The church is not here to raise your kids for you, and give you (the only) opportunities to spend time together as a family. The church is here to equip YOU to raise your kids, and cultivate family living.
Now, as I said before, a lot of this was brought on by sitting in with some people from Rock Harbor, but I want to be perfectly clear in saying that what I am about to write in this blog may have been influenced by Rock Harbor in ways, but all of these thoughts roaming around in my head are from many other things as well. These things would include, but are not limited too - life experiences, studying at Biola, watching how other churches work, and talking with a lot of people from different backgrounds. And here is the most exciting part: God is doing such a great work within my mind, heart, and soul, because He is truly preparing me for my next steps in life, which most likely will include being married and having a family. He has given me such encouragement, and a huge vision for how I can raise my children in a healthy way, while loving them like Christ loves them. I would also like to give my disclaimer now because I DO NOT want to act like I have all the answers here...not at all. I am not married, and I don't have any kids, and I didn't even grow up in a Christian home, but like I said before, God has just been showing me a lot lately, and, well, this is my blog, and you don't have to read it. :)
First and foremost, I want to tell you not to settle. I will go into this in more detail in my next blog, about the "gifts" of singleness and marriage, but I do want to hit on this for a bit before we talk about families. Do not settle when it comes to finding a spouse. With this said, I want to emphasize "calling". I truly believe that the most important thing a couple can (primarily) make sure to line up before saying their vows is their calling(s) (which is usually what they are passionate about). For instance, lets take myself for an example - I love talking with people. I love knowing everything about someone's life, and I love asking God to help me minister to people in conversation. I feel like this is what God has called me to do.
I love to invite people over for dinner (I miss my apartment), and talk life, theology, and politics (the important things in life...). This is my thing. These situations are where I feel most comfortable. So, is it going to make sense to marry someone who does not like doing these things? Should I marry someone who would not want to lead a home fellowship, or go street witnessing with me on a Sunday night, or attend a sweet Bible conference in Rhode Island where you can meet lots of new people? ;) Probably not. That probably wouldn't be a good idea.
Lets take another example - two of my favorite people in the world: Chris Madson and Gina Masini. They have been dating for over two years now, and they are awesome. I always love hearing what they are up to because they are always on the same page. Chris is extremely passionate about music. He is a musician, and all he wants to do is to be a professional musician. What I love, is how Gina became more passionate about music, because Chris is passionate about music. I would call this a "love passion". You become passionate about something because the person you love is passionate about something; it's a beautiful thing. But Chris and Gina are also passionate about other things, such as, talking with people. They trained to be small group leaders at their church just because they love talking to people so much. They are also passionate about sharing the gospel with others. They love this so much, they have desires to go on mission trips together, and travel the world, for the glory of God. Chris and Gina are great together, because their passions, and/or callings, line up. And because of this, I am convinced that they could have a long, happy life together (Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of any proposal anytime soon...I am purely just giving my opinion here).
Not everything has to be right on within a couple, not at all. You don't have to be exactly alike in all hobbies, and activities, but again, I am a firm believer that your calling's, and your main passion(s!) in life need to match up. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Moving on now, as you can see above, I put an exclamation mark next to the "s" in "passions", to mark it as plural. I did this because as Christians, it is easy to run off and get married to whomever because you are both "passionate about the Lord". While this is a great thing, I want to emphasize that my point I am trying to make above is a little bit bigger than just being "passionate about the Lord". There may be a fabulous man who lives in Alaska, who wants to be a full-time fisherman (sailing for months at a time), who is "passionate about the Lord"...but he is probably not right for me (as we have read above). But again, I will go into this topic in more detail in the next blog. So now, as I move into some family specific things that the Lord has been showing me, I will solely focus in on a married couple's "passion for the Lord", coming into the center of their family, as they begin to have children.
