Community Values: tomorrow’s ideals or today’s reality?


In this blog post we’re going to explore some of the principles of how to live out the values of a shared missional community life together. When our church family first began the re-discovery of biblical community with young adults seeking to live out the dynamic relationships of UP-IN-OUT in the context of mid-size groups, we talked a lot about having a shared vision and shared values.

As we’ve developed and grown and learnt a lot along the way, we’ve realized that something more is needed. Values are a great thing to have for people who are good at boundaries. Yet if you’re working with the current Generation Y of largely undiscipled young adults – who have massively high idealism and hopes for a better future tomorrow, but often little understanding of how to live that out today – it can be helpful to do a bit of translation. Mike Breen posted about this recently in the ‘State of the Evangelical Union’: Gen Y want to rebuild something from the ancient foundations of the Christian faith, but the question they are asking is ‘how’?

Community values should be more than defining your boundaries or a set of rules of who or what is allowed in the life of your group. They need to be embodied or rooted into community practices – things that you do together day
in, day out, that work for the size and context of your group. We call this a community rhythm of life. Jesus had a ton of values – we can call them the way of the kingdom of God – but the way he really got them under peoples’ skin was
how he integrated his talking about God’s new values (Sermon on the Mount…) and demonstrating God’s new values in the everyday of first century life in Galilee and Judea (Healing people, eating with sinners, and discipling those around him.)

It’s the difference between saying you like football and holding a season ticket for your local club.

So, if one of your values is prayer (which is a good one to have!), then the question shifts from ‘we are community that values prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit’ to ‘we are a community that prays together every day/3 times a week/etc etc…’

If one of your values is ‘we do mission together’, then it only truly becomes a value – something lived out, that you place importance and value on in terms of your time, energy and resources – when you can show someone outside your
community how they can come and join you next week in what you were already planning to do.

At their worst, values can remain at the conceptual and visionary stage of tomorrow’s ideals.

At their best, values which are expressed in shared rhythms of life can be the very pathway of seeing your vision become a reality day by day.

There’s a little tool we’ve been learning about recently which develops the process of taking something you want your group or team to be about to it actually bearing fruit.

First, you need structure. When will you do this (insert aspired value) and how?

Commitment to a regular structure leads to stability. Don’t change things yet just because it’s harder than you thought!

Stability leads to security. People start to trust the process and the effort, and own the value as something that they can be a part of.

Security leads to significance. People start to see the benefit and significance of the thing they’ve been investing into.

Finally, significance leads to success. The process of sowing into the new thing sees the new value take root and before long fruitfulness comes, but often not in a way that could have been predicted back when you started.

Spiritual disciplines, after all, are about the indirect effort of the kingdom – investing the little what we’ve got, so God can give us what he’s got (Feeding of the Five Thousand).

The missional community we are part of here in Coventry seek to incarnate the life that we see Jesus living, through:

  • Life of communal prayer every weekday.
  • Eating together every day and being thankful.
  • Doing mission together, at least once a week, through kids work on the estate, visiting families, and showing hospitality to our neighbours.
  • Being part of a wider family of people who inspire us, challenge us, love and cheer us on (for us this is our sending church and the Order of Mission)
  • Sharing of resources, including generating income and blessing others.

How does your community reflect some of these values?

gareth irvineGareth 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 last summer.  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.