Many of us who are now parents grew up with our extended families nearby. We might have seen aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents regularly and benefited from their loving attention. But increasingly I meet families like mine: We live far from our extended family now, and our children are growing up without a nearby network of relatives.
It is God’s desire to set "the lonely in families" (Ps. 68:6). I believe one way He does this is through small groups. That has certainly been our experience through the years, as we have watched numerous "aunts" and "uncles" give our children the pleasures of an "adoptive" extended family.
Ed and Bonnie have made it a point to treat all the children of their small-group members as nieces and nephews. Last summer as Ed and Bonnie traveled across the country in their RV, my daughters received postcards from historic sights, complete with mini-geography lessons. They show our children love, express appropriate affection, and talk with them just as extended family members might if they lived nearby.
Our single friends have also treated us as family members rather than mere church acquaintances. Michelle baby-sits for us occasionally so my husband and I can have a date night. Our single friends have taken our children to movies, museums, ballets, and restaurants. One woman camped with our girls in our backyard. Mikilana always French braids our daughters' hair when she comes over. It’s a small thing, but it communicates caring.
Cindy is a single mother. The married men in her small group began to include her two young boys in their family outings, taking them out for fast food, playing catch with them, and generally being Christian "uncles" to them.
We have found small groups to be a perfect place to build extended-family-type relationships. Do you know someone who would love to have an honorary aunt, uncle, or grandparent? What can you do today to begin to make that happen?