The ETCH Family Ministry Conference


This past October, I attended the ETCH conference in Nashville Tennessee. It was my first time. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t before going), ETCH stands for Equipping The Church and Home. It is a conference for children’s, youth, and family ministry workers and pastors. Nashville is a drivable distance for me and I was fortunate enough to have my wife, Cheryl, go with me (although she didn’t attend the conference, she “rested” … and by rested I mean shopped).

ETCH was a good time to catch up with ministry friends from around the country, see friends who have moved to Nashville, and make a few new friends. All it all, it was a great experience.

If you’re planning your professional or team development for the coming year, consider ETCH. In 2019, the ETCH Family Ministry Conference will focus on what it looks like not only to survive but to THRIVE in ministry personally and with your team. Conference sessions will answer questions such as the following: What does it look like to focus on the things that can help us thrive in our ministry? What does it look like for us as ministry leaders to help others thrive?

Here are a few take-aways that resonated with me from last year’s conference.

The success of your ministry doesn’t change your position before God.
— Ben Trueblood
Don’t elevate your gift over your family or team; submit it to them.
— Lisa Harper
Parents need to be: engaged, equipped, encouraged, and enlisted.
— Mark Jones
Five Pillars of Parenting: 1) A secure parent; 2) A healthy balance between exploration and protection; 3) A rhythm of grace followed by truth; 4) Safe spiritual mentors/community; and 5) Play and laughter.
— Joshua Straub
Get God first, then you’re free to do family. The family is critical, but not it’s not first.
— Russell Moore -
A lifestyle of mission for the family does three things: 1) Creates margin in people’s schedules; 2) Helps families normalize gospel conversations; and 3) Encourages a normal sense of hospitality.
— Michael Kelley
Love God AND neighbor. It’s both not an either/or.
— Dorena Williamson
When it comes to being the primary spiritual influence in the life of a child, whose responsibility is it? The person of faith who knows the child.
— Heidi Hensley
Maintaining gospel focus in ministry requires 1) Working hard at resting; 2) Fighting sin, especially pride; 3) Remembering to serve from your identity, not FOR your identity; 4) Not doing anything that doesn’t clearly connect to the gospel; 5) Continuing to learn the gospel; 6) Continuing to grow in your love for the gospel; and 7) Continuing to find ways to live the gospel.
— Brian Dembowczyk

Looking forward to attending #ETCH19 … and maybe even submitting a proposal for a breakout session.

Note: An earlier version of this post originally appeared at

Family Friday Links 1.11.19

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Here’s what we’ve been reading as we enter the new year:

Nick Batzig had a post entitled “The Resolved Parent”. In it, he is recommending a family Bible reading plan that will help parent’s be, “... more purposeful about the way in which we foster the spiritual care ...” of his children. If you are a parent and trying to figure out what to do for family devotions, this might be a way to go. Check it out.

Christian Fox had a post on the Gospel Coalition about the idol of parenting success. She wrote, “This idol tells us we must be perfect parents and place our hope in creating perfect children.” This is a trap that is too easy to fall for parents to fall into. Read this so you can see the warning signs.

G’Joe Joseph had a post (via The Gospel Coalition) listing 6 shifts that are going to be required in order to reach the next generation. After listing 6 very important steps to keep in mind he wraps up the post this way, “In a culture that panders to public opinion, may we boldly and winsomely proclaim the bad news that leads us to the greatest news in the history of the world.” This would be very help for both parents and children’s / youth pastors to keep in mind.

What have you been reading online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section to check out.

Family Friday Links 12.21.18

Here’s what we’ve been reading online this week:

Greg Baird has a 3-peat on his hands as he a post about personal growth. He wrote, “Personal growth isn’t a magic bullet. It does take work.” Growth happens whether we plan for it or not; the question is, with it positive growth or atrophy? Read this post to learn how to start thinking about a personal growth plan.

Rob Reinow had a post on the D6 Family site entitled “Worship Jesus at Home This Christmas”. He offers suggestions what family worship could look like this Christmas. While it’s hard to stay focused on what is most important this time of year, this is helpful.

Kevin Thompson wrote a marriage post on the topic of kisses. He says, “When we forget the last kiss, we are tempted to take every kiss for granted.” Read the rest of the post to find out why.

To all those who regularly read here from those of us who write here, Merry Christmas!

