Because Maggie and I don’t have kids, I’m about to wade into waters I likely have no business being in. Oh well.
When it comes to thinking missionally about raising children there are a couple of cultural realities that can be noticed. First, our (suburban, middle class) culture places an incredibly high value on children. Many of the implications of this value are really good. There can be a tendency however for children to grow up in this environment with the idea they are the center of the universe. A slight exaggeration perhaps, but a new term was coined a couple of years ago to describe parents who contribute to this: helicopter parents.
A helicopter parent is a term for a person who pays extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly at educational institutions. They rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling them or letting them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children’s wishes. They are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach whether their children need them or not.
Another reality to note are the small amounts of time that families spend together. Often each family member has events and commitments that keep them from being together. These may included practices (sports, music, languages), church events, schoolwork (or bringing work home for parents), and individual entertainment options. Without sounding too retro, we can probably agree that the things that make up our lives often do not bring families together.
The result of these two cultural norms is that kids can often grow up with a huge sense of self while not having much of a memory of how mom and dad interacted with life. For the Christian family this can poses some problems for pursuing the mission of God together. While we want our children to grow up as confident individuals who know their value and worth, we probably also want them to know their place within the family of God as those who are submitted to the cause of Christ. And while it is a privilege to provide our children with opportunities for great education and development, we also want to look back on significant moments when the family contributed to God’s mission together.
I’d like to suggest two questions that may be helpful when it comes to living missionally as a family. First, Is this ______ contributing to Kingdom citizenship or to our culture’s idea of what is important? While there are plenty of things that family members generally need to do apart from each other (school, work) there are others that are optional. When making these decisions, perhaps families could look for ways these activities will (or won’t) contribute to our formation as followers of Jesus.
Second, Can we do ______ together? It seems to me that some of the things we do apart from each other could actually be done together. A PCC person recently shared with me that he has been giving a homeless friend a ride to the shelter after services on Sunday. Rather than do it by himself, he has brought his young son with him. This small act has provoked questions from his son and allowed opportunities to talk about why giving this man a ride is so important. Inviting our children to participate and watch as we live out our faith is a great way to instill in them a memory of how living missionally can look.
As before, thoughts and comments are welcome. Thanks for reading.