On Belonging at Church: “These are My People”

“To some extent the presence of children in the worship of the first Christians was a matter of necessity. But Paul’s acceptance of children of the church as ‘belonging to God’ or ‘holy’ suggest they were not only there because they had to be. They were there because they belonged there.” 

W. . Strange, Children in the Early Church

Once when I picked my daughter up from an after-school choir practice, she came skipping out, quite happy, and when she got in the car she said, “Mom, these are my people.  This is where I belong.”  This was in contrast to the previous day when I had picked her up from a different club and her attitude was one more of resignation than exuberance and her words were, “I just don’t fit in there.”

We all have a sense of when we “fit” somewhere and when we don’t.  For instance, I left my one and only Zumba class saying, “Yup, nope… I don’t belong there.” But there are other places where within mere moments of being there, I just know, this is right, this is where I belong.  It’s not awkward.  I don’t feel unwelcome. It’s not strange or unnatural.

It’s just where I belong.

I’m sure you have figured out where this whole thing is going.  I mean, if the observation made by Dr. Strange in the quote above is accurate, children in the early church weren’t just there out of consequence but because there was a recognition of belonging They weren’t just there because the church met in their home, but because they were a needed and necessary part of the body.  

Dr. Strange goes on to point out that in the letters of Paul, he speaks directly to children (Eph. 6:1-4, Col. 3:20).  This is, as he says, remarkable meaning something we should remark on.  Why?

Because these letters were being read aloud in the corporate assembly of the church.

The church in a region would gather together and hear these words being read aloud to them and learning together the words of God.  And guess who Paul assumed would be there?  The children.  And guess who he felt was worthy of being taught specifically in the midst of the larger corporate gathering? Children.

Throughout all of the epistles we see children mentioned, often in regards to their instruction and upbringing at home under the loving discipleship and discipline of their parents.  

But what we don’t see is their omission.

They were (and are) an integral part of the church.  And while a thorough review of church history will reveal a strong emphasis on the raising of children in the home and the passing on of faith from the parents, there is never a dismissal of children from the larger church body and wider community.

If you don’t “fit” somewhere, chances are you won’t go back or stay when you can leave.  

If you don’t feel like you belong, it just makes sense that you will look for a place where you do.  

And if you don’t feel like a part of something, it’s easy to disengage and withdraw even if you are physically present.  

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

I think perhaps that’s because fundamentally, there’s a cultural expectation that kids won’t be there because for many years they haven’t.

Whenever you try on something new, it’s uncomfortable at first, for everyone.  But I truly think if our approach changes, over time programming and atmosphere won’t matter nearly as much as simply conveying the expectation that, of course, children will be there.  Like Paul’s approach, the assumption will be that they are there, they are listening, and they belong.

And the kids will know it.

And that’s not to say, there shouldn’t be times of age-appropriate ministry, because I think there should be.  And that’s not to say that a primary focus of discipleship shouldn’t be the home, because Scripture is clear that it should be.  But, it shouldn’t be a surprise to us or an unexpected distraction when children do join us for corporate worship.  In fact, it should be welcome and expected.  They should just…belong.

Just like my sweet girl intuitively knew that those choir friends were “her people” our church children will know that we are theirs. In their heart, they will know that they are “supposed” to be there; that they belong. And eventually, it won’t be a surprise or distraction to us adults when they are. Because we too will know that they belong there.

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!

For More Information about how you and your church can participate in this webinar experience, fill out the Contact Form Below with “ReConnect” as your subject.


For more information about

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

About this Blog

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

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

Want Community? We Gotta Work For It

Last year, I had the opportunity to write an article for a theological journal. The writing of this article took place during the seventh week of social distancing in my state. It had been nearly two months since churches had gathered in person; two months since halls had been walked, sanctuaries had been filled, and Sunday school rooms had been bustling. Over those two months, many of us heard or even uttered the words, “I miss my church.” And by “I miss my church,” what we really meant was that we miss the people that belong to our community of faith; very few of us missed a building – we missed each other.

Community Hands - UNCLE Credit Union

Not a lot has changed as of September 2021. I am hearing much the same sentiment across the globe. In some places, it’s because we are still not able to gather in our buildings. In some cases, it’s because when our buildings re-opened not everyone came back, for one reason or another. In any case, we are feeling the reality of missing our community.

It has become apparent over this season that relationships and gathered community are essential to our spiritual walk and faith formation.  In her book Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us, Dr. Christine Pohl reminds us that, “Human beings were made for living in community and it is in community that we flourish and become most fully human.” Similarly, Christians were made for living in the community of the church and it is in that gathered community that we flourish and become most fully Christian for Christ is in the midst of those gathered in His name (Matthew 18:20).

Community is something that we must continually work towards because barriers to community are swift to arise.

These barriers can be detrimental to the creation and maintenance of the type of community that sustains us both physically and spiritually. One such barrier that has grown in both society and the church is that of the “generational gap”. The generational gap is defined as “the perceived difference of opinions between one generation and another regarding beliefs, politics, or values.” This perceived difference has had a deep impact on how our society functions and the structures that have been put in place along generational lines.

