It takes a village. This is a phrase that most of us are familiar with. The general concept is that it takes more time, energy and resources than a parent or parents can muster to raise a child. Of course, on its face this can be taken as hyperbole at best and at worst, offensive. What do you mean, Lake? Are you trying to say that I can’t raise my kid? I see in Psalm 127 that my kids are a blessing given to me to be shot out like arrows, so why would it take a village? Am I not the primary discipler of my children, responsible for raising them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?
My intent is not to imply that you aren’t doing your best or that it cannot be done. In fact, I would bet that you have a story of someone who raised their children without any help and they all turned out great. No, my intent is to put forward the idea that while Christian parenting could be done in isolation, it is done best in community. It is done best, when we invite trusted believers into not only our lives, but our childrens’ as well. It is done best, when we offer our children a view of not only how God has been faithful to us, but how He has been faithful to others from different backgrounds, experiences and life callings. But, if we are to pursue what is best, we need to understand three major things:
- Why invite a village to help raise our children?
- Who should be a part of our village?
- How should our village function?
Why Invite a Village?
All throughout scripture we see clear instruction that parents are called to reach and disciple their children. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses instructs parents to pass along a legacy of faith to their children by weaving it into all parts of their day. In Ephesians 6, Paul instructs children to obey their parents and fathers to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
However, nowhere in scripture do we see a command that parents can or should be the only voice in their children’s lives. Practically, we know this to be true. Whether they are people we know: coaches, teachers, their best friends’ parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or those we don’t know: celebrities in music, movies, or even social media, there is no doubt that other adults are instructing and teaching our children. There is no doubt that we and our children are a part of a village. The real question is: Would we prefer to help construct our village or will we let others construct it for us?
Who Should We Invite?
If we are set on constructing our own village for our children instead of letting it happen by default, then the next logical question to ask is who should we invite?
First, we should acknowledge that this is not a list of the only people who are going to influence our children. It would be naive and foolish for us to think we can create a bubble where only approved guests can interact with our kids. Instead, this is a list of people we are going to actively encourage to speak into the lives of our children and whom we encourage our children to listen to.
So, the short answer to who we will invite is, those whom we trust to consistently point our kids to Jesus in good times and bad. We can find these individuals in any number of ways, but here are a few categories to help you start your search:
We all come from different family situations and backgrounds and while I would ideally like to say, “Of course, your whole family should be a part of your village,” I also realize that this may simply not be true for your family. However, in situations where members of your family (Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) are followers of Christ and you trust them to speak biblical truth and wisdom to your kids, this is a great place to begin.
Okay Lake, we get it, church is a place to find believers and that is who we want pouring into our kids. Correct, but we shouldn’t settle for just any professing Christian when we are bringing people into our village, we should be strategic. What does this mean? It means we should look at people who would both naturally have influence with our children at church and those who we may have to be more intentional to build friendships with.
First, we should identify those church members who will naturally influence our children. This list could include people in our small group, bible study, those serving in kids and student ministries or those we serve alongside. The prayer is that our village will have significant spiritual influence in the lives of our children and because these individuals are in places we are in and teaching where our children will learn, they are a great place to start.
We shouldn’t end there though. We should survey the church for those who we might not come in contact with as naturally, but who would bring a different perspective to the table for our children. These could be people who are different from us culturally, generationally, socioeconomically, or any combination of those. We want the village that helps shepherd and disciple our children to be made up of more than just individuals who look like and are in the same stage of life as ourselves.
This category is going to look different for every family. Primarily because this is going to be made up of individuals that the family meets outside of church and the family. These could be believers who live in your neighborhood, teach or coach at your children’s schools, were your childhood best friends, college roommates…you get the picture. Whoever the believers are in your life, outside of family and church, they are a great pool to draw from when building your village.
How Should Our Village Function?
If that is the “why” and “who”, of a village constructed to help raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, the only thing that needs to be addressed is: How should our village function? We know and have established that parents are the primary disciplers of their children. They have been given the honor and responsibility of raising their children, so what role should these other adults play?
- Encouragers. One of the primary functions of this group of people will be to encourage your children. They will encourage them in their gifts and abilities, they will encourage them to pursue the Lord and they will encourage them in their relationship with you as parents. Having other adults in their lives that call out giftings in your children when they see them, will affirm and empower your children to use those gifts for the Kingdom of God. The village’s consistency in pointing your kids to the Gospel and towards pursuing the Lord will teach them the importance of an ongoing relationship with Christ as Lord, instead of only a one time event where they confess Him as Savior. And finally, any time an adult can encourage your children in their relationship with you as parents, whether that is by reminding them to obey, rephrasing your point of view after a disagreement or communicating the same principles and ideas in a slightly different way, it is a win for our kids, ourselves and that adult who is being used by God in the lives of your kids.
- Surveyors. A secondary function of your village is to work as another set of eyes and ears for you as parents. No, I am not talking about building a village that is going to watch every single move your child makes and reports them all back to you, that would be suffocating for both you and your child. What I am talking about though is a group of people who are around your children sometimes when you aren’t, who may hear things that you may not hear and can help give you insight into what your child is like when you aren’t around. These adults are going to see your child in different settings and environments than you are going to see them in, but they are also going to be able to gain insight into how your child is processing all the things you are teaching them. However, your village should not only be surveying your children, they should also be surveying you! Again, this is not constant critique and criticism, but you should be able to go to people in your village and ask, “Hey, I am walking through this with my child, am I seeing this clearly? Am I handling this fairly?” and because you have invited these people into your life, they can help provide you with an additional, trusted perspective.
- Helpers. Finally, your village should be full of people who make your job as a parent easier and not harder. These should be people who you trust and can go to when things are good, bad or somewhere in the middle. They should be some of the first people you call when you are in need of help, whether that is something major like a family emergency or even just, “Hey, we haven’t had time to talk about our marriage and parenting without the kids around, can we drop them off for a couple of hours?” Your village is there to help you as you exercise and embrace your role as the primary discipler of your children.
It Takes A Village…
Parents, it takes a village! Whether we intentionally select and cultivate the list of adults who are influencing our children or punt that responsibility, our children are going to be molded and shaped by more adults than just their parents. So, let’s lean in here. Let’s steward the years that we have been given with our children well. Let’s build a village of adults around our kids who are going to love, serve and point them to Jesus!