“It takes a village to raise a child.” This famous African saying cries out to the church in America. Saturated by the individualistic culture we live in, many of us don’t even realize how far off from God’s standard we are.
God never intended for us to live in isolation and segregation. We were designed to thrive in rich community. It is ineffective and futile for followers of Jesus to live independently of one another.
Would you ever think it was a good idea to live life without your arms, your eyes, your lungs, or your heart? What about your brain? Or your cells? No. God created your body and all its parts to function and thrive together. And so it is with the church, the body of Christ:
“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”Romans 12:4-5
It is easy for us to accept how our physical bodies work. We realize the necessity of each part and that they work in harmony together. But we have a hard time applying this principle to Christ’s body. Perhaps this is why we constantly find ourselves so frustrated and drained. If we aren’t giving and receiving as though we belong to each other, we aren’t living within our God-given design. We cannot do life without each other.
This need for community is especially evident in the realm of parenting. Nobody has to tell a parent that it takes a village to raise a child. We feel it deep in our core, crying out within our souls, “Where is my village??”
This has been my experience, and I have talked to numerous parents who feel the same. We just don’t have an adequate support system. Not everyone has supportive family nearby or alive. Or maybe they just don’t have supportive family at all. Whatever the reason, the sad reality is that many parents feel hopelessly alone on their parenting journey. And in Christ’s body, this should not be.
Even if you see parents on a Sunday morning who seem to love the Lord and have it together, chances are they have some deep unmet needs. And what are these needs? It varies depending on the parent, the children, and the various components of their lives. Some have never seen what good parenting looks like. They need people to walk alongside them and show them the way. Some parents have physical, mental, or emotional limitations that exhaust them and leave them deeply discouraged. They need encouragement, time away from their kids to recharge, help with meals, and other practical demonstrations of love. Some have challenging behaviors and patterns to work through with their kids. They need someone to talk to, advice, and a fresh perspective. Some parents have children who are drawn towards the empty things of this world. They need someone to come alongside their children and mentor them. Some are lonely. They need a friend.
The needs are endless. But those willing to meet the needs are few. Too many Christians are either inactive or inconsistent with their actions. I’m not saying I’m better. I, too, have fallen into inactivity or inconsistency at times. This is a problem that all of us in the church in America need to recognize and repent of.
We were called to a life of sacrifice:
Maybe you think you don’t have anything to offer. Maybe you feel that the things you can do are insignificant. I can assure you that both of those things are untrue. It is sometimes the seemingly small things that make the biggest impact. When someone is lacking for kindness in their life, a kind word or action can cause their heart to swell and overflow. Every sacrifice and act of love in the name of Jesus is deeply significant. Don’t discount your role.
“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” (Romans 12:6) What are you good at? What gifts has God given you?
“So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.” (Romans 12:6) Maybe God has gifted you with the ability to share his heart and message with others. Maybe you are good at speaking a timely word into someone’s life. Be prayerful and diligent about using your words to convey God’s truth and heart into the lives of the young parents around you. Send a text, make a phone call, write a card, use a voice messaging app, or sit and have coffee with them. Be creative and be consistent.
“If your gift is serving others, serve them well.” (Romans 12:7) Do you like to do tasks that others don’t? Do you find joy in doing things for others? Pray about the parents God would have you to pour into and what He would have you do for them. You could make them a meal, do some chores for them, or watch their kids to name a few. Ask them what would be helpful.
“If you are a teacher, teach well.” (Romans 12:7) If teaching is where you thrive, find a way to teach the parents in your midst. Open your home for a Q&A with young parents so you can teach them what you know. Volunteer to teach a parenting class at your church. Commit to doing a parenting study with a young mom or dad, or even more, commit to mentoring them.
“If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.” (Romans 12:8) Maybe you are in your sweet spot when you are building others up. Be intentional about speaking words of life into the moms and dads you know. Consider writing the words in a letter or card. Perform random acts of kindness to bless them. Smile at them. Be there for them.
“If it is giving, give generously.” (Romans 12:8) Are you compelled to give? Do some research and discover what needs and wants the young parents that you know have. Then determine to give generously. It could be a gift card, money, flowers, books, groceries, basic needs, or other gifts.
“If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.” (Romans 12:8) If you’re a natural leader, lead with diligence and intention, following the example of Jesus. Be a mentor for a parent or child. Create a day retreat for parents, fueling them from your resources of wisdom and strength. Model a life of faith and love.
“And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:8) Maybe you don’t even have to think about being kind. It’s just something you do. Then be proactive in engaging with the young parents around you so that they can be blessed by your kindness. Drop off a coffee unexpectedly. Give a hug. Speak well of them to others while they are in earshot.
And the point of it all is this: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” (Romans 12:9) Love takes action. “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13) We are to live our lives with hearts and doors wide open. We have been adopted into God’s family, and we are to treat one another like family.
Jesus, we confess we are often inactive and inconsistent in doing our part to contribute to the health of Your body. Change our hearts. Make us willing to live sacrificially. Help us to ask for Your direction daily, even hourly, so that we know how to love and help others well. Your ways are best, and we don’t want to miss out on the blessings of doing Your will.