We moved to Raleigh-Durham in January of 2011. Two years prior we had moved from one side of Augusta, GA to the other (we weren’t expecting to relocate from our ministry position there). The result would be that my then seven and four year old boys would live in four homes and two cities in the course of three years.
Other than our outdoor-loving child being depressed by a cramped apartment in winter, the boys adapted well. Their school performance remained constant, there were not significant regressions in their developmental markers, and they continued to bond decently well with friends.
But I noticed that they talked about moving frequently. Their expectation was that we would move annually. That was now normal to them. They daydreamed about where they wanted to live next and why. They compared what they knew (Georgia) with what they didn’t know (North Carolina).
As parents, my wife and I realized that we needed to help our boys plant roots in Raleigh-Durham. As far as we can know, God’s will is that this will be “home” for them. But their life experience didn’t confirm this reality. We believed this was an important part of their discipleship because it was an important part of their sense of identity – where are you from?
The problem was its hard to do a Bible study at an early-elementary level on a “theology of place” as it relates to your personal identity. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I want to tackle that subject at the graduate level.
But living missionally is largely contingent upon having a sense of belonging to the place that you live. I don’t know many effective missionaries or pastors who do not have a deep sense of belonging to the place they live.
So what did we do? We brainstormed a way to help our boys bond with our city. What was our answer? Chili cheese dog adventures. My oldest son loves them and my youngest son idolizes his brother. So we pitched the idea and they loved it.
From there it was simple. We did an on-line search for all the hotdog joints in RDU. Now whenever we have a free afternoon, we hit one (pictures available on Facebook). Now my boys frequently ask, “Papa, when can we go on another chili cheese dog adventure?” It makes for great conversations.
My hope for these adventures would be:
- My boys bond with our city and begin to feel at home in a new place.
- My relationship with my boys is strengthened as we have another set of memories together.
- My boys will have a positive experience of their family following God’s lead.
What is the take away from this blog? It’s not that every father should take his children on a highly unhealthy food adventure. The point is that discipleship is rooted in relationship. In this case, my boys were beginning to see every relationship except our core family as transient. We could also hear hints of the belief that following God creates more loss than gain.
In this case, I believe the best way to disciple my boys was with something like our “Chili Cheese Dog Adventures.” They weren’t having an intellectual struggle. They were having an emotional-relational struggle. Until I helped them bond with this city, little that I shared about following God’s lead to RDU would impact them in a positive way.
So the take away questions would be – What are the challenges that your children are facing? What are the best ways to set up the truths they need to learn about who God is and how they should live to glorify Him? Be creative and remember that discipleship is rooted in relationship, so develop your relationship with them in a way that prepares the way for your discipleship efforts.