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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:

  1. Community Group
  2. Small Group
  3. Team of Missionaries
  4. Missionary Team

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Stage 2 – Small Group

Definition

As a Community Group begins to have a heart change, a Small Group emerges.  This is a community where people have a desire to make disciples but don’t quite know how.  Rather than needing a change of heart, these kinds of groups need to work through a host of practical challenges.

Often times Small Groups still have relationships that are newly forming, but they have gone through a significant experience together (a training that casts compelling vision, a crisis in the group, etc.) or there are very few natural barriers to their community (the groups that just “click”).

Main Obstacle to Mission

Whereas a Community Group has a “want to” problem, a Small Group has a “how to” problem when it comes to mission. Generally, they want to make disciples but have never seen it modeled and are not sure what it actually looks like.

Often times the biggest hurdle to cross in this stage is helping them understand when they gather in different ways, not every person in the community needs to participate.  Attempting to align 12 to 15 schedules together is nearly impossible, so our best coaching is to try and think differently about gatherings and to redefine success for them.  

Main Coaching Point

A Small Group needs to be given practices and rhythms that facilitate a life of intentionally making disciples. Practically as a community, they need to spend time walking through how Third Place, The Family Meal and LTG’s would happen each month so they can start putting their desires into action.

We coach Small Groups to find places where 2 to 4 people can gather, and occasionally try to gather everyone in the community at more convenient times.

We have also found that often times a group will try different gatherings a couple times, then abandon them because they “didn’t work”.  We work very hard to teach them that these practices are not a magic bullet, but healthy rhythms that will produce more faithful communities over time.

Key Transition Point To “Teams Of Missionaries”

This group begins to shift as people start to put into practice rhythms that enable them to hang out with their friends far from God in natural ways. When a Small Group has actual names of people to pray for and ask God to save, and those people start to show up in places with the community, they are headed in the right direction!

What are some ways that you have helped a group of people with a desire for common mission practically? Share in the comments!

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:

  1. Community Group
  2. Small Group
  3. Team of Missionaries
  4. Missionary Team

—–

Stage 1 – Community Group

Definition

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!

Four Stages of Missional Community

It is our hope at the Austin Stone that each and every person is living on mission to make disciples with other believers, but we know most of our people don’t start here.

Almost every individual and group is somewhere in the transition from being a consumer to being a missionary.  We often begin in our faith journey expecting to have our needs met, but God is gracious and calls us to something far greater – the sacrificial life of a missionary.

In this next series of posts, I am going to reflect on the stages of missional community development.  Many of our missional communities form from groups of people who don’t know one another very well, and we’ve seen a pattern that many of them go through over time.

Each group usually has common problems along the way that require distinct leadership, and we use different coaching points in different circumstances.

The four stages are:

One quick word on our naming convention – these are in no way meant to demean what you call your groups, or presuppose that what you call them is wrong.  You can call a group the pink fuzzy ninja bunnies and be a rockin’ missional community.  These are simply the descriptions we have chosen to describe certain kinds of communities.

What stages of transition have you found as you lead?