The theme is the Splendor of Holiness and the approach is relentless. Which is a good thing.
My abiding impression…as in ‘imprint’ rather than ‘vague idea’, is the centrality of God’s holiness to everything we should be doing as we train our children. Jason Meyer, pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church here in Minneapolis, rammed that home with passion and clarity in this evening’s keynote. Meyer has the awesome task of following in the tiny-massive footsteps of John Piper, and there were
several times during his sermon when protege was more than a little reminiscent of mentor. The gestures, inflections, vocal style and searing intent were all very familiar to Piper-appreciators, but I digress…
“Real holiness is either a terror or a treasure, but it cannot be a trifle.” (Meyer)
That was pretty much the sermon right there, as he circled around his theme with intent, holding Revelation 4 up to the light and turning it this way and that, challenging us about how gripped are WE about the holiness of God, never mind trying to teach it to children. Are we inoculating children AGAINST an appreciation for the holiness of God with our blase attitudes, or does our passion for the theme transmit itself to children with their “unique” ability to sniff out fakes?
The day was kicked off by Bruce Ware, who noted that “Most [people] go to love as God’s central attribute, yet holiness may be more central”, pointing out that love seems to be an outworking of holiness, and is not equally distributed to all (e.g. “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” – Mal 1:2-3).
“Tell children”, he concluded, “they must be holy to be in the presence of God. Help them understand their desperate need of God”.
One of my big takeaways from the conference was a renewed confidence and desire about getting the children into Scripture. It’s too easy to take perfect Scripture, turn it into something imperfect, and then feed it to our children. There’s plenty to think about regarding to how to present truths to children, but all in the context of knowing that there is no minimum age on truth.
The rest of the day was optional seminars:
‘Encouraging your teams’ with Aaron Davitch was as challenging as it was encouraging. He pointed
out that, “Most volunteers will veer towards discouragement” due to lack of visible fruit from the work, lack of recognition and a self-critical nature. That leads to discouragement, which leads to lack of joy, which leads to people stopping serving. This is typically coupled with “a gravitational pull to insufficient affirmation”. We were encouraged to both encourage (looking forward) and affirm (looking at what’s already been done).
Fellow-Englishman Ian Fry spoke about ‘The Realities of Ministering to Youth & Children’. He urged us to take 2 Timothy 4:2 as our foundational text for ministry: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage –with great patience and careful instruction”.
Parents of teens, he pointed out, desperately want their children to keep coming to church, so there is a tendency to pressure youth teams to be hip, trendy, more fun, and to tone down Bible teaching. Books have been written by the dozen claiming that youth work is ALL about relationships (not merely built on them, not merely saying that they’re very important, but suggesting they’re pretty much all there is to it). But God speaks through his Word. “And if they are saved with such a thin diet of Bible, what happens when they come into the church?”
We should be encouraging parents not to be thinking so much, “How can I make my child a Christian?”, but “How can I be a godly parent?”.
Connie Oman shared about ‘Involving Parents in the Classroom’ in the third seminar, which included the point that “We can’t correct a child we haven’t built a relationship with”, pointing out that that relationship doesn’t need to have been a long-standing one, but does need to have been intentional on the part of the teacher.
As with day 1: more inspiration about the holiness of God, more challenge to communicate it with greater passion and effectiveness, and more desire to be getting on with it.