Saturday, November 03, 2007
I promised I would come back to the intergenerational conference held two weeks ago now. I have now had lots of time to reflect to read some emails and cards that have been sent to me over the past two weeks. This has been very humbling.
It clearly met a need. Scratched an itch for those who can't get out to conferences at night or weekends. Significantly, lots and lots of one parent families were able to come, which really blessed me. I have such a love for these folks who are outstanding parents to their children. I love them and I want them to be blessed and encouraged!
I work in a church with LOTS of families with primary age children. This means that I see (and experience myself!) the stresses and strains some families have as they arrive at church (late?!) and fight to find seats together. And hear of the merry-go-round of work, school, after school activities, car rides, social outings etc Most of the feedback commented on how precious time was spent being together in "spiritual nurture". After a little bit of teaching into this, individual family clusters spent one hour each day praying or meditating on God's word or listening to God speak flat out on the floor or relaxing in the chairs, but kids and parent(s) together. If you haven't seen this "soaking" kind of thing before you'd have wondered what you had walked into but time and time again people have told me or fed back in writing that this met a deep need; to simply "be" - with God as Father and with their children. Critics may have said that children would run riot but they didn't. They took part in the stillness (the preschoolers had a creche facility at this point because of sheer numbers - but of course a family at home continuing this activity in their own time would all be present together).
Teaching by the excellent speakers Daphne and Darrin Clark focused on what it means to pursue God together, and how to walk in blessing. (I didn't type prosperity, I typed blessing!) Foundational teaching on forgiving allowed all ages together to experience what it means to be forgiven and then to forgive.
I taught briefly on what I believe is a call to step out to the poor and lonely and prisoner and foreigner - which all ages together can be part of at different levels - to see our broken society restored. Central to this is that we need the help of the Holy Spirit to empower us to comfort and restore. For me the key song of the conference was Tim Hughes "God of compassion" - send us out Lord to the hurting, we must go, we must go (if you don't know it, its well worth downloading it/buying it). WHat is all this God time/infilling for, if it's not to make a difference out there and bring others to new life?
To see families with three generations standing encircled together praying with one another at the water fountain is something that will stay with me for a long, long time. To see lots of tiny 1 and 2 year olds (who I simply had no room to provide 6 hour creche facilities for) playing happily at their parents' feet or alongside other little ones whilst the sessions were going on, and seeing that there parents were not stressed because there was a peace around the place! I'm not imagining this - for so many children (over 85) to be present during every session and it not to be a cacophony of sounds, cries and squeals, was amazing. There was a godly presence. Please add to the comments section if you disagree with me and I will amend my claim! 15 more children were in the 3s to 4s preschool.
Probably what has evoked most of a response in me is to hear of a 9 year old boy who was dreading spending two days at church and by lunchtime on the first day he did not want the conference to end. I was touched deeply - not because of the marvellous thing I had done (honest!) but because there was a hunger and a desire in him to be part of something bigger, something foundational - part of being church.
I really tried to submit this conference humbly before God at every stage, because:(a) I didn't think I could organise a conference. So much to do when all ages are present, when you're running a preschool and then 4 separate workshops later in the afternoon!
(b) I was really worried about having unhelpful attitiudes and being caught out - ...HA! because God sees my heart and he might tell everyone else what it's like...!
(c) there's never been a conference like this in the UK - all together, all the time.
(d) It cost a lot of money. My leaders blessed me and would have underwritten it financially but it's been self-financing.
Finally - a prayer. All glory to you Lord Jesus. I pray that children, teenagers, all ages of adults! will be inspired to stay close to you for all the days of their lives and to impact this needy world.
Please feel free to leave comments.