Growing an Oikos: getting people to commit!

 

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

Rugby_scrum_1904When 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.

 

Be predictable

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.

 

Model Commitment

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 and helen askew

 

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)

New Resource for Family Missional Communities!

Families on Mission front cover

 

We are very excited that the first resource we’ve produced specifically for those leading Family based Missional Communities is now available!

Families on Mission: Ideas & Inspiration for leading a Families Missional Community

This is the first in a series of downloadable resources designed to help those who lead MCs which include children under 12.

As we have sought to equip people in this area one of the questions people have asked most is: ‘What do we do when we gather as all ages?’

This resource brings together tried and tested ideas from MC Leaders all over the world and is designed to give you a few principles on leading an MC like this, offer you some ideas of what others have done before, and inspire you to think creatively about what you could do in your context.

Here is a quote from the Introduction to whet your appetite.

Often it is difficult to think outside the box of a Sunday service with separate kids groups, and it can be tempting to think that it just can’t work or be meaningful for anyone, especially the adults. We would encourage you that if you adjust your expectations of what ‘meaningful’ means – and if you start to think creatively – then you can have a lot of fun growing in community together, worshipping and meeting with God, and getting involved in mission together.

The contents include:

* Developing Predictable Patterns * Discipleship around the dinner table * UP, IN & OUT for all ages * Stories of MCs in action…and more!

You can download this 47 page resource for £6.50 at the 3DM Shop.

 

 

Three Keys to Missional Communities: 2. Making Things Reproducible

 

We believe MCs should be Simple, Reproducible and Sustainable; read our first post on ‘Keeping Things Simple’ here. Today it’s all about making things reproducible. If the goal of a Missional Community is that it should eventually grow and reproduce new MCs, how does that happen and how do MC Leaders lead towards that goal? 

srs_noteThe MC’s in our church have the commission of “calling our city back to God” – that’s the vision of the church and therefore the context that all of their specific ‘missional visions’ fall within. That’s a big vision! And it means the only way that’s going to happen is if we see multiplication in our MC’s. MC’s reproducing more MC’s. And then more. And then more..!

Even reaching ONE part of a city or community probably requires this.  One MC can have some impact, but never enough to see properly lasting change. It’s just impossible for 15-30 people to do that on their own.

And that’s where discipleship comes in.

The thing with discipleship is that it’s about growth, learning and – ultimately – multiplication. The disciples Jesus had were a group of guys that became a lot like him and were able to do the things that he could do. You could say Jesus ‘multiplied’ himself in to them, because at the end of his time with them there were a lot more people that looked and lived like him than at the start.

So if we are leading and therefore discipling people in our Missional Communities, we should really expect them to start being able to do the things that we can do too! That may not happen straight away, but rather gradually over time, week by week, month by month. If we are managing to see this happen, then we are making sure that our MC has a chance of being reproducible. It sounds simple, but the MC is only going to be a reproducible community if the people IN the community are able to reproduce what you are doing.

So how do you lead in a way that encourages this growth and multiplication?

1. Have a big vision! 

Your vision needs to be specific, but it also needs to be big enough for people to see that you can’t fulfil it. If your MC is managing to accomplish its vision with just you leading and keeping everything ticking over, then there isn’t really a big enough stretch for others to see the gaps and desire to step up or think about how they could get involved in helping. The best MC’s I have been part of or led have had a vision to reach a whole community or area, not just the people already in it!

2. Treat everyone like a leader

Everyone is called to lead someone, even if right now it’s just themselves or 1 other person. The more you treat people like leaders, the more they will start to feel like that and gradually want to operate like one at some level. Affirm their leadership in other places too, like families or businesses, and help them think about how they can keep bringing these skills in to other areas of community life. Generally I have found its best to communicate this in general terms at gatherings as well as bringing it in to 1-1 conversations with people in the MC wherever possible.

3. Keep finding ways to delegate responsibility

In each part of the life of your MC – gatherings, food, messaging, mission, prayer, pastoral care, calendars, rotas – whatever it is, think about who could be sharing responsibility with you or taking it on for you. That doesn’t mean you sit back and watch(!), it means your role becomes working with everyone to grow their participation, responsibility and ownership of the life of the community. That’s how the best families work isn’t it?

