As a mom of three little boys, playdates are part of our regular rhythm of life. My kids love playing with their friends, and I should love fellowshipping with other Christian moms, right? But to be honest, playdates often leave me discouraged. I go into a date longing for Christian community, but walk out feeling like it was no different from time spent with nonbelieving friends.
I recently shared my feelings with a few other moms (ironically at a playdate), and I was surprised to learn that they feel the same way. How is it that we — a group of moms who love Jesus — can gather for two hours and talk about nothing more than diapers and diets?
We decided then and there that it’s time for our playdates to be seasoned with the gospel. How do we practically achieve that? Moms, here are six ways we can redeem our playdates.
1. Practice humble hospitality.
Playdates give us an opportunity to welcome others in the joy of the Lord. God’s word tells us to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Remember, little ears are always listening. Do your children hear you complaining about the state of your house, or do they hear you eagerly anticipating fellowship with friends?
A tidy, beautiful home can help foster fellowship, but it is by no means a prerequisite. Go ahead and clean your house, but let the lingering crumbs and fingerprints communicate humility and camaraderie, as if to say, “I’m in the trenches, too.”
Greet your sisters, nephews, and nieces in Christ with holy affection like you would your own family (2 Corinthians 13:12). Create a context for redeemed playdates by showing humble hospitality.
2. Use playdates as a spiritual training ground for your kids.
The Christian playdate should be a safe and grace-filled training ground for our kids as we seek to train them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). If your child hits another child, privately instruct him in confession and repentance. If yours is the one with the bump on his head, comfort him and help him extend forgiveness to his friend (Luke 17:3-4). Lean on and encourage each other as you seek to raise children who will love the Lord.
3. Choose your words wisely.
One of the marks of female Christian fellowship should be wholesome, edifying conversation. When we get together with other women, we have to be ever so careful to “let no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
While women of the world may complain about their husbands or dish dirt on their neighbors, Christ-following women are called to a higher and holy standard. This doesn’t mean we can’t share our struggles with one another. If you are struggling, by all means, speak up! But check the motives of your heart — are you venting to make yourself feel good or sharing with the expectation of being encouraged (and possibly rebuked) by your sisters in gospel love?
Instead of tearing others down with your words, build each other up with Spirit-filled encouragement. Share what you have been reading in the Bible or what God has been teaching you about himself. You might even praise a child for her kindness, or tell your friend how you admire the way she handled a difficult situation. Speak words of life and point each other to Christ.
4. Look and listen.
Look for opportunities to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13). Hold another mom’s baby, help a mom of three get her kids into the car, or bring a meal to the mom whose husband is away.
Listen well. Ask God to give you ears to hear your friend’s heart. Make sure you have really listened before offering any encouragement or counsel, and if you can, offer to talk in greater depth outside of the playdate (Proverbs 18:13).
5. Pray while you play.
Pray with and for one another. If your kids are still tiny and immobile, pray over them while they crawl around. If they’re a bit older, invite them to pray before snack time by taking turns praising God. Pray a silent prayer for the mom who is in the midst of disciplining her child. Pause and pray with your own child who is struggling to obey. Ask how you can pray for your friends during the week.
Teach your kids that we can pray even while we play!
6. Invite others in.
Jesus loves children and their mothers, and desires for them to know and love him too. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them,” he says, “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
The way to a mom’s heart is often through her children. Invite your child’s nonbelieving friends and their moms to your playdates so they can experience genuine gospel community and the love of Jesus firsthand. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Moms, it’s time to redeem the playdate. God has so much more in store for us in our fellowship than just keeping our kids busy until nap time. John Newton once wrote, “May Christ be our theme in the pulpit and in the parlor.” With God’s help, let’s covenant to make Christ the theme in our playdates — inviting him into our homes as we gather and play for his glory.