All Together Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Interested in learning more?

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

For More Information About…

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

About this Blog

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

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

Advent Isn’t About Lighting Candles on Sunday

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

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

Advent isn’t about lighting candles on Sunday morning. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Interested in learning more?

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


For More Information About…

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

About this Blog

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

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

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.

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.

Emotions Running A Little High? What we do matters

I read an interesting study the other day regarding mothers and their newborn babies (through 14 months old). The study looked at how the mothers responded to their baby and how their own mothers had responded to them when they were a baby. The study predicted that “mothers who recalled their own mothers as high on nonsupportive responses to their distress in childhood engaged in more self-focused and negative cry processing at 6 months, which in turn predicted less supportive responding to their toddlers in distressing situations.” The study supported their prediction and concluded that “remembered childhood emotion socialization experiences have longstanding consequences for subsequent social behavior, including parenting the next generation” (Source).

That’s a LOT of big words to say, how we, as parents and involved adults, respond to our children’s emotion, no matter how young, has a long-term impact on them and on our grandchildren. And that seems really important to remember in 2020.

Has there ever been such a highly emotional period in our lifetime? Certainly not in mine and, I suspect, not in the lifetime of many who read this blog. But definitely not in our children’s lifetime. We have been blessed in this country to have had a fairly quiet period that our children have been raised in. Of course, there have been ups and downs, but not the emotionally-gripping scenarios that we are currently facing.

COVID 19 has dramatically changed the face of our children’s environments and culture. School looks different. Home looks different. Hanging out with friends looks different. Milestones like graduating or getting a driver’s license or having a birthday party or advancing to a new grade or going to school for the first time looks different. Everything looks different.

Most kids are spending a lot more time in virtual environments like Zoom calls and Facetime and other spaces like online games, social media sites, and watching television. “Nearly half of American children spend more than six hours a day in front of a screen — a shocking 500 percent increase in usage prior to the contagion’s spread, according to a survey of 3,000 parents conducted by the advocacy group ParentsTogether” (Source).

And their emotions have followed suit. Mental health experts are warning us that these new environments wrought with worry and unknowns will have a lasting impact on our children’s mental and emotional health (Source).

But let’s go back to that first study. We are not without hope. In fact, we have a unique opportunity as parents, grandparents, other involved adults and ministers at this time to impact not only our children but the next generation of children through how we respond to our kids at this time. And when I say “our kids”, I mean collectively our kids, the generation of newborn to 18 yr olds that are looking to us right now to see their emotion, to embrace their actions and reactions, and to respond in ways that promote faith, grace, and health.

How can we do that?

There are many ways and I am not a mental health expert or a licensed counselor so I do not want to overstep my own space as a minister and a mom. I will provide a list of sites at the end of this post that I have found helpful. But as a minister and a mom who believes in the power of intergenerational community and the love of God, I offer a few ideas that might be helpful as we reflect on this holy call.

Surround your kids with positive influences

Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to create spaces for our children that we can have some control over. Connect with fellow adults you trust and invite them to build relationships with your children so that they have people to go to with their questions and fears besides you. Your faith community should be a place where your children know that they are loved and prayed for.

I often ask my kids to name five adults besides mom and dad that they know love them and pray for them; if they can’t, I start looking for people to fill that role so that they always know they are a part of a community that cares.

Plan your Action instead of Reaction

When emotions are high, it is easy to react instead of act. Something happens, words get said, tempers erupt, tears fall and everyone leaves feeling worse than when things started. It is always better to have an action plan than to fall prey to reacting.

Start with prayer, on our own, every day, and with a community praying with you if possible. If you are at a loss for words, I cannot recommend using the book of Psalms as a guide for prayer and for wisdom enough. As we ask God to go before us in meeting our children in their emotional needs, the Spirit will prepare our hearts for action and their hearts to receive.

Some ideas for an older child/teen could be saying things like, “I know you are feeling a lot of emotion right now and I want to respond well. Let’s talk in 15 minutes once we are both less emotional.” For a younger child, often a few minutes of snuggling or a distraction such as a book or toy or praying with them. A little bit of time can go a long way in mitigating emotional outbursts that later on we might regret.

Acknowledge the Unknown, Point to the Known

With so much uncertainty in our daily lives, it can feel like the unknown is looming around every turn. Will there be school or won’t there? Will we get to go to the church building or worship from home? When can I see my friends? What is vacation going to look like? Each day there are questions without answers and that can be emotionally draining for adults and children alike.

