Deconstruction & Social Media in the Age of Covid

NOTE: This blog post is a slight deviation from my normal content and is based on an article written for a journal; as such, it doesn’t carry the same tone and length as most of my blog posts in this space. However, I felt the subject area was directly connected to the realities of ministering across generations and specifically to the youngest generations and a needed foundation for ongoing conversations on generational discipleship. I invite you to take some time, read this revised article, and consider how the information contained here might impact your own life and ministry.


“I don’t believe in God anymore.”

“I don’t know if I believe in God anymore.”

“I don’t know what I believe about God anymore.”

Over the past two years, I’ve heard these phrases more times than I can remember. I am hearing them all over social media, in magazine articles, blog posts, radio programs, podcasts, and sermons. While these statements are all nuanced with very different things being said, most of the time, every one of these labeled under one broad, sweeping term: Deconstruction.

Deconstruction appears to have taken mainstage as a “buzz word” or movement within the Christian and ex-Christian community. A significant uptick in attention to deconstruction coincided with the beginning of a global pandemic that moved many people from in-person community and into a much wider virtual community found in online communities such as TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch. Younger people (Millennial and Gen Z generations) quickly adapted to this form of communication, finding solace in a global community that “gets” them. Those who are deconstructing from their faith have used the platform to process, protest, and project their experiences into a wide audience, gaining traction among those who already felt frustrated and disenfranchised by the evangelical church.

The History of Deconstruction

While deconstruction has become a rather familiar term in evangelical circles of late, the concept of deconstruction has been around for centuries. Modern evangelical deconstruction centers around one’s faith in God and in the beliefs one holds about God. However, the term “deconstruction” did not initially refer to a theological context but rather a philosophical one. Coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the concept of deconstruction referred primarily to questioning the conceptional frameworks of Western philosophy including social sciences, humanities and literature.1

By the late 1980s and into the nineties, we see the term applied to “the philosophy of religion” in academic circles and by the early to mid-2000s, the term becomes more common place in descriptions of experiences related to questions of faith and relevance.2  In 2016, Richard Rohr, a well-known leader in spiritual formation, published a work called “An Invitation to Grace” where he reflects on Walter Brueggeman’s work describing the Christian walk as a journey through the Torah (rules/law) to the Prophets (criticism for those rules) to Wisdom literature (resolution leading to wisdom).3 In his reflection, Rohr offers the following sequence for this journey: Order, Disorder, and Reorder and states that “Much of the chaos and instability of our time stems from many young and sophisticated people now beginning life in the second stage of Disorder and criticism, without first learning deeply from Order. It appears to be a disaster. The three stages must be in proper sequence for life to unfold somewhat naturally.”4 This sequencing has been seen by some as the catalyst towards the deconstruction journey with the second stage of disorder taking the focus as the modern evangelical version of deconstruction.5  And true to Rohr’s prediction, the location of young people in this second stage has become a major characteristic of the current deconstruction movement.

It is important to note that this movement or journey, however one might describe it, from initial understandings of one’s faith through a time of questioning or deconstructing into a time of reaffirmation or reconstruction is neither new nor is it unusual. Far from that, we see examples of this journey all the way back to the beginning of the Christian faith.

As an example from Scripture, we can look to the story of Peter found in Acts 10 where Peter has gone to the roof to pray and subsequently has a vision. In his vision, a cloth is being lowered from heaven and on it are a number of “unclean” animals and he is told by a voice to “Kill and eat” these animals. Peter immediately responds with “No” stating that these animals are prohibited by the law (order). The voice replies that Peter should no longer call things impure that God has made pure (disorder). Paul is left wondering about what all this could mean when low and behold, a group of Gentile believers shows up at his house and the Spirit of God tells Peter to go with them. Peter makes the following statement upon arriving at the host’s home: “You are well aware it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile (order). But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean (disorder).  So when I was sent for, I came without raising an objection (reorder)” Acts 10:28,29.

In this Scripture passage, Peter questions something he has been taught as right and good and true his whole life and deconstructs it in order to arrive a new understanding (wisdom) through the Spirit of God. This pattern directly follows the prediction of Brueggemann, Rohr, and the deconstructionist path.

So the question becomes, why has deconstruction taken on such a life of its own as both a movement and a buzz word in recent times? And why, if is a natural journey of faith, has it become something of an affront to the evangelical church?

For this conversation, we must begin to look at the circumstances surrounding the deconstructionist movement over the last two years as well as the environment where this movement has found a growing community.

Deconstruction and Social Media in the Age of Covid

In March 2020, the normal gathering and communal practices of life in America were fundamentally altered. While this a global experience of all communities, those who found identity and continuity in times of gathering such as the church on Sunday mornings, this change was especially challenging. Moving community online proved challenging to those institutions that typically met in person. But for communities that were already formed online, the challenge was actually a boon to their burgeoning population.

