The Church Family… do you see me over here?
Psalm 68:3a God sets the lonely in families…
I have just five blood relatives in North America and most live far away, so one of the things I love about my home church is looking around and seeing dozens of people I have shared some important part of my life with. This lady gave us meals when my wife had cancer, that man and I led teens on a SERVE mission, that older lady next to him taught our boys in Sunday School. Though the years pass and I no longer serve on this committee or in that church function, my status with them does not change. They still know and accept me, despite my warts and failings and I accept them the same way.
This is as it should be. As Christians we are supposed to be part of the larger “Family of God”. We hear in our churches the terms “brother” and “sister” to denote those fellow believers in the church. Some denominations also use the terms “father” and “mother” for church leaders. This is family at its best. Fellow Christians are not “cousins in Christ” or “uncles in The Lord”. Being part of a church family isn’t just saying hello, having potluck together or occasionally sharing power tools. Being part of a family means being part of the messy stuff too. We share in the struggles, triumphs and tragedies, through unemployment and success, during lost love and heartbreak as well as marriage and new life.
Over the years The Beacon youth centre has also been “family” to some teens in need. Some have had volunteers spend hours with them teaching special skills. Others have been given part-time jobs that improved their future employment chances. We have taken some of them into our homes, helped them with school or work, intervened in conflict situations and attended court with them.
So how can we be family to youth in our own neighborhood? As we get older and less able (or willing) to do gardening or clean up jobs, it is tempting to hire relatives or a professional to help us, while there are youth who live nearby who really need to earn some money doing part-time work. You know who they are. They don’t have family connections to get the few jobs available. Do you have some grass that needs cutting? A local boy or girl will likely not do it to your satisfaction the very first time, but if you (patiently) help them learn your methods you will be teaching them a new skill. Do you have a shed or fence that needs painting? A local youth will do it, and maybe spill paint on the grass or onto the begonias, but in time they will learn to work well. Maybe someday they will be able to do that deck or interior wall for you.
Don’t be afraid to hire a student nearby to help you, and perhaps in some subtle and gradual way you will become part of that fabric of that youth’s life; a part of his family. It isn’t always perfect and sometimes its messy, but you will be part of something that lasts a long time.
“I can trim your hedges ma’am. An old friend of mine showed me how.”
By Rene Schmidt