Exclusion or Embrace? Age Integration in the Church

One of the most compelling aspects of the early church described in Scripture is the characteristic of deep, intentional, unusual community. Just look at how the church is described in Acts 2:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47 NIV

This approach to community, hospitality and welcome made the early church stand out. It was peculiar for a group of unrelated individuals to live in such a way. It was said of Christians, “see how they love one another…how they are even ready to die for one another” (Source).

Rodney Stark in his book The Rise of Christianity describes Christians this way: “To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachment. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. . . . For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture” (p. 161).

Much has been written about this kind of Christian hospitality that embraces the marginalized and poor, takes care of the widow and orphan, and seeks to serve and love humanity, those in the church and those who live in community with the church.

Theologian Miroslav Volf has written an extensive work on Christian community called Exclusion and Embrace. Volf’s work is a in-depth theological work and I cannot do it justice in a short blog (If this piques your interest, be sure to check it out!). But what he writes about really struck my interest in regard to intergenerational community.

Volf characterizes Christian hospitality as embrace, an act that he describes in four parts: Arms open to others (invitation), arms reaching out to others (waiting), arms wrapped around others (embrace) and arms opening to release others (differentiation). 

However, there are times when Christian community doesn’t offer that welcome and embrace but rather there is a sense of division and exclusion. What exactly is meant by exclusion?  Just as Volf explores four movements of embrace, he defines four acts of exclusion: elimination, assimilation, domination, and abandonment.

In my role as an advocate for generational discipleship and intergenerational ministry, I read this insight through the lens of age integration and multigenerational faith experiences in community. In that light, we can see how the Church has struggled with each form of exclusion.

To be clear, there is not a 1:1 correlations between his work and the integration of ages and intergenerational community in a church….but… I do think it is worth at least considering in the light of Christian community and hospitality. Below is a short description of each type of exclusion and how we might see it play out in a church setting.

Elimination. Perhaps the simplest form of exclusion is simply to remove the “other” from the embrace of the gathered body. How is that done in church? Well, the creation of age-specific spaces severely limits the ability for generations to interact together and regulates where and when certain ages are allowed to be. In some churches. Some ways we can see this accomplished is in things like specifically banning children from attending corporate worship services or setting age limits on participation in church board, ministry teams, or staff. 

Assimilation. Things are a lot easier when we are all on the same page. Rather than celebrate our differences and uniqueness, assimilation pushes people into conformity. Intentional or not, we can see this in churches in such spaces as targeted worship services aimed at specific age groups, age-specific Sunday School classrooms and curriculum, generation-specific activities, and events or opportunities based on personal style and taste where homogeneity within the group, service, or event is expected and even desired. When these types of things become a consistent and regular occurrence in a community, the message can be “To truly be a part of this community, you need to be this age or act this way.”

Domination. Perhaps the saddest form of exclusion explored by Volf, domination is when “we are satisfied to assign ‘others’ the status… in their proper place, which is to say the place we have assigned for them” (p. 75). Stereotypes about age can impact a faith community leading to the majority age groups having greater voice and sway over the less represented older and younger groups. We can see this happening if we look at things like salary and budget distribution for ministries or ministry personnel, generational representation in places of leadership, and care of persons within each group, but especially in that of older, aging members.  

Abandonment. The final form of exclusion described by Volf is simply abandonment or “minding our own business” (p. 75). Very often children, young people, and older people tend to fall into these categories because they offer little financial benefit to the church, often cannot perform the needed duties of deacons and elders, teachers and pastors, leaders and servers, and instead get abandoned from the communal life of the body. Even churches who spend a great deal of money in creating age-specific areas of ministry can still abandon these generations by not incorporating them into the corporate life of the church, rather leaving them to their own separate spheres.

Volf describes this tendency to exclude as a result of our own discomfort with “anything that blurs accepted boundaries, disturbs our identities, and disarranges our symbolic cultural maps” such as a child crying out in a worship service, a toddler coloring and snacking in the pews, an older person needed helped slowly down an aisle, or a teenager dressing in casual or ripped clothing. Presented with these uncomfortable moments, it’s easy to think that these types of exclusionary actions are best for everyone.

But that appears to be the polar opposite of Christian community; in fact, from the descriptions of early Christians and all throughout Scripture, the idea of coming together, being a body made up of many parts, finding room for each member to connect, seems to be the traditional approach to church.

Regardless of one’s view one Volf’s characterization of exclusion and embrace, it would be worthwhile for churches to examine their gathering practices and the structures/programs that are in place to see if there are spaces where Christian community and hospitality is being intentionally or unintentionally stifled, especially as it relates to generational discipleship and intergenerational connections.


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.

Intergenerational Valentine’s Day Ideas for Church and Home

Valentines’ Day is just around the corner. For some, this is cause for great rejoicing because the day brings lots of love and chocolate. For others, not so much. I remember as a single girl in college not liking Valentine’s Day a whole lot. Regardless of our personal feelings about it, each year it rolls around and each year we have the opportunity to ignore it or use it to grow our faith.

