Three Keys to Missional Communities: 2. Making Things Reproducible
We believe MCs should be Simple, Reproducible and Sustainable; read our first post on ‘Keeping Things Simple’ here. Today it’s all about making things reproducible. If the goal of a Missional Community is that it should eventually grow and reproduce new MCs, how does that happen and how do MC Leaders lead towards that goal?
The MC’s in our church have the commission of “calling our city back to God” – that’s the vision of the church and therefore the context that all of their specific ‘missional visions’ fall within. That’s a big vision! And it means the only way that’s going to happen is if we see multiplication in our MC’s. MC’s reproducing more MC’s. And then more. And then more..!
Even reaching ONE part of a city or community probably requires this. One MC can have some impact, but never enough to see properly lasting change. It’s just impossible for 15-30 people to do that on their own.
And that’s where discipleship comes in.
The thing with discipleship is that it’s about growth, learning and – ultimately – multiplication. The disciples Jesus had were a group of guys that became a lot like him and were able to do the things that he could do. You could say Jesus ‘multiplied’ himself in to them, because at the end of his time with them there were a lot more people that looked and lived like him than at the start.
So if we are leading and therefore discipling people in our Missional Communities, we should really expect them to start being able to do the things that we can do too! That may not happen straight away, but rather gradually over time, week by week, month by month. If we are managing to see this happen, then we are making sure that our MC has a chance of being reproducible. It sounds simple, but the MC is only going to be a reproducible community if the people IN the community are able to reproduce what you are doing.
So how do you lead in a way that encourages this growth and multiplication?
1. Have a big vision!
Your vision needs to be specific, but it also needs to be big enough for people to see that you can’t fulfil it. If your MC is managing to accomplish its vision with just you leading and keeping everything ticking over, then there isn’t really a big enough stretch for others to see the gaps and desire to step up or think about how they could get involved in helping. The best MC’s I have been part of or led have had a vision to reach a whole community or area, not just the people already in it!
2. Treat everyone like a leader
Everyone is called to lead someone, even if right now it’s just themselves or 1 other person. The more you treat people like leaders, the more they will start to feel like that and gradually want to operate like one at some level. Affirm their leadership in other places too, like families or businesses, and help them think about how they can keep bringing these skills in to other areas of community life. Generally I have found its best to communicate this in general terms at gatherings as well as bringing it in to 1-1 conversations with people in the MC wherever possible.
3. Keep finding ways to delegate responsibility
In each part of the life of your MC – gatherings, food, messaging, mission, prayer, pastoral care, calendars, rotas – whatever it is, think about who could be sharing responsibility with you or taking it on for you. That doesn’t mean you sit back and watch(!), it means your role becomes working with everyone to grow their participation, responsibility and ownership of the life of the community. That’s how the best families work isn’t it?
In the last community I led, I challenged myself to think of someone each week who could start/learn to take on each part of the gathering. Over time, I was able to just turn up and watch on some weeks.
4. Commit to helping people
If you are encouraging people in the community to help you lead and multiply things, then make sure you are committing to help them with learning how to take on more and how to do new things that they might be unsure about. Also help them manage how to take things on in a sustainable way that doesn’t overwhelm them or burn them out! For me, it’s been important to take an interest in people’s whole lives, not just the bit that is seen within community gatherings. Then you can have a ‘whole’ conversation and help people work through a balanced lifestyle. I’ve also had to give people LOTS of encouragement and positive feedback along the way; often much more than I realised was needed!
5. Encourage people to follow through on their own ideas
If someone comes to you with an idea that seems to fit with the vision and values of your community, help them think through how they could take hold of it themselves with others around them. Ask them what they need from you to help make it happen!
6. Show everyone it’s OK to fail
We’ve said this here before, but the more you celebrate people trying rather than just succeeding, the more you will see people having a go. Until I knew it was ok to make mistakes when leading a community, I didn’t want to lead one! Then I saw other people sharing what they had learnt from getting it wrong and I realised it was more about learning than ‘success’. That was incredibly releasing! Perhaps we need to help others hear that too.
Simon Ford lives in Sheffield, is part of the King’s Centre Church and works for 3dm Europe. He has been part of and led various young adult and workplace-focussed missional communities over the last 10 years.