Since March 2020, Americans have spent, on average, an additional 1-2 hours on social media per day as compared to pre-pandemic numbers.6 Social media platforms gained users at unprecedented rates with Instagram increasing by 16%, Facebook by 19%, and Reddit by 30%.7 But by far the greatest growth was on the social media application, TikTok, which grew its monthly usage by 38% (ibid). In the first quarter of 2020, when the pandemic began to shut down communities across the globe, TikTok had been downloaded 315 million times and in June 2020 it gained another 87 million users in just one month, effectively making it the app of choice for the pandemic.8

As a minister that works directly with younger generations, I have made it a practice to be where those generations can be found. As such, I was part of the great TikTok boon of 2020 and it was not long before I stumbled across Deconstruction TikTok. As of my writing this article, the hashtag #deconstruction had 208.5 million views and #deconstructiontiktok had 8.1 million followers.9 If you click on the hashtag, you quickly discover that the type of deconstruction being discussed is not Jacque Derrida version (philosophical) but the evangelical version of religious deconstruction.

With the vast majority of TikTok users being from the Millennial and Gen Z populations, we can safely assume that the majority of the followers to this movement fall within those parameters. The creators of the content, as with all areas of life, fall between the extremes of outright rejection of God and religion to simply questioning the morals and beliefs that one has been raised to embrace. In any case, the popularity of the movement and the online community that it has created is formidable.

And therein lies the reason for the current focus on deconstruction in evangelical Christian circles, both by those who are in the stage of deconstruction and those who are calling attention to it from the pulpit. However, the reality of the situation is that those who are growing in maturity of faith and in their relationship with God have always moved through this journey, albeit without the vocal and visual support of a community who are processing with them. Which begs the question; how should we respond when we are met with someone who tells us that they are deconstructing?

Responding to Deconstruction

In my current ministry role, I have interactions weekly with people who identify as deconstructing. However, the differences exhibited in their individual journeys are as unique as can be. While some have decidedly come to a place of rejecting God and Christianity, most find themselves in a place of questioning and discernment. The majority affirm their belief in Jesus but are working through the nuances of their faith and how they should live it out in the world today.10

Here are a few experiences from my own pastoral interactions that might be helpful in journeying with self-identified deconstructionists.

  1. Assess what is being deconstructed – Because the label of deconstruction is being used to describe everything from deconversion and rejection to discerning and questioning, it’s important to actually listen to the individual and hear where they are on their journey. Don’t assume you know what the label means.
  2. Offer new language – Often those who are deconstructing label themselves that way because they don’t have other verbiage to use and are just adopting the terminology of the culture. I often speak to people about the concept of “decluttering” or getting rid of beliefs or teachings that have clouded their view of Jesus. Other terminology includes those offered by Brueggemann and Rohr as noted above. Helping the individual identify their unique journey helps them to truly discern for themselves where they are at rather than getting swept up in a cultural movement.
  3. Normalize the journey – It can be scary, especially for those who have grown up in a strict religious setting, to view the journey of order, disorder, and reorder as anything other than sacrilegious and heretical. To ask questions, to express doubt, or to reject certain teachings can feel wrong or sinful when, in fact, it can be a marker of spiritual growth and maturity. Assuring them that what they are experiencing is an important part of growing in one’s faith can offer the freedom needed to grow and discern.
  4. Offer to journey alongside– Nothing is more isolating than feeling on the outside of a group you’ve always been inside. By offering to journey with them, at their pace and in their way, without judgment or forcing them to move more quickly or slowly, we can become an important part of their spiritual community and offer the support and guidance needed for healthy growth. It’s not about making them agree with us but rather being a presence that consistently points to Jesus.
  5. Recognize God’s work – Ultimately, the relationship that a person cultivates with God of either acceptance or rejection is not something we can control. God alone can speak to hearts and bring answers to life’s deepest questions. Christ tells us that if He is lifted high, he will draw all humanity to Himself. Our job is to lift Jesus high; to love God and to love others. It’s His job to speak to their hearts.

As ministers and fellow journeyers, it behooves us to reject the posture of defensiveness or criticism that can sometimes accompany reactions to those who find themselves in the deconstruction movement. Instead, it is important that we recognize that none of us have arrived at a place of fully knowing as we are fully known and remain humble as we too allow God to challenge us, teach us, and shape us to become more and more the image of His Son. Deconstruction can merely be a step on our journey and one that, if done surrounded by the grace of God and love of community, can lead us to love God and love others even more; to do the work of the Father which is to believe in the one He has sent – Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sources

  1. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopedia. “deconstruction.” Encyclopedia Britannica, October 20, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/deconstruction.
  2. Dicenso, J.J. Deconstruction and the philosophy of religion: World affirmation and critique. Int J Philos Relig 31, 29–43 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01539179
  3. Brueggemann, W.  The Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipating Word. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012.
  4. Rohr, R. (2016). The Invitation of Grace. Accessed online 1/4/22: https://cac.org/the-invitation-of-grace-2016-03-21/
  5. Vanderpool, K. The Age of Deconstruction and the Future of the Church. Relevant Magazine. 4/7/21. Accessed online: https://www.relevantmagazine.com/faith/the-age-of-deconstruction-and-future-of-the-church/
  6. Additional daily time spent on social media platforms by users in the United States due to coronavirus pandemic as of March 2020. Published 1/28/21. Accessed on 1/4/22 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1116148/more-time-spent-social-media-platforms-users-usa-coronavirus/
  7. Growth of monthly active users of selected social media platforms worldwide from 2019 to 2021. Published 3/8/2021. Accessed on 1/4/22 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1219318/social-media-platforms-growth-of-mau-worldwide/
  8. TikTok Statistics. Published 9/27/21. Accessed 1/5/22 from https://wallaroomedia.com/blog/social-media/tiktok-statistics/
  9. TikTok application, Accessed 1/12/21.
  10. Hardman, R. Deconstruction, Deconversion, and Ex-vangelicalism. Publishd and accessed 1/10/22 from https://www.randyhardman.com/post/deconstruction-deconversion-and-ex-vangelicalism

A version of this article was first published here by this author in the Shalom! Journal Brethren in Christ U.S, Winter 2022, Vol. 42, Issue 1.