Let’s Use It!

Seriously, let’s use this day as a space to remind one another of the greatest Love of all, personified by Jesus, and lived out by us through the Holy Spirit. Let’s remember that “love covers a multitude of sins” and that this is “no greater love than this” than to lay down our lives for one another. In a world where there is much competition for the virtue of true Love, let’s make this Valentine’s Day one where our homes and churches truly celebrate Love.

Here are some ways we can do just that!


Love Your Neighbor

Since much of the country is still under some form of virus restriction, many of us are home and spending more time in our neighborhood. Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity for us to bless those who live around us, whether it be in creating some fun Valentine’s from the kids or baking them a favorite treat. Use this holiday as a chance to share with your household how we can give and show love to those around us in simple ways that bring a little bit of light into the world. Want ideas?

  • Baking your game? Check out these super fun cookies you can make as a family.
  • More of a crafty family? I just love some of the creative and fun ideas on this website.
  • Considering the larger community? Reach out to your local homeless shelter, prison ministry, rehabilitation services and refugee ministries and ask how your family can bless your neighbors in need. Many are looking for ways to especially bless those they serve on these days.

Love One Another

Valentine’s Day is a fantastic opportunity for your church to connect with one another. Now is the time to begin reaching out across generational lines and connecting people to each other even if we are still technically apart. Here are some ideas of where to start and Valentine’s Day could be the perfect kick-off date!

Turn household space into holy space by finding ways to serve one another in the home. There are myriads of ideas online for this (just search Valentine’s and Family). But I’d love to share what we did one year. A family who lived near us and had three daughters joined us and our two daughters and we celebrated Valentine’s Day by blessing our girls with their favorite foods and then taking time after the meal to talk to them about the greatest Love of all sent to us in Jesus. As parents, we washed their feet and spoke a blessing over each of them and demonstrated what Love really looks like so as they grew they would have something to compare all other “loves” to.

Love Your God

Take home communion kits for your faith community that include juice, crackers, and a special Valentine’s Day liturgy are a special way to invite households to experience communion in their homes while celebrating the greatest Love that was even given in the gift of Jesus. If you’d like to celebrate together as a whole church, just included a Zoom link for an online event.

Included below is a brief reading and devotional for the family to follow together.

Taste and See Communion:
A Celebration of God’s Great Love

Prepare: Communion is a celebration! While it is a sacrament and should be treated as holy, it is intended for us to remember and celebrate God’s goodness to us. Set the tone with your family by discussing some ways God has shown His love to your family. Have a conversation beforehand explaining what communion means. Remind your family that Jesus showed the Greatest Love of all when He died on the cross for us and rose from the dead and that this meal helps us to remember that great love. As with any time of worship, Christ is with us in communion. This is a special way to that we can invite Christ into our home.

Confession: Before we take the Lord’s Supper, we examine our hearts and silently confess anything we need to before God. It might help if you offer your children some guiding questions like, “What do you want to tell Jesus ‘thank you’ for?” and “Is there anything you want to tell Jesus you are sorry for?”

Choose one of these Scriptures to read as a family: Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14: 12-16,
Luke 22:7-38, I Corinthians 11:23-26

Partake: During communion, show your kids what to do. Even if it is very obvious to you, it may not be to them. Take some time to pray as a family some prayers of thankfulness. If you would like, you can follow this suggest format for communion time: Take the bread, thank the Lord for it and for his gift of love and offer it to one another saying, “This is the body of Christ, broken for us.” Then hold the juice, offer another prayer of thanks, and then give it to each other saying, “This is the blood of Christ, poured out of us.”

Process: Take some time afterward to discussion what it means to them to remember Jesus in this way. Ask question ensure understanding and to offer clarity, like, “What do we take communion?” and “What are we celebrating?” and “What are we remembering?” Then move on to more personal questions like, “How did you feel when you remembered Jesus’ gift to us?”

Conclusion: Finish your time together by reciting the Lord’s prayer (Mt. 6:9-13). Let your children know that this is the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray when they asked him how to pray.

NOTE: If your faith tradition requires that the elements be blessed by an ordained individual, just ask your pastor to pray over the elements before you hand them out (much like you would for delivering communion to homebound church members).

February 14 just happens to fall on a Sunday this year. It presents the perfect opportunity for us to explore practical discipleship as we gather around the Love of Jesus.

I’d love to hear what you are doing in your churches and homes! Feel free to reach out using the contact form below. May God’s Love meet you wherever you are today!


ReConnect Webinar: Connecting the Generations at Church and Home

Ready to Start Connecting Generations, Not Sure Where to Begin?

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. Webinar can be a One Day event, a Two Half-Day event, or a Four Part Weekly Event (approx. 1.5 hours/session)

  • 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 and 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…

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.