In the last community I led, I challenged myself to think of someone each week who could start/learn to take on each part of the gathering. Over time, I was able to just turn up and watch on some weeks.

4. Commit to helping people

If you are encouraging people in the community to help you lead and multiply things, then make sure you are committing to help them with learning how to take on more and how to do new things that they might be unsure about. Also help them manage how to take things on in a sustainable way that doesn’t overwhelm them or burn them out! For me, it’s been important to take an interest in people’s whole lives, not just the bit that is seen within community gatherings. Then you can have a ‘whole’ conversation and help people work through a balanced lifestyle. I’ve also had to give people LOTS of encouragement and positive feedback along the way; often much more than I realised was needed!

5. Encourage people to follow through on their own ideas

If someone comes to you with an idea that seems to fit with the vision and values of your community, help them think through how they could take hold of it themselves with others around them. Ask them what they need from you to help make it happen!

6. Show everyone it’s OK to fail

We’ve said this here before, but the more you celebrate people trying rather than just succeeding, the more you will see people having a go. Until I knew it was ok to make mistakes when leading a community, I didn’t want to lead one! Then I saw other people sharing what they had learnt from getting it wrong and I realised it was more about learning than ‘success’. That was incredibly releasing! Perhaps we need to help others hear that too.

si ford

 

Simon Ford lives in Sheffield, is part of the King’s Centre Church and works for 3dm Europe. He has been part of and led various young adult and workplace-focussed missional communities over the last 10 years.

 

 

Sustaining a Life of Mission: On not burning out!

 

How do you feed yourself while holding down a job/family/life and leading a Missional Community?

Most of us manage to keep ourselves physically fed even when resources are tight. We know it’s sensible if we eat at regular intervals. If we try to live on snacks as we rush from one thing to another the end result is an unhealthy body, the loss of energy and the ability to function effectively. So why do we find it hard to keep spiritually fed when we know that it is crucial?

Are you honest with yourself about what you can sustain in relation to the people you live and work with? Do you work out the priorities in your life and try to make them happen? Do you review this regularly?

Managing time helps us to be physically present. To function and lead well we need to manage our energy – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. We each have a physical, emotional and spiritual well of energy which we need to keep filled and not allow it to get too low. Leading anything requires us to be fully engaged, prepared and focused. If we allow ourselves to become drained in our lives we become ineffective as leaders.

Leading a Missional Community isn’t something you should be doing on your own. It requires a team. Planing ahead and communicating well is crucial. Involve others in what you’re doing in your life and in your Missional Community. Always keep yourself accountable. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, challenge you and keep you accountable.

As we have led Missional Communities and supported Missional Community leaders one of the things we have observed is the tendency to make things too complicated. This increases the work load and pressure on the leader. If we spend too much time in planning and preparation we just won’t have the time or energy to feed ourselves spiritually.

bibleIt goes without saying that spending time with God both personal and corporate is vital. But be honest and ask yourself – How am I doing this? Is my personal time with God the best I can do? If not what am I going to do about it?

If you, as a leader, are not spiritually fed you won’t have anything to share with those you lead. We see very clearly from the Gospels that Jesus took regular time out to be alone with the Father and to be refreshed and restored. If it was important to Jesus then it is vital for us!

Keep focused and fresh in your Bible reading.

Ask one or two friends to pray for you and keep them updated on how to pray. Be honest with them.

Celebration and worship with others may be part of what you do when meeting in your Missional Community, but worshiping with the wider church family is very necessary. This should be a time when you receive.  It may be at the Sunday Church Celebration when you don’t have the responsibility to lead in any way.

If you are leading a Missional Community then you should be in a huddle. Ensure you make your huddle a priority. It is a time to be vulnerable, to be challenged and to be cared for. It is a place and time to be able to share with others and to learn from them.

Accept teaching and training when available. It is a special time to receive, to learn and to grow. If necessary adjust some other things to make it possible.

Build into your schedule something you really enjoy doing. Ensure you have times when you relax and do nothing. For some of us this can be a challenge!

