My wife Hilary and I live in a house with a bunch of young adults who are at various points in their walks with God. All of us are figuring out patterns and practices of faith that we can do separately and together to deepen and strengthen our life with Christ. My wife and I are “house pastors” and it is the greatest and hardest thing we have ever done.
We are live-in pastors in a community called Life Together. Life Together invites young adults into a season of personal and communal discipleship while they are living their normal lives. Everyone is either working or going to school. We live in a normal house together. We share in the preparation of meals and chores. We read the lectionary, practice prayer exercises, and discuss scripture daily. We play games. We attend and serve our local church together. We hike. We all participate in spiritual direction. We keep each other accountable and encourage one another to faithfully follow our common rule of life that we each set in September. We go to concerts. We go on retreats together.
It is far from perfect, and it is just over one year into its existence. It is different and more difficult than a traditional Bible college experience because everyone is on their own schedule, but that is the point. We cannot all be at all of the same things all the time, but we try to build community in that reality – which IS reality for the rest of their lives – whether in families or in church communities.
At the time immediately following the closure of Covenant Bible College in 2007, the Canadian Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church did two things. First, they sent their superintendent to all of the churches to ask the question, “How do we as a conference disciple young adults?” Second, they hired a full-time director of discipleship initiatives, whose job was to continue to listen to the desires and ideas of the members of the conference and then to begin to implement some of those very same ideas. One such initiative which rose from these discussions was the creation of intentional houses of discipleship and community.
The first house started in the fall of 2009 in Calgary, Alberta. In September 2010 the conference started the second house in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The houses are responsible to the Canadian Conference. Except for the house pastor compensation, the houses are financially self-sustaining. Residents pay monthly for room and board and the “value added rhythms” (retreats, spiritual direction, outings, guest speakers), and the cost is comparable to what an individual would pay for room and board at college.
I am encouraged by Acts 2:42-47 when explaining why I participate in such ventures. Specifically verse 42, when after Peter preaches to the crowds, Luke tells us what the believers do in response to hearing the gospel: “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.”
After being initially transformed by the good news of Christ’s story, those that heard the message continually choose transformation together in community. Life Together is part of our response to the gospel truth in our lives; we live here together to help each other continually choose transformation.
Hilary and I were youth pastors for many years before doing Life Together. As much as we tried to be different, we often defaulted into the North American evangelical standard of programming and attracting kids to something at church or within our youth ministry program. I like to believe we (and many youth ministries) did a lot of good for a lot of kids, but I also believe we (and many youth ministries) have created a generation of students that are passively entitled when it comes to their personal faith. We allow young people to think showing up is enough. Most young people I know think >>>
that someone else is responsible for their growth as a disciple.
This is one of the group defaults we are working to transform here, and we need God to transform both our group and individual defaults. To me, “defaults” mean the ways we slip into a comfortable and passive faith. We each have them, and we need Spirit-led community to help work against them. We do this by choosing transformation and moving from passive entitlement towards gracious group obedience and life-long self discipline.
My guess and hope is that the greatest fruits of Life Together will be seen when these residents are 30-plus years old with healthy spiritual disciplines being practiced with their spouses and children. It will be seen with an increased awareness of the needs of the world around them. It will be seen when they are reading and praying the scriptures every single day with their friends and families. And it will be seen when they choose their home churches based on what their Spirit-filled lives can bring rather than what a church offers them.
I am grateful to be able to be a part of this community and to be able to share it with others. I am grateful to be a part of a conference in a denomination that cares enough about the faith development of young adults that they’ll take a chance and let them figure it out together in a house. I am grateful that I and these housemates are moving from passive self entitlement to gracious group obedience. I am grateful, mostly, that God transforms us over and over again.