After all those great posts by Lionel Windsor about ‘gospel speech’, I thought it might be good to write about what this might look like in practice, with a post or two about getting to know families at our local school.
It all started when my friend Rachel sent an email to Jess, Tanya and me:
I’ve been dwelling on how much I want to see families I meet at pre-school and school become Christians. And the best thing I know to do is pray. I think you all share the same passion – why not pray together? How fun to enjoy seeing God work!
Actually, it started a few months before this, when Jess, who was moving nearby, asked me for advice about local schools. No, it started a year before that, when Tanya came up to me and told me a few families from the local Presbyterian church were thinking of sending their kids to our school so they could get to know local families. Should they? There was a certain amount of strained desperation in my response: “Oh, yes! It’s a great school! Do come…”
Because really, it started eight years ago, when my daughter walked in the school gate carrying her new school bag, and I walked in bursting with enthusiasm. I hosted coffee mornings, invited women over for play-dates, and arrived at school early so I could chat with other mums while we waited for our kids to come out of class. Gradually, over the years, my enthusiasm waned. These days, I invite people over less often. I get to school at the last minute. Often, it’s easier to stand around and not talk to anyone at all.
So I know what it’s like to do it alone. Which is why this year has been such a revelation.
Once a month, Jess, Rachel, Tanya and I get together to pray for the families at our school. Here are some things this weary old sinner has learned from meeting with these eager young women – things I’m hoping will encourage and inspire you as they have me.
- God is already at work
All kinds of ‘coincidences’ bring the people we know together. During our first meeting, we discover that one of the mums Jess is getting to know ‘just happens’ to live down the road from Rachel. A woman I’ve befriended ‘just happens’ to have had an in-depth conversation with Tanya on the way out of school, although they have no natural connection. I ‘just happened’ to choose the same pre-school group as Rachel and her friend, even though I didn’t know she was sending her daughter there. God was already at work even before we started praying together!
- Pray, for God answers prayer
The week after our first prayer meeting, there’s a flurry of messages as we tell each other how God answered our prayers. We pray that Tanya will run into a woman she hasn’t seen for ages; she sees her on the way out of school the next afternoon. We pray for Jess to have a chance to ask another mum over; she writes, ‘Our meeting today and the Holy Spirit motivated me to have my friend and her kids over this arvo. Thanks!’ I pray for an opportunity to give a Bible to a good friend; the next week, I do. Now I’m praying we can read it together.
- Get to know people early
As I watch my friends, I’m reminded how many opportunities come at the start of your child’s schooling – opportunities that slip away as kids grow older and mums start working and become less interested in playgroups and play dates. If you’re a mum or dad and your kids are starting pre-school or school, now is the time to get to know people. I guess the same goes for new arrivals in a suburb, workplace or sporting club: it’s important to get to know people early, and then to work at these relationships in the long term, remembering that friendship takes time.
- Support and encourage each other
Through our example and words, we inspire each other to ask people around for a meal, invite them in for coffee, initiate conversations we’ve been wanting to have. We learn from each other, discussing what kind of conversational openings might not be appropriate, and what might be more helpful. There’s a feeling of expectation: ‘What will happen this month? What will I have to share next time we pray?’ Again and again, we share our fears and uncertainties, and spur each other on to do all kinds of things we might not have had the courage for if we were doing it alone.
- Work together, as part of a local community of Christians
One of the things we do when we get together is to write lists of people we know. Whose children are going to be at pre-school next year? Whose kids are starting school? Who should we look out for? Lots of the women we know bring their kids to the church’s playgroup; Jess invites a mum and dad from the school to a church dinner where they hear the gospel; and soon, we’ll start a regular BBQ so we can get to know each other’s friends. It helps that most of us go to the same local church so we can work together, not apart.
- Support (don’t envy!) those with gifts
One of the women I pray with, Rachel, is particularly gifted at talking about her faith. She’s irresistibly friendly, and has already had lots of long conversations with people about what they believe. Whenever we feel uncertain – will so-and-so think I’m ‘stalking’ her if I ask her over again? should I invite so-and-so out for coffee? – she reminds us once again that ‘People love to be loved’. I don’t think I’ll ever be like her, but I can pray for her, support her, learn from her, and involve her in my friends’ lives so she can get to know them too.
- Don’t lose heart
When I pray with my friends, the grumpy-old-ladyish part of me sometimes wants to say, ‘When my kids first started school, I was just like you. I felt excited about talking about Jesus, but just wait till you’ve been at it for eight years!’ But I know the truth. It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to lose heart. It’s easy to grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). I’m so grateful that God has put these three women in my life, to encourage me to keep at it. I remind them, and they inspire me, to persevere with hope in the God who changes people’s hearts.
So if you get the chance, get together with a group of Christians and pray for people you know. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Work together to befriend them. Be encouraged, because God is good, and he has his hand on those around you. Who knows? Maybe he’s at work in their hearts already (Acts 13:48). Because God has some who are his – even at our school.