I no longer hold down a full time job while leading a Missional Community but I know and support Missional leaders who do. My routine now is generally lived at a more leisurely pace but I remember well the challenges there were for me. And sometimes I got it right but often I didn’t. You don’t have to figure it all out and get it all right. Having some predictable patterns in all of this will help us to be fed and sustained.

david and jenny rosser

 

Jenny Rosser lives in Durham with her husband David. They have been involved in the development and implementation of Missional Communities for the past 11 years.

Three Keys to Missional Communities: 1. Keeping things Simple

 

How do you keep the life of a missional community simple? How can you avoid making things too complicated?

Image courtesy of http://www.stevewiens.com/

Planning your missional community diary can be daunting. It can seem like there’s a lot to fit in. A heartbeat of worship and prayer. Social time together. Discipleship sessions. Opportunities to invite friends. Acts of service. How can we plan rhythms that give expression to all that whilst still keeping things simple?

It is a question we’ve wrestled with a lot over the years. In fact, my MC roared with laughter when they heard that I’d been asked to write on this topic! You see, I love complexity and am comfortable with a fairly complicated diary, and as we are in a fairly unique cultural context we had to figure out appropriate rhythms by trial and error. Needless to say, it took several attempts to find a sustainable pattern for us.

As we have we established simple and predictable rhythms for our community, we find people can more easily connect to the life of the group. For example, we hold a monthly Sunday afternoon tea in the park, and find that friends now expect an invitation and are more prepared to come along. They even remind us when we skip a month!

Simplicity also helps the MC members keep a sustainable lifestyle. Don’t laugh, but when we started, our monthly diary had a ‘discipleship session’ (in a different home each month), an outward focused Bible study in a local bar, a social activity (format, time and venue decided each month) , and a ‘service day’ (theme, time, venue decided each month). There was too much variability, and people were getting confused and worn out keeping their diary organised! We quickly ratcheted back to something simpler.

So here are four lessons on simplicity that we’ve learned the hard way over the last four or five years.

  1. Adjust gradually. When our home group transitioned into a missional community, we moved from the simplest possible rhythm (an evening meeting once a week) to the most complicated (the one described above)! Oops. It may seem obvious, but now I would recommend changing just one thing at a time. Try it for a while. If it works, keep it. If not, adjust again. Our own practice is now to review our community life once a year and make adjustments in our rhythm at that point.
  2. Attend to seasons. There is a time for everything, and not everything has to happen at once! There may be a time for widening the reach of your MC and finding new people of peace, a time for working with your people of peace, a time for pulling back for deeper prayer, a time of training, and so on. Whilst I would not recommend flip-flopping between very different rhythms in these times, don’t feel you need to do everything all the time.
  3. Take an integrated approach. Not everything needs its own meeting! We are moving away from different events for different aspects of MC life in favour of a simpler structure – in this case a fortnightly community night – that covers several areas (e.g. fellowship, prayer, discipleship …) in such a way that we can invite friends to join us. This increases regularity and predictability. We will also maintain our Sunday afternoons in the park.
  4. Watch for the organic. You don’t need to programme everything! As long as there is enough discipling going on and a clear missional vision, things will start to bubble up by themselves. Examples of organic life in our MC include a monthly men’s night out, a Christianity Explored course amongst a certain group of friends, and various 1:1 discipling relationships. In fact, by over-programming you will reduce the margin in your team’s lives and discourage them from launching these kind of organic initiatives.

 

I would love to hear about your own experiences. What have been the difficulties and successes you’ve encountered in this area?

richard medcalf

 

Richard Medcalf is an Englishman living with his family in Paris. He blogs at www.theuntaming.wordpress.com

Kids, Fun, Mission & Halloween

A question I have been asking recently is:

“Can I really infuse missionary fun for kids into the headache that is Halloween?”

Halloween has always caused a headache for church kids & youth workers, groups and parents alike. Do I really need to put the house on lock down? Throw unlimited energy into a huge ‘Light Party’ at church? Or simply give into the commercial machine to celebrate all things dark?

It got me reflecting.

If my desire is to disciple kids with a missionary outlook on life, not one dependent on avoidance or a church sub culture, I’m going to have to re think what I do with the headache that is Halloween.

Cadburys-Trick-or-Treatsize-TubLooking at the Bible it clearly shows Jesus as salt and light in the midst of life, a game changer…not someone off the field of play.

