You know the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.” I believe this to be true. In the child dedications at our church we purposely ask the church family to join with the parents in raising the child presented. We do this because the parents need help and support. Child-raising isn’t a parent-only endeavor.
Earlier this week The Washington Post reported on a study whose findings conclude, “the effect of a new baby on a person’s life is devastatingly bad — worse than divorce, worse than unemployment and worse even than the death of a partner.” Yikes. Now I know why the last 3 years of my life have been incredibly great and incredibly hard.
I’ve been honest both here and in face-to-face conversations about how hard my adjustment has been to becoming a dad. This has not been met with universal encouragement. I recently had someone tell me that I was missing out on the joy of parenting.
I guess that’s a fair conclusion to this study: parents stop whining! But in fairness to parents such as myself, parenting is hard work.
After reading The Washington Post article I thought about my church, and the greater Church. It seems not a day goes by when you can read about the latest and greatest program or focus for a church to reach younger people, and yet when it comes to my family and my church one of my greatest desires is to have people care about my family.
After I posted this study on Twitter, several people asked me how a church can better support and care for families with young kids. I thought I’d pass along a few thoughts to you as well.
I think it’s great that a lot of churches provide childcare so that couples are able to take part in smaller group environments without the obvious distraction of their children. But, for many churches this is difficult or impossible to pull off.
A few nights ago a couple from our church offered to hang out with our kids for a few hours so Rose and I could get dinner together. What a gift! It happened to be our second date since our family expanded by another child, and it would not have happened if this couple saw their relationship to us as only through a church program. No, they’re just friends who love our family.
Shared struggle is obviously an extension of relationship within the church, but it flows out in separate ways: helpful instruction and same life-stage interaction. Rose and I moved to our current home city 5 months before becoming parents, and while it was a city I had lived in a decade prior, we both knew very few people. Since that time, through our church, we’ve tried to foster connection among people in the early parenthood life-stage.
Beyond relationship with those going through similar struggles, we’ve relied on the wise and helpful instruction of those who have gone before us. This often takes place in a small group environment, but also extends into homes and coffee shops around town. Parenting can be a struggle, and it’s important for churches to help foster connection between older and younger.
I could say a lot more, but those two areas of focus have stood out for me in my 3 years of parenthood. Churches filled with people embracing unprogrammed relationship and shared struggle will help young families who are barely hanging on. I promise you, there are plenty of families around you who could use your love and support.