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

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

NEW COHORT FORMING FALL 2022

Benefits

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

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

Included in Coaching Cohort Package

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


For more information 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 this Blog

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

Changing the Way We Talk About Discipleship at Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 6:7

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

This command wasn’t given to parents.

It was given to the community of faith.

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

So what does this mean?

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

NEW COHORT FORMING FALL 2022

Benefits

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

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

Included in Coaching Cohort Package

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

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


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 this Blog

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

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

Kids Can’t

It’s a response I’ve heard more times than I can count.

Kid’s can’t.

Kids can’t sit still in church. Kids can’t understand the sermon. Kids can’t grasp theological concepts. Kids can’t be expected to participate. Kids can’t serve until they are older. Kids can’t lead from the front. Kids can’t be in the main service time. Kids can’t.

The context may have been a bit different in Matthew 19 & Mark 10 but the sentiment was about the same. People, presumably parents, were bringing their children to come meet Jesus, as one might do as the people who are charged with being the primary faith formers in their children’s lives. But upon their visit to Jesus, the disciples stopped them. Didn’t just stop them, but rebuked them.

Kids can’t see Jesus. Can’t you see that he is busy taking care of the adults. Don’t be such a bother. Leave Him alone and take your kids elsewhere.”

But Jesus, being true to form, notices what is happening and puts an end to it.

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.

Jesus turns everything upside down.

“Kids CAN!” He declares.

Kids can come to Jesus and kids can be active members in the kingdom of God. Kids can handle theology and worship and service for the kingdom of God belongs to them. Adults, on the other hand, can’t – unless they are willing to receive God’s kingdom like a child.

In another interaction, Jesus takes a child, places him or her in the center of a crowd and states, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mark 18:3-5).

Jesus was declaring as clearly as one can declare, “Kids can!”

Kids can worship and learn and serve alongside adults. Now, we adults may need to exercise a bit of creativity; we may need provide outlets for energy and activities for interactive learning. We may need to create spaces and times where we adults learn as children instead of always insisting that the children learn from us. We may need to “change and become like little children” in how we approach some things.

Can children sit still in church? Well, do they have to or is that just so the adults can feel comfortable?

Can kids understand the sermon? Well, do they have to or is the sermon just one small part of an overall experience that allows children to know that they are a part of the larger community, the body of Christ?

Can children grasp theological concepts? Well, do they have to understand every theological stance exactly the same as some (but definitely not all) adults do or is there room for them to start small and grow in wisdom and understanding?

Can kids be expected to participate at church? Well, do we limit opportunities for participation to roles that can only be filled by adults or do we creatively find avenues for all ages to be part of our times of worship and learning and serving and leading?

Can children be in the main service time? Well, adults, that’s up to us.

We create the space. We control the dialogue. Like the disciples, we can stop the children from coming. And like the disciples, we can cite all the reasons why they can’t come. Or…

We can begin to think along the lines of what kids CAN do rather than what they can’t.

Kids CAN learn and teach. They can worship and pray. They can serve and lead. After all, the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Maybe it’s time for us adults to make space for the younger generations to show us the kingdom of God. To hear them explain to us who Jesus is and to demonstrate for us the theology of the kingdom. To humbly allow Jesus to put a child in the center of our community and say, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. To truly welcome that child and in doing so welcome Christ and the one who sent Him.



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

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

NEW COHORT FORMING FALL 2022

Benefits

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

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

Included in Coaching Cohort Package

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

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


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

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

The Next Great (KidMin) Revolution Is Nothing New

The great Christian revolutions come not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when someone takes radically something that was always there.

Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian

“Go therefore and make disciples” Matthew 28:19

The call to make disciples isn’t a new one. It is as ancient as the Christian faith, given by Christ himself before His ascension into heaven.

The journey of a disciple isn’t a new phenomenon. Christian Scripture and history are both filled with stories and testimonies of people who have come to know and follow Christ, from young to old, from all over the world. 

The information about when that discipleship journey begins for most current Christians isn’t new. In 2015, it was reported that 63% of Christian adults started their discipleship journey between the ages of 4-14 (Source).

But here is what is new.

Barna Group has recently completed a study focused on children’s ministry that has yielded some important information about how that discipleship journey plays out. They shared this information recently at the Awana Child Discipleship Summit and here is what they found:  It wasn’t enough for a child to be simply be involved in children’s ministry at their church in order to engage in the formative practices and meaningful characteristics of a disciple. There needed to be more, another integral step, another piece to the puzzle: Relationship.

They discovered that when kids have a meaningful relationship with an adult in the church, they are twice as likely to have an ongoing relationship with the church.

