We are in the midst of the “blurry years” – a term I borrow from a friend referring to the times when her three young boys were very young. She couldn’t tell you much about what happened in world news during those years or the movies she saw (partly because she did not have time to see any!). She and her husband spent those years tired and completely engrossed in the lives of their boys – and they loved it.
So many of the young families in our church (including us) are in the midst of the blurry years; we have young kids in the infant/toddler/preschooler/early elementary years. Many of us have both parents working. We have messy homes, we wake up tired, we’re behind on the laundry, and we miss birthdays and milestones. If we’re working, our brains are constantly split between two places.
Despite the blur, we’re trying to follow Jesus. As a family.
In the thick of these “blurry years,” what opportunities are there for us to live missionally and find meaningful ways to serve others as a family?
Is it possible? Of course it is – but let’s be honest: even making it to church before the start of the sermon on Sunday can feel like a major challenge.
I want to lift up one success we’ve had at our church for families with young children to both serve and connect with the older generation in our church.
It’s as simple as this: bringing others along for the ride. Our families with young children have become the ones we ask to provide rides for our folks who are unable to drive themselves to church.
Here is some of what we have seen through young families offering transportation to those in need:
Many of those in need of rides are in their seventies or eighties – and there is such joy for them to spend the car ride with delightful, loud, curious children and their parents. It’s messy and awkward at times – the kind of imperfect community of faith that Jesus invites us to form.
Some families commit to most Sundays, every-other Sunday, or even just once a month. And each time they make the drive to church together, they have a chance to get to know one another a little bit better.
This commuting time also grants our young children a chance to sit side-by-side with an octogenarian or someone with mobility challenges. This, in the midst of our wider culture that continues to sequester the young from the old, separating those with special needs from those without.
This is a gift for our young children and, of course, those who need it are getting a ride!
Driving an older person to work can also help open up conversations that even toddlers can engage in as character and faith-forming opportunities:
- Noticing and reflecting on what happens to our bodies as we get older.
- Naming how there are times when we can help someone in need (like giving a ride to someone who cannot drive). Jesus works through us to help those in need; we become Jesus’ helping hands when we reach out to those in need. (The Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37).
- Naming that we all have needs at times. We will be the ones who can ask for and receive help. Jesus is present with us through those helpers! (Even Jesus needed the support and prayer of his disciples in Gethsemane, Matthew 26:36-46).
Questions to help the rubber hit the road for you and your family:
- Is there someone you know who may need a ride to church? (Whether they currently are a part of your church or not – especially if they are not!). Could you offer to bring them along with your family?
- Is there already a transportation ministry at your church that you could sign up with?
- If not, could you help your church coordinate rides through the families with young children? (This is made easy through great websites like http://www.signupgenius.com).
- If Sunday mornings doesn’t work for you, this would easily transfer for helping someone get to their weekly grocery-store run – with all the same benefits. The key: bringing them along to where you are already going! Whom might you serve?
Living missionally and serving others can begin by inviting others along for the ride. Jesus ministered to and served those whom he came in contact with in his every day orbit he ran in. His disciples then did the same – and we, as Jesus’ disciples, are invited to live that way now. Discipleship happens in the context of relationship. And relationships are formed through the time spent with one another – like in the weekly ride to church, together. How do you bring others along for the ride in your every-day, running around life? Live into that question and see the fruit of conversation and formation that follows.
Pastor Sara Wolbrecht is head of Care Ministry at a Lutheran church in the suburbs of San Francisco’s Bay Area, married to a musician, and mother to a 3yo daughter.