building family, not walls: 7 practical tips

In our last post we chewed over the principle of resting “with” rather than “apart” from our oikos. We talked about the principles of how to rest with others rather than apart from others, and the need to change our mindset in order to do this.

Setting boundaries and creating a culture of “rest” with our oikos takes time and effort but helps us to cultivate healthy, sustainable relationships, rather than holding them at a distance. Setting boundaries should be for the purpose of helping relationships grow rather than limiting or managing them from a distance. So we should think about boundaries as a way to help our oikos to grow and remain sustainable.

Sounds great in theory but in real life a lot of us are scared that if we open up our lives and our homes we’ll be over-run by an oikos stampede.  From that place of fear, building a fortress feels like our only option.

But there’s a difference between building a framework and building 20 foot walls.

There’s a difference between proactively setting boundaries to promote sustainable growth, rather than reactively putting up walls to protect yourself or your nuclear family.

vine_imgWhen we talk about setting boundaries, we’re not talking about building walls. We’re talking about putting in a framework that helps create a healthy family. Consider the way a vine is trained to grow using a trellis. Without a trellis a vine-growing plant will just trail on the ground  – it won’t be able to grow effectively or healthily. It’s the same for us with the relationships we’re building with our oikos.

We set boundaries not to create walls or divides, but to provide a structure and a frame for the relationships to grow healthily.

So here’s 7 practical ways to do this:

1) Lead with confidence and clarity

Offer the invitation to live life alongside others, to let them in, and let them see your life and how you relate to Jesus both as a disciple and a discipler. Be clear in both encouragement  & challenge and give clear expectations  (you of them and them of you) of  what this will look like.

2) Pro-actively set rhythms  (and think both “organized” and “organic”)

Think about the organized and the organic. Organized frameworks help oikos grow and create security and predictability. Bu don’t forget that real families don’t just operate in organized frameworks. They operate with spontaneity and accessibility (organic)

A simple example of a monthly rhythm might be:

Meet once a week for family tea (organized)

Meet once a week for a small group (organized)

Meet once a month for Sunday lunch (organized)

Aim to invite people along for a walk/trip to the park/cinema on at least two other occasions (organic)

Invite people to drop into your home at other points (organic)

3) Set Routines

This helps establish boundaries as people are clear what they will do and when, what is expected of them and when they should do it. This gives security but also helps bring ownership & participation.

One simple example of this could be that the members of your oikos know that after a meal together there is an expectation that clearing up will be a shared task, with everyone involved in helping

4) Pro-actively set times of solitude, time with spouse and/or peers.  

Don’t wait until you feel burnt out to put in time with God, time with your spouse, time with your peers, nights off.  Remember, putting in these times are part of the “trellis” which help the oikos to grow.  These times need to be planned and scheduled  in before anything else.

5) Work out the right balance for your home

Our homes should both be a place of retreat and a place of extended family. The balance of this will vary from person to person and it needs to be a balance that works for all members of your nuclear family, whilst also recognising that the call of Jesus takes us beyond our own “comfort zone”.  Sometimes getting the right balance comes through a process of trial-and-error, so we need to make sure that we’re reflecting, processing and putting into action any adjustments that need to be made

6) Go slow and sustainable

Rather than going full-pace and burning-out. It’s better to have a lower bar that we gradually raise than something that’s unattainable and will fail.

7) Principle & practice

The principle we are talking about is “rest” but the practice ie what that looks like for individuals could be entirely different. We need to allow diversity in the way we do things. So, some nights we might do something all together and on other occasions we personalise rest so that everyone in “the family” can rest in a way that’s fun for them. In a typical nuclear family there may be one person playing lego, another reading a book, and another playing on the ipad. This diversity should be reflected in our oikos. 

It’s about building a trellis instead of a wall; a frame to support growth instead of a barrier to keep relationships at a distance.

So we’d love to know where you feel like you’re up to on this journey.

#Are you building a wall to “protect” yourself and your family or are you creating frameworks to build healthy relationships?

#What are some of the helpful ‘frameworks’ you’ve put in?

(image sourced from


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