Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to answer the question of how children can be incorporated into the life of a Missional Community. I outlined three different types of gatherings for MCs – the Family Meal, LTGs, and a Third Place – and posted some suggestions for families on each one. While not every small group gathering looks exactly like one of these three, my hope is that the principles can be applied to your specific group meetings.
Now, I’m turning from the “how” to the “why” – or more accurately, the “why not.” The truth is that when we are encouraged to join Missional Communities, or any small group gathering in homes, the first question that comes to mind is “What am I going to do with my kids?” There are many reasons why we don’t default to wanting to include our children in our communities, and I’ve addressed a couple in my previous two posts:
While I do hear these two questions often, I don’t believe they are the main reason we don’t work to include children in the life of our community. Rather, we don’t include our kids because doing so forces us to be real, with ourselves and with each other. Let me explain.
“Some Jesuses Hit People”
The other day, my family and I were driving through a large, loud thunderstorm. I decided to use this opportunity as a “teachable moment” for my one-year-old and three-year-old in the back seat. So, I started telling the girls how God made the storm, and how much more powerful he is than any storm ever. Here’s a transcript of that conversation with my oldest, Waverly:
- me: “Isn’t God powerful?”
- Waverly: “Yeah, and sometimes he hits people.”
- me: “Well, God is just and gives consequences for sin, but he sent Jesus because he loves us.”
- Waverly: “Yeah, and some Jesuses hit people, too.”
- me: “Well, there’s only one Jesus, and I don’t think he…”
- Waverly: “What about the baby Jesus?”
What started out as a shining parental teaching moment quickly devolved into a realization that my daughter thinks that the baby Jesus and the “big” Jesus are two different people, that there may be more Jesuses than that, and that at least some of these Jesuses hit people.
Even as I type this out, I find myself wanting to explain that my wife and I don’t talk about hitting people at all, much less Jesus hitting people. I want to tell you that we don’t know where she got that from. And the reason I want to tell you that is because I’m insecure. I want everyone, including you, to think that I’m a great parent whose daughter knows a lot of true things about Jesus. Rather than believing the gospel, believing that God loves me in Christ no matter how good of a parent I am, my heart craves the approval of others, especially in my parenting.
Rather than believing that God loves me no matter what, I crave the approval of others in my parenting. @johnmurk
Kids Don’t Stick to the Script
There’s a script that we all tend to stick to in Christian community, either on Sundays or Missional Communities. According to the script, everything is “fine,” our biggest prayer request is for our sick grandmother, and we don’t struggle with much of anything. Many of us come to “check the box” of Christian community without any real intention of opening up and telling others what’s actually going on. We say that we want to be known, but then we only show others what we want them to see.We say that we want to be known, but then we only show others what we want them to see. @johnmurk
The problem with bringing your children along to be a part of your small group is that they don’t stick to the script. In our pride, we are afraid that everyone will find out what life is really like at our house. We’re afraid they’ll find out that our three-year-old is rebellious and that we don’t know how to discipline them effectively. We’re afraid that they’ll find out that our teenage daughter is always on her phone, and that we feel like we’re losing her. We’re afraid that they’ll find out that our grade school son is a bully and that all our talking to him has done nothing to help. Our sin and shame makes it easier to just find a babysitter and keep the kids at home. That way, we can stick to the script, like always.
It’s Time To Get Real
The truth is that sticking to the script is killing us. We need true community. We need to be deeply known. We need people who can walk with us, pray with us, encourage us, and speak truth to us in our parenting hardships, and in all of life. In all of those situations I mentioned earlier – the rebellious preschooler, the iPhone-glued teenager, and the grade school bully – we need others who can help us believe the gospel and speak it to our children.
It’s time to get real, with ourselves and with others. We need help, and that’s ok. The only perfect parent is God the Father. The rest of us need each other, and most of all we need Jesus. My prayer for myself, and for anyone who is prone to want to “stick to the script,” is that we would embrace being known. That we would welcome others into the chaos of our lives, and find that we’re not alone. And that, together, we can help each other point our kids to Christ.
The only perfect parent is God the Father. The rest of us need each other, and most of all we need Jesus. @johnmurk