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!
One of the things we encourage Missional Communities to develop is their own rhythm of predictable patterns. A predictable pattern is something that we might do regularly in our lives, like starting each day with a morning Bible reflection or having a Sunday roast once a week.
In our communities, predictable patterns are powerful tools for creating a safe environment where discipleship can happen easily. We might have patterns that involve engaging with God, with each other and with mission.
Why have predictable patterns?
I live with three other girls, and we wanted to feel like a family together. So we committed to spending one evening a week together, and to breakfast and prayer daily. It felt like a very small start.
But having the discipline in place has meant that we’ve gone beyond good intentions and actually spent time with each other and prayed. And the fact that we know it will happen at the same times every week creates a very secure environment – we know we’re committed to doing certain things with each other at certain times. It’s predictable.
We also know when not to plan other things. With less organisation there is much more energy to concentrate on the really important things like caring for each other, having fun together, listening to God and pressing on in mission.
That discipline has created an environment where we’ve been able to open up to each other, grown in trust and got close. And now we’re growing our family! We invite others in to breakfast and prayers, and have earmarked a regular dinnertime for the wider community and people who don’t know God yet to join us.
Of course, not all our communities are like us – e.g. when you have children your week is likely to look a little different! One of our family communities has tea together every other week in a local supermarket café, and they invite their people of peace. The other week it’s just two families having a quick family dinner and a pray at home. Another community eats dinner altogether, then the kids (with designated leaders) and adults meet separately.
One of the best ways to get started is to look at what rhythms you have already, and to think about whether you could build on them. Involving people in your everyday activities makes it feel less like a chore and more like including people in what you were going to do anyway.
So if you have a family, could you invite some others to join your family meal once a week? Or if you always go to the park at the weekend, what about inviting some close friends from your community? If you’re a single person, what might it look like to have a regular pattern of doing things with others?
Catherine Findley is the Missional Communities Team Leader at Westwood Church Coventry.
How does a home group become a missional community?
In 2010 our home group felt called to something more outward-focused and learn what being an extended family on mission together might look like. This was really something God had bubbled up amongst us; it wasn’t a church programme and frankly missional communities weren’t on the radar of the leadership at all. We obtained permission to experiment, but apart from that we were left to figure things out ourselves!
Our context is quite specific. We belong to an English-speaking church in the Western suburbs in Paris, an area with a number of international schools and a large international and expat community. Amongst the French population there are also many who have lived abroad and who value an international atmosphere.
The first thing we did was agree on our “mission vision”: who we are looking to reach out to. Our group consisted of a couple of families with young children and a couple of slightly older ladies from our church. We felt our calling together was to internationally-minded young families in the local area.
We started with a flurry of outward activity that ended up being unsustainable. We had a complicated monthly diary of social, “spiritual” and service events which, frankly, was too much burden for a small core group. People got tired and it all became complicated to manage. So we dialled back on the programme and spent a considerable period of time encouraging the team to see themselves as missionaries to their neighbourhoods and networks and we have seen people really switch mindset.
It has taken much trial and error to find rhythms that are both missional and sustainable. We have found monthly community meals (where we invite friends) and a monthly “core team” night of prayer, planning and Scripture to be foundational elements. When the kids were very young we found that hanging out in the local toy library on a Saturday morning was a great place to build relationships. Now we have switched to Sunday afternoons in the park, where we bring snacks and increasingly include a small spiritual component: praying for the kids before school term, or bringing and blessing food in winter before giving it to the local food bank. Our wider circle of friends have responded well to this. We have also established some traditions such as a Christmas party where we bring a clear Jesus-focus amongst all the mince pies and mulled wine, and it has been encouraging to see our friends looking forward to such fixtures.
Over time, relationships have led to deeper engagement. A couple of us organise a monthly beer and curry night for anglophone guys in town, which has proved popular and met a real need for community amongst hard-working professionals. This has given rise to smaller discussion nights in the same bar, where conversations are getting deeper and bigger questions raised. Similarly, the women in the group found some of their friends eager to engage with a monthly Bible study.
So how does a home group become a missional community? I would say: with time, persistence, many mistakes and lots of encouraging words from mentors on the way!
Richard Medcalf is an Englishman living with his family in Paris. He blogs at www.theuntaming.wordpress.com
There’s been a conversation around the movement for a while now, which over the last few months has seemed to intensify slightly. Many of you will identify with questions that we keep being asked in relation to whole discipleship and Missional Communities thing, such as ‘how do MCs work with families?’ ‘how do I disciple my kids?’, ‘is this really going to work in my church if my family hasn’t got it?’
