‘If I see a church describe itself as ‘A Family’ I usually want to walk away’.
I recently read these words in an article written by Paul Harcourt (National leader of New Wine and vicar of All Saints Woodford Wells). He was quoting the reaction of a single friend of his.
What does the word ‘family’ mean to you? It could be overwhelmingly positive – happy, secure, fun, together, sharing are words that come to mind. But for others, family might mean break up, pain, tears, arguments, fighting.
Church family can be in danger of being inward looking, focussing on the needs and comfort of those already ‘in’. It can be hard to break into this huddle of self-contented people who know each other intimately. If we describe our church as ‘family’, it can subtly come to mean church is for families, therefore becoming an even lonelier place for single people or even for the families who, for whatever reason, feel they don’t fit in.
I prefer to call church a place of ‘community’, a group of people of all shapes and sizes in terms of whether they are in a conventional family or not. Singles, couples, divorced, widowed, families – Jesus consistently taught that he was forming a new community, centred on himself.
This is the community in which all of us long to belong. Being made in God’s image, we were created for community. We are called as people in a church community to be outward looking, as well as fully inclusive. We need to listen and love, looking out for each other and putting others before ourselves. If we live in Christ-like community we will attract people to our church and before long, if we do it right, they will feel that they belong.
Take time after the service today to look out for someone you don’t know. It can be really hard to join a church. I notice that people linger by the book stall if they are feeling awkward. Perhaps glance over there for anyone who is alone and offer to join them for coffee.
Tracy (Tracy Brown – Pastoral Minister)