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Why the church is the ‘village’ parents need image

Why the church is the ‘village’ parents need

Embracing God’s good provision for families.

This is an edited extract from Jocelyn Loane’s talk at the MU Sydney Seminar 2024. You can still register and watch the talks here.

At one point during the Covid lockdowns I was collecting memes about parenting. My aim was to get the vibe of the how the internet portrays being a parent. A couple of times I came across memes that played on the old African proverb that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. One I came across said this:

‘They say it takes a village. I believe it also takes a vineyard.’

Which might tell you a little something but about how people were finding those months of home learning!

Another was this:

‘I keep hearing that it takes a village to raise a child. Do they just show up? Or is there like a number you call?’

I quite like this meme because it actually tells us a lot about how parents these days are finding parenting. I think we know we need a village. We know it’s not good to be isolated from others and have no support. We want to feel part of a community and have the wisdom and love and care of others poured into us and into the lives of our children. But it also shows that for many this is not our experience of parenting. We feel isolated. We feel unsupported. We’d like more involvement from others, but we don’t really know how to go about getting it.

Historically, young parents would likely live in close proximity to their extended family, but this is often not the case these days. We have never lived in the same city as my parents or my in-laws. People often move away from the area where they grew up. And while in the past people mainly lived in multi-generational households, this is less and less common in the West. Our work patterns have also changed. Rather than people working and living in the same place, work is much more often something you do away from your household. Even if you live near your parents when you have your first child, it is more and more likely that they will still hold full time jobs that mean they can’t be the support they might once have been.

In search of a village

For many people, the other adults that come into our children’s sphere are mainly those who are paid to do so. We pay nannies or childcare workers. We pay coaches and music instructors. Children are educated by teachers who are paid, though arguably not as much as they should be! We might feel there is a real lack of regular involvement in our kids’ lives from people who choose to be there and choose to freely love and invest in them and are committed to them for the long term.

Many women go looking for this village online. I’m not sure if you’ve been part of any ‘mums’ groups’ on the internet. When I’ve been in them, I have been surprised at the level of vulnerability shown in that context. I’ve seen women anonymously post in online groups asking for advice about really complicated and personal parenting issues. And they are asking for this advice and support from literal strangers, who are in no way invested in their day-to-day life. They have no way of weighing the advice they are given with the character of the person giving it. 

People also often go looking for advice and help from the Instagram accounts of big platform self-described ‘parenting experts’. These are people they have never met in real life who don’t know them or their children. Now this is not to say there aren’t helpful aspects of the information we can get online. But an online anonymous village is a very different thing from you and your children actually being known and loved in real life, isn’t it? 

The gift of the church

I think this is just one reason why being a disciple of Jesus and being part of a community that he has gathered is such an incredible blessing. We have a God-given village. We have the church.

But God hasn’t just given his followers a village. He’s given them something even more profound. He has given them a family. We have been made brothers and sisters with one another in the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). God’s design is that his people are to enfold their smaller biological families into this spiritual family that is formed not with the same shared biological blood, but with the shared fact that blood of the Jesus has redeemed each one of us.

The church is a real gift that God has given each one of us he has called. The church is a place where God envisages that parents will be supported in the work of raising their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. Consider Titus chapter 2. Here Paul addresses various people in the church. He gives instructions for older men. He encourages Titus to be an example to the younger men. And he instructs the older women to:

‘… urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no-one will malign the word of God’. (Titus 2:4–5)

What’s on view here is a church family where older women will take younger women under their wing and encourage and spur them on in the way they love their families. 

In the church we don’t have internet strangers or impersonal, distant ‘experts’ telling us how to raise our children. We have real, live relationships with people we know and who know us. We can see parents further on in the parenting journey, we can see their lives and their godliness on display. We can learn from their parenting mistakes and regrets and glean their wisdom on what has worked. We can watch them interact with their own children. We can see them apply biblical principles to all their varied circumstances. We might see them applied to a child with a disability or one who is not neurotypical, a child who rebels or a child who is a people-pleaser. 

As we envelop our own families into God’s family, we have this provision of a ‘village’ in which to raise our children. Let’s not cut ourselves off from God’s good provision for us.
Jocelyn Loane is married to Ed, and together they have five children. They have been serving in full-time ministry in a variety of contexts since 2008. They are a part of Naremburn Cammeray Anglican Church.


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