Discipleship is Not a Program

I once attended a Christian ministry conference and since I am me, I scoured the listing of workshops to see what I could find that was related to Next Gen. Bingo! “Holistic Discipleship for the Next Generation.” That sounded perfect and right up my alley so off I went.

The session started with some brief introductions and testimonies from the leaders, one of which was a young man who had been influenced by the program they were going to talk about. In his introduction he mentioned a number of things that were most influential on him as he grew up and all of those were people. He talked about the adults and mentors that came alongside him and spoke into his life; how they showed up at his games and took him on family trips and spent time talking to him and engaging him in his growing faith.

In most Christian circles, we’d call that discipleship.

So, I got excited because surely if one of the main presenters spent most of his introduction talking about the discipleship relationships he had experienced and the deep impact they had on his faith and spiritual formation, then this workshop would most certainly include these things in their “holistic” approach.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. In fact, for the remainder of the workshop, the words “discipleship”, “mentor”, or “intergenerational” were never mentioned. Not even once. We did talk a lot about programming, curriculum, activities, and fun and creative ways to teach kids about God. We practiced some fun imagining, talked about format and presentation, ran through some kidmin scenarios and were given insight to a lot of content.

But never once did the presenters talk about ways to encourage intergenerational connections with children and youth outside of the programmed times. There was no conversation about mentoring and the importance of giving kids access to those who are more mature in the faith to help them to grow or about how we could put into practice activities or even programs that were geared toward growing those relationships and creating intentional space in our churches for them to mature and develop.

Discipleship was described as programmatic, aimed primarily at increasing knowledge and, frankly, getting kids to say a prayer so that they’d be “saved” with little to no conversation about how to take that faith deeper through intentional relationship.

Please don’t hear this as me knocking this group. They are doing great things in their city and God is using them.   But if we are talking about “holistic discipleship” and we are not talking about actual discipleship, mentoring or generational connectivity, we are missing the mark.

Our faith is primarily passed from one generation to another and it’s not passed in a class or an after-school program or a club that meets once a week.

All of those things are good and helpful and even needed, but those things are not discipleship.

Discipleship is first of all relational; it requires time spent building in relationship, learning and growing and worshipping together. Generational connection has to be more than just someone who volunteers to teach a class or host a club once a week. It must cross over into a meaningful relationship where love is experienced and pain is processed and life is shared.

Holistic discipleship had to be more. It has to take the next step.

Covid-19 has both complicated and simplified this reality. In the absence of our normal schedules, we have been pushed to expand our discipleship options. However, I still see so many trying to find just the right curriculum or program or activity to make discipleship happen.

But at this time, perhaps more than any other, we need the community of faith to step in and begin to press forward with intentional relationship. This is our chance to connect one another in new ways as we are not held back by long-held traditions, rigid schedules and age-specific classes and curriculum. Many people have multiple generations present in their own home and others can connect virtually, but relationships can be built around faith, even during Covid times.

What are some ways we can encourage this to happen?

1. Bible Study or Book Study with multiple entry points (Zoom, phone, or safely in-person). Instead of focusing on a specific age, focus on a topic and allow multiple generations to join. For best results, invite a youth or young adult to co-lead with a member of an older generation (40+).

2. Church Family Movie Night  – Some streaming platforms allow for groups to watch a movie at the same time. Put together a discipleship movie guide (You can get a FREE example by filling out the form below with the Message: Movie Guide). This would be good for January when cold and dark outside.

3. Prayer Meeting – Sometimes, I think when we hear “Prayer Meeting” we think Wednesday evening service. But even if it’s just a 15 minute check-in or a simple 30 minute guided prayer time over Zoom, gathering for prayer is a way to begin to build relationships, especially if the chat feature is used to share requests. Zoom Rooms are a great place to pair people up to prayer for each other as well. Families could be recruited to lead prayer once a month.

 4. Dinner Together – Put out a Zoom invitation for church members to eat dinner together over the internet. Make it even more fun by having the church help contribute part of the meal such as pizza or chicken or dessert for everyone. Set it up so that three families/individuals from different households would eat together. Provide Ice Breaker Questions and a suggested Scripture to read and common prayer to pray so they can participate in communal spiritual formation as they eat together.

5. Fort Fellowship – At the beginning of Covid-19, one of our church members organized a time for families with kids to gather once a week and study a Scripture together and catch up with one another over Zoom. Families built a blanket fort somewhere in their house, crawled inside with the computer and shared about 15-20 minutes together with their friends. This would be a great Advent activity to read through the Christmas story together!

8. Get to Know Me Videos – Ask members of different ages to send in videos of themselves sharing their favorite winter activities, recipes, family game, or stories about past faith or family experiences around a theme. Don’t worry about quality; focus on story. Each week, spotlight one or two people and share their video with your church family. Who knows? Some people just might “meet” a member of their church family for the first time!


The reality is discipleship can’t just be found in a Sunday School class or an after-school club. It is found when hearts connect in a relationship that leads to faith formation and spiritual growth both in the home and in the church.

It’s found when we get outside the program or curriculum or church walls and learn each other’s names and eat a meal together and show up to cheer each other on.

It’s found when we take time to develop our connections and move beyond the starting point that classes and clubs might be and into relationship.

That’s how Jesus did it with his disciples and that’s how they did it with their disciples and that’s how we must do it with the next generation.

Holistic discipleship is not a program. It’s so much more.


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

ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.” 

This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.

This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.

This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.

Interested in learning more?

Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!

