My husband and I recently began a small group on parenting. We are far from being experts on the subject, but we are finding that we are not alone in our struggles. What we are discovering is that raising healthy children is all about relationship, whether the child is a baby or ready to leave home. Relationship is a need humans never outgrow. We are also being challenged to compare and contrast the effects of restricting, or grounding, our children for disobedience versus investing time and energy into building healthy relationships with them.
During our first meeting, one woman made a simple statement that had a profound effect on me. She said, "I don't go to church, but I am grounded in my religion." In light of what we were discussing—'grounding' versus relationship—I wondered if I am 'grounded' in the rules and roles of family, friends, and God, or if I am truly in relationship with those I love. I had to admit, I am more often 'grounded'.
For the next four weeks, consider encouraging your small group members to nurture relationship. Ask each person to commit to saying "no" to being 'grounded' (in routine activities) and "yes" to being actively engaged in relationships. Communicate objectives for this challenge. For example:
- Each person should set three relationship goals for each week and write them down.
- Spend x amount of time with son/daughter, brother/sister, mom/dad, friend, neighbor, etc.
- Plan activities that encourage talking, not just doing.
- Say "no" to one activity during the week that does not encourage relationship (TV show, computer games, etc.)
- Each person should journal about their relationship experiences and share the results with the group.
- Keep a daily or weekly journal.
- Share highs and lows of relationship attempts.
- Each person should help evaluate progress towards individual goals and encourage one another in the process.
- Allow for sharing time in your small group meeting.
- After each person shares, model encouragement by pointing out the positive aspects of each story.
- Model constructive criticism that encourages and does not defeat.
At the end of the four weeks, set aside an entire meeting to discuss this relationship challenge. Ask for prayer requests, and pray for each one immediately. Encourage one another to continue saying "no" to being grounded and "yes" to being in healthy relationship.
Small group leaders, encourage your group members to:
- Buy and deliver a specialty coffee to a friend the next time they buy one for themselves.
- Give a coupon to a family member that says, "Good for one opportunity to tell me anything. I promise to listen."
- Exchange an item with a spouse, child, or friend (keychain, bracelet, coffee mug, etc.) for a week and pray for them each time you see or handle the item.