The background to this is that many of us have grown up with the prevailing mindset that says when we go to church on a Sunday the children and young people have their own groups and the adults have the ‘proper’ teaching. Centralised Children’s Ministry is of MASSIVE importance in all this, but we believe there is a much fuller experience of discipleship and mission that we are missing out on if that is all we engage with as families. In fact, there is a hugely significant role here for Children’s Ministry to play in resourcing the lives of families and communities through the week.
One of the key words for us is ‘oikos’ – extended families on mission together. The goal of all this is to see whole families raised up to reach their friends, neighbours and communities with the Good News of Jesus – EVERYONE should be involved, from the youngest to the oldest. But it takes a mindset shift and a different way of operating if we are really going to see this happen effectively – from one where the adults do the ‘proper’ stuff and the kids are at best entertained and maybe learn a few bible stories whilst we do this, to one where it is recognised that whole families can be engaged in discipleship and mission together, to reach families who don’t know Jesus yet.
We’ve been working on this for a while now, and as we have developed the principles and practices of Missional Communities we have done so in such a way that they exist to help us grow as an extended family on mission together. As 3DM our objective is to resource churches, leaders and families to continually grow their understanding of what this means and how to do this better. Alongside the training that we are offering, over this next year in particular we are seeking to develop resourcing specifically for those wanting to learn how to grow Missional Communities reaching families.
But, we’d like your help..! We want an open conversation about this whole area – what would you find most helpful for us to provide you with or produce to help you? How do you think families and communities could be better resourced to disciple children?
We’ve obviously got our own ideas and experience that we are bringing to this, but it’s really important to us that we hear what people are saying, particularly with regard to:
In order to hear your thoughts and comments, we would love it if you could take 5 minutes to complete a short survey we’ve put together. This will enable us to feed in your thoughts to the questions and conversations we are already engaged with in this area and a few different perspectives. If you could share it around with those in your churches and get their thoughts as well that would be great!
Thanks in advance for your help, we’ll be feeding back on what we’ve heard, so do look out for the results in the coming weeks and months!
At our church over the last couple of months we have been talking a lot with our missional community leaders about what it is that leads to breakthrough. We have a number of communities that have committed to great specific visions, but we seem to keep being reminded that the kind of extended family on mission that we’re trying to build is really hard work! It doesn’t come from just sharing a good vision, or building up excitement. Often moving from vision to reality feels like a long, hard slog.
One of the things that our vicar has been encouraging us to remember is a prinicple developed by Jim Collins. In his book “Good to Great” Collins talks about flywheels. These are large mechanical wheels used in farming and industry to store energy. Getting them moving is very hard but once they are moving they are extremely difficult to stop. Leading an MC is a bit like getting a flywheel moving. Getting it going doesn’t just take one thing. It takes many little pushes.
We are looking for breakthrough, but that always comes after a long build-up. Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Paul all had a long build up to their breakthrough. We need to be prepared for a long period of build up with many little pushes focused in the same direction.
Here are 5 principles to keep developing build-up:
Consistency: There has to be stability in the run up to breakthrough. Inconsistency wars against build-up. This is why predictable patterns are important; a consistent rhythm of Up, In & Out activities as a community develops build-up, and we need to listen to God about which of those three we need to particularly focus on at any given time.
Team: Make space to listen to those around us. Be aware of the tendency to take on the “heroic leader” role. Let’s make sure we are listening to our team and our emerging leaders.
Discernment: It is vital that we are asking “What is God saying?” and “How are we going to respond?” We are all still trying to work out how to do this. Let’s keep persevering in hearing God and responding.
Perseverance: 1 Thess 5: 24 tells us that God is faithful and He will do it! Remember that verse as we persevere in what Eugene Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction”.
Communication: Hear the communication of God about who we are in Him. Bring that to our communities, remind each other what our story is. Keep communicating God’s calling and vision well.
Does it feel like you are in quite a long period of build-up right now? Be encouraged and keep going. This time is an incredibly important one for your community. What are your tips for keeping going in the times of “long hard slog”? How do you maintain vision and passion? Do tell us in the comments below.
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. He pinched most of the ideas of this post from his church leader Mark Carey, but doesn’t feel too bad about that because Mark nicked them from other people anyway.
At the heart of missional communities is the understanding that discipleship primarily happens through relationships lived out in extended families on mission. It means they have a vital role in becoming training grounds for disciples rather than grazing pastures for Christians.
