Maybe Not the Greatest Gift of All?

It’s gift-giving time! Everyone is scrambling to find those last-minute perfect gifts to give their family and friends as we approach Christmas Day and all the celebration it brings. And, I can pretty much guarantee, that just about any church you walk into these days is going to have some indication that the “greatest gift of all” was given to us in the incarnation of Christ, Immanuel, God with us!

I fully agree that Christ is indeed the greatest gift, but I have even better news – He’s the gift that keeps on giving. Sometimes, when we talk about Christmas, we remember the baby Jesus and sometimes we even connect that to the crucified and risen Christ, and occasionally we mention the ascended and returning Lord BUT rarely do we talk about Christ today.

You see, when Christ was born and lived and died and rose and ascended to the right hand of the Father, His work didn’t end. In fact, according to Scripture, that was merely the beginning. It was at that point that Jesus began the real work – the reconciliation of all things to himself (Col. 1:20). And, of course, He had a plan.

US. The Church.

We are the Body of Christ. We are (supposed to be) Jesus in the world today, the greatest gift of all.

The things Jesus was doing? We are supposed to be doing those things. The words Jesus was speaking? Those are our words now. The life Jesus was leading? We are commissioned and called to lead; “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).

In a very real sense, we are the greatest gift to one another and to the world.

So…how are we doing?

I had a seventeen-year-old girl tell me the other day that she “believes in God and Jesus but doesn’t want to be called a Christian” because of what she has seen done and said this year in the name of Christ.

I had another young person wonder why we (the Church in general) act more like Simon the Pharisee in the story of the prostitute that washed Jesus’ feet than the woman who was humble before Christ (Luke 7:36-50).

I’ve had dozens of young people message me on social media confused and complexed at the behavior they are seeing from people who claim to be Christian and to love God.

Why is the Generation Z walking away from Jesus?

Maybe this cognitive dissonance has something to do with it.

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus (John 13:35)

“The message is we promote freedom, liberty and when the constitution/and bill of rights are endangered Americans refuse to be passive!” – Christian, commenting on my social media

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” – Jesus (Luke 6:27, 28)

“They will meet my AR15 if they come to my house and tell me to stay home 14 days!” – Christian, commenting on my social media

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” – Paul (Phil. 2:3-5)

“I have the peace that surpasses all understanding in me-Christ. I also care about people, and it’s hard to see so many sheeple who are being led to the slaughter, simply because they watch the bought and paid for communist MSM.” – Christian, commenting on social media

There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.

Politics aside. Opinions aside. Personal experience aside.

This is not the greatest gift of all.

This is not becoming of the body of Christ.

The irony is, we desperately need one another! If anything, 2020 has shown us this. There are myriads of studies that show up the importance of integrated community and the dangers of isolation and loneliness. But, here’s the thing – since we are built for community, we are going to seek it out. We are going to look for people who will sit with us, eat with us, cry with us, listen to us, walk with us, laugh with us, see us, accept us, and love us. And if it is not the Church, if it is not the people who call themselves Christians and claim to be followers of Jesus, lovers of God who so loved the world that He died for it… if not these people, then community can and will be found elsewhere.

If only we had an example to follow:

“Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)” Mark 2:15

“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

Our example. Jesus. The greatest gift of all.

Church, we hold a precious role in all of this. Christ’s words to the disciples when he looked about the crowd in compassion was to call them into that space: “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37). We get to extend the gift of Jesus to all around us. To every generation. To the least of these. To the people we disagree with. To the people we love.

We are supposed to be a gift, ministers of reconciliation, passing our faith to the next generation – not turning them away in disgust and despair. The greatest gift of all is in our grasp. So, may this be our prayer for the upcoming year – actually, for the rest of our lives!

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” Psalm 19:14. Amen.


We CAN be the Greatest Gift and It Can Start At Home

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.

Redeeming 2020: The Hope of Christmas

I am seeing snow pictures from all over the country! We are currently seeing a few flakes of snow here in Kentucky. Actual white flakes falling from the sky. Immediately following this sight was the singing of “White Christmas” and the inevitable question, “Do you think we will have snow for Christmas?”

Okay, fine, I’ll admit it. I get a little bit of that excitement when I saw the snow falling. I love Christmas. But more precisely, I love Advent. I love the anticipation; the time leading up to our celebration of Christ’s birth. Now, I realize that likely Jesus wasn’t born on December 25 and that the background of the holiday was decidedly pagan and that the Wise Man have their own holiday (Epiphany) for a reason and … all those things.

But for us, Christmas IS actually the celebration of Christ’s birth.

We anticipate that moment. We talk about why He came. We talk about the miracle of His birth. We talk about how heaven came to earth; how God became man and walked around us, fully God and fully man. How He chose to come as an infant, wrapped in frail flesh, carrying within Him the hope of the world.

When Christ came into the world, He came with a purpose – Redemption. Rather than discard the world, He redeemed it. And I happen to think we, as His followers, can do that same, if we so desire. There is much about this year, 2020, that invites us to experience to redemption. Redemption means “action of regaining or gaining possession of something.” Many of us feel that we’ve lost hold of many things this year.

If ever we needed to celebrate Redemption, it is this Christmas.

We’ve lost time spent together. Lord, may we redeem this by embracing opportunities to be together, from oldest to youngest, when we can gather again.

We’ve lost embraces and handshakes and arms around shoulders. Lord, may we redeem this by never letting an opportunity to cheer, to comfort and to hold when offered the opportunity to do so; may we truly “see” each other and reach out.

We’ve lost times of corporate worship. Lord, may we redeem this by re-gathering in ways that bring even more of the body of Christ together, from generation to generation, and raise our songs of praise and worship to you as one family.

