Family. School. Sports. Friends. Church. These are all communities of people that potentially have influence over a child’s thoughts, ideas, and actions. The Church is in a position to combine with some of these influences to make a greater impact on the life of a kid or student. When we combine the light of the church (yellow) with the love of the family (red), we can have a greater impact on the life and faith of the next generation (orange). However, in order for this combination to work, we have to be willing to elevate community with the kids and students we serve, as well as with their parents. When we elevate community by including parents, we are reinforcing the family. That lets parents know we are not an enemy to what they are trying to teach their child but that we are on their side.
The world provides plenty of contradictions and obstacles for parents who are trying to disciple their kids in Christian faith. Parents are fighting social media, television, and even opinions about various values that are taught in schools and learned from peers. Parents need to know that someone in their community is reinforcing the family by saying the same thing elsewhere that they are saying at home. This is an amazing opportunity for churches to elevate community by partnering with parents to influence kids and students. When we reinforce the family within community, we support parents in the conversations that they are having with their kids each week. We say things that we know parents would want their kids to know but maybe the kids won’t hear it from them. Influential small group leaders and parents can stand as one unit elevating a community that has one message that pushes kids and students to love God, love life, and love others in a safe place.
Reinforcing the family in a safe environment takes into account the policies and procedures that we put into place to protect kids physically, but it also means that parents feel safe and protected when their children come into community with their small groups. A parent should never have to worry if they are going to be undermined by a small group leader. As kids grow older, they are already looking for someone to side with them against mom or dad. When we elevate community for our few, we help them realize that their parents are a part of our community and we will reinforce their ideals when they are in group. Small groups are a community that is safe for kids, students, and parents . . . the whole family unit is part of the group. Small groups that reinforce the family provide a community that is safe for the parent and protects the parent’s relationship with their child. Safe small group leaders get in the ring with the parent and say, “I’ll fight for you and your kid from your corner.” It elevates a community that makes the parent an inside partner not an outside villain.
When parents know their role is protected in small group, it elevates community because parents feel supported. Parenting can be a tough job. Sometimes kids say hurtful things. Remember the first time your two-year-old said, “I don’t like you.” Think about when your middle-schooler gave you the silent treatment. There are few things more frustrating than when your teenager insists that you don’t understand, or worse yet, don’t care about their problems. We reinforce the family and elevate community when parents feel supported. Small groups provide opportunities for kids and students to build community but they are also places of support for parents that let them know they are not alone in a very difficult job.