They are three times more likely to be engaged in Scripture including understanding the metanarrative of Scripture and integrating biblical principles in their life.

They are twice as likely to say church matters to them, three times as likely to see church as a highlight in their week, and three times as likely to read the Bible on their own.

The conclusion drawn by the researchers at Barna Group? (and I quote) “The meaningful relationships individuals have as a children fundamentally influence the stability of their future faith.”

Now, here’s the reality check: Only 2 out of 5 kids in children’s ministry have a positive, meaningful relationship with a mentoring adult.

Two. Out of Five. That’s only 40% of kids in children’s ministry at a given church.

Even more telling than that. Only 53% of churchgoing adults identified “Have a loving, caring relationship with an adult” as an outcome for children’s ministry (75% of ministry leaders agreed). That means half of adult church members and a quarter of ministry leaders did not see developing a meaningful relationship between younger and older generations as an identifiable goal and desired outcome for ministry to children.

Re-read this quote from Reinhold Niebuhr again.

The great Christian revolutions come not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when someone takes radically something that was always there.

The call to make disciples has always been here. Our children have always been here. Paul spoke directly to them in the letters he wrote to the church. Jesus put a child in the middle of all his disciples and declared the least to be the greatest in the kingdom of God.

It is time to take radically the call to welcome children and not hinder them.

It is time for us to create spaces and make room for children and youth and young adults to grow with us, worship with us, learn with us, serve with us, laugh with us, cry with us, question and doubt and argue and debate with us, to be in relationship with us so as to become disciples of Jesus with us.

J.T English in his book Deep Discipleship states, “Community is indispensable to discipleship, but community is not discipleship.” The two go hand-in-hand.

If we are not cultivating spaces in our churches and faith communities for our youngest and our oldest and all the generations in between to develop meaningful relationships in community and learning, we are missing out on our call to disciple-making.

It’s not new but it is time for us to take radically that which was always there.


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

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

NEW COHORT FORMING FALL 2022

Benefits

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

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

Included in Coaching Cohort Package

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

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


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

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

Too Many Bible Stories?

What’s your story?

If I were to ask you that, what comes to mind?  For many of us, we begin to construct a short biography in our head. Where we come from, what our history is, how we got to where we are, what is happening in our life, what we think the future might hold.  An overview of our life, an overarching narrative or succinct summation.

I doubt very much what you would share first would be the memory of your first bicycle ride or that time you fell out of your desk in middle school or the day you got promoted at your new job or when you got an A on your final exam. Those were all momentous occasions and probably formational in making you…you.

But those aren’t your story. Those stories are part of your story.

As I get to know you, I’d probably hear about all those other important moments. But if I were introducing you to another friend, I probably wouldn’t include any of them in my introduction.

So why do we do that with God?

We are masters at telling children stories about God but when it comes to telling God’s Story, we can fall short.

We love to tell them all kinds of wonderful Bible stories like David and Goliath, Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the Whale and Jesus and the 5,000. These stories make up the bulk of our Christian children’s books and Sunday school curriculum. It’s not unusual for children’s ministers to ask, “What are the key stories children need to know before they move into youth group? And how can I tell them in new, exciting ways?”

And those stories are PART of His story.

Important parts. Formational parts. Necessary parts. 

But those stories get their meaning, find their place, and add the most value when they are told in the context of The Story, what theologian N.T. Wright calls “the metanarrative of Scripture.”

In their book, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story, Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen share that individual experiences make sense and acquire meaning within the context of some story we believe to be the true story of the world. We need a large background story to ground us because when “people don’t know the whole story so they get the parts wrong”  (Dr. Catherine Stonehouse).

Everyone has a metanarrative.

For Christians, Scripture is the metanarrative. 

The Story tells us WHO God is. It tells us our place in The Story. It takes the disjointed stories of Scripture and weaves them into a beautiful seamless tale of perfect love created, thwarted, rescued and realized. It is God’s story as Creator, Father, Savior, Son, Friend and Spirit.

To tell the stories apart from The Story can leave us with disjointed moments rather than holistic perspective. These powerful moments are essential to rounding out The Story and helping us know God better, but without the context of The Story, we can reduce God to a God of moments instead of the God of Eternity.

Written into each of the moments is the bigger story of God’s Love calling us back to a perfect love relationship with him. Even the moments we don’t write into curriculum like David and Bathsheba, Ananias and Sapphira, and Jacob and Tamar, we can see a bigger picture of sin, redemption and God’s unchanging nature of love and justice.

In context, the stories matter because they are more than moments; they are parts of a greater whole. 

A friend of mine once shared with me that her grandfather, 85 years old, had begun to question his faith. After a stroke had left him in a place of needing care from others, he had time to really critically think about what he had heard in church his whole life. As she visited with him, he explained his frustration over the disjointed and seemingly discontinuous nature of the Bible stories he’d heard over and over again and how they had no relevance to his life.

One day it dawned on her; even though he’d been in church his whole life, he’d never heard The Story. So one afternoon she and her sister sat down with him and for the very first time, her grandfather heard The Story of God’s perfect creation, our separation because of sin, the reconciliation of the cross, and the invitation to us to join The Story for all eternity.

It changed everything for this 85-year-old man. For the first time, he understood the context. He saw what joined it all together.