We’ve lost in-person prayer meetings and Sunday schools and youth group activities and Bible studies. Lord, may we redeem these by praying fervently for one another, by learning more about You and who you are so we can share with one another, and studying your word in our home together as households or “little churches.”

We’ve lost “the way we’ve always done it” this year and we’ve gone headfirst into so many new things and new ways of celebrating and worshiping and “doing church.” Lord, may we redeem this by pressing in even closer to our community, our church family, and our neighborhood and welcoming your work in new and surprising ways.

In many ways, 2020 offers us the opportunity to re-assess and re-align. If anything, we have realized how very much we need one another. To reflect back on a post from earlier this year, perhaps now is the time to stop and consider…how do we want to return in the future?

In the past, part of our church may have been isolated even when we gathered because of age segregation and lack of generational inclusion. 

What would it look like to begin again, together, with intentional space for multiple generations to interact and connect with each other?

Perhaps church gatherings and programs were primarily created and led by representatives of one or two generations and focused on keeping things as simple and reproducible as possible. 

What if coming back, more generations and representation were invited in to discussions on how things can change to be more connectional, less isolated, and more integrated at all levels?

Maybe we felt like it was the job of our “pastoral professionals” to handle things like discipleship and service opportunities. 

What if in our return, the laity were empowered and equip for generational discipleship in their homes (parents/grandparents/caregivers), in their faith community (multigenerational), and in their workplaces (apprenticeship and mentorship)?

These changes that bring us together across generational lines don’t have to wait until we are gathered again in a single space in the flesh. Think about it! Now is the time to begin planning for whatever the next stage of this crazy reality brings. Now is the time to begin reaching out across generational lines and connecting people to each other.

  • Intercessory prayer using the Pray for Me campaign.
  • Intergenerational Zoom prayer meetings.
  • Multigenerational committees set up to talk about the return to in-person services.
  • Cultivating of resources to help congregants engage with generational discipleship in their homes, faith community and workplaces. Check out GenOn Ministries and Lifelong Faith for some incredible resources.
  • Webinars for parents/grandparents/caregivers to help give them ideas for discipleship at home.
  • Plans to introduce Messy Church or Faith Inkubators/Faith 5 or WE Gatherings.

None of this need wait for us to experience what once was so common. Sitting in pews. Passing the peace. Boisterous singing. Choirs and communion. Oh, how we long for those things to return, but oh, the opportunity we have right now to embrace these other things and the hope which will inevitably draw us closer together to God and each other. As author Rachel Solnit says, “Hope is a commitment to the future.”

Christ, the incarnate God, is our Hope and our Future.

And then, when we do return, it may look different, but, just maybe, it will look more like the Church, all ages, all gathered, in community, truly together. Maybe in these spaces, we will experience the redemption of what was lost.


Ready to begin 2020 with Renewal at Home & Church?

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.

All Together Now

This Christmas in churches across America, things are going to look a little bit different. In some areas, churches are still meeting in-person but in modified capacities. In some, all the generations of churches are worshiping together in the space for the first time. In others, families are worshiping together in cars or in homes or even outside in our warmer states.

A lot of logistical questions are being asked about how best to make this all work. And some other questions are being asked too; familiar questions for someone who has been advocating for adults and kids to experience worship together for the last several years. Over those years, I’ve had the chance to be a part of many conversations about intergenerational worship and generational discipleship.  Most conversations inevitably end up in a series of questions that usually start with “What if…”

For example, if we talk about including children in the corporate worship time the “What if’s” include…

  • What if the kids talk or “whisper loudly”?
  • What if they cry or whine or whimper or wail?
  • What if they are bored or distracted?
  • What if they wiggle, squirm, move around, have to pee, get up and walk around?
  • What if they are distracting to the adults, to their parents, to the older generation?

Or if we talk about holding an event that is open to all generations, the “What if’s” are more like this:

  • What if the generations don’t talk to each other or can’t relate to each other?
  • What if the time, place, topic, etc. doesn’t work for this group or that group?
  • What if not everyone gets something out of it?

So, okay, let’s talk about it. What if all the “What if’s” happened?  

Would it wreck the church? Would there be irreversible damage?  

Would there be no recourse but to just say, “It’s over. Throw in the towel. Intergenerational ministry just doesn’t work?”

Are the risks really so great that if all of the greatest fears happened, if all of the “What if’s” came true, it’d be too much to even try beyond the forced parameters of a global pandemic?

Even if we know, because of research and studies, both secular and religious, that the results of intergenerational ministry and relationships include things like reduced “dropout” of young people once they graduate of high schoolincreased spiritual growth for the entire churcha mature faith in young adultsa sense of belonging and meaning for children, and a stronger community of faith across the board.

What if ALL the “What if’s” happened BUT over time so did all the other things?

Young people remained in the faith and in the church after they graduate high school as opposed to the current trend of rapid decline in both.

The entire church experienced overall spiritual growth and vibrancy in the congregational community was heightened (or as the researchers at Fuller Youth Institute put it, “Warm intergenerational relationships grow everyone young.”)

College students had a mature and well-developed faith that was able to carry them through their college years and into healthy marriages and parenting roles.

Children recognized themselves as part of the larger faith community, not separate or somehow lesser than, but genuinely a needed and necessary piece of the church as a whole.

The church grew stronger together, sharing not only a building during a certain period of time each week, but worship and relationship and creativity and fellowship that even carried over to life outside the walls.

Would it be worth it then… to hear some cries, to watch some wigglers, to have to hear music we didn’t necessarily like or see something done differently than it was before? Would it be worth some distraction, an interruption, some inconvenience or some sacrifice?

What if all the “What if’s” happened…and we decided beforehand that it was okay because it was, most certainly, worth it.

