I've visited two very different 'families on mission' over the past two days.
I was standing on the street of a small new estate on the outskirts of Coventry trying to remember the number of the house I was invited to. The smell of the barbecue gave it away. In the sunshine two adjacent households were sharing lunch: a total of eight young adults and one toddler. They had moved onto the estate with the express intention of starting church in their home. After the meal two of the guys played football on the X-Box while others washed up or read the papers. Before long the doorbell rang and two families joined us - two women bringing a total of 9 children. This was their church.
1. Sunday afternoon.
I discovered that contact with the families had been established through Kidz Club, which is run ecumenically across the city. The great thing about Kidz Club is that every child is visited every week in their home. I had seen this in Liverpool too where it has been very successful in reaching unchurched families. There it has evolved into 'Mighty Men' reaching some of the toughest young men in the city. One of the women told me that the Kidz Club visit was the highlight of her week.
After a drink and biscuits church began with an icebreaker. 'What do you remember about the home you grew up in?' Everybody answered the question, sharing childhood experiences, what they valued or a gripe about the colour of their wallpaper. We then stood to sing a few worship songs, offer 'thank you' prayers and lay hands on a few individuals to pray for particular situations. What struck me was that there was no sniggering, no embarrassment - this was not just church, it was family.
We then split up into 'adults' (youngest age 11) and children to look at a passage from the Acts of the Apostles about how the early church used their homes. This was far from theoretical because everyone was experiencing what the Bible was talking about. It will be quite a long journey for the two women to use their homes in the way they had experienced that afternoon, but that's the goal.
We all came back together for some further discussion. The conversation moved on to planning the next 'family day out'. The last one had been to the swimming pool - something that would not have been possible for the two families without additional adults. The next will be a picnic in a park. Two young brothers then ran indoors to play on the X-Box with the guys who had been playing earlier -their 'older brothers' and role models.
2. Monday morning 'Out and About'
It didn't look different to any other group of older ladies having a coffee and a natter in the food court of the shopping centre. But this was their second coffee: the first had been in Costa where they had done a Bible study based on John Pritchard's book How to Pray. The second cuppa was in a place where other women who were not comfortable with a Bible study could join them and where passing friends and neighbours could stop for a chat. An exercise book was open for prayer requests which were later gathered and committed to God in prayer. A trip out was planned and the nattering continued.
In nature we see organisms adapt to different habitats and colonise them. The church has to do the same. These two very different expressions of church are operating in the three dimensions of church - Up to God, In to one another and Out in mission - in ways that are appropriate to their situation. It all feels very ordinary, but being family - even family on a mission - is just that.