Curing COVID lockdowns I started collecting memes about parenting to get the vibe of how the internet portrays being a mum.

I came across memes that played on the old African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. One said this: “They say it takes a village. I believe it also takes a vineyard”. Which might tell you something about how people found those months of home learning! 

Another was: “I keep hearing that it takes a village to raise a child. Do they just show up? Or is there like a number you call?” I like this one because it tells us a lot about how today’s parents are finding parenting. I think we know we need a village. 

We know it’s not good to be isolated, without support. We want to be part of a community and have the wisdom and care of others poured into us and the lives of our children. But this is not the experience of parenting for many. We’d like more involvement from others, but we don’t know how to go about getting it. 

Historically, young parents lived close to extended family, but these days that’s often not the case. People often move away from the area where they grew up. While in the past people mainly lived in multi-generational households, this is less and less common in the West. 

an internet village is very different to you and your children being known and loved in real life

For many, other adults in their children’s sphere are often those paid to be there: nannies, childcare workers, coaches, music instructors and schoolteachers. It might feel like there is a lack of regular involvement in our kids’ lives from people who choose to be there and freely love and invest in them. 

Many women look online for a village. I’ve often seen women post anonymously on internet “mums” groups asking for advice with complicated, personal parenting issues – or they go to the Instagram accounts of big platform, self-described parenting “experts”. They are asking strangers!

Of course there are helpful aspects to information we can get online, but an internet village is very different to you and your children being known and loved in real life. I think this is just one reason why being a disciple of Jesus, and being part of a community that he has gathered, is such an incredible blessing.

The Lord’s family

God has given his followers something even more profound than a village. He has given them a family. We have been made brothers and sisters in God’s household.

His design is for his people to enfold their biological families into this spiritual family – formed not with shared biological blood but the shared fact that the blood of Jesus has redeemed all of us.

The church is a real gift God gives to each person he has called. The church is where God envisages parents will be supported in the work of raising their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. 

Consider Titus 2. Paul gives instructions for older men. He encourages Titus to be an example to younger men. And he instructs older women to “urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (2:4-5).

As our kids join in church life... they see the difference Jesus makes as others face joys, sorrows and decisions. 

What’s on view is a church family where older women will take younger women under their wing to encourage them in the way they love their families. If you are an older woman, you are needed by your younger church sisters!

In the church we have real relationships with people we know, who know us. We can see women further on in the parenting journey, their lives and their godliness. We can learn from their mistakes and regrets and glean wisdom on what has worked. 

We can watch them interact with their children and see them apply biblical principles to their varied circumstances. We might see them applied to a child who is not neurotypical, a child who rebels, or is a people pleaser. As we envelop our own family into God’s, we have this provision of the “village”. Let’s not cut ourselves off from God’s good provision for us.

Kids in the church family

The Bible is very clear about the responsibility of parents to raise their children to be disciples. We see this in passages like Deuteronomy 6:5-9, when parents are told they are the ones to impress the commands of God upon their children. This wasn’t a one-time event, but something to be woven into every moment of every day: “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (v7).

We see a similar priority in Psalm 78, which speaks about God’s command that parents teach their children to know him. And it’s continued in the New Testament, with the directive to bring up children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Parents are to act intentionally and consistently to pass their faith on to their kids. It’s not something we contract out.

Yet we can so emphasise our role as the ones to bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord that we diminish the incredibly important place of the church. While it is right to see the responsibility as ours, it is also right to ensure our children are raised to be disciples in the wider church family. 

How thankful I am for the many Christians who have sought to encourage my kids to grow in faith. As we have talked to our kids about the love Jesus has for them, they have been shown this love through people in the church: cakes on their birthdays, asking about school, teaching them at kids’ church, spurring them on.

As our kids join in church life, they see what it means to faithfully follow Jesus lived out by a variety of people. They see the difference Jesus makes as others face joys, sorrows and decisions. And these saints testify to my kids about the goodness and all-sufficiency of God.

Our children should also be treated as part of the church family now. I’m not saying the children of believers are automatically Christians – each child must come to repentance and faith for themselves – but in the Bible the children of believers are included in church family life.

God includes children as part of his covenant community from the beginning (Gen 17:10-12). Kids are included in the ceremonies of God’s people so this will lead them to ask questions about God and his ways (Ex 12, Josh 4, Deut 31). 

In the New Testament, Jesus validates the importance of children: “Let the little children come to me... for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt 19:14). And when Paul writes instructions to Christian households in Ephesus and Colossae, he specifically addresses some of his teaching to children (Eph 6:1-3, Col 3:20). He treats the children as the church of today.

