Back in September I launched a little experiment in supportive accountability with some friends. The idea was very simple: gather once a month for three months for a pot luck dinner, followed by a conversation. The conversation was an opportunity for people participating to share some goals for their family faith life for the month, then report back at the next gathering. I knew that was something I was wanting for my own family life so I was hopeful some others would want to give it a try as well. I invited three other families, friends of ours with children around the same age as our daughters, and they all three signed on! Woo-hoo!
Well, we finished our 3-month a couple weeks ago and will be re-upping for another round shortly which is a good sign. And this time we're going to look for ways to gently lean our conversations towards more depth. It's not like we were talking about the weather before, but it was clear that we were all drawn to the deeper sharing when it came about. So rather than just let that happen whenever, we'll be looking for ways to nudge ourselves that direction without locking into anything rigid. One idea that's been floated is to view the conversation time as a pot-luck too. There's still an element of unstructured freedom at the core, but we would come to it "bringing something that we have prepared," be that a prayer, a question, a song or a thought.
This simple no-pressure accountability scheme of our first round really helped me to move on some of the things I've wanted to do, but never quite got started. The simple presence of a kind of "due by date" on the calendar got me to follow through on my desire to have a monthly service project of some sort as a family. That part worked well.
Another part didn't work as well, and that turned out to be very instructive. I kept setting a goal for having one or two intentional faith conversations per week with my daughters - to talk about different ways to pray for example - and those conversations just weren't happening. And of course, by the end of the month it was too late to "catch up" before the pot luck! (After all, what's a deadline for if you can't cram everything in just before it hits?) So I changed the goal. Rather than a goal to have conversations, I made the goal to set target dates for the conversations. And the key here was to link the scheduling task itself to a fairly stable weekly event which we had in place around the Monday grocery shopping run. So it went like this: once a week when my wife and I sat down to figure out the family schedule (who's home which nights; who's cooking what for dinner...) we also looked for two days per week to have a conversation, typically at dinner. The goal was simply to plan which days we were going to shoot for having the conversations. If they actually happened, that would be good too but the main thing was to have them in sight - it was what we needed to move our desire into a specific intention.
Well, it worked pretty well! Most weeks now we are having these conversations on purpose with the girls and that's been a real treat. And I've learned some good points about intentionality and the value of building off of existing schedule patterns. But I probably wouldn't have gotten that worked out if not for trying and failing and reporting on it for three months in a row.
It's just a pot luck and a conversation, but it makes a difference.