- Meet in the Park
One of the questions many of us have as we consider how to establish and grow Missional Communities is how do we make it both attractive and manageable for those who join us? How do we develop our Missional Communities in such a way that they become an integral part of life rather than just another activity to fit into the diary? How do we grow an Oikos – a family on mission.
It is essential to keep things simple. If we make things too complicated people will find it difficult to commit. They are also likely to see it as an activity rather than an integral part of life. So how do we create something that is lightweight, attractive and leads to the establishment of rhythms that transforms us from a group of people who meet for some interesting activities into a Family on Mission?
Something to be
We need to be clear as to what we are seeking to achieve. Each aspect of ‘A Family On Mission’ is important. We are seeking to establish a ‘Family’. But not just a family, one that is ‘On Mission’ together. We can put in place the structure of missional communities, the structure of discipleship and mission. However if we are to become that family on mission we need to move beyond the structure and framework to create the texture. A family isn’t just a structure it has a texture, a feel. Without it it is just a mechanism.
We want to ensure that our Missional Communities have a proper balance of the three dimensional life. The UP of our relationship with the Father, the IN of our relationship with our community – our family, and the OUT of our call to be on mission to do as Jesus did and commanded us. At first sight this can seem rather daunting and make us wonder how do we manage all of this without reinforcing the view that Missional Communities are events to put in the diary requiring lots of organisation and planned activity. However if instead of looking at this as something to do we look at it as something to be it becomes much more possible.
Keep it normal
In the post Gareth wrote at the beginning of June he sets out how they began by inviting people to join in with some normal activities. Activities that families do.
Making the things that we do lightweight will enable us to sustain them more easily. One of the things that we have learned is that meal times are a good way of beginning. The key though is not to invite people to join you so that you entertain them. You are not hosting a dinner party, you are having your family around for a meal. Inviting people to join in with your regular pattern is a great way to begin the process of creating Oikos. This begins to move us from just doing things together to being together.
One of the Missional Communities we experienced developed their rhythms in a way that reflected the principles of being lightweight and multipliable. When they first began to meet they were quite organised and structured but as they matured as a community they began to see that they needed a more sustainable way of doing things. As they met on a Sunday morning they decided that rather than each of them having breakfast at their own homes they would come together and share breakfast. Everyone brought something to share and it was fun and family. It worked for everyone, families with children, couples without children and single people.
Over this breakfast time they very naturally began to develop a closer relationship with one another. Joys, sorrows, needs etc were shared and everyone was supported and cared for. The leaders of the community then recognised that just as they did at home they needed to bring these joys, sorrows and needs to the Father so they introduced a time for sharing in this way. So naturally we saw this group move from being a collection of individuals into a community that went on to be a family. They began to meet in similar ways not just on a Sunday but on other days as well.
Out of these relationships then came a heightened desire to reach out to those around them who didn’t yet know Jesus. They joined together in a number of different ways to bless their local community as well as supporting one another in their various workplaces and wider contact groups. People were welcomed into the family of the Missional Community and over time a number became Christians and continued on their journey of discipleship.
The lesson for me in this is that it is important that we use and build on the things that we are already doing in our lives. We have meals – so invite people to join you. Make it natural not a fancy dinner party. Carry on with your normal rhythm. If you normally pray over a meal carry on doing that. Sharing things that we are thankful to God for is a powerful witness.
As we lead Missional Communities it is important that we develop predictable patterns. This means that the most important things are done intentionally and consistently. This brings stability to the community – the family. The rhythm of knowing what’s coming brings peace and comfort to the life of any family.
David Rosser lives in Durham with his wife Jenny. They have been involved in the development and implementation of missional communities for the past 12 years.
In the second part of our series looking at how we develop Families on Mission, Gareth Irvine suggests how to create a culture where everyone belongs to the family and everyone participates in the mission of the family. You can read Part one on Changing Minndsets here.
