When I was almost 11, because of brokenness in our world, we ended up going from part of a large, faith-centered extended family….to becoming an island. A mother and her 5 children, disconnected from all of the aunts, uncles, and grandparents we’d grown up connected to. My mom did a great job handling so much of it, and one of the most important ways she did that, was by not trying to do it all herself.
One of the biggest things I remember about growing up from pre-teen to college student, were how many “surrogate” family members we had. I believe it was part of God’s redemptive plan, to surround us with other adults and older, faithful witnesses who became aunts, uncles, and grandparents to us in the faith. People who shared stories with us, celebrated life’s big moments, and simply allowed us to see how they were following God from day to day. Those people spoke Hope into our lives, and prayed for us regularly.
The authors of many different books for parents of children and of teenagers, have written about the research done on what sort of things lead to a life-long faith. It’s not an incredible youth group, huge concerts, or an amazing preacher. It’s not buying them a great study Bible, or after-school Jesus clubs, or even having really really Jesus-like friends. It’s having several close relationships with older, God-seeking adults.
It’s a beautiful thing if those adults can be actual family members. To be able to sit in the same pew as grandma and grandpa, and sing songs together. To clean up streets, or serve the homeless with their aunts. To climb on their uncles lap during the message, and give a picture they colored in Sunday School. To travel somewhere with those they share life with, and serve the “Least of These” who live there. To have lunch together, talking about the stories of faith – including the current stories God is writing through their life as a family.
But – to encourage you no matter your family situation…the blood of Jesus is more powerfully connective than any other. As sons and daughters of Abraham (Galatians 3:29), we are connected to a larger web of family than we’ll ever realize in this life. No matter what your age or life situation, you can (and are called to!) reach out to the children of your congregation and connect. This is also a great regular reminder of accountability – younger people are looking up to you! If you’re a parent, you can (and are called to!) reach out to other generations of those seeking God, and connect your children in meaningful relationships.
It may even be worth taking out a sheet of paper, drawing a spider web, and putting the names of all the people your children are in meaningful relationships with who are living out the faith you’re wanting to pass on to them. Are there many names, besides yours and their Sunday School teachers? Is it a diverse group of names, coming from different generations, and different walks of life? Doing this may make you want to reach out purposefully, and invite someone to be a more active part of your child’s faith web. Heck, you may even want to start with sending them a link to this blog-post…I’m okay being an ice-breaker for such an important conversation/invitation. 🙂
I also just realized this post could be a bit of a “Debbie-Downer” to any family members who are long-distance from relatives they’d love to be in their “faith-web”. I want to remind you that distance does not negate such a thing happening. Writing letters, chatting online, and being sure that when you are near – you share in experiences that point to Jesus. These, and so many more ways exist to help overcome any physical distance in a faith web connecting life-long relationships in meaningful and important ways.
May God be with us, as we humbly accept His calling for us to pass all of this on to the generations following us…(Deuteronomy 6)