Looking at my kids they wanted to get (loads of) sweets/candy, be with friends, possibly get dressed up and from the opportunity that only this night offers, have the sense of risk knocking on doors to meet their community.

Looking at the ministry I was hoping to form a culture where kids have a platform in learning to listen to God, look outwards, bless and pray for their community.

Following a bit of observing and discussing the ingredients baked into a plan:

‘The Bright not Fright night’

A model I felt offered something different to keeping the kids in church or in the house (both I have done), but began to release them amongst their peers and community. So what does it involve?

1. Telling the kids they are going out on Halloween night…and yes friends can come if they wish.

2. They can dress up. Something fun, preferably bright – nothing to fright.

3. They are going to get lots of sweets/candy and snacks!

Snacks will be given away from pre-fixed addresses from homes belonging to church families or Missional Community. These work as pit stops on the route you wish to take around your village, town or community. My suggestion is that you stock up supplies at 3 homes (but of course this can be anything from 1 to100). I have found choosing the pit stops wisely can also offer a real opportunity for cross-generational engagement.

4. They will be supplied with a quantity of chocolate/candy to go and give away to people in between each pit stop. Encourage the kids to use this time to pray for the people, homes and streets they are walking past, and when prompted by the Holy Spirit to knock on a door to ‘greet and treat’. If you have time a note or sticker on the chocolate/sweets could read -

This is our Bright not Fright night. Here is your ‘greet and treat’ from ——— church. Just to let you know we are thinking of and praying for you this evening. http://www.your church website.com

The reactions can be brilliant, if not one of slight confusion to be receiving a treat on this night. We also found that some households at this point want to give us their sweets. It is up to you how you respond. We said to the kids don’t expect to receive something, but if offered to go for it, taking on the idea of a ‘person of peace’ from Luke 10:6-7, and if we are honest what a bonus for the kids!

Now we treat Halloween as no longer a headache but a night of missionary fun.andy hawkins

Andy Hawkins lives in Gateshead with his wife and 3 kids, and has a varied 15 years experience leading, discipling and educating children and young people.

It’s OK to Fail

 

clayjarbwHave you read the latest blogpost from the 3DM Leadership Blog?

Learning from Mistakes

 

One of the themes we post on periodically is called ‘When it went wrong…and what we learnt’.  Read these previous posts for more examples of learning through failure!

On Multiplying a Missional Community

Freedom to Fail

On Team

Alan!

 

Changing seasons: what does that mean for our MC?

Well it feels as if Autumn is well and truly underway here in the north of the UK and it’s amazing how quickly the shift of seasons can happen. A week ago our lawn was looking green, now it is covered with a beautiful carpet of orange and brown leaves. I am ignoring the fact that this means we will need to sweep them up soon.

autumnSometimes the shift of season for our Missional Communities feels like it can happen very quickly too.  Perhaps we’ve been enjoying the laid back nature of gathering for fun and relaxed times over the summer and suddenly we’re very aware of how full life has become again for people. Sometimes perhaps we feel like we’ve been praying for a particular breakthrough in our MC and it suddenly happens without any warning and you’re into the next phase of what God wants to do. Instead of lurching from one season to another how should we respond to these shifts?

We may need to re-evaluate several things, including:

  • whether our current rhythms/patterns work for this new season
  • whether it’s a season to call people in or release them out
  • whether to start something new, or stop something – or both!
  • whether it’s a time for waiting on the Lord or acting in response to what He’s saying
  • whether what we’re doing is simple, sustainable and reproducible
  • or many other things

At our church the leaders of one particular MC had been praying and recognising that there was so much leadership potential in the community they wanted to release people to lead in their own God-given vision. At our leaders Learning Community in May they shared that with the room without any real idea of how it was going to happen, other than trusting the Holy Spirit to do it. Fast forward to July and we found ourselves at a final BBQ celebrating 5 years of this MC and praying for the leaders of 2 new communities which have come from it.

This season has been echoed across the church.  3 MCs actually ended in the summer after much prayer and discussion – we joked that we managed to halve the number of MCs we had in just one week!  On the surface, and to those not convinced by MCs, that can look like failure. We have worked hard to communicate messages about seeds dying and going into the ground, about God pruning things for greater fruit, and about how we often need a ‘gap’, uncomfortable as that may be, to give space for new things to grow and develop.

