Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. -Proverbs 22:6
I have now entered a stage in life where a I feel like I’ve grown an extra appendage in the shape of a small child. Most would call this motherhood. Before I became a mother, I really struggled to appreciate having little kids as part of a community of friends. Calling them loud and destructive is an understatement and I always wished that it was “just the adults” around to have some focused conversation.
But, here I am, raising a small child and also trying to build friendships with women whose lives may or may not look like mine. Just because I am a mom doesn’t mean I am only interested in the “mom only” community. I have friends that are single, engaged, in college, in different states and right next door. This means that my ability to meet the needs of my friends looks different for each relationship and now I navigate it with a toddler.
One of my biggest convictions this year is having more patience and excitement for children in community. When our son was born we constantly thanked God for people who were going to help us raise him.
The beauty of rooted community is that raising kids to know the gospel is not the sole responsibility of the parents, it’s the responsibility of the entire group.
How do we shift the way we live in community with kids?
1.Incorporate kids into the community traditions…with loads of flexibility
In the pre-baby days, I would get frustrated when I’d plan a community get-together and parents would be running around trying to wrestle their children to sit down and be quiet. I didn’t think the evening was fun for anyone involved. It’s important to keep community traditions like meals and prayer because discipleship still continues with little ones around. The community traditions will just look different.
Instead of expecting there to be an hour long serious prayer session, maybe expect for a good ten minutes and ask the kids to pray along with everyone. Or, maybe be okay with a kid screaming in the background while you eat dinner together–the parents are trying their best.
2. Support your mom friends
As a mother, it’s easier for me to understand the needs of a mom, but when I was childless I had no idea. As Christians, we should always be anticipating the needs of others, putting their concerns above our own. Especially for for mothers and their kids. Moms can only multitask so much and keeping their child quiet in a hipster coffee shop with ambient electronic music playing while trying to catch up on your life is likely a bit stressful. Instead, find a place with couches that welcomes loud laughter and babies crawling on the floor.
Don’t wait to be asked to help. Pick up that toy the kid threw on the ground for the 10th time. Grab the diaper bag and walk them to their car. Offer to hold the baby while mom checks out at the store. Snatch that baby before he falls down the stairs. Community with kids means there are never enough hands so help out as much as you can.
3. Disciple the kids
You are going to teach young kids so much about what it means to be a faithful friend. The way you love them, talk to them, and help answer faith questions is going to impact them forever. Welcoming kids into your life as a part of your community, is welcoming Jesus himself (Matthew 18:5). And Jesus takes the discipleship of children seriously even threatening to drown those who make little one’s stumble in their faith (v. 6). Woah! Do not mess around with using your influence to shape kids to know Jesus. Children will not forget the impact you make on their life and their faith.
It can be easy to overlook children as being an important part of community—they’re small and don’t understand a whole lot—so we think. Kids understand the important things like forgiveness, trust, and the difference between a flamingo pink crayon and a tickle-me-pink crayon–do not argue about this with a kid, the tickle-me-pink is always the better crayon. Serving children will eventually lead to more affection for children. And I bet you’ll learn a lot about the character of God through their loving and abundant spirits.
Questions for Your Community:
What are your subconscious views of children and community?
What has been holding you back from investing in a friend who is also a mom?
Why do you think kids mattered to God’s Kindgom?
How can your community serve kids? Is there a babysitting sign-up you can start? Is there a bible study you can lead just for little ones during your small group? Let’s find ways we can incorporate kids into the collective worship of God.