Been pondering recently how well Rosslyn and I allow missional priorities to shape our family life.
We’re not by character an introverted family, given to habitual introspection. Life moves too fast for that. At least, it seems to for us. We just kind of go with the flow until something comes off the rails or someone points out that we’ve not got it quite right! But every now and again we recognise that we need some healthy self examination because things could get out of hand.
One of the things that we never want to lose from our family life is that we’re a missional family. In other words we want to share Jesus’ passion and priority for those he described as ‘lost’. That’s never easy as a busy family. Perversely we find it hard as a ministry family with other things, quite rightly, expected of us; namely the teaching and training responsibilities and the sickness and sin issues that can consume so much of our capacity.
By no means is this meant to be an exhuastive list. But these are some of the things that we do in our family to make sure that our missional priorities are incorporated into family life and, we pray, understood and perhaps shared by our children.
1.Share our family activities with others
We always have Sunday lunch. We often go to the park. We sometimes indulge in a big boys breakfast at ‘the Scottish’ restaurant; McDonalds. Occasionally we’re to be found in Pizza Express. So why not do it with others? As the kids get older we may well consider the option of going on holiday with another family. If they’re non-believers that presents a wonderful opportunity to spend some relaxed, quality time interacting and perhaps talking about the big issues of life with our friends. Obviously if all our family time is consumed with ministry to other families, the kids will rightly feel ‘seen off’. That would be counteractive. We don’t want them to resent our evangelistic attempts. But we want the kids to understand that these are missionary opportunities upon which our friends may welcome the chance to chat.
2. Get the kids onside with the vision
Someone said to me the other week that they didn’t want their kids to grow up being too different from the rest of the Christians kids that they meet. This was said in connection with our proposal to consider a 4pm all age church meeting rather than meeting in the morning. I understood his point. I understand why he said it. I just don’t agree. And I’ve got a lot of time for what he says. But the more I think about it; the more I disagree! Rather than simply wanting my kids’ experience of church to conform with the norm I’d like them to grow up with clear missional priorities. I don’t want them to be different just for the sake of being different. That’s not helpful. It’s just wierd. If you go down that line you end up in home schooling! But having clear missional priorities has to be more imoprtant than being the same as everyone else, surely? For the record, I don’t think the person spoke with would deny this.
Almost every time we come away from the Factory, or from Revive, one or more of the kids says that they want to go there every week. I sympathise. I sometimes share that view! It’s not that they think that our church is rubbish; just that it’s small. When you’re a seven year old boy who loves hanging around with the bigger boys from the other churches in our network it’s perfectly understandable that you’d prefer that to a bunch of four year old girls who dress in pink and play with dollies! Rather than get depressed or pander to this kind of view we’ve used it as an opportunity to teach why we do what we do. We want them to be onside with the vision. We want the kids to understand that the gospel is worth making sacrifices for. We explain that the reason that we’re part of a small church is that we’ve started the church from scratch so that the people in Balham can hear the great news about Jesus. If we weren’t there the other churches would have to do it. And they can’t because there are just too many people to try and reach. We reassure them that God knows what we’re doing for Him. He’ll look after us and He’ll look out for us. I’d far rather they grow up in a church with a clear missional rationale that underpins everything that they do.
3. Get the kids excited by our events
We have an evangelistic programme for every group at church. We plan it that way. The Christ Church Kids’ programme is built around things like the occasional parties and the annual holiday club. And so when we’ve got something like the ‘Pumpkin Party’ coming up we talk about who they’d like to invite from their class or from their club. Then they have an opportunity to talk to their peers about it and try, get them excited and try to persuade them to come along. Obviously, we’re often the ones that have to speak to the parents. But the kids have done the hard yards. If they don’t want to do this we don’t push it. The desire to invite their friends needs to come from a desire to please Jesus and love their friends, not fulfil their parents’ expectations. I’m sure we get it wrong sometimes, but we try not to!
4. Get the kids to pray about their friends
We have ‘Bible story’ each evening. I’ll read the Bible passage and we’ll pray in response. We’ll usually have a few questions and a discussion. And then after each child can pray a ‘please’ prayer or a ‘thank you’ prayer. ‘Please’ prayers present an opportunity to pray for someone that they’d particularly like to become a follower of Jesus. Often after those occasional discussions that we have about a particular friend in their class who’s chatted to them about God, Jesus, or the Bible we’ll also pray. We also let them see who we’re praying for. They need to know that Mummy and Daddy are concerned for their friends and so talk to God about them.
5. Give the kids a missional world view
We need to help the kids realise that there are essentially two types of people in the world; those that follow Jesus as Lord and those that don’t. We’ve also begun to talk about what it means eternally if people don’t follow Jesus. Obviously we need to be careful about how we communicate that and explain it to them. We’re especially aware that the kids talk to their friends in the playground and that they’re unlikely to do so with the sensitivity and care with which we try to address these issues! We’ve tended to use the language of ‘confusion’ to explain why our friends aren’t Christians. We say that they’re confused about who Jesus is and that it’s our responsibility, privilege and joy to explain things more clearly. I think that helps preserve our differences, explain that the difference of opinion does matter but to do so without being disrespectful of their views.
I’m sure there are other things that we could do, should do and would do if we’d thought of them. Perhaps those of a more introverted bent or missional inclination can pass on a few tips.