Missional Community Practices – Life Transformation Groups

April 1, 2013 — 25 Comments

This series of posts provides an overview of each of the missional community practices we foster at The Austin Stone:

Life Transformation Groups – Gathering as Disciples

This leads us to the second place that we gather – as disciples in Life Transformation groups.

Again, we want to judge depth by obedience, not simply knowledge, so what does that look like? What would it look like to study the Bible for obedience, not just information growth?

Obedience, for us, is being serious about obeying God’s word personally.

Going deeper happens with individual accountability to being a disciple. We tried a bunch of names for these kind of gatherings, but they all sound weird.

Finally, we just decided we’d stick with life transformation groups, or LTGs for short. Neil Cole just unpacked them for us, and to be honest, he got it right!

An LTG is a smaller group of two or three believers of the same gender that commit to meeting outside of the group meeting time. This is the place to study the Bible deeply and to be known deeply by another.

There are three primary elements to this kind of group:

  • First, we want to Hear and Obey – we want to read God’s word every day, and be held accountable to what we need to DO in response
  • Second, we want to Repent and Believe – we want to confess and repent of our sin and disobedience. Second, we’re going to remind one another to believe the good news of Christ’s perfect life, his atoning death, and his resurrection.
  • Third, we want to Consider and Pray – we want to consider opportunities we have to share the gospel, and then pray by name individual people, not just generic groups.

The Advantages of an LTG

This weekly rhythm cultivates obedience as a disciple, and forms the backbone of missional community. It helps people go from being a consumer meeting a need to becoming a contributor to the life of a community.

Also, this kind of gathering is the basic tool of disciple-making. The beauty of an LTG is that you can do it with anybody! The LTG the basic tool to disciple a new follower of Jesus.

You can find the basic tool we use at The Austin Stone here. LTG Overview.pdf

What have you found to be effective in these kinds of groups?

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

25 responses to Missional Community Practices – Life Transformation Groups

  1. One of the things we are doing in an LTG format is looking at the commands of Jesus. The Great Commission stated that to make disciples, we must, “teach them to obey(or observe) all that I have commanded. We have broken out Jesus’ commands to about 16 different things and we use these as talking points and hold one another accountable for living out what Christ has commanded us.

  2. Todd,

    First, can I use your version of the LTG cards you have here? Also, (and I don’t know if you’ve dealt with this at the Austin Stone) I’m looking for some sort of precedent for transforming a church that has a few “small groups” (ranging from bible studies to prayer groups to social gatherings) into a church of missional communities. Any resources or stories that direction?

    Thanks!

    Adam

    • Adam,
      Feel free to use it, and I pray it’s a helpful tool!

      As for transitioning, shoot me an email at todd (at) austinstone (dot) org. I’ll dialogue more with you there!
      Todd

      • Todd, I too am looking for some sort of precedent for transforming a church that has a few “small groups” (ranging from bible studies to prayer groups to social gatherings) into a church of missional communities. Any resources or stories that direction? I will actually be in Austin next week, I’d like a face to face over coffee to get the skinny.

  3. Todd – Thanks for providing a tool that assists in having more than a simply bible study. Your comment that we need to be examining depth not just knowledge. Good reminder. The difference that I am going here is in the meeting times for our church. We want to encourage men to be with their families as much as possible so we are seeking to have this format on alternating weeks from our family meal time. This accomplishes a few things for me in that I can see leaders developing as they meet with another man in my house and it provides the women with the same opportunities to grow. We are still trying to get this right though. Thanks for your work on this.

    • Matt,
      I’ve used the every other week format before, and it’s effective. I will say that over time, that will probably hinder your ability to welcome outsiders and multiply groups, as the people participating in your community will tend to grow very fond of the single space they are meeting in.

      Part of what makes the 3 Practices effective is that is changes us the locations and times of meeting, which fosters a more fluid community that is prepared to meet in different ways.

      It’s not a hard and fast rule, I’ve just found that if you’re aiming at multiplication, you’ve got to prepare for it early :).

      Todd

  4. Todd,
    It’s clearly recommended that a LTG have 2-3 people. I personally haven’t ever been a part of, or seen one, smaller than 4.
    My question is, what’re the implications of that? Can a LTG be more than 3? And lastly, when there are men and women, who are in the M/C but not in a LTG; how should we help get involved?

    Thanks!

    • Beaux,
      I think LTGs should try to aim for 2 or 3 for two reasons:
      1. It becomes very difficult to have a meaningful, obedience-based conversation for each individual in a doable amount of time. Generally speaking, if you get to 4-6, you’re beyond the ability of everyone to participate fully and equally.
      2. Keeping the LTG at 2 or 3 reinforces consistent multiplication. I want LTGs to keep on multiplying to engage more people in the obedience-based discipleship conversation.

