Our “Church Box” is Way Too Small

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

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

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

But when she got home, she beamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The church experience is much bigger than a sermon.

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

It’s a total package.

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

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

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


It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Let’s Get Started Together!

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

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

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

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

Interested in learning more?

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

The Intergenerational Body Of Christ

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

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

Intergenerational ministry is more of a cultural characteristic of a church than it is a ministry area; it is a culture that values and creates space for meaningful connections to be made across generational boundaries in a variety of settings for the purpose of generational discipleship, faith formation, and community building.  As the term implies, intergenerational ministry is an intentional approach to ministry that both allows for and encourages interaction between multiple generations in such ways as corporate worship, relational mentorship and lifelong community.

In order for a faith community to recognize the need for intentional generational connectivity, the following question must be answered:

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

Defining Generations

Generational theory, the grouping of individuals into particular social groups with a shared identity predicated on the year of their birth and life experiences, began in the early 20th century and gained steam in the mid to late 20th century as marketing firms began to explore how to best market to specific groups, coining nicknames for them in order to create a collective conscious.

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

Generational Gifts

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

  • The older generations bring a wealth of faithful testimonies, historical worship practices, and community-sustaining disciplines.
  • The middle generations offer a bridge between past experience and current ones through experience with a vast array of communication tools from rotary phones to high-speed internet conferencing and the latest social media trends.
  • The youngest generation offer the heartbeat of current culture and the application of spiritual truths in a dynamic cultural environment.

Generational Needs

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

  • The older generations need to be needed; the desire for generativity and legacy-leaving are uniquely found in these generations and to be left isolated from those to whom their legacy can be left (the younger generations) is stifling and leads to stagnation.
  • The middle generations are those seeking intimacy in deeper relationships with others, such as mentorship and discipleship, but if those opportunities are found lacking, will retreat into a placed of isolation.
  • The youngest generations are looking for a placed to be industrious (an important part of the community) and find identity (a role to play in the community); thus faith communities need to be intentional not just with providing safe and fun environments like Kid’s Church and youth group but integral participatory environments that allow for identity and industry to be rooted in the church.

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


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

Superheroes and Easter Sunday: A retelling of the Easter Story for the kid in all of us

In a couple of weeks, the church across the world will begin a celebration of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.  This week is arguably the most important on the Christian calendar, representing for believers that pivotal moment with death was swallowed up in victory!  It is the very foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

However your church or your family celebrates Easter, this time of year is the perfect time to tell your kids THE STORY of all stories.  The great story of Scripture, God’s Great Rescue Plan! 

A couple of years ago, I shared the following story with our families in church but there is no reason you can’t do the same in your homes this year.  Invite your kids into the greatest story of all times and let them be drawn into the wonder and mystery that is our faith. Note for those who are back in person and do a Children’s Sermon in your worship service – This is an excellent interactive sermon that even the adults will enjoy.


“The Story”

Props: 2 red hearts, one black lightening bolt, one brown cross.  (I cut mine out of construction paper)

Gather your family or church together and pick one adult to be the story teller.  Everyone else will help with the props.

Okay you guys, I need your help today to tell a story. And this isn’t just any story; this is THE STORY. The story of all time! And you get to be a part of it!! So, who wants to be my first helper?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

All great stories have a great first line. Usually we say “Once upon a time” but… How about we start it this way… In the beginning, God created… EVERYTHING! He created the earth and the sky, the bugs and the fish, the trees and the flowers, and then he created us. And when he did, he looked at us and said, “Man (because there was only a man at first) I love you!” And Man looked at God and said, “God, I love you too!” And everything was perfect.

(Choose child to hold Black Lightening Bolt)

Then one day, something terrible happened. Everything was perfect. God loved Man and Man loved God and all was well until… Well, as you know, every story has to have an evil villain so we are going to call our evil villain.. SIN. (refer to black lighting bolt).   Sin snuck right into that perfect world, being the sneaky villain that it is and it BAM! Came right between God and Man!! God still loved man very much but man choose Sin over God. Things were not perfect any more. It was a very sad time. Man was sad and started doing sad things, more and more sad things, and SIN kept pushing Man further and further away from God.

But God… he’s the good guy in our story… God still loved Man very much. He knew that Sin was out there trying to steal Man’s love and even before Man had chosen Sin, God had a plan in place to bring Man back to Him. God did something absolutely amazing, like a total SUPERHERO move!