Because, my experience has been, and other attest, that all of these “What if’s” don’t usually happen and certainly don’t usually happen all at once. And there are ways to help make sure that if they do, there are tools and structures and support in place to ensure that they don’t cause irreparable damage.

And in the end, is really a risk… or just a stretch?  

Just a willingness to be a little uncomfortable in order to grow, to learn, to experience something that may seem new to us, but is actually the way things were for centuries; the way our faith was passed to us – from one generation to another (Ps. 145:4). What if, what started this Christmas was carried over into the New Year and into a new way of doing church, all together now.

What if… this Christmas was one of our best Christmases yet?

My prayer are with each of us, no matter where and how we are worshipping this Christmas, in homes, in parking lots, in buildings and in Zoom meetings. May God pour out His grace upon us and bring us together in ways we’ve never imagined.


Looking for a way to help parents capture those discipleship moments at home?

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.

Advent Isn’t About Lighting Candles on Sunday

We have reached the blessed season of anticipation as we together await the birth of Christ. And just like 2020 has brought us new experiences in so many ways, this year we will be celebrating Advent in different capacities.

It can be exhausting and even discouraging to think about yet another change coming our way this year. But, friends, fellow parents, co-ministers in the Kingdom….Be encouraged!

Advent isn’t about lighting candles on Sunday morning. 

You see, lighting the candle doesn’t mean a whole lot to me or you (or to our kids) if we don’t talk about Hope, contemplate Joy, celebrate Peace, and commemorate Love for the rest of the week.

Reading beautiful Scriptures of God’s promises and love for us doesn’t mean a whole lot if it stays inside the church walls and never makes it to our dinner table, our car ride, our community, and our job.

Singing a few hymns about Christmas won’t impact our lives until we consider the words and use them to praise God on our recliner at home as much as we do our pew at church.

The reality is, if we are “doing” something at church and not “doing” that same thing the rest of the week, we are compartmentalizing our faith to a place or a gathering or a building instead of incorporating our faith into transformed lives.

We don’t have to literally light an Advent candle every night but if we want our children to know about the Hope of Christ, we need to talk about it every day.

And it’s fine and even fun to sing Christmas carols in the car but we also need to model a life of worship everywhere we go.

We don’t necessarily have to read Scripture aloud in front of our family but Scripture needs to be a part of our everyday conversations with our kids.

If we have learned anything this year, we’ve learned that we can’t live lives that say “Church is a building we go to on Sunday because God is there.” We’ve learned that church has to be much, much more.

We have had to tell our kids, “Church is the family of God and He is always with us so we are always in church.” Now is the time for us to not just say this with words but with our lives.

Spontaneous worship.  Times of prayer.  Lighting of candles. Corporate worship.  Waiting expectantly in hope for the arrival of Christ. 

These things don’t need to be limited to a place, a time, a special moment.  These things can be lived all year long and our lives can be a living testimony to a vibrant, growing faith.

This year offers us the opportunity to do Advent in our homes and in our faith community in a way that really grapples with Hope, pursues Peace, seeks out Joy, and embraces Love in tangible, life-giving, heart-changing ways.

Light a candle, sing a song, serve a neighbor, and give your family the biggest hug. Hope is here, Joy is present, Peace is proclaimed, and LOVE…Love is eternal. Happy Advent, friends!


Looking for a way to help parents capture those discipleship moments at home?

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.

Christmas for the Whole Church: Socially Distanced and Virtual Options

I get a lot of requests for Christmas programs that are intergenerational and focused on bringing the whole church together, while still being appropriate for kids to lead and participate in. One year, after searching for a while, I decided to write my own, and just see what happened.   We ended up having a very moving and memorable all-church experience around the story of God’s Love played out at Christmas.

This year, I’ve had a lot of the same requests with the caveat of “Oh, and it needs to be Covid-friendly.” To meet this need, I’ve taken my “Christmas for the Whole Church” program and added the elements necessary to experience it in a socially-distanced or virtual way. I hope that this is helpful for your churches as you navigate celebrating Christmas in a new way this year!

Because the original program included videos and music our church paid for, I am unable to share the full scripting here, although I can provide links to the music and videos for your own purchasing if desired. IF YOU USE THIS SCRIPT, PLEASE PURCHASE WHATEVER VIDEOS OR MUSIC YOU MIGHT DECIDE TO USE. The rest of the script, which I have written, is free for your use but please honor those who have copyrighted their materials for purchase.

The inspiration for this program came out of the experience of “Cardboard Testimonies” where people share their testimony in short phrases on a piece of cardboard. For instance, the one side might read “Lost in Sin” and the other could read “Found in Love.”  As you read through the script, you’ll see how this is utilized to share the story of Christmas and, even more, the metanarrative of God’s ongoing story of Love and rescue for all of us!

A Christmas Celebration for The Whole Church

  • Narrator 1, 2
  • Joseph – Doubter/Believer
  • Mary – Too Young/Chosen by God
  • Shepherds – Nobodies/God’s Somebodies (2)
  • Wise Men – Wise/Humble (3)
  • Scripture Reader
  • Children to sing

MATERIALS NEEDED – Cardboard signs, both prepared as described and empty, and extra sharpies. Costumes can be used for children if the church desires but each child should bring their own from home (no sharing).

SOCIALLY DISTANCED

If you plan to do this in church but socially-distanced, make sure that you have enough room or stage or around the church to allow people to speak. I would recommend putting tape on the floor where each person can stand.

For Cardboard Testimonies: Have multiple stations, spaced out, for people to write on their cardboard. Have hand sanitizer at each table and wipe down markers after use.

VIRTUAL

You will be using video cameras in order to tape each scene. This can be accomplished a few ways:

  1. Each actor can send in a video of themselves doing their part. This is the most convenient option but there is very little quality control
  2. Someone from your church can go videotape each person doing their part. Not as convenient, but a lot more quality control.
  3. You can set up a Zoom meeting where each person reads their part and the meeting is recorded.