For More Information About…

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

About this Blog

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

We Need Some Psalm 145 in Our Churches

I love to cook. It’s one of my favorite activities to relieve stress and be creative. I love watching all the random ingredients come together and create a delicious dish that can be shared with people I love.

I think I got this particular love of cooking and sharing what I cooked from my grandmother. As a child, we used to go over her house once a week for dinner and it was simply the best.

We’d walk in the door and our noses would be met with the most sumptuous smells of roast beef and mashed potatoes or homemade spaghetti and meatballs or breaded pork chops and macaroni and cheese.  I would love to pull up a chair or stool and watch her cook, listening to her explain why she was washing the lettuce and laying it out on paper towels to dry or watching her dump salt into her hand to “measure” it for seasoning our meal.

As I got older and began cooking for myself, I would pull out her recipes or call her on the phone to find out what I needed to do, or more often, explain what I did wrong. She passed away about 10 years ago, but to this day, when I am in the kitchen, I hear Grandma’s voice in my ear telling me what to do.

She passed so much more on to me than cooking.

She passed along a passion to love others through food, a desire to serve others by giving of herself in a meal. She taught me how to love flavor and enjoy seasoning. She offered me joy and renewal in a kitchen. We talked there. We played there. We laughed there. To this day, the kitchen is a safe place for me.

I cannot help but think of this when I read these verses in Psalm 145:3-7

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:3-7

Isn’t that just the most beautiful picture? One generation commending the works of God to another, telling of the goodness and power of God and celebrating Him in front of the next generation.

Imagine it with me; close your eyes and picture a multigenerational group of people speaking to one another about the goodness of God. 

Like how God provided for the family back in 1942 when times were tough and things looked bleak.

Like how God helped with a test when nerves were at an all time high.

Like how God shows himself in the sunrise when the world comes alive and how God comforts us in the thunderstorm and keeps us safe when we are scared.

Like that time there was a car accident but we walked away unharmed or that time when the bully at school was being mean but someone else stood up and defended us.

This is what happens when all ages celebrate God’s abundant goodness and joyfully sing of His righteousness as they stand together in church or they pray together for a miracle or they work together to serve others who are in need. We share our stories. We share our lives.

Why is it so important that a 9 year old needs to be hanging out with a 90 year old in church?

It’s not so they can share a laugh over the latest meme or discuss medications. It’s not the things we think are needed for common ground like shared life experiences or familiar hobbies or activities. No, it’s for a much deeper reasons than that. It’s so that one generation can commend God’s works to another and tell of His mighty acts.

You see, the things that bind us together, the things of the Lord, are not dependent on our generational experience, they are dependent on God! 

Our faith is passed not by a program or a church service or a book that we read but in relationship with one another where we know each other’s names and stories and we share the goodness of God with each other.

It’s not about programming or events or activities, although we may use those. It’s about Jesus! Here are a few examples:

Praying for each other supersedes all generational barriers. Intercessory prayer, praying for other people, doesn’t rely on age at all. We can all pray for one another, regardless of generation.

Service is another area that doesn’t rely on age. We can gather around mission and serve together no matter our age. What is our church’s vision and mission? That mission is not age-bound. In fact, the mission of the church needs to be age-encompassing because the people we desire to reach with God’s love are all ages.

Worship is another place we can gather together. Now, when I say worship, a lot of people hear “singing” or “songs” or “style”. That’s not worship. Those are ways to worship. Worship is turning our attention to God in honor and praise. And that knows no generational bounds. In fact that is where we started today “One generation to another!”  It doesn’t saying “Older generation to younger generation”. It says “One generation to another!”  We need to listen to each other worship God and worship Him together.

I firmly believe that if we want to see Psalm 145 be a reality in our churches, if we really want to see our church family grow together 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 – From One Generation to Another!


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

ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.” This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.

This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.

This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.

Interested in learning more?

Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!




For MORE Information about…

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

About this Blog

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

I Got On TikTok For You

“Kids ages four to 15 now spend an average of … 80 minutes per day on TikTok. [TikTok] also drove growth in kids’ social app use by 100% in 2019 and 200% in 2020.” (Source)

41% of TikTok users are between the ages of 16-24. (Source)

TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media platforms in our country today. It has recently been given an unusual spotlight at the top government level as a place of potential information harvesting by foreign countries. Despite that concern, which is being addressed at higher security levels than I feel comfortable talking about, the app continues to grow in popularity. It has been downloaded over 2 billion times with over 800 million users (Source).

So, what is TikTok?

It’s basically a media app that can be used for creating and sharing short videos. The appeal of TikTok is that it offers short, bite-sized content that can be curated for your likes and dislikes. There are “sides” of TikTok based on specific interests and allegiances. There’s a cooking side of TikTok and a book lover’s side of TikTok; there’s a political and social issue side of TikTok (with every political and social issue you can think of ) and a Marvel superhero/DC Comic side of TikTok. If there’s a subject or passion out there…you’ll find it on TikTok.

The scrolling feature of TikTok makes it easy to keep going and going and going which is why it is easy for people to spend hours a day camped out there. And TikTok knows it! In fact, if you scroll too long, a video will pop up reminding you that life exists outside of TikTok and to put your phone down, take a walk, get a drink or use the restroom.

Since kids and youth spend so much time hanging out here, I thought it would be a good idea for me to be there too.

So, I performed an experiment.