Our beliefs shape how we parent

We want to explicitly teach our children that church is not just another thing we “do” as a family. We need to teach them it’s much more significant. God has saved himself a people, and we belong to other Christians just as they belong to us. This will be expressed by committing to our local gatherings. It’s an incredibly significant and vital thing in the life of a believer.

Treating our children as part of the body also means they have a role to play in building up the whole. Part of raising them up in the Lord should involve us teaching them to serve, not just be served, at church. We want to ensure our kids don’t see church as something we do for ourselves.

However, there are things that make church hard.

We are busy

Many of us are incredibly pressed for time. The juggle of jobs, housework, family and friends can leave us feeling like church is another thing we’re obliged to do. But it is so, so important we keep our priorities in order. We can’t let other good things crowd out the best thing. 

Church “wish-dream”

This is a phrase from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together. It means we can come to church with expectations of what it will mean and, when it fails to meet our vison, we can become embittered and resentful. 

Bonhoeffer goes on to say that because it is God alone who has laid the foundation for our fellowship, we need to come to that community as thankful recipients, not demanders. It is the treasure of the gospel that gathers us, not our outside impressiveness. We are all chosen by God’s grace, so the right response is to thank him that the same treasure has saved others, and us.

Church is where God’s work of restoring our relationship with him is evident – it is where his saving work is displayed. But it’s also where his work of removing the hostility between people is seen and his wisdom demonstrated. It’s as we look to God and what he has done in rescuing us that we can love and forgive our fellow Christians, so let’s not give up meeting together as we see the day of Jesus’ return approaching.

Pride and self-sufficiency

There is not much that is more lauded in our world than being capable, resilient and independent. We don’t like needing others, but we all do. We were created to be social beings. We were made to need each other. 

The body image in 1 Corinthians 12 shows us this. We are not all fingernails or knees or eyeballs! Our difference is a good part of God’s design because we need the variety he has created.

Part of church family


We want to teach our kids the significance of church in the life of a believer. And we want to teach them that our decision to attend blesses and encourages others and our absence is potentially discouraging, so we choose to put this in our calendar first.

When we moved to England the first four parties our eldest was invited to fell on a Sunday morning. She was struggling with loneliness at school, and it was hard for her to lose those opportunities at connection. 

I suggested to my husband at the first invite that perhaps we should just let her go. But he gently reminded me what it taught our daughter if we accepted: that church is just something we do unless something we want more turns up. In time, close friends have chosen not to have Sunday morning parties so our kids can attend. 

In this consumer-driven world it says something that we put our church family first – both to our kids and the world around us. 


Getting your kids involved in praying for your church, its leaders, ministries and people in need is a wonderful way to express their part in the body. Ask them to pray for you and the ministries you are involved in and pray for ways they are seeking to serve others.


There are many little ways to get children involved that mean so much to them. Distributing handouts, serving morning tea, being in a youth band, Bible reading, leading Sunday school, picking up rubbish. They can look out for younger children and make newcomers feel welcome. Kids love being useful and needed. It helps them learn to love others and provides a sense of belonging.

It’s not just children who need a village, it’s all of us


Spend time before church preparing your family for it. Perhaps read the passage, pray for the service, pray for those who might be new or feeling lonely or hurting. Discuss how you might use the time afterwards to look out for new people, or those who have no-one to talk to.

Encourage your kids to help serve the body by being on the lookout for those that need loving. Tell them you look forward to hearing what they learn and asking them about it afterwards.

Talk to other kids

Adults need younger members of the body as they need us. So, let’s make the effort to get to know them. Engage with other people’s kids and encourage your kids to interact with adults. A friend at my church has her kids each prepare a question in advance to ask adult guests when they come for lunch. It is so lovely to be asked with genuine interest what my favourite colour is!

When we have guests from church who aren’t the same age as our kids, we still ask the kids to hang about and be involved. Being part of the church family means we want to relate to all of it, not just people the same age as us.

Not just Sunday

Church isn’t the building but the people. The New Testament speaks about a family, where brothers and sisters genuinely seek to love and encourage each other and carry one another’s burdens. That won’t happen in just two hours on a Sunday morning! Invest in relationships with people at church. Show hospitality and share your lives with them. 

We are called to love God and others. And the Bible gives a special priority to the love we are to show fellow believers. Consider Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”; or Jesus’ command for us to love one another, for “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).

It’s not just children who need a village, it’s all of us. In Jesus’ church, we are a family. So, let’s seek to live like one. 

This is an edited form of a talk from the Mothers’ Union Sydney conference in March. Jocelyn Loane’s book, Motherhood, will be published by Matthias Media in October.