Research has found that age is becoming more and more of a dividing line in our culture. Everything from architecture to technology can be delineated along age-specific lines. But this division in our community has not been good for us and is particularly worrisome for churches because our faith is primarily dependent on generational discipleship; the passing of the faith from one generation to another. If intergenerational interactions and community are limited because of the structures described above, how can “One generation commend (God’s) works to another” (Ps 145:4)?

This question has become one of increasing significance over the past decade, especially as the representation of rising generations has decreased within the American church. In order for a church to address the need for generational connectivity within their faith community, the following questions must be answered: What does each generation need from the church and what can each generation contribute to the church?

There are no easy answers to these questions, but there are some hints we can find in the work of developmental theorists who study how we best relate to one another as we grow and mature. The chart below gives some ideas on how generations can be best plugged into their faith community in ways that both bless them and bless others.

Note: The Alpha Generation (the youngest among us) has not had as much research done as compared to these other generations so they are not included in this chart; however, we do know from Scripture (the highest authority) that children bring us a unique view into the kingdom of God (Mark 10:15) and they need our guidance and invitation into Christ’s presence (Is. 54:13, Matt. 19:14).

How can your church capture these gifts and abilities? Where can space be made that says, “Generation Z, we need you here!” or “Hey Boomer, we value your experience; can you guide us here?” Where can opportunities be offered for Millennials to fill a role the enhances their sense of belonging and the Silent Generation to have a voice? What ways are we giving for Gen X-ers to integrate spiritual practices into the home and Gen Z-ers to put their faith into action by serving their community?

If nothing else, this reflection gives us a place to start in breaking down the barriers that keep us apart and helping us to discover a deeper sense of connectedness, together, all generations, in community. And if you are looking for ways to move forward with this type of intentional gathering together, we’d love to be a part of your journey. Check out the info below for opportunities to explore this together.


Is Your Church READY to Gather Together?

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

Flipping the Script on How We Do Church

If you have been around ReFocus Ministry and this blog for long, you know that one of our greatest passions is to see the body of Christ connected in community across ages and life experiences. Our stated mission is to “connect generations at church and at home.” This vision includes all ages and generations, married and single people, old and young, in meaningful relationships together.

In order for this to happen, the focus on programs and activities that are age or life experience specific often needs to shift towards offering opportunities that involve all members of the body such as service projects and Service Sundays, book studies that are not topical to certain ages or life experiences, exploring a book of the Bible together, and love feasts/family meals.

In other words, simply desiring an engaged and intentional community isn’t enough; there needs to be a tangible movement toward creating spaces of connection. And that seems difficult for a lot of congregations to embrace even if they agree that a connected, intergenerational community is what they desire.

So, why is that? Well, part of the answer is because of the current cultural experience we expect when we go to church. Most churches are designed to highlight and offer age-specific ministries and opportunties aimed at people in certain life experiences. Examples include but are not limited to Sunday school classes (by age or life experience), Singles and/or Marriage ministry, Senior Bible Study, Empty Nesters or Young Moms, Traditional and Contemporary services, etc.

To be clear, there is tremendous value in age-specific or life-experience specific curriculum and opportunities, but in most churches these types of experiences dominate the church programming and intergenerational opportunities tend to be a side option.

What if it was reversed?

What if the majority of what we offered would be open to all ages and life experiences while age-specific options would be offered but for limited times and focuses?

What if we crafted most congregational experiences with a focus on building community and working, learning and growing together, and offered special times and events focused on particular life experiences or age-specific topics?

It is in relationships forged in community that such things as older married couples mentoring newlyweds and single people learning from married people and married people learning from single people can take place. It is in serving with one another that we realized our strengths, call out gifts, find places of commonality, and the chance to face and overcome challenges together. It is in studying Scripture together that we can look to the child as Christ tells us to and for the child to look to us as we impress of them the commandments of the Lord as God calls us to do.

As with most things, the either/or argument is not a good one; we need both/and.

We need space for both types of experiences. And for the most part, I find that people tend to agree with me on that statement. However, where we start to construct that both/and matters. If 90% of our programming remains age-segregated with only 10% of our programming accessible as an optional add-on for creating intergenerational community, we’ve not really created space for relationships to grow.

But if we flip that script, if we build the relationships first and then offer the age-sensitive and life-experience specific options needs for optimum growth and development, those relationships will actually help to bolster and facilitate those programs.

It’s a lot easier for new parents to find a babysitter for a church event when they know and have relationships with everyone in the church. I

t’s a lot simpler for an elderly person to find a ride to and from a senior church event when they have a wide group of relationships with youth and young people.

It’s a lot more straightforward to find volunteers to work a Vacation Bible School when the people being asked know the kids, have relationships with them, and personally desire to see them grow.

When the community IS a community, the ability to offer age-specific opportunities becomes less about programming and volunteers and staffing and curriculum and more about the body looking out for one another and desiring the best for each other.

Throughout the Bible the importance of gathering together is emphasized (Ps. 133: 1, Heb. 10:24-25, Mt. 18:20, Col. 3:16, I Cor. 14:26). The church has always come together to worship Christ, recognizing that each person plays a role. It is clear that God did not intend for believers to live a solitary life but to be part of something bigger; the Church. How can our churches find ways to ensure that no one in our faith communities is living a solitary life?

