A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear a story from a church that captures the heart of ReFocus Ministry and I just had to share it with you. Like many churches in 2020, this church had struggled to regain a sense of community and were feeling the impact of generational gap in tangible ways. Young people were not returning. Older people were isolated. Everyone was feeling the strain of separation.
Upon contacting ReFocus Ministry and beginning the coaching program, it became obvious that there were quite a few barriers integrated into their church culture that kept the generations from forming relationships with one another. They decided to focus on one area in particular: Extracurricular activities. That’s right – sports and drama and spelling bees and choir performances and tee ball tournaments. You see, they discovered that many of their children and youth were involved in these things and that they and their parents faithfully showed up at these events and this church decided, it was high time they showed up there too.
They placed a bulletin board in a main gathering area and invited parents and kids to post schedules of their upcoming events. And then, the older Sunday School classes committed to visiting that bulletin board and taking turns amongst the members committing to showing up in these spaces.
It was a rocky start. New things often are. However, it didn’t take long as the weather warmed up and people could get outside and into bleachers and stadiums for the movement to gain momentum.
By the end of summer, this church could be found all over town at ball games and ballet recitals, cheering on their kids and youth, sitting in the bleachers with parents, and even running concession stands a local softball games.
By fall, the church was abuzz with activity and connection. People spoke one’s another’s names. They greeted each other in the hallways and high-fived over home runs and scored goals. They commiserated over losses and shared stories of “When I was a kid…”. Family Sundays were no longer an exercise in tolerating the presence of kids; instead, kids were invited to sit with their cheerleaders and their biggest fans -the older members of their church.
The result? Relationships.
The bigger result? Everyday discipleship in the context of community.
This is what ReFocus is all about. Our mission statement says we exist to “connect generations at church and at home.” But that is not the end goal. The end goal is to create a community characterized by relationships centered around Christ for the glory of God.
We can dissect all the reasons that young people are leaving the church until we are blue in the face. Or we can begin to build relationships and community right now that will ensure deep roots and faith formation that lasts a lifetime.
As we move into the new year, let’s reimagine what church together can look like. Let’s identify the barriers that keep us apart and inhibit generational discipleship and let’s embrace the beautiful invitation to worship and work as a community of faith, all ages, all stages, as one body.