Kids Playing in the Neighborhood?

January 04, 2024

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In this episode, we tackle the question of how to navigate relationships with neighborhood children while maintaining a biblical worldview. We discuss the importance of discipleship, setting boundaries, and preparing our children to be a faithful gospel witness in their community. Tune in for practical insights and overarching principles to guide you in this important aspect of parenting.


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, "We have neighbors who ask to play with our children nearly every day. I do not allow my children to play with them unsupervised. There has been too much crude talk, unbiblical ideas and violent play when neighborhood children are left to play unsupervised. We do desire to minister to the children in our neighborhood, but it seems to be derogatory or stressful on our own children for that to be allowed. I would love thoughts on how to navigate this situation."

This is a really important topic for us to think through because especially just in this day and age, we're having less in-person human interaction than in the past. We're doing more things online, but we still physically live in neighborhoods and we know that God has called us to be salt and light where we are, that we're called to reach out to our neighbors and we're called to be in the world, but not of the world. So as we think through the other children in our neighborhood and the relationship that those children have with our children, what are appropriate types of relationships for them to develop? How much should we monitor what's going on? How much should we intervene? How much should we protect our children? How much should we let them learn in these different situations? Those are all important questions for us to think through specifically in the neighborhoods in which God has placed us.

So we're going to dive down deep into answering this question today, but before we do, if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview Podcast, you can submit that question by going to Also, if you found the content of this podcast helpful in your own parenting, would just ask that you like and subscribe so that you don't miss any future episodes, and also ask that you would invest time writing a review or commenting if you're watching on YouTube, just so that we can help more people discover this content and equip the kids in our care to understand the truth of the biblical worldview.

Now, I want to be careful as I'm answering this question as I want to be careful when I'm answering any question, but specifically because I know so very few details about this specific situation. So for the person who wrote this in, I can't give you a specific answer about this is how often your children should play with the neighborhood children, and this is what it should look like because I don't know many details about your specific situation, but what I'm going to do as I answer this question is just give some broad overarching principles that we should think through, no matter the neighborhood situation in which we find ourselves.

Now, those of you who have watched or listened to this podcast for a while, you can probably already guess the question that I'm going to suggest that we ask ourselves because I suggest that we ask ourselves this question in almost any and every circumstance. And that question is what is the goal? As we're thinking about us being ourselves and our family being situated in a particular neighborhood and having a particular set of neighbors and our children interacting with our neighbor's children, we need to think through what is the goal. And I would say that our primary goal as we think through what we're doing with our children is that we would disciple our children. So that's our primary goal. We want to make sure that what we're doing, what we're allowing in our home, what we're not allowing in our home, what we're allowing our children to do, what we're not allowing them to do, that all of that fits within the goal of making disciples of Jesus.

And then I think our secondary goal in this situation is to be a faithful witness, a faithful gospel witness in the neighborhood in which God has placed us because we are called to make disciples first at home and then outside of the home. So then the next question I think we need to ask ourselves is how can we accomplish both of these goals? How can we faithfully disciple our own children while also faithfully being a gospel witness in this neighborhood in which the Lord has placed us? And so I think it's really important for us to set healthy boundaries for our children.

Now, what healthy boundaries are is going to look slightly different from situation to situation because it's going to look different for a five-year-old child than it does for a 10-year-old child than it does for a 12-year-old child. And it's also going to look different just depending on who our children are, what their personalities are like, whether or not they have been reconciled in their relationship to God. It's also going to look different just depending on the community in which we live.

Right now, I am physically located in a community that is a very safe neighborhood. It's a very family friendly community. I have a window in my office that overlooks the street, and all summer long I've just watched the kids in my neighborhood ride bikes back and forth and walk dogs and play. And then I live in a little cul-de-sac and just all of the neighborhood kids, they are just playing together all summer long and they're in and out of each other's houses all summer long because it's a very safe neighborhood. When I was growing up, my parents very intentionally lived in the city where both of them were born. They really felt called to minister in that city, and it is not a very safe city. So my brother and sister and I, we were allowed to play out in our front yard, which had a fence, but when we were growing up, we were not allowed to go outside of that fence on our own because it was not a safe neighborhood.

So the neighborhood in which I live now is very different than the neighborhood in which I grew up in. So when we think about what healthy boundaries we should have for our children, healthy boundaries for children in my neighborhood look very different than healthy boundaries for myself as a child when I was growing up in the neighborhood in which I lived. And so thinking through setting up healthy boundaries, I'm thinking of both physical boundaries but also spiritual boundaries. We want to make disciples of our children. So thinking, okay, what are some healthy boundaries, not just physically that we should place on our children, but also thinking spiritually and what's going to teach them to be in the world but not of the world. And now this is a lot of times difficult to discern how exactly to set up these boundaries, but we can start by just praying through it, establishing certain boundaries, and then seeing how it goes. Where might we need to change some boundaries in the future?

