Jim Burns focused on the issue of helping parents with spiritual formation and discipleship. Once again, a speaker who had 3 daughters. I suppose I should listen to all of the speakers neutrally, especially knowing how many faults my own speaking is prone to, even though I’ve 3 daughters also. Nevertheless, when one of these people says “My 3 girls”, it’s like they’ve said the magic words, and I listen attentively as if they know the secret knowledge my life will require in the next 20+ years.
Burns reminded us of the “big/macro picture”, that when we focus more on reaching the family, we truly equip ourselves to reach the world….which is made up of naturally replenishing family systems. In all of the fuss about church growth, and “seeker-sensitive” churches, attractive programs targeting youth, college, young adult, singles, etc…we can often lose track that one of the primary foci of the Church is on mentoring parents.
He also emphasized a point we’ve come to realize more and more as parents of infants/toddlers. That the Sunday morning worship service mindset often has little room for kids like ours. They make people uncomfortable, annoyed, and desire to build things like “crying rooms”, and announce from the pulpit reminders that nursery/toddler rooms are provided in case your kids don’t know how to be quiet and sit still like the 70 year olds around them.
To any parents reading at this point who think “Yes! That’s how I feel!”, or a pastor who thinks perhaps we’re guilty of that too often – I would recommend a book that was recommended to use recently. “Parenting in the Pew” talks about how to allow our children to participate in worship on Sunday’s, to the benefit both of our family, and the church family who needs the reminder from Christ in Mark 9:36-37…when we welcome a child, we welcome Jesus. We’ve very thankful/blessed to be part of a worshiping community where this is happening more and more. 🙂
He finished by ringing a few more important alarms, such as reminding pastors and parents in general to ask ourselves the question, “Am I only giving my family my emotional/energy scraps?”, to be caring for our children and our spouses first. He recommended 3 major paradigm shifts:
1. Discipleship BEGINS in the home. We need to facilitate, invite, and encourage this.
2. Teach parents to become “students” of the culture.
3. Our job is to set the pace with our own home/family lives. Integrity/Authenticity, and plenty of margin.