He heard The Story of God…and it changed everything.

I believe it can…no, it will, do that for all of us too!


There are some really great resources out there that share some of the familiar Bible Stories in the context of The Story.

Are You Ready to Connect Generations?

Are you interested in moving your church from a traditional, age-segregated into a more family-focused, intergenerational focus, connecting the home and the church?  

Refocus Ministry would be happy to begin a conversation with your team and church about the how your church can grow in serving the families of your church and community and connecting your faith community in relationship with each other.  

Ongoing coaching through various means is also available as your church continues the transition including weekly emails, monthly on-line trainings, and continued conversations. In addition to one-on-one coaching calls and follow-up resources, the following large-group presentations can be made available to your team, pastoral staff, or congregation.

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

  1. Presenting on a Sunday morning to your worship service(s)
  2. A parent webinar on Everyday Discipleship and partnering with the church community
  3. A presentation on Connecting Generations (importance, need, Biblical foundation) for your leadership team
  4. A training on a specific area of ministry such as Family VBS, Partnering with Parents, Equipping Volunteers, Creating an Intergenerational Culture for your ministry or leadership team.
  5. OTHER We will work to create a presentation that best suits your community’s needs

Use the contact form below to receive a customized quote for your congregations needs. We look forward to journeying with you to make Psalm 145, one generation to another, part of our church’s DNA.


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

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

For The Ones Who Question (and the ones who feel they can’t)

When you serve in ministry, it is not unusual people to ask you questions about all manner of topics. Here are some of the recent questions that I have been met with in my ministry circles.

  • “When is Jesus coming back?”
  • “What does it mean to ‘do good’ to people that hate you?”
  • “Compared to a lot of people, I would say we are rich. Are we ‘the rich’ that God talks about in the Bible?”

These are not simple questions. They are ones that, by default, require some theological context, some abstract thinking, and a good deal of Scripture searching, often together.

What is striking about these questions is who is asking them.

The first one? A preschooler in our church.

The second? A fifth grader who was genuinely curious how to navigate what it means to literally “do good” to others, especially others that aren’t so nice to you.

The third? A teenager reflecting the sermon and discussion we had in church as a community.

In my discussions with people regarding the importance of intergenerational community and times of learning and worship that take place together, all ages in one space, I often get pushback that the themes discussed in these places are too theological or too abstract for children and youth to be able to engage. And while, to a certain extent, some of the information may be beyond their current verbal and cognitive skill levels to comprehend, much of what is offered is actually leading to important questions that help form and shape their faith. In fact, being in an intergenerational community is one of the most developmentally appropriate spaces for kids and youth.

Here are a four reasons why I think it is important we create intergenerational spaces of worship and learning for purposes of generational discipleship and faith formation.

So Kids/Youth Can Ask Questions

Of utmost importance, and I cannot emphasize this enough, is creating a safe and welcoming space for questions of all kinds to be asked, answered, discussed and desired. Asking questions is the very best way for any of us to learn and when we create one-dimensional spaces where there is no room for discussion, only a download of information and side-by-side consumption without meaningful interactions and ongoing relationships, our ability to learn and grow is impacted.

In a survey done by the Barna Institute, 36% of young adults expressed that they were not able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church.” Where did that they learn that? It had to be in their experiences as kids and youth.

So Older Generations Can Make Disciples

The Great Commission to “go and make disciples” often gets couched in “missionary language” creating a scenario where the only real disciplemaking happens if we pack up and head out of our church and into another country. But the younger generations NEED relationships with the older generations in their faith community so they can grow and mature as believers, having men and women who commit to journeying with them towards Jesus. It’s an essential part of our faith experience and one that, unfortunately, gets overlooked in our age-segregated and siloed church experiences.

So We Can Read Scripture In Community

Often times in churches, reading the Bible happens one of two places – from the pulpit on Sunday morning or in an age-specific Bible study/Sunday school setting. The result of that can be very one-dimensional, listening to one person or one generation’s thoughts on that portion of Scripture. Some of the most formational experiences I’ve had in my walk of faith is when the Bible is opened in a small group of multiple generations and the words are shared, discussed, debated, and dialogued about in community. The holistic reading of the Bible becomes richer and space is made for us to learn from and ask questions of one another.

So We Can Foster A Sense of Belonging

I think we can all acknowledge that for the most part “big church” or our regular church assemblies aren’t places where children feel like they “fit.”  Even churches that are transitioning to more intergenerational approaches can find it difficult to create that feel through programming and atmosphere.

If we don’t feel like we belong, it just makes sense that we will look for a place where we do.  If we don’t “fit” somewhere, chances are we won’t go back or stay when we can leave.  And if we don’t feel like a part of something, it’s easy to disengage and withdraw even if we are physically present.  

Creating welcoming spaces of worship and learning that encourage meaningful relationships and ongoing interactions can help foster a sense of belonging to something bigger, a community, a family, and having that sense of belonging can help foster a space that encourages questions, empathizes with doubt, and expects discussion.

Connecting generations at church and at home is the mission and ministry of ReFocus.

Why? For many of the reasons you see listed above but mostly because we are called to make disciples and in order to do that, we must be connected to one another, across generations, across ages, in community. We must learn from one another and let God lead us together in our journey towards becoming more and more like Jesus.


