This is part 5 in an 8 part series on Sticky Faith. Join our book club by signing up here. (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Kristen: Since moving to San Diego, two opportunities stand out where our kids were “getting it”. Three years ago our community group befriended a local refugee family. We assisted the family in a variety of ways – purchasing groceries, advocating for the dad when he was treated unfairly by an employer, and serving as a go-between at parent teacher conferences, etc. One member of our community group even attended the birth of their youngest child, assisting them with hospital paperwork and helping them find comfort in the unfamiliar hospital environment. We did fun things too, like sharing meals, playing together and taking them to the zoo and ocean for the first time. My personal favorite was snuggling with their newborn daughter each Sunday during church. The following year myself and the kids had the opportunity to tutor refugee students as part of an after-school program. I enjoyed the weekly sessions knowing that Megan and Paul were welcome to come along. Even before reading this book, the idea of serving together as a family has been pressing on my mind. Chapter six only made it’s importance more glaringly obvious.
Adam: OK, so as of today we suck at this chapter. All of it. From top to bottom the McLane family needs improvement in this area of parenting.
I hope I didn’t sugar that.
In the course of our day-to-day life Kristen and I are pretty active about getting past issues of service and seeking practical justice. And while we do a decent job of talking to our kids about the nuts/bolts “why” questions of why we do what we do… we aren’t very good about getting them involved in acts of justice.
“That’s not fair” – This is the mantra of our house
“Life’s not fair. Cope and deal kid.” That’s probably not the most compassionate thing to come out of my mouth. But I struggle with the “fair” game our kids play at this age.
Perhaps some of that is a developmental issue with our kids age? Megan (10) is just now starting to grasp the idea that she can serve others for a purpose greater than the reward she’ll earn from mom/dad for doing it. Paul (8) is happy to do just about anything with us… but he’s far from cognitively grasping an act of service as a form of justice. Justice for an 8 year old is getting to eat the same amount of Halloween candy as his big sister or having the same bed time.
Chapter 6 was a wake up call that I can’t just teach justice at church. And I can’t just practice justice personally. I need to teach my kids what justice looks like in our daily lives.
What I loved about this chapter is that it’s not too late or too hard to make changes. Heading into the tween and teen years we are fortunate enough to be positioned to do some really cool things with our kids. Whether its serving alongside them on one of the many service opportunities at church or having them join me on one of the justice projects I’m a part of… having made the connection that is isn’t enough for mom/dad to seek justice but it’s important to our kids spiritual development, those are adjustments we can and will make.
An addendum to chapter 6 for my friends in youth ministry:
As Kristen and I debriefed chapter 6 we talked about the disconnect between the examples of justice work given in the book and some of those in vocational youth ministry we know. It’s not that the examples given were bad, not in any way, they were just representative of a small minority of well-resourced ministries. We laughed together that some of the people following along with this book club don’t even know that churches like that actually exist!
I’ve spent many nights in homes of youth workers across the country. I’ve shared coffee at their kitchen tables. I’ve sat in their offices. I’ve heard their stories of extreme faith and deep poverty. (I’m not trying to dishonor anyone– but you need to know that many people in youth ministry are truly poor.) As I read this chapter I couldn’t help thinking of those dramatically under-resourced folks. While relatively powerless in their ministries they faithfully serve Christ day-by-day.
And I wonder if their kids look at justice a little differently? I wonder if instead of putting together some elaborate plan to teach their kids an object lesson on justice that they need to experience justice themselves?
Maybe someone needs to stand up for them? Justice for many ministry families is a liveable wage. Or health care so they don’t have to chose between a visit to the doctor and their light bill. Or even realistic expectations on their parents so they can be good parents.
As I think about those families, and not too long ago the McLane’s were one of them, I think that teaching justice to their kids looks a little different. Kristen and I joked (Not a funny ha-ha joke) about the choices we were forced to make. We willing chose injustice for our family for the sake of our ministry. Nights when we turned the heat up to 67 and served snacks we couldn’t afford for the sake of hosting an adult small group. Or times when we gave to up our vacation money to support things our church bailed on. Or times where we told our kids no to things because we couldn’t afford them in full knowledge that the senior pastors kids bragged about getting the same thing.
I just want to acknowledge these injustices as we think about teaching sticky justice to our kids. We can’t glaze over the injustice we experience and think that we’re teaching our kids anything. I think as we wrestle with this as a ministry community and try to iron out developing sticky faith in our kids– we need to wrestle with some of the justice issues in our own kitchen. Because when you experience justice for yourself you don’t have to learn about what justice is anymore.
- Kara shares how her and her husband define their family. How would you define your families priorities? What would your kids say?
- How would you describe your ministry role as justice instead of service?
- Tell us about a time when you and your family served together.
- Think about a few things your kids love to do. How can you help them connect their areas of interest to pursue justice in some area?