For the past two weeks, I tried to spend at least 80 minutes a day scrolling through TikTok. Since TikTok’s algorithm does a good job of curating a specific space for people based on your likes, videos that you watch longest, and accounts you click on or follow, I did my best to use my For You page as a starting point but then searched around for other “sides” of TikTok that didn’t naturally show up in my feed.

Also, as a point of information, while I did create an account so I could like and share videos, I did not post anything or offer any pertinent info about myself to the app.

What did I find out?

It’s easy to hang out there.

There’s no pressure! No articles to read. No long clips to watch. Videos are short, if you don’t like it you can skip it, and it’s easy to share videos you like with friends. And frankly, a lot of the videos are really funny or sweet.

A Hamilton fan could spend hours on the Hamilton side of TikTok and someone who loves to cook would love the cooking side. But it’s not all fun and games.

There’s no real filter for content or language

While TikTok may have some basic filters in place, let’s be real – it doesn’t catch much. Unless you “skip quick” when something comes up, just assume users will be seeing and hearing things that would be regulated by ratings if put in a movie.

There are definitely dark sides of TikTok but mostly what shows up in the “For You” feed will be mild language and sexual innuendos. But it is possible for dark stuff to sneak it pretty easily.

People will follow stories

While there’s plenty of random funny or political videos out there, the draw for many people is someone’s story. For instance, there’s a dog named Josh who was rescued by a family. Josh has some health issues and his owners document his progress. Josh has over a million followers. Other users tell their stories of huge life changes (there’s an entire ex-Mormon side of TikTok) and surgeries and weight loss.

These stories are highly empathetic and emotional and often told in a series of short videos with the storyteller telling you to “Double tap for Part 2” (follow or like). A good TikTok-er knows how to draw out the story and make it last over several weeks to build up a following.

There are a lot of “agendas”

Of course there are! Every “side” of TikTok creates a space for a platform to push an issue, belief, or way of life. It’s easy to stumble into these stories with agendas from every spectrum and, because of the high empathy, to begin to get engrossed here.

Parents and ministers, this is WHY you need to be on TikTok. Even if you don’t allow your kids to have the app, their entire generation is learning to lean into story this way. We have to understand the power of story and empathy.

My takeaways? 

Just like every other major social media app out there, TikTok has its ups and downs. It’s a tool. What matters is how we use it. If the kids at your church or your child/teenager are hanging out on TikTok or have friends who are, you need to be there. You need to feel it like they do. You don’t have to like it. But you do need to get a feel for it and for why it has such a reach in the Gen Z and Millennial generations.

I will likely not continue my “80 minutes of TikTok” experiment at this time. For one, who has 80 minutes to spend scrolling on TikTok?!? But also, it was draining. The high empathy and emotion while simultaneously engaging and addicting was also exhausting and depleting. I want to ensure my emotional availability to those around me whose stories are unfolding in real life as we journey together. If I am to follow people’s stories, I want it to be the stories I have been invited into as a human being, not a TikTok user.

If you see a teen or youth who appears emotionally done in, ask them about who they follow on social media; it really could be that a great deal of their emotional energy is being spent there.

There’s much more that could be said and there are plenty of experts in psychology, development, and mental health that can share their thoughts as well. If you’d like to follow up, here are a few resources that might be helpful. It’s best to steer clear of resources that lean toward one side or the other (“It’s evil!”or “It’s fine, chill out.”). Try to find balanced reviews that acknowledge both the opportunities and the challenges. This is an important conversation to engage with the next generation so let’s be ready to meet them where they are.


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

ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.” This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.

This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.

This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.

Interested in learning more?

Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

Connecting Church And Home During COVID

The landscape of church in America has changed.

Where we were once primarily gathered in-person, on-site at a church building in generally age-segregated worship experiences, we now found ourselves in scattered and distanced situations, at home and online in more intergenerational contexts. Words like “isolated” and “disconnected” get thrown around. It’s new but it’s not normal… it just is.

Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the steps taken in our state, city or church to address the current pandemic, the reality is that many of us are finding ourselves in a new ministry environments and still trying to do old ministry things.  

We are finding ourselves both gathered and scattered and the things we did in the past don’t work as well in the now.

But, in truth, that’s not all bad! There are opportunities for growth, for connection, and for faith formation if we grasp them. In fact, if we are willing to set aside the square peg of what once was and seek to find the right fit for the round hole that is now, we may actually emerge with something even better.

Let’s get really practical about this. What are some ways that we can begin to reframe our ministry without trying to re-invent what we once did?

Here are some on-the-ground, easy-to-implement ideas to reimagine ministry connections and spur on generational discipleship today.

Chain Mail

Remember the days of sending mail…in an envelope…with a stamp? What if you were able to connect your whole church through letters? Here’s the plan: Put together address lists of 6-10 addresses, a letter explaining how a chain letter works, a bunch of stamps and send it out.

What should the chain letter be about? Pick a topic. It could be as simple as “Add your favorite Scripture verse and mail it on!” or “Write an encouraging note to the next person on the list and put in the mail!” The last address should be the church and then post pics as they return.

Pray For Me Campaign

I will bring this up every time! Pray For Me connects children and youth to three adult prayer partners in their church for a duration of time. Beyond connecting generations, Pray For Me will also lead to a congregation connected in intercessory prayer.

Tell Your Story

We miss seeing each other’s faces and hearing each others voices. What if each week or month, a topic was offered by the church like, “When was a time God provided for you in a miraculous way?” or “What is your favorite Christmas memory?” and then encourage families and individuals to send in short videos with their story. Create a “Storyboard” on your website and share the videos there and through emails and social media.

