Back when we released our new book Leading Missional Communities, we said that Missional communities weren’t really an end in and of themselves, but rather a vehicle that helped us get to a vision we needed to get back to: being extended families on mission.
We use the word oikos (Greek for “household”) to describe this reality. Missional communities are like training wheels that help us ride the bike of oikos.
Now, as much as we talk about missional communities being a place for the extended family, we also recognize that the experience of family that most of us have daily interaction with is our own nuclear families. Indeed, missional communities that function as extended families are mainly made up of nuclear families. So we wanted to spend a few weeks exploring some practical tips on parenting, raising kids and leading our nuclear families in a missional way.
Here’s the question I’d like to start with: What does it look like to parent well?
Sally and I wanted to raise our kids so they had three things from us:
Let’s talk about what each of these entails.
Love is one of those things that’s easy to grasp conceptually, but difficult to implement practically. Of course, we tried our best to unconditionally love our kids. Let them know we’re pleased with them. We’re proud of them. That we would love them no matter what their behavior was. Our love can’t be conditional on anything, or it’s not the same kind of love that God has.
That means that no matter what they’ve done, they need to be able to rest in the confidence that our love for them does not change. This, of course, gives them a concrete picture of what it means when we tell them that God loves them. We didn’t do it perfectly, of course, but it’s important for kids to experience unconditional love as a bedrock foundation for everything else in life. Which means we have to express that love to them in words and action, often.
It’s sometimes difficult to tell this nowadays, with the emergence of helicopter parenting, but the role of parents is to raise adults who are good people rather than trying to make sure our kids always like us and become our friends. If you raise your kids to be good people, there will be a strong possibility they will be friends with you when they grow up, but this cannot be your goal. If your goal in parenting is for your kids to like you, you’ll never be able to give them the kind of investment they need to become mature adults. To invest in your children in a way that brings them to maturity, you need to be able to bring them both invitation and challenge, and you can’t challenge someone if you need them to like you.