November 2010 - Vol. 44
ApproachDuring the1960s and 1970s – a time marked by sudden and powerful social upheaval – a worldwide movement of Christian communities began working to strengthen faith and family life. Bob Tedesco, past president of the North American Region of The Sword of the Spirit, and a founding leader of the People of God community in Coraopolis and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, addresses this need and challenge facing covenant communities today. Building transgenerational communities takes decades of hard work and cooperation among parents, community leaders, and youth workers. Bob offers hope, wisdom, and insight for moving forward as transgenerational communities.
This article hopes to make a contribution to the raising up of the next generation of community members in the Sword of the Spirit. It should be helpful for parents, but it can also be useful for singles, grandparents, and “empty-nesters.” If you are a member of the Sword of the Spirit, I will assume that you are fully aware of and convinced that we are called to a trans-generational community life. Scripture often presents the Lord’s blessings as going out “to your descendents...even to a thousand generations!” Our hope is not that our overall approach will lead to having our children join us to fill the seats at a community gathering. We are hoping for fully engaged, productive, responsible and active adult members. Our Father wants us to take heaven by storm, not just slip a toe inside the door. His kingdom on earth should reflect that energetic, fully committed approach to life in the body of Christ.
We need to be steps ahead in each area of our description: a community of disciples on mission. Our description is a dynamic, complimentary set. It is a coherent vision when every area is working well. Our Christian lives and families work best when all three elements are present in good measure. All three will need attention for the complete training and formation of our children. Missing parts yield a handicapped vision and sometimes those “holes” can be seriously damaging or even fatal.
My main goal here is to present some general advice for your consideration. Much of the advice is centered on having a plan. If the application of this advice results in a plan you can implement, then it could possibly change lives.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us (Hebrews12:1).I believe that this is one race we need to run with perseverance – to the finish.
Children are notorious for being able to spot a “phony.” Since we are the ones that bring disciplines, training and order into their lives, they will be most tempted to test our credibility, our resolve and whether or not we are genuine in our leadership. Each major area of our call will be elements of training but also they will be elements of challenge.
Men and women really do benefit from living as disciples who seek wisdom, counsel, and advice.
Plans, Teaching, Strategy: Tools of a Life Well-Lived
The carpenter is committed to working with wood (For this metaphor “wood” will mean the Sword of the Spirit and its way of life). He is not always looking for other materials to replace the wood or using cardboard where wood is needed. He is committed, pleased and satisfied to work with wood.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it (1Corinthians 3:10).
Strategic parenting springs out of strategic living. For those who are husbands and fathers, our approach to pastoring is often preceded by our personal approach to life. Having a plan can have some beneficial results:
He has given us more than trees!
Plan to Spend
In the North American region of the Sword of the Spirit I knew we were serious about developing our community youth work when we got a budget. Later, I had the same realization when the community building team got a budget. When I am serious about a vacation, I set aside time and money and then I plan it. I doubt that the Lord will ever wonder about whether or not I took my vacations seriously...he knows how much I spent; he knows how many pictures I took. I really don’t expect him to say, “Bob, you should have had more fun, spent more time and money.”
On the other hand, I believe that the Lord is quite serious about how we care for our community children, our family’s children, and even our grandchildren. Even if we can’t afford much of a vacation, we should expect that the Christian formation of our children and grandchildren will cost us something and we should plan for and save for, including our Summer Camps, YES retreats, UCO conferences, etc. Worthwhile results are worthy of a plan. Plans have components: oversight, accountability, schedules, etc. Budgets are one of those components.
I am a person who prefers to keep all my notes in a three-ring notebook binder. I know others prefer to use manila folders. Some even use a set of 8 ½ x11 boxes built into shelves. As we collect articles, talk outlines, and testimonials, we ourselves are more prepared and instructed in key areas of our call.
Use our courses
Draw heavily on
In our community, we had a family that wanted to move into a cluster but was having trouble finding a buyer for their house. Four different people lent them $10,000 each that was repaid later when their house sold. When children hear that story, it helps them to see more clearly that we are unusually committed to building something together.
If your children go on a mission trip or have an experience with the Lord, encourage them to share it. Their testimony teaches others and more deeply establishes what the Lord has done for them.
use Lord’s Day for mission
Build strong home/family
When I was a boy, it was much more common to have some families sharing life and homes with other “aunts” or “uncles.” Today’s vision is much more isolated and seems to also have a “shelf-life.” College is far more than education: it’s also for getting children out of the house by the age of eighteen. This is not working so well for a lot of young adults, especially young women.
