Our Mission Our Story: Engage, Paris
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