feel truly part of the congregation?

Conversely, if the older members of the congregation never or rarely get to interact with or build relationships the younger generations, can either accept love, advice, encouragement or even just friendship from the other?

We use a lot of words to indicate unity and cohesion, but often our nonverbal communication speaks to separation and division, which, in turn, often falls along generational lines.  And that makes it very hard for each generation to accept love and friendship from the other because it doesn’t feel “right”.

I wonder what would happen if instead we embraced the uncomfortable.

If we sang some songs we don’t necessarily love.

If we allowed for some distraction and discomfort during our corporate worship time.

If we intermingled with generations who say and do things we don’t understand.

If we prioritized relationships with the whole body over the comfort of those we know best.

I mean, it would be uncomfortable to be sure. But, as a friend of mine who attends a church who is working to become intentionally unsegregated on Sunday mornings shared, maybe that is the point.

Maybe it’s not supposed to be comfortable. Maybe it is supposed to take work, to challenge us to grow beyond what feels good, to be surrounded by a much bigger world that doesn’t look and act and sound like us. Maybe there is room for both times of corporate worship and times of age-appropriate teaching. Maybe an either/or way of doing church isn’t the only way of doing church.

And maybe, if we can find time and space for the both/and, the generations who are following ours may not agree with everything we say and do but they will accept the love of the Church and the Lord because they know they are truly a part of the church, the community, the body of Christ.

I think at the very least these are ideas worth exploring, even if the questions we ask and conclusions we land on make us a just little bit uncomfortable.


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 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. 

“Just Because We Don’t Like It Doesn’t Mean It’s Not True”

My family recently watched Avengers Infinity Wars (don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this post). At the end, some of us were unhappy with the way things had ended in the movie and have spent considerable time coming up with alternate endings or spinning theories about what “actually” happened. At one point as I was offering just such an explanation, and a really good one at that, my youngest piped up with this nugget, “Just because we don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not true.”

His words stuck with me for two reasons; one, because he probably heard that from me and two, because he’s absolutely right. Often times, when we are faced with a truth that we don’t like, we try to find alternative ways of facing the facts.

If the truth makes us uncomfortable, we try to find a comfortable option to face that truth with. If the truth doesn’t fit within our expectations, desires or opinion, we find ways to explain it away or simply say it doesn’t work for us. 

face-2031963_1920The nature of this blog is often to share uncomfortable truths and offer ways for us to embrace those truths even if it means we have to consider implementing change or doing things that we find less comfortable than others.

In the case of this particular blog, the facts we often look at and consider surround the idea that more and more of the members of the rising generations are walking away from the Protestant church and increasingly labeling themselves as “unaffiliated” with religion.  And we ask questions about why that is and what we can do about it.

And often the answers presented involved uncomfortable things; things that require us to change how we are currently operating and the approach we are currently taking.

Things like:

Inviting and welcoming children and youth into places of corporate worship as active participants not passive observers

Creating space for meaningful interactions between generations with the intentional focus of fostering relationships that lead to mentorship and discipleship.

Involving children and youth in the decisions, leadership and activities of the church in a way that affirms that they are full-fledged members of the body of Christ.

Redefining church, not as a place we go to on Sunday, but as a people and a way of life that is who are are every day of the week and therefore we join into each others lives on ball fields and ballet recitals and dinner tables and coffee dates and just being a people that fills that intrinsic, God-given need for community.

But these things require something of us. They require change and intentionality.

They require that we accept the truth that something has to change and we begin to try uncomfortable things.

It means that we may not always get the Sunday morning experience we are used to and/or we desire. It means we may need to get creative about when and where we have our intimate and undistracted times of worship. It may mean that throughout the week instead of just hunkering down and living our life, we open up our doors and our schedule to invite others in or to go to where they are.

It might mean sitting on hard bleachers in the cold just to cheer on that kid from church that sits in the pew in front of you and just can’t believe you came to her game.

It could mean not going out to our favorite after-church restaurant but instead inviting that new family over to our house for lunch.