We need to flip the script, build relationships first, and serve one another as a result. This is not a pipe dream; I have seen churches embrace this and their whole culture changed; it takes time, it takes a willingness to embrace change, but the results are what we all desire – a community of faith growing, learning, and worshiping together.


It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

Intergenerational Ministry FAQ

The discussion about intergenerational ministry and generational discipleship within a church or congregational community generally sparks a number of questions. Over the past few years, a few have popped up more frequently than others. Below is a Intergenerational FAQ; hopefully this will be helpful for any of you that may have been asked or are asking the same questions.

What is Intergenerational Ministry?

Simply put, intergenerational worship is ministry that focuses on connecting multiple generations in faith-forming relationships cultivated through times of corporate worship, intentional discipleship, and ongoing mentorship.

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

As the term implies, intergenerational ministry is an intentional approach to ministry that both allows for and encourages interaction between multiple generations in such ways as corporate worship, relational mentorship and lifelong community. Intergenerational ministry is, at its heart, the church, built and fitted together, as the body of Christ.

What is Generational Discipleship?

Generational discipleship is the passing on of our faith from one generation to another.  In Scripture, it is the model we are given for how we instill within our children and grandchildren the faith that our parents and grandparents shared with us and we do so within the context of relationship, mentorship, and community. For a more in-depth discussion on this, check out this post or this article.

Isn’t Intergenerational Ministry basically Children’s/Family Ministry?

Some people express the concern that if children and youth are welcomed into conventionally adult spaces, they’d have to start doing “kids stuff” like singing songs with motions and eating goldfish during the super-short, kid-appropriate sermon.

Intergenerational worship is not old people pretending to be kids or young people trying to act old.

If that happened, it would be a total disservice to the whole point of intergenerational worship which has at its heart a desire to help kids and youth and adults and elderly be a part of the church as it is, whatever that looks like, and to experience all the parts of church that make it unique to their church tradition (such as liturgy, songs, Scripture reading, celebratory practices like baptism and communion, and all the other rhythms that make each worship service unique).

Is Generational Discipleship/Intergenerational Ministry just the newest fad?

Actually, it’s exactly the opposite.  The segregation of ages within the church is a fairly new practice in American church history. Most of the time it gets traced back to the start of ministries on college campuses on post WWII America where it became apparent that there was a need for age-specific ministry. Churches began to recognize the need to create space to address the developmental concerns of each age group. Through time that progressed into less of a “both/and” model and more of an “either/or” model. In other words, instead of times of both age-specific and intergenerational gatherings, it became one or the other with little to no opportunity or encouragement to do both.

For those who see intergenerational worship as the “newest” fad to come down the block, it is helpful to understand that for thousands of years, the church all worshiped together and only recently have we begun consistently separating the ages, which makes it very hard to learn from one another as Christ indicated that we should.

Isn’t best for people to learn, worship, congregate with people their own age or life experience?

There are lots of reasons to have spaces that meet our unique developmental needs. For instance, the ability to think abstractly is a characteristic of higher levels of development; until then, concrete thought is our primary means of processing. So we should have places where concrete access to learning is granted. However, if we are looking at basics of cognitive, social, and spiritual development, we find out that we primarily learn the most from one another when we are around a wide spectrum of ages and life experiences (Read more here!). Development not just about what children or adults can understand in terms of words and concepts; it’s about what they can learn socially, emotionally and in our case, spiritually.

Where can I find resources for Intergenerational community?

While it’s true that most curriculum, discipleship resources, and formation programming tend to center around age and/or life experience, there is a growing pool of resources for those interested in providing a more intentional, inclusive experience in their church. Below is a list of places to begin your search; many of these resources will connect you to even more resources. And feel free to check out our own list of resources here at ReFocus as well.

  • GenOn Ministries partners with churches to grow intergenerational community and faith in God through Jesus Christ
  • Faith Inkubators offers a wide range of intergenerational and family ministry resources, curriculum, and support.
  • Building Faith is a ministry of Virginia Theological Seminary to equip and inspire churches and individuals for the ministry of Christian education and faith formation.
  • Lifelong Faith resources and services are focused on helping pastors and faith formation leaders to create the future of lifelong faith formation in their churches by Imagining, Innovating, and Inspiring. Imagine: imagining a new vision of forming faithful disciples in today’s world; Innovate: Designing innovative faith formation for all ages, families, and generations; Inspire: Inspiring people to grow into a faith for a lifetime​​
  • Books: InterGenerate and Engage All Generations are books that answer the “Why?” and “How?” of intergenerational ministry.
  • Curriculum: D6 EveryDay Curriculum cultivates generational disciple makers to live out what they learn. As a family of curriculum products that provides resources to connect church and home, D6 EveryDay aligns family members of all ages.

It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

“Developmentally Appropriate” Church

In a recent conversation with some colleagues in ministry, someone used the terminology “hospitality between generations” and I was captured by that idea. Hospitality is this idea of not only welcoming someone into a space but intentionally going out of one’s way to ensure they are wanted there; that they belong.

