Lots of you have been asking how those who aren’t married or part of a nuclear family can do family on mission, so today we want to explore this.
The simple answer is that living as a family on mission is for everybody—whether we’re single, married, have kids or don’t have kids!
In the gospels, we see Jesus, as a single man, leading a family on mission. He functioned in an older brother role as he led his disciples. A healthy family on mission is made up of the following components:
1. Spiritual parents
2. Predictable patterns
3. Missional purpose
All of us can learn to live out these principles. To help us glean insight into how to practically live this out as a single person, we talked to Diane Kershaw. Diane has lived in various different communities across Sheffield, always seeking to build a family on mission with other people, including singles and married and nuclear families. She currently lives on a large council estate in Sheffield with three others.
Diane, we understand family on mission to be made up of spiritual parents, predictable patterns and missional purpose. A spiritual parent is someone who takes responsibility for the spiritual welfare and development of the family—what has this looked like for you as you’ve led families on mission?
What I’m trying to recreate at the heart of our family on mission are loving, committed and faithful relationships just as you would find in functioning families. I want it to be a place of investment. So in a biological family, your main investment is in your kids. I’m really wanting to see people reach their potential and am making investments in them to see that happen.
I look for our household to be a place of home, solidity and welcome. It’s about being there in bad times and good times, just as you would for your biological kids. When I called people to live with me and be part of this family on mission, I was very clear that I was calling people to come and live life as a family, but that I was head of the household.
All of the people who are with me understand and respect that. With my current household, I see myself more as an older sister, rather than a parent, because we are more like peers in terms of age and maturity. But because I take a clear leadership role, I am able to say which direction I think we need to go in, and they will follow that. Obviously, they’re adults so there’s a measure of maturity in this—it’s their adult home.
I’m also the one who set the rhythms in terms of what we do on a daily and weekly basis. I set the rhythms in terms of “Up,” “In” and “Out.” There will be times when I take more of a parental role with those in my household, particularly if they are much younger in age or maturity, but at the moment I’d see my headship of the household more in terms of an “older sister.”
In the Bible, we see Jesus establishing predictable patterns with his disciples. These included regular meals together, itinerant teaching, times of retreat and rest, routines of synagogue and temple worship, and regular rhythms of personal prayer. So what has it looked like for you to form and set predictable patterns?
Families need to be predictable, so I try to be predictably gracious when stuff is tough—it’s something I’m growing in. Different people have had different difficult seasons, and it’s important to give them a sense of predictability—of a loving, kind, gracious response. I want our house as a whole to be predictable—whilst also giving people freedom to get it wrong.