Family Faith Formation

Parents are “learning” weary. They’ve had to learn all kinds of new things this year and the thought of having to learning something else or log on to something else and try to get the family in front of the screen. But as the months get colder, families are going to find themselves inside more. Consider putting together fully-contained, easy-to-implement faith formation activities for families to do like Advent-in-a-Box or Fill Your Toolbox family experiences.

Homebound Ministry

At this time, perhaps more than any other, families can empathize with those who for health reasons cannot come outside or be around others. Create a kit for families to decorate cards, make magnets, color tissue boxes, etc. and set them up with an adopted friend that they can minister to over the course of the winter.

Family Movie Night

Most families I know set aside times for the family to watch a movie together but that time together can be a time for intentional family discipleship. Click this link for four faith-forming movie moments you might want to utilize for your Family Movie Nights. You can use these moments to help parents make movie night a formational moment.

Want an example of a whole Family Movie Night discipleship packet for the movie Ice Age, including four different faith talks that include a focus, questions to ask, and a Bible verse to share?  Fill out the form at the end and be sure to ask for the Family Movie Night Guide in your message!

Christian theologian and researcher, John Westerhoff, once said, “”…we are more apt to act our way into new ways of thinking than think our way into new ways of acting…”  In other words, our actions create new neural pathways that actually make us think differently. The opportunity we have before us is to help our church families find new ways of acting now so that when we gather again, our thinking has changed and we are more connected to one another than ever before.

If our energy is spent in trying to keep what we once had, trying to fit that square peg in this round hole, we will miss the chance we have. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help our faith communities come together as they never have before. It may not be what we wanted or expected, but it is our gift – let’s use it wisely.


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

ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.” This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.

This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.

This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.

Interested in learning more? Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The Fallacy of Either/Or Ministry

“It’s the parent’s job to disciple their kids!”

“It’s the children’s pastor’s/youth pastor’s responsibility to teach kids about Jesus!”

“It’s the church’s role to be the context for discipleship.”

So often, the statements above are used in either/or arguments regarding Next Gen ministry. Books have been written comparing and contrasting the roles. Countless discussions have taken place online and in-person. Biblical, theological, and historical foundations have been presented. Developmental psychology, physiological milestones and cognitive abilities all consulted and taken into account.

What generally ends up happening is that people come to the same conclusion: All are needed but not all are equal.

Just like knobs on a sound board, people end up emphasizing one over another, which impacts how ministry is approached in their context.

  • If parents are the primary place of discipleship, there’s an emphasis on family ministry, parent ministry, home ministry, and the like.
  • If the primary place of discipleship is the church, Sunday school curriculum, youth programming, various age specific ministries and opportunities are emphasized and attendance and experience become markers of success.
  • If the primary place of discipleship is the faith community (think people, not program or building), the focus is more intergenerational with multi-generational opportunities, less age-specific programming, and more out-of-the-building relationships and contexts with pastoral staff playing a supportive role.

It is likely that you’ve seen one or more of these scenarios played out as in churches you’ve attended, visited, or served in.

Each approach has its opportunities and challenges. Each one meets a need and each one can stimulate spiritual growth.

The concern lies when only one of these areas is utilized for generational discipleship. 

It’s like trying to teach someone how to ride a bike but instead of giving them two wheels, a bike seat and handlebars, you only gave them one thing at a time. Yes, you could ride with only wheels but it’s gonna be a lot harder that if you had the whole bike.

I’m not a fan of the word “balance.”  Achieving balance seems like an unreachable goal for most of us and it just leads us to a feeling of ongoing defeat and failure. But I am a fan of the idea of “both/and; a ministry context that acknowledges the positive outcomes of each method and works to achieve a cohesive, unified approach to the work of discipleship.

Pause for a second and consider your own ministry context or church experience. Who carries the bulk of the discipleship load?  Does reality match messaging?

  • For instance, if a church messages that parents/caregivers at home are the primary means/place of discipleship, but only offer weekly age-specific programming with no support, nurture or equipping of parents, the reality is the church believes it is the central means by which discipleship happens. 
  • Or if a church states that it desires to be intergenerational and includes children in the worship service but never creates a space for children, youth, and parents to be connected with other members in meaningful ways like prayer partnership, shared learning experiences, or topical classes or studies (versus age specific), it is still placing the bulk of the discipleship load on the parent’s shoulders without sharing the responsibility.

The truth is, just like it is so often, is that we need all three working together in a cohesive manner in order for discipleship to take place.

The discipleship culture in churches needs to shift from “It’s so-and-so’s responsibility” to “It’s our responsibility.” 

The children’s/youth pastor cannot succeed without the whole community of the church linking arms with parents and children in a community of discipleship.

The parents cannot succeed without the prayers, support, and tools needed to remain relevant and untiring in the work of discipleship at home.

And the church cannot succeed in developing networks of mentorship, relationship and connection between generations if programming is consistently segregated by age and life experience.

Dr. Richard Ross, author of Youth Ministry that Lasts a Lifetime, after a substantial time spent researching youth group graduates who remain in the faith and connected with church, offered this recommendation to churches that he calls “Ministry in Thirds.”

1. A third of time and resources to accelerating the spiritual impact in teenagers’ homes

2. A third immersing every teenager in the full life and ministry of the congregation

3. A third leading what churches traditionally have considered youth ministry, targeted to the youth group

According to Ross, “Balancing these three elements may well lead to much higher percentages of teenagers loving God, loving people, and making disciples for a lifetime.”

