This post is concerned with the particular challenges of missional living as families. In my own case, family is primarily myself, my wife, and our three children; but I think the principles apply for any family construct, including circles of close friends who are single as well as married and/or childless as well as parents.
In our opinion, FAMILY OR MISSION is a false choice, and one with potentially disastrous consequences. Just the other day, an older woman was telling me of how her father’s ‘wonderful ministry’ caused her deep hurts, through much of her life, as he placed mission over family. On the other side of the equation, we’ve known many people who have said, ‘If we didn’t have children, we’d go there/do that, but we can’t do that to them...’ If God has a mission in the world to which he calls us to join-in, opting-out is not an option. If God has given us a family – whatever that looks like – opting-out is not an option.
So then there is the FAMILY AND MISSION approach. And to be honest, that feels like trying to pour two pints into a pint bottle: much spills out and is lost, wasted. This way leads to burning out, and very often results in retreating into family, or mission, at the expense of the other.
The way that makes most sense to us, and to many of our friends, is FAMILY ON MISSION. That is, mission is something we engage in together, albeit contributing in different ways.
As we moved to a deprived neighbourhood in Liverpool, the local primary school was put into Special Measures: that is, following government inspection it was given notice to improve, or (ultimately) be closed. It was very clear that our mission as a family was to support the school on this journey. I offered to join the Board of Governors, eventually becoming Vice-Chair. Jo joined the Parents’ Forum, a means of two-way communication between the school and the parents. Our older two children modelled an engagement with learning and with teachers (You Can’t Be What You Can’t See) and our youngest child, in nursery and then reception, modelled an engagement with the wider environment that many of his peers lacked. We got stuck in, prayed, served, stood in solidarity with the head-teacher and her staff, cried with them in the hardest moments, celebrated the milestones and the eventual coming out of Special Measures and being in a good position to continue from strength to strength. And then we moved on, leaving behind friends who we miss and who we know miss us.