​It Takes A (Church) Village

Parenting can be isolating. Which is surprising, given that parenting by definition increases the number of humans who hang out with you all the time. The reasons are varied: for example, new babies require an intense focus that can easily remove you from other relationships. Growing children bring out insecurities in parents that are hard to express to others (“I don’t know how to handle my toddler’s tantrums, does that mean I’m failing as a parent?”). The proliferation of parenting advice through “mommy blogs” and conflicting news reports (“studies show that parents should closely monitor their free range children”) breeds comparison and defensiveness. The unique circumstances of each family and the unique personalities of each child can make it difficult for others to understanding what any given parent is going through.

Underneath most of this is the reality that each parent, limited to their own resources and abilities, aren’t enough to give their children everything they’d like to. Ask any child therapist or school teacher or professor of childhood development—despite their wealth of knowledge, they too struggle to parent their own children. If we prefer experience over theory, we can just look at those rare folks who have a dozen children. They might be more comfortable with the twelfth than with the first, but they won’t say parenting becomes any easier.

We typically handle this struggle with the usual suspects: false idealism (“I’m sure you are the perfect parent!”), salvation through authenticity (“It’s wine o’clock for this parent—just being real!”), or technique (“the latest study says that teenagers require five affirmations a day to thrive, preferably in the morning hours”). The idea is to become the best parent that creates the healthiest children, and it is almost always attempted solo. So we arm ourselves with parental self-esteem and some headlines about studies, and suppress the idea that the whole thing is a shell game.

The truth is both more depressing and more hopeful. It’s more depressing in that reality always wins—we aren’t perfect parents, nor are we sufficient to provide our children with everything they need to grow and thrive on our own. The techniques promise success if we follow them exactly, but the rules are always changing and sometimes a new study or cultural wind inserts a new technique altogether. We constantly come up against our own limitations and our own failures as parents, and denying them only adds to the stress we are already under.

It’s more hopeful in that God has not left us on our own. He provides wisdom, comfort, grace, and guidance that eclipse our own skills and (in)sufficiency. We entrust our children to the God who does all things well, and learn from him how to parent in his ways, not our own. Our children are not saved by our great sufficiency; technique is a false hope for salvation. We trust in the name of the Lord our God.

And that hope spirals out into the local church community—the body of Christ that surrounds each parent. The truth is that it really does take a village to raise a child, and it takes a church village to raise a child in the Christian faith. It’s in the company of others (not just parents, but Christians in every life stage) that we find the support, encouragement, and challenge we need.

In the church, parenting doesn’t need to be isolating. We help each other, rallying around the truths in Scripture and pointing one another to the Lord. It’s not just learning Christian parenting on our own. It’s walking through life, including parenting, together with others. It’s being honest about our fears and insecurities, and being reassured in God and not ourselves. It’s learning together and challenging each other to grow as parents under God’s loving authority. God has built a village for us in the local church where we raise our children as a family.
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