A young man looked up at the projected PowerPoint presentation and typed a message into his phone. He was learning how to listen for the relational needs hidden behind a person’s words, and how to respond with loving care. Within a couple of minutes, his message helped to comfort and encourage someone in a crisis. Soon the person replied that they were now feeling calmer and able to cope.
This is one example of the practical and powerful learning that took place during the Family Ministry Leadership Training (FMLT) in Rogaška Slatina, Slovenia, March 14-20, 2022.
FMLT is a three-year cycle of training designed to equip people working as leaders in family ministries departments in the Trans-European Division (TED) and Inter-European Division (EUD). Training is also available to interested pastors and lay people who are working closely with family ministry leaders.
The training was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and held online in 2021. In 2022, TED Family Ministries director Karen Holford and EUD Family Ministries director Rainer Wanitschek were delighted to welcome participants back to an in-person training event. As the training focuses on supporting and improving relationships, a face-to-face setting is more conducive to learning than a virtual event, organizers said.
The current session included a presentation by Daniel Duda, TED Education director, who helped participants to understand the foundational theological principles for healthy relationships and how to nurture marriages and families. He inspired participants to work toward creating the safe and loving relationships that God intended us to experience with Him and with each other. These are relationships where there is “nothing to fear, nothing to hide, and nothing to prove.” These are marriages and families with a joyful, grace-filled, and loving potential for continual growth and intimacy, he said.
Holford used her background as a family therapist to teach about interpersonal communication. Participants learned how to identify and express their own relational needs and how to understand and meet the relational needs of others. They also discovered how communication patterns and beliefs are created in families, how to explore and talk about forgiveness, and how to reduce conflicts and find safe ways to talk about challenging issues.
The presence of Gábor Mihalec, Family Ministries director for the Hungarian Union, and his rich experience provided added value, organizers said. Mihalec explained how to create a program for supporting and enriching marriages. He shared principles to develop deeper closeness and led practical sessions where students created their own seminar outlines to address various issues in marriage.
Sabbaths (Saturdays) at FMLT are a time to explore a different dimension of nurturing family faith. Holford shared many simple ideas for sharing faith through the everyday experiences of parent/child interaction, following the principles found in Deuteronomy 6. This was followed by interactive worship activities.
As the training concluded with worship and the presenting of certificates, one participant said, “Please, can we come back again? This is something that really blesses us and enriches our ministry!”
Organizers said that the 2023 FMLT training will focus on spiritual parenting, human sexuality, family ethics, and intergenerational worship. Meetings will take place at Friedensau Adventist University in Germany in April 2023.