Let's get honest with ourselves. Living and practicing community is messy and challenging. Brookside's Community Groups have been going for a while now and we've got weekly struggles.
But why are we surprised?
Because we can forget that messy, broken people gathering with other messy, broken people regularly is sometimes going to have messy and broken results.
And yet the opportunity for grace-filled acceptance, healing and love with messy and broken people (present company included) is vast. But if we don't embrace grace, creativity, and joy then we will find living in community just too hard.
It is inevitable that some of us will come empty in hand and in heart into our gathering time. We will come with burdens, with grief, with anxiety, with insecurity, with a depletion of some sort. And then those of us who come with a fuller cup, with fuller hands and heart have an opportunity: we can either extend grace and compassion and a listening ear OR we can judge and critique those coming with a deficit. We can embrace a gracious heart for the family who just brought a bag of chips to the table and consider what their day may have been like. Or we can fold our arms, assume the worst, and miss an opportunity to be people of grace. Let's practice grace.
We have a LOT of children in our group. Anywhere from 12-19 kids are at our CG with around 16-20 adults. That's a weekly party pushing 40 people! We continue to grow and invite more neighbors and friends to join us and we are busting at the seams. So we've got to get creative:
Have a Family Huddle
We used to trickle in, set out our potluck dinner, and try to keep it organic without a formal starting point. In the name of organic, it became chaotic. Sometimes you need a trellis for that organic vine to grow. Now we have a Family Huddle before we eat and do 3 things:
1. Introduce ourselves (for newcomers) and explain what be brought (for allergies).
2. Have a non-hosting person thank the family for hosting and ask if there are any house rules for the evening.
3. Pray for our dinner and our time
With ALL the kids, we have decided to ask the older ones to help the younger ones for the night. We asked that they help their younger buddy get their plate of food, sit by them at dinner, and then help them make good choices during free play. I love watching my 9 year old son help a 6 year old buddy (a non-sibling!) get his plate of food, get his water and sit by him at dinner. This builds the feeling of Family, as if older cousins are helping younger cousins; this also builds a sense of pride and responsibility in our children for others.
Build in a Family Clean-Up
We meet from 6-7:30pm every Tuesday night. And with all the amazing kids (who sometimes forget to clean up OR are more on the destructive side) many houses were being left destroyed. We needed to build in time to clean up as a big Family together. Here's our night:
6:15 Family Huddle
6:15-6:50 Eat all together as best as we can, having smaller conversations with each other
6:50-7 Family Clean-Up of the House
7-7:25 Kids watch a show in the basement, Adult discussion (about 15 minutes in the Bible, 5-10 prayer for one another)
What a gift it is that we have people who want to journey with us in knowing Jesus. So many people go through life alone. But not us. We are adopted by a Good Father and then are given brothers and sisters in Christ - a big 'ole crazy Family of God! That's the best. Aunts and Uncles and Sisters and Brothers and Cousins all loving each other and sharing life and hurting each other and forgiving each other. Let's not neglect a heart of gratitude for the joy of Family life. We have a good Father who as given us good gifts - community being a rather large one.