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Building an Extended family: Keys to an integrated life

January 10, 2012

Last month I put out a few posts about how I believe re-capturing the extended family on mission is one of the crucial things for the Western church to move forward. As you can imagine, for the majority of us, living that kind of life can actually seem overwhelming. It feels like we’d simply have more on our plates with the same number of hours in the day.

We only have a finite amount of time, yes?

So what I think Sally and I had to learn to do early in our marriage and as parents was to have an integrated life, where we learned to use time, resources and energy differently.

I fundamentally believe that’s the only way to do this thing. You have to live and integrated life. You only live one life, so live one life. I asked Sally if she would give some thought to how to do this, and here are some of her thoughts.

Keys to integrated life:

  1. Begin sharing stuff. It breaks down the barriers when someone borrows your sewing machine, lawn mower or car. It’s a lot easier to shape an inter-dependent family when you’re sharing things regularly.
  2. Don’t think about people as possessions. (i.e. my children, my husband, etc). Think about what they bring and who they are within the wider community.
  3. What gift do I have that I could share with others for good? (cooking , cleaning , decorating, computer skills, etc). I could swap my gift for another (“if you teach me how to use Quickbooks, I’ll babysit your kids so you get a date night). What do I need and what do others need, and what ways do they relate to each other so we can be more interdependent?
  4. What shared tasks would be more fun and completed quicker if done in oikos (extended family)? Christmas /thanksgiving, children’s parties, landscaping, etc.
  5. If you’re discipling someone in your extended family, is there something I’m already doing that someone else could tag along with? Driving kids to school. Going grocery shopping. Going to the airport. Rather than setting up a coffee or lunch every time someone needs something, fold them into your regular life and use the time more efficiently. Plus, there are lots of other things they’ll pick up.
  6. Start thinking about major decisions (like schooling , where to buy a house, etc) in terms of where your community and relationships are, not just your individual preference . Start with where the People of Peace are (people God has already prepared in advance to be open to you).
  7. Have at least one meal a week when you invite someone(s) over. You’re already eating, invite someone to do it with you!
  8. Walk the same roads and neighborhoods. Park the car in the driveway instead of the garage so you have to talk to your neighbors.
  9. Go to the same restaurants at the same time on the same day each week and sit in the same place so you get to know the staff over time.
18 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2012 3:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing this list of how to integrated as an Extended Family. In one word I would call it – INTENTIONALITY. Unless we are intentional, very few of these things will happen.
    I live in Columbus, Ohio where it’s common for your family to be in multiple activities; sports, book clubs, church exercise, and so on. Where I once thought we needed to back out of these things and focus on what really matters, I’ve now started to just think about how to be more inclusive in the things I’m doing personally or with my family.
    So it’s not like we can’t do karate because it’s more important to have a meal with another family…now we’re looking for other families that we can sign up with for karate…or if another family has a better idea then we go with that. It makes decision-making more inclusive…and thus more challenging as well.

    • January 10, 2012 4:12 pm

      Great thoughts, Richard. It really is about inviting others into the good life that you’re already living.

      • January 10, 2012 4:37 pm

        Bytheway…I enjoyed the brief time with you in Cincy last week. Looking forward to future interaction.

  2. January 10, 2012 7:00 pm

    Over the last year our family has become much more intentional about meal time. There is rarely a dinner where our family does not have college students or someone from the church in our home. It has been amazing to see the barriers that drop in our home the conversations that we have & even more significant my kids (9, 7 & 2) now expect people in our home. They pray for the people who join us for dinner & they learn that the church happens in our home 7 days a week & not just on Sunday mornings.

  3. January 10, 2012 8:46 pm

    Richard, I agree, but the made-up word intentionality drive me nuts. Why can’t we stick with words that exist, like “intentionally” or “with intention.”

  4. Patrick permalink
    January 10, 2012 9:30 pm

    Hey Mike, thanks for this! Sally is indeed a wise woman! I want to affirm your belief in extended family and encourage people to live it out. It has been a blessing to Lisa and I and our kids through the years. Our lives are so much richer for the many people who have been a part of our extended family. We call them “framily”, friends who become family. One thought, to add to what Sally said, don’t shy away from relationships because you don’t know how long they might last. Sometimes God brings people our way for a lifetime, sometimes for a season either way they bless and enrich our lives and we can bless and enrich theirs. Miss you guys! Give my love to the 3dm gang!

  5. January 11, 2012 1:52 am

    WORD. We are trying to do just what you describe. Well said. My wife and I are working our way into community where we just moved. You definitely have to do it on purpose. Community isn’t going to be formed by accident!

  6. richardpramsden permalink
    January 11, 2012 9:28 am

    Love it ! Thanks for sharing this. I particularly like number 3. I have been thinking for some time about how with so many people struggling financially, it would be nice if more people were to swap skills with each other.

    I for example am a bit of a computer geek, but often procrastinate with so many jobs at home. Could I fix someones computer, whilst they help me to paint a door (not at the same time obviously), but that kind of idea that you refer to. I love the thought of us becoming more interdependent with each other.

  7. January 11, 2012 12:35 pm

    useful, thanks. 🙂
    we’re starting to sense a move to bring the women together to work towards a breakthrough in worship and using “coming together time” well is important as we are all heavily committed. also, just started the walking thang – very interesting how often it can take twice as long to do the same walk just because there are people around to stop and chat with!

  8. Jordanne permalink
    January 11, 2012 11:07 pm

    I can speak to number 8! Walking the same park and path the last 7 months has produced quite a number of conversations with people that live around the park or walk the park too. Often they want to know if my dog bites, but once they get past that, they really just want someone to talk to! It’s so great!

  9. Jordanne permalink
    January 11, 2012 11:08 pm

    P.S. That Sally is a smart gal- good thing you married her!

  10. Caroline Combs Hoffman permalink
    January 12, 2012 7:55 pm

    Great ideas here, especially for those of us just starting out with our missional community!

  11. January 23, 2012 8:41 pm

    Acts 2:42-2:47. You did a modern day study and playbook of Acts 2:42-2:47. I applaud you and the truth you share, this is very well said and many would benefit by reading (which is why it is now on my Facebook). Intentionality is a great word to describe this post. Good list to gauge ourselves by, thank you.

  12. C Eric permalink
    April 6, 2012 6:46 pm

    I know this is a late comment, but this seemed like the best post in which to share a link from another ministry making similar observations about missional communities and doing ministry in extended family. I stumbled on the website of an organization called Sword of the Spirit about a year ago. I don’t know much about them other than they are an association of ecumenically minded charismatic Christians. Regardless of their label, this article really resonated with me – and with much of what I hear you saying Mike.


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