Our church has been studying the book of Hebrews and at the end of this very long, very theological book, the author writes, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it”.

There’s something holy about hospitality. It’s more than nice tablecloths and special food for company. It’s a space of embrace and integration, of true community and belonging.

When thinking about hospitality between generations, one might imagine space being made in areas that are traditionally focused on one age group or life experience. And typically, whenever we talk about including all ages in these spaces, one of the concerns that gets raised is whether or not developmental needs of all ages are being met in that context.  Often this is specifically used to reference the inclusion of children in the larger worship context.

But sometimes this view is  based on a narrowly defined area of developmental research and theories and a wider look at developmental psychology can give us a broader view of what it means for something to be “developmentally appropriate.”

Like most research, developmental theories are just that – theories. Lots of research continues to be done in early childhood development. Most people only think about cognitive development as the ability to understand certain things like words in a sermon or abstract concepts like worship. However, if we are looking at basics of development, it’s helpful to think bigger than that.

Development not just about what children or adults can understand in terms of words and concepts; it’s about what they can learn socially, emotionally and in our case, spiritually.

Here are a few research-based reasons that support the inclusion of all ages, including younger children all the way through older adults, in times of corporate worship and intergenerational learning.

  1. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development– This developmental theory explains that young children need to be in close proximity to older people who have “mastered” the tasks that they are learning. For instance, a four-year old is going to learn how to stack blocks better when playing with a 6 year old who has mastered the trick.

When we are talking about church, these young children learn what church is, how to act, what is expected by being in close proximity to adults who are practicing especially their parents who hold the most influence on their children’s spiritual lives. Here’s a great article about the power of the Zone of Proximal Development.

Conversely, Jesus himself tells us that adults can learn the most about the kingdom of God by observing and imitating a child (Matthew 18:1-4). We genuinely need each other in order to grow physically and spiritually.

  1. Observational learning is another powerful developmental tool for young children. Watching others model what they should do is an important part of social development and one that has been lacking to in the larger church. This is often why when youth “graduate” from youth group, they don’t know how to interact socially with the larger church body and often end up leaving the church and saying they don’t feel like they belong.

Creating opportunities for observational learning can be tricky if a church is structured in a way characterized by all ages being separated from one another. The key is to create spaces where generational interaction can take place. For some practical tips and ideas for creating spaces where generations can connect together in worship and discipleship, check out this article.

  1. Fowler’s theory of Faith Development – Probably the best known developmental work in the area of faith comes from James Fowler and is based heavily on the work of Piaget, Erikson and Kohlberg (Check out the book The Church of All Ages by Howard Vanderwell, Chapter 3 for much more on this). 

In Fowler’s first stage (preschool aged children up to age 6) called the Intuitive-Projective faith stage, children basically reflect the spirituality of their parents.  Children will build their first ideas about their faith from the impressions of what they see and hear in church.  

The second stage (age 6-11) is called the Mythic-Literal stage where kids begin to learn the stories of the faith and articulate their own beliefs. That belief is largely mitigated by information they get from others and parents begin to share their influence with the rest of the church family. Framing sermons with a biblical story is a perfect way to invite this age into the sermon.

Other noted developmental ideas come from the work of Jean Piaget whose first two stages of development put a high premium on the importance of language combined with sensorimotor exploration.  This is why sensory bags or activity bags during services can be such a powerful tool for helping children engage during worship time.

Note: Activity bags get a bad rap, mostly because people don’t understand the developmental science behind them. It’s important to understand that these activities aren’t intended to distract the kids but rather to help the kids use all of their developing senses; studies show if their hands and eyes are busy, their ears will be listening.  Quiet activities like lacing cards, stickers scenes, foam craft kits, beads and pipe cleaners, small puzzles and coloring are all great ways to engage your kinesthetic and visual learners.

The truth is if we look at the broad spectrum of developmental theories including these and others not mentioned here like Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development or Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, we can find space in all of them for including all ages in contexts of intergenerational worship and ministry.  Because ultimately, as social creatures, humans learn best from one another regardless of age. That means developmental appropriateness is something we can incorporate into any setting where we connect with other, especially others at different stages of development than we are.

Does that mean we shouldn’t have age-sensitive spaces?

No, not at all. There are lots of other developmental reasons to have spaces that meet our unique developmental needs. For instance, the ability to think abstractly is a characteristic of higher levels of development; until then, concrete thought is our primary means of processing. So we should have places where concrete access to learning is granted.

The truth is that worship services where all generations interact and connect can be developmentally appropriate if we are willing to broaden our understanding and find ways to build on the developmental stages we all find ourselves in. We have to become hospitable 

That would also mean we would craft environments that aren’t targeted to a couple of generations but we would take the time to ensure each member in attendance would be able to participate in developmentally appropriate ways. We would need to welcome the stranger and find ways to embrace the community. And in that way, we can even more fully explore what it means to experience hospitality between generations.

An earlier version of this article was published here in July 2019


It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

How Can We Welcome Kids to “Big Church”?

