Put Kids in Their Proper Place: Part Three
Flowing out of our last MC Leader/Host/Apprentice training in April was a question about how to give moms more opportunities to take part in group discussion...it was a great question, and our hope in this series of blog posts is to frame out more of how we all are involved in the discipleship of our children. Lord willing, these will encourage us and empower us to point all of the kids at River City to our risen Savior Jesus Christ! We hope this results in all of us coming together to disciple our kids and give moms this opportunity. If you haven't already, check out Part One and Part Two. Thanks again to Dan Holder for his work here!
In part 1 of this series, we looked at a few examples of children playing an active role in the spiritual life of the adults. In part 2, we considered an intentional exposure to adults in the context of community with maturing believers that develops the identity of our kids as followers of Christ and missionaries to our world. In part 3, I hope to provide practical ways kids can be included at various stages of development. I will provide examples that we have tried in our group since that is the only MC I have attended. These examples are intended to be examples like the book of haircuts under the magazines that you saw at your last haircut appointment. Those haircuts are examples that might help you think differently about your hairstyle but in the end, you will ask for the style that you believe works best for you. Take these examples as examples. Not rules. Not requirements. Not any attempt to add to the Bible. Just examples. Please leave comments about what is working in your group after reading.
Agree On It and Schedule It
Including kids in your missional community starts with planning. Planning takes communication. Start by seeking agreement among the group. Consider taking this blog post to your group and spend some time, shaping these examples to meet the needs of your group. Next, once you have agreements, communicate the plan. If your group does not currently have a written schedule, assign a member in your group to create a schedule. I recommend that it is not a member of the couple hosting the group and not the person leading the group. The schedule should be written and posted monthly. For example, the schedule can be posted mid-June with all the responsibilities for July. See example from our group:
Birth to Pre-Walking
During this stage, children usually do best with their parents. Consider having a chair in a bedroom with a door that locks for nursing mothers in case you have mothers who would prefer to be in a separate room while nursing. Mothers of babies can find great relief as the others in the community develop trust with their babies and the baby can be held and loved by multiple people. As the baby grows and starts crawling and even begins walking, have a small bin of age appropriate quiet-ish toys. Let the kids play and move around the room during discussion. The kids will sometimes be a distraction but often the adults can stay more focused than you think. All of this contributes to the family identity.
Walking - Age 7
In this age group, they can usually do very well in a separate kid setting. We have two main settings for kids in our group. We have a basement which has toys and games. We have a backyard (weather permitting). Consider making a space in your home kid-friendly even if you don’t have kids. As a group, you may want to consider if this time with the kids in a different room should be structured and offer routines and/or curriculum. (see curriculum examples below) At this age,their reading comprehension is low and they have a hard time understanding what is happening during the discussion time in your group. As kids grow in their ability to read and comprehend, even at a minimal level, consider having them sample the adult discussion time to ask questions of their parents, take notes, or even try to engage appropriately with the group. We recently had our 7 year old join us and he was wiggly but heard more than we thought and even tried to participate with the group. Like when learning to walk or learning to ride bike, even small attempts can be encouraged.
Age 8 - Age 13
During this stage, the kids are able to read which opens up more ways to engage with the group. Most of the time, kids in this group can function quite well in the adult discussion time. They can often sit long enough, listen well enough, and even start to contribute with questions or comments. This age group can also play a significant role in caring for the younger kids with adult support or supervision. We have had a rotation of the kids in our group watching kids in our basement. The adults are monitoring how this goes so that we can make changes as necessary and provide coaching when necessary. The discussion leader can even offer specific questions to this age group to draw them in to the discussion. Often the sin issues we experienced when we were this age are still affecting us today but to a lesser degree and how great it is to celebrate in front of these pre-teens that there is hope in the Gospel for their sin issues! Another great way for this age group to engage is dessert time. Have the kids who are most eager for dessert, serve dessert to all in the group before they get to have their dessert. It is a practical way to consider others' needs and serve.
I would definitely recommend that these children spend the vast majority of their time in your MC with the adults. This is often the time in their lives when they may want to isolate themselves with their peers. For the record, I am not against teens spending time with other teens. The main push I see here is for disciples in your group to make disciples. Across the age groups, we all have great opportunities to create conversations with these teens. I will warn you. They are not always great at conversations. Think in fives. Commit to asking 5 conversation starting questions on 5 separate occasions. After you have completed that, then assess your relationship with that teen but not before that. You will give up too quickly and too easily.
Intentional exposure is happening at an alarming rate for these teens. The forces of this world are doing everything they can to expose them. We need recognize that that exposure is happening and prepare them with mature adults walking in discipleship relationships who are forming family-like identity with these teens. It is my hope that Josiah would come to me when he’s asking the big life questions. It is also my hope that he will have several other adults he knows well and can trust within our group that he can ask.
Could we radically redefine “normal” for our kids? As I have seen over and over in my own life, I default to “normal.” My wife will tell you that my normal is not the same as her normal but I go back to my normal all the time. Normal is a distracted mind. Normal is forgetting responsibility. Normal is waiting until someone is upset before addressing the issue. Normal is watching TV as soon as I have downtime. All of these normal’s have their root in my childhood and teen years. What if River City families could create missional living as the default normal for our kids?
What if our kids would feel out of place if they were not living life with other believers?
What if our kids would feel like something is missing if they were not going to the lost/hurting/broken in our city?
What if our kids would default back to normal and purposefully multiply more disciples?
What if our kids just thought that using their home/toys/time/effort to serve others was normal?
What if our kids did not know how to make life decisions without considering the character of God, people of God, and call of God?
What if our kids were not shocked by new stages of life because they have always known disciples who were following Him in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and beyond?
What if we were intentional about putting kids in their proper place so that they are formed as disciples of Jesus Christ and loved by the family of God and sent on mission with God so that just felt normal?
Please leave comments about what is working in your group below.