(Choose child to hold Brown Cross)

God did an amazing thing. He decided to leave His place in heaven where he was safe and come to earth as a Man, and Man called Jesus, and fight the evil villain. It was an epic battle.   Jesus told the villain he couldn’t’ win, that he would defeat him, and Sin fought by telling Man to do evil things until one day, one very sad day, Man put Jesus on the cross because of Sin. Man killed Jesus. It seemed like all hope was lost.

Now, we’ve watched some great Superhero shows right?   Those shows, they are basically getting their story line from THE STORY, so you probably know what’s going to happen. Because in those movies, when the superhero looks totally defeated by the villain, what happens? (Kids might say things like the superhero comes back to life, or gets stronger, or beats the bad guy)

That’s right!! Sin isn’t strong enough to beat Jesus. Just when we think all hope is lost TA-DA, the grave opens and JESUS ISN’T THERE because He is Risen!! Sin is defeated!!!! God Wins!!!  Oh, wait, but what about Man?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

Because Jesus beat Sin on the Cross, Man has an amazing opportunity. If we want to, we can have that perfect love relationship with God again. Sin cannot stop us from loving God and it could never stop God from loving us. We can go to God anytime we want because of Jesus’ victory on the cross and say, “God, I choose to love you and hate Sin. Jesus, you’re my superhero!”

(Have the kids lay all the signs out on the floor in a row)

Now, you may ask, why I told this story today. Because right now, on Palm Sunday, we are right in the middle of the story. We are right here.

(Point between lightening bolt and cross)

This week we will remember the moments that led up to Jesus being put on the cross by Man because of Sin. We will remember some sad things. On Maundy Thursday, we will remember the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. On Good Friday, we will remember Jesus dying on the cross. I don’t know about you guys but I always cry at that part in superheroes, you know, when the superhero gets hurt and you wonder if He’s going to be okay. And I will probably cry this week too as we get to that part of our story.

BUT… and this is so important

Next Sunday we will celebrate the BIGGEST SUPERHERO VICTORY OF ALL TIME!! Next Sunday we will remember that SIN was defeated! That our HERO came back to life and SAVED the DAY! And that we can be in the perfect love relationship with God again.

So this week , as you go about your days and you think about the Story, take time to remember. You might even cry. But know this, The Story doesn’t end in sadness. It ends with a LOVE SO BIG it wins every time! And you get to be a part of that story!!


This story may spark some great conversation at home.  You might want to prepare parents ahead of time to answer questions about how they can choose that perfect love relationship with God, what is Sin, and other questions about salvation and God’s love.  The Story provides the perfect way to get into some amazing conversations with your kids and Holy Week is a great place to springboard those Faith Talks!

Many blessings to all of you as you prepare to celebrate with one another and the entire Body of Christ!

(This article originally appeared on March 27, 2015 on this blog)

More Easter ideas?


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.

Exclusion or Embrace? Age Integration in the Church

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

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

Acts 2:42-47 NIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Intergenerational Valentine’s Day Ideas for Church and Home

Valentines’ Day is just around the corner. For some, this is cause for great rejoicing because the day brings lots of love and chocolate. For others, not so much. I remember as a single girl in college not liking Valentine’s Day a whole lot. Regardless of our personal feelings about it, each year it rolls around and each year we have the opportunity to ignore it or use it to grow our faith.

Let’s Use It!

Seriously, let’s use this day as a space to remind one another of the greatest Love of all, personified by Jesus, and lived out by us through the Holy Spirit. Let’s remember that “love covers a multitude of sins” and that this is “no greater love than this” than to lay down our lives for one another. In a world where there is much competition for the virtue of true Love, let’s make this Valentine’s Day one where our homes and churches truly celebrate Love.

Here are some ways we can do just that!


Love Your Neighbor

Since much of the country is still under some form of virus restriction, many of us are home and spending more time in our neighborhood. Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity for us to bless those who live around us, whether it be in creating some fun Valentine’s from the kids or baking them a favorite treat. Use this holiday as a chance to share with your household how we can give and show love to those around us in simple ways that bring a little bit of light into the world. Want ideas?

  • Baking your game? Check out these super fun cookies you can make as a family.
  • More of a crafty family? I just love some of the creative and fun ideas on this website.
  • Considering the larger community? Reach out to your local homeless shelter, prison ministry, rehabilitation services and refugee ministries and ask how your family can bless your neighbors in need. Many are looking for ways to especially bless those they serve on these days.

