You’ve probably heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. Parenting is so difficult, so complex, so relentless, that it is more than any two people can successfully handle. Children thrive under the responsibility of loving parents but also under the watchful eye of a caring community. I have always believed in the wisdom of this proverb, but I’ve come to appreciate it even more as my kids grow older. And as I’ve come to appreciate it more, I think I’ve come to appreciate it better.
When I was starting out in parenting, I assumed this proverb, whose roots are in Africa, meant something like this: I will raise my children and expect the community around me—especially the Christian community—to keep an eye on them. If they go wild or get out-of-line or go sneaking off somewhere, I give those people free reign to let me know or to intervene directly. It may even fall to them to give my kids a stern talking to. I saw this kind of thing modelled in the community I grew up in. More than once I saw adults get involved when other people’s kids were getting out of control. Well and good, as far as it goes.
But as time has gone on, I’ve seen a far more active implementation of the proverb. The proverb demands more than allowing others to troubleshoot my children’s poor behaviour. It invites others to provide input into the development of their character. It invites others to take an active interest in them, to speak to them, to challenge them, to counsel them, to befriend them, to love them. It invites other believers to ask my children about their faith and their fears, their trials and temptations, their dramas and their doubts. It invites other Christians to exert a significant influence on them, and all for their good and God’s glory.
It takes a village to raise a child. Really, it takes a church to raise a child because it is in the church that our children find a whole community of adults who love them, who have a deep concern for them, and who are eager to see them come to faith and grow in godly character. This “village” is not there just to keep them in line when they get unruly, but to experience the joy of seeing them grow up in God and grow up for God.
(So let me close by expressing thanks to some of those who have been loyal “villagers” to my children: Paul, John, Janis, Chloe, Linda, Janelle, Julian, and undoubtedly many others. What a joy it is to know of your involvement in the lives of my children; what a blessing it is to know they can get in touch with you any time to receive counsel and care. What a blessing you’ve been to them and to me.)