Every now and then, I notice a trend in the questions, comments, and emails that we receive here at ReFocus and right now, this is the big one! Many churches are returning to worship with all ages included in the service for the entire time or for a portion of the time. And for many, that is new, which means this question is being asked: “How can we welcome children and youth into worship service times?”

When we talk about opening corporate worship times to all ages, we need to take into consideration the substance and structure of the service.  Frankly, a traditional church service format is often difficult for kids to engage with.  Kids are relational; services tend to be focused on the individual.  Kids like to talk; services tend to encourage silent reflection.  Kids like to move; services tend to lend towards sitting still..for a long time…

Before we launch into ways that we can work towards making church more welcoming to kids, we must first acknowledge this simple fact: If kids aren’t truly welcome, no strategy in the world will make them feel welcome.  If they are just seen as a distraction that the parents and congregation has to put up with, then they will probably be just that, no matter how many cool things there are to do. 

But if a congregation truly has at their heart a desire to welcome kids as an integral and participatory part of their worship, that heart will shine through in each tip that is employed.  It really does have to start with the heart and go from there. (For more on this, check out this article – Do Not Hinder: Welcoming Kids into Worship)

Here are some practical tips for making your church service a welcoming place to kids as well as adults while keeping the focus on Christ.

1. Welcome the kids, every week, by name – This may sound redundant, but there is much to be said for a personal greeting from a friendly face and welcome to the service.

2. Have a kids bulletin – Many churches use a bulletin for the service.  A fun way to invite kids into the service is to have a bulletin just for them.

3. Create Kid’s Activity packets – Make life a little easier for mom and dad and have kids activity packets with coloring sheets, crayons and quiet activities for the kids to use during the quieter service times.

4.  Provide space for parents with little ones – In the back of the sanctuary, consider putting some rocking chairs or space for parents to walk or bounce their littlest ones to sleep.

5. Engage the kids in worship – Kids love to be a part of something.  Give them the opportunity to help lead worship, hand out bulletins, take up the offering, participate in communion, help with the sound/lights, read Scripture, share a testimony – anything that let’s them know they are a vital part of the congregation.

6. Reaffirm your covenant – When children are baptized or dedicated in churches, often the church will recite or affirm a covenant with them to walk with them as a community of faith.  Every now and then, let the kids hear you re-affirm that out loud and with your actions.

7. Consider your traditional service line-up – Kids are used to things being pretty dynamic and fluid in their world.  The structure of service may be familiar to you, but maybe it’d be nice to change things up a bit.  Do the sermon earlier in the service or break it into chunks.  Do songs that have motions every now and then.  Collect the offering at the end instead of in the middle.

8. Give parents easy wins – The time in church is just the start of the conversation.  Help parents continue it at home by creating a “Faith Talk” insert for the bulletin with questions from the sermon.  Older kids can fill it out during church and parents/caregivers can use it to continue the conversation at home.

9. Engage the congregation – If having kids in service is new to your church, give the congregation fair warning, provide a time for them to meet the kids (put faces with names and parents with kids) and encourage a time of fellowship for all before adding the kids to the service.  Some churches start with once and month and grow from there.

10. Give kids a voice – You’d be surprised how much we can learn from children but often we still follow the “Kids should be seen and not heard” rule. Give kids an avenue to share what God is speaking to them by affirming to them that they can and do hear from God and giving them a space to share that.  A bulletin board where they can hang a picture they drew in service or a note they wrote about what they learned can create a space where the whole church can hear and affirm their hearts for God.

If you are curious about more practical ways to create holistic intergenerational worship environments, check out this article! And if you have ideas that have worked well for you, please share in the comments below. We are in this together, in every sense of the word.

A version of this blog was originally posted on this blog here.

It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

Is There Really Such a Thing as a Children’s Sermon?

I once saw a cartoon in my Facebook newsfeed that showed a pastor in front of the church behind the pulpit saying, “There’s been a complaint from a few of the members that the sermons are too intellectual. The following adult members are invited up front to join the children’s sermon…

At first I chuckled because…haha…but then I stopped and thought about what the cartoon was implying.

  • First and foremost, it indicated that somehow a children’s sermon would be less intellectual than the sermon offered to the adults.
  • Second, it made is seem like an adult experiencing something intended to reach children would not be challenged in their faith.
  • And finally, it seemed to imply that an adult would be insulted to be “lumped in” with the kids.

Ugh. If you know me at all, even a little bit, you know that my chuckle quickly disappeared, because…ugh. I don’t think any of these things are true nor should be they be perpetuated within our faith communities.

Both theologically and socially, these underlying assumptions about the differences between adults and children can actually undermine the church and lead to segregated faith communities where little to no interaction takes place between generations. 

So let’s start with the basics.

Of course we can all recognize there are differences between adults and children. Physically, emotionally, developmentally, and in a myriad of other ways, they are different. They have different needs based on these different stages of development. They have different abilities, both physically and cognitively. They have different likes and dislikes, frameworks through which they view the world.

And therefore, yes, age-sensitive ministry within the church is necessary and valuable.

However, in spite of these differences, there is much more we hold in common. In terms of church, there are important spiritual principles that are common to both. Theology, for instance, is something that doesn’t change based on age. The way it is presented might change, but the theology itself should not change.

