Our house has an open-door policy. If you're a friend of my child, then you are welcome here. However, once you cross the threshold of our house, I will treat you just like I treat my own children. I will expect you to obey the rules of our house and to treat others with respect. I'm not afraid to sit you in a chair for five minutes or take away whatever toy you were arguing over. I might even impart some Godly wisdom to you. We've never had a friend not want to come back.
You see, I view my kids and their friends as my mission field. Right now, God has not called me to serve him full time in the heart of Africa or the wilds of the Amazon. He has given me two children who are my primary mission field. Whatever friends they bring into our lives become a part of my mission field as well. My prayer is that you would view your kids and their friends as your mission field as well.
Make your home a welcoming place for your kids to bring their friends and let them bring them over frequently. When your kids ask if someone can come over on the spur of the moment, don't worry about whether your house is spotless or if you have enough food to feed everyone. If you have nothing else planned, say yes. I guarantee your kids will be happy with a bag of popcorn and a hot dog shared with their friends. My house is rarely spotless, but I've never had a kid say to me, "Wow, your house is a mess." They're usually just busy making it messier.
By making your house a comfortable place for your kids and their friends, you create relationships with the people who have influence in your children's lives. As your kids get older, they become more and more interested in what their peers think. If you have those kids in your home all the time, then those kids know where you stand on important topics.
Some of your kids' friends are hungry for an adult to be interested in them. You may be the only person in their lives who can teach them about Jesus. Take advantage of the opportunity to create relationships with your children's friends. You may turn out to be a huge influence on their lives.
Matthew 19:14 says "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' " We want our homes to be so welcoming to our kids and their friends that we help draw these "little children" to Jesus. Here are five simple ways to have an impact on your kids and their friends:
- Encourage your children to invite their friends over. Make time in your schedule for that to happen. When you go on some of your outings, encourage your kids to invite a friend along. You can learn a lot about your kids' friends when you take them somewhere with you.
- Always keep some kid-friendly food on hand. Our house always has a package of hot dogs and a box of macaroni and cheese in it. I know that if I have extra mouths to feed unexpectedly, nearly every child will eat a hot dog and mac and cheese.
- Create relationships with your kids' friends. Get to know what they like and don't like. Ask them about their activities and interests. Listen when they talk to you. Every child needs adults outside his own family that he can trust. You can be that person for some of your children's friends.
- Don't change the way you interact with your kids when they have friends over. If you would normally intervene in a situation and offer some sage advice, do it even if your kids' friends are there. I've been known to break up an exchange of less-than-desireable words between my kids and their friends with a tube of toothpaste and an object lesson about how we can't put our words back in our mouths just like we can't put toothpaste back in the tube. It's important for your kids' friends to see what you believe and how that impacts your family.
- Occasionally plan a special activity for when a friend is over. It can be something simple like making cookies or giving the kids big pieces of posterboard and letting them each draw part of a huge picture. Then hang the posterboard all over your wall. Make time spent at your house memorable, so your kids' friends will want to come back.
Whatever you choose to do, go out of your way to be an influence for Christ on your kids and their friends. There's an old song that says "you're the only Jesus some will ever see, you're the only words of life some will ever read." Invest some time and energy in being the hands and feet of Jesus to the precious children that come through your front door.