In building family life, we should use the husband/wife meeting to continually update the plan, to set short-term objectives and to evaluate progress.
One last piece of advice in building family life: We should be prepared to “firmly insist” and hold the line on time together. Meals, vacations, camping, church, conferences and community life will all be challenged by the school activities, the prevailing sports culture and other “urgent” priorities. We are building and preparing for eternity; these other pursuits and activities are often transient and eventually of low importance. We must help our children to see and sort the important from the transient and the entertaining approach of modern life.
Basic life orientations
traits: monitor, adjust, nurture
A critical spirit if allowed to grow can result in rebellion and mockery in its long-term expression. We foster and nurture a positive, encouraging, contented and joyful spirit. This is a difficult task since some discontent with the status quo is a motivator for growth, renewal and reform. Too much discontent becomes self-destructive and lays a foundation for fear-based living.
Additionally, we foster humility which lays a groundwork for discipleship, instruction and correction. We continually reinforce the truth that our child’s gifts and talents are for the body, for the kingdom and not just for the self. This truth provides light and wisdom for life’s key decisions: state of life, career, courtship, etc.
Finally, we should expect supernatural help and that spiritual gifts such as family discernment of spirits have a parental and family expression and are not just for wider life or prayer meeting settings.
that tend to be deal breakers
On the higher side, some main decisions that can suddenly redirect and de-rail a life are: 1) independent access to cars; 2) worldly approach to dating/courtship/choice of spouse; 3) college choices; 4) career choices; and 5) unfettered access to money (or too much spending). Decisions should be approached and respected for their potential power and tendency to connect or disconnect our child from God’s people, God’s plan.
Parents’ fears can have a disengaging effect on their children. We can hover over them and protect them from every person or event that could have a detrimental effect on them. No event, group or activity is perfect and without risks (e.g. mission trips), but over protection will leave them effectively disconnected when they leave the nest.
Support connections at every level
... holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.At the local level, support Summer Camp, campouts, retreats, conferences, youth groups, UCO, cluster relationships (if applicable).
At the regional level, support YES retreats, the Winter Conference, Kairos activities and outreaches, mission trips, GAP years, and the online “portal” website that is in development.
At the international level, we also have GAP years, mission trips and a network of youthful relationships that develop as paths cross at different events.
We should help them to see that receiving help and support is not a sign of weakness for a community or for an individual. Help them to see that it is a sign of wisdom and strength.
Finally, we should help them to see that a main element of our community life is evangelism; to bring the gospel of Christ to those who can receive it.
Pick your battles
Consider a military conflict: a sniper can seem like a small issue compared to major troop movements. Yet snipers can kill people! They can keep a large number of troops from advancing to an advantageous position. They can block progress. In the life of a young person growth can be stalled by apparently small lapses in moral behavior (e.g. modesty of dress, modesty of speech, choice of friends).
So where does “pick your battles” apply for a parent? The problem and the answer lies in considering the “developmental commitments” that we have enshrined in the lives of our children. If we have been getting after them about improving their social studies grade as a part of the plan to qualify for an academic scholarship, we may not want to start a discussion about a low blouse or short hem-line or an off-color remark. However, if we prioritize our developmental commitments to where faith, morals and the kingdom life are top priorities, we might let the social studies grade slide. The community retreat might become more important than the little league game. Being fully engaged in community life might be more important than the “entertainment” activities (football, soccer, gymnastics, etc.) There are many school-age activities that can contribute to our development (football, spelling bee, archery contests, etc.), yet we will essentially drop them as we pursue adult life.
As we teach our children to invest in that which will have the longest term value and impact on their lives, we prepare them to be fully engaged as adults in the Kingdom of God. “Pick your battles”, then can’t be used against us, but it can challenge us to place the Lord’s values first and then to fight for them.
We always need to be reminded that we are building followers of Christ. Our goal as parents should not be passive believers, or “one-toe-in” Christians, or “altar-call-addicts” (if answering one altar call is good, answering ten must be better!) Our hope is for disciples, followers of Christ.
The rich young man was apparently doing very well (his parents developmental commitments had succeeded beyond their expectations: he was the Doctor McDreamy of his generation). In speaking with Jesus he heard that dreadful assessment, “You lack one thing...” One thing! That’s not bad. Look at everything that he had going for him! Today’s helicopter parents would want to swoop in and challenge the Teacher’s assessment. One thing: “Come follow me.” Money, career, plans, friends...what is the “one thing” that blocks each of our children from following the Lord?
Therefore, we need to pray constantly for: our children, for the children in our community, for their parents, and for all who help in the work to bring full life, full faith and full engagement of our children in the body of Christ!
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