Okay, it’s official. I really enjoy “family conferences.” I don’t know if that’s an official category, but I note a pleasant distinction between the typical pastors’ conference and the smaller family conferences. It’s a real joy to see so many families together enjoying spiritual things, and it’s even better when I’m there with my family. I love the sight of strollers, dads carrying infants or wrestling with toddlers, and the sound of little ones singing the great songs of the faith.
This past weekend I had the privilege of being with Voddie Baucham and the saints at Grace Family Baptist Church for their Semper Reformanda conference on church membership. I’m leaving with fresh ideas and visions for shepherding families and encouraging fathers in my own congregation. I’m leaving with a heart full of word (thanks Voddie, Ken Jones, Mike Horton, and Jeff Johnson!), fellowship, and song. I’m also leaving with a belly full of Voddie’s ribs, cornbread, greens, potato salad, and bread pudding with a lovely bourbon sauce. Yeah, I’d come back!
But the Semper Reformanda conference joins a list of memorable gatherings where I’ve either been able to take my family or I’ve had the joy of watching other families enjoy the things of God. If you’re looking for an opportunity to take the family to a spiritually-enriching vacation, you might consider one of these conferences:
The Carey Conference (outside Toronto). I had the privilege of attending in 2009. Sponsored by the Sovereign Grace Churches of Canada (not the same as the U.S. group), this conference meets at a camp ground. Canadians love to camp! There’s tons of stuff to do for the kids and great fellowship between families. In 2013, Conrad Mbewe is the scheduled speaker. A great week-long vacation and spiritual retreat.
The Ocean City Bible Conference (Ocean City, N.J.). One of the best-kept family conference secrets in the country. New Jersey board walk, dry city, carnival, families and fellowship, and a great week of preaching and teaching. It was a joy to join Kevin O’Brien and Ed Moore for the conference in 2010. I didn’t have the family with me and it was one of those events that makes you long for your own family. Load up the kids and go if you can.
New Life Bible Conference (Vernon Hills, IL). Pastor Louis Love has been kind enough to invite me to participate at New Life for the last five years and year is better than the first! Family, laughter–lots of laughter–good preaching, and joyful singing. It’s a great place for kids to run around and play and for parents to hang out over the word and a meal. Very good book selection each year thanks to Reformation Heritage Books. It’s the only conference I’ve attended where I could see a man go from being single, court, marry, and two kids in five years! Now that’s a family conference!
The Legacy Conference (Chicago, IL). Okay, this was probably the biggest surprise to me. Technically Legacy is a discipleship conference and that theme comes through strongly. But I was greatly encouraged to see all the young people there along with a number of young families. Brian Dye and crew put together a wonderful conference experience appropriate to all ages. I had the honor of attending in 2010 and would love the opportunity to take my family one day.
So, brother pastor and conference attendee, consider joining one of these or another Christian family conferences. You and your family will be greatly blessed!