#Wanted# Spiritual Parents
Recently my encounters with young people in the church and my experience of being a father has led me ponder the idea of father figures and discipleship. This got me to thinking about my own experience of being a young man in the church and the how I matured under the discipleship of several men I would consider to be spiritual role models.
In my church I recently encountered a 30 year old who asked if he could spend some time with me and my family, as he wanted to gain a better understanding of how to do family. He wanted to know about fatherhood: the good, the bad, and the bits we don’t often talk about. When asking him about his upbringing it was clear that this was not a happy part of his life, losing his father whilst he was young. This led me to question the role of men in the church when it comes to nurturing, encouraging and helping other men develop strong spiritual character.
If I were to look for examples in the Bible where God seems to have used this type of relationship, and the effect this had on those people, there are numerous examples two of which are: Elijah called Elijah to follow him and started the discipleship process with great benefit to Elisha (1 Kings 19:19), and in the New Testament Paul disciples Timothy with success taking interest to see him grow and mature. Paul was a father figure (1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Timothy 1:2).
I would also like to add that I don’t believe our need for spiritual guidance and character affirmation ends when we reach 20. In a recent conversation with a church leader in his mid forties I realized he was looking for affirmation and identity, much I have often done. He was saying how he really wanted to find someone from the older generation who would invest time with him to work with him and help him strengthen and deepen his relationship with God. You may well be thinking that our identities and security should be rooted in God (incidentally I would agree with that), but I would suggest that having someone to dialogue with is part of the process.
We don’t have to be parents biologically to take on this role, it is something God puts on your heart. All you have to do is look and you will see the need. As a church leader I find it helpful to seek the view of older people, even though I have a good relationship with my own parents there have even been things I have had to let go of and benefit from a wider perspective
As I observe the regularity of family breakdown and see the number of children trying to find a role model who can inspire them and help them on their journey, I question is this a way in which the church could be reaching out? In the last few weeks I have been asked by parents and carers to spend time with some of the kids I work with as a children’s and families worker, as the parents’ relationship has gone wrong, in these cases with the fathers leaving. Is this a new problem? I would say “no” but it is one that I believe is an increasing issue resulting in the damage we are now seeing being manifested over 2 or 3 generations.
So where does church fit into all of this? I believe that the church has a big role to play but we must grasp the fact that with the breakdown in the family unit across society, we are being looked at as part of the solution for an ‘orphan generation’.
Being spiritual parents in the church is not something to be scared of but something for the church to embrace and support. All members of your church, not just young people, could benefit from input from you regardless of their age or yours. This is why we have been placed into a family. This is not a male only calling as we need fathers and mothers to come forward and take responsibility for others. Generations need each other and can benefit mutually.
Sometimes we perceive ourselves as not good enough or not spiritual enough to help the walk of others but surely there is no harm in praying for people and taking an interest in others? Is this not a good use of our time? I believe that we can release the God given potential in someone in their 20´s as well as their 60´s. Is God calling you to this?