Adam Snider

Churches as Families

In Church Community on November 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

Churches are families that we choose to join. That, from what I’m told, was a big part of the sermon that my friend Kat gave a few weeks ago.

I wasn’t able to hear the sermon because I was teaching Sunday school that day.

Even though I wasn’t able to hear the sermon (which was apparently incredibly good), the idea of the church community is something that has been resonating with me over the past little while.

In a world where people are more mobile than ever—where young adults often move across the country (or even across the world) for work—biological families are arguably less relevant. This isn’t to say that they aren’t important, but phoning your mom for advice about raising your kids isn’t the same as having someone in your community who can help you do that raising.

Churches, generally, are multi-generational. There are, of course, those churches which try to be “cool” and have rock bands and whatever. These appeal only to a very specific demographic.

That model serves a niche, but it is very much outside of the type of multi-generational community that I’m going to be referring to throughout the rest of this post.

Other People’s Children

Let’s talk about kids. I like kids. Even when they’re acting like horrible little monsters, I tend to like them. (In fact, I am likely to blame the parents for being “bad parents,” which is probably not fair most of the time.)

Having said that, I do not have kids. None of my friends have kids*. Until I started attending UCE, I basically had no regular interaction with children.

Until I started having regular interactions with kids, this wasn’t something that I missed. Rather, I didn’t realize that I was missing out on something by not having these interactions.

But, interactions with children are important. They remind us of the importance of play. They give us hope for the future. And, sometimes, they teach us how to argue with people who have no sense of logic or rationality (or, at least, not one that makes sense to anyone other than them).

By attending church on a regular basis, I have developed an extended family of other people’s children. They tell me fart jokes. They turn into angry wolves who try to claw out my heart. They torture their siblings while their parents plead with them to “just leave your brother alone and he’ll stop screaming!”

I get all or most of the benefits of having kids, without actually having kids. It’s a pretty sweet deal, really. All of the good and very little of the bad. Plus, hopefully, those kids gain something from their interactions with me, as well (it takes a village, they say, and I’m a part of that village).

Adopt a Grandmother

My biological grandparents have never lived in the same province as me, let alone the same city.

We visited them occasionally and they occasionally visited us. But, for reasons both geographical and financial, phone calls and letters were the main way that I interacted with my grandparents.

I now only have one grandparent. The rest have all died. My grandfather lives in Quebec, so I rarely see him. About the only time that I’m likely to see him these days is if someone is getting married.

Because of this, I’ve also found value in forming relationships with some of the more elderly people at my church. I won’t name names, to avoid offending the aged, but I’d say that I have adopted (or been adopted by) at least one or two surrogate grandparents.

Because I was/am unable to have deep relationships with my biological grandparents, I really value these new relationships. I don’t think I truly realized this until Sunday, but there is something very valuable about these relationships. And it’s not just the value that comes from having a friend or relative who can share their decades of life experience with you.

That is valuable and appreciated, of course, but it’s not exactly what I’m referring to. There is something deeper, that I can’t quite put into words. A sense of connectedness, I suppose, and maybe even a sense of family, but those words don’t really accurately describe it either.

Whatever it is—this feeling that I can’t  put into words—I was missing it without realizing it in the same way that I was missing something by not having regular interactions with children. And now I’ve found and cherish it.

Surrogate Parents

I can’t really speak to this point, as my parents are both alive and living in the same city as me. I have a generally positive and healthy relationship with my parents and we see each other on a fairly regular basis.

But, many people are not in this situation. I imagine, much as I have developed a sort of extended family of the younger and older generations (as well as developing strong friendships among those of my own generation within the church), that those who do not have their parents in their life can find surrogate parents in a church community.

This is outside the realm of my experience, so I won’t go into it. But, if you’ve adopted surrogate parents as a result of your church community (or another multi-generational community), please share your story in the comments.

And, of course, any other thoughts that you’d like to share in the comments would be most welcome.


* This is technically not true, actually; but those friends who do have kids are friends that I have made through the church.

 

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  1. […] Over on one of my other blogs, I’ve been thinking about the idea of the families that we make by choice. […]

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