This is my first trip to the D6 conference, a gathering of ministers and laity focused on family ministry. It’s been an interesting trip. The overall theme was “impress” drawing from the Deut 6 emphasis on “impressing” on children’s hearts. Overall the presentations (all in general session) reflect varying theological traditions, embracing particular emphases within the challenges of family ministry: particularly parenting.
The opening session (devotion) reflected a focus on fathers but also “biblical manhood” with a strong focus on Spirit vs. Law so all growth (all fruit of the spirit) is internal… but the presentation also argued spiritual growth was holistic and gradual. My Wesleyan sensibilities really struggled with the bifurcation, I guess because of my knowing how the Holy Spirit works “through” structure like the means of grace.
Yet other presentations have given really strong talking points for family ministry. Tim Kimmel’s emphasis on gracious family ministry that calls the family and church into partnership afforded one of the best presentations including these gems
- God’s love is best nurtured through spiritually thriving families (Kimmel pushed back on fear based parenting, where parents attempt to manipulate child spirituality, often failing)
- The Gospel is best Illustrated through churches and homes that reflect God’s gracious heart (here Kimmel took on the idea of truth over grace, remarking that we can expose lot of truth…. but if the room is just 25 degrees, a cold, graceless, temperature … then learning does not happen)
The second session seemed to be more a reflection by James Dobson on his father. Interesting engagement of his father’s call to ministry and it made me reflect just how heavily Dobson is indebted to his dad for his understanding of family.
The Third session was a series of mini presentations (snap shots) by different ministry leaders (seemed each had a book, blog, curriculum to sell)
Mark Holeman really did provide a marvelous exposition on Deut 6. One major take away was that the Israelites were about to take possession of a land of “plenty” and God was concerned about the Israelites forgetting… God. So God’s admonition was to strengthen memory within the home.
Mike Trimble drew the short straw for helping parents provide “the talk” (yes sexuality) While humorous the major takeaway was turning this topic from a talk to a lifetime discussion.
Tommy Sanders really pushed parental responsibility, invoking Horace Bushnell (my Formative Figures class would love this since we are currently studying Bushnell!). He underwent a social science study 900 children and discovered that no more than 10% of those kids knew there parents spiritual biography. Sanders may have offered the “line” of the conference when he told of a confrontation with a parent where the mother asked “Pastor, are you judging me?” Sanders replied, “no, I am asking you to judge yourself.”
Tim Smith invoked neuroscience (yes neuroscience) in shaping habits within families… then took Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences to develop a family faith plan. While Gardner might cringe with this formulaic approach, I was surprised to see that level of cognitive psych popularized within family spirituality.
Lydia Randall raised the problem of busyness and the churches tendency to adopt another program or event. Instead their ministry has adopted a faith path approach built around of birthdays. What she advocates is that pastors have to adapt and recognize we are in a culture where people believe that, if they are not busy, they are lazy. Helping parents to develop daily habits can give them the opportunity to slow down.
Overall you can’t help but feel a little of the promotional side of the conference in the presentations. Still, there were practical moments that really do contribute to the desire for a stronger ministry to families.