The Missing Piece in Family Ministry

I recently saw an advertisement in a children’s ministry group that stated something to the effect of “The missing element to your family ministry experience: Click here to discover the key to successful family worship” (not exact wording, just something similar to that). Naturally, I clicked. I mean, what minister wouldn’t want to discover the missing element to successfully engaging families in worship?

What I found was a well-appointed and quite interesting curriculum approach with engaging family worship experiences. I liked them; I thought they would certainly be successful in what they were created to do.

But, there was still a significant missing piece.

While this curriculum emphasized the importance of engaging families in worship together and equipping parents for the work of discipleship in their home, there was a huge missing component – an intergenerational, interconnected faith community engaged in meaningful relationships beyond the walls and programs of the church and in discipleship together.

There is one verse that we often use to demonstrate the mandate in Scripture for parents/caregivers to disciple their kids at home is Deuteronomy 6:7 – Impress these commandments on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  I love this verse because it shows the most everyday, most ordinary moments and tells us in those very ordinary times to talk about our extraordinary God.

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

This command wasn’t given exclusively to parents.

It was given corporately to the community of faith.

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

So what does this mean?

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

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

So, yes, if you are a parent and you are a believer, of course, it is your job to disciple your kids, especially since you have the most time with them and the most influence on them!

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

When viewed in this light, some of our common excuses fail.

We can’t say, “I gave my time serving with in Sunday School and youth group when my kids were young. It’s their turn now.”

We can’t say, “Well, they aren’t my kids. It’s not up to me to talk to them about God.”

We can’t say, “It’s not my responsibility.”

I mean, we can say those things, but if we do, we are willfully choosing to ignore the commands that God gave, not to parents alone, but to all of us to pour into, engage with, impress upon, and walk with the youngest generations.

It is time for us to release some of the burden we’ve put on the backs of parents by repeatedly telling them, “This is your job” by changing just one letter and a whole way of understanding and instead saying, “This is OUR job.”

No parent should ever feel alone in this calling. Not in the dynamic the God has given us.

They should feel the support, nurture and equipping of an entire faith community surrounding them and ministering to them and their children.

The children in our churches should be known (by name) not just by their parents and a few close friends, but the congregation, the community of faith, who are committed to helping them grow in their faith both inside the church walls and in ordinary, everyday life.

The covenant of the congregation, spoken often at baptism or confirmation, in which the congregation pledges to walking with the child and helping them grow in their faith needs to become more than just “what we say” and turn into “what we do.”

The ministries to children and youth in any church should not be lacking in volunteers or servants on mission because the entire church is called and has verbally confirmed their commitment to disciple these young people in the faith.

To place the responsibility squarely on parents without recognizing the responsibility of the church to walk hand-in-hand with them skews the command of God to “impress these commandments on your children.”

Church, it is time we step up and relinquish our excuses. It is time we read the Scripture as it was given; to the whole assembly in community as a unit. It is time we seek to not only support and equip parents but to join them, hand-in-hand, and be part of the work of discipleship.


One Way To Support & Equip Parents/Caregivers…

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.

What Does “Different” Look Like?

Last week, ReFocus shared a post about the missing church asking, “Where did the church go?” The conclusion was simple: If we keep doing what we have been doing for the past two decades, we will continue to experience the same results – a decline in church attendance and more and more people walking away from the Christian faith.

This post was widely shared, read, and affirmed but also raised the question: If doing more of the same is the issue, what does different look like?

As pointed out in the original post, “Believe it or not, our perfectly planned services and emotionally-poignant worship experiences and our super fun youth groups and our dedicated staff and high-tech curriculum are not what keep people connected to the faith. It’s relationship. Period. It’s the creation of a community that is integrated and intentional about being part of one another’s lives, regardless of time and space, and committed to being there for one another through all of life’s ups and downs.

But how can we do that? Often our current systems, programming, and curriculum rarely if ever allow for relationships to be cultivated across generations and beyond the scope of the Sunday morning/Wednesday night experience. We see shadows of what could be but we miss the full technicolor reality. However, if we are willing, there are some simple places where we can start.

