The women in my family are amazing--especially my mother. She’s one of the most sacrificial women I know. I know everyone says this about their mom. But seriously, my mom is sacrificial and amazing and giving when even I tell her, “Mom…stop," she’ll respond with, “You’ll understand when you have kids!” Well, because of her example and the other women in my family, serving each other is second nature. Nobody groans about watching kids. In fact, grandmothers and mothers beg to watch the kids. Tias will offer without blinking an eye. We serve in many other ways, borrowing money, moving without complaining. This is absolutely a culture thing, and it’s one of my favorite parts of my Hispanic culture. I take great pride in being born into a family where you can say “I’m moving to an apartment on the 3rd floor” and even if everyone lives an hour and a half away, they respond with, “Let us know what day, we’ll make sure you get moved.”
One of the biggest things I learned early on, and a huge reason I fell in love with the Lord, was a draw about having this new family in Christ. Just because I fell in love with Jesus I suddenly had all these new brothers and sisters. I had a new family, how cool is that?
Even though I was coming to church in Austin for a few years before actually moving here, the actual move really was a huge culture shock to me. To be perfectly honest, it’s had it’s toll. When I was living in North Carolina, I was not concerned about this issue because everyone in my church was my age and no one had kids. It was a non-issue. Moving to Austin, and seeing churches go years with having to “deal” with never being able to find childcare is so incredibly heart-breaking to me. It literally fumes me that it’s a problem. I pray for grace with this, too, but it is hard.
People with Children
Just because you have kids, this doesn’t give you an “out” to watching your family’s kids. Here are some things you can do to start fixing this insane issue:
1. Be Persistent. A lot of times, I hear, “Well, I asked so-and-so and they just always seem busy so I didn’t want to ask again.” Stop making assumptions! Keep asking your small group. This is what they are here for--to be family. Family’s carry each other burdens, serve and love each other when needed, and come alongside each other when needed.
2. Start a Babysitting Club. You and three to four other people can swap date nights and “sleepover” parties for the kids. This will not only encourage date nights, but will also strengthen your little community (family). This time also provides essential opportunities to disciple children by sharing Scripture stories, praying with them, and sharing the gospel with them.
3. Communicate. If you are struggling, confess your feelings to your small group and/or especially your discipleship group. This is a real problem. Ask for prayer. Let those tears shed. People need to see this is a huge problem.
4. Do Something. Another line I hear all the time: “I wish I would have babysat more when I was single.” Again, just because you have kids doesn’t mean you can’t “trade” with your married friends and serve in this way. If your child is in childcare at church, you need to serve in that area. With everyone serving, it allows everyone to enjoy the services and prevents potential “burnout.”
It’s frustrating to hear a bunch of people talk about how big of a problem this is, but no one does anything about it. Everyone is just waiting for everyone else to step up. Encourage everyone to join you in “stepping up.”
Babysitters aren’t trained in some special course. There aren’t qualifications for serving your family. If we are to be considered “the body of Christ,” what can we assume will happen if parts of it are failing? Right now, childcare is failing and the body’s health is at risk. What does Scripture say about a part of the body rejoicing? 1 Corinthians 12:26 says the rest of the body will rejoice with it. Is the body rejoicing in the childcare realm, or is it suffering? If it’s suffering, what are we to do?
People without Children
1. This Busy Life Doesn’t Belong to You. It’s 2014, and hearing the words, “I’m too busy” is so common and a large reason why this part of the Church is suffering. The idea of getting to church an hour earlier, or giving up a few hours to serve a family sounds like an eternity. Let’s again think about what we know about God. Christ is the definition of sacrifice. The idea of living a life where everything he does is for himself is impossible. If we are to be like Christ and if we are to look different from the world, then this is such an incredible opportunity to be that.
Our life is not ours. It just isn’t. This life belongs to God. We start believing that living a life where we sacrifice literally everything is a terrible thing, and it’s because we don’t believe it’s gratifying or good. The word “sacrifice” doesn’t even seem very nice. But God proved that sacrifice is the most incredible thing. And when we can sit down and examine how much of our time we don’t actually sacrifice, we realize we aren’t that busy. We just worship our busy lives.
Tim Keller said recently we “have an ‘it’s us or them’” attitude when it comes to singles and families. Part of serving families is learning to sacrifice now. Learning to serve now. It’s a rehearsal for the sacrifice many singles and people without children will make when they do have children. You’re sort of “launched” into sacrificing when/if those children enter the picture. Also, if you’re married, don’t forget to invite these people serving you to birthday parties--give them the opportunity to say no. That’s what family does.
2. You don’t need to be “called” to childcare. God did not put it on my heart to serve children. I didn’t get this push from God to serve kids. This is simply ingrained in me because my family was an amazing example and groomed me to believe that if you’re family. . . you bend over backwards to help. Over-spiritualizing something when there is an immediate need in the church is so dangerous. If your church family suddenly all went broke except for you, wouldn’t you bring them food and necessities? It’s an immediate need, and you have the resources, so it’s common sense.
Seeing an immediate need and ignoring it because “you just don’t want to” should be examined. If your thoughts are, “those kids are too hyper for me” or “I won’t be good at it” then you should either talk to the parents about it, or examine whether or not this can change. Immediate needs need to be met immediately. As I said before–we are the body. You don’t get called to save a drowning member. You jump in and you help them.
3. Kids are insane. You are capable of getting over it for a few hours. As disobedient, crazy, hyper, annoying, or selfish they can be–Jesus still says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). We can go on about why he said that, but he constantly shows us how much he loves children (Mk. 10:13-16). If you don’t have your own, this is more reason you can give up a few hours to bless a family. Because as crazy as they are–it’s an opportunity to pray for the child and the family. And an opportunity to praise God for the life he gave you.
4. Stop your judgement. It saddens me when someone won’t watch someone’s kids because they don’t agree with the parenting style. I personally wouldn’t give my child cow’s milk and I would let them experience McDonalds, but I certainly will never use that as an excuse not to serve a family if the parent raises their child in a way I think I wouldn’t raise my kid. Every time I’d cry to my mom and dad about how it wasn’t fair they wouldn’t let me do something and they’d respond with, “You’ll understand when you’re our age.” I say the same to you. You’ll understand when you have kids.
Jesus Sacrifices and Serves
We have to remind ourselves that the one human to ever walk the earth that had a legit reason to not serve was Jesus. He was God. It's impossible to think about, but he served even when he had the greatest excuses. Paul says, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7). Serving is good. Jesus washed some guys feet (feet were probably more gross back then...yuck, you guys) and good things came from that (John 13:1-20). Imagine the good that comes from serving your family by giving them a night to focus on other good stuff--like their marriage.
I’m praying for a future where families aren’t “tied down” because they don’t want to move away from parents and grandparents for fear of never having childcare.
I’m praying for a future when you only have to serve the kids area at church on Sundays like twice a year because all of the parents of the kids in childcare serve, and everyone else is willing.
I’m praying for a future when Christians stop using the words “brothers and sisters” loosely and start realizing that’s what we actually are in Christ. I will continue to pray that the Church can realize that “babysitting” and “childcare” is more than just watching kids. There’s a lot of incredible opportunities to disciple there.
We pray that God would make disciples of us, and this is such a great chance to do just that. By doing this for each other--all of us--we open doors to get into each others lives. We aren’t just serving--we are doing life together. We don’t have to look at each other like babysitters. Like volunteers. We are given freedom in Christ to look at each other like brothers and sisters. And if that’s true--then there are a whole lot of nieces and nephews we are free to love.