It could mean that instead of passing the offering plate and dropping in a check and feeling as though we’ve given enough to the church, we also raise our hand and volunteer for that after-school program or that to be a prayer partner for that young person.

It might even mean that on Sunday morning our worship is accentuated with the cries of an infant, the squirms of a three-year-old, the laughter of a fifth grader, the fidgeting of a fifteen-year-old and the questioning look of a seventeen-year-old and instead of seeing those things as distractions, viewing them as opportunities to face the truth head on; that loneliness and being “unaffiliated” are real things for this generation and if being with a faith community on Sunday morning and hearing one’s name spoken each week with love and welcome can combat it, then it’s worth whatever discomfort one might face.

We can no longer offer alternative explanations to the very real truths about the rising generations. As much as we might like to just continue on as we always have, the reality is, if we do, these truths will become more and more the experience for our children and youth. But if we are willing to face these truths head on, in our church and in our lives, and do uncomfortable things in order to address them, then it is possible that those whose lives we intersect with might just experience a different truth.

As for the Avengers, well, I still have my theories about that one…


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

The Loneliest Generation and the Church’s Role

If you’ve been on social media at all lately, it’s likely that you’ve seen a story about a recent loneliness survey done by Cigna (a global health service company) that reveals Generation Z is the loneliest generation currently alive around the globe. This came as a surprise to many people who naturally assumed that the oldest generation would be the ones who experienced the greatest loneliness, not young vibrant 18-22 year olds that boast huge followings on social media and are seemingly always surrounded by people.

And that’s not all. It’s not even that the 18-22 year olds are lonely; it’s that they join nearly half of all of America in saying that they are lonely.

“The survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older revealed:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).
  • One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
  • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
  • Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
  • Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness; respondents defined as very heavy users of social media have a loneliness score (43.5) that is not markedly different from the score of those who never use social media (41.7).” SOURCE

person-409127_1920A couple of years ago, Pew Research released a survey that showed religious affiliation in America and it was revealed that the largest drop in church membership and attendance was in Protestant Christian churches and the greatest gain (so where those people went) was in the category of Unaffiliated, not associating with a religion or religious community.

I cannot help but see the similarities of these two surveys.

If you look up the definition for “unaffiliated” you’ll read things like, “not associated with another or others” and “not connected” and ” not a part of.” Another word for those things is “lonely” or “alone.”  If we look at the multiple studies that have been done on why there’s been a decline in the attendance of 18-29 year olds in church, they put it this way; “We don’t belong.”  

There’s a sense that there simply is not place for them any more.  

They had a place a kids in the children’s department and they had a place as youth in the youth department but as high-school graduates, they are met with a way of worship with which they are unfamiliar, a group of people they have little to no relationship with, and a myriad of other opportunities outside the church building walls that are screaming, “You BELONG Here!”

They are…Unaffiliated…Lonely

It’s not that suddenly 18-29 year olds don’t associate with religion.  44% of the Muslims surveyed were Millennials!

It’s not that 18-29 year olds don’t believe in God.  Of all the survey respondents who identified as Unaffiliated or “religious nones” only 3.1 % identified themselves as atheist.

It’s that they do not belong. They don’t feel a part of the community.  They feel alone.

And I think we, the church, must take some of the blame for that.  

Over time, we’ve created a place where we inhibit relationships and stifle community by segregating generations and dividing up spaces based on age.

We make it difficult forge a deep sense of community by limiting our interactions making the church fit within certain hours and places instead of recognizing the church is a people not a place.

We label certain things as “worship” and make attendance at those events indicative of what a “Christian” is instead of recognizing that all of life is worship and inviting people to worship is inviting them into our lives.

We’ve created a lonely place, especially for those who “graduate” from our specialized children’s and youth programs into our larger corporate gatherings where they’ve never had a meaningful conversation, built a single intergenerational relationship, or experienced a heartfelt interaction with other older members of the congregation.

