Over the past few weeks, I’ve been posting on how children could be incorporated into the life of a Missional Community. I outlined three different types of gatherings – the Family Meal, LTGs, and a Third Place – and posted some suggestions for families on each one. Last week, I addressed one of the most common questions I get when talking about kids and MCs, “What about Bible studies?”
In this post, I’d like to address another question I frequently hear when talking about children and Missional Communities: “What if my kids aren’t welcome in my community?”
This question most often comes up when a church is intentionally pursuing intergenerational communities, where people of different life stages are encouraged to be in community together. Intergenerational community can be a beautiful witness of the glory of Christ, where the unity of Spirit is on full display. Single men and women have a lot to learn from married couples. Parents have a lot to learn from single men and women. Older members of the community can learn from the young, and vice versa. However, because life rhythms and experiences vary widely in a group like this, tension can occur when children are around.
Moving Towards Sanctification or Division?
If a family feels like their children are unwelcome in their group, it could be part of the natural growth of sanctification in the group members. People who don’t have children are simply not used to children being around. If a someone in your community sighs loudly when your children are loud or whiny, it could be that they just haven’t had as much practice as you at loving children when they are hard to love. If you get the sense that these men and women are genuinely trying to learn to love you and your family, then this is part of the sanctifying process that is the goal of intergenerational groups. In this case, I recommend giving grace to the other group members, and doing your best to help your children honor and respect them in their words and behavior. Stay with the group and continue to offer them patience and forgiveness as they do the same for you. Hopefully, though this process, you are all being further conformed to the image of Christ.
If, however, the group members truly do not want your children as part of their community life, then the group is not moving towards sanctification, it’s moving towards division. Eventually, either your children will be divided from your mission and community, or your family will be divided from the group. In this case, I believe the wise parent will choose to divide the group over dividing his family.
Click to tweet: The wise parent will choose to divide the group over dividing his family. @johnmurk
Free to Find a New Group
Several times I have met families who want to leave their group because they know their children aren’t welcome, but feel guilty about dividing the community. If you feel a similar burden, I want to tell you that you are free in Christ to find or start a new Missional Community. After all, the goal of a Missional Community is to be together on mission to seek and save the lost. And God may use this division in your group to result in even more ministry.
Take the story of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15 as an example. Paul and Barnabas are about to head out on a missionary journey, and they have a disagreement. Barnabas wants to bring John Mark along on the journey, and Paul does not. Neither man is “wrong,” but they have a very distinct difference of opinion about the best way to carry out the mission. So, they decide to go their separate ways on separate missionary journeys. And as a result, the gospel of Jesus is spread in two directions instead of one.
If your group feels unwelcoming toward your children, perhaps a very similar situation is happening to that of Paul and Barnabas. You desire to include your children in your Christian life and mission, and they do not. Neither side is necessarily “wrong,” but it will be difficult to continue on with this difference of opinion. By you leaving to find a Missional Community that is welcoming of children frees them to pursue their kid-free mission, while you pursue being on mission with your kids. And, by God’s grace, the result will be more people hearing and believing the gospel and new brothers and sisters in Christ.
Do you have a question or challenge related to including children in your Missional Community? If so, I’d love to hear it. Email me at [email protected] or find us on Twitter.