Families at the Heart of the Mission
Submitted by Lynn Green
Our Base Leaders Training weeks are a lot of fun. I really enjoy meeting with these leaders from different nations and continents, learning about their joys and triumphs, struggles and disappointments and helping them find a way forward. As a result, I am beginning to identify some common widespread issues we are facing.
For example, a base leader recently asked, “What do you do when one person
from a staff family takes a job to supplement their income and then the other
member has to take responsibility for child care? We end up having just one person on a part-time basis and yet we are housing an entire family. How do we cope with this?”
I could readily understand this question because I see this sort of situation cropping up all over the world, and it has the potential to dramatically change the dynamics of a YWAM base. In practical terms, it can lead to less ministry happening in and from the base, simply because you don’t have the same man-power available, but it can actually carry even more damaging implications than that. Allow me to explain.
I joined YWAM when I signed up for a School of Evangelism in 1969. I loved that year in the SOE! The best part of it was livingin an old hotel with a bunch of other young people along with Loren and Dar. We saw them relate to one another as a married couple and then as parents. I still have warm memories of Karen and David Cunningham bedded down in little sleeping bags in the lecture room in the evenings. There was no doubt at all that the entire family was called into missions! From the very beginning, they demonstrated that singles, couples and families are all welcome in YWAM and that God has put a special anointing on families in ministry.
YWAM is not a job, it is not a part-time calling and it is not a calling for just one member of a couple. Now, before anyone reading this gets tempted to be defensive, I want to say clearly that we are also not a rule-based movement. There will always be exceptions to the norm, and many of those exceptions will be wonderful! We will not start making rules that both members of a marriage or all members of a family must always be full-time staff with YWAM; however, that is the norm that God used to start YWAM. We know by experience that we are most anointed by God when we stick closely to the model that He established at the beginning and we may very likely lose some of our power and distinctiveness when we allow another approach to become the standard.
The base leader went on to add another element to the original question,
“What do you do when the person with the employed spouse is on your leadership
team?” I suggested that, in this case, the example they set will multiply quickly, in no time you will have more staff following this model, leaving very few full-time staff available. He nodded his head sadly and said, “That’s exactly where we are now. How do we get back to where we started, with all full-time people living at the base?”
There is no easy solution. The situation he described is a downhill road—easy to descend but a struggle to climb back up. If you and your base have not walked down this road – don’t start now! It’s much better to avoid this road in the first place, but if you have, then start addressing the issue in prayer. If this path was entered without thoroughly seeking God first, then you will probably need to start with repentance. This should be done without condemnation to an individual, but do ask God how to get back to the place of full anointing.
A calling to team, or community, is one of our foundational values. When we live and work together, drawing on the grace of God to love each other with pure hearts, God dwells amongst us and empowers us. Anything that disturbs that unity is likely to reduce God’s anointing on us. When a spouse of a YWAM couple takes a job to supplement income, they are no longer able to participate fully in the worship, prayer and outreach life of that team. Though they may maintain a great attitude, their absence will be a distraction. When more follow that example, it will have an ever more negative impact.
You might also need to ask God’s forgiveness for misusing his gifts. For example, if you live in a YWAM property that was purchased (or is being purchased) by gifts from staff, students and other donors, then you are, in effect, living in subsidized housing. The money was given to the work of YWAM, not to provide housing subsidies for Christians in paid employment. You may have inadvertently allowed an unethical situation to arise. That needs repentance and a commitment to make the hard choices to get back to the place of obedience.
Though this road I’ve described is difficult to climb, impossible it is not. My hope for every base is that it should thrive! There are always ways back to the top, the place where we find the most fruitfulness, the most abundance. I pray that the Lord will show you the way.