A friend of mine reminded me recently that sometimes it takes a village to raise a child. And at times, dare I say, the village is better than the parent. Sometimes if the village wasn’t there the child would have a tougher path to walk.
What can the village (which is the church, neighbors, friends, family, teachers, Sunday school teachers…etc) do to help the child and the family? Dare I say that the village is vital. In fact the village is a necessary component to the parent!
What can the village do?:
Be a listening ear to children. As mentioned in the first part of this conversation, sometimes a child’s home life isn’t the best. Perhaps their parents really suck at being parents. Perhaps there’s substance abuse at home. A lot takes place behind closed doors. To be a supportive village one has to be a good listener, in order to be a good listener one has to be available. Don’t just offer random advice to children who come to you, but actively engage in listening. Sometimes it’s not what the child is saying that speaks the loudest. Be sensitive but listen. I recall having numerous conversations with my Grandmother who was always a wonderful listener. Children growing up need this kind of support as well!
2. Engage and Challenge:
There were times when I was growing up that I would more readily listen to a teacher or a Sunday School teacher say something that my parents had been saying for years. Why is it that our children will actually hear it from an outsider or one of the ‘villagers’ before they will hear it from the parent? For whatever reason this is true. As a member of the village sometimes parents need you to reinforce what they’ve already been saying for it to finally click with the child. Be an engager with the children you have the opportunity to instruct. Challenge them, remind them of how to live consistently and faithfully. What you say, at times, carries more weight with a child than what their parents have already said. These children need to hear godly instruction and see consistency in you as well!
3. Safe Harbor
By this I mean, be the safe zone for the children in your ‘village’ that you have the opportunity to minister to. Have an open door policy. Let them know that though you’re not their parents you accept them for who they are and you will be there for them. Being there for a child is sometimes all that they need! It’s not that their parents are bad or abusive but rather it’s a place to come to get away from their parents and you have an opportunity to instruct and further develop them. Every child needs a safe harbor that they can go.
4. Pray for them.
People even members of the ‘village’ often underestimate the power of prayer. Prayer is a primary weapon not a secondary weapon. Use it. Let the child know that you are praying for them and allow them to share with you prayer concerns. Also this is a wonderful teaching opportunity that you have to instruct them as to how to pray. So not only are you actively engaging in prayer for them but you are showing them how to pray as well. This will further develop the child in the ways of God…which are vital for adulthood.
5. Visit their homes, befriend their parents
To be an engaged village one has to have a connection to the families. Be proactive in going to the homes of the children you are collectively raising. Get to know the parents for a couple of reasons. 1) so that you can understand better the child and 2) so that you can understand the parents and their style of parenting. Great things come of fellowship in the home setting. It’s a place where guards are let down and real connections are made. As a member of the ‘village’ you are only as engaging as how deep or shallow your connection with the family is. Meet the parents, understand what they are going through. Get to know if they are working 80 hour weeks and need some help to care for their kids. Get to understand the family dynamics and look for ways to come along side them on this journey.
Parents need you! The village is vital! Don’t let the parents or the children take advantage of you though, be wise while at the same time be available.