The image is one most of us know.
Someone living in a huge home, alone.
They weren’t always alone. In seasons past the house was a home for a family that grew. Its size and contents give testimony to the life and growth that took place within. Time and the passage of seasons have seen the huge house now home to someone who spends a disproportionate amount of time cleaning, repairing and maintaining.
The home that once served their aspirations for growth and nurture has now itself become the focus of their lives.
It’s hard to see that’s the case. They want to stay in the home because of everything that it represents about the past.
Sometimes it takes a season out of the home for them to realise just how much of their lives are consumed in maintaining something that has no real place in the present season of their lives.
Another more appropriate dwelling allows their life to flourish because its scale supports their living, it doesn’t demand their life’s energies.
It can be the same for a family of churches.
We could have inherited a structure and a way of operating that helpfully enabled a group of churches to flourish when there were a certain number of congregations, leaders and members.
But, in inheriting that structure, to keep it out of a sense of solidarity with the past when it is meant to enable a large group to work together, instead of facilitating ministry and mission among a smaller, more fragile group; what is meant to serve us only serves to burden us.
Instead of being strengthened for ministry and mission, time is spent on maintaining a structure. And maintenance is death.
What is the circuit breaker for a family of churches in that sort of situation?
The analogy above breaks down, but in a positive way.
An individual going through a downsizing process knows that their life will eventually end.
A family of churches can hope that a period of weakness in ministry and mission can be followed by a season of renewal and flourishing. We have hope.
A family of churches might suspend some of their functions for a time, and join with a larger, healthier, functioning family of churches, sharing their structure.
It might benefit from administrative and ministerial skills and be encouraged from involvement in a healthy and ministry (not maintenance) focussed atmosphere.
It might learn what it essentially needs to be doing as a family of churches and plan that a more modest and appropriate structure could be planned for a season when it might stand on its own again.
It’s possible a family of churches could do that.
They wouldn’t be risking loss. They’d only be risking gain.
Watch this space.