It’s never been their church. It’s been their parent’s church and their grandparent’s church.  “Big” church, adult church, but not their church. 

And they feel unaffiliated. Lonely.

If we are going to reach the loneliest generation, it’s not going to be through worship styles or coffee shops. It’s going to be through community.

It’s going to be through an intentional movement toward intergenerational relationships forged through time spent together, not just inside the walls of a church building, but time spent in life being the church. It’s going to have to be “on purpose” not simply by accident or by chance.

We will need to create and cultivate the space necessary for these types of connections to be made and we will need to recognize that community is more than just people being in the same space or building together; it is a place where people feel understood and not isolated, a place where they can feel close to people because there are people for them to talk to, a place where “meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, happen on a daily basis.”

The loneliest generation needs the church to be the Church.

The Fellowship of the Believers (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)

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

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 


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 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. 

Age Segregation and Generational Gap: What do these mean and why does it matter to the church?

One of my favorite memories of my niece was from years ago when we were on a family vacation at the beach. She was about three years old and discovering the joys of the pool for the first time. We were all in the water, calling out an invitation for her to join us, when she turned to us and yelled, “Hold on a minute! I’m acclimating!!”

We all started laughing!  She absolutely used the word in the right way but hearing it from a three year old was just too much. Kids do that a lot! They use really big words in accurate ways or, more frequently, really big words in inaccurate ways, and it’s hilarious.

But, let’s be honest, we adults do it too. Especially with buzz words. These words show up in social media posts, newscasts, and daily conversations, but are often vague and act as a catch all, making it very easy for us to say the word with a certain thing in mind and have the person listening take a very different meaning from what we’ve said.

The solution to this “problem” is simple. We just need to clearly define the words we use. But that takes time and it takes intentionality, both things that are not often used in our busy lives.

team-spirit-2447163_1920Last week I had the chance to speak with a church about two such phrases: age segregation and generational gap. Most had heard of the two phrases, but many had not really taken time to consider what it meant. The first was less familiar and conjured up thoughts of nursing homes and retirement communities. The second was more familiar and most people applied it to politics and clothing.

For the sake of clarity, we took some time and intentionality and looked at these two phrases.

Age Segregation is defined as the separation of people based on their ages.  This can be intentional liked nursing homes and graded classrooms or unintentional like social media and clothing trends.

Intentional age segregation is a relatively new phenomenon. Graded classrooms didn’t really get their start until the last 1800s/early 1900s and didn’t spread to the whole country for decades after that.

Similarly, before the 19th century, no age restricted institutions designed for long term care existed (Source). Nursing homes and retirement communities gained steam in 1954 when the federal government created a grant that would fund such institutions and in the 1960s when Medicare and Medicaid began and provided payment for those services (Source).

Generational gap is the perceived difference of opinions between one generation and another regarding beliefs, politics, or values. The most important word here is “perceived.”  That means that we think there is a difference of opinion but we don’t know that for sure. That perception fuels a lot of our interactions and the way we approach issues ranging from political agendas to our preferred cell phone plan.

Why are these things important to the church?

Well, just like with society, age segregation is a relatively new thing for the church as well. You can trace the rise of separating the church community based on age back to about the 1950s when we see the start of youth groups. Over time, the church became more and more focused on age specific ministries and creating both classes and services aimed at meeting the developmental and felt needs of different generations.

It’s not unusual for generations within a church to spend little if any time with one another.

As a result, just like in society, there is a perception within the church that there are significant differences of opinion on everything from sermon topics to worship styles. The generational gap within churches can often be seen by taking a look at who attends the “traditional” service and who attends the “contemporary” one.

Since the separation of ages and the perception of differences mirrors that of our society, it’s easy for us to think “that’s just the way it is.”  But it’s important to note that it wasn’t that way for centuries. And equally as important to note that the impact on the church is a substantial one. Why?

Because our faith is primarily passed from one generation to another.

