ABCs of UP, IN, OUT: IN
This is the last in a 3-part series designed to help your Missional Community have a good balance of UP (focus on relationship with God), IN (focus on relationships with each other) and OUT (focus on bringing good news to others). Read the first part on UP here and the second on OUT here. We hope you find it helpful – feel free to ask questions or make other suggestions in the comments!
Some communities find the IN dimension the easiest element to get hold of – after all, we tend to be nice people don’t we and we generally like spending time with each other? However there is a difference between hanging out and being friends and having a genuine sense of sacrificial community where we are preferring each other, giving of ourselves to each other and inviting others to be a part of that.
One of the dangers it’s easy to fall into is becoming a clique – where we would much rather spend time with each other hanging out and having fun, and we forget the other two elements of UP and OUT. Studies have shown that we actually create a much greater sense of community, of ‘in-it-together-ness’ when we look outside of ourselves, our own needs and desires and come together around something bigger than ourselves.
For some communities however the IN can feel more difficult. In our experience if people don’t already know each other that well it has usually taken at least a year of gathering around a missional vision, of spending time together, to get that lovely sense of being family. It can take time to cultivate, but it’s worth the investment.
So, some tips on how to cultivate a good healthy sense of IN, whether it feels easy to come by or not.
* Eat together. Yes you’ve probably heard and read that a lot on this blog and elsewhere, but there really is nothing else that brings people together quite like food, where people can relax and let down their guard a little. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, well-prepared or home-made. Keep it simple & get everyone to contribute according to their means. There are lots of ways you can do it – picnics, BBQs, bring and share meals, meeting in a supermarket cafe, puddings, drinks out, fondu parties, chocolate tasting, a huge pot of pasta or jacket potatoes on the table and people bringing toppings, hot dogs and whatever else you can come up with! If needs be get paper plates and cups to keep tidying up manageable.
* Spend time together having fun. Creating memories by playing silly games or doing something a bit different to normal life will help to build a sense of community together.
* Celebrate well. Don’t forget to encourage each other and build each other up by celebrating life events – such as birthdays, weddings, engagements, kids starting school, holiday time, new jobs and houses etc etc. Sometimes it can be fun to invent silly reasons to celebrate!
* Help each other when it really matters. Not many of us are good at asking for help. Sometimes we need to move beyond the ‘let me know if you need anything’ offer and just take the initiative to offer specific help, such as a meal, babysitting, a lift somewhere, or just company. It can often feel sacrificial to help each other out – it is. But putting the effort in to doing it, especially in times of crisis, but sometimes just because, is an investment really worth making into the culture of your community.
* Take risks together. Sometimes the best way to grow in relationship with each other is to do something that feels risky and a bit beyond our comfort zones. It naturally causes us to have to depend on each other a bit more, which is a good thing.
* Pray together. Or for each other when apart. At our breakfast table we often pray short prayers for others in our MC we know are facing something in particular.
There are countless other ways you can invest in your IN life as an MC – think about what will work in your context. Very often engaging in the UP and OUT together strengthens the IN as you go, but sometimes it’s good to just spend time together having fun as well.
Helen Askew lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire along with her two young children and husband Ben who is ordained in the Church of England as a Pioneer Curate. She has been part of and led Missional Communities for over 13 years and works for Kairos Network Church as the Network and Communities Developer.