Over the next few weeks, I will be featuring a number of posts from my teammates here at The Austin Stone on a variety of topics related to missional communities. This is a two part series from our Downtown PM Campus Connections Director, Tyson Joe. To see part 1, go here.
Environments Conducive to Missional Communities
Connections at The Austin Stone is not simply giving information that propels individuals towards involvement but rather it meets people where they are or where they begin and moves them toward a greater degree of faithfulness to Jesus in community. In the first part of this article, I wrote about Paul. In this part, I will provide some practical learnings from his story and ours.
What’s My Next Step?
If the next step happens to be Missional Community for all new people, new people will feel more secure about this significant big step if someone is there to walk with them. With respect to environments, we ask volunteers never to point in a direction but rather walk them there. Additionally, instructions are never indicative, they are demonstrative. Rather than “sign up over there”, we communicate “I’ll show you how over here.”
Pointing People to One Thing
This is a preference and not a rule. I like funnelling new people to one thing rather than giving multiple connection points. Telling someone, this is THE way to get connected at this church versus, “try nine of these options all of which have nine different people to contact.”
As a result of the “one thing” philosophy, all space and environments can easily “advertise” this next step. For instance at all of our seating areas outside of the Worship Center, on the coffee tables are cards advertising the upcoming “Connect Event.” All of our iPads or displays are opened to sign-ups for that same event and all of our volunteers are briefed on the details.
Involve Missional Community Leaders into Hospitality Teams
One of the best things we ever did was have our best Missional Community Leaders serve and lead Welcome Teams. As they met brand new people, very logically, they invited them to be a part of their own Missional Communities. It certainly requires some sacrifice on the leader’s part, but I love involving leaders in Sunday hospitality because it also communicates that missional community and Sunday services are not competing with one another, but rather mutually serving one another.
It also helps foster a “same-team” attitude – your teams aren’t working in silos competing for resources with one another!
The Awkward is on You
I have never been the type of person to gravitate to a corner and try to remain unseen and unnoticed. My tendency is to move towards the area with the most activity and make a scene. I’m not everyone. While there is a small minority of people who fit this description and want to get connected and figure it out on their own how to get connected, the majority of people who walk through the doors of a church, while they may want to get connected, don’t have the experience or know-how to get connected.
As a result, there is an element to environments and personnel that needs to disarm and inform. This is where the “Awkward is on You” comes in. It can be terrifying to walk up to a table or a stand and identify yourself as someone who doesn’t know what is going on. Immediately you are isolating yourself as different from everyone else.
Because of this we coach hospitality team to:
- Go to them. They don’t come to you. You go to them. (Note: Also rather than asking, “is this your first time here?” ask, “Is there anything you need help finding?”
- Remember names and faces
- Tell good stories and ask for stories. This way, the next time you see them, it’s, “Hey Tyson, how did that job interview go last week?”
- Capture contact information and follow up. This same creed carries into our Missional Communities and again, since volunteer teams and service teams are seeded with Missional Community leaders, the natural disarmament carries into, inviting individuals to Missional Community.
Gather vs. Go
We face a monumental challenge in our church where a massive, cold, dark high school must be converted into a welcoming, warm environment and up until recently, all of our signage was directional and somewhat confusing. Recently we changed our language with signage from “You’re in the wrong place…go this way” to “Here you are…you’re in the right place.”
So signs that simply said, “Kids with an arrow” now read “Welcome to the Main Entrance, for Kids (arrow sign).” Simple touches like this convey that we want people to feel comfortable and gather rather than feel herded in a direction that is unknown. As a result, spaces give the feel of a living room while info areas take on a more “Apple Store” approach. All of this emphasizes our value for relational contact that carries on into Missional Community.
What are some other things you think can be helpful in cultivating environments that are conducive to missional community?