While I was out of town this past week, my older brother, his wife and their youngest child stayed at my house here in Goleta. It was a nice escape from the Phoenix heat for them and they got a chance to explore Santa Barbara. But, most importantly, they got to check in on my life here in California. My older brother acts like an older brother—he makes sure that I have what I need, and if I don’t he will either fix it or tell me to fix it. For instance, he bought an “outdoor broom” for my house because my garage needed sweeping and all I had was an “indoor broom.” And before they left, his wife informed me that I should get an extra lock on my back door, “just in case.”
We each play roles in our families. Some people are responsible older children who keep an eye out for the wayward siblings. Some people are youngest children who try to lighten up the room with mischief. Some play hosts for every family gathering, others are the advice dispensers, and others cause troubles (consciously or unconsciously) that serve to both upset and unify the family. Often these roles are assigned at birth, whether we want them or not—the family dynamics demand them. It’s a part of how groups function.
Churches function in the same way. We each take on roles. Some of us are super responsible. Others breeze in and out, reminding everyone to “lighten up.” Some offer comfort and hospitality, while others stir up trouble (mostly good trouble). Often we bring these roles from our family positions, and they are as unconscious and inescapable here as they are at home. In the end, I believe that there is a great deal of peace in accepting the roles as necessary for the group to survive. Instead of getting frustrated at the bossiness of the “older brother” of the congregation, or being appalled at the troublemaking “youngest child,” it is possible to stand back and appreciate the purpose behind these roles. They keep the group in constant motion, forming and reforming it, making it more resilient and adaptable.
So, what role do you play? Are you a responsible older child or a rebellious younger child, or somewhere in between? Whatever it is, may you play your role with integrity and grace. And may we all have enough perspective to appreciate the wisdom and humor of it all.