Pretending all of that doesn’t exist or ignoring the dilemmas raised by these questions doesn’t make the stress disappear. It is better for us to acknowledge that there is a lot we don’t know…but don’t leave it there. Take them time to remind your children what we do know!

We know that God loves us and that He will take care of us.

We know that we belong to a family that loves us and a bigger faith family who is praying with us.

We know that God promises to be with us always as Immanuel, God with us.

We know that God is big enough to handle our doubts, questions, and unbridled emotions and still love us unconditionally.

We know that laughter and joy still ring out across the world; that good things are happening, that people are still serving others and speaking up for the oppressed and ministering to the marginalized and we can be part of that – we can serve and share life and light with this world.

And as parents, grandparents, friends, and ministers, we can do all of that, starting in our own homes and our own congregation with the next generation who desperately need to know we are here for them.

Resources for Parents


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.

The Church Has Left The Building

I miss church. I bet you do too. And I bet that you or someone in your house has said this exact phrase over the past 6 weeks.

Theologically, we all know that “church” is not a building. We understand that “church” is the body of Christ. So more precisely, I think, when we say we miss “church”, we mean more than that. We miss the people. We miss the things we do together as people; worship and communion and conversation and prayer and hugs and food. We miss the community of faith. We miss each other and we miss the practices that renew our faith each week as we reenact the promises of Scripture through our worship and celebration.

The challenge for us as parents and ministers is to consider; how do we model authenticity and consistency as Christians safe at home while still acknowledging we are all struggling with our new reality?

Consistency in what we teach and how we live is critical to creating an atmosphere of authenticity both at home and at church. 

We are the church, when we are at home and when we are together. Who we are and how we are living should flow seamlessly between those worlds without friction or tension. What we do in one place, we should be able to just as freely do in another place and our faith should reach beyond the walls of church into the everyday life we live.

churhccomeshome

Consider these five “church” activities that we often engage in easily and freely when we gather together but can struggle to engage in our homes along with some ideas for how to simply and easily add them into our “healthy at home” life:

Worship

Every Sunday without fail, voices are raised in song in churches around the world, praising and worshiping the Lord through “songs, hymns and spiritual songs.”  Have you ever considered hosting a worship service with your family at home?  Worship through song isn’t limited only to the walls of a church, in fact Paul says we are to to always be “singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.” Many church services are online now and offer singing as part of their worship but if yours doesn’t, it’s perfectly fine for you to sing in your home. Easy ways to incorporate singing? Sing a song instead of praying a prayer before dinner. Teach a favorite song to your kids. Check out resources on Psalmody and pick a Psalm to learn and sing as a family.

Prayer

Whether it be a pastoral prayer or the communal recitation of the Lord’s prayer, we frequently engage in spoken prayer in a church setting; do we do the same in our homes?  The Lord’s Prayer is a great way for you to begin praying with your kids and creating that seamless flow between church and home.

Giving

In many churches, every week, the plate is passed and our tithes and offerings are given to the Lord.  But we don’t have to limit our giving to the church offering plate.  It can be hard sometimes to remember to give from a cheerful heart if we don’t see the need or if our gift is automatically withdrawn from our checking account Maybe your family could talk about ways to  support your church or a missionary or provide meals for families in need so they can be a part of the gift of giving.  The cheerful heart of giving isn’t only for church.

Bible Reading

If the only time our children see us open the Bible (or pull up the app on our phone or tablet) is in the church building, the model they see is one where the Bible is only for certain times not all of life.  But the writer of Psalms says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” This the perfect time to add some daily Scripture meditation into your family rhythm.  The Scripture is for everywhere, every day.

Fellowship

Let’s face it; a big reason for going to church is to see  friends.  I had someone tell me the only time they saw their friends was on Sunday morning.  It’s really hard for your kids to see the community and family that is the body of Christ if they only see people for 1 hour a week, 4 times a month.  Invite people over, even if only by Zoom for now, build and maintain relationships with those you miss and create space for fellowship all week long.

When our children see consistency in who we are and what we do at church and who we are and what we do at home, it will be easier for them to understand the providence of our God who is present with us in the everyday.

When we are consistent, we are authentic, and when we are authentic, we are modeling the truth of Jesus to the next generation.


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 BlogIMG-0573

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

Back to the Basics: Discipleship at Home

We’re home. I mean, a lot. I’m assuming you are to; whether you’re reading this in America or Australia or South Korea, a global pandemic means we are all spending a lot more time at a place we call home.

