© 2014 John Casimir O'Keefe

What A Church Can Learn From A Large Family

When I was younger, what Shellene likes to call my ‘way back years’ before recorded time, I remember standing in line at the supermarket with all my brothers and sisters; a women standing behind us looked at my mother and said, “Are all seven of these children yours?” My mom simply replied “Yes.” The women seemed shocked, she looked at my mother and added, “My goodness, how do you do all that laundry?” My mom smiled, and without missing a beat, replied, “I have seven kids.”

The women seemed confused, but when I heard what my mother said I knew exactly what she meant. She was telling the woman that as a family we helped when we could, where we could when we were able – we worked as a team. Now, that is not to say we did not have our disagreements; that is not to say we all got along like little angles. Nothing could be further from the truth. We argued, we picked on each other and we could get into some downright knock down drag out fights. That is what a family does sometimes. There was one thing, we loved each other and we were there for each other – and to this day, not much has changed.

I share that bit of a story with you because I think churches can learn a great deal from large families.

Welcoming New Additions:
There is nothing like thinking you are the king of the roost, only to have some other kid comes along and knock you off your pedestal. For a short time, I was the baby of the family, but then along came five other kids that took the crown from me, and from each other. I learned to deal with knowing I was no longer the new comer, and I welcomed my brothers and sister. Welcoming new members to the family does not mean you lose your place in the family; your place is redefined, you become, as I did, the “older sibling.”

Supporting Each Other:
Many churches have a hard time dealing with new people coming in the doors. Many growing churches are growing with “infants” to the faith, and that makes it even harder. But, just I learned to care for the youngest in our family, member of your church need to learn the same – and sometimes that means feeding them first, changing diapers, holding the bottle, burping, babysitting and even taking them with you when you play with your friends. No, it might not be cool to have your younger sibling hanging out with you and your friends, but rest assured they will benefit from the experience.

Mixing Generations:
My mom was a tail-end of the Builder Generation, my older sister is a Boomer, I am a tail-end Boomer and I have brothers and sister who are GenX and Millennial. While we see the world in different way, we also see the world as a family – a unit. Today, the church has such a mix sitting together each Sunday. Generations striving to understand each other, while ignoring each other. There is one thing being from a large family can teach the church is how those generations can mix and get along. You see, while we had to get along, at some very basic level I believe we wanted to get along – we are family and we love each other.

Every Community of Faith is like a giant family – growing, learning, caring, giving, and holding fast to the idea that we are a family. The best way to see this dynamic is to realize that at a very core level, water is thinker than blood.

QUESTION: What else can you think a large family can teach the church?

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