Growing an Oikos: Getting the Balance Right
One of the questions many of us have as we consider how to establish and grow Missional Communities is how do we make it both attractive and manageable for those who join us? How do we develop our Missional Communities in such a way that they become an integral part of life rather than just another activity to fit into the diary? How do we grow an Oikos – a family on mission.
It is essential to keep things simple. If we make things too complicated people will find it difficult to commit. They are also likely to see it as an activity rather than an integral part of life. So how do we create something that is lightweight, attractive and leads to the establishment of rhythms that transforms us from a group of people who meet for some interesting activities into a Family on Mission?
Something to be
We need to be clear as to what we are seeking to achieve. Each aspect of ‘A Family On Mission’ is important. We are seeking to establish a ‘Family’. But not just a family, one that is ‘On Mission’ together. We can put in place the structure of missional communities, the structure of discipleship and mission. However if we are to become that family on mission we need to move beyond the structure and framework to create the texture. A family isn’t just a structure it has a texture, a feel. Without it it is just a mechanism.
We want to ensure that our Missional Communities have a proper balance of the three dimensional life. The UP of our relationship with the Father, the IN of our relationship with our community – our family, and the OUT of our call to be on mission to do as Jesus did and commanded us. At first sight this can seem rather daunting and make us wonder how do we manage all of this without reinforcing the view that Missional Communities are events to put in the diary requiring lots of organisation and planned activity. However if instead of looking at this as something to do we look at it as something to be it becomes much more possible.
Keep it normal
In the post Gareth wrote at the beginning of June he sets out how they began by inviting people to join in with some normal activities. Activities that families do.
Making the things that we do lightweight will enable us to sustain them more easily. One of the things that we have learned is that meal times are a good way of beginning. The key though is not to invite people to join you so that you entertain them. You are not hosting a dinner party, you are having your family around for a meal. Inviting people to join in with your regular pattern is a great way to begin the process of creating Oikos. This begins to move us from just doing things together to being together.
One of the Missional Communities we experienced developed their rhythms in a way that reflected the principles of being lightweight and multipliable. When they first began to meet they were quite organised and structured but as they matured as a community they began to see that they needed a more sustainable way of doing things. As they met on a Sunday morning they decided that rather than each of them having breakfast at their own homes they would come together and share breakfast. Everyone brought something to share and it was fun and family. It worked for everyone, families with children, couples without children and single people.
Over this breakfast time they very naturally began to develop a closer relationship with one another. Joys, sorrows, needs etc were shared and everyone was supported and cared for. The leaders of the community then recognised that just as they did at home they needed to bring these joys, sorrows and needs to the Father so they introduced a time for sharing in this way. So naturally we saw this group move from being a collection of individuals into a community that went on to be a family. They began to meet in similar ways not just on a Sunday but on other days as well.
Out of these relationships then came a heightened desire to reach out to those around them who didn’t yet know Jesus. They joined together in a number of different ways to bless their local community as well as supporting one another in their various workplaces and wider contact groups. People were welcomed into the family of the Missional Community and over time a number became Christians and continued on their journey of discipleship.
The lesson for me in this is that it is important that we use and build on the things that we are already doing in our lives. We have meals – so invite people to join you. Make it natural not a fancy dinner party. Carry on with your normal rhythm. If you normally pray over a meal carry on doing that. Sharing things that we are thankful to God for is a powerful witness.
As we lead Missional Communities it is important that we develop predictable patterns. This means that the most important things are done intentionally and consistently. This brings stability to the community – the family. The rhythm of knowing what’s coming brings peace and comfort to the life of any family.
David Rosser lives in Durham with his wife Jenny. They have been involved in the development and implementation of missional communities for the past 12 years.