Here are FOUR areas to begin the work of intentional intergenerational community.

PRAYER

In my opinion, there is no better place for a church to begin to connect to one another than through intercessory prayer for each other. The inspiration for our prayer program at church comes from Tony Souder‘s book Pray for Me which connects children and young people in the church with prayer champions of three older generations.

The commitment is simply to pray for one another throughout the school year. But our church found that if you are praying for someone, you start caring for that someone, and as a result, relationships begin to grow. For more information on my personal experience with this, check out this post from 2015.

SERVICE

One of the characteristics of children and youth are the ways they describe what it means to be a Christian. Most adults list Christian beliefs like believing in Jesus’s death and resurrection and believing in eternity. But kids and youth often will use actions to demonstrate faith; things like, going to church or loving others. One amazing way that a faith community can create a space for generations to be together is by providing opportunities for serving together.

When we serve together something happens: We are more likely to bond with the people we are interacting with and the part of our brain that forms memories is triggered and we hold on to that bond for years to come. (Source). Weeding a community garden, providing food for people in need, cleaning the church building or a neighborhood park….the possibilities are endless and usually not restricted by age. This is a great way to engage members of a community in relationship with one another.

PRESENCE

There are many reasons given by those in children, youth and family ministry for why church attendance is down. One big one is this: Sports are to blame.” Well, let’s be honest, team sports, especially travel ball, are one reason. Practices and games no longer get put on hold for Sundays and Wednesday nights so if a child joins a team, they will likely be asked to be with the team on those days at some point. So what if we flipped the script? What if the church showed up at the sporting events, the ballet recitals, the theater performances and the preschool pageants?

Consider creating a space in your church where the schedules and announcements for these events can be posted (physically or virtually) so that the church community can show up.

PARTICIPATION

Over the past few years, as I’ve researched and written for this blog and for classes, one theme kept coming up over and over again in regards to why young adults left the church behind – they didn’t feel like they belonged.  They felt like they belonged in children’s ministry when they were little. They felt like they belonged when they were in youth ministry as teenagers. But once they were in “big church” they felt out of place, disoriented, like strangers in a familiar place but one where they didn’t belong. One way we can begin to build intentional community is by finding ways to create spaces for participation in the activities of the church. Some simple ideas:

There is NO cookie-cutter method or “right way” to do this.

If a church is asking the questions, “How do we do community better? How do we bring generations together? How do we reach out to the kids, the youth, the elderly, the lonely, the isolated? How do we do church differently?” then that church has taken the first step. That’s where it has to start. A recognition that there is more and a desire to explore how to discover that more. Prayer, Service, Presence and Participation are just starting points….but they hold the promise of a better future, one where the church is truly together.


Let’s Get Started Together!

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.

Where Did You Go? The Disappearing Church

A friend of mine recently tagged me in a Twitter thread. In the post, the author made the statement that, in America, we are really good at “acute compassion” but we are terrible at “chronic empathy.” As an example, the author noted how Americans are quick to run to each other’s aid in times of emergency. We give blood, we show up in boats and trucks and haul people out of floods and fires, we donate to people in emergency situations, we show up whenever there is a crisis and we rally together as a country. But, we aren’t that great about creating infrastructure that offers ongoing care to those in poverty, care for the elderly and aging, and safety for the larger citizenry.

In the author’s words, “It is the long term work that makes disasters less damaging but we don’t want to give to the needy; we want to save the endangered. We don’t like being care workers, we want to be heroes.”

I think the author is right. I think, in our culture, it is easy to jump on board to a short-term care situation that requires minimal, short-lived sacrifice and feel good about it. But I think it’s far harder to commit to a long-term experience of hard work and dedication that requires the building of relationships, the commitment of time and energy, and the lack of immediate payoff. The latter requires something more than a momentary emotional pull to “do something.” It is much deeper and much more sacrificial; it requires us to lay down our comfort and willingly put ourselves in a position of service and humility.

And that’s exactly what I believe the Church is called to do.

You see, when I read this Twitter thread, here was my response: “Yes, and this applies to generational discipleship in the church too. We are great at altar calls and perfectly crafted worship services; terrible at lifelong discipleship and intentional community.”

