Following on from my previous post about the family-like nature of the Japanese church I decided I would try to give a concrete example of what I think this would look like if we put it into practice in the UK.
So here’s the issue I want to talk about: babysitting.
And here’s my beef: I want to be your brother, not your babysitter.
(NB: This is really aimed just at Christians, but I think it could apply to anyone really. I mean you don’t have to be a Christian to treat your friends like family, just if you are a Christian then I think you don’t get the choice!)
Now, before I start: you might be thinking this is just the angry rant of a man who hates children. You would be wrong. This is the angry rant of a man who loves children. (And I will try to keep the ranting to a minimum.)
And my rant is really this: being treated as a babysitter means that I don’t get to spend much time with your kids.
Now of course there are exceptions, but many Christians whom I have babysat for have essentially treated me like a baby monitor with a bladder. They show me the toilet, assure me the children are asleep, tell me to phone if I need anything, and invite me to raid their fridge.
Now I don’t really consider this wrong, or even rude. If I was your babysitter this is what I’d expect. But as I mentioned, I want to be your brother, not your babysitter.
And the weird thing is, you’re already not treating me like a babysitter in that you don’t pay me. But no, this is not about money. I don’t want to be paid. I want you to follow through the logic you’ve started. What? Yup, check it out:
Why don’t you pay me to babysit for you? It’s because as a fellow Christian you feel that you can ask a favour of me. In other words, you are treating me not like an employee, but like a friend, or you could even say, a brother.
So if I am your brother (meaning you don’t have to pay me to babysit) why not be consistent in treating me like that? I.e. Spend time with me. Invite me over for dinner (maybe even on a night when you don’t need a babysitter). I know dinner time with children is messy: I don’t care! I love family mealtimes. I telling bedtime stories. I love all of the uncley stuff. OK, maybe not changing a toxic nappy, but come on! nobody likes that part.
Now I don’t blame you for thinking that maybe I’d prefer to spend my evenings hanging out with friends at the pub, or that my perfect weekend involves being foot-loose-and-fancy-free. I have gathered that children makes those things incredibly difficult, and maybe you dream of evenings without the kids. Hence why you get folk in to look after them.
But, look: yes, I’m single. But I’m also 29. So please don’t lump me in the ’single’ category and assume that I want to spend all my time doing what you did before you had kids – especially if that was when you were 21. I don’t. And I’m not single by choice. Well I am, but not because… you know what, let’s save that for another day.
Anywho, one of my favourite memories from my 3 years in London was the day that a friend invited me to go to the London aquarium with his family. Admittedly this is partly just because I love aquariums (who’s with me?). But it’s also because I really felt like part of their family.
My sister has 2 sons. And if the only time she invited me over was to guard the baby monitor whilst they slept you would be right in thinking that our relationship as siblings was messed up. Why should it be different with brothers and sisters in Christ?
If you’re single, do you agree? Have you had similar experiences?
If you’re married, do you agree? Am I being too harsh? How can I, as a single dude, better treat you like a brother or sister in Christ?
What other ways do you think the truth of church-as-family should be worked out in real life?