For Cardboard Testimonies: Have people send in still shots (Pictures!) of them holding their signs, front-facing and back-facing. These will be added to the movie at the end. In sharing their testimonies, make sure you include an explanation of what is expected since they won’t be able to see the program beforehand. Examples of cardboard testimonies can be found here.

The Script

Narrator 1  – It’s that time of year again. Can you feel it? (wrap arms around self) Can you smell it? (take a deep breath and then look over a plate of cookies) Mmmmm, can you taste it? (takes a small bite) This is one of my very favorite times of year. I love the sights, the sounds, and the stories that make it so special. But my favorite story is the one we as Christians celebrate as we light our tree, share our gifts and sing our songs. Of course, I am talking about the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Narrator 2 – Like so many stories in the Bible, there is so much for us to learn from how God interacted with the people He used. Today, we want to look a little deeper at the story we all know and love and just see if we can catch of glimpse of Christmas here today.

Let’s start with Joseph, Jesus’ father here on earth

( Joseph enters hold up large sign “Doubter.”)

Joseph: I couldn’t believe it when I heard her say it. “I’m going to have a baby, God’s son, and he will save the world.” We weren’t married yet. I wasn’t ready to be a father. And she said she talked to angels. Doesn’t that sound crazy to you? But then, it happened. In a dream I talked to an angel too. I heard him say that everything Mary said was true. That I was going to be the father to God’s own Son. And in that moment my heart changed (flip the sign to other side “Believer”) and I became the first of many believers in my son, Jesus, the Messiah.

(Video – Joseph song: Music available to purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Josephs-Song/dp/B002CGLYD2 and video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BARVAg0gl6w&list=RDBARVAg0gl6w , Joseph leaves)

(Mary enters, holding up sign that reads “Too Young”)

Mary: Hi, my name is Mary. I’m still not used to getting up in front of people but I am learning. I’ll never forget the day the angel told me I was to be Jesus’ mother. Me? But, I was so young, really just a child. I was engaged to be married but not for a while and I couldn’t understand why God would choose me. But He did. Not because of my age or my abilities but because I was willing and I was available. (flip sign, other side reads “Chosen by God”). I was chosen and by His Love , I was blessed to be the mother of God’s only son.

(Song: Mary, Did You Know? Music available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IB4DTFU/ref=dm_ws_tlw_trk9. We had two of our youth play the piano and sing for this part.  If SOCIALLY DISANCED, keep 12 ft from the singer and others. Mary exits)

(Two shepherds enter, carrying 1 big sign that says Nobodies. The two should be struggling, arguing a bit on how best to carry the sign before they get situated. For COVID purposes, it would be best for these two individuals to be from the same household so they can interact freely)

Shepherd #1 – Ahem, hello, sorry ‘bout that. Um, ahem, yeah… we are shepherds. (said definitively and then stop expectantly)

Shepherd #2, shaking his head – And…? Never mind, I’ll tell them. We are shepherds and around these parts we don’t get much, yah know, R-E-S-P-E-C-T because well, see, we don’t have a lot of schooling and mostly we’re just out in the field all day watching sheep.

Shepherd #1 – But that’s important!! Because if someone didn’t watch the sheep, they’d run off or get eaten and things!!

Shepherd #2 – Yeah, I know that, but lots of other folks just think we’re stinky and silly. BUT not God, oh no, not Him. He done sent us a whole slew of angels, singing and telling us that the Messiah had been born.

Shepherd #1 – That’s right. At first we were scared but then we was just excited. We was the first to know!! (they flip the sign, easily and not clumsily this time) and we were the very first ones to tell others that Jesus has been born.

Shepherd #2 – We may not speak the best or read real well, but God trusted us to announce the arrival of His Son. I say that makes us Somebody in His book! (they high five)

(Video: Skit Guys, First Christmas Shepherd available for purchase at http://skitguys.com/videos/item/first-christmas-shepherd)

(Wise men enter, stoically, the middle one holding a sign reading “Wise”. If possible, it would be good for these three individuals to be from the same household so they can interact freely)

Wiseman #1 – Good evening. It is our privilege and joy to share with you this evening the events that occurred upon our visit to Bethlehem around the arrival of the baby named Jesus of Nazareth.

Wiseman #2 – Our charts and graphs as well as our astrological studies had led us to the exact location of the child’s birth. We had brought with us valuable gifts to present to Him as our studies had revealed that he would indeed be a king, a king of kings to be exact.

Wiseman #3 – Imagine our surprise when all of our wisdom and charts and graphs and maps led us to a tiny cave behind an inn in the town of Bethelehem. (all kneel as the middle one flips the sign to reveal the word HUMBLE) We bowed before the king of the world on a dirt floor and dirty hay and never have we been so fulfilled in all our lives.

Scripture Reading 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (Jn. 1:1-5)

(Song: “Here I am to Worship”, music available to purchase at http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0081209.)

There are no spoken kid parts at this time but they will have a small role to play this section

Narrator 1: You see, there’s so much more to the story than just a manger and a birth. Lives were changed. People were transformed. Let’s take a look one more time at how these people so long ago were changed.

All characters holding their broken signs facing out. If you are using a video, pictures would work for this rather than having each character present the whole time.

Narrator 2: See, each person needed God in some way. They all felt confused, insecure, insignificant, unworthy and self-sufficient. But the love of God transformed them (Actors flip signs) He changed their lives, their minds, and their hearts. He made them into believers and helped them understand they were chosen children of God. He made each of them “somebody” and gave them hearts of humility.