The Church in America experienced a disruption over the past year that it was not prepared to handle. In fact, statistics show that 1 in 3 churchgoers have stopped attending church (in-person or online) since the start of the pandemic (Source). This is coming on the back of a rapid decline in church attendance over the last decade (Source).

Why? Because what we have been doing for the past two decades is not what keeps people in church. Believe it or not, our perfectly planned services and emotionally-poignant worship experiences and our super fun youth groups and our dedicated staff and high-tech curriculum are not what keep people connected to the faith.

It’s relationship. Period.

It’s the creation of a community that is integrated and intentional about being part of one another’s lives, regardless of time and space, and committed to being there for one another through all of life’s ups and downs.

Way back in 2013, the Barna Group shared this:The first factor that will engage Millennials at church is as simple as it is integral: relationships. When comparing twentysomethings who remained active in their faith beyond high school and twentysomethings who dropped out of church, the Barna study uncovered a significant difference between the two. Those who stay were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59% of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31% among those who are no longer active). The same pattern is evident among more intentional relationships such as mentoring—28% of Millennials who stay had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor, compared to 11% of dropouts who say the same” (Source)

What about Gen Z, the generation of young people in our churches right now? “Parents are the most important people and the greatest influence for children. According to this study, Gen Z admire their parents, but at the same time they don’t feel family relationships are central to their sense of self. They love their parents, but still long for good role models” (Source).

In the Church, we are good at acute compassion; we will show up for each other when there is an emergency or a crisis. We are good at weekly experiences and crafting worship services, Sunday schools, youth groups, mission trips, and Vacation Bible Schools that offer temporary fixes to our emotional and spiritual needs.

We are less good at things like creating space for intergenerational relationships to flourish, where older and younger people can create lasting relationships based around conversation, prayer, mentorship, guidance, and lifelong community

We are decidedly not good at addressing the structures in our churches that lead us away from each other such as age-segregated worship experiences and lack of communal opportunities to serve together consistently and building relationships outside of the church building and the hours set aside for “church.”

And then we wonder why each generation has fewer and fewer individuals who regularly attend church or identify as a Christian.

2020 has been a good barometer for this.

For individuals who had intentionally developed relationships with people in their church, who had demonstrated the willingness to put in the work of community, to remaining connected despite being about to gather in-person, to commit to Zoom worship and in-home family Bibles studies, to text one another and check in on each other, to continue building community despite the unusual circumstances…for those people, 2020 while difficult, was not a death knell to their faith or their commitment to church.

But for those who were loosely connected or even disconnected, who showed up for the experience or attended out of obligation, who didn’t have committed discipleship relationships with anyone at church or in their faith community outside of paid staff or volunteers…. it was much easier to walk away.

I believe we are faced with a challenge as we begin worshipping together again. We can either 1. Try to recover what once was and return to a sense of “normalcy” with lower numbers and zero change or 2. We can acknowledge we are good at acute compassion but terrible at chronic empathy and begin to change the way we do church by prioritizing relationships over programs and worship over services.

I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, if we don’t want to lose an entire generation (Gen Z or the upcoming Alpha Generation), we are going to have to commit ourselves to the long-term work of intergenerational discipleship, mentorship and relationship and it is going to take more than showing up on Sunday morning and occasionally volunteering in children’s ministry or giving towards the youth group mission trip.

We’re going to have to show up in the spaces and places where the younger generations are – the uncomfortable spaces like social media and the unspiritual spaces like ball games and the deeply spiritual spaces like committed prayer partnerships – and build intentional community as though our spiritual lives depended on it.

Because, at this point, I think they do.

Church as usual is not enough. It is time for a change. And it doesn’t start in a building. It starts in a community who says, “I refuse to just show up when there is an emergency or a need. I’m showing up when life is looking pretty good and I’m digging deep into relationship with intention and purpose. I’m going to relentlessly pursue relationships even if it is hard and rejection happens and I feel alone.”

That’s what Church really looks like. The easy road of “Sunday morning worship” is no longer an option. We must build something more. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” – Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:35.


Ready to Start? Not Sure How?

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.

