Caring for minister’s families was the main theme at the Mid-American Union Conference ministerial gathering in Omaha, Nebraska, July 30-August 2. “Our families are our first and greatest calling,” stated Mic Thurber, MAUC ministerial director and event coordinator.

During the opening program, pastors were invited to participate in a symbolic and serious commitment of recognizing the cross as the center of their ministry and attaching photos of their families on a makeshift wooden cross on the stage. One by one, they came and presented themselves and their loved ones in re-commitment to Christ and the cross.

Nearly 20 breakout sessions were offered, featuring topics such as creating a visitor-friendly church culture, why pastors lose their jobs and coping with crisis.

The “Children of the Promise” convention was attended by 750 ministers, their spouses and their children, who could not but note the event’s emphasis on “looking after our families first, then everyone else in our churches. We cannot afford [to] continue losing them,” commented a participant from Lincoln, Nebraska.

LeeLee Dart, lead pastor of The Adventure Church in Greeley, said that the convention was “the best I’ve been to and I love how there’s a lot of comprehensive knowledge given and taught. I appreciate that they’ve brought in the psychological aspect of a relationship with God, teaching pastors what it is. I appreciate that they’re teaching pastors to love holistically,” she stated. Commenting on the conference’s dominant topic, Dart said “Your ministry is first to your family—that is the number one thing you need to do.”

First things first

Central to the pastor’s conference were three presentations by Mark Gungor, a well-known speaker on marriage and family. His candid and comedic approach in Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage ® seminar had a full house of laughter and hearty alleluias. Adventist audiences are not accustomed to hearing public discourses about sex. Gungor argued that the relationship between a man and a woman needs a down-to-earth public hearing.

Gungor said that children are bombarded by sexually-laced messages everywhere and all the time. Christians must do a better job of communicating with each other and becoming role models to our children. Laughter syncopated Gungor’s quips about how differently men and women are wired and we must recognize that we talk and listen to each other differently. As the audience filed out of the Embassy Suites ballroom session, one could hear such comments as “brilliant,” “finally we are not afraid to be frank and open about such matters,” and “I am so glad my children heard it, too.”

Participants frequently congratulated Thurber for organizing a successful gathering. Thurber said inviting local presenters from the MAUC territory for breakout sessions was intentional and the theme was the result of listening to pastors and recognizing their needs. “We have quality professionals who are often overlooked. Here they are, leading in breakout sessions,” he commented.

In his inspiring closing address, MAUC president Gary Thurber gave a take-away challenge to the ministers in attendance: “Number one, the church loves you, and number two, the church gives you permission to be a minister first to your families.”

Photo: Brenda Dickerson