This is an ongoing conversation that needs to be had in churches. Unless we know where we stand, we can’t know where we need to be going. Take some time and consider your own ministry context or church experience?  How might the resources listed above need to be reorganized in order to develop a holistic experience of lifelong generational discipleship? The outcome is worth whatever work it might take to engage all three discipleship arenas.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes.

Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings. There are now TWO options for attending the webinar:

Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.

Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.

Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.

Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.

Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!

Anyone registered for all four sessions will receive a FREE half-hour coaching session/follow-up specific to your ministry needs.

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconnect-a-webinar-for-generational-connections-tickets-121384392987. Questions? Feel free to email me at christina.m.embree@gmail.com. Can’t wait to journey with you!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

All Hands On Deck: It’s Time to Be the Church

Today, just today, I got 15 emails from different teachers and schools informing me of many important things that I needed to follow up on with my kids who are currently learning at home. This is in addition to the Remind, Class DoJo and text notifications and emails related to work and home life.

And the thing is….all of the information matters.

These are not ignorable emails. Nearly every single one include the words “important” or “imperative.”  Each email must be read and gleaned for this important, imperative information and then disseminated appropriately to a calendar, a child, or another person.

It’s mentally taxing. It is also necessary if good communication is to happen.

Enter Church.

Children’s pastors, youth ministers, and NextGen leaders across the country are facing a dilemma. How can they communicate to weary-worn parents suffering from overcommunication? How can they get parents to respond, participate, and commit to being present if their voice is drowned out by the myriad of other urgent voices?  How can they do their job if the ones they are called to serve aren’t available to them?

Parents and caregivers are also faced with their own dilemma. How can they do it all?  Their energy wanes and, while they don’t want to put church in the backseat, once school is done and lessons are turned in and all the new information assimilated, the mental capacity to join another Zoom, fill out another form, and serve in another place is lagging.

There is no easy answer.

Some on either side of the equation have just thrown up their hands and said, “It’s too much” and are choosing to not do anything at this time. Others have decided to keep pushing forward with tenacity but end up frustrated by a lack of reciprocation.   Everyone is feeling the weariness creep in.

While the answers may not be “easy”, there are some ways to give both ministers and parents some space to breathe and to move forward together. It is going to require grace from and for each other AND it’s going to require an “all hands on deck” culture within the church.

This moment is the moment where connecting generations in meaningful relationships is more than a lofty goal but a necessary step in recovering discipleship momentum in homes and churches. 

Below are some ideas for helping the faith community come together to serve each other at this time.

  1. A NIGHT OFF– For many parents, the current COVID culture has them running from sunup to sundown with school to work to home life. What a blessing it would be if they knew, once or twice a month, a meal would be provided for their family and they’d have a night off to spend an evening together. Consider setting up a Meal Sharing program where older members of your church partner with a younger family to bring them a meal every once and a while.
    • Wanna bump this up a notch?  Create “Conversation Cards” around different discipleship topics and have the card delivered with the meal for the family to discuss as they eat.
    • On the Conversation Card include a list of resources for parents in case they’d like to discuss the topic further.
  • A NIGHT ON – The Zoom life has led to fatigue for both parents and kids and having to add another scheduled Zoom to the calendar can be disheartening. Consider creating a space on your webpage for families to access in their own time with videos and interactive activities that can be completed throughout the week or months.
    • Kick it up a notch by creating a “scavenger huntwhere they go through different clues which lead the through the videos and activities. Use text to send the clues to the family as they complete each task.
    • Create a fun prize for any family that completes the experience such as “Ice Cream On Us” for all (Use gift cards) or “Family Pizza Party” (Gift card) or “Game Night” (Board game for the family).
  • A “NIGHT” IN SHINING ARMOR – Some parents are looking for nothing more than a prayer, a pat on the back and maybe a momentary distraction from the stress. Sometimes the best gift is simply to show up with a word of encouragement and a quick prayer.
    • A friend recently shared that she has had her ministry team mobilized to stop by kids houses with milkshakes for the family, which is incredible. What if this was extended to the whole church for participation? What if older Sunday School classes “adopted” younger classes and took time to do these drive-by blessings?
    • For older congregation members who are homebound, consider giving them the names of families from your church and having them write notes of encouragement or prayers that could be delivered to them; be sure to include a return address and card for the family to respond in like – who knows where it could lead?

If the faith community comes together to support parents and children at this time, the future of the church will be one of more connection and relationship, which is a good thing for everyone.

While it may be tempting to try to keep things as “normal” as possible at church, the reality of the current situation means it’s unlikely that things will look the same as they have in the past. This is the time to mobilize the Church to be the community it has always claimed to be.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes. Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings. There are now TWO options for attending the webinar:

Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.

Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.

Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.

Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.

Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!

Anyone registered for all four sessions will receive a FREE half-hour coaching session/follow-up specific to your ministry needs.

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconnect-a-webinar-for-generational-connections-tickets-121384392987. Questions? Feel free to email me at christina.m.embree@gmail.com. Can’t wait to journey with you!


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.

“It Was In The Bulletin”

My family recently went through a scare: My daughter and some of her friends were in our local mall when a shooting occurred. It was, as you can imagine, a terrifying experience for all and we are grateful that we were able to get to the girls as quickly as we did and the impact on them was frightening but minimal. I bring this up only to illustrate a point.

When the event happened, all of us immediately turned to our phones to get the news to find out what had actually taken place. My husband and I jumped on Facebook, the girls jumped on Instagram, and our family in other states turned to Google for information.

