What’s the Choice when the Options are Church or Family?

Last day of school!!!

It’s almost time for the rousing cry of May signaling the official start to summer is here.  Summer vacation means sleeping in, sunny days, water sports, sandy beaches, campfires, parades, and plenty of time with family and friends.

It also means that church attendance in the United States plummets.

Like seriously takes a nosedive.  Attendance becomes sporadic and spotty.  When school lets out for the summer, it seems like church does too.  The response of the church has been to cut programming (no Wednesday nights for the summer anyone?) and plan “fun events” like picnics and Vacation Bible School. And the post-Covid envirnonment just seems to amplify the concerns.

As a parent, I get it.  All year long our calendar is held captive by the school calendar that informs when we can go away and for how long.  Seeing extended family is difficult when you have two days to travel.  And spending quality time together can suffer.  So planning vacations and day trips during the summer months makes sense.

As a minister, I used to dread it.  It’s hard.  You develop relationships with kids and you have really cool things going like small groups and prayer teams and discipleship, and then, you don’t see them but off and on for weeks.  And then there is Vacation Bible School; don’t even get me started on that.  The sheer amount of time and effort that is put into pulling off a “successful” VBS event takes all the energy you have, so the regular programming starts to suffer.

I’ve seen some posts recently from children’s pastors around the country utterly discouraged by this attendance reality and frustrated and what seems like a lack of commitment and concern.  On the other hand, I’ve seen equally as many posts from parents excited about the cool things they have planned this summer to do as a family and the memories they are looking forward to making.

So who’s right?  What’s more important?  Family or church?

And therein, I believe, lies the problem.  Because of the “way” we do church (Sunday morning, Wednesday night and/or separate ministries for the family members), if someone misses one of these times, it leaves a gap; a sizable gap.  But families who want to spend these summer months together don’t want to come to a place where once again they are separated and unable to be with each other. So it becomes a choice – do I go with my family OR do I go to church?

Ugh.  Those choices kinda stink.

What ends up happening then is that when the opportunity arises by default of the summer school schedule to spend that quantity of quality time together, the choice becomes clear –family.  And when the default schedule makes finding that quantity of quality time together more difficult – church.

But I don’t think either of those reflect God’s heart for family or for church.  In fact, I think that it creates a tension where the two are opposed to each other rather than being in partnership with one another.  Where there should be mutual edification, there is instead unhealthy competition.  And let me be clear, this also takes place with sports, especially travel ball, and academics, especially academic teams, and friends, especially non-churchgoing friends.

And I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this.

Church isn’t supposed to be a building or a program or a set time in the week.  And family isn’t supposed to be vacations and softball games and straight As on report cards. 

Those things might be a part of what church and family are, but they are not supposed to define them.

The Bible is clear that what brings us together isn’t things and it isn’t programs and it isn’t activities.  What unites us is the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:17) and what holds us together is love (John 14:34-35). We are not supposed to make a habit of skipping out on our times of meeting with other believers, but we are supposed to be encouraging on another all the more (Heb. 10:25).  We (ministers explicitly) are also encouraged to ensure our homes are in order before taking care of the church and to love, honor, respect, and obey within our families (I Tim. 3:5).

It sounds to me like “church” looks less like meeting on Sunday and more like being in relationship with one another in and outside of a building and all week long, not just on Sunday.  It also looks like we are committed to one another in love and service so we strive to be together and not make a habit of letting things come between us, even good things and fun things and “family” things.

Ultimately I think it means we adopt of philosophy of “church” that is less about “ME” and more about “WE” – that we view the decisions we make not out of a cost-benefit analysis about what works best for us, but rather from a Kingdom mindset of what is best for Him.  Sometimes, this may mean you take your family on vacation.  Sometimes, it may mean you skip a game.  Sometimes it may mean that you meet outside of a building or on a different night.  Sometimes it may mean you cancel a program.

But IF it is about the kingdom of God and not about what works best with our schedules or our plans, it will bear fruit.  It will grow God’s kingdom in our families, our churches and our communities.

It won’t send a message that “church” is a choice that we can take or leave but that “church” is a life we choose to live in relationship with others.  And it won’t send a message that family is somehow less spiritual or less important but that family is an extension of the church in the broader community and in the home.

It’s not supposed to be a competition.  And whether we’ve made it that or the pace of modern world has made it that, I think it’s up to us, each and every one, to step back and see if we’ve adopted that mindset in any way.  Families, are you being the church in loving relationships, committed to the “WE” of God’s kingdom in the choices you make?  Ministers, are you supporting the family in partnering relationship, committed to the “WE” of God’s kingdom in the ministry you serve?

It can’t be about one or the other.  It has to be about ONE and no other.

