During the last ten weeks I have been thinking deeply about my relationship with parents in my church. The Fall edition of the VIP initiative which I inaugurated ten weeks ago has concluded this weekend. Six families faithfully interacted with me based on what God is leading them to do. What a privilege to converse with them regarding their daily realities and goals.
Thus far, I have eight families lined up to participate in the Winter session of VIP, four of whom are new to the conversation. I expect to have from fifteen to twenty families signed up when January 10 arrives.
So, I ponder our relationship, asking myself how I can best posture myself to serve their needs. Here are some preliminary thoughts about the attitude I desire to convey in my interactions with them.
- Humility. I am humbled by the privilege they have extended to me to be a small part of their lives. I take it seriously. It brings to mind Paul’s admonition to the Philippians, that our “attitude should be the same as the Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Previous to that he writes
- Love. I love the families I am privileged to help pastor. A fierce love. A sincere love. I am reminded of One Corinthians 13, where the Apostle Paul describes the virtues of love. He writes
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves (Phil. 2:1-4).
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
- Encouragement. I desire to encourage families in such a way that the hearts of parents and children are turned to God and each other in Christ so that they may grow in Christian maturity and love for one another. My attitude is informed by two corresponding passages of Scripture referring to John the Baptizer, the forerunner of the Messiah, the Prophet who would come in the power and spirit of Elijah and turn the hearts of fathers to their children (Hebrew for father Malachi 4:6 אָב; Greek for father Luke 1:17 Πατρος). I find it compelling that the one who prepared the way for Jesus did so in a way that drew the hearts of families both to the Messiah and to each other. Indeed, the text in both passages uses the word for fathers rather than parents. However, I attribute this to a number of factors, not least the patristic culture in which he lived, the fact that fathers are intended by God to be the spiritual leaders of the home, and the unfortunate fact that such a high percentage of fathers choose not to obey God’s call to take on that role through their attitudes and behavior, leaving the responsibility to the mothers. Yet, I am seeing fathers begin to own their responsibility and that is an encouraging thing, both for our culture and their families.
I pray that churches everywhere will find ways to gain traction in helping families focus on life with Jesus Christ daily, even hourly, in their homes. Parent coaching is one way to begin the conversation so as to encourage parents in this direction, applauding their positive steps, and nurturing them despite their setbacks.