As a result, the information we were gleaning about a single event had a very different feel and unique content depending on where we accessed it.

My information came almost entirely from local news stations, my daughter and her friends were seeing a lot of “first hand” videos and testimonies, and my out-of-state family was getting Associate Press updates.

The result? We all had bits and pieces of information about the incident but none of us had the whole story.

It was as if we all had pieces to a puzzle, some more than others, but none of us had the entire picture. It took coming together, talking to each other, and giving enough time and space for information to be made public for the puzzle to come together.

Not surprisingly, this example of information gathering is a characteristic of the generation gap we experience in America. The advancement of technology has impacted how and with whom we communicate.

Age segregation can be found in digital constructs of media, social media and communication. 


Sassi, 2005, p. 684-700

Information is distributed through a variety of means from digital to print, radio to television, word of mouth to public speaking. However, more and more, the move from traditional print materials, radio news, and face-to-face conversations towards digital, video and public voices is changing the landscape of information distribution and consumption.

Due simply to a lack of access or lack of ability to use digital constructs, older adults can be unintentionally excluded from certain forms of digital communication (Source). Conversely, due to a lack of lack of access or lack of knowledge to use non-digital constructs, younger generations are unexposed to things like print media and in-person interactions. These technological and communication differences act to perpetuate the digital divide between generations.

Research gathered by Pew Research show that over 90% of young adults ages 18-29 are active on social media as compared to only 35% of older Americans, 65 years of age and older.

  • Sprout Social reports that 72% of 13-17 year olds and 64% of 18-29 year olds use Instagram while only 21% of 50-64 year olds and 10% of 65+ year olds use Instagram.
  • Of 271,000,000 Twitter users who are active every month the number of users between 51 and 60 years was roughly 2,981,000 or about 1% of the users.
  • Princeton and New York University researchers found that eleven percent of users older than 65 shared an article consistent with the study’s definition of fake news. Just 3% of users ages 18 to 29 did the same.

Changes in technology and communication have consequently exacerbated the gap between the youngest and oldest generations leading to a continued growth in age segregation and generational divide.

Rather than create an inclusive space that leads to more conversation, the lack of intergenerational connectivity has caused more isolation.

Churches can fall into this same pattern of generational hit-or-miss communication by choosing avenues that appeal to certain age groups while neglecting others. In her book Faith Formation 2.0, Julie Anne Lytle looks at the different generations that are typically represented in an average church and how they tend to communicate. She offers the thought that if we are not communicating an event or offering communication in at least seven unique formats, we are missing someone in our audience.

How does that play out?

Let’s say that the church is hosting a Combined Worship services where all church members, regardless of age or preferred worship style, will attend. In order to ensure that this is communicated to the entire audience a church will want to:

  1. Announce the service from the pulpit
  2. Place an announcement with date, time, and description in the bulletin
  3. Send an email (or two) to the entire congregation
  4. Place all pertinent information on the website in more than one location
  5. Include information on social media platforms
  6. Send a text message to members who have indicated text as a preferred method of communication
  7. Offer a personal invitation to members (visit the youth group, drop by a Sunday School class, phone call, etc.)

That may feel like overkill but each generation will tend to access the information in different ways and if one avenue is overlooked, there is a potential that someone may never know the event is happening.

There is a tee shirt that is frequently worn in KidMin circles that simply says, “It was in the bulletin!” Often, children’s pastor and youth ministers express frustration that members will tell them that they didn’t know an event was happening. But that truly could be because the information wasn’t offered in a format that is normally accessed by that person or group of people so, in their mind, the event was never announced.

Fortunately, once we realize the importance of communication platforms and how to access generations, we have a much better chance of bridging the gap and finding ways to bring generations together.

In fact, just as was highlighted above, each generation likely brings an important piece to the puzzle and together we can see the whole picture. Creating space in our churches for this to happen is one way we can begin to integrate the ages in our faith communities and move forward in serving the Lord and each other together.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes. Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings.

Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.

Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.

Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.

Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.

Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!

Anyone registered for all four sessions will receive a FREE half-hour coaching session/follow-up specific to your ministry needs.

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconnect-a-webinar-for-generational-connections-tickets-116093734485. Questions? Feel free to email me at christina.m.embree@gmail.com. Can’t wait to journey with you!


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.

Church Is NOT The Building…but the Building Matters

“I didn’t even know you had another daughter!”

This statement stopped me in my tracks a couple of years ago. It happened in the hallway of a church building that I had just started serving in. The phrase was uttered by one of the most faithful older members of our church to one of our most faithful younger members. As I glanced over at them, my mind scrambled to understand how two faithfully attending church members who obviously knew one another and genuinely cared for each other had missed such a momentous occasion as the birth of a child….three years prior!

It didn’t take long for my mind to fill in the gaps. The older woman, like many older members of our church family, attended the 8:15 am “traditional” service in the main sanctuary. Afterwards, at 9:30 am, she would go down the stairs to the Sunday School classroom she’d been meeting in for years and meet with her class. At 10:30 am, she would use the lower exit and head out to her car to go home.

Meanwhile, the young mother and her family would arrive at the church at 9:30 am for the “blended” service held in the Community Center, down the hall from the main sanctuary. During that service, her children would be on the first floor under the Community Center in their nursery and Children’s Church. After service, at 10:45 am, she would move down the hall to her Sunday School class and her children would remain in the same downstairs hallway for Sunday school. Then, at 12 pm she would gather her family and head home.

Sound familiar?

