Parenting – it takes a community

When facing big challenges, having folk you can call on to help is amazing! We’ve moved house a number of times, and have been so blessed to have church friends who have come alongside to help on moving day. We’ve faced bereavement and have had the privilege of having those who have walked with us through it. And there are many other situations where having the advice or help of amazing Christian friends has literally be a ‘god-send’. But standing out above them all has been the blessing of church families surrounding us as we have sought to bring up our children.

Being parents is one of the most awesome and daunting tasks we can face! We are privileged with the physical, emotional, intellectual and, above all, spiritual dependency and well-being of children! What as challenge! And yet, how often do we do this on our own? But that’s not how God intended it to be.

We know that children are a gift from God (Gen 33:5, Ps 127:3) … yes, even at 2am in the morning!

Now, we do need to understand some Biblical basics first. We know that children are a gift from God (Gen 33:5, Ps 127:3) … yes, even at 2am in the morning! And it is to parents, primarily, that God gives the wonderful responsibility of nurture (Prov 1:8-9), and in particular spiritual nurture (Deut 6:6-9,20-25, 11:18-21, Prov 22:6, Eph 6:4). It is the pattern of the parent’s life as well as their words that teach our children (2 Tim 1:5, 3:15), and the reality of living our our love for Jesus in front of them daily is a privilege and a challenge. Praise God, salvation is of the Lord, not us (Jon 2:9) – as parents we are the sowers of seed, but God brings the increase.

Yet, we are also clearly taught in scripture that as Christians we don’t grow in isolation. The local church is part of His plan not only so that we might learn, but so that together we might share one another’s gifts so that we continue towards spiritual maturity (Eph 4:11-16). In Titus 2:3-5 we are given the wonderful picture of older women teaching the younger. We see Paul take younger men under his wing to teach them and encourage growth, even Timothy who was particularly young compared to others. And the marvellous picture in Col 3:12-17 of God’s people bearing with one another, forgiving one another, teaching and admonishing one another doesn’t exclude parenting help and advice!

We were so blessed as young parents, feeling very out of our depth, by the wise advice of a Godly church leader. He said ‘Don’t go it alone. Look for an older family where you see Godly parents and children you’d love your children to turn out like. Ask them if you can seek their advice and prayer, and learn from them.’ We were privileged to see both the good and the not so good in the lives of three couples, who patiently helped us immensely and who, in God’s time, we were able to encourage too. It was Col 3:12-17 in action in our lives, and our families remain close to this day.

We were privileged to see both the good and the not so good in the lives of three couples, who patiently helped us immensely and who, in God’s time, we were able to encourage too. It was Col 3:12-17 in action in our lives

So, whether you are a parent, or someone who has never had children or whose children have grown up, here are some practical parenting pointers for us all:

  • When you come to church, come ready for God to move you, to speak to you, to change you. We need children to see God’s people in vital, passionate, living relationships with our living God;
  • If you are a parent, seek out the prayer and practical support of Godly people. Find older couples to draw close to. Don’t be embarrassed for them to see your failings, but be willing to learn.
  • If you are not parents, or are older parents, look out for those who you can be used to provide Godly support to. Notice that even young, inexperienced Timothy was encouraged to look out for and help others (1 Tim 4:12). Even if it’s ‘only’ prayer support – that’s so vital!
  • In the busyness of parenting, don’t neglect meeting with God’s people on Sunday, and don’t miss the support of Small Groups or Prayer Triplets which you need to teach & encourage you and pray for you.
  • Don’t try to do alone what God has put you in community for.

Looking back, I knew the need and the value of people coming alongside when doing big tasks, like moving house. How much more, then, do we need to see the immense task of parenting in the same way. And how much more can we expect to see the blessing when others draw alongside us as we parent the children God has given us.