Being home has caused me to do some reflecting and I realized that in doing so, I found myself going “back to the basics” in regard to discipleship at home. So, I looked back through this blog and found this post from a few years back that feels very appropriate for here and now. I hope it blesses you as it did me!


The other day I had someone say to me, “I love reading your blog and I like your thoughts on discipleship in the home but I don’t even know how to get started.  I don’t think of those things like you do.  Where do I start?”

It’s a good question and one that I have heard expressed many times before.  Acknowledgment of the need for faith formation at home is often overshadowed by fears of implementation.

  • How do you “see God in the everyday”?
  • How do you begin to prepare for a “faith talk”?
  • What in the world does it mean to “speak a blessing” over your kids?

family-3370140_1920If you, or the parents you serve, have ever asked these questions or ones like them, take a second and celebrate. Why? Because asking questions like these show a heart that is already in tune with God’s heart for children and families and even if you feel completely at a loss for “what to do” chances are the very fact you feel that way probably reflects in your parenting and leadership already.

Combining that heart with intentional actions created to draw children into the “mystery” of the faith is a dynamic duo for discipleship at home.

If this is a new arena for your family or those you serve, I encourage you to start with these four small but powerful “baby steps” that begin to shift the focus of the home towards Christ.

Morning Prayer/Blessing

In Deut 6:4-9, God tells parents to “impress” His commands on the children and provides four times in which to do that. One of those times is “when you rise.”  Mornings can often be rushed, crazy times as everyone is trying to get shoes tied, hair brushed, coffee guzzled and breakfast consumed.  In the middle of it all, take just 30 seconds to stop with each child and pray a simple blessing. 

This prayer doesn’t have to be long or eloquent. In fact, simple is good; it’s easy to remember and repeat daily. Something like, “Lord, be with Grace today. May she know that you are with her, that you love her and that you have called her by name and may she return home full of joy and wisdom.”

Dinner Discussions

Another time God encourages us to engage with our kids is “when you sit.”  It’s rare to have families in a place where they all sit down together, but sometimes dinner still gives us that opportunity.  To center our conversation during those nights, our family asks four questions:  What was your high today?  What was your low? What mistake did you make?  Where did you see God today?

We have had more “teachable moments” at dinner than we could have ever imagined.  Sometimes we only get two questions in before we begin discussing something related to our faith, God, family or church.  And what’s great is that everyone, even Mom and Dad, gets to participate.

Drive Time

God tells parents to share with their kids as they “walk along the road.”  This doesn’t happen as much as it did but we do drive along the road an awful lot.  If you have to travel frequently, might I suggest downloading or purchasing some Adventures in Odessey programs from Focus on the Family?  These radio dramas provide a great platform for discussion with  kids and they will love listening to them (you will too – they’re pretty great!).  We have had many conversations with our children brought on by topics discussed in the episode and as an added bonus, the episodes all have Scriptures to go with them so you don’t have to figure it out yourself!

Older children/teens? Podcasts! There are some great podcasts out there that explore history and story. Remember, Jesus is with us everywhere and He is the greatest storyteller. Listening together to these podcasts can open up conversation that allow us, as parents, to introduce our children to a providential God who shows up all through history.

Bedtime Blessing

The final time God specifies is “when you lie down.”  Kids are fantastic stallers when it comes to bedtime.  Wouldn’t it be great if you got them at their own game and turned their stall time into a time for discussion and blessing?

For young children, check out the Jesus Storybook Bible which tells the stories of Scripture in a unique way and points out where Jesus can be found in every story.

For older kids, before they go to bed, simply ask them if anything is on their mind that they need to talk about before bed so they can sleep well.  It will shock you what they are willing to share in that safe place with you. These moments will be the last thoughts before your cherub slips off to sleep; can you think of a better sendoff?

Once these four practices become habitual for you, you will find it much easier to put Christ in the center of your family activities.  Your kids won’t think it’s “weird” when you take time to schedule a Family Faith Talk because you’ve already invited Jesus to the dinner table.  It won’t feel difficult to turn to Scripture in everyday moments because you’ve been listening to it in the car and reading it before bed.  And before you know it, your baby steps will become faith-forming strides as discipleship happens… at home.


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 BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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

What Are We Missing?

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”

Admit it, you sang it. But, in all seriousness, have we ever felt this song more strongly as a society than now?  The words “I miss…” have been uttered countless times in our home this week. I miss my friends. I miss my classmates. I miss going out. I miss hanging out at the mall. I miss church. And, believe it or not, I miss school and I miss work.

