Part of disciple-making is bringing our disciples into new situations and coaching them through those. We see this strategy in the life of Jesus. He brought his disciples with him as he went out to minister.
Recently, I had an occasion to hear a godly women who received her Ph.D on the subject of how the church can help those who are newly widowed. This subject became personal for her when she became a widow in the midst of writing her thesis.
Her burden is for the church to care for widows in appropriate ways. In her presentation, she made a number of excellent suggestions for the church.
But I found myself asking, how does this fit into a family-discipleship model? And how does this give us a chance to equip and encourage our children?
Several simple thoughts came to mind:
1. Make sure you are developing intergenerational relationships within the church. Hopefully, your church has structured things so that young families will rub shoulders with the older generations. At the very least, if you sit in the same place at worship, connect and “adopt” a few families that sit close to you. Train your children to interact with the older generations. Don’t excuse your children from this by saying they are shy.
2. If a death strikes that older family, consider bringing appropriately aged children along to the visitation or funeral service. Going to the funeral home is a sacrifice. But that is what brothers and sisters do for each other. It will help model and train our children in love toward others who aren’t like them – older folks. It will be one small step out of their self-centeredness. And it will give us a chance to talk about death and heaven. Of course, this assumes that your children’s behavior will be a blessing to those around them. Sharon and I did not feel compelled to bring our children all the time, but there were several occasions we felt that it was appropriate for them to go and pay their respects.
3. After the death, ask yourself how your family can minister to the widow in a sensitive manner. Depending on the age of your children, it might be appropriate to offer to do some household chores or even just visit. As this woman instructed us, “Don’t say, ‘Call me if you need anything.’ Rather say, ‘I would like to come over and help. I want you to give me something to do.'” She suggested connecting once a month for six months.
James 1:27 tells us that religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world. When we are looking after the widow and teaching our children to do the same, we are pleasing the Lord.
I am not suggesting we become busybodies taking on all the problems of the world. But over the course of our family life, we can and should be able to identify a few older people we can minister to. They will be richer for it. We and our children will be richer for it. And more importantly, God will be glorified in a church where love across the generations is on display.