Developing Relationships within the Church
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In this episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast, host Elizabeth Urbanowicz addresses a vital question: "How do I help my kids develop relationships within the church?" Tune in to discover how we can equip the next generation to build strong, God-honoring relationships amidst the challenges of modern technology and a culture that often runs counter to the values of repentance and forgiveness.
Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast, where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "how do I help my kids develop relationships within the church?". Really good question because we, as Christian parents, should want our children to have deeply rooted relationships within the local body of Christ. So it's really important to think through, how can we as parents help foster these relationships?
Before we dive down deep into answering this question, I just wanted to let you know about an exciting project at Foundation Worldview. We have a picture book out for children on truth, and the picture book is actually called "What Is Truth?" and I'm so excited for you to be able to get this resource and use it with the little ones that God has placed in your care. At Foundation Worldview, we're really passionate about children, as you know, and we also love reading. If you've been part of our book club for a while, you know that we're passionate about finding good books for kids. And this one that we've released, I'm so excited about it because what we've done as a team is we actually did research and looked at, "okay, what are our children's favorite books? What are the books that they come to over and over and over and over again?" And we looked at what are the common characteristics. And then we were really careful in the way that we crafted both the wording and the illustrations, to put together all of those characteristics of the favorite children's books in our homes. So if you'd like more information about how you can get a copy of that book or multiple copies for those in your sphere of influence, you can just go to FoundationWorldview.com and you can find out more information there.
Now, as we think about this question about helping our kids develop relationships within the church, it's so important for us to think through this because, while in ages past, it might have been very natural for children to develop friendships with those in their sphere just of natural connections, with technology and the prevalence of technology and screens, so many children lack skills in building friendships because they're just so used to interacting with a screen rather than an actual human. So it's really important that we as adults think through, "okay, how can we equip our children to build strong relationships?".
Now, as Christians, we know that because of Genesis 3, because of the fall of mankind, all relationships, every single relationship is broken to a certain degree. That when Adam and Eve sinned, their relationship with themselves was broken. Okay? The relationship with, I'm sorry, I should haave said, the relationship with one another was immediately broken. They realized they were naked, they ran and hid. Then their relationship with God was broken. God walked through the cool of the garden and they hid from him. And then their relationship, even with themselves was broken as God questioned them as to what happened. Rather than confessing and repenting, they lied. They made excuses. And so because we live in this fallen world and because we are fallen ourselves, all of our relationships are broken to a certain degree. And so it actually takes work to build positive, healthy relationships. Now, I think as we're considering fostering these healthy relationships with our children and others in the body of Christ, there's three parts to this. The first thing that we need to do is teach our kids some basic relationship skills. Then we need to teach them actually what to look for in friends and in relationships, and then help them foster healthy relationships within the local church.
So the first thing, teaching them basic relational skills, as I mentioned before, because of screens, so many people just are not equipped to build friendships. Actually, I saw this recently in my own life that I was flying somewhere and I had a layover. And during that layover, I just went to one of the lounges in the airports that I had access to, and it was super busy that day. So, normally, I just find a table by myself, get some food, pull up my computer and start working. Well, there were no tables. And so I found a table that had, there was a woman seated there, and then there was three empty chairs. And I asked her, I said, "is anybody seated here?" and she said, "no." So I put my stuff down, I went and got food, and as soon as I sat down, two other individuals came up, individually, and were like, 'is anybody seated here?' and so eventually there's four of us around this table, and as soon as the two gentlemen who had just asked if there was anybody seated there sat down, I thought, "there's probably about 30 seconds before everybody pulls out their phones and starts looking at them." So I thought, could I engage everyone in conversation? So I just asked one of the men where he was going, and then I asked the woman who was seated there, and then I asked the third man, and before we knew what was happening, we were just all in a conversation just about where we were going, what we were doing, our lives. And probably 20 minutes into the conversation, one of the men turned at me and was like, "Elizabeth, thank you so much for starting this conversation. I normally just pull up my phone, but this is so much better actually getting to know people." and we just had a great conversation.
And it's so true that even we as adults just so often pull out our phones rather than talking to the person next to us. And so we need to make sure that we are training our children with appropriate relational skills so that they even know how to build relationships. It might sound silly, but one thing to teach them is that we smile at people when we look at them. It doesn't mean we have to walk around with a smile on our face all the time. We don't want to have a fake smile. But when we're passing someone, when we're on a walk in our neighborhood and we're passing someone, the appropriate thing to do is smile when we pass them.
