Good community becomes important much younger than you would think.

Obviously when you are struggling as a parent of a teen, a new mom, or a newlywed, you need a good community around you influencing you in a positive way. When teens feel the tension between doing what’s right and doing what’s cool, they need a good community encouraging them to make the right decisions. But the principle of surrounding ourselves with positive influences begins as soon as we develop the ability to be influenced by someone other than our immediate family—which turns out to be long before the acne and B.O. kick in.

A few years ago, my husband and I were moving to a new town, and feeling slightly guilty about relocating our two kids, so we offered to buy our son an iPod touch. My husband has a special fondness for all things Apple, so in our minds this was the ultimate gift for our first grade son. One evening, we excitedly told him our plans to take him shopping before the move. His response stunned us.

“Thank you, Mom and Dad, but could I get a DS instead? My friends all have DSs.”

We tried to explain that with a DS, all he could do was play games. But with a Touch, he could also watch movies and listen to music.

“But all my friends play Mario games, and there aren’t any Mario game apps.”

And that’s when it hit us: when it came to gaming devices, his friends had more influence on him than we had. And that was fine. What we soon realized, however, was that while today may be gaming devices, tomorrow his friends will have more influence than us when it came to clothes, TV shows, or movies. The slippery slope had begun.

That’s when we started making more conscious decisions about helping him build community. In our new town, we found a church that emphasizes consistent small groups. We’ve been thrilled that his small group leader has continued with him as he’s promoted up each year. We know he’s learning how to share openly, how to consistently connect with others, and how to trust—all ways to build a strong community.

So don’t forget just how important your role as an SGL is! One of the greatest things you can do for your few is to connect them with a positive peer group—to help them learn how to choose friends who will influence them to make wise choices.

I think it’s unrealistic to expect that my kids will stay in touch with their grade school small group buds. But they are building habits that will see them through every stage of life.

 For now, maybe one of those buds will show him how to beat the next level on his DS.

 

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