They are dynamic and constantly evolving, being shaped by the Spirit’s leading as the group discerns the season they find themselves in. There is an expectation of growth in both the depth of discipleship and the reach of their mission. We call this multiplying life. It’s the picture Jesus uses of what happens when yeast is added to dough – a little bit of life works to affect the whole so that growth happens!
This principle is a really helpful one to think about how the culture of your missional community might be shaped.
If you agree that a key role in leading your community is to shape a culture of equipping and releasing disciples, (check out this great blog by Paul Maconochie on the role of a leader), then here are 4 areas to help you consider how to become a community which multiplies life,.
1. Start with a vision that is much bigger than where you start off
The way Jesus started off his mission by calling a few fishermen together shows he was thinking long-term. Jesus had a discipleship mindset. He wasn’t looking for fully-formed individuals (good luck on that one!) or people who even fully understood what he was about. He looked for people who with a little invitation were hungry for something to change.
What this means: When we started inviting people into our missional community, we looked for people who were willing to come with us for the journey towards a vision that will be years in the making. We were careful of calling people to specific events or just on the strength of our existing friendship. We needed to call people to a shared adventure with Jesus to see Him change a bit of our shared world together.
2. Your job isn’t to do everything. In fact it’s the opposite.
Quite early on in Jesus’ friendship with his disciples, he was getting them to do stuff. To go out on mission trips, to feed the poor and hungry, and to announce the Kingdom in word and action. And to begin with they just weren’t very good at it. The point was, Jesus knew they needed to learn how to do this discipleship stuff, and for most of us we don’t really learn by reading the theories but by having go in the context of real life.
What this means: We try and see everything we do in our life together as a learning opportunity for someone. Whether it’s saying a simple prayer out loud for the first time, visiting houses, making a dinner for 12, or organizing a litter pick – we try and let everybody have a go. The key thing is to be there to process how they’re doing and what God’s teaching them about their character in what they learning.
3. Take regular time out to stand back and watch what is happening
Jesus often seemed to disappear off up a mountain at the strangest of times, usually after something seemingly significant had just happened – an extraordinary miracle, a day of new teaching, a person and their community coming to faith. Instead of being drawn into the temptation of ‘servicing’ the growth, Jesus was often quite happy to let things happen without him. He was secure enough to understand his value and direction came from communion with the Father.
What this means: As leaders and as a community, we seek to take regular time out to look back and review what has happened in the life of our family. We’ll often make a journal or thanksgiving wall of what God has done, and then use that as a basis for worship, intercession and listening for what the next season might hold. Where is God asking us to steward any growth you have seen? Where is he asking you to reshape your rhythms? Where do we need to release it and prepare others for something new?
4. Be willing to be surprised by the vision and capacity of others
After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples stepped up in a massive way. They went from being the team to being the leaders at the heart of a new movement called the church. Peter found his voice on the day of Pentecost and confidently gave a narrative to what the Holy Spirit was up to. Suddenly there was a whole new set of challenges and opportunities, but Jesus had prepared them for it.
What this means: If we have a healthy culture of discipleship in our community, a natural outworking is new leaders to do new things. And some of these leaders will just never be able to do them whilst you’re still around . The challenge here for all of us is to make constant room for people to be sent out to new areas of opportunity and for us to know it’s OK to step back and allow others to shape things in our absence.
Gareth Irvine, together with his wife Jenny and baby 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.
Are you worried about bringing a Missional Community to an end, and how that might be perceived?
We don’t naturally tend to talk much about endings, as they don’t hold the same excitement or dynamism as beginnings, often it seems easier to quietly move on. Over the past two months we have acknowledged the end of 2 of our Missional Communities. I was concerned that some in the church might perceive that something had gone wrong, the leader or group had failed, and MCs were a fad which were struggling and should be discontinued. We took the decision to see this as an opportunity to share again the journey of MCs, to honour those who had been among the first to take the pioneering steps, and inspire others to take up the challenge.
It all started with a reminder of a simple fact:
Revelation 1 v 8 “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”
We all know that ending well in ministry is vital, that it doesn’t necessarily come naturally, so I found that a bit of revelation came as a timely reminder. We know that God is the God of endings just as much as beginnings, HE is the Alpha and Omega, present in the same way, and as we seek Him just as much about the endings of missional communities as the beginnings, He is present and brings revelation to a situation.