Christmas for the Whole Church: Socially Distanced and Virtual Options

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

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

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

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

A Christmas Celebration for The Whole Church

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

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

SOCIALLY DISTANCED

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

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

VIRTUAL

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

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

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

The Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture Reading 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: Picture taken during non-Covid experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOCIALLY DISTANCED

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

VIRTUAL

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

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


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

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

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

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

Interested in learning more?

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


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

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.

Kids These Days

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Plato in The Republic

That’s right. This statement did not occur yesterday, last week, or even in the last century. No, this characterization of the “youth” comes to us from the 4th century from Plato himself. It was basically his version of, “Kids these days” while despondently shaking his head at their absolute lack of understanding and decorum. You can almost hear the sigh.

He certainly wasn’t alone in his commentary. Good old Aristotle chirps ups stating, ““[Young people] are high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances. They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.”

I mean, I’m pretty sure I heard someone say that last sentence yesterday…oh wait, that was me.

But at least Aristotle was evenhanded, dishing it out to the oldest generation, stating, “[Elderly men] have lived many years; they have often been taken in, and often made mistakes; and life on the whole is a bad business….They are cynical; that is, they tend to put the worse construction on everything. Further, their experience makes them distrustful and therefore suspicious of evil. Consequently they neither love warmly nor hate bitterly….They are small-minded, because they have been humbled by life.”

It’s basically an Aristotelian “Okay, Boomer.”

So there you have it. This familiar story where the older look upon the younger and sighs and the younger looks to the older and groans. It’s not new. In fact, it’s kinda how we are built.

Why?

Well according to research (yes, they’ve done studies on this), it’s because we genuinely forget what it is like to be a young person. As we grow and develop, we begin to change how we see ourselves and the world around us. “People use their present self as a proxy for their past self as well as projecting onto past others.” (Source)

In other words, as adults, we can use our frontal lobe to make distinctions about life we couldn’t do as a youth and we tend to project that onto youth and expect them to see the world like we do…but they don’t. And vice versa, youth cannot understand why in the world old people can’t see what is in front of their face because it is so obvious to them .

Why does this matter?

Well, it helps us to understand why it is often so difficult for older and younger people to engage in meaningful conversations that lead to ongoing relationships. It’s hard. We are naturally biased against each other. We have to willingly fight our own bias in order to make space for the other.

But, why does it matter to us?

The primary way our faith is carried into the future is by passing it from “one generation to another” (Ps. 145:4). In the church, we call it generational discipleship. And, in order for this to happen, it is absolutely necessary that these old people and these young people are able to find spaces where they can talk, listen, and engage with one another in meaningful ways that lead to ongoing relationship.

But, boy, can that be difficult. In addition to a natural bias away from one another, our current society has many structures in place that actually perpetuate the distance. Things like…

  • architecture, building that have spaces specifically set aside for certain ages.
  • spaces, designed intentionally to be mostly accessible to one age group.
  • communication and technology, where information is obtained in different ways often leading to different perspectives.
  • relationship opportunities which tend to be fostered among similarly-aged individuals.

And yes, every one of these constructs can be found in most of our churches. Buildings with wings, spaces that aren’t kid-friendly, information offered in specific ways that may unintentionally exclude a generation, and community groups, Sunday schools, and church-related activities aimed at a certain age group or life situation.

It’s a quadruple-whammy plus an already innate bias against one another.

So, what do we do about it?

The first thing is to recognize, age segregation is an actual issue. That not only does it exist in our society, it also exists in our churches.

Next, it behooves us to consider if our church structures are such that it exacerbates the division or offers ways for generations to come together for the purpose of relationship, discipleship, and mentorship.

Finally, it makes sense that if we find that we are lacking in those opportunities, to begin looking at our faith community and start making in-roads and bridges between the generations so that generational discipleship can happen.

I mean, it’s likely that there will still be some head-shaking and eye-rolling BUT hopefully there will also be more hands held in prayer, hearts knitted in love and lives joined in relationship. Because, that is how our faith gets passed on and written in our hearts.


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.