Christmas in a Minor Key: Reflections on "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

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Editor's Note: At our home, we make sure to schedule a time each year to sit down together a watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, the animated classic created by late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. A couple of years ago, Sojourn Church member, Michael Morgan, wrote this reflection for our church website. He has given us permission to repost it here:

Christmastime is here. Bring on the blitz of traditions and travels, wants and wishes. Get the shopping done, get the family together, get the food ready, get the getting going. Fill the snowy expanse that is the holiday season. With so many things trying to get in, sometimes it seems like nothing succeeds and Christmastime is empty instead of full; Christmas in a minor key. This can only mean it’s time for the annual viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Charlie Brown is searching. For meaning, for escape from materialism, for Christmas. He confides in his pal Linus that even with Christmas on its way with gifts and cheer, he still feels melancholy. Through the course of an afternoon, Chuck looks where we all tend to look this time of year. He looks in his mailbox for a Christmas card, for some human connection and affirmation. He looks to the 5-cent psychiatrist; perhaps a mental health adjustment will help. Ultimately, Chuck’s enlisted to direct the kids’ Christmas play and so he looks to a satisfying career to put his heart at ease. And we certainly see how that works out.

Meanwhile, Snoopy dives into Christmas commerce full tilt, festooning his doghouse and erstwhile WWI fighter plane with an arsenal of lights and ornaments. Taking Christmas by storm, in hot pursuit of a glorious cash prize.

At the pageant rehearsal, Charlie Brown learns a lesson in herding cats and so even merry company and music can’t cure what ails him. Beneath the cheer lies vanity, snobbishness, and shallow revelry. Actors, right? In need of a break and determined to set the right tone for this Christmas play, Chuck sets off with Linus to get a Christmas tree (following the modern equivalent of a star in east: two roving spotlights). A nice, shiny aluminum one, Lucy shouts after him. Looks matter.

Confronted by an explosion of neon kitsch at the tree lot, Charlie Brown nearly despairs until he finds a spindly, real tree. Wood and needles, the least commercial, most plain thing he has seen in the whole town. With apparent peace, he takes the one true tree to show the others. His humble offering earns him humiliation. What a blockhead.

Deflated and frustrated, Charlie Brown cries out, ‘Does anybody know what Christmas is all about?’

Linus knows. In what may be the last place a passage of Scripture gets a sincere reading in all of primetime TV, Linus recites Luke 2:8-14 center stage in a single spotlight. Beneath all the hyper-exaggerated veneer, Christmas is really about something as simple as the birth of a baby (albeit a birth announced by angels and the glory of the Lord). It’s the emotional turning point, the moment of quiet clarity. I tear up every time.

On a side note, maybe the glory that shone round about those shepherds long ago has been echoing through the years and, in an effort to recapture it DIY style, people have just gotten a little crazy. Maybe the aluminum trees are just an over-cooked reflection of something real after all.

Of course, that’s all easy to swallow. Christmas™ has grown gaudy and superficial. Tone it down, for heaven’s sake. Have some goodwill towards men. But, simplicity is only half the point. In the next five minutes, Schultz and the animators drive home a seditiously counter-cultural point, exposing the hollowness of mere tradition and DIY glory, to replace it with something enduring.

Comforted by Linus’ soliloquy, Charlie Brown carries his Christmas tree home. As he walks through his snow-bound town, all the other trees stoop under the weight of the drifts. Bowing in the direction of Chuck’s sad little tree oddly enough. Seemingly giving due deference. At home, Charlie is astounded to see what his beagle’s been up to. Snoopy fed right into the hype and glitz of his culture and did up his little red house into a festive juggernaut. I tell you, he has already received his reward. First place. Good grief.

Charlie Brown takes a crimson ornament, a token of Snoopy’s best effort, and hangs it on his own tree. The poor, wretched thing buckles under the weight. ‘I’ve killed it.’ Indeed, Chuck. Haven’t we all?

A dejected boy heads in from the cold. The Peanuts gang shows up (hopefully to apologize for being mean as snakes) and slowly notice that the tree ain’t all that bad. It just needs a little TLC. Snoopy could probably spare some lights and bells. But wait! Is the whole premise about to come undone? Is the commercialist brigade about to take the last lonely refuge of humble simplicity and bling it into oblivion? Thankfully, no. When the gang finishes, it remains a real tree, but a tree fully revealed.

I don’t think it’s an accident that the kids start humming ‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing’. Glory to the newborn king. Indeed, glory has found its home. Not on a dog house, but on the one true tree. The emblem of Christmas. Snoopy’s reaction might just be the most subversive moment of the whole show. His glory has been robbed and given upon this tree and instead of moping or snarling about it, he joins the singing. Every tongue confesses that the lights look better on the tree, even the dog who thought he had cornered the market on glorious display.

Charlie Brown returns, touchingly stunned to see what’s become of his lowly little tree. His honest search has been rewarded with a beautiful vision far more than he could have imagined. Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.