That means in order for “one generation to praise Your works to another” the generations must interact; they must be in the same geographical space, speaking to each other and building relationships with one another if generational discipleship is to occur (Ps. 145:4).

Studies bear this out. 

One of the first longitudinal studies done on youth in regard to church attendance post high school once the Millennial decline became apparent was done by Fuller Youth Institute in 2006-2010 and they released their findings here. Their research found was that while most U.S. churches focus on building strong youth groups, teenagers also need to build relationships with adults of all ages.

Further research showed that while there was no “silver bullet” churches that encouraged intergenerational connections and worship and youth that felt involved and connected to the larger church had a much greater chance of remaining in church post high school. (The findings can be found here).

In 2016, Fuller Youth Institute released a new study called “Growing Young” that looked at churches that were continuing to “hold onto” their young people and even grow in the Millennial sector of their congregation. One of the key reasons they found for that was “Warm intergenerational relationships” at that “involving young people in every ministry has allowed these churches to thrive with authenticity and intergenerational relationships” (Source)

In 2017, The Journal of Intergenerational Relationships explained that intergenerational relationships create essential learning environments for all generations.

Specifically they find that three things are necessary for intergenerational learning, 1. There must be space to learn about one’s own generation with other generations, 2. All generations must act as learners and teachers at the same time, and 3. The learning must motivate participants towards in a particular way. (Source)

In other words, we need each other.

When phrases like “age segregation” and “generational gap” can be applied to our community of faith, we need to take a step back and consider the ramifications on sustainability and disciple-making and take serious consideration if the benefits outweigh the costs.

We need to take the time and be intentional not only about defining our “buzz words” but also determining the effect they are having on us, on the generations that precede ours and for the generations that are to come.


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 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. 

Easter is Enough

Today is Palm Sunday. It’s the first day of Holy Week, our celebration of the final week of Christ’s life, his death, and, finally and most gloriously, his resurrection.  It is also most famously known in Christian circles as the week and the Sundays we are most likely to have visitors to church.

Which is amazing! Because this is the week we get to share the most incredible and life-giving message of our faith.

We get to share about Christ’s resurrection. We get to say, “He was dead and then He was alive!  And that same power that raised Him from the dead now lives within us through the Holy Spirit. And that Spirit in us makes us fellow heirs with Him which means now and for all eternity, we get to be called the children of God!

I cannot imagine a more needed, more meaningful, more dynamic message that we could bring to our broken and divided country, filled with hurting and tired people, and weary, worn out families.  And, this week, we have the chance to share that message with more people than we usually do.

So, of course, this is what we are most excited about, yes?  

This is what we are putting our time and our energy and our preparation and prayers into right? And this is what those who visit us will be talking about and contemplating as they leave our church walls this week; this life changing truth of resurrection and hope and peace and God’s unending grace?

Because that is the only thing that truly matters. The only thing that truly needs to be remembered.

Our Easter egg hunts shouldn’t be so fun that the joy of resurrection pales in comparison.

Our gimmicky gadgets that shoot toilet paper, suck up offerings, spray out candy, and light up stages shouldn’t steal the show.

Our bags of candy and Easter dinners and peanut butter eggs and jelly bean lessons shouldn’t be what it remembered and talked about and most memorable about this week, this Sunday, this Easter.

If that is what we leave with…if that is the memory…then friends, we have missed the most beautiful opportunity of sharing the gospel that we have been given. We have missed Easter. 

Can I challenge us to slow down and consider this week that the resurrection is enough?

passion-3111247_1920That if we take the time to join Christ in His final week;

if we embrace Maundy Thursday and the experience of that Last Supper and the conversation that took place around that table as the first communion was celebrated;

if we mourn on Good Friday the death of Jesus on the cross and we contemplate on Holy Saturday the silence of the grave;

and then if we break forth in unfettered celebration and praise on Easter Sunday as we celebrate the ruin of death and the triumph of eternal life in the resurrection;

…if we do all of that, we don’t need to do more.