Note: Picture taken during non-Covid experience

Actors exit with “new” signs above their head to be seen by the congregation. If you are using a video, pictures would work for this part.

Narrator 1: Yes, these people long ago were transformed and the impact of our Savior’s birth continues to this day. Jesus’ love still has the power to change us, each one of us. The story continues even with us…

At this time, a few adult members of the congregation will come out one by one and in the spotlight with their “cardboard” testimony. If anyone is willing, you could give them time to share their testimony. Even if this is being done in a socially distnaced, in-person way, videos of the cardboard testimonies might be a viable option.

If you are solely using virtual/video, skip the next section and move right into the section of the video that highlights pictures of members holding up their cardboard testimonies. Play the music in the background as the testimonies are shared.

Narrator 2: Perhaps some of the rest of you have experienced this kind of love in your life. Perhaps you too have a story to share. (Preplanned volunteers line up on left side of church) If so we will invite you now to make your way to one of the three stations where blank signs and markers are available for you to make your own sign.

Narrator 1: While the music continues to play, make your way to the far side aisle and we will help you come one by one to the front to share your sign. You don’t need to talk, just share your sign with us. This may very well be the best Christmas card you could send. You may now go to the 3 stations at the back.

Music to play. We used “Oh How He Loves Us” by David Crowder. Preplanned volunteers will begin filing onto stage, socially-distanced and masked, to show their sign. As congregants line up, prompter 2 will tell each one to go as the current testimonial is stepping down. There is no set time limit for this. It will depend on the size of your church and the move of the Holy Spirit. Our testimony time lasted about 10-15 minutes. The music played on a loop during that time. 

Pastor/Director (In-person or Virtual video): Maybe today, you didn’t have a sign to show or a card to write. That’s okay because the very best news of Christmas is that the story never ends. If today you felt a desire to allow God to re-write your story and you would like to pray with someone, we invite you to contact us and we would love to pray with you.

SOCIALLY DISTANCED

If you are able to take communion safely, consider ending this way. “Now, in the spirit of celebration, thanking God through Jesus Christ for His magnificent gift of love, let us come to the table set before us and share in communion with Christ and one another (Continue with communion liturgy).

VIRTUAL

End the video with a Christmas carol and information about how to contact the pastoral staff at the church. We used “O Come all ye Faithful” and “Joy to the World”

I hope that this script and opportunity to share the Christmas story in a new way is a help to you this year. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions and I will be happy to help you as I am able!


Looking for a way to help parents/caregivers engage with their kids in everyday discipleship at home?

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.

The Healing Gift of Hospitality

When I was a young child, I remember hearing people talk about how we wanted to “offer hospitality” to others and I was so confused why we would offer to take people to the hospital. And what did that have to do with me cleaning the house and setting the table for dinner?

If your home is anything like mine, December becomes a perfect time to practice hospitality and believe it or not, my childish question wasn’t as far off base as you might think. I did a little digging and found the word “hospitality” comes from the Latin word hospes, meaning “host”, “guest”, or “stranger.”

And you guessed it, the Latin word ‘Hospital’ means a guest-chamber, guest’s lodging, an inn.  In other words, when we invite people to come and stay in our home, we are actually filling the role of hospital.

christmas-791142_1920Today, we understand a hospital to be a place where people go to stay for medical care, not for leisure. But in the past, offering someone hospitality was often a matter of survival and protection. It was much more than simply good etiquette and entertainment; it was often a place where people found safety and shelter with others.

It was a hospital where a different kind of healing took place.

In the story of the walk to Emmaus, we find this kind of hospitality. The two disciples were walking together and talking and they were joined by a stranger. Not only was he invited into their conversation, he was invited into their home. That’s the first kind of hospitality, one of shelter and safety.

But once in the home, the stranger became the host of a different kind of hospitality, that of spiritual healing and holy communion. The stranger was Jesus and as he “broke the bread” and they recognized him a few things happened.

First, they saw God, which in and of itself is pretty amazing.

Second, they believed God. They believed in the resurrection that the women from the tomb had proclaimed.

Third, their souls were revived. So much so that they ran all the way back to Jerusalem, leaping and overflowing with joy.

And finally, they told others. This is the kind of hospitality that knows others are welcome too, and so it is proclaimed to others as a place of spiritual safety and healing.

As we get ready to gather with friends and families and even neighbors and strangers this holiday season, let’s flip the script on hospitality as we’ve known it, the hospitality focused on etiquette and entertainment, and ask the Lord how we can offer a hospitality of safety and security and of spiritual healing and holy communion to those we get the chance to be with, dine with, and worship with over the next few weeks.

Here are some ideas on how we can do just that with our children and our faith community.

Pray for Others – That sounds so cliché right? But praying for others has been shown to create a deeper empathy in us for the people around us and what better way to show hospitality than to be a safe place for people to come and know they are loved and prayed for.

And do it aloud with your children; model for them what it is to talk to God on behalf of others and to listen when He leads us to serve them in some way.

Attend Advent/Christmas Events – It’s hard to offer hospitality to others if we are never around others. Even if all you do is interact with one other person and pray for them as you do, you’ve engaged with a means of grace given to us by God and therefore placed yourself in His presence and He has promised to meet us there.

Plus, Jesus promised us that wherever two or three are gathered in His name is present with us; find some time to be with Christ present in His people these next few weeks.

Be a Safe Space – We all have hard days and for many, the holidays are some of the hardest. If someone you know has had one and they share with you, hold their confidence and join them in prayer. Be a safe place for others to find encouragement and grace just as Jesus was for those disciples on the road.

Be that place of healing and communion for your children, your family, your church, and those who don’t even know Jesus yet. Just as Christ always beckons us to come, be a place of welcome and rest for those you interact with.

