Abiding: as a community
So far we have explored the idea of ‘abiding’ in an individual, personal context – and this certainly needs to be part of the story – but it’s not the whole story. Since we believe in a 3-dimensional lifestyle we also believe that ‘abiding’ can happen in the ‘in’ and ‘out’ dimensions as well as the ‘up’ dimension.*
So, how do you abide with others, in community?
Firstly, set aside 4-6 weeks of the year (often the school summer holidays) which is going to be ‘abiding’ time for your MC. This is a time to stop the regular meeting pattern you might have and adopt a new rhythm for this time. Abiding doesn’t necessarily mean stopping meeting altogether (although it might if that was appropriate), but rather to slow down together in fun, laughter and in a much more relaxed pace of life.
Eat together – lots! If the sun is out, BBQ or picnic with everyone bringing things to share. If it’s wet, well eat indoors! If it’s not a financial barrier to anyone, eat out. Do day trips together – explore new and familiar places together. Go to conferences or festivals together. Some Missional Communities have even been known to go on holiday together!
If you have children in your MC use this as an opportunity for them to spend more time together – especially good if they go to different schools. Book playdates in your homes, the park or elsewhere…you could even use this as an opportunity to invite other friends along. Invite those who don’t have kids to be part of this too, they and your kids will both benefit from this, and parents might appreciate some respite whilst someone else pushes them on the swing!
Look for simple opportunities to serve each other. Offer to feed people’s pets or water their plants whilst they’re on holiday. Leave a meal in their fridge for when they return. Take their kids out for the morning. Trade your glut of runner beans with their glut of tomatoes! If people can’t afford to go on holiday see if you have friends in other parts of the country who could house swop.
You don’t need to stop doing any ‘God stuff’ over the summer…why not all agree to read the same book together (biblical or other Christian) as holiday reading material, or do some informal, spontaneous prayer and worship times. Use 1 Corinthians 14:26-33. You might decide that some of you want to all want to study the same theme through the Bible over the summer and compare notes as you go. Share what God has been speaking to you personally too and encourage each other. Remember to keep it low-key.
Above all, invest in friendship with each other. Fun is an important part of that! Sowing into friendship in this time will reap rewards when time is tight and life is busy. Be spontaneous and informal as much as possible. Feel free not to meet. Get others to organise anything you are doing. Respect people’s need for rest and introvert time so don’t worry if they need ‘time off’ from other people. Don’t do anything that requires much more than 10 minutes planning! If you are a church leader, strip back all evening meetings to allow people space to ‘be’ community together and keep services shorter, more family friendly and relaxed.
Hopefully that has given you a few thoughts on how to abide together as community. Doing this will also give you an idea of how well people are operating as ‘oikos/extended family’ together, and help to build on it more.
Helen Askew lives in Deal, Kent along with her two young children and husband Ben who is training for ordination. She works for St George’s Church with responsibility for everyone under 30. They have just planted a new MC for young adults there, are working to establish youth MCs and also work with 3DM UK from time to time!
* For more on Lifeshapes go to www.weare3dm.com