Life Is the Curriculum

When you think about the families in your congregation, what do you hope they can become? If you consider their “floor,” what is their “ceiling”?

Consider the curious case of “Bandit and Chilli Heeler” (above), the dog-parents on the international hit kids show Bluey. Their floor is already the ceiling for most parents—they creatively pivot into whatever their kids are up to, as if they’ve taken a masterclass in “Yes, and…” improv. They capitalize on every unplanned moment to form their kids, and they are equal parts insightful and hilarious and sentimental.

For a lot of real-life parents, Bandit and Chilli are a little too great in their parenting. One post-er on Vulturesaid the show “creates envy and longing and a touch of shame. It often leaves me feeling as though I come up short.” To be fair, the storylines in the show include Bandit and Chilli pushing through their flaws for the sake of their kids. But sometimes our pristine examples of parenting, where failure takes a back seat, make it difficult for ordinary parents to open themselves to learn.

The Comparison Meat-Grinder

As ministry leaders, we all know what it’s like to have our best efforts evaluated in comparison to perfection. People are paying attention to what we say, but they’re also scrutinizing how we live. Do we honor or mistreat others? Work hard or slip out early? Speak graciously or come off judgy? Ministry is not a compartmentalized job—where parts of the day are “for God” and other parts are “for me.” We’re guiding people toward Jesus while they simultaneously look for evidence that Jesus is guiding us. Embracing this reality makes us dependent and humble—and invites a kind of desperate integrity.

If we maintain our attachment to Jesus in all things, we can more vulnerably reveal our failures in some things. When we do, we model a way of life that makes our everyday life the curriculum—just as it is for parents. They under strikingly similar tensions. When they’re barely holding it together, someone wants to be held. When they have no energy, someone wants to play. Who they are in these moments, and how they live out the presence of Jesus in their home, is their most powerful curriculum.

The 5-Percenters

Perhaps we can offer them something more than Bandit and Chilli offer the can’t-match-that parents who harbor private shame over their own imperfect record of parenting. They don’t need more biblical “shoulds.” Already beaten down by life, one more “should” is just another burden, the kind that Jesus blasted the Pharisees for “tying onto the backs” of people. God doesn’t require them to do the right thing 100 percent of the time—when they have 0 percent to give but give 5 percent anyway, the heavens delight. How do we know? This is exactly what Jesus celebrated in the poor widow who offered her only two copper coins—she had next to nothing, but she gave it all.

When parents give what they have to give, dependent on Jesus to help them pass on their faith formation in the messy realities of life, then their life is their kids’ most powerful curriculum. How can we help?

• Offer kindness, love, and support to imperfect parents – Put your arm around them, smile, reassure, and then remind them they are not alone. Jesus is present and ready to prompt and guide and help them endure. He will not leave or forsake them, and your intentional presence reminds them of that promise.

• Celebrate their 5 percent – Grow into a Christian community that tells great stories of transformation and grace. Spotlight the all-in 5 percenters in your congregation—people who have little to give but give it fully. Make vulnerability and longing a staple in your menu, not a seasonal special.

When you think about the families in your congregation, what do you hope they can become? If you consider their “floor,” what is their “ceiling”?

If you would like help as you explore what it means to come alongside parents and families as you lean into listening, reach to connect with a Vibrant Faith Ministry Leadership Coach. Just CLICK HERE for more information. Coaching is an intentional process that moves you forward into the future you long for.  

Tony Myles is a multi-faceted ministry veteran, conference speaker
, and author with a passion for all people and the future of the church. He has a Master’s Degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. And he’s
been trained as a Coach through Vibrant Faith’s ICFcertified program.




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