Love One Another

Valentine’s Day is a fantastic opportunity for your church to connect with one another. Now is the time to begin reaching out across generational lines and connecting people to each other even if we are still technically apart. Here are some ideas of where to start and Valentine’s Day could be the perfect kick-off date!

Turn household space into holy space by finding ways to serve one another in the home. There are myriads of ideas online for this (just search Valentine’s and Family). But I’d love to share what we did one year. A family who lived near us and had three daughters joined us and our two daughters and we celebrated Valentine’s Day by blessing our girls with their favorite foods and then taking time after the meal to talk to them about the greatest Love of all sent to us in Jesus. As parents, we washed their feet and spoke a blessing over each of them and demonstrated what Love really looks like so as they grew they would have something to compare all other “loves” to.

Love Your God

Take home communion kits for your faith community that include juice, crackers, and a special Valentine’s Day liturgy are a special way to invite households to experience communion in their homes while celebrating the greatest Love that was even given in the gift of Jesus. If you’d like to celebrate together as a whole church, just included a Zoom link for an online event.

Included below is a brief reading and devotional for the family to follow together.

Taste and See Communion:
A Celebration of God’s Great Love

Prepare: Communion is a celebration! While it is a sacrament and should be treated as holy, it is intended for us to remember and celebrate God’s goodness to us. Set the tone with your family by discussing some ways God has shown His love to your family. Have a conversation beforehand explaining what communion means. Remind your family that Jesus showed the Greatest Love of all when He died on the cross for us and rose from the dead and that this meal helps us to remember that great love. As with any time of worship, Christ is with us in communion. This is a special way to that we can invite Christ into our home.

Confession: Before we take the Lord’s Supper, we examine our hearts and silently confess anything we need to before God. It might help if you offer your children some guiding questions like, “What do you want to tell Jesus ‘thank you’ for?” and “Is there anything you want to tell Jesus you are sorry for?”

Choose one of these Scriptures to read as a family: Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14: 12-16,
Luke 22:7-38, I Corinthians 11:23-26

Partake: During communion, show your kids what to do. Even if it is very obvious to you, it may not be to them. Take some time to pray as a family some prayers of thankfulness. If you would like, you can follow this suggest format for communion time: Take the bread, thank the Lord for it and for his gift of love and offer it to one another saying, “This is the body of Christ, broken for us.” Then hold the juice, offer another prayer of thanks, and then give it to each other saying, “This is the blood of Christ, poured out of us.”

Process: Take some time afterward to discussion what it means to them to remember Jesus in this way. Ask question ensure understanding and to offer clarity, like, “What do we take communion?” and “What are we celebrating?” and “What are we remembering?” Then move on to more personal questions like, “How did you feel when you remembered Jesus’ gift to us?”

Conclusion: Finish your time together by reciting the Lord’s prayer (Mt. 6:9-13). Let your children know that this is the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray when they asked him how to pray.

NOTE: If your faith tradition requires that the elements be blessed by an ordained individual, just ask your pastor to pray over the elements before you hand them out (much like you would for delivering communion to homebound church members).

February 14 just happens to fall on a Sunday this year. It presents the perfect opportunity for us to explore practical discipleship as we gather around the Love of Jesus.

I’d love to hear what you are doing in your churches and homes! Feel free to reach out using the contact form below. May God’s Love meet you wherever you are today!


ReConnect Webinar: Connecting the Generations at Church and Home

Ready to Start Connecting Generations, Not Sure Where to Begin?

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. Webinar can be a One Day event, a Two Half-Day event, or a Four Part Weekly Event (approx. 1.5 hours/session)

  • 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 and 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…

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.

What Does “Different” Look Like?

Last week, ReFocus shared a post about the missing church asking, “Where did the church go?” The conclusion was simple: If we keep doing what we have been doing for the past two decades, we will continue to experience the same results – a decline in church attendance and more and more people walking away from the Christian faith.

This post was widely shared, read, and affirmed but also raised the question: If doing more of the same is the issue, what does different look like?

As pointed out in the original post, “Believe it or not, our perfectly planned services and emotionally-poignant worship experiences and our super fun youth groups and our dedicated staff and high-tech curriculum are not what keep people connected to the faith. It’s relationship. Period. It’s the creation of a community that is integrated and intentional about being part of one another’s lives, regardless of time and space, and committed to being there for one another through all of life’s ups and downs.

