Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Writers Geoff & Ros Cox
Think of ‘family life’ and what immediately springs to mind? It might be seat-of-the-pants chaos, or perhaps order and routine bordering on the monotonous. If your experience of the family journey is anything like ours, ‘family life’ will probably sit somewhere along that spectrum at any given moment of any day or week, except for that precious, fleeting moment early on a Friday evening—the moment of the week when you collectively realise you have survived another one.
In the midst of these thrills and spills, have you ever considered how God could use your experiences of family life for the Kingdom? What would it look like, for you and for others, to embark on ministry as a family?
In many ways the ministry path we have taken as a family is nothing extreme, and we would not claim to be a paragon example. In another sense, though, that is entirely the point.
Over the years, we have both received training in and developed experience with various fields of Christian ministry that has enabled us to serve in ways that reflect our particular individual gifts and interests. That is a healthy and indeed Biblical thing. Yet as we grew as a family, our way of doing ministry did not necessarily adapt in response to these changed circumstances. As good and uplifting as our various personal ministries were, and continue to be, it is our decision to engage in ministry together which we believe has brought most joy and richness in our family’s spiritual growth.
Both of us had grown up as participants and then volunteers with Scripture Union (SU) and their Family Mission (SUFM) holiday programs. This had left on us an indelible mark as we experienced first-hand the transformative effects of delving into the Bible in a strongly relational context. Countless leaders over the years had modelled the way of Jesus for us.
When it came time for us as a family to consider doing ministry together, our thoughts soon turned to SU missions due, significantly, to the value they place on family engagement. We joined an SUFM team as a family, small children and all.
Since taking that step in 2010, our experience of doing mission as a family has been richly rewarding. Participating as a family within a larger team context has meant that we and our children have been immersed in a temporary but intensive Christian community with all the pressures, joys, encouragement, and spiritual nurturing that comes with the experience. It has also meant, conversely, that our team is invited into our family. There are no pretences. As a family, we come and live as we are. It is this window into the normality of family life that we trust can better inspire our whole team as we minister to children, young people, and their families.
Each of us brings on mission our individual personalities and gifts. One of the many things which excites us each year as we anticipate a new mission experience is the prospect of a fresh canvas about to be filled in ways which reflect the colours and shades of the team’s many parts.
Yet for every opportunity we may have to exercise our particular ministry gifts, there are many more opportunities simply to connect with people on an everyday level. Our mission context is that of a temporary community within a temporary community. We live and move among campers and beachgoers, presenting a mix of activities including age-specific small groups and larger-scale family events.
We find that being a family on mission enables us to support the work of the team by operating in spaces on the periphery of programs, where onlookers and passers-by may be willing to share their time in conversation. Sometimes, but not always, this will open up avenues for spiritual dialogue. Even in the absence of overt Gospel opportunities, we know that God works as we are present in this way. Being a family also serves as a point of connection with campers at a time in their year where their own family situation is front and centre.
Equal to the support we can provide to the team as parents, our children do likewise with their participation in the thick of the program. It is a joy to see our children learn and grow from the example of missional living and service in all its depth and vibrancy. Yet as well as absorbing, we find them contributing in ways all of their own. For sure, their natural spontaneity sits well in the mission context, however we also truly sense our children working in partnership with their fellow team leaders, particularly as the Bible is opened with groups of children and stories of Jesus’ own life and ministry are shared and explored.
Of course, ‘doing ministry’ is not always a walk in the (caravan) park. But the truth is that neither is ‘doing family’. What we learn from our experiences with one naturally feeds into and refines the other. In doing so, we greatly sense God’s leading as we seek to make a difference both in our family and in his world. ●
Originally published in YVQ15:GENERATIONS.
Writers Geoff & Ros Cox. Geoff and Ros have been married for 14 years and are parents to Emma (10), Sophie (7), and Claire (6). They have had years of involvement in mission with children and families and, as a family, have served for 7 years as part of the McCrae Scripture Union Family Mission team. They belong to Bundoora Presbyterian Church
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