My guess is that many of us are experiencing these deep feelings of loss as we miss the people and places that typically define our daily existence. And with their temporary loss, we see the impact that these place and people have on our lives and the gaps that are left when they are not there.

I can’t help but think about about the similarities between these missed opportunities and the past several years of study I’ve done into age segregation in the church.

Let me explain.

In the mid -1900s when age specific ministries were coming into focus, a lot of attention was giving to the number of children, youth, and families that were coming to church. By the late 20th century, most churches had developed age specific ministry departments focused on attracting a certain age group and/or their parents and grandparents to the church. And it was wildly effective. The rise of the youth group and the increase in children / family attendance at church did indeed go up.

message-4092821_1920But then something happened. As the youth group generation grew up, instead of remaining in the church, they began to leave the church. Yes, some of them came back with their kids, but not nearly the number that were represented in youth group (Source).

So what happened?

Perhaps in our zeal to increase our numbers in the present, we forgot to think about the future. Maybe we forgot to look at the people and places that helped define our faith and create connections to our local faith community and the larger Body of Christ.

Let’s just be honest, age integration (putting generations together) can be difficult. However, research has shown that it is not only a good and healthy thing for different generations to spend time in relationships one another, it is also one of the key factors in young people remaining in the faith after they’ve left their home of origin. And there are things we can do to help make our times of corporate worship beneficial to all.(For more on this, click here)

And, one more thing real quick..

For clarification purposes, please know that I am not opposed to quality Christ-centered, community-focused Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry, but I do have concerns when families and churches are consistently separated from each other and never having time to fellowship together.

There is great benefit to all of us when we are given the chance to learn from, worship with, and grow together with one another.

It’s in our spiritual DNA; we were built for community by our very Creator God who exists in the perfect community of the Trinity and in whose image we are created.  When Christ called the Church, he didn’t differentiate by age. He simply called to all who believed in Him to follow Him together. We need each other, every age, every level of development, every part, in order for us to truly be “the Body of Christ.”

We have this unique time in our lives and in our churches to consider what we are missing. It might be that we find that some of the things we are missing are things that we didn’t even realize we needed.

It’s become apparent that being together really does matter.

So, when we are together again, what is that going to look like? Could it be that when we gather together again, there might be space for all of us, all ages, all generations to worship, celebrate and gather together.  We may not even realize just how much we are missing.


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 BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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

 

The Beauty, Mystery and Sorrow of Easter

Two nights ago I awoke in Kentucky to the sounds of thunder, lightning and torrential downpours.  My phone was lighting up with flood alerts and I could hear what sounded like a small river in the gutter outside my window.

My first thoughts during the storm were that it was Holy Week, Good Friday was coming, and how appropriate the dark weather was to experience this week.  My heart went to Mark 15 where we read:

“At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? “”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33,34.37-39)

Traditionally, the sorrow of Good Friday would be commemorated at churches all over the world with darkened services, candelight vigils, readings from Scripture that cause us to ponder anew the sacrifice made by Christ that day.

This year, it may look a little different.

This year we will try to bring that commemoration into our homes. Parents will have the primary responsibility for sharing the events of Good Friday with their children.

There is something palpable about the beauty and mystery of Good Friday.  Sometimes, it is our tendency to shield our children from these dark emotions, from the sadness and the heaviness of the crucifixion.

Don’t.

cross-1375765_1920I realize that they won’t understand it all.  I know that it could make them sad.  I understand that they are young.  But the depth of understanding goes beyond our emotions on this day.

When we allow ourselves to remember the darkness of this day, the sadness of this moment that, if we are truly honest, not one of us completely understands, we create space for God to do a deeper work that our minds can understand.

Children are young.  Cognitively they don‘t understand.  But their hearts are attuned to God’s love.  Their understanding of spiritual things goes deeper than we adults sometimes give them credit for.

Throughout Scripture, we are told that infants praise him, the faith of children is pure, little ones know him, and we should be like them.  In children, the kingdom of God is made manifest so, trust me, they may not understand the theology, but they understand the heart of God and the love that was given.sunset-476465_1280

Ever been outside when a storm rolls away and the sun breaks through? 

Does it ever shine brighter in that moment?

On Good Friday, we experience sadness.  But only for a moment.  Because on Sunday we will experience unspeakable joy.  No matter the depth of sorrow we feel on Friday, our rejoicing on Sunday will far exceed those limits.