Which means, even in a sermon intended to reach children, the theological content should be such that an adult would learn from it and gain insight from it as well. Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales and Buck Denver, shared this response at a conference to someone who said that theology was too deep for children:

Kids can learn more than we think. Adults can learn less than we would hope. We consistently underestimate what kids are capable of learning and overestimate what adults will learn. Kids still ask questions – grown ups stop asking questions.

Could you explain it to a 3rd grader? If you can’t disciple a 3rd grader, you can’t disciple anyone.

Phil Vischer

Faith, the foundation upon which we call ourselves children of God, is not only common to the whole community, but actually exemplified in children (according to Christ).  To assume that an adult cannot learn with and from children because adults are at a deeper place in their faith is to lose one of the most precious things about our faith, namely, that it is best experienced and expressed through the life of a child. Just ask Jesus. He repeatedly pointed to children and told his disciples and followers to have faith like them because to them belonged the kingdom of God (Mt. 18:1-6, Mk. 10:13-16, Luke 18:16, 17).

It is not an insult for an adult to be called to learn with and from children; it is what Christ has told us to do. 

What if we re-envisioned the whole sermon?  

What if the pastor of the church didn’t see himself as the pastor of the adults only but also to the youth and children?

What if the sermon was a time where we learned together, truly together, because the goal wouldn’t be one group being fed while the other was ignored or set aside or one group being entertained with simple stories and surface values while the other group sits hungry for discipleship and theology?

Can that even be done?

I think it can. I think it would mean we all have to bend a little. We’d all have to see one another as more important than ourselves.

Kids would have to listen to some things that developmentally they couldn’t understand and relate to.

Adults would have to humble themselves to a place where they could learn with and from children even if they think they are beyond that.

There would need to be grace given, one to the other, and discipleship offered as we grow together.

Recently, our small church started doing just that. We have been taking the first half hour of our time together to worship through song, read some Scripture, share communion and the “sermon” time is directed to the kids with the adults listening in. And sometimes, that sermon and the comments from the kids speak more to the adults’ hearts then the sermon we experience later. It has been a healthy place for our church to explore in helping generations grow together. Simply having a discussion together, as a larger faith community and within our own church, may yield more insight and ideas that we could come up with on our own.

We can know this for sure: Since  God’s point of communication with all of us is the Word, it’s clear that the Bible must be for children too.

This story from the late 1800s of a pastor and his own interactions with his daughter in church touches me each time I read it. I think there is much to be gleaned from this personal testimony for all of us, but especially those of us who minister within the church.

“Papa, are you going to say anything to-day that I can understand? ‘ asked a little girl of her father— a Massachusetts pastor — as he was setting out for church on a Sabbath morning. This tender appeal touched the loving father’s heart, and he could not answer his daughter nay; he could not say to his child that she must sit in penance through all the long service with never a word designed for her instruction and cheer.

So, as he preached, he said, ‘And now, children, I will say something to you about this.” At once the face of every child in that audience brightened. Sleepy little ones started up ; tired ones took fresh heart.

Looking first at the minister, then at each other, again back to him, they were all eagerness for his message, as though now there was something else for them than to nod and yawn and ache un-cared for; and although the pastor’s following sentences to them were few and simple, doubtless many felt as did the child who had pleaded for this attention when, on her return at noon, she said contentedly, ‘ Papa, I understood all that you said this morning.’

Dear children! Who wouldn’t do as much as this for them in every sermon? — they are gratified so easily.” 

Taken from The Sunday School: Its Origins, Mission, Method and Auxilliaries written by H.C. Trumbull and available free on GOOGLE BOOKS.)

A version of this article was originally posted on this blog in June 2016


It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

Not Coming Back

In my line of work, it doesn’t take too long for me to recognize trends in the churches I work with and receive messages from and lately there has been one common thread: Our families aren’t coming back. More precisely, the parents aren’t coming back. And because of that, the kids aren’t coming back.

I predict that we will soon be entering a time where more and more kids will be coming back to church without parents/caregivers present or at least not present in the way they once were.

When we serve in family ministry, our goal is to equip and resource the home in ways that promote faith formation and spiritual discipleship primarily by parents and caregivers. But what happens when a child comes to our church and there isn’t intentional faith formation happening at home? How can we serve the families and the children in ways that honor them and still allow for faith formation to take place?

In addition to doing our best to engage the family and minister to the parents as noted here, we also want to make sure our church is an environment that is prepared to be welcoming and inviting to everyone.

Here are some practical ways your family ministry can minister to kids who come alone

Create a Place to Belong – There’s nothing worse than feeling out of place and awkward.  But there’s nothing better than feeling like you are a necessary part of something.  There are lots of roles that need filled in preparing and completing a worship service.  Finding a place for that child to serve can give a strong sense of self-worth. (younger kids can help hand out bulletins, help with greeting, be your “right hand man”; older kids can read Scripture, help with sound/lights, participate on worship teams, help collect communion)

Know Each Person’s Name –  Being greeted each week by name says “You are welcome here. We want you here and we are excited that you are part of our church family!” And, as best as we can, know the names of their family members so we can ask about them and how they are doing.

