Yesterday we had the privilege of being at our niece’s thanksgiving down in Guildford. The minister there did a great job, and I was particularly struck by one comment he made. Just before he prayed for Faith (our niece) and her parents he said to the whole church ‘you know, communities raise children – I really believe that kids have so much to gain from the communities in which they are raised’ (or words to that effect). The way he said it was arresting as it bought a moment of clarity to something I guess many of us instinctively know. While parents have the primary privilege and responsibility of raising their kids the community can be an enormous help (or hindrance depending on the community!). Anecdotally I can already see the various ways in which my own kids benefit from the various friendships (across the generations) that they are privileged to enjoy in our local church. Biblically its so obvious we don’t even notice it. The Bible was written not to individuals but to a community/communities – the instructions about raising kids in Deut 6, 16, Eph 6 (and elsewhere) are given to people in community. The earliest believing communities met together, ate together, prayed, worshipped, and served together. They weren’t anywhere like as individualistic as 21st c. Westerners. Community was an inevitable part of life. The fact is it still is. I wonder if it’s a case of thinking carefully enough about the communities our children spend most time in.
Practically the application to Christian parents would be as follows. Get to church with your kids (regular and often). Take your kids to the church’s kids clubs. Have people round your house for lunch on Sundays. Go for day-trips out with other people. Laugh. Pray. Sing. Play. Eat. If you do the ordinary everyday things regularly and often with your kids you’ll find all sorts of good things coming in to their lives. On the flip-side if you want to give your kids every reason to walk away from church when they’re old enough then miss plenty of Sundays. Take them to football club or dance class instead of church kids club. Don’t exercise hospitality. Don’t hang around church after the service too long on a Sunday. Now, of course we can’t save our kids – that’s God’s job – but we can sow seeds and prepare soil (or not).
If the minister I heard yesterday is right ‘communities raise kids.’ So parents need to think carefully and act intentionally about the communities we spend most time in.