Christmas is a time where we remember that we were shown the greatest hospitality of all. God Incarnate came to us. He made a way for us to spend eternity with Him. I like to think of it this way:  He put out the welcome mat, opened the door, and invited us in.  May you find time to walk in and enjoy his hospitality this season.

Merry Christmas, friends!

May your celebrations be rich with His Hope, Peace, Joy and Love and may you find moments of rest and renewal in His promise of being “God with us!”


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

IMG-0573Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. 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 Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry from Wesley Seminary and is currently completing a Doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from the same. Christina blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements on this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

Talk About It When You Sit at Home: Bringing Advent from Sunday into Monday

What is Advent?

If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that Advent is probably my favorite celebration of the year. Not Christmas necessarily, but Advent, the time leading up to Christmas. The anticipation of Christ’s arrival. The celebration of Hope, Peace, Joy and ultimate Love.

A few years ago, I asked a group of elementary-aged children this question.  Keep in mind that sunday-school-kidsthese children have been “raised” in church so the terminology of “advent” was not unfamiliar to them.  But the answers… oh, the answers… seriously, one of the reasons I love working with kids.

Advent is…

… when you can’t find the angel for the top of tree and you look all over the house for it

… a fun trip into the jungle (I think he though I meant “adventure”)

… when you light candles on the tree branches that fall off the tree (think Advent wreath)

… that thing you use to light Christmas lights

… the songs you sing at Christmas time

Admittedly there were some closer guesses, “countdown to Christmas” being the most popular one, but in reality, most of the kids had no idea about the heart and the wonder behind the season of Advent.

And that got me thinking?  Why?  I know for a fact that Advent has always been celebrated at this church.  Every year on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, candles had been lit and Hope, Peace, Joy and Love talked about.  Liturgical Scriptures were read and Advent vespers services were held.  But somehow, the whole meaning behind the celebration of Advent was missed by the children.

So the question is, how much of what we do on Sunday still has meaning for us on Monday?

You see, lighting the candle of Joy this Sunday doesn’t mean a whole lot to me or you (or to our kids) if we don’t talk about that joy, contemplate that joy, and celebrate that joy for the rest of the week.

Reading beautiful Scriptures of God’s promises and love for us doesn’t mean a whole lot if it stays inside the church walls and never makes it to our dinner table, our car ride, our community, and our job.

Singing a few hymns about Christmas won’t impact our lives until we consider the words and use them to praise God on our recliner at home as much as we do our pew at church.

The reality is, if we are “doing” something at church and not “doing” that same thing the rest of the week, we are compartmentalizing our faith to a building instead of incorporating our faith into transformed lives.

We don’t have to literally light an Advent candle every night but if we want our children to know about the Hope of Christ, we need to talk about it every day.

And it’s fine and even fun to sing Christmas carols in the car but we also need to model a life of worship everywhere we go.

We don’t necessarily have to read Scripture aloud in front of our family but Scripture needs to be a part of our everyday conversations with our kids.

christmas-554720_1920I once asked a similar group of kids what church was.  My answers ranged from “A building we go to on Sunday” to “Where God lives.”  I know these are kids and “kids say the darndest things” but let’s be real for a minute.

If we live lives that say “Church is a building we go to on Sunday because God is there” how else are our children to interpret our faith?   What if instead we told our kids, “Church is the family of God and He is always with us so we are always in church?”  Not with those words, but with our lives.

Spontaneous worship.  Times of prayer.  Lighting of candles. Corporate worship.  Waiting expectantly in hope for the arrival of Christ. 

These things don’t need to be limited to a place, a time, a special moment.  These things can be lived all year long and our lives can be a living testimony to a vibrant, growing faith.

Want some ideas on how to bring Advent home in simple, practical ways? Click here!

Worried you can’t do it all?  That’s okay!  Click here.


For more information about

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

About the author

EmbreeFam2017Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. 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 and  ChurchLeaders.com

“That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown”

Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights, please.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: “for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

 

This scene is probably the most well-known in the classic Peanuts story, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  It airs every year on ABC as part of their Christmas programming and is something that most of us grew up watching and make our kids watch annually. And at one time, most of the country would have agreed with Linus regarding what Christmas is all about…but times have changed.

A recent poll by Pew Research found…pew

“Today, 66% say they believe Jesus was born to a virgin, down from 73% in 2014. Likewise, 68% of U.S. adults now say they believe that the wise men were guided by a star and brought gifts for baby Jesus, down from 75%.

And there are similar declines in the shares of Americans who believe that Jesus’ birth was heralded by an angel of the Lord and that Jesus was laid in a manger as an infant.  Overall, 57% of Americans now believe in all four of these elements of the Christmas story, down from 65% in 2014” (Source).

Why is that?

Well, a big reason for the decline in these numbers is the increase in others, especially the rise of the religious “Nones” who consider themselves unaffiliated with any religion. The majority of those who would categorize themselves this way are in the younger generations, specifically Millennials.  In addition to leaving organized religion and subsequently churches, many are also leaving behind the beliefs of the faith they grew up with and that includes the Christmas story.

So very much has been written about Millennials and, while I too have my thoughts, this post really isn’t about this; rather, I am hoping that this encourages us to really consider the generation we are currently raising in the light of this information.

What if we were to ask ourselves some questions, like…

Are we presenting the story of Christmas as a fairy tale or a significant part of church history?

Our kids hear fairy tales all the time and in fairy tales (or superhero stories or fantasy stories) magical and impossible things happen; things like a virgin giving birth to a baby and angels appearing in the sky.

