The other day I borrowed a movie from the library that my middle daughter had been asking to watch. When she saw it, she immediately asked if two friends could watch it with her. Both of the friends she requested are adults, friends of mine that had intentionally developed relationships with her. Only one was able to stay and watch the movie, but when I came downstairs at one point, my daughter had her head laid on the shoulder of my 24 year old friend as they were enjoying a movie together.
It made my heart so happy.
Sure, I could have watched the movie with her, but the fact that she had other adults in her life that she not only desired to spend time with but who desired to spend time with her as well, meant the world to me.
In 2010, I had the opportunity to read the book “Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids” by Drs. Kara Powell and Chap Clark. This book had a profound effect on how I parented my own children but my biggest takeaway was the idea of The Five.
In the book, they explains that “Despite the age segregation that exists in our churches and broader culture, each young person is greatly benefited when surrounded by a team of five adults.” In the book, they called this “the new 5:1 ratio” as compared to the normal five kids per adult ratio used in many Sunday school classrooms.
The Power of The Five
So, why is having those five adults so important?
- Adults have significant lasting influence on youth. Studies show that significant, non-parental adults play an important role in adolescent development (Source). Having a healthy, well-rounded world view requires more than just parental input; other supportive adults fill out that role.
- It makes their faith bigger than Mom and Dad. Research has found that children go through three phases of relationship with their parents: First, as children, they adore them. Second, as youth, they question them. Finally, as young adults, they rationalize them. It’s very helpful in each of these stages for children to see that in terms of their faith, their parents weren’t alone in what they believe and passed on to them; that they can see that their faith is something bigger than just their parents’ beliefs and that they are a part of a much wider community.
- It provides stability. There is nothing more fragile than the adolescent’s world. Peer groups are prone to change as teens grow and discover their own individual personality. Friendships morph and change. Relationships come and go. Having adults who have already walked that path and are now relatively stable in their faith, their personality, and their life give kids a sense of stability and foundation that they desperately need.
Five adults engaged in intentional communication and meaningful relationships with a young person doesn’t just happen.
In fact, in our age-segregated culture, it’s highly unlikely that it will happen at all unless some intentional work is put into ensuring that it does.
And so, that became a goal for Luke and me. We wanted our children to be able to name five adults, other than us, that they knew cared about them, wanted to spend time with them, and had a relationship with them built on mutual respect and trust. We wanted them to have a “team” that they knew were cheering them on, walking with them, and excited to be around them.
In order for that to happen, we had to make sure a few things happened. We had to make sure our kids had the chance to meet and interact with adults. We had to create spaces for intentional interaction to take place. We had to encourage healthy relationships when we saw them beginning to grow. And we had to “let go” of a little bit of our own control over some circumstances to make room for other trusted adults to speak into our children’s lives.
How We Can Help
- Create spaces within the church for generations to be together. This is so important and much has been written on the topic, but to simplify, if youth and children never have the chance to interact with adults in a faith community, it will be very difficult for them to build a relationship. Dr. Powell points out that one of the biggest reasons teens say they don’t want to go to church is because they don’t have friends there. By encouraging these intergenerational relationships, you’re not only helping your children’s faith long term, you are giving them a reason to come to church as they grow.
- Ask your children to name some adults that they respect and admire. Dr. Powell suggests doing this because this will help you to find the adults that your child is already aware of and wants to be around.
- Intentionally introduce your child to trusted adults and find ways to encourage those relationships in comfortable, organic ways. Have the adults over for dinner and invite the kids to play games or watch a movie with all of you afterwards.
- Speak highly of those individuals in front of your kids. Let your children know that you love and respect these adults, that you consider them a friend and that you trust them as people who love God and love others.
Every now and then, I’ll ask my kids, “Can you name five adults other than Dad and I that you know care about you and that you trust?” When they can, I am grateful. When they can’t, I am prayerful, asking the Lord who He would want me to intentionally reach out to for their sake.
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About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed
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