Are You Ready to Connect Generations?

Are you interested in moving your church from a traditional, age-segregated into a more family-focused, intergenerational focus, connecting the home and the church?  

Refocus Ministry would be happy to begin a conversation with your team and church about the how your church can grow in serving the families of your church and community and connecting your faith community in relationship with each other.  

Ongoing coaching through various means is also available as your church continues the transition including weekly emails, monthly on-line trainings, and continued conversations. In addition to one-on-one coaching calls and follow-up resources, the following large-group presentations can be made available to your team, pastoral staff, or congregation.

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

  1. Presenting on a Sunday morning to your worship service(s)
  2. A parent webinar on Everyday Discipleship and partnering with the church community
  3. A presentation on Connecting Generations (importance, need, Biblical foundation) for your leadership team
  4. A training on a specific area of ministry such as Family VBS, Partnering with Parents, Equipping Volunteers, Creating an Intergenerational Culture for your ministry or leadership team.
  5. OTHER We will work to create a presentation that best suits your community’s needs

Use the contact form below to receive a customized quote for your congregations needs. We look forward to journeying with you to make Psalm 145, one generation to another, part of our church’s DNA.


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

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

Declare War? Really?

Over the past two days, two articles have shown up repeatedly in my social media feed. The first is entitled, “The mistake that is causing churches and their ministers to collapse” by BT Irwin and the second is “Skillet’s John Cooper: It’s Time to ‘Declare War Against This Deconstruction Christian Movement’ by Tyler Huckabee, Relevant Magazine.

If any juxtaposition of commentary could be more relevant to the church in America in 2021, I don’t know what it is. Both of these articles seek to address what is happening in the evangelical North American church. Both address the exodus of young people from the mainstream church. Both offer explanations for the shifts in attitude and focus of the rising generations.

But one declares war.

The other calls us to action.

I’ve been working in the areas of children, youth, and family ministry for over a decade. I was raised in the church and have served in every level of volunteer and paid church ministry. Through the ministry of ReFocus I’ve worked with dozens of churches and ministries across North America of varying denominations and theological traditions. And having done so, I can with confidence say this, declaring war against the rising generations and the movements they are enveloped in is not going to help us fulfill the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment.

In fact, I’m 100% certain declaring war will do the exact opposite of making disciples, loving God, and loving others.

In the first article, the author (BT Irwin) relates the experience of his father who collapsed under the weight of pastoral ministry and the “mistake” he points to in his church leadership is not empowering the members of the church to do the primary work of believers – making disciples. Instead he focused on growing the church in numbers rather than in disciples. As he put it, he measured width instead of depth. And it nearly killed him.

The author then shares his own experience in church through this story:

A few years before when I was still single, I felt a strong need to grow and mature as a Christian. I knew all the right facts from the Bible, but I felt less and less like I knew how to live a Christ-like life. When I compared myself to the world around me, I didn’t see anything about my lifestyle that set me apart as a man of faith, hope, and love. I wanted to see the Christ-life in real life. I wanted someone living that Christ-life to show and tell me how to do it, too.

I wanted to be an apprentice to a master teacher.

I asked around for a few months, but didn’t find anyone who seemed open to the idea of sharing his life with me that way.

Finally, in desperation, I put up flyers around the church building announcing that I was looking for an older Christian man to “take me under his wing” and let me follow and learn from him. I just wanted someone to pray and study the Bible with me and perhaps invite me to come along with him as he practiced the Christ-life in and out of the church.

I knew it was a tall order, but in a congregation of 1,000 members (and more than 20 elders and ministers), I thought at least one person would call me.

No one called me. No one.

No one called.

No one cared.

And as a result, the author says he felt rejected, like a failure, in his own church. He was literally begging for generational discipleship. He pleaded for mentorship. He longed for someone to pour into him. He was dying for relationship.

While by some miracle, he did not leave the faith as a result of this experience, one could certainly understand if anyone in this position would begin to deconstruct their faith and question their belief system.

And the response by John Cooper is to declare war on people like this.

Surely we can do better.

Surely we MUST do better.

Do you want to know what keeps young people in the church? Do you want to know what keeps them grounded in their faith in Jesus Christ and walking through times of doubt and fear and confusion?

It’s not declaring war on them or any movement they’ve associate themselves with. It’s not amazing children’s ministry programs or youth ministry events or buildings or “growing” churches or the best worship band in town. It’s not loud voices yelling at them and telling that they are wrong.

“For those who stayed, church remained a key part of their life because they saw it as relevant to their life and they had relationships there that mattered” (Source: Lifeway Research)

Genuine relationships. First, they have strong relationships with others their own age. Second, they have a ministry leader they respect and from whom they want to learn. Third—and perhaps most importantly—they have relationship with older adults. Young people long for older mentors and models, and the church that offers these relationships will be a magnet for young people.” (Source: ChurchLeaders.com)

“Cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which effective faith communities are developing flourishing faith in both young and old. In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body—that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.” (Source: You Lost Me, David Kinnaman, Barna Group)

These are just a few of many examples of research that shows us that relationships, community, and generational discipleship are essential, not optional, foundations for a growing church – one that is growing in depth without a constant focus on width.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m fired up. I’m exhausted with trying to convince churches that we need to cultivate space for relationships, connection, and communication across generations with the work of peace-making and kingdom-building as our guide. But here is what I know:

I refuse to declare war. Especially on the casualties of the church.