Also making eye contact, that it's important to actually look someone in the eye and smile as we pass them or as we greet them. This is something that I found starting around sixth year of teaching. I noticed that the students in my classroom, they didn't know how to greet me in the morning. That I always stood outside the classroom and I would greet each student, individually. And usually in my first several years of teaching, my students knew to look up at me to smile, and that when I said "good morning", they would say, "good morning, Ms. Urbanowicz." Where starting around that sixth year. I would say "good morning." and the student wouldn't even look at me, wouldn't make eye contact, wouldn't smile, and would just fly by me into the classroom. And so I found that I actually had to start directly teaching them how to make eye contact, how to smile, how to respond to a basic greeting, and it's something that I would model for them and that we would actually practice. I would model it for them, we'd discuss it, then I'd line them up out in the hallway and they would all come in and practice greeting me. So these are things we actually have to teach our kids and just teach them basic greetings. In the US that typical greeting is, "hi, how are you? Good, how are you?", we don't really mean it, but it's still a basic customary greeting. And so if you're watching this or listening to this from a country outside of the us, if there's a different basic greeting, teaching that to your children.
Also, it's important that we make sure that our children get in the habit of answering basic questions without our prompting. So think about when your children are in social situations, whether it's with other children or with adults. If somebody asks them a question, do they respond or do you have to look at them and say "they asked you a question, respond"? Because if that's what you have to do, if you have to look at them and say, "oh, so-and-so asked you a question, respond", this is something that when your children are not in a social setting, you actually need to practice with them. Now, sometimes your children might be slow processors. You might have a child who's a slow processor and somebody asks them a question and they need a few seconds to think through it. And so then you teach them an appropriate response to say, "that's a good question. I need to think about that", just so that they respond in some way without your prompting. Also, we want to train our children to ask basic questions, to think through what are questions that we can ask someone? We can ask them, how was their day? We can ask them, what are you learning at school? We can ask them, what are you going to do tonight? Or what did you have for breakfast? Just different questions. I saw a mom model this so well. Several years ago I was visiting some friends of mine and the friends that I was visiting, they had another family living with them at the time. And at the breakfast table, I was talking with my friends and with the other family. And that family at the time had, I think it was a three-year-old and a one-year-old. And after when there was a lull in the conversation, the mom turned to the daughter and said, "what questions do you think we can ask Ms. Elizabeth?" and I thought, "wow, what a great thing to get a three-year-old thinking through what questions can we ask someone else".
So these are just some basic skills that in past times, many children just picked up because it was what was modeled for them. But in this world where we're just so consumed with screens and surrounded by so many screens, some of these basic skills like smiling, making eye contact, saying a basic greeting, answering questions, asking questions, these are things we actually have to directly train our children to do. So once we've trained our children in these basic relational skills, which is not a one and done deal, it's something that we're always going to be working on, then we should actually teach them what should we look for in friendships? What should we look for in relationships?
This is something that my mom did really well when my siblings and I were growing up, that my mom would just share with us stories from her childhood about things that she learned from relationships. And that really got me thinking. I remember my mom saying how she realized when she was growing up that there was friends who sometimes made her feel really special because they would talk about another friend behind that, friend's back, and they would bring her into their confidence and it would make her feel really special. But then what she learned is that friend would do the same thing with other people. That friend would talk about her behind her back and bring other people into that confidence. So my mom just taught me, "Hey, if there's somebody that's gossiping a lot about other people, you can be pretty sure that person is probably gossiping about you."
So this is something we can do with our kids, even just to sit down and just come up with a list of what do you think are some qualities that make a really good friend? And you can model this. You can talk about someone who's a really good friend of yours and things that make him or her a really good friend. And then ask your child what are some other qualities that make a good friend? And then to talk through looking for those qualities in someone, but also talking about making sure that we have those qualities that we are being a good friend. And I think something that's really important to include on this list, as we're talking with our kids about what to look for in a good friend, is making sure that we include repentance and forgiveness on that list. Because everything that our culture is preaching nowadays is look for the people who don't hurt you. Look for the people who support you. And now is it wise to look for friends who are supportive of us in good biblical, healthy ways? Yeah. Is it wise to look for friends who don't go around purposely hurting us all the time? Yes, that is wise, but the narrative that our culture speaks is anytime someone hurts you, what do you do? You cut that person out of your life. Well, if we look at the biblical narrative, here's the truth. We are all going to hurt one another. We are never going to find someone who is not going to hurt us outside of Jesus because we are all fallen. And so if we just go around and we only let relationships last until someone hurts us, we're going to have a string of very short-term relationships. That healthy God-honoring relationships include repentance and forgiveness. So those are important qualities to have in friends. So we need to make sure that we include that in our list.
