Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Whose Kids Are They Anyway?

I came across a very disturbing video recently, one that echoes what I have seen personally in over a decade of various children’s and youth ministries.  In this video, a well-known educator makes the point that we need to abandon the notion that we as parents are ultimately responsible for raising our kids. She makes the statement that “we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

The video generated quite a bit of backlash, to which she wrote a blog post that does a paradoxical job of backpedaling while simultaneously defending her position. I get her point – our children are not merely members of our households, but also members of the community, and are deserving of care, respect, and attention from the community.  When we choose to live in communities, we can pool our resources to provide emergency responders, medical care, recreation opportunities, education,  roadways, utilities, and more, in ways that would not be economically feasible individually.

There is a fine but distinct line, though, which all too often is crossed. “I should care for the children in my community” all too easily turns into “the community is responsible for my child,” which itself eventually becomes “my child makes the rules.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard “I didn’t bring my child to church because he or she wanted to sleep in.” “My child did not go to Awana because he had a baseball game.” “My child did not go to Sunday School because she had a soccer tournament.”  When we abdicate our God-given responsibility to raise our children, and let the community take on that responsibility, then the community tells the child what is important – and we’ve given up the right to say otherwise. And what the community thinks is important rarely aligns with what the Bible teaches is important.

When my wife and I chose to create a new life some 14 years ago, whether I acknowledged it or not, I took on a responsibility to turn that selfish ball of fearfully- and wonderfully-made flesh into a mature, God-fearing member of the community. Proverbs 22 and Ephesians 6 are pretty clear – it is my responsibility to raise and train my children to know and serve God. There are a great many teachers, ministers, family, and friends that have helped along the way – to whom I owe a debt of gratitude - but ultimately it is my responsibility as a parent, and biblically speaking, even more so as a father.  If my child reaches adulthood and cannot tell right from wrong, or does not have the life skills to leave the nest and carry forth the heritage of serving Christ, the community did not fail him.  I failed him.

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