Having chewed it over, I had concluded that 2 of our MCs were not really MCs at all but either personal ministries or church projects, but I wasn’t sure how to break this news to the group leaders. These guys had responded to the initial vision for MCs, got behind it, thrown their heart and soul into it, been faithful, shared their passion clearly and battled on, but not seen others come alongside them. I prayed and felt led to visit the huddle they were in and share that we needed to draw a line in the sand under their MC. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the evening, but then I had forgotten that HE is Alpha and Omega. In short God had also prepared them for closure, and they were worried about telling me that they didn’t feel it was right to carry on with the MC! Once we both shared, there was a sense of relief and the presence of God in the situation.
So having negotiated that hurdle, bringing the church up to speed became the next step, and to model finishing well was a key thought.
Here from our experience are the most helpful 3 tips:
In church leadership endings are never easy, but everyone benefits when we remember that He is the Alpha and the Omega, God of the beginning and the end, and we trust him in every circumstance.
Mary Banks lives in Wolverhampton with her husband and 2 “almost but not quite adult” sons. She is bi-vocational working as a social worker and at the Church at Junction 10 where she is Ministry Leader responsible for Missional Communities amongst other things.
Further Reading: Leading Missional Communities Chapter 9 gives a useful summary of the top 10 practical reasons MCs fail and leaves us with the thought that even if we did everything right, not every MC makes it and that’s ok.
If you’ve never been to one of our Discipleship and Missional Communities Workshop then why don’t you make 2014 the year to come and see us? Or perhaps you’ve been to one before and you’d like to bring some friends or a team? If so then we’ve just added two new dates.
All our workshops are led by experienced 3DM practitioners and facilitators and you can also look forward to plenty of time to interact with them throughout the day. If you would like more info then click on the links above, and keep your eye on our Events page for more Workshops to come in 2014!
Today we continue our series on Foundations for Missional Communities, the titles of which are taken from our latest book, Leading Missional Communities. Previous posts have been:
Today we continue thinking about how we are Communities of Good News.
Missional Communities exist to draw people to Jesus and see them transformed in community to become disciples of Jesus as they follow him. So in launching a Missional Community we need to think deeply about the Gospel and how we are going to share it with those we are seeking to reach.
The Gospel isn’t just about salvation, as important as that is, but is about living a life in relationship with God. We are called into a relationship with God (Covenant) and a responsibility of telling others about him (Kingdom). When this is central to the vision of our Missional Community it will change lives.
What is the good news for your Missional Community?
Teaching salvation is only part of the gospel. We need to become ‘a family on mission’ sharing all that the gospel means. This requires commitment, love and patience among other things.
We may put a lot of activity into creating community and family and work hard at inviting people in, but do we take the opportunities to share the whole of the good news of Jesus in a simple way? Encouraging people to move fully into all aspects of what it means to be a disciple?
“The church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose”. C.S. Lewis.
As we take the opportunities that open up to us we need to remember what we learn from Jesus’ teaching and the New Testament writers. Life in the Kingdom of God is available now to everyone through trusting Jesus. The good news is that you can begin a new kind of life with God now by placing your trust in Jesus and his words. It’s an invitation to participate now in the life of God, joining him in what he’s doing right now on earth.
In establishing our Missional Community we need to ask ourselves questions such as:
We have seen that when Missional Communities have strategically planned special events to reach their friends and community, for example at Christmas, that they have made a real impact. One MC, primarily for Adults with Learning Difficulties, reached out to their friends and carers by acting out the Christmas Story as it was read from the Bible. All those taking part saw aspects of the Gospel that they hadn’t seen before. Some of the parents and carers began to understand why the leaders were running the MC and it began to open up more opportunities to share the gospel with them. They became much more a part of the MC.
Another who through the Angel Tree project, bought and wrapped presents for the children of prisoners at a local prison. They raised some of the money for these presents from the local community, which when the prison was built were very opposed to it. This project began a process of better understanding between the prison and the local community. They were all blown away with the response, which was talked about through the next year.
So what does it mean for a Missional Community to share the Gospel?
It is offering an invitation to people for them to participate in the life of God. To join him in what he’s doing right now on earth. Life under God’s rule is available to anyone who wants it, and we enter that life by trusting Jesus – that’s the good news that Jesus and the apostles preached. Of course it includes forgiveness of sins, but also so much more than that. Simply put Missional Communities are families on mission who are following Jesus together, telling others “all about this new life” (Acts 5:20) and inviting others to follow Jesus with them. Missional Communities are Gospel communities, where the good news of Jesus is embodied and proclaimed.
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.