A few weeks ago, I was sitting with a mum at church and we were chatting about her child who has had a tough few weeks. She knows that sometimes young people speak to others more openly than they speak to their parents, so as we were chatting, she asked me if I thought her child was ok.
The look of relief on her face as I said “Yes”, made me realise just how significant it is for her to know that someone else is invested in the life of her kids. And it made me ask the question “Is this what church family should look like”?
The word family can make us think of kids, parents and grandparents. But how does the couple without kids fit in? Or single people?
We have to find ways to engage and encourage everyone in the church family.
As a single woman, I read that sentence and wonder how many times I’ve actually thought, ‘“They have to find ways to engage and encourage me”.
It’s true that for people without kids, church can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience. And it’s true that some families need to be challenged by Jesus’ words when he says “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother (Matt 12:50).” But its equally true that we (speaking to my fellow adults without kids) need to be challenged by these words as well.
We have a big problem in churches, as we see large numbers of kids walking away from Jesus as teenagers. Research tells us that one preventative factor is to provide opportunities for youth and children to see adults practicing their faith. Their parents are significant in this of course but its not enough to only see their parents practising their faith. They also need other adults around them who care for them, pray for them and model faith in action. You know all those kids running around church on a Sunday morning? They aren’t just someone else’s kids. They are part of your family. You have a significant role to play in their life.
It’s not just children who we can invest in. Church family is made up of multiple generations and we should be looking for opportunities to engage with them, to encourage them in their faith and to be encouraged by them.
Here are some things that I do to try to engage and encourage everyone in my church family.
Talk to young people
So often over morning tea, the only adults who talk to kids & teenagers in church are their kids or youth leaders. Why not go and have a conversation with some kids this Sunday? Ask them what they’ve learned in kids’ church, or what good things have happened in their week. A lot of kids play sport on Saturday morning and usually can’t wait to tell someone about it. They’ll be excited to tell you about their life, and to hear about yours. So, also tell them what you’ve learned in church and what good things have happened in your week.
Turn up early
My church is like many in Sydney: we have an early church service that is attended by some from an older generation, followed by a mid-morning family service. I attend our family service but if I go to church at 9am instead of 10am, I arrive in time to have morning tea with the early service congregation. Over the past few years I’ve been cared for, prayed for and have stood a little firmer in my faith because of them. I dearly value their input in my life and it is well worth giving up a bit of sleep from time to time.
Pray with parents
Parents are doing a tough job. They’re working hard to raise their kids as good citizens in this world, while also trying to grow them in their faith. Maybe you feel like you have nothing to offer them in terms of support, but you do! Ask them how they’re doing and pray, not just for them, but with them.
We have an amazing opportunity to be people who are invested in all generations. Why wouldn’t we take that up? After all, they’re family.