But how can we do that? Often our current systems, programming, and curriculum rarely if ever allow for relationships to be cultivated across generations and beyond the scope of the Sunday morning/Wednesday night experience. We see shadows of what could be but we miss the full technicolor reality. However, if we are willing, there are some simple places where we can start.

Here are FOUR areas to begin the work of intentional intergenerational community.

PRAYER

In my opinion, there is no better place for a church to begin to connect to one another than through intercessory prayer for each other. The inspiration for our prayer program at church comes from Tony Souder‘s book Pray for Me which connects children and young people in the church with prayer champions of three older generations.

The commitment is simply to pray for one another throughout the school year. But our church found that if you are praying for someone, you start caring for that someone, and as a result, relationships begin to grow. For more information on my personal experience with this, check out this post from 2015.

SERVICE

One of the characteristics of children and youth are the ways they describe what it means to be a Christian. Most adults list Christian beliefs like believing in Jesus’s death and resurrection and believing in eternity. But kids and youth often will use actions to demonstrate faith; things like, going to church or loving others. One amazing way that a faith community can create a space for generations to be together is by providing opportunities for serving together.

When we serve together something happens: We are more likely to bond with the people we are interacting with and the part of our brain that forms memories is triggered and we hold on to that bond for years to come. (Source). Weeding a community garden, providing food for people in need, cleaning the church building or a neighborhood park….the possibilities are endless and usually not restricted by age. This is a great way to engage members of a community in relationship with one another.

PRESENCE

There are many reasons given by those in children, youth and family ministry for why church attendance is down. One big one is this: Sports are to blame.” Well, let’s be honest, team sports, especially travel ball, are one reason. Practices and games no longer get put on hold for Sundays and Wednesday nights so if a child joins a team, they will likely be asked to be with the team on those days at some point. So what if we flipped the script? What if the church showed up at the sporting events, the ballet recitals, the theater performances and the preschool pageants?

Consider creating a space in your church where the schedules and announcements for these events can be posted (physically or virtually) so that the church community can show up.

PARTICIPATION

Over the past few years, as I’ve researched and written for this blog and for classes, one theme kept coming up over and over again in regards to why young adults left the church behind – they didn’t feel like they belonged.  They felt like they belonged in children’s ministry when they were little. They felt like they belonged when they were in youth ministry as teenagers. But once they were in “big church” they felt out of place, disoriented, like strangers in a familiar place but one where they didn’t belong. One way we can begin to build intentional community is by finding ways to create spaces for participation in the activities of the church. Some simple ideas:

There is NO cookie-cutter method or “right way” to do this.

If a church is asking the questions, “How do we do community better? How do we bring generations together? How do we reach out to the kids, the youth, the elderly, the lonely, the isolated? How do we do church differently?” then that church has taken the first step. That’s where it has to start. A recognition that there is more and a desire to explore how to discover that more. Prayer, Service, Presence and Participation are just starting points….but they hold the promise of a better future, one where the church is truly together.


Let’s Get Started Together!

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

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

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

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

Interested in learning more?

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


For More Information About…

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

About this Blog

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She 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.

Where Did You Go? The Disappearing Church

A friend of mine recently tagged me in a Twitter thread. In the post, the author made the statement that, in America, we are really good at “acute compassion” but we are terrible at “chronic empathy.” As an example, the author noted how Americans are quick to run to each other’s aid in times of emergency. We give blood, we show up in boats and trucks and haul people out of floods and fires, we donate to people in emergency situations, we show up whenever there is a crisis and we rally together as a country. But, we aren’t that great about creating infrastructure that offers ongoing care to those in poverty, care for the elderly and aging, and safety for the larger citizenry.

In the author’s words, “It is the long term work that makes disasters less damaging but we don’t want to give to the needy; we want to save the endangered. We don’t like being care workers, we want to be heroes.”

I think the author is right. I think, in our culture, it is easy to jump on board to a short-term care situation that requires minimal, short-lived sacrifice and feel good about it. But I think it’s far harder to commit to a long-term experience of hard work and dedication that requires the building of relationships, the commitment of time and energy, and the lack of immediate payoff. The latter requires something more than a momentary emotional pull to “do something.” It is much deeper and much more sacrificial; it requires us to lay down our comfort and willingly put ourselves in a position of service and humility.

