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Build your ‘village’ with godparents image

Build your ‘village’ with godparents

Helpful advice from Alice Warren, author of ‘A Godparent’s Handbook’.

As a mum, and especially as a mother of twins, I really think that God could have given us an extra set of arms. 

Maybe not a permanent pair, but definitely ones that you could plug in at the back, for those moments when you’re arriving back from work and all the kids want to be picked up at the same time, or when the kids are running off in different directions at the shops, or just for getting the entire load of groceries up the stairs in one trip. 

Many hands make light work

 Since extra arms are apparently not part of God’s plan for parents, other people’s arms will have to do. In 2021  I had a toddler who’d just turned two and twins about to arrive. So my plan was to get out with them as much as possible, so we could access those other sets of arms! 

I know some people don’t like others holding their baby, but it’s one of my favourite parts of the newborn stage. I love that I can share baby snuggles with other people and have my hands free for a cuppa (while it’s still hot, too!). It re-energises me for the many times later that day, and overnight, when only my and my husband’s arms are available to hold them.

When our twins arrived five weeks early, my plan to share the babies around was postponed. Only we could hold the twins while they were in the high dependency unit of the NICU, so other people’s arms were literally unavailable to us.

When we brought them back home two weeks later, this continued. We were under strict instructions to stay home with the twins for at least another two weeks, to help keep them safe and make life as ‘womb-like’ as possible—with no holds allowed. Sure, we could do that. People dropped by one at a time, or in couples, with meals and quick peeks at their adorable faces. I couldn’t wait till we could get out with them, like I’d been waiting to through the long months of pregnancy.

And then the Delta restrictions came.

The missing village

Almost every parent I know finds that the lack of access to practical support amplifies the difficulties of parenting, whether that support is an extra set of hands, a listening ear, or an afternoon of play with another family’s kids in their backyard. In parenting circles, this support is often referred to as our ‘village’.

In our more mobile and individualistic society, many people enter parenthood without this village of support from family or friends, and it has a significant and negative impact on how they cope with this big life change. COVID restrictions made it even more complex to access this village, even if people previously had a functioning one, due to travel restrictions and limited in-person interactions.

Rebuilding the village

For Christians, our need for help is not new. Becoming a Christian means acknowledging that we can’t do things on our own (John 15:5), that we need the grace of God to even begin our walk with Christ (Ephesians 2:8–10), and that we definitely need the support, correction and encouragement of others to stay faithful along the way (1 Thessalonians 5:14). This is true for parenting, as for all of our endeavours!

One way that we can rebuild our village of support is to look at the Christian people in our lives who have already promised to care for and support our kids—their godparents! It may surprise you, but godparents were key supporters of parents at different times in history, and still are in different cultures around the world today. Godparents are viewed as co-parents in some cultures, or as spiritual siblings to the child’s parents in others. You’ve already invited them to care for your child throughout their life, so building them into your village as a parent makes sense!

But what does that look like?

While secular visions of the parenting village focus solely on your need for support, a Christian parenting village will be one of mutual support and encouragement. As Rosaria Butterfield writes:

‘The principle of both giving and receiving builds a community and glorifies God … there are no renters or onlookers or gawkers in the kingdom of God. We are hosts and guests together, and both generous giving and open receiving bless God.’ (The Gospel Comes with a House Key, p 37).

What this looks like will depend on your family's unique strengths and challenges, but including your child’s godparents in your village could involve:

•    Hospitality: Welcoming people into your home is a blessing to them and to you, as you share your life and your needs with honesty and vulnerability. This could involve having a meal together, or sorting laundry together! Opening up your home can help your child’s godparents connect with, care for and pray for you and your child more effectively, as they see your strengths and weaknesses up close—and vice versa.

•    Prayer updates: You could make a messaging group with your child's godparents, so they can be updated with prayer requests and praise points in your child’s life. When you pray with your child, you could also pray for each of their godparents, in line with their specific prayer requests.

•    Ask for and offer help: When something comes up in your life, like a child getting sick or  a difficult season of parenting, you could ask your child’s godparents for their help or advice. Whether they are parents or not, they can still support and encourage you through difficult times.

You may feel like your capacity to care for others is limited at the moment, but there might be still be small ways you can show your care for your child’s godparents—like having your child collect flowers or draw a picture for them, or organising a meal or some groceries for them if they’re sick. It doesn't have to be equivalent, but building mutual care and encouragement into our village reflects our calling from God:

‘You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself”.’ (Galatians 5:13–14)

Our culture’s increased isolation from others, and from the support we so desperately need as parents, may actually be a gospel opportunity waiting for us. A village that includes our child’s godparents can be an example of what the body of Christ is meant to be, a body that ‘grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work’ (Ephesians 4:16b). My prayer is that this image of the body of Christ working as it ought would be a beautiful witness to those around us, that ‘though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us’ (1 Peter 2:12b). Yes, we need this village, as parents. But the world needs to see it too.

Alice Warren is the author of A Godparent’s Handbook: Nurturing Your Godchild’s Faith for Life. She is also a children's minister and mum of three, living and working in the inner west of Sydney, Australia. Alice has an undergraduate degree in Science, a Master of Teaching (Primary), and is a graduate of Sydney Missionary & Bible College.


A Godparent's Handbook

A Godparent’s Handbook is the long-needed guide for godparents how to build a lasting relationship with their godchild, from birth to adulthood, from baptism to birthdays to the everyday.

Buy it from Youthworks Media

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