The Gilman Home

Helping families develop healthy patterns for life

“This makes sense when we’re with you guys, but everything falls apart when we get home” said Bruce and Mary (not their real names) as their family prepared to leave our house after an evening together last year.

Bruce and Mary want to grow as followers of Jesus. They want their marriage and family to reflect God’s grace and truth. Yet their wounds, addictions, relational patterns and life circumstances keep sabotaging their efforts.

Mary became a follower of Jesus through friendship with my wife, Wendy, which formed while working together at a local restaurant. After getting involved with Bruce, she drifted away.

Years later, however, Wendy and Mary reconnected when Mary’s marriage was falling apart. Financial struggles added a huge strain, as did Bruce’s drinking. At the time, Wendy was the only person in Mary’s life encouraging her to stay married.

Mary grew as a follower of Jesus during this time, and her faithfulness to Bruce made an impact. As a result, although Bruce wasn’t interested in coming to a church service, he was open to coming to our house for dinner. For about a year, the couple came over once a week. Our kids played with their kids after dinner, while we sat around our kitchen table and talked about God’s story and the difference Jesus makes.

Bruce is not much of a reader, so we told a piece of God’s story each week, starting in Genesis and working to Revelation. Over that year, Bruce came to understand what has gone wrong with our world and how Jesus is the solution. We talked about how He can transform us to forgive, love and live differently.

Bruce trusted in Jesus and was baptized, but his new faith in Jesus hasn’t magically made everything better. He still struggles with drinking to cope with debilitating insecurity. Their marriage and family life is still strained, due to dysfunctional relational patterns inherited from their parents. Mary and Bruce are constantly worried over money, too, given their low income and poor financial management.

Show, don’t simply tell

As we watched Mary and Bruce pull out of our driveway with their children that evening six months ago, our hearts broke for them. I thought, A once-a-week sermon and occasional dinners just aren’t enough. If they are going to be discipled in Jesus’ way of life, they need to be shown, not just told what to do.

We realized that Mary and Bruce needed a season of grace in which they could experience what my wife and I had growing up: a Christian home. And they are not unique: Numerous families in our community are hurting and need to learn how to live as a healthy family.

Therefore, we believe God is calling us to start a training center to help families develop healthy relational, financial and spiritual patterns for life by providing a season of affordable housing and mentored training.

At the core of this training will be what we call the Five Stones way of life—a mindset and practice developed by a group of EFCA pastors who want to see more and better disciples of Jesus made, and a practice that God has directed our family and church to follow.

The Five Stones

If we are to live and reproduce the Christian life as God intends, then we must not only know the essential beliefs of the Christian faith but also recapture what Jesus’ first followers understood: Following Jesus is about a way of life that is lived in the everyday.

We came up with the name “Five Stones” from the realm of hiking. Below the tree line, it is easy to follow a path cut into the soft ground between trees that have been marked to identify the trail. Above the tree line, it’s difficult to find let alone follow the trail. For this reason, generations of hikers have built cairns by stacking stones on top of one another to mark the trail for hikers who will follow.

The Five Stones functions like a cairn, guiding followers of Jesus in His way of life. The “stones” address five foundational questions. In each answer are simple principles and tangible practices that together form an authentic way of life in Christ:

  • What are we to do as we follow Jesus? Love God, love others and make disciples.
  • How do we follow Jesus? By listening to and following the lead of the Holy Spirit.
  • When do we follow Jesus? In the daily rhythms of God’s kingdom, such as worship, generosity and celebration.
  • With whom do we follow Jesus? Together with our brothers and sisters, not in isolated fashion.
  • Where are we to follow Jesus? Into the world, sent as ambassadors from a position of being centered in Jesus.

Bringing dreams to life

The Five Stones will be the way of life in the family training center God is calling us to start, to help us come alongside families like Mary and Bruce’s. 
We found a large house for sale in our town called the Gilman Home—one that was previously used to care for elderly people in our community—and closed on it in April. It is a 3,800-square-foot home set on three acres in downtown Alton, New Hampshire, the community in which our church is located.

The Gilman Home has a four-bedroom main house in which my family of five will reside and from which my wife and I will run trainings. There is also a six-bedroom addition we plan to convert into two apartments, to house two families. Each apartment will have its own entry, kitchen, living area and two bedrooms. 
Our plan is to gather for family meals and training a couple times a week in our home. Through these training times as well as life-on-life mentoring during the regular flow of life, we desire to help families develop healthy relational, financial and spiritual patterns for life.

We look forward to the day when we are able to welcome families into the Gilman Home so that they can develop an authentic way of life in Christ that will be reproduced in their own homes.

For updates on the vision for the Gilman Home, visit the Five Stones website. The Huggards are awaiting the sale of their house to partially fund this vision.

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