By Marilyn Stewart, Regional Reporter
[img_assist|nid=8153|title=Being Involved|desc=Anna and Adam Horsely swing their young foster son. A recent conference at First Baptist Kenner described how churches can equip parents to be the spiritual leaders in their children’s lives.|link=none|align=right|width=455|height=640]KENNER – One reason children abandon their faith as adults is that parents have relegated spiritual instruction to the church, said Donna Peavey, keynote speaker to Building a Spiritual Foundation for Your Child, the first in a planned series of summits equipping parents to be the spiritual leaders in the home.
The recent conference at First Baptist Church of Kenner was co-hosted with First Belle Chasse and sponsored by the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Peavey is associate professor of Christian education at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Parents want to be spiritual leaders, but some don’t know how,” said Karla L. McGehee, summit co-founder and co-director. McGehee said the church should play a supplemental and supporting role to parents as they lead their children to faith.
“We want to train parents to be the spiritual giants in their children’s lives,” McGehee said.
A year ago, McGehee, a NOBTS doctoral student, felt burdened to help parents become spiritual leaders. McGehee spoke to Philip Peavey, preschool and children’s minister at First Kenner and husband to Donna Peavey, and the plans were put to paper.
“It was their dream,” David Anderson, LBC childhood and education strategist, said of the plans presented to him by McGehee and Philip Peavey.
Anderson said he welcomed the partnership. funded in part by the Cooperative Program. “This is an opportunity to receive world-class training and encourage parents in what they’re doing right,” Anderson said.
In the keynote address, Donna Peavey drew from researcher George Barna’s findings to highlight the importance of parents’ leadership in their child’s spiritual development.
Peavey told the group of about 40 that by age 12 a child’s worldview and foundations of belief are set.
Trials in life can endanger faith that is weak, Peavey said.
“When the earth moves, the foundation cracks,” Donna Peavey said. “We want the foundation to be strong enough to support an entire lifetime of experiences, whatever those experiences might be.”
Peavey said Deuteronomy 6:4-5 gives instructions on how to lay a spiritual foundation at home. God’s faithfulness gives parents a “do over” and allows them to begin now building a spiritual foundation, regardless of the past, Peavey said.
Breakout sessions were led by Paula Stringer, NOBTS professor of childhood education, Jonathan Denton, a student pastor and NOBTS doctoral student, Dustin Lee, minister to children, First Lafayette, Faye Scott, minister to children, First New Orleans, Donna Peavey, and McGehee.
Conference attendees included ministry leaders, teachers and parents.
Breakout sessions included tips on parenting preschool children through youth.
Michele Salassi, mother of two, attended Stringer’s session on family devotions. “Dr. Stringer said the best way to teach kids how to pray is to model it,” she said.
Lionel and Paula Beebe, parents of a teenage son and members of Barataria Baptist Church of Lafitte, acknowledged the value of hearing from others on parenting. “When they share their testimonies, they nurture us,” Paula Beebe said.
McGehee said plans are in progress for a repeat conference at a different location. A sequel conference on the “how-to” of parenting, such as how to have devotions, lead a child to faith, and explain baptism, is being planned.
Dustin Lee said in the session “Helping Your Child Transition to the Teenage Years” that the year prior to junior high is “a fragile, crucial year.”
Lee said good communication is key and advised parents to truly listen when a child opens up. Resist giving advice, criticism, or comparing the situation to the parents’ own experience when a child talks, Lee said.
If a child’s faith begins to slip, bathe the situation in prayer, avoid making the child feel guilty, and don’t give up hope, Lee said.
“If your kids are working through something, you need to know that God is in control,” Lee said. “God is developing their testimony, as well.”
Faye Scott drew from Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages of Children in the session “Speaking Your Child’s Language.” Children must feel secure in their parents’ love before they can learn and grow in faith, Scott said.
“Every child has a special way of perceiving love,” Scott said. “A child’s emotional tank must be filled before any effective training or discipline can take place.”
Scott said in the charge to parents at the close of the conference that she was the exception to Barna’s statistical findings.
Scott came to faith in Christ at age 33. “I wished I had known some of the things you’ve learned today,” Scott said. Scott reminded the audience of the power of a parent’s or a teacher’s influence by relating the story of a group of underprivileged children who achieved success in life because of one teacher. Scott said when the teacher was asked the secret to her success, she replied simply, “I just loved them.”
McGehee drew from Mark Holmen, founder of the Faith Begins at Home movement, when she noted the importance of family in developing healthy churches.
“If you change the family, you can change the church,” McGehee said.