The other day I hosted a diverse group of women from church: some single, some widowed, some married with kids, some married without kids, some in their 20s and some in their 80s. While sharing our joys and our struggles, we each honoured the unique life stories around the room and created a space for all to feel cared for and valued.
One of the women later told me how thankful she was for this welcoming and caring community, and how hard it had been to find this in other churches. As a single woman in her 20s, she has felt that churches often value families more than single people. She was surprised how many people talked to her parents when they visited a church she used to attend, as she had been there for six months and no one had ever talked to her!
My own daughter is still only 4, but it was quite entertaining the other day when she told her best friend she was going to marry him. He, at 3, told her that he couldn’t marry her because he was playing with his “twuck!”
We had a good laugh at the cuteness of their friendship, but it also made me think how in a quick 20 years this could play out in a real way. And I sure hope that my strong, independent and sensitive daughter feels valued, important and confident regardless of any relational status.
In the body of Christ, all parts are needed and all are equally important. Yet it seems the church doesn’t always convey this message. I’m very thankful for our church community and how my friend felt very welcomed when she walked through our doors.
She may be one of the only “young adults” in our church, but being surrounded by people her own age isn’t her main priority; having people who welcome her as family, however, certainly is! She has joined us for many meals, afternoon walks or baking marathons, and knows she can stop in anytime, although it may mean she ends up watching my kids while I’m on the phone or washing dishes!
I think that being welcomed naturally into a family is a beautiful way to be part of the family of Christ!
When we started working at our church I often heard people say that they hoped we, as a new young family, would attract other families. While it is nice to have more kids join our Sunday school, I wonder if this language contributes to a subconscious hierarchy of value in our culture.
Married people are by no means more valuable than single people; every person seeks community, and perhaps even more so for single people. I pray that the church will wholeheartedly welcome every individual with open, gracious and caring arms and show the love of Jesus to each.
Christina, with her four little ones and her pastor husband, seeks to live out Jesus’ creative and loving “third way” options.
Read more Third Way Family columns by Christina Bartel Barkman:
The beautiful chaos of kids at church
The love it held
A 'village' in our home
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