As my children have transitioned into different stages of maturity it’s becoming more and more obvious to me that every stage has its own triumphs and challenges. There is the baby stage where as a parent you do just about everything for them. There is toddler hood when they are running around bumping into just about everything. There are adolescents and the teen years when their emotions run wild, they are convinced they are taking on the world, and no matter what you say in their minds at first it seems wrong.
These stages of development seem so obvious to us as parents in the natural but are often forgotten when we are dealing with people and their spiritual growth. When new believers in the Lord come in, and act like infants by crying a lot, making a lot of fuss, constantly needing a little more care than most; are we giving them the care they need or ignoring them praying that they figure it out on their own? We wouldn’t think about doing that to an infant in the physical, but then what is so common for people to do that on spiritual terms. When they are babes in the Lord, we need to recognize that and treat them a little more tact and care. Pastors and leaders, this goes right on up through the teen years too. I remember one time period in my life where I treated a pastor as less than ideal. I am forever grateful that this man of God was not moved by my teenage ‘I know everything’ syndrome. This man and wife saw my teen angst and emotions for what they were, prayed me through them, and helped guide me towards maturity. They did this even when I was less than loveable. They didn’t get offended, but helped parent me through it.
Pastors and leaders, here are some things we must remember:
- When one of your people is acting immature, see past all of that and spiritually parent them. Some of the loudest most rebellious teenagers turn into radical on-fire adults that are ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking enough to change the world for God.
- Do not make people co-dependent on you. Spiritual maturity just like physical maturity needs to happen. When they are babies recognise this and treat them with a little more care, but as they grow also recognise this as well. The Bible says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinth 13:11 esv) I heard a quote once about parenting that said, “From the moment your child is born you must teach them to one day be competent without you. But it’s a process that happens little by little.” Legacies are created by nurturing sons and daughters, and empowering them to run their races.
- Sometimes a toddler can run and put on momma’s high heels and think that their ready to wear them, but that doesn’t mean they are. Shoes that don’t fit can make a person fall. Appointing people to leadership positions before they have matured enough to step into them can hurt the person and the people around them. Sometimes God will raise them to the occasion and sometimes the outcome can get ugly. Discern before putting people in positions, and don’t just appoint people because they are there.
- When someone reacts poorly about a situation (especially on social media), before you get in the flesh, stop and pray. We must in the church learn not to cannibalize each other and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and how to handle each situation.
In Ephesians 4, God gives the 5 fold ministry the job of equipping the saints, so that those saints can run their races. Parenting and equipping are very similar in their definitions. As Pastors and leaders we must remember that sometimes children/church folk do not act ideal. We must nurture and discern with wisdom how to empower others to run their race. May we all recognize that we are all maturing, and may we be an encouraging voice challenging and inspiring those people God brought into our circles to keep moving forward.
Anna M. Aquino is a published author, guest minister and prophetic voice. Her books: Cursing the Church or Helping It? Exposing the spirit of Balaam, Confessions of a Ninja Mom, An Ember In Time and A Marriage In Time are available wherever books are sold. Please feel free to check out her website at annamaquino.com