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"LEADER" Online: Vol. 9, No. 1

Active Parenting Now for the Faith Community

by Bruce and Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

   

Bruce and Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, pastors and co-authors of the revised Biblical and Theological Guide, describe how they became involved in the project.

In the summer of 1987, we attended a week-long seminar on parenting and family ministries at the beautiful Ghost Ranch Conference Center in New Mexico. The seminar was filled with insights on how congregations could minister with and for families. Michael Popkin was one of the seminar's leaders—our group gave him an award at the end of the week proclaiming him an "Honorary Presbyterian Saint" in gratitude for his contributions to our seminar and his greater work on behalf of parents. That fall we taught our first Active Parenting program in our church in Sussex, New Jersey. We found Active Parenting to be a wonderful way to support parents in our congregation and to reach others in the community.

This fall our congregation will have several baptisms. Whenever we have these joyful celebrations, the congregation promises to help the parents nurture their children in the faith. Churches need to be involved in family ministries because of the promises we make at each child's baptism/dedication, because of Jesus' call for us to love our neighbors, and because families enrich the lives of congregations. A recent survey of pastors found that resources for the spiritual formation of children were what they wanted most. We have found that Active Parenting is a wonderful resource to help families.

"Baptist, Congregational, Episcopal, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic are some of the faith traditions that have enriched this ecumenical guide."

We teach Active Parenting annually because of the benefits for our church members and others. Many of the parenting skills, like sensitive listening, can easily be used by participants in other contexts, such as between couples or at work. We have had many young families join our churches after the parents first came to attend a parenting seminar.

When we first taught the class we were not yet parents; we are now blessed with John (age 15), Catherine (age 12) and Sarah (age 10). One of the reasons we continue to teach it annually is that the class is a helpful reminder to us about what we should be doing as parents. We are better parents because of what Active Parenting has taught us and from hearing the insights of hundreds of other parents in our classes.

The original author of the wonderful Active Parenting in the Community of Faith: A Biblical and Theological Guide is Freda Gardner. She was a favorite professor of ours, and many other fellow students, at Princeton Theological Seminary. Freda is one of those gifted teachers who brings a true depth of understanding to her subject as well as practical insights. She was recognized by her fellow Christian educators as the "Educator of the Year," and has served as the Moderator of the PCUSA General Assembly. When Active Parenting Today was revised to become Active Parenting Now, we were honored when Freda agreed to have us do the updating of her resource for churches.

"We are better parents because of what Active Parenting has taught us and from hearing the insights of hundreds of other parents in our classes."

The revised church guide takes the excellent text in Freda's original guide and rearranges it to match changes in the new Active Parenting Now. The twelve handouts are new and offer a mixture of biblical material, questions for individual and group reflection and a wealth of practical ideas to help children and parents grow in faith together. Web page addresses with helpful additional online resources are included in this updated edition. We tried to combine an emphasis on "inward and outward journeys" of faith and spiritual formation with active discipleship. Active Parenting Product Development Manager Rachel Metzger did a wonderful layout for the new guide, adding helpful icons to make it easy for leaders to relate the church guide to the program Leader's Guide.

Baptist, Congregational, Episcopal, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic are some of the faith traditions that have enriched this ecumenical guide. We are grateful for Freda's thoughtful review and suggestions for the revised guide, and also for the helpful insights of two national church leaders in family ministry—Martha Miller of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Mary Jane Pierce Norton of the United Methodist Church. The new annotated bibliography offers 40 resources (90% published in the last five years) for church libraries, personal reading and group discussions. We are grateful that Active Parenting has added a new web page with our suggested list of 30 helpful web sites for parents, church educators and pastors at www.ActiveParenting.com/faith.

Blessings on your families, congregations and ministry.

Grace and Peace.

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Bruce and Carolyn Winfrey Gillette are co-Pastors of First Presbyterian Church in Pitman, NJ.


Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2003 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.