And it's always easier. It's always easier to loosen boundaries than it is to tighten them. So if we're not sure, should I set this boundary or should I move it a little further down, I would recommend setting the boundaries tighter at first because it's always easier to say, you know what? I think we can loosen this boundary a little bit than it is to say, "you know what? This was a bad idea. We're going to pull back on this." So just thinking of some potential boundaries that are going to help your children continue to develop relationships with the other children in the neighborhood while also making sure that they're not being influenced in a negative way, setting some boundaries like maybe your children are allowed to play in your own yard, but they're not allowed to go to anybody else's yard.

Or maybe they're allowed to play in another person's yard so long as you are there. Maybe your children are allowed to invite others over to play inside of your house, but they're not allowed to go in anybody else's house. So just thinking ahead of time, okay, what are these healthy boundaries?

And then if you are actually inviting neighborhood children into your home, setting clear boundaries over the things that can and cannot be done inside of your house, it's always easier at the start to just say like, "Hey, I'm so happy that you're here. I'm so happy that you're over today. Just wanted to share with you some of the rules in our house" and to share those rules upfront than to wait until a child violates one of those rules that they didn't know about and to correct them. So just establish those rules upfront.

Also, would highly encourage you. I think a really healthy boundary is no matter whether it's neighborhood kids or kids from school or homeschool co-op kids or kids from church just to have the rule that nobody plays in the bedrooms. The bedrooms are just off limits. So that way that your children are playing in a public, not that your house is public, but in a more open space where everybody in your house is. So those can hopefully be some healthy physical boundaries that will also lead to good spiritual boundaries, that you're able to monitor what's going on, you're making sure that you're not putting your children in a situation that's dangerous, that you're setting the expectations ahead of time.

Now, as we think about helping our kids develop healthy relationships with those within our neighborhood and making sure that we're intentionally being a gospel witness, I think that one of the most effective ways to do this is to practice biblical hospitality, which I'm sure does not surprise any of you who are faithful listeners because you know that I recommend practicing biblical hospitality often on this podcast that when we're actually opening up our home to invite other neighbors in, we are creating relationships with the family as a whole.

Now, I know that in some situations it might be very uncomfortable for your neighbors to come into your home because we live in, especially those of you who are listening in the United States, we live in a society where everybody just kind of has their own little house and nobody else enters. They don't go into anybody else's house. We have garages. Most people open up their garage door, pull their car in, close the garage door before they even get out of their car. And so it might be really uncomfortable for your neighbors to come into your house. So you could start off by just setting up a picnic table on your front lawn and saying, "Hey, to another family, we're going to grill some hot dogs and hamburgers on Tuesday evening. We'd love to have you over." And to just start to develop that relationship because as you develop a relationship with the parents in the family, that will be just a natural way to get to know them and to start being a gospel witness to them. And therefore, that will trickle down to their kids. And that way you'll be able to talk with them about the boundaries that you've decided to have with your children as they're playing in the neighborhood.

Also, just making sure, if we're really wanting to be a gospel witness to our neighbors and we open up our homes to them, we need to make sure that we have routines already established in our home that are going to point them towards the gospel, that we're not putting on some show for them when they come over for dinner. But we should as Christian families, we should just have routines set in place every evening after dinner. Well, first of all, if you're not having dinner together as a family, I know if you have older children who are involved in sports and other extracurricular activities that might not be a possibility to have dinner together every evening of the week. However, it's really important that you make that a priority, that the way that God has just established relationships is so often in Scripture relationships are described communally over meals that God gave his people, the Israelites, certain feasts that they were to celebrate together and that they were to honor him through celebrating these feasts through communing around a common table. And then what has God given us in the new covenant? He has given us the Lord's Supper. That is a remembrance of what Jesus has done, and it is this feast that we are to partake of communally.

So eating together is a really important thing. It's a really important way to develop relationships, to create common bonds. So it's really important that you are establishing dinnertime as a time when your whole family is together. And then after dinnertime, while you're still at the table, that you have some time of Scripture reading and prayer.

