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Over the course of the last couple of months, ReFocus has received an unprecedented amount of emails, private messages, and online inquiries regarding the services we offer. At first, I was excited; I believed the message ReFocus has been sharing for years was finally getting through – the importance of connecting generations in meaningful relationships for lifelong discipleship at church and at home was finally gaining traction.

It only took a couple of weeks for me to figure out, that wasn’t exactly what was happening. In fact, after answering only a few of the emails, I had gone ahead and created a form letter that I could send in response to the inquiries.

To be clear, I was honored and excited to have been contacted. I am always thrilled when I have the chance to share about what ReFocus does and the services that we have to offer to churches who are growing in relational discipleship community.

But at the same time, I was disappointed about why these new contacts were being made. Because, for the most part, it wasn’t because of an internal motivation within the church to begin building bridges between generations and tearing down the barriers that keep them apart. It wasn’t because a shared burden for generational discipleship and intentional intergenerational relationships created a need for resourcing and coaching. It wasn’t even because the research related to church membership and faith maturity/longevity among rising generations had caused them to look into alternatives for traditional age-specific approaches to discipleship.

For nearly all of the incoming inquiries and emails, the motivating factor was this: A Lilly grant. A 1.2 million dollar Lilly grant. A grant that could potentially fully fund a ministry within a church for five years.

The thing is, the people at the Lilly Foundation have been reading the research, paying attention to trends, and recognizing the need and they wrote into the grant a specific need and focus on intergenerational community, worship, and learning.  While many churches still lean heavily into age-specific ministries that impede generational discipleship, the Lilly Foundation shares the research that, in their words, “faith is as much caught as it is taught.” They go on to share the following:

“In her book, Little Steps Big Faith, for example, Dawn Rundman explains how corporate worship expresses the depth of Christian faith with a kind of emotion and rhythm that cannot be replicated outside of the worshipping community. Furthermore, intergenerational worshipping communities, which include children, teenagers, young adults, mid-life adults and older adults, provide children with a place in which they can feel secure, known and loved. In this manner, Rundman and other researchers note that corporate worship and prayer are exceptionally enriching settings that nurture the religious lives of children as they grow in Christian faith.”

Lilly Grant RFP, Nurturing Children in Worship & Prayer

I am exceedingly grateful for the spotlight that the Lilly Foundation has put on this research and the need for creating intergenerational communities that allow for generational discipleship and communal faith formation to take place. And I am also grateful for people who contacted ReFocus in light of the Lilly Grant RFP.

My concern lies only in this: If money, and a substantial amount of it, was not attached to this spotlight and the research that was shared, would churches have even noticed? Would ReFocus and GenOn and Messy Church USA and other nonprofits who have been committed to sharing this research and encouraging intergenerational ministry for over a decade.. would they have seen an uptick in contacts and inquiries this past season?

Is our motivation, by and large, the Great Commission and our call to “make disciples” or is it, to put it bluntly, money?

And, to put it just as bluntly, is the reason we generally stick to age-specific, age-segregated ways of gathering also motivated by the same? Is it easier and cheaper to just keep everyone separate? Do the offering plates and the attendance sheets look better when children and youth are not present in the communal assembly?  Are the adults who can afford to give monetarily to the church happier when things are just left alone?

I recognize how this might read to some, especially those who did indeed reach out to ReFocus for information!  I want to be clear: I myself was involved in applying for this grant and ReFocus has partnered with a specific ministry in an application. I am not against applying for grants, for money being offered to churches, or churches inquiring about how ReFocus and other nonprofits might join in the opportunity.  I am not upset with or ungrateful for any of that!

What troubles me is that it took 1.2 million dollars for that to happen. Our call to disciple the next generation weighs heavily on my heart. For the last 10 years, the research has been consistent and cohesive – intergenerational worship, community learning, meaningful relationships that lead to generational discipleship, simply being together in a community that builds trust and belonging – these are necessary components of answering that call. That is our ultimate motivation – to do as Christ invited us and make disciples of all nations.

IMPORTANT FINAL THOUGHT:I also want to acknowledge this very important fact. Many of the people who applied for this grant have FOR YEARS been trying to integrate intergenerational ministry and worship in their congregations. However, church funds have not been made available in order for them to do the things they are feeling called to do within their scope of ministry. Statistics show that on average 1.2% of the church budget is allocated to children’s ministry and 1.0% to youth ministry while facility costs are around 15% and salaries at 43% (Source). This leaves some ministers with no other recourse than to seek outside funding. My hope is that churches and denominations, once they see the time and effort put into these grants, will seek to find a way forward even if a Lilly Grant is not awarded. And my prayer is that these hopes will be realized and generational discipleship will be the result.


Ready to take your ministry leadership to new heights? Join our 12-week program facilitated by Christina Embree, where you’ll embark on a transformative journey alongside 4-6 peers from diverse faith backgrounds.

  • Dive deep into generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and church culture transition.
  • Experience growth and accountability within a supportive community of like-minded ministers.
  • Gain exclusive access to resources and up to one year of personalized coaching.
  • Harness the power of collective learning and coachable moments with your cohort mates.
  • Unlock the opportunity to become a local ReFocus coach and share your expertise on our platform.

What’s Included:

📅 Twelve weekly trainings (10 Sessions) and Zoom calls with Christina.

💡 Choice of 1 webinar with resources for your church/congregation.

🗣️ One year of monthly, 30-minute, one-on-one coaching sessions.

👥 Access to a private Facebook group exclusively for cohort members.

💸 Lifetime 10% discount on all ReFocus seminars, workshops, webinars, and coaching packages.

Spaces are limited to 10 people, so secure your spot now and embark on a journey of growth, connection, and empowerment! DM us to learn more or visit to enroll today. Let’s make this summer a season of transformation together! 

It’s Time To Connect

Connect Generations Coaching is a one-time intensive coaching experience that uses a research-based ministry assessment tool designed for churches to complete in less than a week.

This unique coaching experience offers specific insight into the barriers and bridges to connect generations and bring your community together. The Connect Generations Ministry Assessment Tool & Coaching Experience are available now for only $99.

About the Founder of ReFocus Ministry

Christina Embree is the founder and director of ReFocus Ministry. She holds a masters in ministry focused on Children, Youth, and Family Ministry and a doctorate in spiritual formation with a focus on age segregation and intergenerational ministry.

In addition to coaching churches of multiple denominations and traditions all around the globe, Christina serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship for the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ and as Next Gen pastor at Open Door Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

She is widely recognized as a speaker and author in the areas of generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and family ministry. As the mother of three children, she is familiar with the challenges of faith at home and pastoral ministry. She along with her husband Luke share a love for the church, their community, and the global work of peace and restoration through Jesus.

Interested in having Christina visit your church, speak at your conference, or coach your team?

Christina speaks on a wide range of topics related to children, youth, and family ministry with a unique focus on connecting generations for discipleship within your church. Her personalized approach allows you to pinpoint the needs of your community and gain the insight that you are looking for. Whether this is a volunteer team training and pastoral staff meeting or a ministerial conference, her experience and knowledge will help you determine the next step forward in creating lifelong disciples.

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

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