Everyone Can Be A Parent
Children are a blessing given to us by God. This year I wrote in a Father’s Day card to my Dad: “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:4-5). This verse, along with many other parts of scripture, supports the overarching message that we are to treasure our children.
I have the privilege to work as a Youth and Children’s Minister for a small church. I influence many young lives (and families!) through my work. It’s a joy when I see children, teenagers and whole families get the gospel and live out a personal faith in the Lord Jesus.
However, I do realise that, as a same-sex attracted person, It is likely I will never have the experience of parenting my own biological children. I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought about having children but, as I get older, it is something that has been more on my mind. It can be difficult when I see married friends announce on social media they are expecting a child. Friendship circles are formed without me because I have no children of my own. Now, I do not envy parents as they discipline children during tantrums, but it can be sad knowing I won’t ever put them to bed regularly, tell them how much I love them every day or see them grow up before my eyes.
As Christians, we always need to get God into the mix. What does God tell us, in scripture, on this subject? How does his ‘God’s eye-view’ speak into my situation for the better? That’s what I wish to share with you as I tackle this, sometimes very personal, subject.
The Bible on parenting
In the second chapter of Genesis, we read about the first family ever created in Adam and Eve. God made us to be relational beings, and children will come from this perfect loving relationship. But due to Adam and Eve’s rejection of God’s rule, family life can never be perfect. We see how broken, and messy, families can be. Jacob deceives his father and steals his brother Esau’s firstborn blessing. Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. Some of this we can trace from bad parenting, such as Jacob favouring Joseph, overall his other sons. But at different times even our biblical heroes have broken families. For example, one of King David’s sons raped his sister, and another led a rebellion.
God speaks into childlessness too. There are couples who could not conceive due to infertility. Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Michal and Elizabeth could not have children. For some, God ‘opened their wombs’, but on other occasions, He did not. What about them? How does God give them hope?
For those longing for children, we are given God’s answer of good news in the Lord Jesus. These women were all involved in bringing about the promised King, who would save people from sin and death. Additionally, Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s plans, not with his own biological family, but as a single man. He had no wife or children of His own. He achieved God’s mission at the cross to make the best family possible – the church. The church is not people born of flesh and blood, but born of God (John 1:13). The church is a spiritual family.
When Jesus was told (in Mark 3:35) that his mother and brothers were outside looking for Him, he said: “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother”. In a culture where the family was so important, Jesus radically chose to be with His spiritual family. Children are to be part of that family, too; Jesus blessed them when families came to see him, contrary to what his disciples presumed (Luke 18:15-17).
Church life, just like family life, is messy as well. There are people that get on our nerves, but they are your family in Christ. So, having your own biological family is good; however, we are biblically called to love the family we have in Christ, in the church. We are to encourage and teach each other as a family (Titus 2:1-15). Arguably, this is something the church needs to do better.
How I do spiritual parenting
Even though I don’t have my own children, let me tell you how I seek to impact the lives of children and young people positively. I have a goddaughter named Cara. When she was only three months old, I took care of her whilst her parents took a break and prepared a meal provided by their church family. Over time I bought them some of the essentials they needed, and went with the mum to the hospital. I gave her a cow toy and bought literature for her parents to read to her as she grew up. I made a Spotify playlist of children’s Christian songs which her mum could learn to sing to Cara. My prayer is that Cara will never know a day when she isn’t loved by God.
In my local church family, I regularly go around to different families’ houses for dinner, and I’ve had families round to my house for lunch after a Sunday service. I watch films with them, enjoy their company and chat about everyday life. I ask their children to show me their favourite toys. I share advice with parents (if they want it), provide Bible materials for family Bible time (if they do it) and get involved when they need help. I cheer them on when they’re tired. When it’s bedtime, I’ve read bedtime and Bible stories with the kids. When parents have had conversations with their children about God, and I’m around, I sometimes interject with my own thoughts. I’ve been there for families when life is hard, or there’s been a tragedy in their household. And, importantly, I commit to praying for parents and their children regularly.
For teenagers, I regularly have opportunities at youth group to speak gospel truth into their lives. One young person lives next door to me in a non-Christian household, so I encourage him as much as I can. Another young person is from a very broken background, and comes from a splintered family due to multiple divorces. She lives with her aunt due to her mother’s often violent alcoholism, and has lived through numerous court cases. Her parents have forgotten her birthday many times. But we care for her; she has regularly attended Sunday services over the past few years because she knows she has a better spiritual family in the church. She has been a joy to teach and encourage through her tough life.
There have been challenges and rewards. I am not one of their parents, who can speak biblical truth into their teen’s life daily. But when these teenagers are not from Christian homes, as is the case for many of the young people currently in my youth group, I can seek to teach them how to follow Jesus as their King. And I act as their spiritual role model. We can also laugh and banter together!
You may be in my sort of situation and worry or are saddened at the prospect of having no children of your own. Let me encourage you that the church is your spiritual family. You can teach, inspire and encourage the children, young people and families you regularly see on Sunday and during the week. I urge you to pair up with a family and serve them. I agree it will be different from the unique responsibility given to a biological parent, but you are in a unique God-given position to positively influence so many children. We just need to be willing and ask God, in His grace, to show us how we can serve. How can you serve those in your church family?
This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Winter 2020 edition of Ascend