A proverb of many cultures proclaims, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This is not an article on political persuasion or commentary from days gone by. But, in all seriousness, how do you raise a child?

For a dozen years or more, my wife’s family, my family, and some of the extended family from both sides have gotten together on a long weekend in the spring at a family camp to just be family – together. Our collective hectic lives do not really allow for appropriate time to just be family and to be together outside of holiday gatherings with one side of the family or the other throughout the year.

Multiple sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins, brothers, sisters and extended family all gather together to hang out, catch up, visit, laugh, and simply to just be family.

Our daughter is the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family. The spring when we gathered together before her 13th birthday, my wife’s brother suggested that as a part of our Sunday family worship service, we focus the time upon her moving into her teenage years. Since we are not Jewish, you really could not call it a bat mitzvah for our daughter or niece or a bar mitzvah for the boys when it was their turn. But a special, unique, God-focused time it became nonetheless!

To see our family surrounding each child individually as they approached their teenage years, to hear the words of encouragement spoken, to hear the passages of Scripture read, and then to remind each that they are special, unique, blessed, God-gifted with a family, and very much an extended family who is there for them as they become young adults, is extraordinary! This spring it was our nephew Camden’s turn. As his father challenged him with a passage from Matthew, he reminded him of the code of chivalry for a young man to become a knight back in the Middle Ages. Together we voiced the qualities that we admired in Camden, and we gathered to pray and commission him for his teen years and ultimately adulthood. There were tears of joy, sounds of laughter, and even Silly String (but that’s another story).

The blessing of family, the influence of the village, the molding and shaping of a child – what a positive impact for society and for future generations.

I, like many of you, realize that such an experience isn’t always available to every child. But I also realize there are places like STARRY, Miracle Farm, Texas Baptist Children’s Home, and Gracewood, where there are extended families who may substitute in the roles of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles – the village people!  In the same way that biological families cheer on and encourage children for life ahead, so too do house parents, caseworkers, family life coordinators, adoptive families, administrative staff, counselors, foster families, volunteers, and the list goes on and on. We are each blessed to have the influence of the village around us. Will you be part of a child’s village? You can make a difference in the life of a child today. Children will benefit when you offer hope and give positive encouragement.

Thank you for helping to make all that we do through Children At Heart Ministries possible! As always, our websites are wonderful sources for ways that you can be involved, as well as great resources for additional information.

Todd Roberson is President and CEO of Children At Heart Ministries. He and his wife, Jill, live in the Round Rock area and have two college-age children, Lindsay and Parker.