Well, after we have taught our kids some basic relational skills, then talked with them through what to look for in friends, then the third thing that we're going to want to do is to help them foster relationships within the body of Christ. Now, one thing that I would really encourage you to do is not just limit these relationships that your children have to people all of the same age as them. Now, what's really nice when we can have friends who are in similar ages or stages of life. However, if we're trying to teach our kids about the body of Christ, the body of Christ is wonderfully diverse, that we all have unity because we are united to Christ, we have union with Christ, and it is that common redemption, that common union with a savior that unites us to one another. But outside of that, there is vast diversity in ages and stages and backgrounds and likes and interests and gifts and talents and weaknesses, wonderful diversity within the body of Christ. So don't just limit your children to making friends who are in the same age or stage as they are because it's so valuable for them to get to know different people within the body of Christ. And it's even helpful for you in your discipleship process of them because yes, as parents, parents are called to be the primary disciple makers of their children, but parents are not called to be the only disciple makers of their children. That God has given us the body of Christ for a reason. So I'm not talking about just carting your kids off to a kid's ministry or a youth ministry, not that there's anything inherently wrong with those ministries, but we want to look for who are individuals that are going to, that are in a different age or stage than our children, who are going to encourage them in their walk with Jesus. Who are going to challenge them, who are going to be there for them. When they're teenagers, they're not going to want to share every single thing with us. Who are other adults who emulate Christ? That we want to make sure that our children develop a close relationship with so that they can turn to them in times in their life when they need guidance that they're not naturally going to come and seek from us. So don't limit these relationships within the body of Christ just to people in the same age or stage. This is something I love about my church, that the adults in my church are intentional about getting to know the kids and the teens. And at my church, we actually don't even have a youth group. What we do is when kids are teens, they get into discipleship groups. So they're in a group with one or two adults who are older than them and they're reading Scripture together, they're praying together, they're doing life together. So just seek out those relationships.
Now, when we're thinking about developing friendships among other kids the same age as our children or in similar stages as our children, one thing we can do is being intentional about having like-minded families over, regularly. About opening up our home to practice biblical hospitality. Think, who are some families in our church where their kids would make great friends with our kids? Start having those families over regularly. Be intentional, say to the parents, "I see that you're parenting your children in a very similar way to the way we're parenting our children. I can see that your goal is really to make disciples. That's our goal too. And I'd really love for my kids to develop strong relationships with your kids. Can we set up monthly times to get together during corporate worship on Sunday?" You can be intentional at sitting with other families or other couples or other single individuals who you desire for your children to have relationships with.
Also, serving in the body of Christ is a great way for your children to develop different relationships. I know that at my church, I serve on the worship team once or twice a month, and then I serve in the nursery once a month. And that's a great way for me to develop relationships with other people at church. And we even have teens and kids that volunteer on the worship team and in the nursery. And so when I'm serving in those ways, I get to know those teens and those kids in a way that I wouldn't when I just see them on a Sunday morning or when I just see them in a small group in the middle of the week because we're working towards a common goal. So if you are having your children serve, they're getting to know others in the body of Christ.
Now, obviously, if you are parenting children from the ages about 12 on down, you have a lot more say in who your children develop relationships with because your kids don't have a license, they're not in a ton of extracurricular activities, and so you have greater control over their time. And so you can help cultivate more of those relationships where when your kids are teens, you have a little bit less say, but you can still encourage them towards certain relationships within the body of Christ. Would also really encourage you to make this a matter of prayer. That you would pray that your children would develop strong relationships in the body of Christ and that God would send them good friends who they can lean on.
Now, I've shared in previous webinars and podcasts that growing up, I grew up in a great Christian home, went to a wonderful church. However, I really didn't feel like I had any really close friends when I was growing up. I didn't really feel like there was anybody that I could really share what was going on in my life. And my mom and I prayed that God would just send me at least one good friend. And throughout my whole growing up years and that prayer I didn't think really was ever answered in my growing up years. However, now in adulthood, God has been so faithful at every stage of my life of bringing in a host of really close friends who can encourage me and who I can encourage, and we can just support one another in the Lord. But as I look back at my time growing up, I see that even though God didn't bring any close friends my age, he did bring a number of friends and mentors in my life who still influenced me today. The pastor at my church growing up, he was very intentional at building into the lives of the children, well of everybody at church, but specifically of the children of elders at the church because the elders were leaders. And my dad was and still is an elder at that church. And so that pastor really invested in me. And even just two days ago, he and I were on the phone just talking about life, and I was asking for counsel in different areas and we chat on the phone once or twice a month. And so even though God didn't answer that prayer in that stage of my life, giving me close friends within my own peer group, God did answer that prayer through providing different relationships in the body of Christ that have been so instrumental. So would highly encourage you to pray that God would start to develop some really strong relationships and would guide your children to the friends and the mentors who are going to help them in this discipleship process.
Well, that's a wrap for this episode. If you have found the content of this podcast beneficial, ask that you would just invest the three seconds it takes to press on the five stars to give us a five star review if you think it's five star content. Also, if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that by going to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast. As always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.
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