And that’s exactly what I believe the Church is called to do.

You see, when I read this Twitter thread, here was my response: “Yes, and this applies to generational discipleship in the church too. We are great at altar calls and perfectly crafted worship services; terrible at lifelong discipleship and intentional community.”

The Church in America experienced a disruption over the past year that it was not prepared to handle. In fact, statistics show that 1 in 3 churchgoers have stopped attending church (in-person or online) since the start of the pandemic (Source). This is coming on the back of a rapid decline in church attendance over the last decade (Source).

Why? Because what we have been doing for the past two decades is not what keeps people in church. Believe it or not, our perfectly planned services and emotionally-poignant worship experiences and our super fun youth groups and our dedicated staff and high-tech curriculum are not what keep people connected to the faith.

It’s relationship. Period.

It’s the creation of a community that is integrated and intentional about being part of one another’s lives, regardless of time and space, and committed to being there for one another through all of life’s ups and downs.

Way back in 2013, the Barna Group shared this:The first factor that will engage Millennials at church is as simple as it is integral: relationships. When comparing twentysomethings who remained active in their faith beyond high school and twentysomethings who dropped out of church, the Barna study uncovered a significant difference between the two. Those who stay were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59% of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31% among those who are no longer active). The same pattern is evident among more intentional relationships such as mentoring—28% of Millennials who stay had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor, compared to 11% of dropouts who say the same” (Source)

What about Gen Z, the generation of young people in our churches right now? “Parents are the most important people and the greatest influence for children. According to this study, Gen Z admire their parents, but at the same time they don’t feel family relationships are central to their sense of self. They love their parents, but still long for good role models” (Source).

In the Church, we are good at acute compassion; we will show up for each other when there is an emergency or a crisis. We are good at weekly experiences and crafting worship services, Sunday schools, youth groups, mission trips, and Vacation Bible Schools that offer temporary fixes to our emotional and spiritual needs.

We are less good at things like creating space for intergenerational relationships to flourish, where older and younger people can create lasting relationships based around conversation, prayer, mentorship, guidance, and lifelong community

We are decidedly not good at addressing the structures in our churches that lead us away from each other such as age-segregated worship experiences and lack of communal opportunities to serve together consistently and building relationships outside of the church building and the hours set aside for “church.”

And then we wonder why each generation has fewer and fewer individuals who regularly attend church or identify as a Christian.

2020 has been a good barometer for this.

For individuals who had intentionally developed relationships with people in their church, who had demonstrated the willingness to put in the work of community, to remaining connected despite being about to gather in-person, to commit to Zoom worship and in-home family Bibles studies, to text one another and check in on each other, to continue building community despite the unusual circumstances…for those people, 2020 while difficult, was not a death knell to their faith or their commitment to church.

But for those who were loosely connected or even disconnected, who showed up for the experience or attended out of obligation, who didn’t have committed discipleship relationships with anyone at church or in their faith community outside of paid staff or volunteers…. it was much easier to walk away.

I believe we are faced with a challenge as we begin worshipping together again. We can either 1. Try to recover what once was and return to a sense of “normalcy” with lower numbers and zero change or 2. We can acknowledge we are good at acute compassion but terrible at chronic empathy and begin to change the way we do church by prioritizing relationships over programs and worship over services.

I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, if we don’t want to lose an entire generation (Gen Z or the upcoming Alpha Generation), we are going to have to commit ourselves to the long-term work of intergenerational discipleship, mentorship and relationship and it is going to take more than showing up on Sunday morning and occasionally volunteering in children’s ministry or giving towards the youth group mission trip.

We’re going to have to show up in the spaces and places where the younger generations are – the uncomfortable spaces like social media and the unspiritual spaces like ball games and the deeply spiritual spaces like committed prayer partnerships – and build intentional community as though our spiritual lives depended on it.

Because, at this point, I think they do.

Church as usual is not enough. It is time for a change. And it doesn’t start in a building. It starts in a community who says, “I refuse to just show up when there is an emergency or a need. I’m showing up when life is looking pretty good and I’m digging deep into relationship with intention and purpose. I’m going to relentlessly pursue relationships even if it is hard and rejection happens and I feel alone.”

That’s what Church really looks like. The easy road of “Sunday morning worship” is no longer an option. We must build something more. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” – Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:35.


Ready to Start? Not Sure How?

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.