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Grow Familying Networks

Foster Lasting, Life-giving Relationships

“Everyone needs a TRIBE” and we don’t mean denomination.  We’re referring to an extended family that goes beyond blood relatives. It includes the people in our lives that we could call at 3am in the morning and those that have a sincere desire to bring out God’s best in our lives.

This oikos or extended family is often one of the missing societal building blocks in our lives.  And it’s what can have a profound impact on our households, faith communities and the interactions we have in our communities.

For centuries the societal building block used by the God for the nurture of faith for all generations was the Oikos or extended family.  If you look at the Biblical picture, the nuclear family was never even in the conversation  There is no word for nuclear family in any of the Biblical languages.  Whenever it talks about family in Scripture that only ever referred to extended families. The Greek word Oikos names an extended family made up of blood non-blood relationships.   In the book of Acts, the extended family was the unit that Paul used for evangelism.  Jesus functioned in this way with disciples and the 70

In his work with the discipling movement 3DM, Mike Breen claims that the need for an extended family is built into the human psyche.  He notes that Western culture is about 100 years distant from the environment that had always been the source of human nurture–and the building block for the formation of faith.  In Vern Bengston’s book, Families and Faith, he reinforces the power of this very natural transmission of faith through the extended family with its powerful data on the impact of grandparents. The place where identity is found is the extended family – that social space of 20-50 is where people discover enterprise and identity. But fewer and fewer people and certainly fewer children are actually able to engage in them.

The first believers were marked by the experience of both temple and home.  The early church understood that in order to be a part of what God was doing, they were to be a part of an Oikos community of Christians, and taking part of temple worship (Acts 2:42).  The church grew through the first several hundred years through the mission of the Oikos.  In the midst of persecution, the church continued to grow through the Oikos.  This reality has been repeated in our time in the Chinese church.

Creating an Oikos Culture

Churches are to provide inspiration and connection for the Oikos. Sunday celebrations are not Oikos or familying and can not be.  Most churches are experts in the temple and not in the home. The amazing thing is, when an Oikos is functioning, faith formation and discipleship  and mission isn’t work – it’s simply a way of life faith is practices and passed within extended Christian families very naturally.

Many congregations were once networks of extended families.  But we know that exists only very rarely any more. Yet, the longing for and the consequences of the lack of extended family have not dissipated.

  • Have you ever wondered why the choir is so powerful and hangs in there when other congregational ministries struggle?
  • Oikos is what kids and even more profoundly counselors experience at camp.
  • It appears that the Spirit is working through this unit all over the world–look at Chinese house churches.

Engaging others in caring conversations has become a lost art for many people. Some are not sure where to begin and some state that, given their hectic schedules, “it’s just not a priority.” Please note that time is really not the issue—all it takes is a commitment to weave caring conversations into what we’re already doing such as eating dinner, going for a walk, or running errands.

Caring conversations open the door to developing significant relationships where people are given permission to share their life and faith stories. Caring conversations build trust among people that’s essential for moving forward in ministry. Take time to weave caring conversations into:

  • Meal times
  • Travel time
  • Work settings
  • Family gatherings
  • Neighborhood parties and community gatherings

Defining Developmental Relationships

Both researchers and practitioners have long embraced the idea that interaction with caring adults is central to young people’s development. New research conducted by Search Institute confirms that conviction, finding that both caring and adults are necessary but not sufficient strands in the broader web of relationships that kids need to succeed. Young people also need people in their lives who challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities. And while relationships with adults can do all of those things in powerful and positive ways, so can close connections with friends, siblings, and other peers.
Search Institute has adopted the term developmental relationships to describe the broader conception of building close connections between a young person and an adult or between a young person and a peer that powerfully and positively shapes the young person’s identity and helps the young person develop a thriving mindset. A thriving mindset can be summarized as the orientation not just to get by in life, but to flourish, not just to survive, but to thrive.

How Developmental Relationships Work

Interaction in a developmental relationship is bidirectional, with each person contributing to and benefiting from the relationship. Though a single developmental relationship can be powerful, young people grow the most when they experience multiple developmental relationships across multiple environments. Developmental relationships matter within and across the life course, cultures, and contexts. There are likely similarities and differences in how these relationships are expressed and nurtured at individual, family, community, and cultural levels. Developmental relationships contribute to a number of critical outcomes, including educational performance, behavioral choices, and perseverance in the face of difficulties and distractions.

Questions to consider

  • What activities have the greatest impact on building community among the people of your congregation?
  • What are you  doing to equip households to practice fearless conversations at home? On the go?
  • Do meetings/ events include time for intentional relationship building?
  • How could you be more intentional about having fearless conversations?

Two stories that demonstrate ways to foster Oikos relationships

4 Questions about Tony’s video

  1. Do you see Jesus in the people you encounter?
  2. Do you seek to bless everyone you meet today?
  3. Do you leave judgement of others to God?
  4. Do you desire to invite others into your life?

4 Questions about Thom’s Video

  1. In what ways do model radical hospitality?
  2. With whom do you engage in fearless conversations?
  3. When is it most difficult for you to practice genuine humility?
  4. How might you practice divine anticipation?

What do these videos reveal about how to bring out God’s best in others?

4 Questions about Linda’s video

  1. In what ways do you raise people’s expectations?
  2. Do you truly believe in each person’s possibilities?
  3. Do you call out people who live out of their excuses?
  4. What role do you play in people’s transformation?

