Proverbs 13:12 (NIV) tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Many of us work with broken families with so little “hope” they are the portrait of a dying heart. Survival and entitlement have become a generational legacy. Honestly, it is easier to criticize these families than to partner with them.
Last week we had two missions teams of youth serving in our ministry. During morning devos one day I asked students to close their eyes and raise hands if they agreed with any of a series of questions. These students were primarily from upper and middle class suburban families. From this little exercise I learned many students felt disappointed or even hurt by their parents. One of the youth actually told their youth pastor their “life story” as a result of the trip. No one knew this precious student was living in poverty, with parents who at best neglected them.
Even in this situation I learned parents have a greater spiritual influence in the life of their children than anyone else. Our attitude can be dismissive to “certain” families. Instead, we must take an attitude of equipping EVERY family to grow closer to the Lord.
How? Teach struggling families using five senses of Jesus:
Someone asked me last week how I live in the inner city, with the families there without losing hope. It would be easy to believe the break is just too deep. How do I persevere? Have the visionary eye of Christ. See each person as Christ is molding them into his image. Show the parent Jesus and then encourage them in ways they can show Christ to their children.
Ask families what they need, or are looking for to equip their children for the future. Listen to the frustrations and inadequacies they are feeling. Hold a brainstorming session that allows parents to tell you how to help them help their family. Find ways to let parents know you are there for them, and are not trying to replace them.
After a brainstorming pick one or two practical needs you as a body can meet, and start there. When a family has a tangible need met, they feel the love of Christ. What can you do to sit and get to know them, tell them reasons why you love being a part of the life of their child.
Take time to get to know individual families to learn how to walk with them in their journey with the Lord and their children. Set up a system of people who build relationships with parents. Teach parents quick and easy ways they can connect with their kids in 5 minutes or less.
Those existing for tomorrow forget tenderness. Encourage parents in ways that they can tell their children how they love them. Find simple ways to show parents you love them as well as their children.
In everything remember in Christ:
Changed Parent = Changed Family= Changed neighborhood= Changed community=Changed world