“Be very careful then how you live – not as unwise, but as wise…understand what the Lord’s will is.” Eph 5:15,17


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.

Benefits of Intergenerational Community For Every Generation

You all know by now that I am a strong advocate for creating spaces in our churches for multiple generations to connect, to worship, and to be together. And generally when I share this sentiment it is in reference to generational discipleship and the passing of our faith from one generation to another. It’s focused on the spiritual and communal benefits that all generations receive when they learn from and experience life with people of varying ages and life experiences.

I recently shared this information that highlights the most recent research done in this particular area.

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 (For more, The Next Great (KidMin) Revolution Is Nothing New)

Now, if all the benefits we could list were found above, that would be motivating enough to begin to explore ways to connect the generations in our faith communities. But the benefits of this type of community do not end there. Over the past 70 years, research has shown the benefits of intergenerational relationships extend far beyond the spiritual into our emotional, mental, and even physical health, impacting our quality of life at every stage and every age.

4 life lessons in 45 minutes

These life lessons came in various forms categorized by the researchers as meaning making, personal growth, emotional valence, wisdom characteristics, life lesson type, and autobiographical memory type. But here’s the important takeaway – connectedness, identity, and healthy development for young and old can be found in conversation with one another.

Last year, researchers conducted a study where university students met with a group of older, aging individuals and were encouraged them to have a discussion (Source). Most sat and talked for about 45 minutes and shared a mutual dialogue without prompt or guidance. Afterwards, the researchers coded the recorded conversations and found something very interesting: During the course of the conversation, the elder individuals offered, on average, four life lessons in the form of story to the listening younger generation.(Source)

Benefits for Older Adults

  • Improved physical health: Older adults that interact regularly with younger generations burn more calories, experience fewer falls, and are less reliant on canes.
  • Improved mental health: They perform better on memory tests, and those with dementia experience more positive effects than in non-intergenerational activities.
  • Improved emotional health: Feelings of isolation and depression decrease AND feelings of self-worth and happiness increases (Source).

Benefits for Middle-Aged Adults

  • Improved familial relationships –  Middle-aged respondents who reported more positive and less negative ties with their parents AND reported more positive and less negative ties with their own children (Source).
  • Improved mental health – For many middle-aged adults, their social relationships shrink over time with less and less of a social network and more isolation. However, the evidence suggests that, generally, the more varied your social network, the happier and healthier you will be (Source)
  • Improved physical health – Research has found found that people with adequate social (intergenerational) relationships have a 50 per cent lower mortality risk compared with those who report poor social relationships (Source).

Benefits for Youth & Young Adults

  • Improved social skills –  Teens in intergenerational relationships see enhanced social skills and more stability in their daily lives, which can help them do well in school and steer clear of negative influences (Source). 
  • Improved life experience – In one study, the following were all reported by young adults as a result of their participation in intergenerational relationships: 1) enjoyment 2) feeling rewarded 3) changes in search for meaning in life 4) enhanced academic learning 5) insights into careers in aging 6) improved perceptions of older adults 7) emotional connections with older adults 8) uneasiness with giving advice to older adults 9) improved skills for interacting with older adults 10) changes in service motivation.

Benefits for Children & Youth

  • Improved life experience – 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs; 27% less likely to begin using alcohol; 52% less likely to skip school; 37% less likely to skip a class; 33% less likely to hit someone (Findings from Big Brother, Big Sister program).
  • Improved social and emotional development – Research results show that children from intergenerational academic programs had higher levels of social acceptance, a greater willingness to help and greater empathy for older people, slightly more positive attitudes, and better able to self-regulate their behavior than children from traditional age-segregated programs (Source)

We can see that the benefits of intergenerational community are vast and impact all generations. We also know that the existing of meaningful relationships across congregations is directly correlated to resilience and faith retention in rising generations. We see examples throughout Scripture of generational discipleship and intergenerational community.

There simply is NO reason for us not to begin creating spaces and opportunities within our churches for intentional intergenerational community, to cultivate meaningful relationships, to provide times of corporate worship, and to engage all generations in the mission and service of the church both to one another and our community. In fact, exactly the opposite – all reason points to us moving more and more towards times together rather than times apart.

Psalm 78:1-7

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children,
So the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.


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.

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.

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.

The Capacity to Love Cannot Be Built in Isolation

“The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.”

Maybe it’s because so much of the last two years has felt isolating.

Maybe it’s because so much of what I’ve observed in the public square has lacked the overt quality of love.

Maybe it’s because the idea of love not being a feeling but a capacity that needs building is something I’ve always believed but never really pondered.

But this morning, I became acutely aware of the need for love and the reality of isolation. I had written this blog originally back in 2020 but as I contemplated the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday and the deep need for real love to be experienced in our world and in our lives, I could not help but think back to this post.

