Recently I was at a young mom’s house for a play date. She has three kids under six, the third one not quite walking at the time. She was sharing her heart about wanting to do more when it comes to being involved in her church. She felt that she needed to do more, and what does that look like? And how and what can you even do when you are barely keeping your head above water at home and trying to figure out not only taking care of all their basic physical and emotional needs, but also training them up well in the Lord?
I could tell that she was feeling a weight on her which she was having trouble bearing alone, and that she needed help where she was right now, but also feeling the pressure that she needed to do more, and that raising her own children was not enough.
Who ministers to young parents?
This is not the first time somebody has expressed this kind of sentiment to me. There is a feeling among moms, especially moms of young children, that the workload and responsibility is never ending, that putting your all into your children isn’t enough and that more is needed, at church, in the community etc. and that there is no real support or help to be offered. I offered to my friend that sometimes there is a time to minister to others, and other times to be ministered to. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be anyone around to minister to us.
Over the past several years I’ve noticed a worrisome and damaging trend when it comes to how we treat the empty nesters in our churches. In fact, the other day I was struck by the similarities between what the culture tells young people, who are not married with kids, and what it says to those who are at the other end of the child raising journey.
You see, I spent a few years being single myself before meeting my husband, and I’m sure we all know what the culture encouraged someone likes me to do: live free, do what I love, follow my passions, have some fun and party, travel etc. before I get married and have kids and am chained down for the next twenty years. And this sentiment is not just in secular circles (although in the church it will have a decidedly more wholesome spin).
Now, have you noticed that we’re doing the same thing to our empty nesters? I mean, what do we all hope to do after we’re done raising our kids? Finally travel? Finally have that dedicated craft room with the coordinating color palette, moms? Or that man cave where you can hide away and read books by C.S. Lewis and Charles Spurgeon a well-oiled leather chair, dads?
We need the older generation
Now these are certainly not bad things to desire, these are some good things that we can find joy in. But it seems to me that the sole focus of many people today, Christians included, is to get to that point, get to the point where the work is done and you get to finally “enjoy your life.” Christians, that is not where our focus should be. That is not the goal.
And God’s word is certainly not silent about the older generation in our churches.
Titus 2:1-5 says, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound[a] doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
Does this sound like something we are encouraging our older generation to do? Is this something that we are expecting of ourselves as we progress through life? Is this present at all in our churches?
Let me say something to the empty nesters out there: Your work is not done. We need you.
Older men, we need you to disciple our husbands in the Lord, and to help and encourage them in training up their own children. They need your support and wisdom in becoming the Godly husband’s we wives are commanded to be submissive to. They need your presence.
Older women, we young moms need you desperately. We need you to minister to us and disciple us. We need you to be understanding and exhort us in taking care of our families well. We need you to bring us a meal and come for a visit, even if we haven’t just had a baby. We need a sounding board that will point us back to Christ, and we need someone to tell us when we are doing enough.
You have all been where we are now. You’ve been the mom who went into the bathroom to cry without the kids seeing her. You’ve been the frustrated new husband and father being crushed under the weight of being the spiritual leader of the family, and having no idea what that actually means or what it looks like. I’m here to exhort and encourage you to be the counselor and the help that you wish you had when you were here.
Empty nesters, your work is not done, this life is not all there is and it’s not over!