How in the world were these women ever going to see each other, let alone, see the children in question? When the daughter was born, a rose was placed on the pulpit to celebrate her birth… but only in the service she attended. Her baptism/dedication, while announced in the bulletin, was only celebrated in the Community Center.

The child’s entire interaction within the church building from the time she was born took place on one floor in one or two classrooms with a set schedule of church employees and volunteers.

So, it should have come as no surprise when I heard the older woman exclaim in surprise that she didn’t even know the three-year-old girl existed…but it did. And then the surprise quickly morphed into, “This is not okay! Something has to be done. This is not how a community should act.”

What?

Thus began a journey that eventually led to a weekly intergenerational service, quarterly all-church worship services, intergenerational prayer partners, and multi-generational events. But there was one thing that didn’t change – the building.

In spite of our work to create intergenerational connections, the architecture of the building we met in often presented a challenge. In fact, it was evident that the building itself was structured in such a way as to limit interactions of multiple generations on any given day.

So What?

The reality of architecture limiting our generational contact is consistent with the findings of research. In fact, even the designs of our homes have changed over time leading to lack of generational connectivity. In the past, homes were created with the expectation of a nuclear family and often the grandparents living together in a single space with perhaps a bedroom or two for some privacy. Today, the structure of large single-family homes with multiple rooms and bedrooms create financial, spatial and cultural barriers to intergenerational living (Source).

How does that happen?

  • Lack of available affordable housing in multigenerational neighborhoods has led to “age ghettos” where homeowners are primarily older and renters are primarily younger.
  • Homes in general are usually occupied by 1) single young people or 2) aging couples/singles or 3) a single family rather than multiple generations as in the past .
  • And, as we explored in the last article, these houses tend to group together according to age and life experience so we end up with neighborhoods, retirement villages, or sections of a city mainly occupied with people of the same generation.

Older Americans especially experience age segregation because of living on their own and not in a familial home. Most older Americans living alone are in doing so in isolation without intergenerational connection or relationships. (Source). The result of this spatial age segregation has led to a growing epidemic of loneliness among the elderly who are often homebound and without outside contact for days on end.

Other buildings are also created with specific generations and ages in mind. In addition to spatial constructs like sounds (music, television, noises) and sights (screens, lighting, colors), architectural constructs like stairs, hallways, gates/doors, open/closed space, and seating/resting areas send messages about who should be in a space.

Architecture plays a huge role in communicating who is welcome and attracting a certain “audience” to occupy a space.

Now What?

First, let’s consider the architecture of our gathering spaces.

  • Are there ways that our building is inhibiting generational connections?
  • Can any of these barriers be removed?
  • Could space be redefined by an architectural change like removing a barrier, increasing accessibility, or redirecting traffic?

Second, get creative in thinking about how the space, as is, can be used for multigenerational community.

  • Could other spatial features, visual or auditory, be put in place to make the space more welcoming to all generations?
  • Locate places in the building that would be appropriate for gathering more than one generation.
  • Create avenues to invite people into spaces they may not normally go like multigenerational events or small group meetings in different locations.

Finally, be aware that architecture might be working against you as you seek to connect members in your congregation to each other across generational lines.

  • Think of ways you can bolster those relationships that don’t depend on “being in the building.”
  • Encourage older members to go watch kids play tee ball or perform a dance recital.
  • Invite families to “adopt” an older person as a “grandfriend” and visit with them.
  • Set up a way for teenagers to eat lunch with adults who are serving in the community or sharing Christ in their workplace.

Don’t let the building the church meets in define how you do church; be the church that occasionally meets in a building!


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes. Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings.

Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.

Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.

Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.

Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.

Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!

Anyone registered for all four sessions will receive a FREE half-hour coaching session/follow-up specific to your ministry needs.

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconnect-a-webinar-for-generational-connections-tickets-116093734485. Questions? Feel free to email me at christina.m.embree@gmail.com. Can’t wait to journey with you!


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.

How Your Space Speaks: Who Is Welcome Where

A few years ago, I started a little personal experiment. I would stop in my tracks, wherever I was, and take into account all of the generations I could find present in a particular space. I started doing that because in my research on age segregation and integration, I ran across a discussion on how spaces, public spaces and private spaces, had become spaces that were generationally-specific by design and intent.

Spatial constructs are the geographic and environmental structures that make up our communities such as residential spaces (neighborhoods, nursing homes, cities) and common spaces (parks, malls, streets).

Over the past two decades, research has shown that spatial constructs can intentionally and unintentionally create spaces where ages are not likely to intermingle effectively leading to age segregation.

So, I decided to test the theory to see if, in my own personal life, I found this to be true in the spaces I tended to occupy. Often, while at the grocery store or a public park or a shopping mall, doctor’s office, restaurant, church or the like, I will pause and look around to see what generations are present and what elements are being used in the space to either attract or exclude generations.

And this is what I found: Public spaces can indeed become places of age segregation.  Some common things I noticed; in places designed to attract younger ages there was a lot more “noise” both audibly and visually (loud music, lots of colors and activity, a variety of sensual stimuli from smells to sounds to touch, cartoons or music videos on television) and in places designed to attract older generations, there are more traditional, less stimulating environments (Quieter classical or jazzy music, dimmer lighting in restaurants, patriotic symbols, news or talk shows on television).

Environments can be crafted in such a way to encourage ages to integrate or segregate and many public spaces are designed for age segregation (Source).  In other words, spaces are created and designed in order to attract certain generations and, by default, exclude others.

