That has meant that we have had to be creative with things. For instance we use coffee shops as our office and our houses as our drop-in centers. It was that reason that we chose to buy a house in the neighborhood that we work in. We wanted the issues of the community to be our issues as well. We weren't just parachuting in but we were living along-side.Sharing our home has meant some sacrifices, but over all it has helped us reach a depth of trust and intimacy with the youth we work with that I had never seen in my prior 10 years of youth work.
However these are the things that I would recommend that you think about before opening up your home.
- Make sure that your spouse or roomates share the vision. (You wouldn't like it if your roomate decided to host a mud wrestling competition in your living room every week without talking to you first would you.)
- Lay off on the rules. When I have youth over I want them to feel like they are invited to be a part of our family. Belonging doesn't come from a list of rules. What I made clear to my young friends is that I will treat them like adults friends and in return I expect the same from them. I also ask them to lay off the swearing so my young kids don't pick it up.
- Know your boundaries. There are some simple things such as - don't be alone with young people in your house. There are too many things that could go wrong with that. Also just letting people know when it's time for them to go home. Protect your family time. What you don't want is your home to be a workplace. It is a place you want to invite people into not a place that you are required to be at.
- Prepare to be surprised. When you treat others like equals suddenly conversations can happen. You don't need to fight to be heard, and neither to they. You can simply be. One day I found a scrap piece of paper on the coffee table of my house after every one had left that surprised me and inspired me to keep opening our doors to youth:
"You know sometimes you walk into a person's house and feel a negative vibe. For me, I can't always put my finger on it, I just feel anxious. Scared. Beaten. I've never felt that walking in here. I always feel so relieved, and the presence of love and Jesus is so obvious; you'd be blind not to see it, and numb not to feel it. This house, and this family is living proof of what God does in a person's life, and the difference it makes. Thank you Jesus for bringing these beautiful people into my life."