The Austin Stone is a church committed to the exaltation of Jesus through the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel to our city and the nations through missional communities. This blog series unpacks how we approach the difficult challenge of assimilation into smaller communities from our Sunday gatherings:
- The Difficulty of Assimilation and Mission
- The Basic Philosophy of Assimilation
- Barriers to Connection
- Strategies for Overcoming Barriers
- A Few Things We’ve Learned About Assimilation
Barriers to Connection
As we began to think on the question “why don’t people connect into our communities?”, we realized there were two predominant problems that most people faced when they came into our doors:
- Informational Barrier – people simply did not know how to connect
- Relational Barrier – people lacked the relationships necessary to help them find community
These two issues, as we surveyed people in our church, were the predominant issues, and therefore with every method we wanted to always answer these two basic questions:
- How do I connect?
- Who can I connect with?
Finally, we also realized there are predominantly three groups of people who are present within our church whom we are trying to connect:
- Those with the “want to” and the “how to” – a desire to connect and an clear understanding of the pathway
- Those with the “want to”, but without the “how to” – a desire connect, but lacking relationships or information.
- Those without the “want to” – a lack of desire to pursue community or mission.
The first category of people is fully capable of connecting themselves. They take the initiative and are able to find the information or people that they need to connect. All we have to do is make sure there is a clearly outlined, easily accessible pathway that they can follow.
The second category of people are where we place the most strategic emphasis. This group of people has all of the desire in the world to connect, we simply need to address the relational or informational barrier that is hindering them from engaging. We put the most effort and energy into relationally connecting and creating opportunities and resources for this pool of people to engage in community.
Finally, the third category of people are those without a desire to connect. We simply focus on setting the proverbial table for this group of people, and hoping that at some point in the future they will get hungry and eat. The major problem is not a knowledge barrier or a relational barrier, but truly a heart barrier. We rely on our preaching and other forms of communication to facilitate God moving in their heart to give them a desire and need for biblical community. We also try to tell stories of everyday community to create a more compelling narrative for life together.