Instead, I want to be the one who steps into the mess, takes the proverbial flier off the church wall, and says “Yes” to every young person (or old person!) who wants to question, doubt, grow, cry and deconstruct with me – to journey with them as we look to follow Jesus better…as disciples in the making.

To seek peace and pursue it, to beat swords into plowshares, to bridge the generational gap, and to be the church that loves God, loves others, and makes disciples.


Is Your Church READY to Grow Together?

Are you interested in moving your church from a traditional, age-segregated into a more family-focused, intergenerational focus, connecting the home and the church?  

Refocus Ministry would be happy to begin a conversation with your team and church about the how your church can grow in serving the families of your church and community and connecting your faith community in relationship with each other.  

Ongoing coaching through various means is also available as your church continues the transition including weekly emails, monthly on-line trainings, and continued conversations. In addition to one-on-one coaching calls and follow-up resources, the following large-group presentations can be made available to your team, pastoral staff, or congregation.

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

  1. Presenting on a Sunday morning to your worship service(s)
  2. A parent webinar on Everyday Discipleship and partnering with the church community
  3. A presentation on Connecting Generations (importance, need, Biblical foundation) for your leadership team
  4. A training on a specific area of ministry such as Family VBS, Partnering with Parents, Equipping Volunteers, Creating an Intergenerational Culture for your ministry or leadership team.
  5. OTHER We will work to create a presentation that best suits your community’s needs

Use the contact form below to receive a customized quote for your congregations needs. We look forward to journeying with you to make Psalm 145, one generation to another, part of our church’s DNA.


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 refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

Five Practical Ways to Connect Generations In Your Church

Wanting something and actually having something are two very different things. I talk to a lot of churches that say they want community, even have community listed as a value or written into their mission statement, but when we actually sit down to talk, community is mentioned as something that they feel is missing. Especially when we talk about intentional community that extends across generational boundaries and into meaningful intergenerational connections.

However, a few churches I’ve had the privilege to journey with have implemented some pretty cool initiatives that have helped them to overcome the barriers between the ages and created spaces and contexts for these types of connection and community to exist.

Here are five practical, real-life examples of intentional community-building that can be implemented in churches of any size or generational population; which one is the best fit for your faith community?

“What’s your gift?”

A church that I am currently working with is doing a FABULOUS thing for Valentine’s Day. The pastor has been working on a series about spiritual gifts and as part of that series, the staff has worked to connect some of the oldest members of their congregation with some of the youngest for a video-taped interview where the young will ask the elder to share about their spiritual gift. As a bonus, the staff has prayerfully connected young people with similar giftings in the hopes of sparking an ongoing connection.

Pray For Me 

This continues to be one of my favorite ways to connect generations in the spiritual practice of prayer. Each child/youth is connected with three prayer partners of multiple generations who commit to praying for that child/youth for a period of time, like a school year or a liturgical year. Some churches have used postcards or bookmarks with some information about the child/youth on it and the prayer partner uses that to help them remember to pray.

The book Pray For Me by Tony Souder along with other resources including a special Pray for Me Grandparents book can be found here and to read about one of my personal experiences with Pray for Me, read here.

Service Sunday

When kids and youth are asked to describe their faith, they are far more likely than adults to use action terms rather than theological or “belief” language. For them, faith in action is faith so one of the best ways to help disciple the younger generations is to create space for service, especially serving alongside adults from other generations.

One church I’ve worked with has partnered with a local rescue mission to do everything from bake cookies to share meals to create “welcome home” baskets for newly housed individuals. All of their service projects have a component that allows for young children to older adults to have a way and a place to serve.  Our church has a Service Sunday every fifth Sunday and while we don’t focus on just one local organization, we do rotate through several ministry partners and work to ensure that there is a way for every age to serve.

Storytime

According to developmental theorist, Eric Erikson, older adults thrive when given a place to share their wisdom and life lessons with rising generations. One church decided to make sure that church was the place they could do that. One Sunday a month, the oldest Sunday School class members spread out into the other classes for Storytime and each of them take a few moments to share a personal story with that other class. Sometimes it’s just a story for fun, sometimes it’s a testimony of their Christian experience, and sometimes it’s a life lesson or teaching moment. Regardless, it’s a time that the whole church looks forward to; a special moment to hear from those who have lived rich full lives and are ready to share their experiences with others.

“Play Ball!” 

I’ve shared about this before and I will share it again because I have found this practical but powerful approach to be an incredible way to create community within a congregation. Place a bulletin board in a visible space and ask parents, kids, and youth to post their sports schedules, theater performances, spelling bees, swim meets, and the like on the board. Then, invite the older church members to visit the board and commit to showing up at these events to cheer on the young people and their families.

I’ve worked with churches who have done some version of this and all of them comment to me about the results. The community grows closer, the families are more connected to the church, and the kids know that they belong to a spiritual family who loves and supports them. For more on one church’s experience, click here.

