Just over a year ago our congregation launched its first missional community. We’ve defined a missional community (MC) as a Christ-centered community of 15-50 people sent to announce and demonstrate the kingdom of God in and to a local neighborhood or people group. We think of them as missionaries sent to a local mission field rather than an overseas mission field. Our first MC is a group of people from our congregation who felt called by God to announce his kingdom in a nearby apartment community. They hold a Sunday gathering in the community center and offer a simple meal. At this gathering they spend some time discussing how they experienced God that week. Over the last year relationships with people in the apartment community have deepened considerably. Transportation is a major issue for many people in the neighborhood. This MC has put a lot of miles on their vehicles giving people rides.
We had a number of expectations when we started this journey. Some of them have held up. Others have been blown away. Still others were way off base. Here’s a random list of things I’ve learned about starting missional communities and their impact on our church.
- Never a dull moment. Mission is exciting. It’s hard, but rarely boring. What a wonderful way to breathe life into a church experience that can sometimes be a bit, um… boring. MCs aren’t for the faint of heart. Peoples’ lives are messy. But you could write a book.
- We didn’t lose them. One of our fears is that members who joined a MC would lose their connection to the congregation. It’s actually been the opposite. We have seen an increased commitment to and longing for our church family.
- Spiritual growth happens on mission. People involved in an MC have seen dramatic growth in their faith. This may sound simplistic, but if someone came to me feeling stagnant in their walk with God, I would consider the problem solved the moment they got involved with an MC.
- We’ve set records for church growth. The numbers we send in to the denomination don’t reflect it. Our attendance doesn’t always reflect it either. But through one MC, our church is connected to about 25 people in the last year who consider it their spiritual family.
- You can do “both/and.” There was some concern that our worship services and education ministries would suffer as we focused time and energy in MCs. From this view, our worship has only grown in impact. Our educational ministries have deepened as well. MCs have been a source of energy and vitality that have spread to other ministries.
- A deliberate process was key. Our congregation is proud and supportive of our MCs. We took our time as we moved toward our first MC. We spent six months discussing it as a Council and a few more months educating our congregation. It was time well spent.