It’s 3:30am, my 4 week old son Deklan is having gas problems. Everything we try doesn’t work. With one sympathetic look at each other my wife and I know that we need to hunker down, do everything we can for our son and get through the night. In the morning I grab a massive coffee, you know, the kind that give you the shakes, and drive to the office. I walk in the door, sit on my chair and attempt to survive my day on little to no sleep. I know full well that my wife is doing the same thing back home.
Parenting is draining, both physically and emotionally. There are good days, and days where extreme exhaustion can set in and you still have to make dinner, or drive your kid to practice or get on the floor and play.
I have been reminded that parenting can be just as much about maintaining sanity and surviving as it is caring for our kids. Kids are a blessing and worth every ounce of energy that is invested into their lives, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it is always easy.
Parents need support. For church communities to be healthy they need to support their families. Here are five simple ways communities can support and empower their families.
Frankly, these simple suggestions should be done 10 fold for single parents. Single parents truly are heroes.
1. Meals – When Deklan was born, our church arranged 2 weeks’ worth of supper to come to our door. As parents of a newborn this was a real blessing. But I would suggest not limiting it to parents of newborns, but making meals for parents you know who are super busy, tired and/or emotionally drained. You will receive one of the most genuine “thank-you’s” possible. A meal goes a long way. My wife and I put in a request that we receive daily meals like this until our kids turn 18. We have yet to hear a response.
2. Emotional and Spiritual Support – Parenting can be emotionally and spiritually draining. Be attentive to the emotional and spiritual needs of the parents in your community. This can be done in a multitude of ways. Some churches have groups where parents can connect with one another. Other churches have deacons or other care-givers consistently checking in and offering prayer and support. Be creative. Parents should feel the love.
3. Intergenerational Spiritual Formation – While it is primary, the spiritual formation of children should not limited to the children’s parents. In my experience working with youth and children, one of the most successful ways in which kids learn about faith is when they connect with other demographics through story and relationship. A solid mentoring relationship can do wonders. Inviting seniors to share testimonies in Sunday school or youth nights is a blessing. Having other people in your community, teaching about faith in Jesus to your children should be a given. Community offers the nitty gritty value of relationship and experience and it should be utilized.
4. Babysitting Nights – It’s simple. Put together a few babysitting nights every year. Let parents get out and have fun, or just crash on the couch without attending to their children. A wonderful way to recharge the battery.
5. Safe Place – Make your church community a safe place. It sounds overly obvious, but important and simple measures should be taken to ensure this. An open door policy, criminal record checks for volunteers working with children and proper training are important to facilitate a positive and safe environment.
There is no doubt that these are five very simple and unsurprising ways in which a church community can support and empower parents.
What would you add to this list?