This is enough. It will fill our souls. It will captivate our hearts. It will be all that people need. It is all that people need.

This is the gospel. This is our message. 

We don’t need to improve it. We don’t need to make it flashier or more memorable. We simply need to offer it, experience it, and share it with as much excitement and passion as we do our Easter Egg Hunts and tee shirt cannons.

Maybe just a bit more.

Because it’s the Resurrection. It’s Easter.

Everything else should pale in comparison. 


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 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 Have We Got To Lose?

The other day I was conversing with a minister at a local church discussing the fact that they do not have a lot of Millennials and Gen-Xers in their church. “We have two strong areas in our church,” he said, “Seniors and kids 5th grade and under. We just can’t seem to hit the generations in between.”

The church’s solution to this problem up until this point was to focus on reaching those generations. Offering classes they thought those missing generations 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 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?

Well, that’s exactly what they decided to do. As a pastoral staff, they began to find ways to enrich and strengthen the connections between their oldest and youngest generations. They found and are still finding ways to do this but more than that, they are finding that as a result of this intentional bolstering of their church’s strongest areas, the entire church is getting healthier and… lo and behold, other generations are beginning to get more involved.

Friends, I know that I beat this drum a lot but, I have to say it again:  We need each other. These walls of division 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.

We are not connected to each other.

We are not in community with one another.

Being in a 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. We are built for community. We actually need places to be vulnerable and accountable and without those things in place, we begin to disintegrate as an individual.

We are alive in community. A few weeks ago the New York Times posted an article entitled “How Social Isolation is Killing Us.” In it the author states,

“A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones.

One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent. Another analysis that pooled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million people found that socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, and that this effect was largest in middle age.

Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early: Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors. All told, loneliness is as important a risk factor for early death as obesity and smoking.”

We actually draw life from one another. It’s sustains us, not just spiritually, but emotionally and physically.

Why is that?  Because we are created in God’s image!

Recently I heard a researcher onld-2612041_1920 the radio make the statement, “You is always plural. You is never singular.” What he meant by that is for us to even make one unique thought or claim an individual identity, it takes thousands of brain cells all working together to form that one thing.   Even within our own selves, we are a community. Which makes sense, because we are created in the image of a triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Three in One.

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

So if that is true, that begs the question, what have we got to lose?  The next generation. The oldest generation. All the generations in between. We have got one another to lose. In a faith that perpetuates itself through generational discipleship and passing the legacy of our faith from one generation to another, we have got the future church to lose.

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).

What have we got to lose? Tomorrow. So 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.


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 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. 

Dr. Mohler, Kids in Worship, and Three Things We Need to Know

Yesterday, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, posted a video from a recent chapel service where he addressed the topic of children in the worship service. While Dr. Mohler and I likely have some theological disagreements in other areas, this is one place where my heart and his resonate together. You can hear a portion of his sermon here, but I’ve included below a few pertinent quotes that lend specifically to the conversation of intergenerational worship.

“Christ’s people ought to be more welcoming than anyone else to children.

Our churches should not be places where the adults cannot wait to put the children away in order to get to the adult task of worship.

One of the scandals of so much evangelicalism is that we send people to their rooms as soon as we get to church…

You should see people sitting in pews whose feet cannot touch the floor…we should, in church, welcome the wiggling and the squirming “- Dr. Albert Mohler

In 12 hours, the video had generated over a thousand shares, over 2,000 reactions, and over 100 comments. So, it touched a nerve. Some people wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agree with Dr. Mohler’s points. Some people vehemently opposed his approach.

This has been my experience since I began championing the ideas of intergenerational worship as part of a healthy church experience. Like Dr. Mohler, I take a both/and approach to this idea meaning I support age-appropriate ministry within church settings as long as it doesn’t disallow for intergenerational times of worship and ministry.  However, I find, like with some many things, the tendency is to turn this discussion into an either/or scenario – either we wholeheartedly agree with something or we vehemently oppose it.  And, like with so many other things, that does not allow for a way forward.