A perfect example would be a restaurant the is dimly lit with tables for two with quiet music playing versus a restaurant that is brightly lit with large tables and seats designed for young children and boisterous music playing. Each restaurant has designed their space to attract as certain crowd. In one place you would expect to find families with children or young adults and in another older adults, couples without children on dates, etc.

This use of space can be carried over to other areas.  The inclusion or exclusion of certain items can either attract or detract specific age groups and that has actually led to a changing landscape.

The geography of age segregation can be mapped according to the generations present in a space such as a city or county (Source).  Spatial constructs such as neighborhoods, suburbs, and even cities can even be mapped along age-specific lines. That means if we were to track the ages of people living in a certain area and then overlaid a map of the city on top of that, we would find people of relatively the same generation actually living together in age-specific areas (Source).

How does that happen?

Residential age segregation exists due in part to how neighborhoods and homes are designed. In the past, homes were created with the expectation of a family and often the grandparents living together in a single space with perhaps a bedroom or two for some privacy. Today, the structure of large single-family homes with multiple rooms and bedrooms create barriers to intergenerational living (Source). In other words, we tend to separate as we age rather than live together.

Another contributing factor? Lack of available affordable housing in multigenerational neighborhoods. This has led to “age ghettos” where homeowners are primarily older and renters are primarily younger. Houses are primarily occupied by single young people (alone or living together), aging couples/singles, or a single family rather than multiple generations as in the past. It’s rare today to find an older aging person living in a home with single young people or even a family even though that was common in the past.

How does this impact to churches?

Churches also use spatial constructs to message age-appropriateness to their community and their members and they are influenced by the spatial constructs around them. Take a few moments and think about the space occupied by your own church.

  1. What does the space around your church/property look like? What are the visible signs of age such as a playground, steps/ramps, lighting, flowers or lack thereof, signage, sounds, flags, etc? What generational messaging is being sent and received?
  2. Inside your church building or gathering, what are the sights, smells, and sounds that each person is greeted with when they enter? Is there intentionality in the experience or just a default based on what has “always been?”
  3. In your community, does your church show up in specific spaces and not in others? Is there any generational component to how or where your church is active in the public arena? Are there spaces where your church is not engaged and is that intentional or incidental?
  4. What are the spatial influences in your surrounding neighborhoods and communities? Is there a specific generation included or excluded? How is that impacted by your church and/or how is your church impacted by that reality?

Recognizing that how we design and use space has an influence on the generations that gather and “hear” us can have a huge impact on our communication, our engagement, and our outreach.

Here’s a fun idea; for one week, do like me and experiment on your surroundings. Pause for a few minutes while shopping, serving, socializing, and sightseeing and take in the message of the space and the generations you see gathered. Then consider how you can take this information and use it to create spaces that invite multiple generations to come together to learn and engage with one another. It’s a fascinating exercise and one that challenges us to think outside the box and grow as people and as ministers.

This post is the first in a four-part series on structures in society that create or perpetuate age segregation. To read the introduction to the series, click here. Future posts will be linked as they are published.


Ready to Start, Not Sure Where?

ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes. Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings.

Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.

Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.

Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.

Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.

Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!

Anyone registered for all four sessions will receive a FREE half-hour coaching session/follow-up specific to your ministry needs.

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconnect-a-webinar-for-generational-connections-tickets-116093734485. Questions? Feel free to email me at christina.m.embree@gmail.com. Can’t wait to journey with you!


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The Capacity For Love: A Call for Intergenerational Community

“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

“The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.” I’ve read this book and this quote many times over the years but this morning, as I scrolled through my social media feed, seeing and reading a lot of things I would not characterize as “love”, this particular line posted by a friend struck me deeply.

Maybe because so much of 2020 has been isolation.

Maybe because so much of 2020 has lacked the overt quality of love.

Maybe 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.

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.

Even if this virus goes away and we can gather under one roof again, things will never go back to the way they were. Because we are different people. Which is why how we come back together is more important than ever. We must come back to love.

We have been changed, our children and youth have been changed, and our communities have been changed. 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.

  • 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.


Ready to get started but unsure of your next step?

ReFocus Ministry is pleased to present a four-part webinar series on generational discipleship and connection for churches interested in exploring intergenerational ministry both in their church and in their homes. Each session will focus on a unique aspect of gathering generations together, both the challenges and opportunities, as well as practical tips to begin implementing now during this time away from regular church gatherings.

Sessions can be attended individually or all four can be attended as a series.

Session 1 – ReConnect. This first session of the webinar focuses on defining generations, generation gap, and the need for generational discipleship in your church. This is the “What” behind generational discipleship.

Session 2 – ReGenerate. This session focuses on the the research, the reasons, and the heart behind connecting generations from both a secular and spiritual viewpoint. This is the “Why” behind generational discipleship.

Session 3 – ReProduce. This session offers practical tips, strategies, and ideas to being connecting generations in your faith community and in homes in meaningful, lasting, life-changing ways. This is the “How” behind generational discipleship.

Session 4 – ReLease. It’s time to go and do! This session will provide a discussion and debrief around the questions, “What? So What? Now What?” and give you an starting point for incorporating generational discipleship as a meaningful part of your faith community. This is the “Who” behind generational discipleship at your church and in your home!

Anyone registered for all four sessions will receive a FREE half-hour coaching session/follow-up specific to your ministry needs.

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconnect-a-webinar-for-generational-connections-tickets-116093734485. Questions? Feel free to email me at christina.m.embree@gmail.com. Can’t wait to journey with you!


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
The Embree Family

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.