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The Gathering 14 Review (Chicago)

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As The Gathering 2014 (Chicago) is drawing to a close I can’t but help ponder over the time we have been privileged to journey through family ministry these past two days.

In many ways it has been a fantastic experience for myself. My time in America has only been short, 19 months to be exact, and in many ways I am still adjusting to the American way! However, my journey has been full of great experiences…including this, my first major family ministry conference.

This experience was filled with TONS of great speakers who each brought great knowledge from their fields but also brought something of the heart of God to the sessions.

So…with that said I want to run through about some of things I thought were real highlights of the conference!

  1. The philosophy of TRU ran clearly throughout! – I loved the little things, like how every speaker INTENTIONALLY provided at time for reflection and response after their talk. After every session WORSHIP was a RESPONSE. When leaders see the Holy Spirit at work in their life through this model they can’t help but be drawn to see the need for the Holy Spirit to be at work in their kids!
  2. The Sessions/Breakouts sought to train people the TRU way! – One of the hardest parts about being a TRU outsider is that looking in its easy to buy into the philosophy….but often its difficult to know how to carry out the philosophy in the every Sunday context. The practical breakouts bring lots of clarity to how to make what you do truly transformational the TRU way (eg. Small groups & worship as response).
  3. There is a place for FUN and Laughter – If there is one thing I was worried about concerning TRU it was that it wasn’t as fun as other curriculums. I wasn’t sure if it would work in Urban/Inner City areas….largely because it seems so serious with the Holy Spirit response and drive towards discipleship. HOWEVER, The Gathering helped me to see that although TRU is serious about Discipleship that doesn’t mean Children’s ministry always has to be serious! I love how they included Jeff and Bryan to lighten the mood, make jokes and simply entertain. It was great for me to see that TRU values laughter and fun! J
  4. The resources showed a new side to David C Cook – In exploring Tru I heard a few complaints about how David C Cook was outdated and irrelevant. I can only assume that old curriculums had left a stain on peoples memories. HOWEVER, my experience was that David C Cook along with TRU & Integrity music is taking real ground with its resources for Churches. I encountered some of the best, most relevant music for kids ministry (action bible remixed), a great tool in the action bible and revolutionary resources like spiritual parenting. This was VERY encouraging to see David C Cook now leading the way!

 

My time at the Gathering was truly valuable for my TRU journey. And through it all I only have one major concern with what I experienced….The EXTREME LACK OF DIVERSITY on all levels. In heading towards the conference in one of the most diverse Cities in America I expected to find a gathering of DIVERSE churches….but what I found was a collection of white middle-class churches!

 

From the platform there was one black guy and throughout the whole two days that was it. On top of that I couldn’t see or find a single person of color on the TRU staff. As a white guy from an extremely diverse Church community…it really made me question if I really wanted to be apart of a community that didn’t seem to value diversity at all. After all if the curriculum and Homefront is produced by white middle class people…then will it relate to the full diversity of the families in my church or to the huge diversity of the American public.

 

I say all that to challenge the system. We become so content with the status quo that most people wouldn’t have seen the lack of diversity. FOR me, I can’t take my mind off it! I will still pursue and try TRU but I would love to see them reach WAY beyond where they are at to embrace the fullness of the American community! The Church is SO VAST and TRU’s philosophy is revolutionary…it needs to be exposed to ALL cultures.

Prepare above Protect

 

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It is no surprise to most people that our children are entering the World to face increasing challenges. It is becoming increasingly difficult to raise our kids with a faith that really sticks because of the external influences at play in their lives. These challenges are all to easily spotted by many conscientious parents; the internet, video games, music, movies, tv shows, school friends…and at times EVEN BOOKS!

 

In my experiences over the past few years I have observed how parents react to the pressures/challenges their children faced and have seen numerous actions. The response I find most prevalent in the Western Church is that of PROTECTION. Not a surprising result given that the natural response when under attack is to DEFEND. However, I often query whether trying to simply protect our children is enough to ensure a solid future.

 

For the majority of my life I have lived in England and consequently there is room for only one sport in my life…Football…or should I say Soccer? Either way, from years of watching soccer I have learned one thing for sure… ‘The best form of defense is a GOOD offense!’ In a fast moving game like soccer it is unthinkable to just sit back and defend for 90 minutes… from time to time a team will try to do this…but it almost always ends in their demise. You see as the game progresses the opposition’s attack grows in momentum and before the end of the match they always manage to find a hole or two in the team’s defense.

 

Life is a little like a soccer match. Our lives move quickly but they aren’t over in just 10 minutes. To last the distance and be successful in life you can’t just spend all your time in defense, protecting your child. There is an immoral and illogical Worldview at the core of our culture; it is always present and in many different forms. It is the opposing teams attack, it comes closer to its goal the longer the game goes on or the older your child grows! A solid defense is vital to a successful team but often when this is our primary tactic we set ourselves up for failure.

 

I’m offering a different tactic for raising our kids. I believe in preparing our kids for the World instead of solely protecting them from it! I’m not saying that we unload on our child the complete A-Z of Evil in the World…but does keeping them oblivious to it really work?

 

Imagine you were raising your kids and were worried about your kids walking into water and drowning. So you spend your life making sure your children never goes into the water. You plan their week around keeping them out of the water and you even put systems in place so they stay away from the water. This is a great idea to keep you child protected from the danger that they face…there is one problem though…What if your child stays over at a friends house? Or what if he grows old enough to go out with his friends for the day? I mean there is going to be a time when he comes in contact with WATER…only the problem now is…Will he be ready for it? The truth is he will sink rather than swim.

 

I’m not suggesting that we throw our kids into the deep end and see if they sink or swim from a young age but I am arguing that if we raise our kids away from the water then one day they will find themselves in it and most likely drowning in it.

 

It’s a principle for all of life, we should prepare our kids for what they will face by laying truth at the foundation of their life. We can’t hide our kids forever and one day the enemy will break through our defenses. We can’t monitor our kids Internet use forever, who they become friends with or what movies we watch…but we can instill principles in their lives that will prepare them to make good choices for the future. Protection is important to our children’s lives, but if we fail to prepare them for the future we have simply wasted our energy!

 

So when we put off conversations about topics our children raise… in order to maintain their innocence…we make a choice to let them be educated by others. It is important to remember that our defensive tactics often play into the hands of the enemy’s offense.