Any one of the above ideas could be a catalyst to help bring a community of faith closer together. A combination of one or more could begin to shift the culture of the church from one of age segregation to age integration. And implementing three or more could very well create a space for deeper community than perhaps the church has experienced in its memory. Gathering together with the intention of listening, serving, praying, supporting, and affirming one another in our gifts, callings, and state of belonging can only reap benefits of love and joy.

If you would like to begin to explore how your church might move in these directions, reach out using the contact form below for a free initial consult and brainstorming together! It’s time to turn our desire into a realized experience of intentional community and loving God and others together.


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

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

Interested in learning more? Fill out the contact form below or visit us online at refocusministry.org/cohorts.


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.

Culture Not Curriculum: The Heart of Connecting Generations

What is intergenerational ministry?

Sometimes it is easier to describe what something is by exploring what it is not.

Many people associate this term with children’s ministry or family ministry within the church. While those ministries may be partners in intergenerational ministry, the scope of these ministries are not broad enough.

Intergenerational ministry encompasses the whole church, all generations, in a communal and corporate context; It is more of a cultural characteristic of a church than it is a ministry area, a culture that values and creates space for meaningful connections to be made across generational boundaries in a variety of settings for the purpose of generational discipleship, faith formation, and community building. 

Intergenerational ministry is an intentional approach to ministry that both allows for and encourages interaction between multiple generations in such ways as corporate worship, relational mentorship and lifelong community.

In order for a church to recognize the need for this generational connectivity within their faith community, the following question must be answered: What does each generation need from the church and what can each generation contribute to the church? Let’s begin with the latter and the explore the former.

Generational theory, the grouping of individuals into particular social groups with a shared identity predicated on the year of their birth and life experiences, began in the early 20th century and gained steam in the mid to late 20th century as marketing firms began to explore how to best market to specific groups, coining nicknames for them in order to create a collective conscious. (Source)

Currently, the most likely generations that would be found in a given faith community would be the Silent Generation (born 1924-1942), Baby Boomers (1943-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-2000), Gen Z (2001-2010) and Alpha Generation (2011-present). These six generations offer unique experiences in both spiritual and communal practices for the church.

The older generations bring a wealth of faithful testimonies, historical worship practices, and community-sustaining disciplines. The middle generations offer a bridge between past experience and current ones through experience with a vast array of communication tools from rotary phones to high-speed internet conferencing and the latest social media trends. The youngest generations offer the heartbeat of current culture and the application of spiritual truths in a dynamic cultural environment.

Likewise, each generation brings its unique needs to the church.

This chart uses Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial stages to outline these needs in a church setting. The Alpha generation has been omitted at present as more research needs to be done on this emerging generation.

Chart created by Christina Embree, March 2020

But you can see here, the older generations need to be needed; the desire for generativity and legacy-leaving are uniquely found in these generations and to be left isolated from those to whom their legacy can be left (the younger generations) is stifling and leads to stagnation.

The middle generations are those seeking intimacy in deeper relationships with others, such as mentorship and discipleship, but if those opportunities are found lacking, will retreat into a placed of isolation.

The youngest generations are looking for a placed to be industrious (an important part of the community) and find identity (a role to play in the community); thus faith communities need to be intentional not just with providing safe and fun environments like Kid’s Church and youth group but integral participatory environments that allow for identity and industry to be rooted in the church.

When we understand the needs of the individuals in our churches, we can begin to incorporate practices that allow for both needs to be met and gifts to be shared. The ultimate goal? Finding ways for our faith community to connect to one another in meaningful relationships for the purpose of all of us following Jesus better (discipleship).

And that is what intergenerational ministry is.

It’s not a program or a curriculum. It’s a culture defined by community engaged in discipleship and together on mission. And it is what we so desperately need in our churches today.

This article was originally published in full in Shalom! journal, Spring 2020, Vol 40.2


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

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

Interested in learning more? Fill out the contact form below or visit us online at refocusministry.org/cohorts.


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.

New Beginnings: A Story of Reimagining Church Together

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.


An Invitation to Join the Mission of ReFocus

In November, we announced that ReFocus was beginning the journey to become a full-fledged nonprofit. As we work to take ReFocus from an individual operation to one that can make a bigger impact in our faith communities, we are beginning the work of funding the ministry.

To that end, we invite you to be a part of our initial fundraising campaign. In our initial phase, we are hoping to raise $10,000.00 which will be used to create the foundation and infrastructure needed to begin expanding the reach and ministry of ReFocus. These monies will go directly to creating the means by which to allow ReFocus to create more resources, materials, and trainings for churches as well as begin to put the pieces in place to add additional speakers, trainers, and ministers to our staff. We have already raised $6,000 towards our inital goal!

There are two main ways to give:

  1. Through our website: www.refocusministry.org (Click the Donate button). This will allow you to set up a one-time donation or a monthly gift.
  2. Personal Check:  ReFocus Ministry c/o Christina Embree, 3518 Ramsgate Ct. Lexington KY 40503

Note: Since we have not yet received our tax-exempt status due to paperwork delays at the federal level, these initial gifts will not be tax deductible.

At ReFocus, we believe if we really want to see our church families grow and our younger generations stay faithful to Jesus, we are going to have to find ways to come together, in community, and be the church across generations.

To learn more about ReFocus and what we can do for you and your faith community, fill out the contact form below!


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.