When I was heavily involved in youth ministry, something my youth pastor would always say was, "We only get these kids for 2-4 hours a week, so we need to make the best of it." While this statement is entirely true, it is also interesting to think about the other side of things for a bit. Like, what about all the other hours of the day that the kids are not at church with their youth leaders and pastors. Where are they? Now, besides school (which takes up a huge chunk of time), the kids are with their families. A "family" can look like many different things. It could be a single-parent home, or a home where the grandparents are in charge. But I want to focus in on one specific type of "family" - this "family" (in many different shapes and sizes) being a Christian family. And by "Christian family", I mean a family who is committed to Jesus Christ, on a personal level.
Back to the hours of the day. So lets say we are speaking of a child who is in school from 8am to 3pm. So we have a couple of hours in the morning where the kids are with their family, and the later half of the afternoon into the evening, and the entire weekends and holidays (and other various breaks from school). So, pretty much, a major percentage of time is spent living and communing as a family. I am going to make an estimate of 8 hours a day (especially when the kids are young), for every day of the week, which would total 56 hours a week. And I would admit that this is a pretty low estimate, only taking into consideration children who are in full-time school. So, a family spends 56 hours together (awake), and a youth ministry or children's ministry, only gets a child for 2-4 hours a week (depending on services etc.). 56 hours a week is a HUGE chunk of time! Gosh, I am seriously just stopping to think about this 56 hours for a few minutes here...so you are welcome to pause with me...
Okay, it's been a whole day. I am serious, I spent a whole day thinking about this concept of at least 56 hours together as a family, and now I am back. So the question is - Are parents utilizing the time they have with their children...now? Are they putting quality time, into their quantity of time?
Back in the day, it was Jewish custom for the mother to raise her kids, feed her kids, teach her kids, and take care of her kids, all day, every day. The father's role was to provide for his kids, and they also had another huge role - to teach them the Word of God. Every devout Jew had to have the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible) memorized (at the least!), if not the entire Hebrew Bible. Though many of their traditions are now called "legalistic", I think that their traditions and routines of life were beautiful.
The other day, I happened to meet a young Jewish guy. He wore his yamaka, and he told me how he and his family walked to temple service on the Sabbath. I loved his devotion. I was motivated by his devotion. For him to start his car on the Sabbath was considered work, and God has commanded to rest on the seventh day, and this young man was going to hold God's word near to his heart. Why can't I be more like that? Why can't every Christian be more like that? Are we too busy with "life"? Are parents satisfied with sending their kids to children's ministry and youth groups once or twice a week, only to sit their Bible's back up on the shelf until the next Sunday morning? This should not be the case.
We need to pick up those bibles, and not rely on the church programs to teach our children. Parents need to teach their children! They need to teach their children about God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ. The most important thing we can as Christians is to grow in our relationships with Christ as a family.
If you are a parent now, are you having quality in your quantity of time? I want to challenge you to not take your time with your children for granted. I want to challenge you to not rely on church programs to teach your kids about Jesus Christ, but for YOU to teach your children about Jesus Christ. And I want to challenge the single person to be aware of this before choosing a spouse. Will your spouse want to raise a family this way? This must be an important issue to you.
As I was talking with Matt, the Rock Harbor guy who works in the families department, we were discussing the dynamics of VBS. We were talking about how we put on VBS every year, but mostly only attract the kids in the church. He was talking about how they had been discussing an idea of where families would break up into their own communities, and run their own VBS'. Our church staff has talked about something similar to this as well; getting into the community more. But as I sat there and envisioned this in my head, I almost started to cry. I thought of the Worrell's, and how beautiful it would be to watch them as a family, run a VBS together for their neighborhood. Ted and Fayanna would be teaching their children so many things: responsibility, organization, etc, while also teaching them to take responsibility for sharing the gospel with their neighbors. They would be putting ownership into their children's hands, so it wouldn't just be up to the parents to be light's to this dark world, but it would also challenge the kids to be light's as well.
In this moment, I knew this is what I wanted for my family. I knew that this is how I was going to raise my family - by putting quality in the quantity.