Last Sunday our extended family spent our afternoon going to a nearby splash pool followed by a picnic in the sunshine. We’re a missional community of around 25 people including couples, single adults, teenagers, children and babies all at different stages on our shared journey of following Jesus. Although it was quite a logistical challenge getting the right number of cars, drivers & child car seats together in the right place, there was much laughter, fun (an abundance of crisps!) and I’m really glad I get to be part of this family. After the picnic the kids went off to play in the park whilst the grownups lazed in the sun and chatted about life. Everyone brought food to share at the picnic and we spread it all out over a large rug and then dived in. At the end, there was still loads left for those that wanted to take some home.
How did we get there? How did we somehow get to a place where everyone was contributing to the life of this extended family in a fun & generous way?
Firstly, you need to IDENTIFY what is missing or lacking in the culture that you want to change. For us, working in a challenging urban environment, we were really keen not to create a provider-client relationship, because that’s not how Jesus did family with people. So we identified that as our missional community took shape and began to grow in its identity, we wanted generosity to each other and those beyond ourselves to become a key part of who we all were – where everyone got to play and bring their contribution to the life of the family – recognizing that this would look different for each of us, but possible for everyone in some way.
Next, we needed to intentionally LIVE the culture shift we wanted to change, even when it didn’t always feel like it was fair or anyone was taking any notice. For us, this meant not just buying the cheapest value biscuits but sometimes taking a little more effort and a few more resources to demonstrate generosity that actually costs us something – like baking a cake. It means as leaders of the missional community or the spiritual parents of your oikos you will need to sometimes go and help with the washing up (even if you’ve already cooked) just to demonstrate that everyone participates in the life of the family.
Thirdly, we needed to create regular and predictable PATTERNS that allowed others to understand and take their first steps in joining us in expressing the culture we were growing into. This means that when we gather together, we have begun to offer the same opportunities for people to contribute – in a way that is easily accessible for most people in the extended family. For about 8 months, we have been meeting monthly for a ‘family fun day out’, which is one of the ways we express our ‘out’ dimension by having fun together in a way that others can feel invited into the life of our family. Each month we have always encouraged people to bring something to share – biscuits, snacks, drinks etc. To begin with, we found we needed to contribute most of what was being eaten together, and yet we would celebrate and acknowledge whenever someone brought something – however small or random it might have been! The key thing was that the expectation that if you can bring something to share, then great; but don’t worry if you can’t, you can of course still come – has now led to a culture where people always feel welcome (belonging) and yet also feel able to join in where and when they can (participation) because the patterns of how to do that are simple & predictable.
Gareth Irvine, together with his wife Jenny and daughter planted a new missional community base called Saint Aidan’s in the north of the city of Coventry in the summer of 2012. They took a small team of young adults with them, to live as an incarnational community focused around prayer and mission. They’re 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 as well as gathering together for worship on the estate.
Today we start a new mini-series all about how to help you make the shift from thinking about church in terms of a series of events, towards becoming an extended family on mission – or ‘oikos’ which is the Greek word used in the New Testament for households of faith. Don’t forget you can pre-order the new 3DM book ‘Family on Mission’ now and it will arrive through your letterbox in early June.
A few years ago, when I was a member of our church staff team responsible for our missional communities, and before ‘oikos’ and ‘family on mission’ were often spoken about, I was deeply moved when a member of one of our communities came up to me in church one day and said that his missional community was his FAMILY. You see without much teaching and training on our part the leaders of this community had ‘got it’. Through the challenge of ‘what is God saying to you’ and ‘what are you going to do about it’ they had, through prayer, prophetic words, revelation and action become a FAMILY on MISSION.
It hadn’t been easy for them. There were many challenges but over time they moved from just being a missional group, meeting regularly to serve and reach out to the poor and homeless, to becoming a family. The family consisted of all kinds of people. It involved everyone. They were vulnerable, accountable, adaptable, committed, open and honest, having responsibility, and looking out for each other, being sacrificial, being there for each other often in very tragic situations. They came together regularly to eat, pray, and share resources. They had predictable patterns, leaders who they honoured, a shared vision and they were a family of about 30 people.
