Jennifer and I celebrated 18 years married July 31, 2017 (yesterday). Thats pretty awesome. So, yesterday morning as we were reading our cards to each other and preparing for our anniversary day we began going over the schedule for our 2 teenage boys and 1 almost teen boy (yes, three boys)…one taken to Model High School for football practice and pictures at 6:30 am…I did that…one at orthodontist at 8 am…Jennifer did that while taking the other one along (who is not a teen yet)…Jennifer off to work after dropping the two at home to finish summer reading…Me off to a meeting…Me from meeting to get oldest from football practice and pictures to take home…Lunch for cutting grass (had ministry stuff all weekend and didn’t get to do it Saturday)…divide and conquer on Model Middle and Model High orientation events tonight…Jennifer takes the two middle school boys…I take the high school boy…Dinner?…No date night…Quick breakfast for dinner meal…a little family time then off to bed to get after early meetings etc…
Parenting is not sexy. Parenting is hard work. You ever notice that 40 something dude at the mall sitting on a bench wearing sockos (Chacos with socks), shorts, not matching t-shirt? Yeah.
What caused that? Kids caused that. Socks with flip-flops? Yeah.
You know it’s bad when you see the poor guy with dress socks and old man tennis shoes still younger than 50. He just stopped caring. What most kids don’t know is that we used to be cool. Why are we not cool anymore? Kids. That’s why. If you’ve remained cool as a 40 something year old parent it’s because you’ve had a nanny and not raised them yourselves.
My point? Parenting is hard and costly.
Now, try parenting in small groups at church. Even harder. If it’s not hard, you have not been parenting. There is a cost to active parenting in community. There is the opportunity cost of parenting in community, and it may not be you paying it. It may be others who just won’t tell you. They just quit coming, or find excuses to not meet this week.
For Jennifer and I, we are on the backside of the having to keep a constant eye on the kids during small group times. So, it’s easier. What has made it easier now? All the hard work of ACTIVELY managing them when they were little. Jennifer did most of that. She’s paid the greatest cost. That’s why she’s the greatest wife. She also did that while working a job. She’s bad to the bone!
There were times it was worth it. There were many times it was not worth it. Most of the time it was not worth it in that moment. But the investment of struggle, perseverance, blood, sweat and tears has paid off. The cost was worth it. We’ve got pleasant kids, who do well around adults, can act like adults and serve like adults.
See, nothing is free. If you want it, you have pay for it. Parenting is no different. If you want kids who value others, value community and value the kingdom, it’s going to cost you something. It won’t likely be money, but it will be in opportunity cost. The cost will be your spiritual life, your sanity, your coolness. But the return on investment is kingdom come and the reward of watching your kids love Jesus and love each other.
It was really cool listening to our RL group’s kids who have been actively parented playing instruments, singing to the Lord, playing football, playing with each other while the “adults” did our thing together. That is the fruit of lots of hard parenting on the part of our group’s parents (Colston RL group is the best).
Parenting in Small Groups Must Look Different than Home.
We can let our guard down a little at home, well…because we are at home, but the truth is that what you do at home you will do in public. If I’ve heard Jennifer say that once, I’ve heard it a thousand times (particularly regarding farting at the dinner table). If there is no order, structure or discipline the kids won’t be ordered, structured or self-disciplined. Home training comes to light in other people’s homes. Therefore, when we are gathered outside of corporate worship for small group times, we have to NOT let our parenting slip, rather we have to work harder at parenting. Why?
- One Another…59 times the Scriptures talk about the “one another” aspect of our life together in Christ. Our parenting or lack thereof, affects others. So, we have to consider others when we gather. Our group does this as well as I’ve seen. We love each other, we care for each other, we care for each other’s kids, we demand ours and the others respect each other and other’s property, and it works. No doubt, I have one boy that gets numerous corrections by me and Mr. “Jofus” along the way, but that teaches him to honor others and their property. Remember, we are investing in our kids by NOT letting our parenting guard down when in small groups.
- We are still instructing while in small group whether we or our kids know it. What we demand of them and ourselves communicates something, and that lesson will be lived out later. What we don’t demand will come out later as well. Passively letting our kids derail other people’s experience allows our kids to fail to learn boundaries. Speaking of boundaries…
- We are in other people’s homes. We must have or regain a sense of boundaries. I don’t know if it’s just me or if its a period of time in history when people don’t have a sense of what is personal and corporate space. If I’m in another person’s home, its my duty to make sure my kids don’t touch, play with, break or go where they are not supposed to. HOSTS…be clear what is off limits. PARENTS…make sure you hear that and demand those boundaries be kept.
- Honor is at stake. We don’t have a strong sense of honor in some sub-cultures. There is a time for kids to be heard, then there is a time for them to recognize their place of quiet, listening to those in authority and learning to imitate the big boys and big girls who are worth imitating. If we don’t teach out kids honor and shame, then they’ll be allowed to get all the attention they want to their shame, and they won’t even know it’s shameful.
- Our own sanctification is at stake. There is nothing like parenting to take you to the end of yourself. As awful as that is, it’s also a good place. Why? Because there you find that God’s grace is sufficient, and you are still alive, and your kids are no worse the wear. When we parent hard, expend ourselves and battle as parents, we will see reward. We will have kids people want to be around, people appreciate it and you just found God got you through.
Those are my thoughts. I hope this helps a little. Don’t neglect small group life in your church. It’s essential to discipleship and church growth. Be clear on parenting, honor each other and all will be well.