As we have led missional communities at The Austin Stone, we’ve found there are some common transitions in the life of our communities, and this series is discussing those four stages. They are:
- Community Group
- Small Group
- Team of Missionaries
- Missionary Team
Stage 1 – Community Group
After forming communities, often times from our Sunday gatherings, most groups begin with this DNA. A Community Group is one where the people enjoy spending time together in a gathered event, possibly desire to go through a book or bible study, but lack any impulse towards those outside of the church.
Primarily, these kinds of communities come into existence because a group of people have a felt need for community – hence “community group”. These kinds of groups have relationships that are newly forming or shallow, and generally gather only for an event.
Main Obstacle to Mission
Collectively, this group has what we call a “want to” problem when it comes to mission. They may know that they should care about people far from God, but their activity as a community shows that it is not a priority for them.
There are often practical obstacles as well (geographic limitations, lack of knowledge, unfamiliarity in relationships, etc.), but primarily people in these kinds of communities do not believe they are actually missionaries to our city.
Main Coaching Point
Many people in the missional community world tend to write these kinds of groups off. I’ve challenged them in the past, but I see so much opportunity when the saints of God are gathered that we need to have a next step for them.
In our experience, a community group needs to be hard pressed with the truth of the gospel and the imperative of disciple making. Their need is not so much practical, as it is sin rooted deep in their heart. This sin masquerades as many different things, but collectively a community group must see the greatness of the gospel and see the joy in following Jesus in seeking out those far from God.
Practically, we’ve found that training a group like this together is crucial. They often will not make a transition collectively if you only train them as individuals. This is the primary reason we train whole communities together at The Austin Stone.
The tool we often embed at this point is the Life Transformation Group, and specifically focus attention on the community’s prayer on the lost.
Key Transition Point To “Small Group”
This group begins to shift as people’s conversations and prayers begin to become outward focused. They may begin simply serving at Sunday services or monthly in the city, but either way they are beginning to see their community as not primarily about themselves but about others.
What has been your experience with “Community Groups”? Let me know in a comment!