So what are some ways we can create a both/and discussion around this topic that is healthy, robust and cooperative, that is theologically sound, developmentally aware, and spiritually strong?

 

Know the Theology

It is so important before we begin advocating for something like incorporating all ages in corporate worship that we have at least a basic theological foundation for what we are doing; our “why” so to speak. When kids and youth began to be pulled from the larger congregation for age specific ministry beginning in the 1950s, the “why” that was given was fundamentally developmental in nature.  But as that was done, the theological and spiritual ramifications weren’t explored until later when we realized we were losing the gift of generational discipleship within our church walls because our generations never interacted.

If a church desires to bring back that intergenerational space is some form, it is vitally important to have a theological understanding of why it is choosing to do so.

The Bible is literally full of examples on the whole congregation being present, both in the Old and New Testaments. Christ’s life and ministry model the same for us. Know these verses and explore these Scriptures so that when questions come, there is a “why” behind what is being done that establishes a foundation for intergenerational faith communities.

Here is a great article from Fuller Youth Institute to get started with, but don’t stop there! Do your own study. Explore the Scriptures. Explore what theologians have written. Develop a “why” that fits with your church, its vision and mission, and its members.  I once had a mentor tell me that “Christ will meet me in the Scriptures.”  He has indeed and my “why” is firmly established in the Word. That’s so important if we are to champion this particular space in worship.

Know the Research

Because developmental research was so significant in the move from  a fully integrated church to a a fully siloed one, it is important that we are familiar with what the research is saying regarding intergenerational worship and relationships within the church.  That is why my heart is for a both/and approach to intergenerational ministry rather than an either/or. I’ve reach that point because of the research that has been done regarding children and youth and their relationship to faith.  boywithhymnal

As I’ve reviewed both developmental research and ongoing research into faith affiliation and church attendance, I’ve become convinced that both age-appropriate and intergenerational ministries are both strongly needed and should be fostered within a faith community.

How that plays out in each church will necessarily be specific to that church and its culture, but to do one to the exclusion of the other is a disservice to our rising generations.


Where to start?
 This article is a good spot to get started on looking the research that is coming out. I would also recommend the following books/studies:

Know the Community

Each faith community has an identity all its own. It’s been like that since the church started; just look at the names of the epistles in the New Testament and the specific way Paul speaks to each community (also, note that he speaks specifically to children so as these letters were read aloud, he expected the children to be there). It is so important to know the culture of each church and understand what it identifies with in terms of its vision and mission.

Cookie cutter intergenerational ministry does not work. It is not enough to simply steal a program from the church down the road and expect it to work in yours. While each program or project or idea for intergenerational ministry has merit, it is only an asset to your community if it fits within your church’s identity.

The best thing that we can do as we transition from a traditional, age-segregated model to a more intergenerational, age-inclusive model is to get to know our faith community and help them to do the same. Help the generations learn each others names. Find ways to plug children into places where they are already welcome to be involved. Strengthen the relationships that already exist and find ways to build new ones. Transitional ministry is crucial to introducing “new to you” things to any group of people, so go slow and put a lot of time, prayer and thought into getting to know the church.

Want a great way to start helping generations get to know each other?  Check out the Pray For Me campaign. It is a wonderful way to incorporate prayer into your church and connect the generations at the same time!

This discussion that is happening right now in the church world is a good one!! It might be a hard one in some spaces. We will likely disagree on some things. But the heart of the issues is this  – we love our children and youth and want what is best for them. It’s worth taking the time to have a good discussion about this; to know our theological “why”, to understand the research being done, and to embrace our faith communities. My prayer is that this discussion is one that results in more children and youth staying in the faith as they grow so that we, the whole church, can say we have answered the call to “impress these things upon our children.” (Dt. 6:8).


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 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. 

“I Wanna Go Home”: The Yearning of Lent

“I wanna go home.”

