Changing the Way We Talk About Discipleship at Home

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with a church and talk about my favorite subject – connecting generations at church and at home. One of the things that we discussed was the parent/caregiver ministry of discipleship at home. The conversation went along the typical lines – “The parents in my church don’t really know how to disciple their kids, they are overwhelmed with life and feel out of their depth when it comes to faith formation in the home.”

I hear this a lot. Not just from leaders in the church but from parents themselves. It feels like just another area of possible failure; a set-up that puts responsibility for their child’s current and future spiritual health squarely on them.

That’s a pretty high bar to reach. And I’m sure that’s not the message we intend to be sending when we tell parents that they are the primary spiritual leaders in their children’s lives. We don’t want parents who feel set up to fail.

One way to begin to create a more positive, less exhausting call to action is to change some of the approaches and phrases we use in talking to parents and caregivers, kind of a “instead of…..try this….” approach. Why? Because words matter and what we communicate can make a huge difference between a parent who feels underresourced and overwhelmed to a parent who feels supported, nurtured, and equipped for the work of discipleship in the home.

Instead “You should be discipling your kids at home” try “You are discipling their kids at home and we are here to help.”

Instead of “Here are some resources to help you disciple your kids” try ”Here is a mentor to walk with you as you disciple your kids”

Instead of “You need to make sure you bring your kids to church every Sunday” try “We will prioritize being your spiritual support and community all week long; how can we show up?”

Instead of “We will be praying for you” try “We’ve got a list of people who have committed to praying for parents and your prayer partner will be in touch soon.”

Do you see the shift?  It moves from an isolating message of “This is your job” to a communal charge of “This is our job.”  It recognizes the profound influence that parents and caregivers have on their children and emphasizes the role of the community in supporting that work.

Another message we often share with parents/caregivers that the church only gets 40 hours a year, schools get 1,200 and parents get 3,000 and therefore parents have the responsibility to disciple their kids; and they do, but they are not meant to do it alone.

We say that church isn’t a building, it’s a community, but when we consistently and often exclusively share messages like this one, we reinforce that idea that church is a place we go 40 times a year for an hour at a time. We can’t have it both ways.

If church is a community of faith committed to doing life together, then church should be in the schools, the homes, the playgrounds, the neighborhoods, the restaurants, the grocery stores, the soccer fields, etc. Parents are the greatest influence; every study, secular or religious, shows us this. But limiting the church’s influence to only 40 hours a year says that church is nothing more than a building we go to once a week and the faith community is just the pastoral staff and volunteers that interact with our kids on that day?

There is one verse that we often use to demonstrate the mandate in Scripture for parents/caregivers to disciple their kids:

Impress these commandments on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:7

Often, in shining the spotlight on this verse and directing our focus of discipleship exclusively to parents/caregivers, we miss something of great importance, something that changes everything about the command.

This command wasn’t given to parents.

It was given to the community of faith.

The charge to talk about these commandments, to impress them on the children, to disciple the next generation in faith what given to the entire gathered assembly and never once were parents singled out and told that discipleship was their responsibility. On the contrary, the command was clearly given in the presence of everyone (Hear, O Israel) and deemed by God through Moses as applicable to the whole assembly. So much so, it is repeated, nearly word for word in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 again in an address to the whole congregation.

So what does this mean?

Parents, it is not exclusively “your” job to disciple your children.

Church, it IS corporately our job to disciple our children.

So, yes, if you are a parent/caregiver and you are a believer, of course, you are discipling your kids, especially since you have the most time with them and the most influence on them!

But, Church, please hear this, parents are not supposed to be doing this alone. This isn’t a command devoid of community. This isn’t a mandate that applies only to parents/caregivers and their children. This is a command given to all of us, every single member of the community of faith, to all of our children, not just those who live in our house.

A shift in our conversation, an embrace of community, an adjustment in our approach could go a long way in helping our parents/caregivers embrace and celebrate their role as a spiritual leader their home. The end result? A closer community and a group of kids who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they belong and they are loved by God and by their church.



If you have ever felt alone in your heart for intergenerational ministry, if you have ever wondered what the next right step is or been curious about how you can best serve your church’s discipleship or mentorship ministry, then a ReFocus Ministry Coaching Cohort might the place for you.

ReFocus Coaching Cohorts provide ministry leaders with the opportunity to expand their leadership skills in a twelve-week shared learning experience. Facilitated by an experienced coach, a cohort group of 7-10 individuals from multiple faith organizations meet weekly to explore and apply the principles of leadership in generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and church culture transition. Through extensive exploration, inquiry and dialogue, the coach and fellow cohort members help participants identify their role in generational discipleship within their faith community and deepen their leadership capability.

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Benefits

  • Accountability and growth within a community of like-minded ministers
  • Access to resources available only to cohort members, including up to one year of monthly personal coaching
  • Real-life moments and collective learning within the group that can be addressed by both the coach and the other members.
  • Ability to participate in ReFocus presenter platform as a local ReFocus representative.

ReFocus cohorts provide a confidential, open environment for ministers to strengthen their effectiveness in ‘real-time’ situations. It is intended for people who have experience in ministry and are ready to build the skills needed to be leaders in generational discipleship and intergenerational ministry.

Included in Coaching Cohort Package

  • Twelve weekly trainings/Zoom calls with coach.
  • Choice of 1 webinar with resources for church/congregation (for use within one year of cohort start).
  • Family Faith Formation TALK TOOLS curriculum (Digital download available after first 12 weeks).
  • One year of monthly, 30-minute, one-on-one coaching conversations.
  • Access to private Facebook group for cohort members only.
  • Lifetime 10% discount on all ReFocus seminars, workshops, webinars, and/or coaching packages

For more information or to speak to someone about any questions, please fill out the contact form below with the Subject of “ReFocus Coaching Cohort”


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About this Blog

Refocus Ministry was founded by Christina Embree in 2014 as a blog and now a nonprofit coaching and consulting ministry. Christina serves with her husband Luke and three children as church planters and pastors at Plowshares BIC. She speaks conferences and churches around the globe and also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.

With over a decade in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home, equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith, and nurturing intergenerational community in the church. She holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a doctorate of ministry in spiritual formation. blogs at refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

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