There are so many things we want God to do for our kids and grandkids. We want them to come to know Him at an early age; to grow in Him; to marry another believer (if God chooses for them to marry); to read, study and fall in love with His word; to be able to articulate the reason for their faith; to have the courage to proclaim Him in a cynical generation; to live with truth and grace.
Each of these is important but there’s another crucial thing they’ll need in order to help the above requests come to fruition.
Community: close friends in Christ.
Every fall we ask our adult children to give us a private list of the things they want to see God do in the lives of each of their kids for the coming year. When our children sent us their lists for this year there was a common thread that stood out in every request: a desire for 1 or 2 Christian friends for each child. Why? Our adult children themselves know the importance and value of close friendships. They too have sought out these types of friendships in their own lives.
We know that one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids and grandkids is to pray for them to have a few good friends who will encourage them in their faith.
None of us can grow alone. We were created for relationships. The Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit in community with one another — exemplifies this. Throughout the scriptures we see the importance of relationship. Moses had Aaron and Hur, Paul had Timothy and Barnabas, Jesus himself had the 12 and of the twelve he had 3 “best buds”: Peter, James and John. We too are created for relationship, for community.
We need a few close friends with whom we can go deep; friends who will push us to Christ and to our spouses and family. Friends who will laugh, cry and encourage us to do the hard, right thing. (You may have read my recent blog on Club 31 about why we need girlfriends.)
The past several weeks I’ve noticed the longing for community played out in several specific ways and the blessings that community has brought.
The Washington Nationals baseball team!
Ok, we are rabid fans and we did just win The World Series! This victory itself has an amazing back story. In May we were one of the worst teams in the country with a 19-31 record. We survived 5 crisis games which could have eliminated us from the playoffs. Our scores came mainly in the last 3 innings. Few in the country would have predicted us winning the Series!
The reporters and analysts have gone crazy trying to figure out how this happened. In interviewing the players and coaches, the one universal answer has been:
The character of this team. We love each other. We encourage one another. We are for each other.”
The 25th reunion of our Falls Church Anglican Fellows classes!
We just celebrated the 25th anniversary of this program with over 100 Fellows and their families returning for a weekend. Our purpose has been to bring 12-14 recent college graduates each year to experience a life-changing year together of thoughtful mentoring, theological training, exposure to Christian leaders, involvement in discipleship with our youth, and part-time work in D.C. in a field in which they have an interest. Other churches across the country have adopted this program too.
These young college graduates develop strong relationships. Throughout the weekend many shared that the best thing that came out of the program was strong friendships for life. I asked a current Fellow,“What’s your favorite thing about the program so far this year?” He quickly replied, “The community we are forming.”
My husband’s group of young pastors
A week ago my husband had an overnight with 15 young pastors. Most of them have been meeting together several times a year for 12 years. They come from different locations. Their purpose is simply encouragement. They give updates, sharing the hard stuff in their ministry, in their marriages, in their personal lives. They counsel one another and encourage each other.
This past week they re-visited their vision, wondering if they should take on a new ministry as a unit. After much discussion they decided not at this time. As one young man remarked, “What is special about this group is the experience of being together, being real and counseling one another. We also laugh a lot.”
For 16 years I’ve had the privilege of meeting with several of the wives of these men. Our time together has a similar feel. It’s a safe community. We “get” each other’s lives. We can be completely honest, and we feel known. What a gift.
My grandson’s freshman year in college.
My grandson Will and his roommate Sam just came to see us on their way back to their university from a Christian retreat. Just 3 months into their first year they are seeking a fellowship group to which they can belong. They know they will need a Christian community.
As my grandkids are beginning to leave for college one of my most fervent prayers is for them to seek out and find a strong fellowship group. This begins with finding a roommate. Will found Sam through the college Facebook group which enables you to describe yourself and the type of roommate you’d like. As we sat with these 2 young men at the dinner table we asked, “What’s the best thing about school so far?” Looking at each other they laughingly replied, “Having each other as a roommate!’
At every season of our lives we need community — several friends who are seeking to grow in Christ. Insist that your pre-teens and teens be involved in a strong youth ministry. Attend a church regularly. You are most likely to find potential friends in a church community. If your kids grow up seeing the importance of believing friends to you, they will be more likely to seek them out for themselves.
We will have to be proactive. If you are in the empty nest years you may be lonely. Resist the inclination to walk through this season by yourselves. Instead ask a few others to join you in a regular fellowship. You may have to take the initiative in beginning this group.
John and I are in the season of life in which we are entering into retirement — or as we prefer to call it, refocusing. We want to finish strong and we know we need a community with which to walk through this transition. So we started a group we call “The Oaks Folks.” We are six couples who are in various stages of this new season and we need encouragement. We want to share our fears, our dreams, and especially our questions. We pray for one another and we are excited about what we will learn in this joint endeavor.
No matter what our age is, we all need friends. We need a community in which we are known, loved, accepted and challenged to walk with Christ — obedient to him and fulfilling His plans for us. We were not created to walk alone.
Proverbs 27:17 reminds us,
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
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