As you may have already noticed, our world is increasingly urban. The percentage of people in the world that live in urban areas has been steadily increasing—today it’s about 54% of all people. That percentage could be anywhere from 66% to 80% by 2050. By some estimates, everyone who is a part of Vintage Church is living in an urban environment (even you River Ridge folks). Most of us, however, did not grow up in a city. How then do we raise our children in this foreign environment? Let’s begin the conversation through this blog series.
There has been a long tradition throughout history of anti-urbanism, or the feeling that urban life is somehow bad, or not as good as rural life. In America, this sentiment peaked after WWII when cities were seen as hotbeds of crime and unsavory lifestyle. Oddly enough, this perception did become a reality when many of those in power who could have helped make cities better decided to leave, but I digress. This type of anti-urban prejudice has seeped into our minds and must be stopped. Cities are neither bad nor good, but simply filled with people. They may be hotbeds for sin because humans sin, but where else could you find more image-bearers of God? Thus, they also hold potential for great beauty.
Look at the statistics above. How many people do you think will live in cities when your child is 25? 40? 80? Odds are they will never live in a rural or even suburban environment. We must begin now to reverse this idea that the city is evil and instead give our kids the proper worldview to become beacons of life and hope in the city. Here are some common thoughts that you can redeem in dealing with your child’s perception of the city.
Please Talk to Strangers
The “don’t talk to strangers” mantra is not even possible in a city like New Orleans. A child at Mardi Gras is everyone’s friend. Yes, you have to guard your children against those who would do them harm, but this should be done through education and vigilance rather than withdrawal. Set clear boundaries for your children. For instance, under no circumstances should they go anywhere with someone without consulting you, but they should expect to be courteous and friendly to anyone they meet. I often wonder how much better I would be at sharing my own faith with strangers if I had been taught to love them, rather than fear them.
Family is a Loose Term
A child may see their grandparents three times a year, but they will see their neighbors every day. It is so important to generate community in the city and not become locked inside your own house all the time. This does not come from rejecting those great family bonds but rather by adding to them. How about Auntie Sarah, their vKids leader? Howsabout crazy cousin Matt in their community group? Or wise old grandpa Dustin, their equipping pastor? If it takes a village to raise a child, imagine how great the child will turn out in a city.
City is Where the Heart is
Teach your child to love the city by engaging, rather than criticizing, its weaknesses and celebrating its strengths. This is done best through modeling. Don’t complain about the dirty park across the street, take your kids out and pick up the trash. Keeping a place that you care about clean should not just apply to their bedroom.
Stay tuned for blogs two and three…