I have been involved in children’s and youth ministry for 28 years. During that time i have seen (and been involved in) some crazy, inspired, silly and ordinary stuff! Thinking back, THREE moments stand out and hugely resonate in my Spirit as “God moments” and what Church both IS and should and could be.
#1. It is 1994. I am part of a team called “Captain’s Crew” working with 1000 children at the New Wine family conference in Shepton Mallet. Our team leaders had an idea – we had been doing a lot of prayer ministry teaching and equipping with the children so, it was decided we would visit the main adult gathering one evening. All of us that were working with the 7-10 year olds and the children themselves. So, about 850 of us! We marched out of our venue singing songs and praising God, we marched into the main adult gathering and walked through the aisles until we all got to the front. We then turned and faced the adults – 750 kids, about 100 leaders. Facing off with what must have been about 7000 adults. We held out breath! Then, we and the children put our hands out and started to pray God’s blessing on the adults. Dead quiet! We hard a ripple of what sounded like laughter (in my human weakness my first thought was, “oh no, they are laughing at us!”), but – as the laughter grew stronger we also started to hear crying too. As we looked at the faces of the adults we realised that God was meeting with them. God was pouring out His Spirit as the children prayed His blessing over the adults . . . I will never forget that time.
#2. 1991 – 1999. We are still with “Captains Crew”, but – this is a repeating moment if you like. Every year! I worked with the “Crew” across those 9 years and saw this every year. In the afternoons, as part of our regular programme of activity we would, for an hour, offer “family prayer time”. Kids could turn up with any of their family that they wanted to and go and sit with a few “Crew” leaders and pray together. Children would come with their mum, dad, brothers, sisters, extended family with grandparents or whoever . . sometimes they would share a fear they wanted prayer for, sometimes they wanted prayer for healing, for a friend . . sometimes it was the parents coming to ask for prayer with their children. Asking for prayer as a family together. Then, as we prayed – it was WONDROUS to watch children praying for and with their parents and vice versa . . .
#3. 2004. We are in London and it is “Soul in the City” a massive mission to London. I had the privilege of helping in West London. We knew that 1000 young people were going to arrive on our doorstep to get involved in mission . . . what were we going to do? In our bit of London we organised more than 40 social action projects and events to take place over the 10 days of the mission. What still STANDS out to me is one relatively small church in Northolt. They were a church of about 60 people. During the 10 days of the mission, 60 people from that church got involved in the mission. That’s right. Everyone. Every age got stuck in – the actual whole church became alive to mission – everyone in their way getting involved, making it happen, playing a part . . . it was beautiful.
Why have i highlighted these things in a blog post that is about trying to get you to come to a conference? Yes, let me be up front – if you read this blog post i want YOU to attend “Household of Faith” from 17th – 19th July at Sussex University . . . (check it out here :: Household of Faith )
I have highlighted these three “God moments” as i have called them because they ARE for me what the “Household of Faith” is all about. They are what the Church should be about. Every generation together, every generation receiving from and giving to each other. Expectation that, regardless of age, God is at work in and through his glorious body . . . which is ALL OF US!
I had the idea for the “Household of Faith” conference because I am CONVINCED that we – as the people of God in our homes, our families (in all their messy complexity) and the church community – should be doing and being more together than we do apart. That, in the church our diet of worship should be broad and deep gathering us all in together – not enduring our time together until we can have “our bit” of the service (whether that is the way we want the talk or the way we want the coffee or the way we want the sung worship) but absolutely REVELING in being and learning together – the HOUSEHOLD of FAITH! That, as families – we create such EXCITEMENT about our faith that parents and grandparents have confidence and boldness in sharing that faith with their children and grandchildren – that opening the Bible, talking about Jesus, praying together, grappling with life together in and through FAITH as it expressed in the HOUSEHOLD is the norm.
Because the 3 “God moments” are when i have witnessed the Household of Faith clicking into place. Maybe only for those short moments, but . . . IF these times can be (and ARE!) so special . . . and, as i have witnessed TRANS-FORMATIVE for adult and child alike – why do we all get together so seldom? Why in the Church do we prefer our own thing? We should know – and this is my belief after doing 28 years of children’s and youth ministry – that children are with their children’s group leaders and youth group leaders so much LESS than they are with their families.
That being part of worship where they SEE the adults engage in meeting with God through songs, through ritual, through scripture – SEE their own parents expressing their faith in that context is SO important . . .
That if their parents had the confidence to LIVE out their faith in front of their children in the HOME it would make such a difference.
Here is the thing though – this is not ONE WAY traffic (what we pass on to the children, bless them!) No – we only have to look at the Bible to see how God, time and time again, draws adults back to Himself through the faith, the trust, the sheer audacity of children who hear what God is saying and then do it!
I so don’t want us to miss it. Faith formation does not happen in vacuum packed age groups. We should not be creating some kind of “disciple factory” where each age group gets shunted through to the next thing . . . something WHOLE, something CREATIVE, something of GOD becomes possible when we are all together – the Household of Faith.
So, please – check out the programme for the conference on the website link. Do try and be with us.
A couple of final things::
Our Keynote speaker is Dr John Westerhoff. Theologian, author, professor, and priest. After teaching at Harvard University he joined the faculty of Duke University, where for 20 years he was professor of theology and Christian nurture. He is the author or co-author of 35 books. His classic work, “Will Our Children Have Faith?” was reissued in recent years in an updated and expanded edition.
And finally, this bit of blurb sums up what we are trying to do :
Household of Faith is a Conference focused on issues of nurturing faith within the home and church community as we bring together some key voices to discuss the theology, practice and the resourcing we need to effectively pass on faith to the next generation.