My wife Kelly and I just moved our family out of our home in New Jersey to go plant a new church in Pennsylvania. As we moved out we got to hear many thoughts from people on what they thought of our family. The words they used were the words I would use to describe what the Kingdom of God is like. Kelly and I were very humbled to hear that as our family was on mission our neighborhood saw the Kingdom of God. Living as a family on mission is the best way to bring Kingdom incarnation.
As we have lived as a family on mission we have learned many things. Here are three ways that we have found to bless others to demonstrate the Kingdom of God.
Names and Stories
Get to know people’s names and stories. This seems obvious but for many it is not. I think that for many we just want to jump to some sort of big action to bless someone but we must first start with someone’s name and story. In our culture today if you ask someone if they are good at remembering names the majority of people will say that they are not. Knowing someones name carries with it power. The other day I was in a restaurant waiting around a bar for some buffalo chicken wings. It was Super Bowl Sunday so there were dozens of people waiting for their wings as well. We all wanted to get our wings and head out to our Super Bowl parties. The waitress at the bar happened to be one of my neighbors that my wife and I had gotten to know. I walked in and she immediately went to the back to check on my order she came back and said, “Matt your order is almost done.” At the same there was a gentlemen sitting next to me who asked her if she could check on his order. She asked him his name and he said, “You don’t remember my name!” He was disappointed. I felt honored. We both still had to wait on our wings but there was a difference in our posture and it was all about the name. If you want to bless families get to know their names.
Take it a step further and get to know their stories. The number one thing people like to talk about is themselves. So as you get to know families ask them about their stories. Where they are from, what they do, what their kids are involved with, where their kids live, what are their likes, dislikes, joys, and struggles. It is in the stories that we can get to know what a families deep needs might be.
You actually show up. It is instinctual for us to want to just bless someone quickly and move on. But if we want to bless a family we will need to show up and be present. There have been many times we have been thanked for something when we actually did nothing but show up and be present. This takes time and patience. But it means so much more than just a quick one off. Now, be self aware so don’t be a pest or stay to long. But make yourself available to families. If families know you are reliable they will start to ask you to help in ways that you would’ve never known they needed help in otherwise.
There are a lot of practical ways in which you can show up but the best way we found is to eat together. This is the easiest thing to do. I would guess at some point during the week we all sit down with our families and have a meal. Invite other families to your meal. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. I think sometimes we feel we have to throw a big production when we have people over but we don’t. If you’re feeding your kids macaroni and cheese for dinner just make an extra box and have someone over. Or if it’s spaghetti and meatball night at the house throw a little extra spaghetti on. Just hanging out together regularly will help create a family atmosphere with those you’re living life with and be a huge blessing.
The other thing we have found is to hang out. This one takes a little bit more planning to do but next time you are going out on a date, to a show, movie, sporting event, restaurant, or wine tasting invite another family with you. Give them a few days to plan for it and do it together. You can also coordinate guys nights at the pub or girls days at the spa. Do this regularly. If you have kids go to the park together and share babysitters. Have fun together. Families hang out and have fun together.
As you get to know peoples names and stories then show up in their lives you will begin to understand what kind of needs you can meet. The side benefit is over time they will begin to bless you as well. This will take some intentionality. But if you are in the life of the people you will know how to serve them. You might find out that they struggle coordinating getting their kids around and you can help them. Maybe they had surgery and you can bring them a meal. Or they have car trouble and you have an extra car. Someones basement might flood and you know how to fix it. Or they lost their job and you can pool some resources to help them get to the next step. What if our communities pooled all of our resources and shared what we have. What if there was only 1 lawn mower for every 5 families or so that shared it rather than everyone buying a mower. This past week my neighbor brought home a snow blower for us both to use and we agreed plow each other’s walks. Or what if Saturday morning we all helped each other do yard work. The possibilities to serve each other are endless.
Jesus sent his disciples out 2 by 2 in teams. It is important that we take this practice to our own lives and we bless families as a family on mission. Do these things in community. You will find that you have certain gifts that others don’t have and they have gifts you don’t have. My wife and I complement each other well and our broader church community complements us even better. Even if you are single with no immediate family at home you can bless other families as a family through your church community. Families are best blessed with Kingdom Incarnation through a family that lives together on a mission.
Dr. Matthew Murphy is Professor of Missional Living and Missional Community Specialist in the Department of Missional Living in the School of Missional Practice at Missional University. His academic credentials include a B.A. in Christian Education from Cedarville University, a M.Div. from Alliance Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. in Leadership in the Emerging Church, Semiotics and Future Studies track at George Fox Evangelical Seminary where he studied under Dr. Leonard Sweet.