Widening the Circle for our Kids
Every parent has experienced this:
You’ve been trying to teach your kid some basic principles on how to be a functioning human being for the majority of their life. Then, one day, their teacher, coach, small group leader, etc. says the exact same thing to them, and your kid comes running up to you to tell you of this incredible, profound lesson they just learned as if it was the very first time they’ve heard it. Are you kidding me? I get the credit for that!
As frustrating as this can be, it’s an important reminder that we are not the only influence in our child’s life. In fact, the authors of one of our favourite books on parenting, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, would take it one step further and state it this way:
You are not the only influence your children need.
Our kids need other adults to affirm and reinforce core truths in their lives to help shape their character and faith.
Our teens need voices other than our own speaking into their stories and reminding them of their identity and value.
Widen the Circle
Here’s the thing about these additional influences: they will enter into our kids’ lives whether we like it or not. Instead of simply allowing these relationships to happen randomly or haphazardly, what if we as parents begun to initiate them on purpose?
What if we pursue strategic relationships for our sons and daughters?
Joiner and Nieuwhof call this principle of parenting: “widen the circle.”
In a culture where genuine community seems increasingly difficult to find, we need to become more intentional about finding mentors, role models, and spiritual leaders for our kids.
Whose lives are our kids witnessing that make them say, “That’s what I want to be like when I’m older”?
Research consistently shows that the most important factor that keeps kids and teens connected to Jesus into young adulthood is meaningful relationships with other adults in the church. As parents, we can help them make these connections.
Listen here to hear us talk more about what’s keeping teens connected to Jesus in Canada today. The answers may not be what you think.
Here are two key thoughts on when you want to prioritize widening the circle for your kids:
Widen the Circle During Transitions
First day of Kindergarten, the day they get their first Bible, becoming a teen – there are so many transitions in a kid’s life that we can utilize to bring in other key voices.
One set of parents intentionally used the transition into Kindergarten to reinforce these key relationships in their child’s life. They reached out to a handful of adults who knew their child and asked them to write a short note of encouragement for their kid and put it in the mail before the big day came. Guess which adults suddenly became a whole lot cooler in the eyes of that kid?
Transitions give us an opportunity to invite other people to celebrate our kids with us. What transitions are coming up for your child that will allow you to turn up the volume on other key voices in their life?
Widen the Circle Before the Teen Years
The need for this circle of influence around our kids only grows as they approach adolescence. As they become more independent, they begin to redefine their identity based not on what their parents think of them, but on what those outside of their home might think.
When your teen needs advice about future careers or is struggling in a dating relationship, there is a very good chance they’ll be talking to their friends and other adults before you ever hear about it.
If you’ve already helped them build relationships with other adults whom you trust, this is a good thing.
The Mentoring Year
Carey Nieuwhof, when his son was about to turn 13, created a plan with his son to set up what they referred to as his mentoring year. They selected five men who they knew and respected and asked each of them to spend a day with the 13-year old over the Summer. During that day, they could do whatever activity they wanted, but at some point, the man had to impart at least one spiritual truth (faith-based) and one life truth (good advice) into his son’s life.
At the end of the Summer, they all gathered for one big BBQ feast and the men got another chance to encourage they new teenager and speak into this young guy about the gifts and abilities they saw at work within him. What a fantastic rite-of-passage into adolescence! When the questions and doubts of the teenage years hit, this guy now has at least five other adults in his life that he can go to for support. Isn’t that exactly what we hope our kids will have?
Beyond family members, where do we begin to create this wider circle for our kids? We believe one of the strongest sources of community for your child can be found in the church. WMBC values your family and desires to partner with you as a parent to give your kid a better future. One of the most important relationships that we can provide for you and your kid is a Small Group Leader in our Kids and Student Groups. Check out some tips here on how you can strengthen your partnership with your child’s leader this season.
When you help your child connect regularly with the church community, you give them a front row seat to see genuine faith lived out in others.
“Something powerful happens when you partner with other influences who desire to instill a sense of mission into the hearts of your children. You give them a different view of their place in the world, and you transfer a different kind of passion to them that your family alone cannot give them.” – Reggie Joiner