BRYAN, Texas (BP)–Sixteen-year-old Chris Lanier was not exactly thrilled with the idea of spending the weekend with his parents, Glenn and Kathy. He was expecting “just another one of those conferences” when he agreed to attend the Turning Hearts Tour at Central Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas.
His parents were a bit more hopeful. “We thought we would be getting a refresher course, expecting to hear a lot of what we had heard at other parent-child conferences that we had attended years earlier with our three older children,” Kathy said.
What the Laniers ended up coming away with was an experience all three described as “incredible.”
“The passion that poured forth in wanting families to be united, reunited and to live as a living sacrifice for Christ was evident in the teachings, in the prayer and in the singing of songs,” Glenn said. “[Our] regret is that we can’t turn back time and give to our other children what we will now be able to give to our youngest.”
The Turning Hearts Tour is the brainchild of Richard Ross and Joel Engle. Ross is co-founder of the international True Love Waits movement and student ministry professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Engle and his band lead worship for many of the largest student ministry events in the nation.
Ross and Engle shared the platform at an event in Mississippi where they saw responsiveness from families with teenagers, sparking the idea for the Turning Hearts Tour.
The tour is about “turning the hearts of parents and teenagers toward one another,” Ross said. “This idea is based on Malachi 4:6: ‘And He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.’”
Early on, Ross sensed that parents were the key to teenagers’ lives and spiritual vibrancy.
“This event is the result of 32 years of local church student ministry, including a ministry to and with parents,” Ross said. “The Turning Hearts Tour is just the culmination of a lifetime of love for parents, commitment to parents and study on behalf of parents.”
Ross, who leads the parents’ session at each conference, has been traveling around the country for the last several weeks with worship leader Joel Engle and worship artist Tyra Lokey.
“[Joel and Tyra] are two godly young adults that have clear, biblically-sound teaching about family life,” Ross said. “Teenagers instantly open their hearts to Joel and Tyra, in part because both these leaders had childhoods marked by great pain and loss. Teenagers can identify with them and tend to listen and receive all that they teach about parents and family. They are just exactly who we need on this tour.”
Over the past few weeks, Ross said he has seen amazing stories of renewal within families.
“We are seeing strong families celebrate wonderful relationships in their homes and learning insights that will prevent them from drifting toward unhealthy patterns of family life,” he said. “Every week we are seeing troubled families discover restored relationships and insights into new ways to live together so that the pain does not return.”
At different points during the conference, Ross gives parents and teens an opportunity to ask forgiveness of each other.
“Although we love each other, there had been a lot of anger, hurt and resentment,” said Jim Gordon, who attended the Jacksonville, Fla., conference with his wife and son. “Mere words cannot begin to express what I felt in my heart as my son forgave me for past wrongs.”
Ross leads parents and their teens in a consecration ceremony during which parents are encouraged to “release teenagers to God’s plans and purposes,” and family members place their hands on fathers and single mothers to commission them to be spiritual leaders in the home.
“We will never have strong churches or a strong nation until families are healed and parents become the spiritual leaders God always designed them to be,” Ross said. “I think the Turning Hearts Tour is at the center of what God is doing in the church today.”
The Turning Hearts Tour, on the Web at www.turningheartstour.com, will run through 2006 and 2007.