By Peggy Hahn
The chance to experience childhood joy through the energy, wiggles, and love of our grandchildren is intoxicating. There is nothing quite like the precious joy that comes from loving these little gifts from God. Watching our children turn into parents (often better parents then I think we were) is almost as much fun as getting the little ones away from their parents for a few hours so we can have them to ourselves.
The time is going so fast – Cora, our oldest, just turned 4. We sing Jesus songs. We share Jesus stories. Mostly we try to whisper “Jesus loves you” in everything we share together: being Jesus with them, loving the little children.
Nothing makes me pray more for our church than the little faces you see in this picture. Nothing makes me want to resource and encourage Christian leaders, through my work at LEAD, more than my gut-wrenching hope that these and all children will have the chance to be part of a vibrant faith community. But in my heart of hearts, I find myself wondering if we can get over our own grown-up power struggles and come together to grow a church worthy of them. While I pray that all of my adult children will feel the tug to be part of a faith community like the ones they were raised in, I know that in the changing world we live in, Christian community will take many different forms. One example is extended family groups that share the ups and downs of life – in the name of Jesus.
Nancy Goings, Director of Vibrant Faith describes this “familying” as a way of practicing Christian community in and outside of church as we know it. Below is an excerpt from Nancy’s blog:
- Begin by extending your own family.
Familying happens most significantly in extended family groups. No matter how busy you are, you can do this. In fact over time, it might make your life less busy. So who are people from your faith community who could share more of your life? Are there people from outside your faith community that you might want to family with? God never intended for parents or the nuclear family to function alone. You have a unique opportunity to play with this — for CHRIST’s sake. Choose one way that you can begin to take a step this fall. You could try an act of hospitality; you could try a virtual group for relational connection and prayer. Just make sure you include adults and kids together. This is an absolutely essential first step for you.
- Identify those who Family.
This will be a critical step for the future of your church. I mean that. Start to notice the lives of people at your church, and begin making a list of those who “FAMILY.” Do they share their resources, stay with people over time, share Christ’s love, share pain and grow together? They may family well with their own extended family, or they may be the kind of family who gather “non-relatives” to create family. Either way, take note of those people, and how many of them God has given your church — whether you or your church have been the recipients of their familying or not.
- Begin to think about, notice and make a list of people inside and OUTSIDE your church who need family.
Just observe and take note for at least two months. Don’t do anything with what you are noticing yet, other than begin to pray for those people. Remember that familying is a spiritual process. See what the Spirit begins doing as you begin to notice.
This is a vision for living out our faith in a new, but really not new, way; it’s a new, but not new, way of conceptualizing Christian community. As grandparents and parents of faith, it’s imperative for us to intentionally make space in our lives to bring our little ones to Jesus.