Should Your Small Group Become a Missional Community?

Should Your Small Group Become a Missional Community?

Why The Austin Stone made the switch
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We also gather in a family meal, which is where we express our identity as brothers and sisters in Christ adopted into God's family. We break bread together and share communion. The goal is to cultivate real, authentic friendship. You're never going to have a compelling community to lost people if you aren't friends with one another and live as a family.

And then finally we gather in Third Places, which are spaces where we gather to intentionally invite lost people to be part of it.

We talk about seasons and rhythms of those practices. It's not all three of those things every week. Instead we ask, "What would it look like for you to be faithful to these rhythms, changing in certain seasons when it's needed for your community?"

We want everybody to gather once a week in a life transformation group. We think that's mission critical to faithfully being a disciple of Jesus. We also want them to meet once a week in addition to their life transformation groups, alternating between the family meal and Third Place, as a rhythm. That doesn't mean gather all 15, 20, 25 people to do these things, but gather with Christians to intentionally pursue and live out these identities that you have in Christ.

How does leadership work in the missional communities?

The missional community leader's job is not to execute the practices. Their job is to ensure that the group has clarity in its mission. Their primary job is not necessarily communicator, shepherd, or pastor. It's mission-centered. We want them to be the one who is leading out and saying, "This is who we are, and this is what we're going to do."

The life transformation groups are designed to be leaderless groups. They come having read the Bible reading plan for the week, share what God has taught, and how they obeyed it. It's a pretty easy template to follow. It doesn't really require a leader. It requires good modeling—people have to see it and practice—but it's designed to be something that is simple, reproducible, and transferrable.

We really want the family meal to be centered around a meal. So if you know how to cook or how to facilitate a meal for 12 people, you're qualified to lead that portion.

For Third Place, the leader of the group has to determine where to gather and how to invite lost people to be part of it.

We train leaders with two primary strategies. First, we do a four-week basic training which covers the centrality of the gospel, the motivations for leading community, our four values of community, our four identities in community, and our practices. Then we do ongoing leadership development and training, usually about once a quarter, where we work through issues of doctrine. We want to equip our leaders to have good conversations around character, conflict, and community issues. Last, we talk about skills needed for leadership identification, leadership training, multiplying your community. We also just celebrate together.

I'm a big fan of intrinsic desire versus extrinsic motivation. I want my teams to feel the need to create compelling environments that people want to come to rather than forcing our leaders to come listen to us. Let's not just gather for the sake of gathering. Let's not just create a meeting. Let's create compelling things that people want to be part of.

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