Sustaining a Life of Community
Community. Extended Family. Oikos. Family on Mission.
If you’ve been around this movement for any length of time the chances are you’ve heard or read about these kind of words and how what we’re aiming to create in our missional communities is a close sense of being family together, of being a family on mission, of being like extended family to each other. Often the church in Acts is looked upon as a good model of what this could look like. We talk about how missional communities are a vehicle to help create an extended family on mission, not the end in itself. There have been lots of really helpful resources written already on this and this blog post could have been a few more top tips on how to set good predictable patterns, look to invite others into what I’m already doing and find ways to serve others.
Just yesterday however I was thinking to myself how hard I still find creating and leading this, and having been at it for a number of years I was kind of berating myself for just not getting as close to ‘proper’ oikos in my MC as I’d like, how it seems to just take a long time and often I don’t feel very good at it.
I’m certain there are things I could do better or different ways to approach it that might lead to greater ‘success’ in this area. But right now that all feels like striving, like I’m trying to move towards a goal and a tick list for ‘creating heatlhy community’, all whilst trying to get a good rhythm of life for myself, my family etc etc.
I’m also challenged on where I personally try to self-protect by putting in boundaries that I feel comfortable with and then basically feel resentful if those boundaries are crossed by others. The Father has gently been challenging me to trust the Holy Spirit’s leading in how I spend my time and trusting him for the rest and space I need and my family needs.
Two things have helped me this past couple of weeks in working through these feelings.
The first one was my husband saying ‘It’s OK!’ It’s OK that it takes time, it’s ok that it feels like hard work. It’s OK to not have the perfect ‘oikos’ in place (does such a thing even exist?) It’s messy, it’s one little step towards it at a time. It’s OK.
The second came from a Caesar Kalinowksi workshop I was at last week on Gospel, Community and Mission. He did some Q&A, and several people asked questions around how to build a good oikos. His answer to many of the questions started with ‘how would a family do it?’ So a great starting point for questions like ‘how do you pray together?’, ‘how do you celebrate together?’, ‘how do you rest together?’ is to start by thinking about how a nuclear or biological extended family might approach the same question and go from there.
Both of these things feel like a bit of grace to me. Instead of trying to fix the problem or work harder to create something I feel I ought to be better at, there’s grace! There’s grace to trust God, there’s grace to take time, there’s grace to get it wrong, there’s grace upon grace. Creating oikos is not supposed to be a tick list or achievement, it’s supposed to be fun!
So if like me you’re feeling a bit frustrated and discouraged about your ability to create and sustain community life around your own household or MC then cheer up! There’s grace, it’s OK, trust God with it. I know I often forget to pray about this and just try to fix it by putting in effort. For now I’m going to pray, and trust God and look for what He will do – after all He’s much better at this than me anyway!
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 around 15 years and works for Kairos Network Church as the Network and Communities Developer.