I remember when Hillary Clinton used this African proverb in 1996 at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The outcry by the conservative community was loud! Parents are the people that should lead families, not government. In their haste to condemn what was interpreted as the government imposing it’s will on families, an important Biblical principle was lost.
Raising kids is hard. Even if you are great parents, doing everything “right” there comes a day when your kids need more than just you to influence them. When our boys were in grade school we made the decision to move from Denver to Omaha. One of the considerations in our decision was the desire to be closer to our extended family…we wanted to widen the circle of influence to include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for our boys. We are fortunate to have a family that exemplifies the same values as my husband and I; we realized that influence from family members would help our kids stay connected to God as they navigated their teen years.
Our family situation may be different from yours but the concept of having an extended community of adults to help mentor and influence your kids is not only desirable but worth the effort. Developing relationships with families and adults that love God will someday prove to be invaluable.
When Moses talked to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6 about passing on their faith, he spoke to the entire community. It was everyone’s responsibility to make sure that the next generation knew to keep God as the first priority. A typical Hebrew household could consist of over eighty people with aunts, uncles, cousins….
The modern church community can and should be a place where families share beliefs and encourage one another on the spiritual journey.
In the book, “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity,” authors Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof tell us that one of the greatest values of the church is its potential to provide community for children. The church should be a place where kids can show up and be safe, a place where they can have meaningful dialogue with another trusted adult, and a place where they can ask difficult questions.
So how do you build strategic relationships into the lives of your kids?
1. The first step is to develop relationships with families that mirror your beliefs. Start today by becoming a member of a Journey Group. I believe it doesn’t matter whether the group consists of families with kids the same age as your family or a group that is multi-generational. The key is to be in community with people that are willing to invest in your family and likewise you will have influence on the others in the group.
2. Connect with your child’s small group leader to develop a relationship. Ask if there is anything you could do to help your child engage better with the group. Express your appreciation to the leader for investing in your son or daughter.
3. Find ways for your kids to serve as they approach adolescence. Serving alongside leaders and adults helps kids to see how to “be” the church in contrast to just attending church. More can be learned by serving side by side with others than sitting in a classroom hearing about serving.
4. Search for mentors in your community. Think of adults in your relational network who could be a positive spiritual and moral voice in the life of your son or daughter and begin a conversation with them about a mentoring relationship with your child.
Remember we have greater influence together than we do separately. Begin today to consider how you can build strategic relationships in the lives of your kids.