If you have been following my story a little you will know why the excerpt from the interview below is ver-r-r-r-r-y interesting. You might also know I am on a three month break to attempt to write a book on all things to do with children's spiritual development, outreach and mission to the young and their families and how to do this in the context of the wider church.
I'm not wanting to go back the way to recount again the past few weeks as I am feeling a fresh wave of thankfulness, gratefulness and hope for the future (after a very low low on Wednesday). I've now resolved in my mind that part of what I have been going through, in the past few posts, has been for the following reason:-
This writing project and time out to reflect and to talk to others means that IN PARTICULAR I can hone in on how younger ones, lone parents and families who I love with all of my heart might fit into and GROW into the missional church model that my church bravely entered into. What is God's Spirit saying about missional communities and families and kids/teens?
Already I have had some vivid new dreams about what this might look like. Like, what shape it would actually take to make it begin to happen, but in the dream it isn't me that's giving it shape, I'm simply facilitating, it's the people gathered together under a waterfall, a pouring out of God's Spirit who receive the details he breathed into them. It feels as if I am seeing a fresh and new perspective because I am away from it all. Is it possible that precisely when you're not IN something you can see something new?
It's important to note that the things I've experienced with missional expressions were not because they were wrong - I don't think that nor have ever thought that. Missional expressions/communities turn inward-focussed Bible study groups into groups of people who look at local needs and ask the Spirit of God to lead them deeper in what it means to do the kinds of things that Jesus would do. Therefore, once they are ablaze with the Spirit's power and living out of a deep, personal revelation of the Father's love and a solid foundation on his word, there is literally nothing they can't tackle head on!
So half-hearted meeting together for Bible study out of routine, struggling every step of the way is not what I envisage. Nor is a tight community of people of similar socio-economic backgrounds what I envisage.
Radical, Holy Spirit empowered encounters deeply engrained in simply loving the community around and watching and listening for the people God is bringing across one's path is what I really want to be part of.
I personally love looking out for the Person of Peace God puts across my path(the terminology used) as I know in my noah what that means; that one who you pray for and love to bits and look for ways to love and serve. Someone who, for that period of time, is receptive to you and the good news about Jesus. For reasons of confidentiality its best to share an example from many years ago. Someone I knew vaguely was very ill a few years ago and it became clear that she was my Person of Peace. For a long time I thought of her, prayed for her and tried to do practical things to help her as often as I could. I still miss her and think of her often.
The greatest privilege was asking if I could pray for her in hospital and seeing her full recovery some time later. The whole point of the person of peace is that we love them and serve them.
Back to the last week's research on missional communities and children, teenagers and families. This forms part of what I'm writing and follows on from my first chapter, an examination of how children and new Christians learn and grow in their faith and the second chapter, the place of nurture, which missional communities are so well placed to offer, if they are growing well.
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Mike Breen, who is widely credited as one of the first people to practise missional communities in his church in Sheffield (Mike now lives in the States). You can read the whole interview here, on Fuller Theological Seminary's blog.
The parts in bold are the interviewer's questions:
I don’t think I’ve read any book on the missional church that spends as much time discussing how to create space for families and children. What are the primary difficulties you’ve seen incorporating children and families into these types of communities? Why is it worth the effort to do this?
Well like I said above, I think there are different ways of incorporating kids into Missional Community life. There isn’t one way we’ve found best to do it; it generally depends on the mission context, age of the kids, temperament and work situation of the parents, size of the meeting spot, etc. But at a bare minimum, we would say that kids need to be seeing their parents involved in mission and discipleship and participating with them. We’ve done a fair amount of research on this and what came to light is that kids who have atheist or agnostic parents have a better chance of having a strong faith than kids who have parents that go to church, but don’t ever disciple their kids themselves. There’s simply too much dissonance there. Parents must be the primary disciplers of their kids and Missional Communities let this happen.
The reason it’s worth it is because this allows our kids to journey into a story bigger and far more important than the consumeristic narcissism they are sold everywhere else. And parents and spiritual aunts and uncles have to show them how to live this kind of life if it’s going to stick.
And so, for me in the quote above Mike Breen highlights this kind of thing that I've banged on about before and I personally can't wait to hear what else he says when he speaks in Scotland next week.