If we want our children to truly know the JOY that is Easter, we must let them also experience the sorrow that is Good Friday.

It’s okay for them to feel.  Feel with them.  It’s okay for them to cry.  Cry with them.

BUT, cry with hope.  Feel with expectation.  And Sunday morning, before eggs and bunnies and chocolate and flowers, before dinners and tulips and fancy dresses and suits and ties, before all of that… let them experience the OVERWHELMING, LIFE-CHANGING, HEART-POUNDING Joy of crying out, “He. Is. RISEN!!” 

Rejoice!  Cry out!  Dance a little.  Celebrate with your kids in a way you never have before.  Let joy swell in your hearts and come out as shouts of praise. Let them experience all the wonder and mystery wrapped up in God’s love for us on these three days.  Don’t let it just pass by unnoticed.  Don’t let your fear of their sadness keep them from experiencing the immensity of Easter Joy!!

Make this Easter a day they will never forget and they will long to experience for years to come.

May the words Ps. 30:5 come alive this year: “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning!”

For He IS Risen, just as He said!  He is Risen.. Indeed!!


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 BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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

Using Fear Tactics? There’s a better way

In Kentucky, we are 2.5 weeks into a “Healthy at Home” response to the current COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted the entire globe. In the days and weeks leading up to these stronger restrictions, I began to read social media posts from my fellow Christians calling for the media to stop “fear mongering” or using fear tactics to hype the virus and, in their estimation, cause panic.

But lately a surprising and frankly discouraging trend seems to have replaced this call for the media to stop using fear as a motivator. Over the past two weeks I have seen posts that say things like this:  “You know what’s even scarier than coronavirus? Depart from me, I never knew you – Jesus” or “Corona virus is God’s way of calling America to repentance”

Friends, that is fear-mongering.

Using the abundant LOVE God showed us through His Son in order to bring us eternal life as a tool of fear to scare people into repentance? That is not right. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) not his wrath.

little-boy-1635065_1920And while it is true that our kids are not likely reading these posts, we have to be careful in how we approach children at this time. They are already scared. Things don’t make sense.  I am going to make the broad assumption that people aren’t saying these things to children but it concerns me that they are getting said at all.

Is there another way?

Absolutely there is. We serve a God who is Love incarnate. We have the opportunity to life up life and hope and peace because we serve the God of life, hope and peace. Believe it or not, that can be done without using fear to motivate people. The salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ doesn’t need the threat of eternal damnation behind it to be effective.

Here are some ways we can lead from FAITH and not FEAR:

Acknowledge the world honestly, MAGNIFY the Lord intentionally – Yes, there are bad things that happen in the world. Hiding the truth from people, especially kids, will only make them more inquisitive. Talk to them when they ask about things that are scary BUT don’t focus on the scary thing; intentionally shift your focus to how GREAT God is

This virus is scary. My kids and my friends’ kids are asking questions every day so I assume most kids are. And we can answer them honestly without magnifying fear. What we can do is reassure them that we are with them, God is always with them, and that they are not alone.

Walk by FAITH and not by SIGHT – Kids watch what we model. If we make decisions or post memes out of fear, that will be the model that they learn from. If we model decision-making and social media sharing from a place of faith and seeking God, that’s what they will learn to do as well.

Be the HANDS and FEET of Christ – We are confronted with the reality of a fallen world on a daily basis. People who are lost, in need, alone. When we become Christ to those people by serving them and sharing hope and life with them, we show our kids that faith conquers fear every time and we model participation on the life of Christ as the way to approach a Christian life.

One our our church members recently started a Zoom Call called “Fort Fellowship” where she gathers kids and families together in a blanket fort they’ve built and share a short Bible Study. Each time we gather, she issues a challenge for us to bless others even while we are apart. To write a letter, call someone who is alone, make a card, share a video, and in that way be the hands and feet of Christ even as we are physically separate.

PRAY without ceasing – The reality is we cannot protect our kids forever from the results of living in a broken world. We can minister and parent from faith, we can give them tools for the task, and we can hold their hand for a while, but eventually we have to let go. But, we never have to stop praying, in the morning, at lunch, before bed, while we walk along the road, while we sit in our house. We can always, always pray. Pray together, pray apart, and pray often.

One day, this crazy season of life will be over (and there will be a new one with new challenges and opportunities). Let’s give our kids and families the best possible foundation on which to move forward.

“Now these three remain, faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13


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 BlogIMG-0573

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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