Put Kids in Their Proper Place: Part One
This is Part 1 of a series of posts from Dan Holder on the discipleship of children in Missional Communities. The inspiration for these posts flow our last MC Leader/Apprentice/Host Quarterly Gathering and a request for additional help. One of the tables asked for wisdom in balancing having children around at MC and allowing the mothers a chance to be in the discussion. From that request, we've decided to write up a series of posts on the theology and practice of discipling our kids. It's not something just for the parents, but for all of us as a church! It happens on Sunday mornings at RCKids, and it happens in Missional Community. With all the children being born and adopted, this will continue to be a large mission field for us into the future. We'll be publishing three more posts over the coming weeks as we grow in this area of ministry at River City, desiring to remain faithful to God's mission of making disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the childrena of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. - Psalm 127:3-5
Does this psalm represent reality in my home? Sure...sometimes. There are moments where the blessing of children is bliss and beauty, warming our hearts with overwhelming joy, and even inspiring a tear as I reflect on the life-giving pleasure of raising my children. Then the cup of water spills on the table, or the yelling starts in the other room, or the reminder for that thing is needed for the 1500th time!
There are two extremes that I hear in the world about kids. The first extreme is that kids are difficult and annoying. Kids are talked about as lovable but any “normal” parent will try to shirk the responsibility whenever possible. When we slip into this category we are prone to think that if we could only have an escape from our children, then we could be happy. The other extreme is that kids are the central idol of our life. Protection, nutrition, education, safety, and youth sports are the center of the orbit of the energy, time and money spent in the family. When we slip into this category we are prone to elevate our parenting decisions above others’ and adopt a works righteousness that robs us of the freedom and joy in the grace of the cross.
To be clear, my wife and I enjoy date night away from the kids or even a weekend away from time to time. Yes, our kids have worn bike helmets usually, eaten some organic foods, and even have participated in team sports. The call we feel is to pull away from the extremes of the world and view our children as a blessing from God who are involved in the mission of God. Our sin is real and we need to repent often.
Where are the kids?
Throughout the bible, there are a lot of children born (or there was a lot of ‘begat’ing for the KJV fans). Their life begins and their life ends but most of the stories we know well are people in their teenage or adult years. So, where were do children show up? If you read with this question in mind, you might see that they are not where you would expect based on modern Christian Evangelical traditions.
See the following passages:
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. - Deuteronomy 6:7
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. - Matthew 19:13-15
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” - Ephesians 6:1-3
These verses are often quoted and taught well. They are intended to be useful as all scripture is for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16) However, I want to view these verses from the lense of the question, “Where are the kids?” In Deuteronomy 6, they are with their parents in their homes, with their parents during travel, with their parents at bedtime, and in the morning when they wake up. In Matthew, they are right there with the adults as Jesus is teaching. They are eyewitnesses to their parents being drawn to Jesus, listening to Jesus, and responding to Jesus. In Ephesians, Paul addresses the children in the same way he addresses husbands, wives, fathers, parents, bondservants, and masters. Paul assumed that all of those groups would be present at the hearing of that letter. Children were expected to be a part of that audience.
Where are the children at your Missional Community? Are they present in the life of the group? Are they being pushed to the fringes because they are lovable but annoying when it’s time to get serious? Are they the center of the social time and people talk only about the children, their activities, and their development? Is it possible that God has a different view of children than you do?
More will be written about practical implications in future posts, but first, let’s set our eyes on the blessing that children are in the mission of God. They do not wait to enter that mission at a certain age (see Psalm 139:16). They are created by Him and for Him (see Col. 1:16). They are made in His image (see Eph. 2:10). They have been placed by Him in their homes at this time (see Acts 17:26). They need to hear and receive the Good News just as all adults do (see John 1:12).
Where else would we want the children to be? Let’s put them in their proper place.