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.