I recently wrote about how my primary application for furthering the gospel would take place in the home. God has given me, it seems, a little mission field in our neighborhood that goes beyond my four children. There are an uncanny number of boys in this neighborhood. They all happen to have a passion for playing football. Our yard happens to be the best suited for football. Because of this, there are many days when I have a group of boys ranging from 9 years old to about 13 in my yard tackling each other. My boys, who happen to love football, make up a good sized chunk of this group. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so.
This is new territory for us. Until now, my boys rarely interacted with the neighborhood kids. The two year old girl next door hardly held their interest, and the two kids across the street rarely came outside. I admit, I have been grateful to not have to deal with unbelievers and their potential harmful influence on my children. But when we came to Ohio we did it for the sake of the gospel, and Jason and I agree that this includes the opportunities he provides with families in our neighborhood.
So far, we are navigating our approach to the neighborhood kids very slowly, deliberately, cautiously. I’d love to get your feedback on what I’m about to write. Here are a few thoughts on our attempt to reach the lost boys.
1. Strength in numbers. Our boys aren’t allowed to go outside alone. They have to stick together. We find that this is the best form of accountability for them. If one of them acts in a way that is unbecoming to the gospel, the other two let me know. If one of them is trying to be cool to fit in, the other two let us know. If one of them is a poor sport, the other two let us know. Between the three of them, we get a thorough “debrief” on what happened that day playing ball.
2. On our turf. We haven’t let the boys venture out of our yard. It hasn’t become awkward yet, the fact that they aren’t ever allowed to go to their buddies’ houses, but I expect it to. I’m not really sure what the best way to address this with other parents without being offensive, but we really don’t want the boys going into other boys’ houses at this point. My main strategy is to make our house the funnest house on the block. Any ideas for how this might happen? Jason tells me to keep making chocolate chip cookies, hot cocoa, etc. I want my house to be the Kool Aid mom’s house.
3. Spy Mom. When my boys have one of the neighborhood boys over, I play the role of the spy mom. I am always within earshot to be sure that the conversation doesn’t go to inappropriate topics. Also, if the boys stop playing football and are standing around chatting I make my presence known in some way. Gotta love boys though, they aren’t generally chit chatting, they are pummeling each other into the ground. Much easier to deal with in my opinion.
4. The Mouth. I have a “mouth” in the family. You know this kid. He’s the one who gets the most spankings because what he thinks comes straight out of his mouth. But the same “mouth” has no trouble asking each boy if they are a Christian and getting the general down-low. The very first football game Mouth discovered (between plays): one boy was a Christian, and believed that Jesus died on the cross for his sins but doesn’t go to church; that same boy’s mom is a Christian, but his dad is in a band that sings songs with cuss words in it; one boy’s parents are divorced and he is only here during the week and every other weekend; one boy is Muslim and doesn’t care if his words please God or not; etc. My Mouth has no problem sharing the gospel with his friends, inviting them to church, informing the boys of language not allowed in our yard (usually it’s taking the Lord’s name in vain), telling me exactly what went down on the ball field. There was one time when he came to dinner and announced, “Gay doesn’t always mean happy, does it, Mom? And queer doesn’t always mean odd.” (I always told him gay meant happy; queer meant odd). Well, one of the lost boys told my little guys that gay means when a man loves a man instead of a woman, and queer means gay. This was scary at first. I had feared moments like this, but honestly the fact that Mouth and his brothers felt perfectly comfortable telling us about it was a good thing and Jason was able to walk all of the boys through it. Gotta love Mouth. I don’t think we could do this without him.
5. Reminding my boys of their commission. I try to make a point to tell the boys every time they go outside that they are representing Christ. Jason and I have discussions with them explaining that these neighborhood boys do not have the grace in their lives to be genuinely kind, humble in sportsmanship, etc. We remind them that they (our sons) are sinners too, but they have a Savior who forgives them and grants them grace to obey Him and honor Him. We are finding that their tendency so far is not so much to be tempted to act worldly, it is more to be self-righteous, so that influences how we talk about poor sportsmanship that permeates the football field.
6. Fresh Commitment to Adorn the Gospel through biblical womanhood. It is so easy to forget that my pursuit of biblical womanhood particularly in response to Titus 2, is to put the gospel on display for any unbelievers with whom I may come in contact. So pursing biblical womanhood is my primary strategy to “witness” to these lost boys. I want them to see something different at my house: the affect of the gospel on a Mom saved by grace. I am hoping that these lost boys are an inroad for me to befriend their mothers. I am re-reading Feminine Appeal for inspiration. I found a quote today humbling and inspiring:
Can you conceive of anything that sets forth the beauty of the gospel jewel more brilliantly than the godly behavior of those who have received it? Consider the loveliness of a woman who passionately adores her husband, who tenderly cherishes her children, who creates a warm and peaceful home, who exemplifies purity, self-control, and kindness in her character and who gladly submits to her husband’s leadership – for all the days God grants her life. I dare say there are few things that display the gospel jewel with greater elegance. This is true feminine appeal. – Carolyn Mahaney, pg. 21 (from Feminine Appeal)
So far, we had one little boy spend the night last week so that he could come to church with us. He wants to keep coming to church. Another boy, the first boy’s cousin, also wants to come to church. Please pray for us and pray for these little boys. We know that bad company corrupts good morals, and our children’s well-being is our first concern. We also want the boys primary relationships to always be with other believers, particularly from our church. But we also see that God has sovereignly placed a group of little boys who are dead in their sins literally in my back yard. We are here, even our children, to proclaim the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Any thoughts?