4 Questions about Rita’s video

  1. Do listen deeply and seek to understand?
  2. Do you seek to bless everyone you meet?
  3. Who are you walking alongside right now?
  4. Are you leaving a legacy of relationships?

4 Questions about Brene’s video

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how courageous are you?
  2. Is there any shame in your life you need to let go of?
  3. How often do you play the role of a victim?
  4. What would it look like for you to live whole-heartedly?


…we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.…which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments                                                               Psalm 78:4-7.

 Show that you like me and want the best for me

  1. Be Present – Pay attention when you are with me.
  2. Be Warm – Let me know that you like being with me and express positive feelings toward me.
  3. Invest – Commit time and energy to doing things for and with me.
  4. Show Interest – Make it a priority to understand who I am and what I care about.
  5. Be Dependable – Be someone I can count on and trust.

Insist that I try to continuously improve

  1. Inspire – Help me see future possibilities for myself.
  2. Expect – Make it clear that you want me to live up to my potential.
  3. Stretch – Recognize my thoughts and abilities while also pushing me to strengthen them.
  4. Limit  – Hold me accountable for appropriate boundaries and rules.

Help me complete tasks and achieve goals

  1. Encourage – Praise my efforts and achievements.
  2. Guide – Provide practical assistance and feedback to help me learn.
  3. Model – Be an example I can learn from and admire.
  4. Advocate – Stand up for me when I need it.

Hear my voice and let me share in making decisions

  1. Respect – Take me seriously and treat and treat me fairly.
  2. Give Voice – Ask for and listen to my opinions and consider them when you make decisions.
  3. Respond – Understand and adjust to my needs, interests, and abilities.
  4. Collaborate – Work with me to accomplish goals and solve problems.

Expand my horizons and connect me to opportunities

  1. Explore – Expose me to new ideas, experiences, and places.
  2. Connect – Introduce me to people who can help me grow,
  3. Navigate – Help me work through barriers that could stop me from achieving my goals.

  4 Ways to Create and Strengthen developmental relationships.

How can we create and strengthen developmental relationships?

  • Structures: We will identify organizational arrangements that promote the creation and strengthening of developmental relationships within schools, youth programs, and families.
  • Starters: We will design methods and activities that put new relationships on the path to becoming developmental relationships over time.
  • Strategies: We will identify techniques that strengthen and sustain developmental relationships in a variety of contexts.
  • Solutions: We will discover relationship-based ways to solve pressing problems in education and youth development, such as improving academic performance and reducing risk behaviors.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9


  1903-1925 | Builders/Civic/G.I.

  • Faith based on knowledge and experience
  • Have heroes
  • Will do whatever it takes to get the job done
  • Believe every generation will be better off
  • Live a life of sacrifice for the good of others yet want respect

  1926-1945 | Boosters/Silents/Adaptive

  • Faith based on knowledge and involvement
  • Deeply committed to common good and can count on their word and a handshake!
  • Shaped by the depression (save and pay with cash), WWII, industrial revolution
  • Rooted in tradition, loyalty, hard work and conservation of resources (trust leaders/institutions)
  • Comfortable with story telling, sermons, traditional music (know hymns by heart)
  • May care for elderly parents, needy children and grandchildren.

  1946-1964 | Boomers/Idealist

  • Dabble in church
  • Taught that institutional church will pass on the faith (forgot Deut. 6)
  • Buy now, pay later mindset
  • Shaped by TV and incredible social-political change
  • Experienced assassinations of religious and political leaders, space exploration, civil rights, Vietnam, women’s movement, and Watergate leading to a suspicion of institutions, hierarchy, and authority
  • Live to work and play, have high standards and are creative

  1965-1982 | Busters/Survivors/Gen X/Reactors
  (13th generation of immigrants on USA soil)

  • Faith is ignorant, searching for meaning
  • Little loyalty to a denomination, often reached by non-denominational churches
  • Live in shadows of 3 generations
  • No fear – just do it!
  • Concerned about making ends meet and shaped by computers, collapse of Berlin Wall, AIDS crisis, and divorce
  • Environmentally conscious
  • Visual and entertainment oriented
  • Accept diversity and emphasize authentic relationships

  1983-2003 | Millennium/Generation Next/Gen Y/Net Gen

  • New civic generation that is community minded, public servants and looking for heroes
  • Faith is ignorant, but responsive to nurturing
  • Experience a frantic pace of life and may have short attention spans
  • Formative years spent in childcare and may have assumed adult responsibilities at a young age
  • Less respect for authority but still desiring close bonds with caring adults to balance insecurity in world
  • Technology oriented – digital natives

Listed below are great questions to ask at family gathering and cross+generational activities within your congregation.  Listen for what you have in common and how you might see life differently based on the environment you grew up in.

  • Describe the first phone you grew up with.
  • How did you develop your money management habits?
  • Are you more likely to repair or buy new?  What does it depend on?
  • How susceptible to advertising are you?
  • What did your Sunday morning look like growing up?
  • What’s the best thing about being your age? What’s the most challenging thing about being your age?
  • Is your attitude about money one of scarcity or sufficiency?
  • What was your table prayer growing up?
  • What’s the best thing about being your age?
  • Who taught you the most about generosity?
  • How did you define a fun weekend at 10? 20? 40? 60?
  • What role does radio play in your life? Music? News?