Gently Leading Those with Young
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;Isaiah 40:11
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
Recently during a Breaking of Bread meeting, a child’s toy or maybe a phone…something kept making a noise. I really can’t remember what it was. What I do remember is that the brother who was sharing stopped, and said, “could we silence that please?”
I cringed. For him.
Frankly, I wanted to get my hands on that something, and repeatedly push buttons so that brother would actually have something to publicly shame someone about.
Not my finest moment, I know. But I didn’t act on the impulse. #SmallVictories
I understand that it was disruptive. But, being a mom, I can imagine what the young parent was doing immediately after the first time the thing made its noise. Scrambling to find it and shut it down.
And then it goes off again. Oh.my.word.
To add insult to injury, instead of it being snickered off, or just ignored, they are further embarrassed and publicly called out. Personally, I would have wanted to shrivel up and die. I know I would have cried. And I definitely would have had to talk myself off the ledge of not ever going back.
Over a toy? What an overreaction! Yeah. Not any more of an overreaction than publicly calling someone out over a toy.
This is an account of what not to do to win friends and (positively) influence young families.
In my last article I talked about the best way to care for the older generations in our churches. Gratitude, interest, engagement and respect are all key when it comes to the elderly saints.
When I think of interacting with and ministering to young families, four different words come to mind.
Understand. Remember. Grace. Help.
The least represented demographic in churches is ages 18-35.
Two words can somewhat explain that fact….young children.
Oh the challenges of babies, toddlers and young kids! I’m out of that stage, (PTL!), but not by much.
- I spent 11 years of my life with a child in diapers. That’s over a quarter of my life! Diapers. Diaper bags. All.the.things. Every time we left the house.
- I had kids in carseats or booster seats (needing various levels of assistance) for 15 years!!
- I had kids to dress and bundle up in jackets, mittens, hats and boots for over a dozen years.
- I’ve had kids to feed for 17 years now. Though not literally, obviously. Whew! As a matter of fact, they are now pretty self-sufficient in this department. They make their own breakfasts and lunches. They can handle feeding themselves on Sunday mornings before church. It wasn’t always that way.
- I’ve had kids with sniffles, colds, coughs, flus, and various and sundry other childhood diseases, minor and major, for over 16 years. (Albeit, this has been somewhat elongated by the fact that my youngest had cancer, and chemo, and the wrecked immune system that made her susceptible to all kinds of things beyond the normal range of childhood.) I finally feel like we are seeing the end of this tunnel.
All parents have all been here. Each parent can relate to some or all these aspects of parenting. Specifics vary, but the basic facts don’t.
Weekly, we all got the kids fed, dressed appropriately and out the door for meeting. It felt like a triumph of mammoth proportions. Every.single.time.
And it is just the opening act.
Breaking of Bread, Sunday school, evening meeting, prayer meeting and every other meeting. We expect the young families to be there. We tend to chide them if they are not. They have expended quite a lot of effort before they even walk through the doors.
And then, we expect their young children to not act like children, but rather like angelic beings for the entire time they are in the building. That level of expectation certainly raises the level of stress associated with church.
How could any of us who have been parents forget this weekly marathon?
The years are certainly short, but in the thick of it, the Sundays are ridiculously long.
As the years pass, thankfully, we forget the hard things and remember the good things. We begin to enjoy Sundays again.
As we live in that grace, we need to be conduits of grace to those in need. Extend the grace of remembering the challenges of the young family season of life. The challenges of the day to day tasks that are now minor in our lives, but fill all the moments of theirs.
Extend grace-not advice. Unless it is specifically asked for, or their parenting is completely contrary to scripture, keep your advice to yourself. If something needs to be addressed, address it Biblically. Galatians 6:1-5 comes to mind.
Extend grace for the noisy and wiggly kids. (and even their noisy toys) Don’t comment on the noise. Instead thank the Lord that you have young families in your church that will grow up to have their own young families. Not every assembly is blessed to have young families in their midst.
If visitation is the key to ministering to older saints, child care is the key to ministering to young families.
- Babysitting. In your home or their home. Offer to babysit. This has multiple benefits. Sometimes parents need a break from their kids to remember how much they love their kids. The young couple alone time and remember how much they love each other. The kids can become familiar and comfortable with you, which allows further avenues of ministry when you are actually in the church building.
- Nursery. Sit in the nursery, snuggle the babies and play with the toddlers. The young parents can peacefully focus on worship and the sermon and not their kids’ behavior. What a blessing to extend to a young family.
- Sunday school. If you are not in the young parenting stage, I would encourage you to teach a Sunday school class. Again, it gives the parents a break. But, it also allows you to pour into these kids’ lives. Teaching amazing true stories about God, people and the world! What a privilege.
Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not. For of such is the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 19:14
Often when comparing our experience and techniques with those parents we are currently observing, we tend to start our conversation with, “when my kids were young…” or “in my day…”. Consider whether what you are going to say next is kind, gentle, encouraging, or edifying. Just because we survived someone’s “helpful comments” as a young parent doesn’t mean we are obliged to pass that on. Let’s break the cycle. Ask yourself what you would have most appreciated as a young parent, and then minister from that perspective.
Photo by Jessica Rockowitz