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
Thinking Critically About a New MC
As our new missional communities continue to form and have gotten into a rhythm over the course of a few months, often a sense of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction begins to emerge. There is a satisfaction that the group has cultivated some healthy relationships, but also a dissatisfaction that more isn’t happening.
Often times, conflict begins to emerge within the community during this season as the shininess of something new begins to wear off. This is a great time to capitalize on addressing the heart issues and recasting vision if you are coaching missional communities. Where conflict exists, an opportunity for grace and intimacy also exists. Where dissatisfaction emerges, an opportunity for a renewed sense of purpose and mission also hides.
In our church culture, we have found that people tend to leave conflict unresolved, or they simply leave a community altogether when conflict arises. At the first sign of conflict, I strongly encourage you to help the leader take ownership of the issue and work through it with the individuals. Sometimes family fights become the best stories we tell with one another down the road!
Coaching plays an integral role in this season of life, but we have also found that we can facilitate some reflection through assessments. The assessment does a great job of two things – revealing weaknesses in the missional community and recasting vision for the purpose of the group.
In my experience with assessments, people are often overly critical of their weaknesses and don’t feel like they are very successful. However, when you talk about some of the stories from their community, the opposite is the case. Most leaders tend to think that success stories will happen very quickly. Sometimes they do, but most often it’s going to be a long obedience in the same direction. Disciples are rarely microwaved!
Regardless of whether it is conflict or assessment, the critical component after a few months is to foster some critical thought about the missional community. Shaping this value for reflection fosters a sense of ownership of the missional community, rather than people simply doing a rote set of activities. A friend once told me “the unexamined life is not worth living, and the unexamined faith is not worth believing.” I’d add that an unexamined community is not worth participating.”
What have you found helpful to foster a sense of ownership and accountability early in the life of a community?