Missional community life is not meant to be a program, and so you should feel empowered and encouraged to innovate and be flexible. This is about building a dynamic community who share a common mission, and life together can never fit neatly into a box!
However, it is helpful to have some direction and guidelines, which you can copy and test out, as well as adding to them your own ideas.
I would encourage you to be highly creative and flexible, using 1 Corinthians 11-14 as a guide (which I have written about here). As you look over your coming few months, keep a healthy mix of the three strands of life’s relationships:
- Worship – loving God
- Community – loving one another
- Mission – loving your mission context
As you make choices about what to do each time you gather, always run everything through the filter of your mission context: you are there to reach those people. Don’t expect your unchurched friends to do the culture jump into the church world – you are there as missionaries to that people group, so you must do the shifting!
This can be tough for people who have been in church cultures where there is very little positive engagement with wider society. But as leaders in mission, you should show how to worship and do life together in ways that point to Jesus AND make sense to those you are reaching. This is not dumbing down the Gospel, but rather it is doing the very opposite: incarnating it into the context where the people live whom you are called to reach and disciple.
Having given you lots of grace and permission, let me give you 10 things to do in a missional community gathering that you can copy, and by which you can be stimulated to think of your own ideas. Remember, these suggestions are illustrative and not exhaustive, but they do hit a number of key areas. Also, realize that you will rarely, if ever, do all of them in any one gathering. This is not a list to check off as quickly as possible, but a guide to help you achieve balance and health in your community.
10 Things To Do In A Missional Community Gathering
1-WELCOME – This happens both informally and formally. At its heart, this is about making every person and family feel genuinely welcomed, valued and included through the whole time you are together. Also, your group will benefit from sometimes doing a more formal welcome as well, where you include a simple summary of why you gather and go as a community.
2-FOOD – You gather around food that everyone brings, sharing stories of what you’ve all been up to. Remember: the food is for fellowship, not primarily for fuel, so linger around the table(s), chatting and building relationships!
3-FUN – simply hang out and connect with people! Whether the conversation is about God, pop culture, your football/ basketball/ baseball team, work, your kids latest escapade, funny stories, it doesn’t matter. Make sure that you do fun stuff together too – there are many things to celebrate in life.
4-THANKSGIVING – After the meal, you can naturally steer into a time of thanksgiving/ stories of God’s goodness, including celebrating birthdays, babies, weddings, jobs, etc. You might choose to share in Communion, perhaps with space for personal confession (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
5-CREATIVE WORSHIP – As a variation to sharing thanksgivings, think of creative ways to help the group worship Jesus. If you need help with this, check out this resource booklet of 50 non-musician worship ideas.
6-FRESH BREAD – Someone takes 5 minutes to share from the Bible, bringing to the group the fresh bread of what Jesus has been saying to them that week, and inviting comment and discussion. The key here is that this is very much a ‘now’ word from Jesus, that reveals how He speaks to us through the Bible, in order to shape and mould us in our everyday lives. One of the outcomes is that everyone leaves feeling that they might be able to read the Bible for themselves and encounter God’s personal wisdom and direction. For more on the Bible and missional communities, read this post.
7-DISCUSSION – Flowing out of the Fresh Bread, group discussion takes place. This is not just for the adults or for the committed Christians: everyone can join in! This is a response to the topic that was initiated by the person who shared, as each person considers how they can learn from that experience, and what it means for each of us to live for Jesus in this world.
8-ONE ANOTHERING – This provides a bridge into ‘one anothering’, which is my made-up word for what Christians used to somewhat creepily call ‘body ministry’ (1 Corinthians 12:7-12, 14:26, etc). An easy starting place for this is to sub-divide into small groups (3-5 people, or maybe into family groups), in order to share and process private thoughts and feelings, including personal responses to what God has been highlighting. The key outcome here is to help individuals to commit to a specific next step, as they follow Jesus in that area of life. This may also be a natural time to share love and compassion with any disappointments or difficulties that individuals might be facing.
9-PRAYER – It is important to encourage your missional community to respond to Jesus in prayer. If you have very few Christians, this might be best done by pulling everyone back together and having just a couple of people pray for the whole group (this can also work well when done as part of the earlier creative worship time). However, doing this in the small groups is what you should be aiming for (again, even in the early days you simply say to the groups that one of them should pray to finish their time of discussion.)
Also, make sure that you pray for the sick, wait on the Lord for any prophetic revelation, see what gifts of the Spirit are being stirred up, and so on. 1 Corinthians 14:3 tells us that whatever is shared should be for the strengthening, encouragement or comfort of the others there, which creates a wise safety net for weighing what is shared. You might well need to teach (snippets, not sermons!) to gently coach people, but often starting by simply making time for everyone to be quiet and listen to God is a astonishingly simple, yet effective, approach.
10-MISSION – Our mission (to reach that specific neighborhood or network of relationships) flows throughout the whole time together. Hopefully there are not-yet Christians within the group, so their contribution is really welcomed and they are accepted as they are. Also we may take some time to plan for an upcoming activity that is drawing the community outwards in service and witness. Another thing that should happen all the time is prayer for our mission context, asking for the Lord’s favor, protection and blessing on the people and community whom we are called to love in a special way. Any friends there who are thinking about following Jesus will hear our hearts and passion – so make sure that it is authentic and genuine!