I wonder if you have been here: You’ve come up with a plan for mission in your community, you’re doing something new and are excited about it. There is a core team on board, but gradually as the chosen launch date comes up people start to find ways to tell you they won’t be there. Its Granny’s birthday, the kids have dance class, we’ve been really busy this week… as the excuses roll in you start to wonder if anyone will turn up.
Commitment is one of the key issues of leadership isn’t it? You can’t really call yourself a leader if there is no-one committed to following you. Getting people to commit is one of the things that came up a few times in our Families on Mission questionnaire. How to you help people make space and time for Missional Community at the level that you would like them to? Here are a few thoughts.
Talk about time use
Time is not an unequal resource, we all have exactly the same hours in a day! When people talk about being “time poor” or not having enough it’s because they have chosen to spend their time on different things. You may need to explore this as an Oikos. Jesus said “Seek first the Kingdom and everything else will be added.” Can you help people explore whether the activities their weeks are full of are seeking first the Kingdom or not?
Be focused in your gatherings
When you do something as an Oikos, make sure you can genuinely explain why that activity is seeking first God’s Kingdom. People will be more likely to come if they clearly have a compelling reason. Why is that morning brunch important? How does that café style gathering help you respond to what God is saying right now? Why should they come to your discovery bible study? Help them join the dots so they can see the reasons behind the activities.
Keep your time together fun
People will also be more likely to commit if they enjoy being with you! Make sure there is lots of space for food, jokes, fun and laughter. Building momentum and commitment can be frustrating, so make sure you get the space you need to keep the gatherings light, and certainly don’t make the classic teacher-error of telling off the people who have actually made the commitment.
Make challenge personal
Of course you don’t have to be fun and laughter all the time! Practice invitation and challenge, but as far as possible make the challenge personal and in conversation. Calls to commit that go out over email, Facebook or text can feel… well a bit passive-aggressive. Don’t be the housemate that leaves notes everywhere, be the leader who can challenge for commitment in conversation.
Find a rhythm of meetings as quickly as you can and stick to it. Predictable patterns make community safe to join. Make sure you communicate as clearly as possible so that everyone knows where and when you will be together. As innovation and change come, explain clearly and introduce it at a manageable rate.
Know when to be flexible
From time to time you may need to change your patterns to make it easier for other people to join in. Do the work to find out when people are most likely to be available and don’t be afraid (especially if your community is growing) of doing more as a community so that its easier for people to join in with some of what you do.
As with all discipleship, commitment is both taught and caught. Ask the same questions of yourself and your family as you do to others in the Oikos. Are you trying to fit Missional Community around your life? Do the activities you and your family do fit your understanding of God’s mission.
It may also help people to see you committed to something outside of the community you lead. Do you need to be better at modelling commitment to (for example) whole church gatherings, personal prayer time or space to meet people who aren’t Christians.
Finally: Give it time
Commitment is a momentum issue, if you keep going it will build. So don’t be too despondent if people don’t show up that often at first. Keep focused and keep praying, it will pick up as your community keeps rolling.
What other tips do you have for helping people commit to your community?
Ben Askew lives in Harrogate UK with his wife Helen and their family. He is Pioneer Curate at Kairos Network Church, an Anglican fresh expression seeking to plant Missional Communities across the Harrogate area.
(The image came from Wikipedia Japan – http://bit.ly/1ukbz5x)