Adapted from “The Sticky Faith Guide to Your Family” – Kara Powell, Chapter 6
You’ve heard the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. How true do you believe that saying is? Studies show that those who stayed in church following their high school graduation were able to name 5 adults who impacted their spiritual development. Family, friends, and church leaders all fall into this category.
When I think of the village concept, I think of Timothy. Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1 and he says in v. 5, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." Timothy had strong influences in his life when it came to his faith, his mom and grandmother. First you see, a parent was an influence and now you have extended family that also influenced his faith. I wonder what Timothy would have been without those influences?
Then, Paul reminds Timothy towards the end of the letter (3:14-15) “…continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Timothy’s mom and grandmother get credit for training up Timothy in the way he should go in hopes that as he got older, he would not depart from it, which is the reminder Paul gives.
So, the idea is that we need to find ways to connect our youth with adults, family, and church members who will impact their spiritual development. Adults who know your kids’ names, who pray for them, who show up occasionally to your kids’ extra-curricular activities. Adults who can form a web of support to catch them when they fall. Also, in return it will provide you a support network of people who will become closely associated with your family that will help in times of crisis.
Sounds easy, but how do we do that? How do parents actively seek to connect their children to impactful adults?
1. We have to be intentional. Identify the adults in your life, currently, that you want to be spending time with your child. You know these adults and know that they would be of benefit to your child's spiritual development. The church can be a tool for the intergenerational connections. In our ministry we strive to make these connections, but the parents will also need to be intentional in providing this for their children. For parents, you can begin with other parents in your congregation. You have a support network already, if you choose to use it. It’s so important that you’re not only involved in the lives of your own kids but also in the lives of the other students here at your congregation. Next, look at your close friends and family. Would they be someone you would trust to develop a connection with your children? Would they come over for dinner from time to time or support your kids’ activities?
2. Intentionally find time for those adults you have identified to be around your child and family. Invite them over for dinner, invite them to your child's extra curricular activities, plan certain things for just the adult and child to do together, and once you have built that relationship, maybe invite their family to vacation with yours.
3. Follow-up. Make sure this does not become a one time thing. If we are concerned about connecting our kids with adults, we have to follow-up after each time spent together. Talk to your child, ask them questions about that adult. Talk to the adult, ask them to go deeper in conversation as time goes on to allow your child to see them for who they are, and to feel comfortable sharing their past with your child.
Intergenerational connections are important, but they tend to be the hardest thing to do; therefore, they become infrequent if not absent in a child's life.
Sharing is Caring – Share in relationships with others because you care about your children.
Be Intentional! Make this a priority.
The advantages sure outweigh the costs. If research is correct, I have to ask, "Why wouldn't we want these intergenerational relationships for our kids if it helps their faith to grow?"
We have placed a great focus on intergenerational relationships in our ministry at Rose Hill. I have personally seen the benefits from our students having these relationships. It's a great thing to see young and old visiting at church on Sundays and Wednesdays as if they are old friends.
However, the church can only do so much. It is up to the parents to start fostering these relationships or to continue building on current relationships that your child may already have.
What ideas have you come up with to help your kids connect with other adults?
How would you explain your goal of surrounding them with adults to your children?
Andrew Thompson is the Youth and Family Minister at Rose Hill Church of Christ. He is married to the beautiful, Joy Thompson (who is way out of his league!). They enjoy sharing life together, ministering to teens and families, football in Tuscaloosa (Roll Tide!), and musical theatre. Andrew is a proud supporter of sarcasm and dry sense of humors. Thank you for reading!