The other day my tired son mumbled these words and I started laughing. “You are home,” I told him as I tucked him into bed. We both kinda laughed but I also realized this this particular statement is one that he often makes especially when he is tired, uncomfortable or ready to relax. Home for him is a safe place where he can just be at peace, feel loved, and rest so sometimes, even when he is in our house, the words, “I wanna go home” slip out because they mean so much more.

I cannot think of a better phrase to describe the season of Lent than this one.

On the Christian calendar, Lent is the period of 40 days plus Sundays leading up to the celebration of Easter. Traditionally, it is a time of confession, reflection and contemplation. Unlike Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, it is not a time of joyful anticipation, but more a time of realization as we consider our need for a Savior and truly grasp what Jesus accomplished through his death.
prodigal

The yearning that this season creates in my heart is very much like the yearning my son expresses when he says, “I wanna go home.”  Much like the story of the Prodigal Son, it’s a yearning for refuge, a yearning for rest, a yearning for love. It’s almost a groaning in our souls as we consider how weary we can become apart of the life-giving grace found in resurrection. 

Reflection and contemplation don’t necessarily come easy for children and youth. The celebration of Advent is full of ways to engage the whole family in joyful anticipation through fun activities and meaningful practices. But Lent is a much more personal, much less “kid-friendly” season.

So what are some ways that we can help engage the next generation in a time of meaningful reflection that stirs their spirits to say, “I wanna go home!”

Seek Salvation (Easter Scavenger Hunt)

Who said that Lent has to be boring? Sometimes I think just because we talk about contemplation and reflection we think that means we have to sit around and just think about how sinful we are. But that’s not the only way to contemplate and reflect. We can actively reflect and contemplate too.

Here is a fun Easter Scavenger Hunt I put together a couple of years ago that gets the whole family involved in the story of Easter from birth to resurrection. Whether you do this as a church family or individual families, this activity will drive home the beauty of the journey of this season leading to resurrection.

Reframe Repentance

Part of what can make this season so solemn is the emphasis put on repentance. But repentance isn’t all sorrow and ashes.

Repentance isn’t the end of joy; repentance is the beginning. It’s the gateway to freedom. Confession isn’t the start of shame; it’s the resounding end of it!

What if we could re-frame that for our children? How much greater would their experience of confession and repentance be?  How much more eager would they be to move quickly from sorrow to joy?  If we can talk about repentance being a beginning of a journey to freedom just like Lent is a journey to Easter, that yearning to “go home” and experience the resurrection can be stirred up!

Time Together

Lent, while a very personal experience, is a communal activity. It brings the church together for a specific season and reason. It’s the perfect time to connect generations to one another through a common experience. Here are some ideas of things that can be done together, whether as a family or as a church.

If you are on Facebook, search for a community activity called ‪#‎picturelent‬ . This online program walks you through Lent with devotions, activities and prayers for the whole 40 days. For more information, check out LEC Family at http://lecfamily.org/lent/.

 If videos are more your style, check out these great though-provoking videos from the Skit Guys.

There are several online Lenten devotionals you could choose to do as a family. If you do a search online, you will find many from various faith traditions. Here is one that is a collaborative effort from a number of denominations and even comes with a free App so you can keep up on your devices.

Likewise there are many online resources for celebrating Lent together. Many of these are particular to a denomination, so an online search will provide you with lots of options.  This page has a huge list of resources including a devotional from Ann Voskamp, Lilly Lewin and multiple crafts and activities for kids and families.

Allow Space for Sorrow

Sometimes, it is our tendency to shield our children from sorrowful emotions, from the sadness and the heaviness of Lent and the crucifixion. But when we allow ourselves to remember the darkness of this season, the sadness of this moment, we create space for God to do a deeper work that our minds can understand.

During Lent, we may experience sadness. But only for a moment.  Because on Easter Sunday we will experience unspeakable joy.  No matter the depth of sorrow we feel during Lent, our rejoicing on Easter Sunday will far exceed those limits.  And if we want our children to truly know the JOY that is Easter, we must let them also experience the sorrow that is Lent and Good Friday.

