All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever was in need. Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food freely while praising God.
I am a girl. I was born a girl, but not what I would call a girly girl. I much preferred to run fast, get dirty, not worry about what to wear and hang out with boys. My time with the ATC fed this desire and I very much enjoyed flying, shooting, running fast and getting dirty. I remember when I was about 16 years old one of my sisters suggested that I might start wearing a little bit of makeup. That was my first real step into the world of ‘being a girl’. Although I still like to get dirty and run fast and am still very adept at finding my way around anything that requires tools, I love being a girl. So bringing up two boys was perfect for me. I could teach them lots of things that they needed to know as boys. I am a risk taker, loud, playful and physical as fathers can be. But also nurturing, gentle, comforting, protective and emotional as mothers can be.
I knew that the boys needed male role models in their life. If they don’t have them at home, boys will tend to look elsewhere. We didn’t have any male teachers in the boys school so the next place that boys would look would be to TV and the movies; and are they really reflecting what we hoped and prayed that our boys grow up to be? I don’t think so. Not only are the men on the TV and in the movies not real, they very often reflect a kind of man that is unobtainable (the build-up body perfect hero) or reflect values that I don’t want my boys to have (sleeping with as many women as possible to add to the hero appeal). So where to next, the streets?
The main problem is that boys don’t really get to see how to father. Even in homes where fathers are present, research has shown that any meaningful interaction between a father and his children is far from where it needs to be. This is a generational problem not a new one. They very often did not have men in their lives where they could see how to father for themselves. So the problem continues until we learn how to break the cycle.
So as ‘boyish’ as I am and as many father traits I think I might have I am still not a man. As a single parent of two small boys and with their biological father very much not on the scene nor a good influence in their lives I had a bit of a problem to deal with. So I looked to the church.
You’ve probably heard of the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe that it takes a church to raise a family. I prayed beforehand and then called a family meeting. My children were 6, 4 and 2 at the time. I asked them to make a list of all the men in church who they felt comfortable with – talking to, playing with, hanging out with. Those people who they knew they could pick up the phone to and have a conversation with. The boys made a list. They chose all sorts of men – different ages and with different roles within the church (they didn’t just pick the youth worker). I then went to speak to those men and told them what we were doing and asked if they wanted to be part of the journey. They all agreed.
The idea was that we wrote their names and telephone numbers on a piece of paper and placed it beside the house phone. Whenever any one of the children felt that they needed to just talk to one of them, they could pick up the phone and call them. And they did. However it wasn’t just a phone call that the boys needed and the men knew that. Each of the men on the list joined us to be part of the boys journey in the early part of their life’s. They took them out places, they celebrated birthdays with them, they picked berries with them, they helped them through difficult times when one of the boys stopped eating, they babysat, they poured love and prayers into each one of my children, and my children became their children and grandchildren and younger brothers and cousins. What we became was an intentional faith family. I am so very grateful to those men who poured out into the boys particularly. And although we’ve left that part of the world, they are still very much part of our journey. They still all keep in contact with the boys as they continue to grow.
I was once asked if I was going to write resources for a church to ‘cope with’ single parents. The church felt that they had a problem with one of their parents. She was a single parent and came to church each week and the church felt that she ‘expected’ the other church members to look after her children. No, was the answer. No I’m not going to write a resource to help churches teach single parents how to parent! After a somewhat difficult conversation I spoke about how parenting is exhausting for everyone, single or co-parenting.
The church should be a place where we come and can be family. Where a child and parent have role models all around them to see how to mother and father; love and laugh; fail and get up again to keep trying; celebrate and mourn with. If we aren’t doing that as church, what are we doing? God came as a father to the fatherless; a mother to the motherless and He has no hands but our hands; no feet but our feet. It takes a church to raise a family.