How we tell the story matters. If we want our kids to understand that these events have been passed down from people who lived through them and experienced them, from one generation of Christians to another, for over 2,000 years, we have to tell the story that way. We have to tell them that no one made this story up or dreamed it in a dream. Actual people lived the events, told other people about it, who recorded their stories and then shared those stories with us.  And that is way, way different than a fairy tale and makes our God way, way bigger than a story.

christmas-crib-figures-1060017_1920

An example of this is how we present the story as though it actually happened on December 25 in the snow with a glowing Christmas tree in the background of the cozy stable and wise men by Mary’s side. Okay, this is a bit of an exaggeration of course, but you get the idea.

God’s story of coming to earth as a poor baby to an unwed mother in a place where animals were kept and first visited by the outcasts of society is grand enough; let’s tell them what Mary told John and John recorded for us and what the disciples told Luke and he wrote it down for Theophilus and for all of us. Let’s give them the truth because the truth is incredibly beautiful, raw and real. 

Are we entering into the journey of Advent or just joining the celebration of Christmas? 

The older I’ve gotten, the more important I realize Advent is. Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas and throughout church history, it’s been the time of waiting and anticipating that made Christmas Day so amazing. It’s a time of hearing the story, not once or twice, but over a period of days and weeks and contemplating it together as we wait for the culmination, the birth of Christ, on Christmas Day.

Advent slows us down and lets us truly consider the incredible events of that time, all wrapped up in the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. This is a powerful opportunity for children to embrace and understand how the birth of Jesus fit into a larger story of who we are and who God is; a story that they get to be a part of as members of God’s family.

Are we keeping Christ as our focus or is He the afterthought? 

Yes, Church family, I’m looking at you. Because this is the crazy, busiest time of the year for church people, especially ministers. Not only are there all the things that happen outside of church, but all the things that happen inside too – cantatas and concerts, breakfasts and banquets, programs and performances, evening services and midnight services, and everything else that comes with all of those things.

And while they all may be “about” Jesus, those things are not Jesus.  And  while they all may feel important, we do need to be careful that these things enhance the story of Christ and don’t clutter the season with even more distraction.  Kids see and remember; let’s be sure that what they remember is Jesus.

There’s a great video about the church calendar that explains how the church has celebrated the life of Christ throughout history. In it, the narrator says, “”Ordinary season has passed; it’s time to inhabit His Story.”

That is the beauty of Advent and Christmas. It is our chance, as the church of God, to enter into the story of Jesus’ life and to celebrate once again the Greatest Gift, the Word who became flesh and took up residence among us.

Advent leads to Christmas, Christmas to Epiphany (God’s revelation to all mankind, symbolized by the Wise Men), Epiphany to Lent (a time of testing and trial, reminding us we have a Savior who knows what it is to be human), Lent to Easter, Easter to Ascension, and finally Ascension to Pentecost where God once again comes to earth in the form of the Holy Spirit and takes up residence in mankind.

This is the story of God and the story of us.

And this is the story we need to share with our children, over and over, not as a dream of what could be but a beautiful picture of the reality of God’s presence and Love in our lives.

So, my friends, “”Ordinary season has passed; it’s time to inhabit His Story”. Blessed Advent and soon, Merry Christmas!


For more information about

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

About the author

EmbreeFam2017Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. 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 and  ChurchLeaders.com

The Great Debate: Are We Real or Artificial?

The other day, my oldest and most practical child told me that when she is on her own, she’s going to get an artificial tree because, “It’s less work, it costs less because you only buy it once, and it looks just as pretty.”

I responded with, “For me, it’s not about that.”

“What?” she asked.

“It’s not about the cost or the work or the end result of looking pretty. For me, it’s the whole experience of finding, cutting, dragging, and decorating a live tree with my family.”

She kinda “humphed” and said, “What part?  The fighting over picking the tree, the dirtyness of cutting it down and dragging it, or the frustration when you can’t hang ornaments because the branches aren’t strong enough?”

“All of that…and more. The laughter when we find a tree that looks ridiculous, the shared joy when we do find ‘the one’, the memories we make with each tree like the one with ‘rat tail’ and the ‘Charlie Brown tree’ and the one that smelled like oranges, the fun of eating Chinese food together and watching a Christmas movie, the silliness of decorating, the nostalgia we feel as we look at special ornaments, the warmth the grows as we decorate our home… all of those things. The experience. That’s what makes it different. That’s what forms us. The experience is formational.”

“I get that….but I’m probably still going to get an artificial tree.”

decorating-christmas-tree-2999718_1920Haha, and that’s fine. She will come up with her own traditions and memories and meaning for her family and her life as she grows.

But the reality is, the things that form us the most aren’t simply things that we put together and plug in so that they “work.” 

The things that form us most are wrought with “experience”, with feelings both good and bad, with hard work, with relationship and sometimes with Chinese food.

And that’s important for us to realize when it comes to ministry within our faith communities.  You see, we could have the best programming, the best curriculum and the best practices in place, but if it if is all just “plug and play”, we are missing the most important part – the messy part, the fun part, the experience and the deeply formational place where we are formed into disciples of Jesus Christ.

It’s not enough to just put children in a room with multiple generations and call it intergenerational ministry; we’ve got to put some experience to it.

Words need to be spoken between generations, names need to be known, relationships need to be cultured, frustrations and joys shared, and lives woven together.

It’s not enough to throw a video up on the screen with a Bible story or song to sing; we got to connect to the story and recognize the song as a means of grace where God can reach our hearts.

We need to offer the opportunity to live into the story through service and prayer and to experience worship as a place to turn our attention to God.

Churches need to be more than a place we go on Sunday. I hear this all the time through phrases like, “We don’t go to church, we are the church” and “Don’t do church, be the church.”  But how do we live this out in formational ways?  Where’s the experiences with this that our children and youth can grab onto and recognize as “church” even when there is not singing or sermon or preaching or pews?