Greatest Challenge in Kidmin? Hint: It’s Not Parents

“A great deal of America’s social sickness comes from age segregation. If ten fourteen-year-olds are grouped together, they will form a Lord of the Flies culture with its competitiveness and meanness. But if ten people ages 2 to 80 are grouped together, they will fall into a natural age hierarchy that nurtures and teaches them all. For our own mental and societal health, we need to reconnect the age groups

Mary Pipher, Sociologist, 1999

Recently, I participated in a conversation with fellow kidmin ministers who were asked what the greatest challenge facing their ministry was. There was one answer that showed up over and over and over again: Parents. There was a general consensus that the greatest challenge facing children’s ministry were parents who were apathetic about spiritual formation, didn’t prioritize church, and didn’t take seriously their spiritual influence in their home and on their kids.

I did not, and do not, agree.

In fact, I don’t see parents as challenging at all. I see them as tired. I see them overwhelmed and under-supported. I see them as lonely and ill-equipped. And I see them as doing their very best to raise their kids in exactly the same way they were raised and their friends were raised.

There’s been an approach to spiritual formation in our churches where the work of discipleship is owned both by professionals (of which I am one) and mandated to parents (of which I am one). But this approach has been found lacking. There is one glaring oversight – relationships in community; a rich web of intergenerational connections committed to loving, supporting, and nurturing one another in daily life and spiritual growth. As a result, everyone is tired because everyone is trying to carry his/her own load with little to no support.

So how do we address this lack?

In regard to parents specifically, some clarifications are needed.  

1. It is not the parent’s “job” to disciple their kids. Parents/caregivers, in the context of the community of faith, have the most influence and therefore, are significant members of the discipleship team. But the entire faith community has a part to play in discipling the next generation and placing that task solely on the parents is a misstep.

2. Parents are often told they “should” disciple their kids. This poor word choice often makes it seem like parents have a choice in discipling their children. But the truth is, parents are the single most influential force in their children’s faith formation so whether intentional or not, they ARE discipling their kids. The goal, then, is to help them to approach this intentionally and equip them for that work. It’s not a “should”  – parents DO disciple their kids; it’s up to the community of faith to help them do so well. 

How does all of this relate to the quote at the beginning?

As noted by Pipher, one of the major disadvantages of age segregation is the creation of age homogenous environments where nearly everyone in one’s social circle are the same age. In other words, rather than having that rich web of relationships from people at different stages of life and health to support each other, we’re all grasping at people who are just like us. And believe it or not, that actually increases our feelings of isolation and helplessness.

Studies show that age homogeneity in social networks leads to isolation and loneliness. Younger people experience delayed socialization. Older people experience a lack of generativity needed for positive cognitive health (Source). And sometimes, the way those things manifest, are in things like apathy, busyness, and disconnection….sound familiar?

Lifelong discipleship necessitates interactions with multiple generations.

Scottie May of Wheaton College points out that “Within many churches today, children and parents rarely share experiences. This generational separation makes it difficult for parents to learn how to nurture their children spiritually” (Source). Combine that with a lack of intergenerational relationships in the church and what we are left with are lonely, exhausted parents, disillusioned ministers, and a congregation just waiting to be connected together, on mission, in relationship, with each other and with God.

The importance of intergenerational connectivity in meaningful relationships cannot be underestimated especially when it comes to relationships within a faith community. 

These relationships sustain us. They combat apathy with genuine care. They reduce the need to hide in busyness by creating safe spaces to learn and grow. They nullify the disconnection by normalizing shared experiences and life on mission.

I truly believe this is the biggest challenge facing, not only children’s ministry, but the Church in general. But this is not a “forever and always” situation. We can begin to create connections within our churches and our homes that will lead to more engage parents, kids, and congregation.

This will require us to move beyond our programs and our buildings and begin to forge space for meaningful relationships and nurturing community. But the payoffs in terms of community and discipleship are so worth it.


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 1 has already happened but a recording as well as Session 1 materials can be sent to anyone who registers this week!

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.

What’s Really Keeping Us Apart?

