If you are a church of missional communities that is growing numerically through Sunday attendance or if you are transitioning your church toward missional communities, you will face the problem we faced at Doxa. You might discover you don’t have enough missional communities for your people to get involved in, and if you keep pushing people into already existing groups, you disrupt or stunt those groups’ development and take them off a missional focus.
Whenever a person joins an already existing missional community, they often do so with little to no knowledge of what a missional community is or they have very little commitment to the MC’s mission. For this reason, we have closed all our missional communities to new people unless they are invited directly into their group by the members.
What do we do to help new people at Doxa join or form a missional community?
We created the MC Pilot Group experience. We wanted to provide an opportunity for every member of Doxa to get informed on what a missional community is, get experiential training on the basics of how missional communities work, connect with people from their region in significant ways, and hopefully find themselves committed to be a missional community together at the end of our eight-week experience.
The Pilot Group experience provides space for people to get connected, learn each other’s stories, hear basic, gospel-centered teaching, and process and practice it together in community guided by trusted leaders in our church. It also provides an opportunity for people’s gifts to be observed and affirmed with the hope of forming ministry teams to lead missional communities in the future.
Through this process, I have watched people assemble at tables who would normally never do life together. As they share a meal together every week, they learn to love one another. Sharing their stories creates a true relational trust and bond. Sharing in learning together gives them a common journey. Then, as they put into practice the teaching they receive, they learn to be a missional community together. At the end of eight weeks, I watch strangers from all walks and stages of life become family.
At Doxa, this is how we form all our new missional communities. It’s also required for all new members since it establishes everyone in the same DNA of being disciples of Jesus who makes disciples together in the everyday stuff of life.
More than Instruction
The pilot MC is meant to be a learning environment, which also provides a taste of MC life. Don’t think of it primarily as a formal teaching time to get through content in the Field Guide. The content provides a springboard for experiential learning and practice. It’s important to note, however, that it is only a taste of MC life. The full experience of missional community life requires more than a weekly meeting. With that said, it’s also important to recognize that the eight weeks are actually eight learning modules that will need to be revisited and practiced time and time again. The expectation is not that everyone is an expert at living out every principle at the end of the pilot. The expectation is that they have a picture of what a missional community can look like to provide a map and a destination to aim at.
It’s important to keep in mind that there is a big difference between teaching and training. Most teaching informs, whereas training forms and transforms. We are not trying just to teach content. We want to train participants in how to live as disciples who make disciples in the everyday stuff of life.
Effective training is DEEPER and includes six components that are built into the MC Pilot Group experience:
- Demonstrate—The facilitator/teacher models or illustrates through personal examples what he/she expects the groups to do.
- Expound—The teacher teaches a key idea from the Saturate Field Guide corresponding to the week’s study.
- Experience—Group participants should experience the concepts affecting them during your time together or throughout the week in some way (i.e. the teacher shares his or her story first so they can experience the teacher’s vulnerability before expected to become vulnerable).
- Practice—Training content needs to move toward activity so each participant can practice what he or she is learning.
- Expose—Each week provides an opportunity for participants to share their personal struggles in practicing the principles.
- Reflect—Time should be set aside to reflect on what each person is learning through both experience and practice.