For those of you who watched the webinar that I ran several years ago now with Rosaria Butterfield on raising children in a home that practices biblical hospitality, she talked in that webinar as she talks about in her book, the Gospel Comes with a House Key, just how every night after dinner, her husband, he instructs them to take out the salters and they sing a psalm together, and then he leads them in a time of Bible reading and prayer. And Rosari is a good friend of mine, and I've stayed with the Butterfields a few times now, and whenever I'm there, that's exactly what happens at dinner, whether it's just me as their guest and them, or whether they have a whole bunch of church family members over, or whether they have a number of people from their neighborhood over that, that's what happens. They have dinner time, there's time of talking and sharing food, and then Kent, Rosario's husband, passes out the Salters. We all sing a hymn, and then he reads a portion of Scripture and we discuss it together. And these are routines that they have established in their family so that when other people come over, it's just a natural part of family dinner. And so that's something we should think about. Are we doing this family worship time after our mealtimes and then when we have others into our home, are we just inviting them into that time?

Another thing to think through as we think about accomplishing these goals of discipling our children and then being a faithful gospel witness in our neighborhood, is we need to make sure that we are not simply protecting our children, but we are preparing them to be in the world, but not of the world. And really making sure that we are preparing our children is a twofold goal. That first, we need to make sure that we are rooting them in the biblical worldview, that they understand what the biblical worldview teaches, that they know how to soundly read, interpret, and apply Scripture so that they are rooted and grounded there.

Then we also need to prepare them for how do other competing worldviews answer these same worldview questions that the biblical worldview answers? How are these answers similar? How are they different? And then that we're also equipping them to carefully evaluate the ideas that they encounter, not just to recognize what worldview they come from, that yes, that's important, but also to logically break down, "okay, did what I just heard, was that somebody claiming that something was true? Or were they just sharing their personal preference with me?" and discerning between the two? And then being able to understand, okay, does that idea follow the rules for careful thinking? Does it have mistakes? What evidence has this person given me to show that this idea either is true or that it's not true? So we need to make sure that we're preparing our children to be able to evaluate the different ideas that are already coming their way and that are bound to come their way as they develop relationships with others.

So if you have never prepared your children in this way to understand the truth of the biblical worldview to soundly read, interpret, and apply Scripture to understand what other worldviews teach, to understand how to think carefully, highly recommend that you check out our curriculums at Foundation Worldview because this is exactly what we're doing. As I record this podcast. We have five curriculums out. We have a Biblical Worldview Curriculum for kids four and up. We have an Attributes of God Curriculum for kids four and up, and then for kids eight on up, we have a Comparative Worldview Curriculum and Studying the Bible Curriculum. And then for kids 10 on up, we have our Careful Thinking Curriculum. And these are all skills that are so important for our children to be grounded in if we want to make sure that they understand the truth of the biblical worldview and then they're prepared to be in the world but not of it.

Then I also think in this process, we need to make sure that we are inviting our children into the discussion to hear what they're thinking about this. Depending on who our children are, our children might just love spending time with the neighborhood children, and it might be a really good thing for them, and they might really be prepared to be a gospel light in our neighborhood, and they might want more time with the neighborhood kids, but we have to ask them and invite them into the conversation to know that. Or our children, they might be very kind and compassionate, but spending time with the neighborhood children might be really overwhelming and draining for them. And maybe we need to set up better boundaries so that yes, they're still having time with the neighborhood kids, but it's not every day or it's not more than two or three times per week.

Now, inviting our kids into the conversation doesn't mean that we simply default to whatever they want, because our children don't always know what is best for them. We have to discern, is what they're sharing with me something that is a legitimate need, or is it just a felt need that's not really an actual need? So we need to invite them into the conversation and then discern between those two things. And then we need to just hear what they're thinking and feeling about their time with the neighbors so that we can discern, okay, are they prepared for this? Are they prepared to be playing with children every day who come from a home that is not a Christian home, or maybe claims to be a Christian home but doesn't really live in a way that's honoring to God just so that we know? How can we prepare them for this situation?

And we always want to be careful that we're not being unwise, that we're not placing them in situations that they're not prepared for, that we're not just letting them go over our neighbor's houses when we have no idea what's going on over there. That would be very unwise. But we also want to make sure that we're not completely sheltering them from the outside world, and that we're not just insulating them just within a very close knit Christian community, that yes, we should be building relationships within the body of Christ, that their relationships within the home should be the strongest relationships that they have. But we want to make sure that we're not just protecting our children, but that we are preparing them to live faithful lives in a very hostile culture.

So as I said in the beginning, I can't offer any definites like "definitely do this, definitely don't do this" because I don't know enough about every person's individual situation. But I think if we follow these overarching principles, if we ask ourselves, okay, how do we foster these goals of making disciples of our children and being a faithful gospel witness in our neighborhood, we can come up with some very clear boundaries and clear principles to follow as we live faithfully in the communities in which God has placed us.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you 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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