[written by Jen H
“…we are many parts of one body, and we belong to each other.” Romans 12:5
“I think we’ve got that whole ‘It takes a village’ thing down!” a youth group mom commented to me as a teen who was not her own child called her “mom” and said that he did not need a ride home on Thursday night from youth group. I smiled and laughed and then I thought to myself that God was probably smiling too.
The Nigerian proverb that Hillary Clinton popularized in her 1996 book; “it takes a village to raise a child” speaks to the type of collectivism that I imagine God envisioned when He first thought up the spiritual community; or the church. I’ve often thought about how beautiful the moment must have been in the Heavenlies when God designed spiritual community. I am sure that his heart welled up with love and compassion when he began to draw people together from all generations, lands, cultures, languages, and sin struggles to cover each one with His grace and call us His people; His body; His army, His bride, and His family. Each one of us broken in our own unique way, and then healed as He became broken for us. A people He knit together for mutual encouragement, sharpening, and doing life together. We were not designed to be diverse generational cultures; God brings all people together; young and old, rich and poor, wise and foolish.
Our “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” “do it yourself,” culture often tries to convince us that we were made for something so much less than the rich interdependence that comes from being in the “village” of His people. A Nigerian village, as well as a suburban Chicago village (whether we embrace it or not), is a place where people, especially young people, need each other; and so is a spiritual community. The vast majority of leaders in the field of youth ministry today are pointing the great need for youth to have multiple (at least 5) consistent, deep relationships with people who guide them into spiritual truth. Let’s be clear; no one can take the place of a parent. Research always shows that the top people to have a spiritual impact on a teen are mom and dad. In the village of God’s people; however there are many more who can come alongside that parent in support. Our spiritual community is blessed to have adult role models who care for teens and want to help lead them into truth in a spirit of interdependence.
And in the case of the fatherless, well, we know that God has always had a special place in his heart for those without parents (James 1:27). We should too. Our invitation to the lost, uncared for generation among us should be: “come to the spiritual community that Jesus offers; we are a family; here you have many fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and grandparents in the faith.” Maybe it takes having the resolve of Job; when he said that he would rather have his shoulder dislocated than to have overlooked an opportunity to show kindness and hospitality to the fatherless (Job 31:21-22).
I see a rich Christ-like spirit of interdependence at work in our spiritual community as many students, parents, and youth leaders work together onMission to encourage one another in the faith and welcome the lost into our community. Being onMission must start with us. Whether we need each other for rides, bending an ear, or carrying each other’s burdens with prayerful consideration; there is something in the ethos of our community that knows we were made to be “leaned on” and to “lean on” others. There is something inside of us that senses God’s smile when Linda “adopts” another grandchild in the faith, Melanie cheers on a little sister in the faith as she makes her school talent show, and as Greg gathers a community of parents together for prayer and mutual encouragement. I hope and pray that in 2012, we would strive to embrace every opportunity we have for interdependence and continue being a hospitable community to the lost among us.
Questions for teens/ families:
- Romans 12:5 states that “we are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” How do you feel about “belonging to” the body of Christ? What might that look like in your life?
- Have you ever thought of your spiritual community like a family? In what ways was that a positive or negative experience for you?
- People talk about faith in many different ways. Are there any people in your life who talk about faith in a way that you admire? Who? What do you like about the way the talk about faith?
- Which adult in your life does your faith most look like? Why do you think your beliefs are so much like his or hers? How is your belief system different from his or hers?