So how did this happen? What changed the mindset of that group? I believe it was their identity and the texture of the group that changed. The structure was always there but it was the way they began to operate that changed. They began to realise and understand that they had to be open to those they were reaching out to becoming part of the family. They were no longer outside of the group. They were real friends. Life is richer when it is shared even with those who annoy us from time to time! They were learning to live as Jesus did; they had an identity.
This change happened first among the original community. As they faced the challenges and fun of living out the vision God had given them they were drawn closer together and began to understand the importance of being a family. This understanding led to them recognising that those they were reaching out to were also called to be a part of this family. This in turn led on to a gradual shift in how they related to one another and to the inclusiveness that created the family. They became a ‘family on mission’ as they all sought to live out the vision.
Our identity is deeply rooted in family because the basic nature of God is family. Today the normal expression of family has been lost to us. But family in this context is not just for people with children or the perfect couple living in the suburbs but it is for people from all kinds of backgrounds coming together single, divorced, single parents….it includes every human being.
The difference between this group, which began as a missional community being a church activity, to becoming a family, was the call on everyone who belonged to share and contribute in the family business.
Building a Family on mission is a sacrificial call, it takes time to build, but is something we are all called to participate in.
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.
This post follows Part One where Lucy and Andrew Buckley who lead a families Missional Community in Sheffield called Kin, share some of their thoughts on how they do that well.
Keep asking if it “fits”
We got to a point in our Missional Community where we weren’t sure what we were doing or why we were doing it. We also found we didn’t have time to fit in all the things we wanted to do in our personal lives. So we stopped, we reflected. And we realised that the problem was that our Missional Community and our personal lives were two different things. We had slipped into fitting a few meetings onto our lives rather than meeting together with people in order to live out our lives.
So we eat together as MC adults one week in three. But instead of eating at 7.30pm followed by organised discussion and activity as I was used to before we had kids, we meet at some time between 7.30pm and 8pm giving time for kids to be put to bed. We eat whenever the food is ready, sometimes it is cooked in advance sometimes it’s all hands on deck and cooked together as life together. And while we eat we’ll chat, sometimes challenging, sometimes lightweight and maybe we’ll pray if the need arises. Then people can leave by 9 and go to sleep early if they need to or stay later if they want to. It “fits” with our family stage.
One month we were making plans for our community Sunday (where we meet on a Sunday morning as community rather than gathered with the wider church), and trying to think up our Missional activity. We were also working out how to fit in our house-warming party. It was too busy and it felt like our MC was getting in the way of what we wanted to do which was to get to know the neighbours and show our friends our new place. When Missional Community seems to be getting in the way it usually means I need a mind-shift. In this case it was simple: invite MC into our life. So our community Sunday activity was suddenly obvious, they came to our house and helped us host a house-warming. Suddenly again it did “fit” with how we wanted to live our life.
What about you? Does what your MC do feel like it ‘fits’ with your life? What do you need to change? What do you need stop? What do you need to start?
Next month sees the release of our new book ‘Family on Mission’ which we’re really excited about. You can pre-order the book at a reduced price here. As you might have picked up we are also working on some new resources to help those who lead Family-focussed Missional Communities, the first resource being released next month.
Today we wanted to share a few thoughts from Lucy and Andrew Buckley who lead an MC called ‘Kin’ in Sheffield, UK, on their experiences and thoughts about leading a family-focussed MC.
Once a month on a Sunday when our community gathers we eat brunch (using paper plates) pray and worship for up to 15 minutes and then do one missional activity together. There is time to have fun, be together, tidy as we go and gently and patiently support even our youngest members in getting involved. It genuinely feels like we are able to journey a little together with God.
Today we post some testimonies and stories that have come from the Zurich Vineyard church who have been engaging in developing Missional Communities for a while now. We hope they inspire and encourage you!
