At The Austin Stone, the process of connection to multiplication follows a general pattern that usually takes approximately two years. It generally goes something like this:
- What’s Next?
- The First Four Weeks
- Processing a Preferred Future
- Establishing Healthy Rhythms
- Thinking Critically about the MC
- Considering Multiplication
A Preferred Future
After a community has connected with one another and gotten through the first four weeks, the next step is helping them think through a longer-term vision for their community. Each individual within that newly formed community often has a different understanding of what the purpose of the community is. For some, it’s a place to connect with Christian friends. For others, it’s a group to serve the city with. Others might simply be there because they think “it’s the right thing to do.”
Gathering a diverse group of people with different expectations is often a difficult challenge. Add to that our desire to see genuine missional community form, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. That’s where our missional community training comes into play.
After those first four weeks together, we try to involve the entire community in our missional community training for two reasons:
- To cast a compelling vision for a fully-functioning missional community
- To help the community sort through the many different motivations and expectations each individual has
In this environment, we are trying to create a desire for the kind of community we are training toward, as well as identify challenges and differences of vision that may arise. We’re not necessarily aiming at getting all the details perfect, but more at helping these people think differently about where they’re going together.
A good example of a tool we use in this environment is the “Who is the Missionary?” exercise:
We have found it’s really important for a group to do this kind of training together, rather than focusing just on the leader of the group. Doing this helps the group go through some challenging thinking together, and the leader gets to help facilitate conversation. Secondly, it allows the entire group to buy into the vision and practices of the newly forming community very early on.
The whole community gets the benefit of understanding WHY we do what we do, not just what.