Dec 18, 2017
Go Beyond a Book. Open Your Home.
Andy Abramson writes about how opening your home can go further than only opening books with students you are discipling.
Change can often cultivate reflection in our lives. One of the areas that has been a topic of conversation among our family, our team, and my closest friends has been what produces the greatest chance of impact in a young adult’s life. We’ve recently uprooted our family and moved them from Minnesota to Texas. With this transition, we left behind a decade of local ministry. Existing relationships have changed and we are currently in the midst of establishing new relationships within our community, a new church, and our neighborhood.
As we’ve begun to explore new discipling relationships with college students and young adults we’ve begun to re-ask the question, “What really impacts the lives of young adults?” How do we maximize our time and energy to have the impact and fruit we desire in our lives? As we begin to rehash these conversations in our home, we usually land back on past experiences my wife and I have had in our lives. Our backgrounds have significantly shaped how we do ministry.
You need to know a little about our background. Growing up, my parents had significant influence on the lives of college students. In fact, from my earliest days, I remember my parents leading college and young adults within a local church in the Portland, OR area. Not only do I remember the meetings, retreats, camps, and events, but I remember college students always having a place around our table. Then my parents did something that I rarely saw around me, they invited people in their 20’s to come and move in with us. Sometimes we had two or three, other times we would have one. I watched something very significant, my parents opened up their lives and gave access to young adults in a way I hadn’t seen before.
My wife, on the other hand, had a much different story. She wasn’t as fortunate as I to be in such a dynamic household. Her parents weren’t Christians and her home was filled with brokenness, hurt, conditional love and manipulation. In her words, her family life was not ideal. As a senior, God got ahold of her heart and she gave her life to Jesus. Over the next several years, as she began to find Christian community, people began to recognize some of the needs my wife had. In fact, in her early 20’s, there were three different families that asked my wife to come and live with them so she could be cared for and discipled. It was a game changer for her life. For the first time, she experienced things that she had missed within the context of a loving, Christ-following family. She would say it set her on a trajectory that God is still using today.
Because these experiences were so relevant in our lives, it only took a year before we invited our first college student to come and live with us. That student was the first, but rolled into another, then another and another. By the time we had been married twelve years, we had a total of thirteen people live with us for various amounts of time. Some of them needed healing and a place to recover. Others were leaders in whom we were investing. It’s been a game changer in our lives, in our marriage, and in our family.
I remember one person a few years ago saying to my wife, “You really can’t expect everyone to live so radical like you, can you?” Um, yes I can! While I know some of you are already listing off why this isn’t possible, I want to push us a little. Never in Scripture do I see Jesus calling us to a life that is easy and doesn’t cost us something. In fact, I see the opposite. I see people walking away from Jesus because they can’t do the things that He is asking them to do. Not only that, I see Jesus fully investing in relationships. Relationships that Jesus was invested in were not casual, occasional relationships. He was totally investing in their lives. I know some of us may not be in a place where we could invest so intensely by having people live with you, but I think more of us should be willing. I actually believe that this form of discipleship does something unique that we can’t get meeting regularly a couple hours a week. Let’s look quickly at three benefits.
1. Having young adults live with you opens up access to walk alongside them within their real issues. Every time we’ve had a young adult move in with us, we quickly discovered some of their deepest issues. EVERY TIME! When you live together with someone, you can see firsthand how God is working on in their lives. Sometimes, these are areas where they don’t even know God is working. Because you see it first hand, it gives you access to lovingly come alongside them to work through these issues. Some of these barriers in their lives, you could never get to meeting a hundred times with them without them being in your home.
2. It allows them to see a family up close. More and more we are living in a culture where young adults have little understanding of healthy families. They don’t know what godly parenting looks like. They have not seen married coupes disagree and work through it in healthy ways. They do not have examples after which to model their own marriages. Over the last many years, I have heard this from the different people who lived with us. I recently talked with Trevor about the time he saw my wife and I argue about a purchase that was made. There Trevor stood in the middle of it, wide-eyed and uncomfortable. But the value came as Trevor watched us work it out. We laughed over a burger a couple months ago as he shared how uncomfortable but good that situation was for him. Some of these young adults will never see these important issues without being in the home of a loving marriage.
3. It follows the way that Jesus discipled people. Jesus’ method of disciple-making was in the context of relationships. Just think of the number of conversations that happened as they ate, walked along the side of the road, or after doing ministry. Jesus spent many hours with these people. His discipleship was done in a relationship. It amazes me that so many of us realize this, but somehow think that we can minimize disciple-making into sending someone through a book or study. The process that Jesus made disciples was ALWAYS through relationship.
My hope in this article, is that perhaps some of you would step back and consider having a college student live with you. I know that this can seem like a big step, but the rewards and fruit in the lives of a young adult can be huge. You could impact a life of a young adult in ways you never have before.