My youngest (9) has a mind for computers. He just “gets” them. He might just be the only kid I knew genuinely excited for online learning. Virtual field trips are his jam! And lately, he’s been spending a lot of time working on coding or writing his own program. When he sits down to explain to me what he has done, I’m often quite lost but nod along because I’m a good mom. But here’s what I do know: he has figured out the relationship between cause and effect.

In other words, he knows that things don’t just accidently happen when he codes. If something is happening that the doesn’t want to happen, he has to trace it back to the cause. Perhaps he wrote some code wrong. Maybe he left out something important. But whatever the issue, he recognizes that the effect he is experiencing has had a cause.

This cause-and-effect scenario carries over into the ministry world as well. When we look at things like the Generation Gap or age segregation in our churches or the loss of generational discipleship or lack of generativity between generations, we can assume correctly that these effects have a cause, something that caused and/or perpetuated the situation.

Not a whole lot of research has been done regarding age segregation in the church (reporting on it, analyzing it…yes, but actual research, not as much). Yet it is not hard for us to see that in many churches, generations are not given space to connect with each other in meaningful ways like worship, mentorship, and discipleship relationships. Often, generations tend to “clump” together in services, classes, activities and programs that are aimed specifically to their needs and desires. And while not a lot of research has been done in churches regarding the underlying structures that perpetuate age segregation, quite a bit has been done in the larger society.

You see, lack of generational connectivity isn’t unique to the church. In fact, the term “generation gap” was created to describe the widening gap of perceived differences between generations not in church but in society especially in regard to politics, social engagement, and cultural preferences.

But these effects have causes; it didn’t just happen. Which begs the question, “What structures are in place that helped cause or maintain these generational separations?

Well, I’m so glad you asked! Over the next few weeks, we are going to dive deep into some of the structures that are in place in society that have been researched and documented that help to perpetuate age segregation in our society. Not only will be look at each one individually, we will consider how these might apply to our own faith communities. After examining these structures, we will take some time to double down on the theological and biblical foundations that help us to examine our own practices in the light of these structures.

To get us started, here’s a brief overview of the structures that we will be examining together:

  1. Spatial Constructs – The way we use space, the elements we place in a space, and the design of a space are all contributing factors to what generations we will find in that space.
  2. Architecture – This is a big one! Believe it or not, architecture has had a huge impact on age segregation in Western cultures and that has been reflected in our own church buildings.
  3. Technology and Communication – Perhaps one of the most concerning structure that inhibits generational overlap is that of how we receive and transmit information. Technology platforms and communication venues have a huge impact on how generations interact with one another.
  4. Relational Constructs – Circles of relationship opportunities have narrowed so much in recent decades that a person is more likely to have close friendships with multiple ethnicities than with someone ten years older or ten years younger than oneself. While we can cheer the breaking down of racial and ethnic barriers, we need to consider how age and generational barriers are impacting our growth as human beings.

I have hesitated in starting this project for a number of reasons. First, blog series never do well in terms of readership. People prefer to read simple blog posts on singular hot topics than to dive deep into a more serious conversation on cause-and-effect. Which leads me to the second reason, these topics can’t be loosely dealt with or quickly brushed over. They took decades to come into being, years to research, and hours of study to understand; I hope to do them even the slightest justice in this online space. And finally, because these topics are just harder to write about. It takes time to research and present well and by placing these ideas in a public setting, it opens me up to criticism and critique.

However, so much of the information I’ve been seeing lately in my social media feeds and hearing in conversation with others is lacking this depth and research. It seems sensationalism and emotionalism are more eye-catching and easy to read than well-researched and thought-out explorations of real issues.

We need something more, especially in light of faith formation and the next generation. The Church needs to get serious about the things that are inhibiting us from sharing the love and light of Christ through the tools given to us by God; discipleship, mentorship and relationship.

So, even though this blog series won’t earn me likes and followers, I feel it is important to the work of the kingdom, so I must share as I feel called.

I hope that you will join me! Get ready to begin the work of critically examining our own hearts and actions as we discover those structures that work so hard to keep us apart from each other generationally. And then the fun really begins because, just like my son, we get to go back and re-work our code until the cause brings about the desired effect – going into all the world (even our own sanctuary) and making disciples of all mankind.


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
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.