Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From Community Groups to Missional Communities

Phase 3 of Community Groups at Neighborhood Church gets underway tonight. We began our first community group 14 months ago. It was a large one. Last fall we then went to two groups. We set before each group five values: Sharing life, sharing stories, sharing Scripture, sharing prayer, and sharing mission. Most weeks these groups discussed the previous Sunday's message, but we also wanted to begin developing true community. I believe that we were very successful in reaching that goal. One of the things I was most excited about was the way the kids were loved on and cared for by everyone in the group. I think we got a real taste of what community can be.

So that brings us to today. As much as I loved our community groups, I felt that they were too large. They left me wanting more, especially when it comes to the three journeys (upward, inward and outward). Many nights, just as we were beginning to go deep as a community, 7:30 would roll around and one of the kids would automatically go into meltdown mode. (In case you don't have children, that means the show is over and it's time to go home). Much of this was due to having so many in one group. The other issue centered around mission. It's great that almost everyone at NC is involved in a mission of some sort. Those folks are of course passionate about their missions, but this meant that it was often difficult to decide on a common mission.

Over the summer I've had conversations with several friends about where we're heading. One of the more helpful conversations was with Michael Stewart. He said that at Austin Stone they've helped their folks come to understand the difference between a team of missionaries and a missionary team. A team of missionaries is a group of people who all have a different mission but who come together for encouragement and prayer. On the other hand, a missionary team is a group of people who have a shared, or common, mission. That I believe has been the missing piece for me.

So in phase 3 we are centering around mission, believing that the best community we can have will be discovered through the context of mission. If you ask a person about their best experience of community, chances are that you'll hear a story about a mission trip. In order to do this we're having groups of 6-8 people.

Three couples from NC, including Mandy and I, have kindergarteners at Peabody Elementary School this year. For the next nine months we are all going to be investing a lot of hours into Peabody. This is our common mission, which makes us a missional community. And this is where I first starting putting this together. In February we had several families over who at the time were considering sending their kids to Peabody. As we were sitting around talking about our hopes and dreams, it all of a sudden hit me that this was my missional community. It didn't matter that only three of us were a part of NC. We had a common mission (public education through our neighborhood school), and the common mission was drawing us together like nothing else could.

I am very excited by what I see God doing in the lives of NC'ers. I think we're on the verge of seeing God do what only God can do, and I'm so glad that I'm on board for the ride!

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