Where do I, Where do we, go from here?

Proverbs 22:6, Joshua 24:15, Deuteronomy 4:9, Exodus 18:20

 

I begin this final sermon of this series on empowering and nurturing families with a reading of four passages of scripture. Two of them have been the base texts for the previous messages in this series, the others are new and are in this message for a reason that I will make clear later.

Here they are

Joshua 24:15

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Proverbs 22:6

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Deuteronomy 4:9

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Exodus 18:20

Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.

A couple of questions have come to mind this week about the place of family in not just the life of faith but of life itself and what a local church should do to help families thrive and grow.

First, what do we want “our” kids to know?

I think we want our kids to know

How to cook for themselves

How to balance a checkbook

How to save money

How to do their own laundry

What about this church? What should we expect “our” kids to know?

One major thing that I believe a local church should want their kids to know is the Bible.

I have asked the question over the years “What should an 18 year old who leaves this church have at that point in their lives?”

To me a working knowledge of the Bible – you can find your way around it

Bible study ability – know how to effectively study Bible for personal growth

An understanding of one’s gifts, abilities, and interest when it comes to serving the Lord – to discern where and how the Lord is calling them to serve in a local church

Question number two: What do we want “our” kids/teens to experience?

I think that we want them to experience joy

Success

Love

Grace

Life itself

But what about us as a church?

There is no more clear answer to this than “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the saving grace of God.”

And for me an equally important answer to this question is “a spirit filled life.” We are church that believes in the need for the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit on a daily basis whereby we live in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit.”

I believe that these benchmarks, if you will, are evidence of a life of which Joshua spoke when he said, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Now in Joshua’s day, Jesus had yet to come to earth and then die on the cross and rise from the dead. And the people of faith understandings were based on the covenant of Moses, the one that they agreed to early in their journey from Egypt to the promise land as noted in the Deuteronomy 4:9 passage. A passage that I think can safely be said to be a passage of empowering and nurturing children:

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

They are also evidence of the wisdom of Proverbs. These things I have listed out this morning are part “of the way” children should go.

The way for a family to thrive and be nurturing is at the very bottom, God’s way built on God’s plans as laid out throughout scripture.

Last week I share this list of that has been developed by Search Institute as a hallmark of a thriving and nurturing family. I want to read through this list again as a way of reminding us of some ways we can help nurture and empower families:

The first element Express Care – Show me that I matter to you. be dependable, listen, believe in me, be warm, encourage.

The second element Challenge Growth – Push me to keep getting better. By expecting my best, stretching me, holding me accountable, helping me to reflect on failures and learn from them.

 Element number three Provide Support – Help me complete tasks and achieve goals by helping me to navigate through the challenges, empowering me to become responsible and productive, advocate for me when I need someone in my corner, setting boundaries for me so that I can accomplish that which I need to accomplish.

Element number four Share Power – Treat me with respect and give me a say by respecting me, including me in decisions which affect me, collaborate with me so that I can reach goals, let me lead so that I can learn what is to be a leader.

Element number five Expand Possibilities – Connect me with people and places that broaden my world to set God’s greater possibilities by inspiring me, helping me broaden my horizon, and connecting me with people and opportunities to follow God’s will for me.

I got to thinking this week as I wrote these words you just heard, “I wonder how much Moses thought about the up and coming generation and what they would inherit and obtain in the years and decades ahead when he was gone?”

Adults, do you ever think long these lines about those who will be coming along behind us here?

What is it that we want the young generation, already present here, to have when they graduate from High School?

Nurturing and empowering families look at (and not always forward to) the day when the kids walk out the door and starting living an adult life and think, “How do I help them launch well?”

To me, that comes in the day to day choices to help their children with what is going on their lives NOW and not later. Good families keep both the future and the present before them. So too, do good churches when it comes to passing the torch from one generation of leadership to another and I am not talking about pastoral leadership, I am talking about congregational leadership.

This leads me to another question and the Exodus 18:20 passage

Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.

Who’s doing the talking here?

Jethro Moses’ father-in-law

And who is he talking about?

The adult leaders of Israel.

Jethro was a wise father in law. Moses heeded his words and improved his leadership productivity.

(I have a wise father in law was well)

But it is the content of what Jethro says that is important for us today to notice because it is an answer to the question, one that can easily get lost in the talk about family because the focus is usually on the kids and teens,

What about the adults?

Jethro is saying to Moses, for your leadership to be effective and for the nation to move forward

“Teach them God’s decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.”

Empowering families, nurturing families, have strong and healthy adults in them. Adults who also need to have those five things I mentioned earlier as well.

A strong and healthy church has strong and healthy adult leadership. Yes, they empower kids and teens through leadership development opportunities, but they too, strive to have strong, healthy, and godly leaders.

Jethro says to his son-in-law, “keep teaching them God’s ways and help them live for Him.”

Adults in families do that and so do adults in a local church.

Families are in crisis these days.

Families are stretched these days.

Families are stressed – financially, relationally, occupationally, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and even physically.

The demands on families are huge. Families can be kept busy nearly 24/7. There is one family I know who is constantly on the go. Their Facebook posts prove it.

Why?

What are they afraid of?

I remember when the phrase “latchkey kids” came into play. And a latchkey kid is, per Wikipedia

“…is a child who returns from school to an empty home because their parent or parents are away at work, or a child who is often left at home with little parental supervision.”

It is common place today to have kids dropped off at the Y or the library and be supervised until a parent can get them.

To be honest, I don’t know many of those kids. I was one growing up, especially in middle and high school. But most of the kids I have known, are busy from the start of school until late at night.

Why is that?

How can we as a local church nurture and empower families when the family is going all the time?

I have ten ideas:

  1. Help every member of the family to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

  2. Help every member of the family to find his/her place of ministry in a local church.

  3. Help families learn to say ‘no’ when they need to.

  4. Work with families to learn how to communicate well and work through conflict.

  5. Work alongside families to help them be better families.

  6. Partner with parents, not against them.

  7. Encourage families to ‘unplug’ on a regular weekly basis.

  8. Pray for families – often.

  9. Be examples to kids and teens of a growing faith and a fruitful life.

  10. Pick one of the Framework elements from that chart and choose to work on making it happen.

Families matter because God deemed them to be part of His plans and purposes from the start. Strengthening the family is a part of what we do here.

Which of things mentioned today do we need to need to do to help families thrive and grow?

Next weekend we will be 51st anniversary of my profession of faith. 51 years ago, next weekend I knelt at an altar of prayer to receive Christ.

As I think about family, I am grateful for that family of faith that helped me come to faith in Christ. And there have been other churches that have helped me grow in my faith as well.

Let us ask God to help us strengthen families and be a stronger family of faith for kids, teens, and adults.

Thanks be to God

Amen

For further information check out this link on the developmental relationships

http://www.search-institute.org/blog/research-update-developmental-relationships

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