Put Kids in Their Proper Place: Part Two
Very thankful to Dan Holder who has put together great thougths for us as a church, looking at how we disciples our children in Missional Community. Lord willing, this will encourage us and help us understand more of the role we all have in this wonderful work! Please enjoy Part 2 below, and you may read .
In Part 1 of Putting Kids in their proper place, I framed out some extreme views that the world has about children and some scriptural examples of kids being included in the mission of God with the parents/adults. In Part 2, I want to shift into some of the practical examples of the ways this interaction with the adults helps in the discipleship process for our children. Let’s ask the question, what could happen to your kids in missional community?
When we began hosting a missional community at our house, River City had a much smaller number of children. At our first meeting, the adults (8) sat around our dinner table and the Moser kids (2) and the Holder kids (3) sat at the counter. Over the years we have had large numbers of children and small numbers of children in our MC, but we have always had approximately 30-50% of the people under 18 in our group.
Josiah, our oldest, has the most experience being included with the adults. No other children coming at first were his age and none of them were boys. So, he connected with the men in our group. They would greet him, high five him, ask him questions, and just accept him. Josiah would sit and listen to the group and every once in awhile ask a question or make a comment. He was included in the mission with the adults in our group.
On one occasion, prior to a multiplication, we divided our group for discussion time. Josiah was with the adults in another room in our house while I was downstairs. When that group came back to the living room after discussion time, one adult shared with me that Josiah’s comment was the most insightful one in that group that night. Now, at the same time that this was happening we had a two year old that we could not take our eyes off of for 10 seconds and a daughter playing in the basement with the kids. To this day, there are adults who were in our missional community at that time, that our kids feel confident to approach on a Sunday and those adults sometimes initiate conversations with our kids.
We remind our children often of this Proverb:
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” - Prov. 13:20
As much as we love it when our children play and enjoy peer friendships full of goofiness, imagination, and adventure, we also recognize that peers will not often be great resources for them to grow as disciples. I want my kids to hear from college students about the ways that their faith became their own in high school. I want my children to hear from young singles about the faith they have in God to decide if they will ever get married. I want my children to hear from other married couples how they need to believe the Gospel in order to handle the conflict in their marriage. I want them to hear that the adults in their 50’s and 60’s are still running the race to win the prize. (1 Cor. 9:24) I want all of these things to be stored up in the hearts of my children before they face these things for themselves.
What about the vulnerability of the adults? You may want to have this conversation with your missional community because not all parents will view this the same way as me but I am in favor of my kids being exposed to the sin and brokenness of our world in missional community. When I think about it, I would rather have my kids exposed to those topics a missional community where the person confessing or addressing the topic will have the Gospel preached to them. Exposure to the raw fallen nature of our world will happen either intentionally within the family or accidentally in the world. Just as I think it would be bad for my kids to experience a flat tire on their own without me and with no preparation. I want to intentionally expose them and prepare them for the harsh realities of the sin that with tempt them and confront them.
Another trend in the world that can be difficult to pull away from is adolescence. What is the purpose of childhood? The world will tell you, “Kids will be kids.” “Kids need to just be kids.” Is there any evidence of this preservation of childishness in scripture? Jesus tells adults to “become like children” (Matt 18:1-5) but this clearly does not mean to remain unwise like a child. That passage calls adults to have the humility of a child.
We see Jesus developing from childhood to adulthood. He grew in “wisdom and stature and in favor with God and in favor with men.” (Luke 2:52) If we were all suppose to stay childish, then Jesus failed. The hope of childhood is to growth and development physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Adolescence by definition is the period after puberty where the child grows into an adult. However, the world today has turned it into a stage of life where we are expected to live in the contradiction of exploring adult decisions without adult responsibilities.
Missional community is partially about living out our identity as the family of God. Our family was exposed in missional community. Not just Michelle and I, but our kids, as they were, in all their obedience and disobedience. We were on display before our church family. Scary? For sure. What would people think of us? How would we be able to host/lead a group once they know the truth about our family? The answer? The Gospel tells the truth that my whole family has multiple sin issues and we need a Savior. The Good News is that the Savior has come already and that we as parents are not the savior of our children. They will not be saved by trusting in their good behavior or in the faith of their parents. They will be pointed toward their Savior by being surrounded by a church family that is talking about the grace they have received and the faith they have in the one who lived the sinless life for them.
As our children are in the family of God developing their identity as missionaries of God, we want to equip them to live in a broken and fallen world. This includes exposing them to the reality of sin in the context where they will see it appropriately. As Charlie Hogstad has rightly said, we want them to “see the glory of Christ rather than the supposed glories of the world.”