Redeeming 2020: The Hope of Christmas

I am seeing snow pictures from all over the country! We are currently seeing a few flakes of snow here in Kentucky. Actual white flakes falling from the sky. Immediately following this sight was the singing of “White Christmas” and the inevitable question, “Do you think we will have snow for Christmas?”

Okay, fine, I’ll admit it. I get a little bit of that excitement when I saw the snow falling. I love Christmas. But more precisely, I love Advent. I love the anticipation; the time leading up to our celebration of Christ’s birth. Now, I realize that likely Jesus wasn’t born on December 25 and that the background of the holiday was decidedly pagan and that the Wise Man have their own holiday (Epiphany) for a reason and … all those things.

But for us, Christmas IS actually the celebration of Christ’s birth.

We anticipate that moment. We talk about why He came. We talk about the miracle of His birth. We talk about how heaven came to earth; how God became man and walked around us, fully God and fully man. How He chose to come as an infant, wrapped in frail flesh, carrying within Him the hope of the world.

When Christ came into the world, He came with a purpose – Redemption. Rather than discard the world, He redeemed it. And I happen to think we, as His followers, can do that same, if we so desire. There is much about this year, 2020, that invites us to experience to redemption. Redemption means “action of regaining or gaining possession of something.” Many of us feel that we’ve lost hold of many things this year.

If ever we needed to celebrate Redemption, it is this Christmas.

We’ve lost time spent together. Lord, may we redeem this by embracing opportunities to be together, from oldest to youngest, when we can gather again.

We’ve lost embraces and handshakes and arms around shoulders. Lord, may we redeem this by never letting an opportunity to cheer, to comfort and to hold when offered the opportunity to do so; may we truly “see” each other and reach out.

We’ve lost times of corporate worship. Lord, may we redeem this by re-gathering in ways that bring even more of the body of Christ together, from generation to generation, and raise our songs of praise and worship to you as one family.

We’ve lost in-person prayer meetings and Sunday schools and youth group activities and Bible studies. Lord, may we redeem these by praying fervently for one another, by learning more about You and who you are so we can share with one another, and studying your word in our home together as households or “little churches.”

We’ve lost “the way we’ve always done it” this year and we’ve gone headfirst into so many new things and new ways of celebrating and worshiping and “doing church.” Lord, may we redeem this by pressing in even closer to our community, our church family, and our neighborhood and welcoming your work in new and surprising ways.

In many ways, 2020 offers us the opportunity to re-assess and re-align. If anything, we have realized how very much we need one another. To reflect back on a post from earlier this year, perhaps now is the time to stop and consider…how do we want to return in the future?

In the past, part of our church may have been isolated even when we gathered because of age segregation and lack of generational inclusion. 

What would it look like to begin again, together, with intentional space for multiple generations to interact and connect with each other?

Perhaps church gatherings and programs were primarily created and led by representatives of one or two generations and focused on keeping things as simple and reproducible as possible. 

What if coming back, more generations and representation were invited in to discussions on how things can change to be more connectional, less isolated, and more integrated at all levels?

Maybe we felt like it was the job of our “pastoral professionals” to handle things like discipleship and service opportunities. 

What if in our return, the laity were empowered and equip for generational discipleship in their homes (parents/grandparents/caregivers), in their faith community (multigenerational), and in their workplaces (apprenticeship and mentorship)?

These changes that bring us together across generational lines don’t have to wait until we are gathered again in a single space in the flesh. Think about it! Now is the time to begin planning for whatever the next stage of this crazy reality brings. Now is the time to begin reaching out across generational lines and connecting people to each other.

  • Intercessory prayer using the Pray for Me campaign.
  • Intergenerational Zoom prayer meetings.
  • Multigenerational committees set up to talk about the return to in-person services.
  • Cultivating of resources to help congregants engage with generational discipleship in their homes, faith community and workplaces. Check out GenOn Ministries and Lifelong Faith for some incredible resources.
  • Webinars for parents/grandparents/caregivers to help give them ideas for discipleship at home.
  • Plans to introduce Messy Church or Faith Inkubators/Faith 5 or WE Gatherings.

None of this need wait for us to experience what once was so common. Sitting in pews. Passing the peace. Boisterous singing. Choirs and communion. Oh, how we long for those things to return, but oh, the opportunity we have right now to embrace these other things and the hope which will inevitably draw us closer together to God and each other. As author Rachel Solnit says, “Hope is a commitment to the future.”

Christ, the incarnate God, is our Hope and our Future.

And then, when we do return, it may look different, but, just maybe, it will look more like the Church, all ages, all gathered, in community, truly together. Maybe in these spaces, we will experience the redemption of what was lost.


Ready to begin 2020 with Renewal at Home & Church?

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.

All Together Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Interested in learning more?

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

For More Information About…

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

About this Blog

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

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

Advent Isn’t About Lighting Candles on Sunday

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

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

Advent isn’t about lighting candles on Sunday morning. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Interested in learning more?

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


For More Information About…

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

About this Blog

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

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

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.