It’s okay for them to feel.  Feel with them.  Cry with them.

BUT, cry with hope.  Feel with expectation.  And Sunday morning, before Easter eggs and bunnies and chocolate and flowers, before dinners and tulips and fancy dresses and suits and ties, before all of that… let them experience the OVERWHELMING, LIFE-CHANGING, HEART-POUNDING Joy of crying out, “He. Is. RISEN!!” 

Whatever your Lenten season looks like, I hope that your soul can cry out, “I wanna go home” as you look toward that place where our souls find rest – the resurrection and our hope for salvation.


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 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. 

Church, for Kids. Not Kids Church.

Imagine with me for a second what it would look like if you walked into church and the pews were filled with children and youth. In fact, imagine with me that it looked exactly like your church but switch the adults in your church to kids and the kids to adults. Imagine with me what that church would look like. What would it sound like? What would it feel like?

Well, you don’t have to imagine. You can actually visit this church.

Grace Kids Church is located in Louisville, Kentucky and they describe themselves as “a church devoted entirely to ministry for the unique spiritual, emotional, and practical needs of children and youth.” A quick trip to their website will reveal a schedule similar to most other churches; service on Sunday and Wednesday, Family Night on Friday, and even a pastoral staff. But what you will also find one consistent message:

We are here for children and youth and we are unabashed in our mission to reach the next generation.
CoreyandKids

Pastor Corey Nelson with some of the Grace Church congregants

I had the chance to talk to the pastor of Grace Kids, Corey Nelson, the other day and he
shared a bit about how Grace Kids came to be. When Corey was first asked to serve as pastor this a small United Methodist Church, just a couple of blocks away from the famous Churchill Downs race track, it was surrounded by a community who was not involved in any way with the church.

From the day he arrived, Corey was aware that while the church had a worship service the people in the community didn’t even know that the church even existed. He shared a story of meeting a group of kids in the parking lot one night and they shared that they really had nowhere else to go that was safe and drug-free. So on a whim, Corey told them to come back Friday and he would show a movie and serve popcorn and Koolaid. Thirty kids showed up. And they never stopped showing up.

No matter what the church did, the kids kept flooding the building. Corey was shocked at the number of children who had never truly heard the name of Jesus, having only experienced that name as a curse word. It became obvious to him what direction the church needed to go.   Currently Grace Kids Church has a roster of 200 kids, two pastors on staff, an administrative board to help them run rather like a non-profit and is a vibrant growing church. For most of the kids who attend, Corey can say with confidence he is likely the only positive male role model in their life.

 

I asked Corey what his advice would be to other churches regarding reaching the next generation. He shared the following:

We have done church the same way for so long that it can be hard to get older generations on board with the idea of intentionally investing in the youth. Consistent messaging is absolutely essential. Sometimes this move towards younger generations is not wanted. It takes strong leadership from the pulpit, a willingness to hurt some feelings, and a reminder that we are here to make disciples.

Many churches have come alongside to support Grace Kids through sending teams and supporting them financially. However, getting to this point has taken a great deal of time and long conversations. Corey hopes that people will begin to see the value in discipling kids and youth but recognizes that financial needs will always be a concern they will need to work around.

I was so inspired by my conversation with Corey. His obvious dedication to serving the next generation was compelling but even more was his description of their church.

He said that sometimes people think that church for kids means “adult church dumbed down for children.” But Corey says that is not at all what this church is. Their teaching is vibrant. Their worship is heartfelt. They are making disciples. They are just doing it in a way that reaches the rising generations.

Even if we aren’t ready to start a church for kids, perhaps we can learn from that one thing.

We don’t need to “dumb down” church for kids.

They are ready to know Christ. They are aching to be discipled. We can find ways to welcome them in, if we are willing to be a little uncomfortable and a little more open to their energy and excitement. I encourage you to head to the website, check out Grace Kids Church, and pray about how you can join Corey in his mission, both at his location and in yours.


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 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.