By Julia Bernier
My husband and I were married for 5 years when we were blessed with our first child. Our son had been the reason we had committed our lives to Jesus. We were raised in secular homes where unconditional love, respect, and nurturing were non-existent. We wanted to change the trajectory of the generations before us so that our family would experience a better life, a better way.
The modeling we received from our parents wasn’t going to change the patterns we learned growing up. We realized we needed help on this journey of raising our children in Christ. We had no idea, at the time, how God would use parenting to transform our old mindsets and old ways. There was a Christian parenting class being offered at our church, so we decided to sign up. We knew very little about Jesus, but were on the journey of growing in faith. It was intimidating at first to be new in the faith and not know our way around the Bible or have any idea how to parent differently from what we learned ourselves. Our fears were put to ease immediately as God gathered a group of people to come alongside of us to encourage and guide us as His ambassadors.
Over the weeks and months, we felt a sense of community. These people did not judge us or condemn us but instead became a source of support and friendship (Ephesians 5:1-2). Our Small Group became our Christian family. We enjoyed playdates, barbeques, the beach, and life events together. We studied God’s Word and helped each other through very difficult times.
I look back at the goodness of God to have given us an excellent model in Himself as well as a group of Jesus-loving people to help us grow up our kids for Him. We needed community and so did our children if we were going to be able to fight the battles ahead and win. Pastor Rick Warren has said that believers in Jesus as Lord have benefits in belonging to a church family. They will help us focus on God, face life’s problems, fortify our faith, make a difference, and fulfill our life mission.
Strong people depend on God and others. You weren’t meant to do this life on your own and neither were your kids (1 Thessalonians 5:11). You may feel intimidated like we did to get close with other believers, but taking that step of faith to sign up for a Small Group will be life-changing. There are people out there that are just waiting for you and your family to get to know.
We have experienced many ups and downs over the years as we have parented our children. The Lord faithfully provided Christian friendships, mentors, Pastors, teachers, and coaches to come alongside us as well as our kids. We learned early on that our children needed their own Small Group too. Here, at Saddleback Church, kids beginning at the age of 4 years old can be part of Kids Small Groups (KSG) that meet once-a-week from September to May. They have an opportunity to move up through each year with their same group. There are college students now that have gone through KSG and are still connected with their original group. If you have a middle school or high school student, weekly Small Groups have been designed just for them, as well. God meant for us to embrace community for His glory and our life in Him.
Praying and asking God to help you create a team for yourself as well as your kids will only strengthen you and your family. Raising kids in this world will take God, His plan, and your agreement with Him that life is better when we do it together!