Talk about Home – Just because parents/caregivers may not be present in the church building, it doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the home with that child. In fact, kids may want and need support if they are trying to live out their faith at home. Ask about how they are doing, what’s going on in their family, be supportive and give them that space to share.

AssignWelcoming” Families – Before events like VBS that will likely bring more kids into your church, approach a few families and ask them if they’d be willing to “adopt” a child for the activities that day or week.  If your church has intergenerational services where kids attend, find families or even grandparents that will welcome the child to worship with them.

Always Invite the Whole Family  – If you are having a picnic, make sure to invite the whole family.  A word of caution – it can be hard on that child to have to constantly hand deliver invites or handouts that their parents might not want or show appreciation for.  If at all possible, make the contact yourself so that the child isn’t in an awkward position.

Appreciate WHO they are – Don’t let their identity be “The kid who comes without his/her parents.”  They are a beautiful and unique child of God.  A colleague of mine shared this with me about his own experience: “Once upon a time, when I was one of those kids (at church sans family), I appreciated being taken seriously on my own, not as a spare part (like so many singles do!)” 

Host Cross-Generational Events– Instead of all events being focused on family groups, host events where all generations mingle and fellowship regardless of age or relationship.  One family minister I know has round tables and the simple rules are 1. You can’t sit with anyone you are related to and 2. You can’t sit with anyone your age.  Her church has grown to love these times of intentional intergenerational connection and no one feels singled out.

As tempting as it is to press forward in an attempt to return to “normal”, we need to be careful not to bring our pre-Covid mentality into our post-Covid reality. We have all be formed and changed by the past year, kids most of all. Our homes and our lives look different. Let’s do our best to reach people where they are and share the love of Christ with all we have the chance to interact with, no matter what it looks like.


It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

Tired of Outrage? Let’s DO Something

“Top 5 reasons people are leaving the church”

“Church, why the younger generations are leaving you”

“An Open Letter to the Church:  Why I am Done with You”

While these may not be exactly the titles of the articles I’ve been reading lately, they are quite similar.  Reasons for the decreasing population of twenty- and thirty-somethings has been repeatedly linked to everything from the “showiness” of church to the lack of outward focus and the commercialization of church organization.  And lest you think that this blog post is just going to offer yet another reason (and yes, I have my thoughts on the whys as well), be at ease because that is not my intent.

Not because I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening to the church today.  Not because I disagree with the other bloggers and articles that choose to address the topic head on.  Not because I think the situation doesn’t deserve attention or has legitimate evidence behind it.

In fact, I actually agree with most of them. I think it’s very telling that in a recent survey of 5,000 people, over 72% of White Evangelicals indicated that being an American held the same importance to them as being a Christian. If that’s the message we are giving our kids and youth, guess what happens when they get disillusioned with something in America? Their faith is attached to it. It’s not Jesus. It’s something else. And it’s not okay.

But it’s not the end of the story.

You see, when we simply blame the institution, we negate all the good that comes with it too. When we blame big churches, we miss the big things those churches are doing for the Lord.  When we blame denominations, we disregard entire segments of the church who are serving Jesus.

The reality is that many people are leaving the church.  But there is another generation quickly coming into adulthood (Generation Alpha) and if we spend all of our time, energy, and study on figuring out what reforms we need to get those who have lost back, we could very easily neglect the generation following closely behind.

As my website name indicates, I firmly believe we need to refocus.  I’m less concerned with the size of church building and their multiple worship formats as I am about how they are discipling the next generation.

What is church to our kids, the ones inside the walls of the church right now?  Is it a place you go or is it a life you live as a member of Christ’s body?

What is Christianity to our kids? Is it being a good American or being a follower of Christ?

What is faith to our kids?  Is it a denominational label you wear with pride or hope realized in serving as the hands and feet of Jesus?

Who is God to our kids? Is He a Santa Claus type being in the sky who loves you and wants to give you things or is He the Triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator and Lord of All?


Are we so busy discovering what’s wrong with the church that we neglect to instill in our children what is right with Jesus and the Body of Christ?

The other day I told a friend that I am tired of being outraged. I’m tired of laying blame. I’m tired of dissecting and analyzing and judging and criticizing. Not because there aren’t serious issues that need to be addressed. Not because there aren’t legitimate concerns that need to be heard. But because I think we need to be more than outraged. We need to actually be living out what it means to be the church in our own neighborhood, our own communities and our own homes.

Because I have three children who are almost grown and they don’t need to hear what is wrong with the institution of the church; they need to hear what is right about Jesus.  They need me to live Jesus in front of them, share Jesus everyday with them, and be Jesus to the world around them.  Whether I am walking into a multi-million dollar facility on Sunday morning or into a living room in someone’s home, they need to see, hear, touch, and know Jesus, not what is wrong with the church next door.

We can either spend the next few years being outraged or we can choose today, that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Let’s choose to invest in parents/caregivers so they can pour Jesus into their kids.  Let’s invest in our church, no matter what it looks like, so our children grow up in a community of fellow believers.

