We often joke that our children grew up with another set of parents in their lives, along with an additional set of grandparents. These men and women were godly, mature believers from our church who served as invaluable mentors for our children. Little did we know at the time, as young parents, the rich benefits we and our children would reap from these relationships. With that experience in mind, I was so pleased that Chap Bettis included an entire chapter titled “Connecting Your Children to Others” in his book The Disciple-Making Parent—A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ. Here is a brief excerpt:
I cannot handle the discipleship of my children alone. Although this discipleship is primarily my calling, humility compels me to invite the input of others. Our children need other examples and models who will take them further than we can. We are not sufficient in ourselves. Having said this, there can be a tendency for parents to give over the entire responsibility of discipleship to the youth leader or the Sunday school teacher. Or, by contrast, others overreact and isolate themselves and their families. They want to be the only influence on their children. This reeks of pride and self-righteousness.
Children need to see others up close. They need others to speak into their lives. As a parent, I have the ability to call out others as good examples. As my children grow older, I have the ability to encourage mentoring relationships with others.
Disciple-making parents actively connect their children to other godly examples.
(Copyright © 2016, page 56)
How can parents be intentional in seeking out and establishing these kinds of relationships? Here are just a few things we did:
- Be on the look-out—Are there members of your local church who demonstrate a type of godly maturity that you want to imitate in your own life? Even from afar, you can point your children to these examples. Or, it could be your child’s Sunday school teacher or small group leader.
- Initiate relationships—In the midst of raising young children, we got to know a wonderful, godly couple from church who were empty nesters. It was a perfect match! They loved being included in the lives of our children, and our children gained something immeasurable—spiritual grandparents. This relationship became even more life giving when our children entered their teen years.
- Show hospitality—Almost every week, we invited someone from church to our home. Whether for a bowl of ice cream, dinner on paper plates, popcorn and games, etc., it was one of the best ways for our kids to get to know other Christians.
- Intergenerational small group Bible studies—Our church had various small groups that met during the week in members’ homes. We intentionally chose an intergenerational one. By the time our children were teens, they had already established some significant relationships with older members of our church.
- Encourage service in the local church—We actively sought out opportunities to serve together as a family in different ministries. This gave our children a chance to know, observe, and learn from ministry leaders.
- Do things together as families—One of our children’s favorite childhood memories was a regular “Family Fun Night" with another family from church—parents + children doing some activity together. My children were able to reap the benefits of having another set of godly parents in their lives.