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Missing the Mark: The Failing Strategy of Trying to Woo Missing Generations

Increasingly, I find myself in conversations with churches that are concerned they do not have a lot of Millennials and Gen-Xers in their congregation. “We have two strong areas in our church,” one pastor said, “Seniors and kids 5th grade and under. We just can’t seem to hit the generations in between.”

This church’s solution to this problem was to focus on reaching those missing generations. Offering classes they thought they would like. Playing worship songs and preaching sermon series they thought they’d enjoy. Even adjusting the service time and format in order to appeal more to those generations. Nothing seemed to be working. So I offered this suggestion:

Instead of focusing on the weaknesses, build up the strengths.

Find ways to intentionally invest in and connect the oldest generations and the young generations currently in the church.  Create programming specifically for them. Give them the attention and the focus. Put together opportunities aimed at bringing those two groups together. After all, if the other generations aren’t there anyway, what have you got to lose?

The reality is this:  We need each other. These separations we have created in our churches based on generational lines and age segregation are not doing us any favors. Instead of making us stronger, they have made us weaker. They keep us from being connected to each other. They inhibit us from experiencing community with one another.

Being in the same building at the same time makes us not more connected that a bunch of loose legos in a bin. In order for those legos to build anything, they have got to be joined together.

We are at our very core hardwired to connect. This is actually the title of a study done by the Commission on Children at Risk completed in 2003 that looked specifically at depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, thoughts of suicide, and other serious mental and behavioral problems in young people. Their conclusion? We are hardwired to connect to other people.

Simply put, we are built for community. We actually need places to be vulnerable and accountable, to pass on knowledge and gain new experiences, and without those things in place, we begin to disintegrate as an individual. “When younger and older connect, the intergenerational relationships built are a route to success in early life and a key to happiness and well-being in our later years” (Source). This begs the question – why?

Because we are created in God’s image and He is a communal God.

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

When we look at our church community and only focus on what or who we are missing, we will miss out the gift in front of us. The next generation. The oldest generation.  As members of a faith that perpetuates itself through generational discipleship, passing our faith from one generation to another, finding ways to strengthen those connections will be our greatest gift.

If we are going to see our churches strengthened, we have to take our focus off the “missing” generations and begin to support, equip, strengthen, nurture, and connect the ones we still have in our communities.

Create space for them to be in relationship with one another, making meaningful connections (not just passing in the hall), engaging in corporate times of worship (not just periodic performances) and life-giving discipleship relationships (not just the sharing of an occasional word of wisdom).

Let’s invest in the generations of today and let’s focus on how we can strengthen their faith and their relationships in ways that will create lifelong faith for generations to come.

Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

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We're made for connection. What is keeping us apart?

Take the Connect Generations Assessment and identify the bridges and barriers to discipleship in your church