      As far as those who aren’t engaged in an LTG, the single greatest indicator of the health of an LTG is people wanting to do it, not simply doing it “just because”. I’d say talk about how your experience in LTG is beneficial to you, and also model an LTG in your community. You can see here for more: http://toddengstrom.com/2013/09/20/implementing-ltgs-in-a-small-group/

      Todd

  5. Travis Woronowicz February 21, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Hey Todd,

    I am currently reading through your MC Series and absolutely love it… I have a question re: how this ties in to what Neil Cole writes in Organic Church- Neil mentioned not splitting the DNA up- for him, it seems that each discipleship relationship should have truth-relationships-mission, instead of doing truth on Sunday morning, relationships during the week and missions through outreach events– with your emphasis on Family Meal (Relationships), LTGs (truth) and 3rd place (mission), it seems to split it up (but I don’t think that’s what you intend)… I wanted to get your thoughts on this… does each structure have all 3 parts (like Family meal has truth-relationships-mission but just emphasizes the relationships?; LTGs has relationships and mission (but just emphasizes truth?) and third place has truth and relationships (but just emphasizes mission?)– just wanted to know how this fits with what Neil writes… thank you for always answering each blog so thoroughly and I look forward to dialoging with you about this!

    • Great question! Each environment is built to nurture all of those areas, but uniquely emphasize one. The key to MC life is people intentionally cultivating all three areas of truth, relationships and mission in various different settings. My emphasis may be different than Neil’s, but I wholeheartedly agree with him!

  6. G’day, I am exploring LTG. As people read daily and come together. What questions are asked of the text? It seems most of the talk within the group is about accountability.

  7. Ryan Thompson May 23, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Todd,

    I was curious about your thoughts in using discipleship curriculum in LTG’s? I appreciate the sufficiency of the Word of God to grow believers into maturity in Christ. But, I have seen where some curriculum (for example, Multiply by Platt/Chan, Discipleship Essentials by Ogden, etc.) has been helpful for teaching new believers some of the basics of Christianity. Thoughts?

    Thanks!

    Ryan

    • Ryan,
      Personally, I’d prefer to use the Scripture as much as possible with a new believer, and reinforce two things:
      1.) They are capable of reading and understanding the word of God for themselves
      2.) The answers to the questions they are asking can be found in the word of God

      That being said, I do think there can be a benefit to additional tools, and have had several people utilize them. Currently, I am doing an LTG with an about to graduate high schooler, and I’m using a book to help him understand wisdom as he approaches adult life. I just want to make sure that there is a regular diet of Scripture reading alongside any discipleship tool I use. Let me know your experiences!
      Todd

  8. Thanks for your response! I am a church planter in Southeast Texas, and your resources on missional communities have been very helpful for me in thinking through how we make disciple-making disciples in our specific context. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Travis Woronowicz June 12, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Hey Todd

    I had a quick question about starting missional communities and DNA/LTG groups.

    I read Caesar K’s book Small is Big, Slow is Fast, and in it, he mentioned starting an MC with your family and closest friends. He then encouraged going through either the Gospel Primer or the Tangible Kingdom Primer and finding out who is in or out re: overlapping their lives around the gospel, their new identities in Christ, and the specific mission He’s called us to.

    I’m wondering: from your experience, when do you introduce LTG groups?

    I just got done reading Neil Cole’s book, Cultivating a Life for God, and I think he starts the whole process with life transformation groups- I’m just wondering if that’s the best way to start an MC (i.e. getting healthy DNA into a handful of guys and then encouraging them to form a larger team that is similar to an initial core team…)

    I hope I am not splitting hairs on this– I just wanted to get your thoughts on when is the best time to introduce LTG groups (again, once a core group/team is in place…. or as the starting point leading to a core team being made)–

    Thanks so much for all your great resources and thorough responses!

    In Christ
    Travis Woronowicz
    Acts 4:13

      • Travis Woronowicz June 12, 2018 at 8:01 pm

        Great article! Thanks for your quick response!

        Two more questions: do you find that starting with LTGs (not from an existing small group but with people you’re acquainted with) works in multiplication and eventually starting an MC… Or is it better to start an MC with committed friends and introduce LTGs later?

        Or maybe worded another way… Have you observed that LTGs multiply and then gatherings can emerge from them? (All the reading I’ve done seems to imply starting with a core team and then introducing then later.. I just wanted to know if it works the other way (start with LTGs and see them, after they multiply, come together and form an organic church/MC of sorts.

        Thanks for any clarity you can bring to this!

        • I think it’s probably a bit harder to go from LTGs to a larger group because of some basic social dynamics (moving from intimate space to personal space) rather than the other way around (from personal space to intimate space), so I’d say it probably “works better” to introduce LTGs later.

          • Travis Woronowicz June 12, 2018 at 8:50 pm

            Wow, Todd, amazing response! I never thought of it like that! Thank you. You remind me of Yoda on this stuff! Much appreciated!

  10. Hi Todd!

    Thank you for all your work and wisdom breaking this down and processing through different scenarios. It’s such a help! Do we have permission to use your Austin Stone LTGs overview: http://toddengstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/LTG-Overview.pdf as well as the reading plan: https://austinstone.org/files/reading-plan.pdf? We live in WI.

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