The academic researcher, (“TAR”) spent a large chunck of yesterday objectively listening to 4 Willow Creek CD’s giving advice on how to be a Christian parent; Families at Their Best. The parent was also listening, ready to reflect on the content once “TAR” had retired for the evening. Whilst any reference “TAR” might make to this stuff will go into a relevant chapter which nobody aside from her supervisor will read the parent has decided to share some her more subjective views in a blog post.
4 CD’s for £16 meant I thought I’d ordered a parenting course from Willow Creek Association UK and Ireland. In reality I had found I had ordered a sermon series…..I felt a little ripped of, but hey ho I should have read the blurb better and “TAR” found it useful anyway. I reckoned that the format meant you couldn’t use this material in a parenting group, but you could use it well in a small group setting. Somebody would have needed to listened to it in advance and produced accompanying worksheets, but it would work. I thought back to housegroups and womens bible studies I had been part of in the dim and distant past and thought yep…..this would have been a good series over a half term linked into an indepth study of Deutoronomy 6, which was central to both this series and the Visionary Parenting course.
For anybody who happens to live outside of the evangelical bubble Willow Creek is a mega church in the US and their senior pastor is a bloke called Bill Hybels. He was the person preaching 3 out of the 4 sessions.
The material covered by him was:
About Families – after reeling out some statistics, you know the sort that you say that’s awful about, he started on about the need to aim to make your family an excellent family. This session was talking about something called covenant theology which “TAR” will investigate but made me bristle. For me covenant theology is the reason why, I think, that Hagar and Ishmael – the most useful story in the bible for single parents – gets ignored and marginalised. Anyway, that’s another rant, back to the material. It also concentrated on outlining the responsibility of families for religious transmission aswell as the role youth ministries play in supporting.
This CD made me feel good. I have outlined previously on the blog how I somewhat awkwardly try to pass my faith on to Third Party and have always made sure I have encouraged her into taking full advantage of youth ministries in the churches we have been in. I was, in my own Nick Hornby style way, on the A and B plan he talked about.
The second CD was about how values are formed, framed and followed within families. This got you to evaluate your family, (or if you were single without children listening the family you were bought up in), in ten areas. The purpose was for you to see what you need to work on more. I liked the fact that within this the gritty and messy side of life was not ignored. Overall I saw I was not an awful parent. Yup, I scored abit low on some points but also scored quite high on others. It gave me some indications of the bits of parenting I need to give a bit more attention to. Would have been useful if the tools he kept talking about had been included in with the CD series.
The forth CD in the series and the third done by Hybels was about “Thriving Families”. This session had Hybels and two youth workers discussing 4 dramas and common siuations which arise between parents and children. This CD so showed why the series really needed to be on DVD rather than CD….still the English can’t be choosers. One illustration given in this CD did naff me off a little. In the only explicit reference I think Hybels made to single parents it was through a story about a kid who was having sex at home and when challenged came back with, “but dad’s a hypocrite he brings women back”. This, I think, was an unfortunate illustration as it yet again bought into the stereotype single parents are promiscuous. If it had been balanced out by a positive portrayal or comment on single parents anywhere in his three talks it might have been a little less unfortunate. Nobody is asking for him to abandon preaching the truth; that a married family is Gods ideal and generally better than single parents. I would ask him though to appreciate that many committed Christians and secular people are single parents who are trying to do their best with integrity, often as a result of the sins of others.
The third CD in the pack was a talk by a bloke called Dr. Richard Allen Farmer. Now Dr. Farmer was not the sort of bloke you would expect on this type of series….for a start he was black. Now I don’t know about you but whilst I know places like Willow Creek must have mixed congregations generally they come across as predominantly white places in my mind. I’m not sure if I am too far wrong, actually, in the picture I have in my minds eye as this guy basically gave a sermon on the importance of anti-racism and an appreciation of the importance of multi-culturalism in our families.
He gave one of the best talks I have heard in a long time. He was talking about how we are affluent because of the choices we have. Because we have affluence we also have influence. This gives us responsibilities and we have to base our lifestyle choices on using our affluence and influence appropriately. Finally this calls for confluence that is a coming together of our words and our deeds to form a bigger way of living. This means that we don’t just talk about the need for multi-culturalism and celebrating living we actually have to live these values out in our lives. We have to learn to listen to things and cultures we perhaps don’t like the sound of and respect and value them as something different rather than wrong. He used the example of being taken to an opera and being told you don’t have to like it but you do have to listen to it. That was a bit of a challenge for me, as someone who says classical and opera do my head in. Interestingly, in referring to his past, he made the only positive reference to single parenting within the series.
Anyway would I recommend this as a resource? Yes, for CD 3 alone I think. It was culturally specific in some ways, but with the rise of the BNP in this country I actually think there is more of a call for what was being taught in that area. As I said earlier I think it would make a good small group resource and would certainly be something to stimulate both reflection and discussion amongst group members. It would proabably work best in a group containing people aged about 30-55, who still had children living at home or at uni.