It’s time to stop the blame game and start living church like it’s for real and not a game.

Because no matter what, a new generation is growing quickly, and they have not left us yet.  Start fighting for them now so we don’t have to blame the church later when they leave.  Our God is big enough, strong enough, and amazing enough to show each one His Love as long as we consistently point our children to Him.


It’s Time To ReFocus

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.

Kids IN Church, Not Kid’s Church

In a church I once served in during the Sunday morning sermon, the pastor asked the congregation if they knew the fruits of the Spirit.  The whole congregation started out strong but by the end, there was one group was still heartily reciting the fruit. That group? The kids. I couldn’t help but smile. I’m not sure how many others noticed, but the kids sure did. I had more than one come up to me afterwards and say something to the effect of “Miss Christina, did you hear us?  We knew all the fruits!”

It was in that moment that I became aware of something I think is vitally important for us (and by us, I mean, adults in church) to grasp.

Kids in church doesn’t mean church for kids.  

So many times I’ve heard concerns expressed that if children are brought into the larger church service, that service has to become all about the kids. But that’s actually opposite of the intention of bringing kids into the larger congregational environment.  The heart behind including the children isn’t to make it all about them, but to invite them into the communal context, to let them experience corporate worship and participate in the liturgy as active members of the body.

HERE’S WHAT INTERGENERATIONAL WORSHIP IS NOT.

Glorified Sunday School (with adults invited)

One common concern expressed from those who are uncertain as to how to include children in worship is that the church service will turn into a child-centric Sunday school hour with parents and grandparents observing. It’s an understandable reaction because in many churches the only time children are in the worship service is for a special program or performance that is geared towards them or is starring them. If that’s the only experience the adults in church have had with children in corporate worship, it would be reasonable to feel concern over what will happen if the kids are there more frequently. But that’s not what intergenerational worship is. 

“Big” Church

Another concern that is frequently shared is that kids are not mature enough to deal with certain themes that are found in Scripture. One video shared by a large, well-known church showed the pastor getting up to read the most provocative verses in Song of Solomon and a wide-eyed young man whose shocked mother puts her hands over his ears; the tag line reads, “Big Church is for Grown-ups.” Let’s be realistic – the vast majority of churches aren’t reading these few verses on a Sunday AND if they are, the pastor usually knows well in advance and can prepare parents for what will be shared.

Creating a worship service geared towards only one age group every Sunday limits the body of Christ and is never exampled for us in Scripture or in Jesus’ teachings.

To be clear, I am not opposed to age-appropriate ministry; there is a need for it and I am a strong advocate for children’s, youth, and various ages of adult ministry, but not to the exclusion of the including everyone in times of corporate worship.

Family Worship

Many churches host fabulous family worship events and experiences that encourage families to engage in discipleship, teaching, and worship experiences as a group. They are wonderful times for the family to grow together in Christ and with each other. However, most often these events are centered around the idea of family interacting and focusing on one another, worshipping as a unit and learning as a whole.

Intergenerational worship as a church body isn’t focused on the family but rather on the body of Christ as a whole. While families are together, they are not interacting with one another; rather they are joining their church family in worship and interacting with God and the body of Christ.

SO IF ALL OF THAT IT WHAT INTERGENERATIONAL WORSHIP IS NOT…THEN WHAT IS IT?

In his book, The Church of All Ages: Generations Worshiping Together, Howard Vanderwell states that intergenerational worship is “worship in which people of every age are understood to be equally important.”  It’s where age fades into the distance and the focus becomes the body of Christ and all its parts. And it’s not easy. Fundamentally, all of these different age groups have different developmental needs. Each age understands differently, interacts differently, and learns differently. Each brings unique gifts, generational experiences, and certain expectations. 

So, how do you navigate these waters in a way that is fruitful for everyone?  Ultimately it doesn’t come down to programming or ministry practices; it comes down to heartsWhen age becomes “invisible” and kids are no longer cute because they are performing and adults are no longer the real church because they are “big,” there is a place where intergenerational worship can happen.

There’s no perfect plan or way to do it “right.” It takes time and it takes work because in many ways it feels like a new thing (even though intergenerational worship is a very old thing). It isn’t going to look the same in every church. Some may have more hands-on interaction while others may engage in more traditional liturgical practices, some may be weekly services while others during specific days or service times.  But what will look the same is this – the whole church will be worshiping…together. 

“Congregations serious about intergenerational worship learn to value what every age offers. This includes being willing to learn together and including all ages in worship leading and worship content.” – Joan Huyser-Honig

What made that moment in church so special wasn’t that the kids knew the fruits of the Spirit. Sure, as the director of children and family ministry, that made me very happy. And yes, as a mom, it did my heart good to hear my girls recite Scripture.

What made it special was that in the middle of a normal Sunday sermon, a bunch of kids and a group of adults came together and shared a moment of mutual edification and communal growth.

THEY WERE TOGETHER. 

Is Your Church READY to Come Together?

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

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

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

Options to choose from for these presentations include:

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

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


For more information about

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

About ReFocus

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.

The advertisements on this page are chose by the web host and do not necessarily reflect the views of ReFocus Ministry.