“For years mental health professionals taught people that they could be psychologically healthy without social support, that “unless you love yourself, no one else will love you.”…The truth is, you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved and are loved. The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation”

Bruce D. Perry, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook

There are some things we can’t change. For many of us, the desire for things to “return to normal” has kept us from pursuing new ways of connecting. Even as we dove into new things like Zoom meetings and Facebook Live, as we’ve driven around neighborhoods dropping off activity packs or hosting socially-distanced outdoor events in parking lots and public parks, we’ve done so with a “until we can get back to the way things were” approach.

But is has become increasingly obvious that we are not going back to the way things were. It is time we begin embracing and living into the way things are. Why?

We have been changed, our children and youth have been changed, and our communities have been changed, physically, emotionally and spiritually (Source: WebMD). Words have been said that maybe we regret or only said out of frustration or weariness. Things have been posted that maybe over time we will wish we had tweaked or even kept to ourselves. There’s been a lot of heartache, confusion, and contemplation; public processing as we all try to navigate this reality.

Rather than simply return back to our pre-Covid models in an attempt to preserve what we used to call “normalcy,” perhaps now is the time to stop and consider…how do we want to return?

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. Even if you can’t “be together” in the same room, it’s time to start laying the ground and creating the space for a true coming together in heart and spirit.

  • 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 which will inevitably draw us closer together to God and each other.

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.

The capacity to love is not built in isolation.

Let’s come together and may Love fill our hearts in ways we’ve never experienced before.


Is Your Church READY to Gather 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.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and the Importance of Connectedness

When I was in high school, we used to play a game we called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  Basically, the game was that someone one would say aloud the name of a person or movie and then in six steps or less connect them to Kevin Bacon. For instance, Mission Impossible connects to Tom Cruise who connects to Kevin Bacon in A Few Good Men.

Trust me, it was wildly entertaining to us.

This idea of being connected to someone, even if it is only through a mutual acquaintance, holds meaning for us. We research our family histories, we take DNA tests, we associate ourselves with a heritage or tradition and we connect ourselves to something bigger. And most of us have heard stories from those who have come before us about our ancestors or experiences of connection that our family has had. It helps make up our identity and holds value to us and our experience.

Connectedness is an experience that has been researched by sociologists and developmental psychologists for decades. Research has shown that often the concepts of belonging and identity are directly associated with the sense of connectedness a person has to a group or community. And there is a reason for that – often connectedness is established through story or shared identity and many times that is passed from one generation to the next.

In Erik Erikson’s stages of development, he points to the later stage of life as being a time of Generativity vs. Stagnation. In simple terms, a time of passing on legacy or a time of becoming isolated and alone. Obviously, the latter is preferred to the former in a healthy development. And often this generativity is experienced in intergenerational relationships between young and old.

Last year, some researchers wondered why those conversations were so important so they conducted a study where they intentionally set up some university students with a group of older, aging individuals and encouraged them to have a discussion (Source). Most sat and talked for about 45 minutes and shared a mutual dialogue without prompt or guidance. Afterwards, the researchers coded the recorded conversations and found something very interesting: During the course of the conversation, the elder individuals offered, on average, four life lessons in the form of story to the listening younger generation.

Four life lessons in 45 minutes.

These life lessons came in various forms categorized by the researchers as meaning making, personal growth, emotional valence, wisdom characteristics, life lesson type, and autobiographical memory type. But here’s the important takeaway – connectedness, identity, and healthy development for young and old can be found in conversation with one another.

When we talk about intergenerational ministry and generational discipleship in the church, we are not merely talking about older people and younger people occupying the same space on a Sunday morning.

It’s not just about having a good mix of ages in the room or ensuring that learning and worship opportunities are available to all. Those things are important, yes, but that’s just the salt to the entrée.

The central goal, the real meat of the ministry, is to develop a place of connectedness and identity-forming where communication and conversation inherently leads to mentoring (life lessons) and growth (generativity). It’s about creating space for relationships to form and everyday discipleship to occur.

Four life lessons in 45 minutes.

Could you imagine what could be shared in a faith community if we intentionally and purposefully established time and spaces for our oldest generations to interact with our youngest generations in meaningful times of worship, learning, and serving together?

This is generational discipleship.

It’s not about kids. It’s not about youth. It’s not about adults or senior adults. It’s not about age at all.

It’s about shared story, mutual identity, and simple conversation.

It’s about relationship and connectedness. And ultimately, it’s about being the body of Christ.


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.

For more information, visit us at www.refocusministry.org/cohorts or fill out the contact form below with “Coaching Cohort” as your subject.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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