Recently I was speaking to a friend who has four grown children. One of the four had maintained a strong relationship with Jesus through high school and her young adult years. She had maintained her commitment to purity in relationships. She had maintained a strong relationship with her family. I, as a mother of young children, asked her, “So, what do you think made the difference?” She thought for a moment and replied, “Youth group and her relationships. She was in community through her high school years. She participated in and led in the church. She had long lasting relationships with people who were able to speak into her.” As we talked more she shared that the other kids had a lot of school and sports commitments that made it difficult to engage with the church community and they had made a transition in churches during the formative years. They didn’t mean to have community slip through the cracks but in this day and age if we are not diligently working to preserve it, other commitments will easily push out our priority of community.
As I feel that God has called me to equip families to disciple their children to grow to adulthood with strong relationships with God and their family, I have had several conversations with parents of adult children. I want to know what works and what doesn’t work. What are they glad they did and what are their regrets? The biggest regret that comes up from parents whose children are not walking a life with Jesus as adults is that committing to a church community was not a priority as the kids were growing up.
We were created to live life together with others. We were created to work together with others to accomplish the things that God has called us to do. We need to connect with others in more intimate ways than casual acquaintance. The benefits of a church community are innumerable. The best way that I have heard the benefit of community for youth was explained by a friend of mine as a tether.
With a tether, you are tied to one end and the other end is tied to a strong base of friends, family and mentors. This gives you the freedom to go into some dangerous situations with the safety feature of always being able to be pulled back to the safety of the community. As kids are little they are building the relationships and the community that they will be tethered to as they grow. When they hit Jr. High and High School they will begin to venture into those new situations. Starting with a short tether and building to a long tether. When kids are young, it works for those holding the tether to be their parents or family. As kids get older, the tether gets longer and is venturing into more and more unsheltered situations, it is important that the base holding the other end is larger than just the nuclear family. The base includes parents but is extended to include supportive peers, church leaders, and mentors. The stronger the base, the further a child can go and still be safely supported. With a strong base and a strong tether these disciples of Jesus can reach the whole world for Christ. Cooperating with the mission of God in their schools and communities and reaching to the ends of the earth.
So, what can I do now with my kids as little ones or youth? Make it a priority to build their commitment to their church community. Go to youth group, host a small group, invite friends over for dinner, connect with other families, save up to send kids to camp this summer, prioritize sending your youth on a short term missions trip, and pray, pray, pray!!!
What do you think the benefits of a strong church community are for your family? Please share!
I really appreciate the variety of advice and insight. I agree that the age of the child as well as the balance of control are key points that parents can easily overlook.