I work in a family café and through that I get in touch with women and we can talk about faith. Most of the times these were just one off conversations about Jesus and I didn’t know what I could do about it. Because our church gathering on a Sunday is a bit of a drive away I felt that it was too big a step to invite to our church service. In that phase we got encouraged to go to the people like Jesus did. So I decided together with a friend of mine to start a women’s group and by that bringing the church to them. I invited these women for coffee and to get to know God and the Bible better and to pray for one another. Right at the start four women came. We started by reading the bible and talking about what we read. Everyone was very interested in what we as leaders experience with Jesus but somehow Jesus was not so real for them. Therefore we started asked the questions: ‘Where does the Bible passage speak to you?’ and ‘What are you going to put into practice in the next weeks?’ The trust level increased and they started to share their problems. We prayed for one another and saw some great breakthroughs.
At some point one of the women asked how one can be sure to go to heaven. So we talked about it and they all made a decision of what they felt in their heart that they wanted to belong to God. It became really important for us to disciple them in a ongoing process so that they will carry their testimony into their families in a natural way, and by that God’s kingdom would become visible in our village and the surrounding area.
At one of our recent outreaches with the kids we talked with them about prayer. As we asked them as we met the next time whether they had prayed in the meantime and whether God had answered their prayers a child on the first grade answered: My homework is sometimes so difficult. I just don’t know what I am supposed to do. Therefore I pray each time and God shows me how I have to do my homework.
We have a real passion for our neighbourhood. Around six years ago we moved into the area where we still live now und quickly we could develop good and deep relationships with people from this area. We always wanted to have an open house for people to join our lives. It was also there where a parent-children singing event started where a lot of our neighbours were interested in. Nevertheless we were lacking of other Christians that would share the same vision and passion. As in last autumn friends of ours moved into the same area and as we started to meet once a month for an open dinner meal the breakthrough happened. We could invite our people of peace into our community and our friends became more and more their friends.
If you have any stories to share do send them our way!
THANK YOU SO MUCH to all those who took part in our recent Families and Missional Communities survey – we had a fantastic response and have had some really interesting feedback from you which is proving very helpful as we look to develop resources to help those of you in Family MCs. The survey is now closed! We are on the way to developing our first resource based on on your feedback which will be released in June – do look out for it then!
One of the questions we asked was about what you find are the greatest joys in being part of or leading a family-based MC. The most popular responses were…
We loved this quote in response to the question as well…
I lead a missional community with my husband and my 12,10 & 6 year old children. My biggest joy is experiencing our faith together. Hearing them speak of praying with people at school, praying for each other in the MC, want to read the bible and ask questions. Before we went to church together and came home together and all went our own seperate ways in between. Now we are working and learning as a team. Priceless!
One of the other questions we asked, and is one of those which is really helping us shape what we work on for you, is “What are the biggest challenges you face in leading family MCs?” You responded….
As we process the responses further we plan to do a blog series on some of these most pressing and challenging questions as part of helping to resource you so do look out for that soon.
So once again, thank you so much for your responses, we really appreciate it. If you were one of those who participated and entered to win some free resources then we will be in touch with the lucky winners once we’ve developed something we can give you!
One of the things we keep hearing is that there is a need for more stories about Missional Communities in action. To be honest we feel it too, we know there are loads of people out there doing pretty remarkable things as they follow God’s call to live as families on mission.
We want to hear more about these people and that is why we are launching the #OURMSC project.
Do you lead or participate in a Missional Community? If so we would like you to make a short video (about 2 minutes long) to introduce us to your community and your story.
We’d like you to tell us:
Please put your video on youtube or vimeo and then tweet us a link using the hashtag #OURMSC any time during April or May.
We’re hoping that your responses to this project will help build up a bank of stories to show the diversity and creativity that God is releasing through missional communities.
Throughout the next two months we will be retweeting your videos and posting some of them here.
As an extra little incentive we are going to give one participant a copy of the core 3DM Discipleship and Mission books.
We’re looking forward to seeing your videos!