Mark Holmen (picture taken from http://www.faithbeginsathome.com)
Dave Texeira (picture taken from http://www.faithbeginsathome.com)
The fourth general session at Conspire 2009 featured Mark Holmen and Dave Texeira from Missionary Church in Ventura, California. Mark was the senior pastor there and now speaks and consults for the Faith At Home movement. Dave formerly served as the Children, Youth and Family Pastor there and is currently the Interim Senior Pastor at Ventura Missionary Church. These guys are known for the Faith at Home movement, which is one approach to family ministry and equipping parents to share their faith with their children. You can check out my live blogging of the session here. You can also check out my summary of the session on the Conspire blog.
Those who know me, have heard me speak or read this blog regularly know that I have a hard time with the whole “parents aren’t doing their job being the primary spiritual teachers in their home” attitude that is prominent in many family ministry discussions. I think that parents are getting a bad rap. If we look at the research, again, from Barna most parents want to pass faith on to their kids. They just don’t feel empowered, encouraged or equipped to do so. Then comes along the children’s or family pastor (sometimes even senior pastors) who point their fingers at families and tell them they aren’t doing their jobs. We tell them that they are abdicating their God-given responsibility by unloading their children on us to teach them about God.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t respond well to people who point their fingers at me telling me all the wrong things I’m doing… especially when I am doing the best I can.
Anyway, rant over…
As for this session… I was prepared to deal with all my mental comments and skepticism about what Mark and David were to present. If you go back and read my summary on the Conspire blog, I think I did a good job of listening and presenting the positives of what they were advocating.
I won’t go into detail of what they said. You can go read the summary or my live blogging. But the main thrust of what they are trying to do and advocating that other churches do is teach one faith practice to families a year. Practices like blessing, prayer, etc.
Now, I think that their desire to teach these practices to families is great. We should all be doing that. My concern is with the methodology. Mark and Dave tackled the issue of partnering with parents by, in essence, developing a curriculum to teach parents what to do with their kids. Now, some of you may see no problem with that. My issue with an approach like this and similar curricular approaches is that it does not take into account the uniqueness and differences of each family. An approach like this also quickly sets up a separation between parents who are doing “it” right because they go to these classes and follow what is prescribed and those parents who are doing “it” wrong because they either don’t go to the classes or don’t follow through with the prescribed practices. This approach, while being beneficial to some personalities, can discourage and derail parents who are looking for ways to pass on faith to their children but do not fit into some prescribed methods.
I’m not saying that WHAT practices Mark and Dave are helping parents to discover. I do have issue with HOW they do it. We need to stop being THE ANSWER for parents. All families are different. We need to encourage parents to be the primary faith models in their children’s lives. We need to equip parents with resources and relationships that will help them figure out what works in their families when it comes to celebrating faith together and passing faith to their children. We also need to empower parents to do what works in their families without heaping anymore guilt on them; most parents already do a good enough job of feeling guilty.
Some of you may be saying, “Well Henry, if you don’t agree with these guys, then what do you do with the families in your church?” What I’ve found to work in my context is making relationships with parents and kids a priority. I spend much of my time connecting with parents: asking them how they are doing, encouraging them in their parenting, sharing resources. I also encourage small group leaders and early childhood caregivers to make sure they are connecting with parents as well. As we build those relationships and earn the privilege of speaking into families’ lives, we encourage them to simply live out integrated, holistic lives connected to God. We encourage them to read the Bible together, pray together, serve together and live out life as a follower of Christ 24/7. That is it! Yes, we give resources to help facilitate all of that, but I encourage parents to find what works for their families. I cheer them on.
- What do you do to encourage, equip and empower the parents at your church?
- How would you define “partnering with parents?”