This post originally appeared on a blog for young ministers in the Assemblies of God.
(At General Council 2013 I had a conversation with my dad asking him why he made it a priority for our family to attend General Council as we always pastored small churches. His responses prompted me to ask him to give some wisdom to us <40s about the value of General Council as well as some practical tips on how to make that happen. We’re pretty far out from the next GC in 2015 but now is a great time to start planning. – Kelly)
The year was 1989, I was 27 years old, we had 2 little girls, a five-year-old and a 22-month-old, we pastored a small church in the St. Louis metro, and we were in Indianapolis for our second General Council as lead pastors.
I remember coming out of the RCA dome with my family and saying to Joyce, my wife, “Every church, no matter how small, should do all it can to help its pastor come to General Council.” We talked about the impact it was having on us to participate and gain an understanding of who we are together as the Assemblies of God.
I can still remember how energized we were that afternoon understanding how the small things we were doing for the Kingdom of God fit into a bigger and very significant picture.
Why should a young family make an effort to attend General Council?
It introduced our children to the culture of the fellowship and touched their lives on levels that our local church could not. Our children particularly loved the Kid’s Councils and were inspired by missionaries and gifted ministers.
It helped us see the bigger picture. During the ’89 Indianapolis council it clicked for us how what we were doing fit with all of the other pieces of the puzzle.
It helped me to know that I did have a voice. If my passion and conviction was strong enough to persuade and inspire, I could walk to a microphone and make a difference if ever I felt the need. A fact re-emphasized to me at this past council when that once 5-year-old little girl (now 29 herself) walked to a microphone and made a prevailing motion concerning something she felt was important.
It provided an opportunity to embrace life-giving relationships with people from a broader sphere I would otherwise have never met. We chose to embrace the responsibilities and the benefits of being a part of this fellowship and I now have countless relationships because of a lifetime of participation. Social media reinforces and further solidifies the relationships established at council and vice versa. I was so very proud of the under-40s as I watched them meet face to face at this council and build strong bonds while making a difference through this Fellowship.
How can a young family afford to come to General Council?
Be intentional. Put it in your ministry budget.
Divide the cost out over 24 months and budget the resources monthly. When I was a young pastor our church set aside money every month for General Council. It was a budget item. Yes, there was one council back in ’91 that we missed because the church was going through a tough time and we had to reallocate the funds, but that was an unusual situation. There were other times that I did not offer to reallocate conference funds during difficult times because I saw it as a priority and a responsibility. When we interviewed for ministry positions through the years, at the appropriate time, I asked about General Council attendance and set the expectation that as an ordained minister it was my obligation to attend and the church’s to help us go—and that it was important for my family to attend with me.
Plan your vacation around it.
Build in some extra days and plan some fun times around council. Our family was able to do things we could not have otherwise afforded because our travel was covered to a General Council location.
When the kids were small we did cereal bars, peanut butter, fruit, and fast food for two meals and usually did one meal in a decent restaurant every day. We planned the budget with a certain daily dollar amount for food. By economizing with two meals our family was able to have one great restaurant experience every evening, something we did not get to do a lot of at home.
Yes, there are a lot of great conferences. Yes, for the same expenditure you can go to the latest and greatest conference where great leaders will put a fire hose in your mouth and give you a bunch of great stuff. So, why go to a General Council when even the name of the event sounds stodgy? It’s because we are in this thing together. We have a responsibility to God and to one another to steward well this Fellowship. It’s because your presence will make a difference and your family will be touched.
That 1989 General Council was the 75th anniversary of the Assemblies of God. Part of the event was a torch run from Hot Springs, Arkansas, the birthplace of the Assemblies of God, to Indianapolis. I remember that evening service when the torch arrived and the runner ran to the platform to hand it off to our General Superintendent, G. Raymond Carlson. I remember our 22-month-old in her stroller in the aisle and my five-year-old hanging on my neck watching. At one point it looked as though the torch was going to go out. Kelly said, “Dad, what will happen if the torch goes out?” My eyes watered up, I started to choke up and I answered her question with far more meaning than she could grasp at 5 years of age. I answered, “Baby, the torch will never go out.”
That little girl went on to be challenged by missionaries at Kid’s Councils, to learn the culture of our Fellowship, to begin to question the culture of our Fellowship, to step up as a leader, and finally to answer the call of God to become an Assemblies of God missionary. The younger one went on to meet friends at Kid’s Councils, have great worship experiences, and continues to love and serve Jesus.
The torch we carry will burn until Jesus comes as long as we steward the flame and pass it on. I’m thankful for this awesome generation to whom we are now passing the torch. We expect that this present generation who is now taking the torch will also hand it off at the appropriate time in an appropriate way.
General Council? Yeah, it was always a challenge. We could have always used the resources another way. We had to contend for it. But it was some of the best times we had as a family, and it really did make a difference in our lives. Hey, somebody has to lead this Fellowship under the Lordship of Christ… it might as well be us!
David Delp has pastored churches since he was 25 years old and is now the Executive Secretary for the Indiana District of the Assemblies of God.