My passion for intergenerational ministry and generational discipleship isn’t about putting kids into corporate gatherings just to check a box and said, “We are now intergenerational.”  That’s plug-and-play.

Rather my passion stems from the idea what we can create spaces where old and young; children, youth and families of all ages, can gather and experience God together in formational ways.  That the whole church can have a sense of belonging and knowing and that no matter one’s age, each would know they are an integral part of the family.

Sometimes, the family won’t agree to pick their “tree” and feelings might get hurt. But it’s a “tree” and no one leaves a family over a Christmas tree.

Sometimes, the family will get dirty doing the work it takes to have that live “tree” which can be uncomfortable and frustrating, but ultimately yeilds the reward of having done something meaningful together.

Sometimes, the family will try to do things, beautiful things and good things, and hang ornaments on their “tree” that just won’t work or the “tree” can’t support and feelings will get hurt and disappointment will be expressed… but no one leaves the family over not getting their beautiful things.

Experiences force us to recognize that we are part of something bigger.

Experiences like worshipping together, which can lead to some discomfort and some beautiful things not being experienced every time we gather. Experiences like serving together, which can be dirty and disheartening at times. Experiences like sharing life together in true community, which can be inconvenient and uncomfortable.

But, oh the rewards! When we gather in worship together, God promises to be in our midst!  When we serve together, we experience God’s grace as a whole, poured out in our hearts beyond measure and binding us together in Him. And when we truly share life together in community, we find a place where we belong, a place we call home, a family.

And ultimately, that is what the church of God is called to be… his family… where every age is known and loved and belongs.


For more information about

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

About the author

EmbreeFam2017Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. 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 and  ChurchLeaders.com

You’re Not A Horrible Parent: Christmas Edition

Last Thursday at the stroke of midnight and the launch of Black Friday sales…it happened. Somehow we magically moved into the mysterious time we call the “holiday season.”  In just a few days my Facebook feed has lit up with posts about Christmas and Christmas trees and Christmas food. Christmas music has started playing on the radio and Thanksgiving turkeys are all discounted in grocery stores.

The whirlwind begins.

Keep in mind, dear friends, that I LOVE the whirlwind. I embrace it like a moth to a flame. The busy isn’t busy to me – it’s rich and full and bursting with life. Time with friends and family becomes the essential instead of the extracurricular and food, fun, and fellowship the norm rather than the exception.

But the is also the time of year where I see Stress get a capital-S. Because while all those things above happen, so does all the other stuff that goes on year-round. It’s not like we hit the pause button on life so that we can celebrate; instead the celebration gets piled on already busy, stressed-out lives.

A recent study by Pew Research has found that in nearly half of two-parent homes, both parents work full-time.

pewresearch

How does that affect the family?

The same research found that:

  • Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children.
  • 59% percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, and more than half of working fathers say the same.
  • 56% percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding

One mother interviewed by the New York Times said this, “You basically just always feel like you’re doing a horrible job at everything. You’re not spending as much time with your baby as you want, you’re not doing the job you want to be doing at work, you’re not seeing your friends hardly ever.”

adorable-blur-child-1261408When we add in the holidays, and all the stuff I mentioned that I love, on top of this…for many it is overwhelming.

And then, if we add in on top of that the calling for parents to intentionally lead and disciple their kids at home, using this time of year to teach them about gratitude, serving others, compassion, self-sacrifice, and giving through things like serving at a mission or participating in a food drive or giving up presents…for many, it feels impossible.

Parents, may I offer some encouragement?  

For a brief moment, before we are rushed headlong into this season, can we breath in this small respite of grace?

We don’t have to do it all.

We don’t have to do it perfectly.

We don’t have to make all the best choices, provide the best experiences, or present the best opportunities.

(deep breath)

But, if we can step back and before it all starts simply say, “Jesus, this year, with our family and our children, show us how to invite you into our everyday holiday season. In what we are already doing, show us how to have You be a part of it.  Be present in our presence;” if we can do that, my bet is at least part of the weight will lift from our shoulders.

Some simple ideas, using those everyday moments from Deuteronomy 6:7 “when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” could transform your holiday season without you feeling like you do a “horrible job” at everything.  Things like…

When you sit at home:  Watching a Christmas movie and looking for Jesus in it (see ideas for movie night discussion here), Wrapping gifts for family members and praying for each one while you do. 

When you walk along the road:  Listening to Christian Christmas Carols and asking what part of the Christmas story it was about, Looking at Christmas lights and talking about how Jesus is our Light (check out this Christmas lights scavenger hunt if you have a long drive), Handing out Blessings Bags to those in need. 

When you lie down:  Create a wall of blessing that you add to each night at bedtime (just tack up a piece of posterboard and let kids decorate with stickers, pictures, etc. and list the year’s blessings, one each night/week), Start reading the Christmas story on December 1 until Christmas Day, Add one ornament each Saturday night to the tree that has special meaning to your family.

When you rise: Use an Advent Calendar and open a door each morning before the day starts, Pray together for everyone you sent Christmas cards to (one person or family per morning/week), Put Christmas cards in your kids backpacks (you can get packs for $1 at Dollar Tree) with notes of blessing for them all season long. 

(Want more ideas: Click here)

The reality is that the holidays are coming, will come, and will pass.

Memories will be made. Life will happen. What January looks like for your family will in some way be dependent on what November and December looked like as they passed.

Don’t allow stress and shame steal the joy and opportunity of the season.

Realistically, no family can do it all. But realistically, we can all do something.

If we are unable to do “the big things,” let’s invite Jesus into all the little things and embrace the celebration for His sake.  It will look different for each home, as it should. But in each home, Christ desires to be the respite, the rest, the peace no matter what season it is.

An earlier version of this post can be found here.


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About the author

EmbreeFam2017Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. 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 and  ChurchLeaders.com