A Parent’s Perspective: Be in Community

Submitted by Shawn Phillips, Guest Writer

Last year, I was asked to chaperone The Crossing high school team heading to Harmons, Jamaica, as the only adult other than the student ministry leaders. Here I was, in my forties, and had never had an opportunity to go on a mission trip – and now I would be going with a group of teenagers, including my own daughter. My first thoughts were, “I am going to spend a week making other, less fortunate people’s lives better. I am going to spend a week being a positive role model for someone else’s son or daughter.” What I found was that, while the trip did make an impact on the people of Harmons, the impact on my own heart and my relationship with my daughter was much bigger than I thought it would be. I came back a changed man…well, for at least two weeks.

Fast-forward ahead a year. The 2010 mission trip would be to the same destination – Harmons, Jamaica – but the twist would be that every student, not just my daughter, would have a parent with them.

My daughter was happily anticipating a return trip with her good ole dad, and this year my eldest son would also be going. I wondered how this trip would compare to last year. Could it possibly be better, given how deeply I felt the change in my life the first trip? Last year was pretty amazing. I thought perhaps the group dynamics would not be as rich; the group going in 2010 was a bigger group than last year, in fact twice as big. Surely we wouldn’t connect quite as well as our smaller 2009 team had.

Well, my cynicism turned out to be unfounded; this year was awesome and once again a week in Jamaica changed me…but in a different way.

The students proved to be full of energy and eager to accomplish far more than they would ever do at home. The parents were more tolerant, and found themselves participating in games that they would never take the time to do at home.

Both of my mission trip experiences have brought me to this conclusion: we are designed to be a functional part of a community. Community causes us to want to contribute positively for the good of all. Without community, we creep back into our dark places. We become far more selfish as we live independently of others. Without community, we become less tolerant of people, we resist getting out of our comfort zone and helping out as much, we complain more. Without community, we are alone. God didn’t design us to be alone.

When is the last time you took the opportunity to read scripture into your son or daughter? When is the last time your son or daughter was home long enough to allow you to read scripture to them? When is the last time you participated in communion together? When is the last time you played cards (or any game, for that matter) for hours on end with your children? When is the last time you worked side by side with your child? When is the last time you ate a meal with your family, especially if they are teenagers?

Community can and must continue at home, every day, not just one week a year on a mission trip. After two years of watching how God uses community to bring out the best in both teenagers and now, this year, parents too, I’m convinced that we are at our best when we stay in community.

And so I urge all of you – get involved with the church community. Go to a class on Sunday morning and go to church. Start or join a small group and actually attend and engage. Go to breakfast with a group of men or women once a week. Volunteer to be on the parking lot team or the tech team, and even better, volunteer with your kids! Be a part of your community in your town. Reach out to your neighbors, your coworkers. Not because you can make a difference helping someone less fortunate, but because you need it.

Community within the body of Christ is a critical way, I’m convinced, to keep your spirit alive with Christ’s love.

Romans 12:1, 5
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship…so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

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