And, praise God, they are. We have had 2 new communities launch this week, and another 2 in the pipeline for the next few weeks and we are having lots of conversations with people about vision that God is stirring in them for new things. We are eager to see what God is doing with them.   Alongside that we are running something we are calling Basecamp – a 7-week series of evenings going back to basics and exploring things like our vision & values, covenant & kingdom, family on mission, people of peace, discipleship and exploring personal vision (we actually pinched the idea from King’s Church Warrington – thanks guys!)  We are calling all those who are either ‘in-between’ MCs, new to the church or just want to put aside the space to hear what God is saying to join us.  We are excited about what new visions and connections between people will emerge.

What about you? What kind of season is your MC in? Or your church?  What is God saying about how you need to respond to that? Don’t be afraid of making the uncomfortable decisions if necessary. 

Helen Askhelen-a-picew lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire along with her two children and husband Ben who is as a Pioneer Curate in the Church of England.  She has been part of and led Missional Communities for over 14 years. They work for Kairos Network Church, an Anglican Fresh Expression, and are also involved with 3DM Europe.

Does Summer means 6 weeks off from being a Missionary?

 

We’ve nearly made it to the end of another school year.  Last night our team celebrated their final Kidz Klub before the summer holidays.  They’ve worked hard and it is rightly time to look back and celebrate what God has done and look forward to a break from some of the tasks.  So does that mean the team take six weeks off from being missionaries?

Rest is not the opposite of mission.  

Yes some of the tasks will stop, yes it is rightly a time for slower rhythms of life, but no we don’t stop being missionaries.   If we think mission equals events then we need to take a break from constant activity, hence stopping Kidz Klub for the summer.  But as we learn mission is not just event but lifestyle, we have discovered that rest is an important part of our mission.

sunflowerMission includes inviting others into our patterns of rest.

If we embrace slower rhythms of life while remaining embedded in our community then we don’t take 6 weeks off from being missionaries, we have 6 weeks of being missionaries summer style.

What might it look like for you and your community to be summer style missionaries?  Here are a couple of suggestions to get you thinking.  Of course you know your group best and will need to think creatively about what works for your context.

  • Meet in the Park
In term time I meet with local parents and toddlers for a stay and play type group.  Over the summer instead we are meeting at a local cafe followed by a local play park.
Think creatively about when and where you meet out over the summer. 

  • Using your gardens
Sit around together on a summer evening in a garden with low structure.  Time to remind ourselves what God has done in the past year and dream about the future.  Time to catch up with each other and the things the matter to each of us.  This is my plan for our gathering tomorrow evening.

Perhaps pick a night of the week you will gather informally in a garden to have a drink, pray and catch up.

  • Walk the Streets
In the holidays we’re going to make sure we include some time outside around our neighbourhood with our daughter each day.  Nothing radical here, nothing hard work here, but surprisingly easy not to get round to.

The long light evenings make this a great time of year to walk around the block after work and before dinner.  Catch up with neighbours  you know or make new friends.

Two mistakes
What is your tendency?  
Some groups seek to sustain the life by continuing as if nothing has changed.  The danger is these groups over stretch themselves with fewer resources during the summer weeks and arrive at September exhausted.  If this is your current plan think carefully about how you can make your gatherings more lightweight.  There are likely to be some things you need to not do.  Make sure you have less events to organise over the summer.

Or do you stop entirely?  This can leave people lonely and isolated, particularly those not in nuclear families or on the edge of the community.  If you recognise this then think about what are the lightweight ways you could maintain relationships.  Make sure you have some times of rest where others know that they are invited and welcome to join you.

 

Rest is a vital component of a missional lifestyle – how will you and your community be missionaries summer style?

jenny irvine

 

Jenny Irvine, together with her husband Gareth and young daughter Jessica, lead a missional community base called Saint Aidan’s in the north of the city of Coventry.  They’ve taken a small team of young adults with them, to live as in incarnational community focused around prayer and mission.  They are currently involved in Kidz Klub which works with children from challenging housing estates, and visit about 30 families each week on the estate where they live.